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4 posts from January 2015

01/25/2015

Generosity and counter cultural living!

As we concluded our Fructiferous series, I used a quote from the early church. In the 2nd century, the church was exploding even when the Roman Empire was trying to stop it.  Embedded in a very anti Christian culture, the church grew. Why? How? Mathetes wrote a letter to Diognetus explaining how the church grew. The writer speaks of the fruitfulness of the early church that came from their counter cultural way Christians were living.  Here is what he wrote:

 

For the Christians are distinguished from other men ..... They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; ... When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.   Letter to Diognetus from Mathetes  (1st Century)

 

Mathetes noted 4 ways Christians lived differently.

 

They were not racist.  They did not just identify with their own racially. Their native land was not their native land because their citizenship was in Heaven. Because of that they did not separate from others based on race. They truly loved everyone. That sets Christians apart.

 

They were fruitful because they had a high view of life. They do not destroy their offspring.  In Roman culture if you had a baby and you didn't like the look of the baby the father would have the baby killed. If the dad wanted a boy and a girl was born, the girl was often killed. Life was expendable. But the Christians had a high view of life. This month is a month that celebrates the high view of life.  Life before birth is valuable. Life that doesn't meet society's standards of real living is important. Humans at the end of life are valued and have dignity. That sets Christians apart.

 

They were fruitful because they lived with a different sexual ethic. They have a common table, but not a common bed. What a phrase. They invite everyone to eat, but the marriage bed is honored. They are in the flesh, but they don't live  after the flesh.  In Roman and Greek culture, anything would go.  Their families were fruitful. Their marriages were fruitful. The willingness to live rightly paid major dividends.

 

Fourthly they were fruitful because they were radically generous. They shared their table with everyone and anyone.  Though they were poor, they were rich. They had nothing, but they had plenty of everything.  They were poor yet made everyone else around them rich.  The people could not believe how quick they were to share.. They were short on many things, but lived with great generosity and it spoke to the culture. They saw God as a giver and it made a difference in their lives.

 

We have the same to offer. Living counter to our culture leaves the sweet aroma of Jesus. And that is contagious.

Generosity and counter cultural living!

As we concluded our Fructiferous series, I used a quote from the early church. In the 2nd century, the church was exploding even when the Roman Empire was trying to stop it.  Embedded in a very anti Christian culture, the church grew. Why? How? Mathetes wrote a letter to Diognetus explaining how the church grew. The writer speaks of the fruitfulness of the early church that came from their counter cultural way Christians were living.  Here is what he wrote:

 

For the Christians are distinguished from other men ..... They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; ... When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.   Letter to Diognetus from Mathetes  (1st Century)

 

Mathetes noted 4 ways Christians lived differently.

 

They were not racist.  They did not just identify with their own racially. Their native land was not their native land because their citizenship was in Heaven. Because of that they did not separate from others based on race. They truly loved everyone. That sets Christians apart.

 

They were fruitful because they had a high view of life. They do not destroy their offspring.  In Roman culture if you had a baby and you didn't like the look of the baby the father would have the baby killed. If the dad wanted a boy and a girl was born, the girl was often killed. Life was expendable. But the Christians had a high view of life. This month is a month that celebrates the high view of life.  Life before birth is valuable. Life that doesn't meet society's standards of real living is important. Humans at the end of life are valued and have dignity. That sets Christians apart.

 

They were fruitful because they lived with a different sexual ethic. They have a common table, but not a common bed. What a phrase. They invite everyone to eat, but the marriage bed is honored. They are in the flesh, but they don't live  after the flesh.  In Roman and Greek culture, anything would go.  Their families were fruitful. Their marriages were fruitful. The willingness to live rightly paid major dividends.

 

Fourthly they were fruitful because they were radically generous. They shared their table with everyone and anyone.  Though they were poor, they were rich. They had nothing, but they had plenty of everything.  They were poor yet made everyone else around them rich.  The people could not believe how quick they were to share.. They were short on many things, but lived with great generosity and it spoke to the culture. They saw God as a giver and it made a difference in their lives.

 

We have the same to offer. Living counter to our culture leaves the sweet aroma of Jesus. And that is contagious.

01/18/2015

Knowing and obeying the commands of Jesus

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

We are called to live fructiferous lives. The first command given to humans is to be fruitful and multiply. Jesus' last command to His people was to multiply disciples through going, baptizing and teaching people. The teaching part is specific. We are to teach people to obey the commands that Jesus taught.  As I mentioned this weekend, that got me looking at what the commands of Jesus were. And to be honest, I was humbled not only at the ones I did not know, but at the ones I was not obeying.

 What are those commands? Years ago, I attended some seminars through the Institute in Basic Life Principles. One of the handouts looked at the commands of Jesus. Here are 49 of them as listed through IBLP.  It is one thing to know them. It is another to share them. The mission is to obey them and to teach others to obey. This is a life long pursuit! 

 

Here are 49 of Jesus' commands with a character application:

          Repent—Matthew 4:17—Humility

  • Follow Me—Matthew 4:19—Meekness
  • Rejoice—Matthew 5:12—Joyfulness
  • Let Your Light Shine—Matthew 5:16—Generosity
  • Honor God’s Law—Matthew 5:17–18—Love
  • Be Reconciled—Matthew 5:24–25—Responsibility
  • Do Not Commit Adultery—Matthew 5:29–30—Self-Control
  • Keep Your Word—Matthew 5:37—Truthfulness
  • Go the Second Mile—Matthew 5:38–42—Deference
  • Love Your Enemies—Matthew 5:44—Creativity
  • Be Perfect—Matthew 5:48—Sincerity
  • Practice Secret Disciplines—Matthew 6:1–18—Faith
  • Lay Up Treasures—Matthew 6:19–21—Thriftiness
  • Seek God’s Kingdom—Matthew 6:33—Initiative
  • Judge Not—Matthew 7:1—Discernment
  • Do Not Cast Pearls—Matthew 7:6—Discretion
  • Ask, Seek, and Knock—Matthew 7:7–8—Resourcefulness
  • Do Unto Others—Matthew 7:12—Sensitivity
  • Choose the Narrow Way—Matthew 7:13–14—Decisiveness
  • Beware of False Prophets—Matthew 7:15—Alertness
  • Pray For Laborers—Matthew 9:38—Compassion
  • Be Wise as Serpents—Matthew 10:16—Wisdom
  • Fear God, Not Man—Matthew 10:26—Boldness
  • Hear God’s Voice—Matthew 11:15—Attentiveness
  • Take My Yoke—Matthew 11:29—Obedience
  • Honor Your Parents—Matthew 15:4—Honor/Reverence
  • Beware of Leaven—Matthew 16:6—Virtue
  • Deny Yourself—Luke 9:23—Determination
  • Despise Not Little Ones—Matthew 18:10—Tolerance
  • Go to Offenders—Matthew 18:15—Justice
  • Beware of Covetousness—Luke 12:15—Contentment
  • Forgive Offenders—Matthew 18:21–22—Forgiveness
  • Honor Marriage—Matthew 19:6—Loyalty
  • Be a Servant—Matthew 20:26–28—Availability
  • Be a House of Prayer—Matthew 21:13—Persuasiveness
  • Ask in Faith—Matthew 21:21–22—Patience
  • Bring in the Poor—Luke 14:12–14—Hospitality
  • Render to Caesar—Matthew 22:19–21—Gratefulness
  • Love the Lord—Matthew 22:37–38—Enthusiasm
  • Love Your Neighbor—Matthew 22:39—Gentleness
  • Await My Return—Matthew 24:42–44—Punctuality
  • Take, Eat, and Drink—Matthew 26:26–27—Thoroughness
  • Be Born Again—John 3:7—Security
  • Keep My Commandments—John 14:15—Diligence
  • Watch and Pray—Matthew 26:41—Endurance
  • Feed My Sheep—John 21:15–16—Dependability
  • Baptize My Disciples—Matthew 28:19—Cautiousness
  • Receive God’s Power—Luke 24:49—Orderliness

·  Make Disciples—Matthew 28

01/09/2015

Fructiferous tales from the Atrium

I love the conversations I have in the Atrium between services. This past weekend as I talked with a gentlemen new to Calvary, i asked what brought him to the church.  I loved his answer. He told me about a guy who came into his retail shop.  In coversation, he found this person so fruitful and overflowing with love for Jesus in his life that he just had to know more about him. In particular, he wanted to know what church he went to. If he was an indicator of the fruit of the church, he wanted to check it out. The gentleman told him he went to Calvary and where it was. For a first time visitor, this guy was so excited. he couldn't wait to see what God had in sotre for him.

The best part!  After the service, the man made sure to tell me he was coming back.

Are you more in love with Jesus today than last year? Than a few years ago? Watch out for the other attachments in your life that keep you from Jesus. And abide deeply in Him.

Thanks for living fructiferously and drawing people to Jesus!