He Eats with Sinners

Meeting with a therapist in downtown Cincinnati meant that I often encountered homeless people who often asked for a few bucks. One of these times I offered to buy the man lunch at a KFC right next to where we were standing. He said, “Ok, hold on a minute.” Then he went over to a small car and knocked on the window. The window came down and back up. I assumed that he’d just asked a drug dealer what he wanted for lunch in trade for a hit of some drug. When the man I’d been talking to told me what he’d like me to get from KFC I went over to the car and started a one-sided argument with the person in the car. Looking back, I’m not so sure the person in the car was a drug dealer– it could have been his wife, girlfriend, father, or mother in that car. The man might have been trying to get enough and the right kind of lunch to share with his friend in the car. At that moment I was convinced the man in the car was selling drugs. I certainly could have been wrong about who was in the car. I also could have gotten shot.
What would Jesus have done? I don’t know, but I should have asked the Holy Spirit, my legal friend, how to navigate the situation. If the person in that car remembers that day, he might describe me as a crazy jerk.
Sinners liked Jesus. The religious people mostly did not like him. As students of Jesus, we ought to live an appeal to the world to get to know Jesus. The Lord attracted people to himself by miracles and by compassion. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so many people came out to him that the Pharisees said “the whole world has gone after him.” Another time when Jesus healed everyone in all the towns and villages “he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
You and I have power through the Holy Spirit and the natural powers of our talents and wealth. Through the Holy Spirit we also have access to the compassion of Jesus Christ.
Sinners could be drawn to us like they were to Jesus for compassion and for help.

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My Legal Friend

I really like watching videos about people interacting with police and other public officials.  On TV there is “Cops,” and on the internet there are videos of people filming the police.  If you get pulled over by the police, and you have done nothing wrong, do you have anything to fear?  Maybe not, but you don’t know. The police here have been very helpful to us, but it’s not like that everywhere.  Regardless, if you’ve ever been pulled over, you know that sinking feeling that hits right in the gut.  

How much different would it be to get pulled over by the police with your lawyer friend in the car with you?  Even though we don’t really know the law, we could ask him/her how to walk through each step of the interaction.  

When Jesus was facing his last night on earth, he told his disciples that he was going away, but he would send a legal friend, the Holy Spirit, to help them.  The word in its original language is not “legal friend,” but that is the meaning.  We have been saved by King Jesus from the Jewish law, and from the law that the world insists we follow.  But to walk in the “law of the Spirit,” “the law of love,” we need legal aid.  The Holy Spirit is our legal aid, and He is not only beside us, but inside us.  Galatians 2:19 says: “For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me.  So I died to the law–I stopped trying to meet all its requirements–so that I might live for God. My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  We are free from the control of the world, the control of the church, and the insidious evil that is all around us.  Let the Holy Spirit speak to you.  Speak to your Christian sisters and brothers boldly, yet gently, remembering that “they too have the Holy Spirit.” Facebooktwittermail

Galatians

I would love for y’all to read Galatians before worship this Sunday. It will not take more than 30 minutes. If you have questions or insights, or the Holy Spirit speaks to you about his word, come and share.

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Blood Kin

John 6: 53Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
I remember one time my mom’s side of the family got together for a reunion, and they took a picture of all the blood kin. I don’t remember this being a thing when I was a kid, but sometime I after I tricked my wife into marrying me, we were at a reunion and the matriarchs and patriarchs started calling for a picture with just the blood kin. Jenny was left out. My brother’s wives were sidelined. It was funny to us, and it was bewildering too. I don’t doubt that they had a good reason: the Greene family leaders wanted a picture of those who shared blood.
Blood is one of the ways that we are family with other people. The blood that makes you related to someone is an analogy for how the blood of Christ makes you part of the family of God. Although this physical life is real, it is also a shadow of spiritual realities. Which is more real, the blood that makes me my dad’s son or the blood of Christ that takes away the sins of the world and makes me Heavenly Dad’s son?
How is the blood of our ancestors an analogy for the blood of Christ that brings forgiveness?
We identify with our family and our ancestry. To have my sins covered in the blood of Jesus means that I have been drawn into the family of God. My family is just a taste of the family of God.
The blood of Jesus changes our identity. My last name is not as significant as the name of Jesus. God’s passion has always been for his own name to be holy, and he has given us his name—Christians.
The blood of Jesus causes God’s wrath to pass over us. There will be payment for sin. We don’t like to talk about it, but the evil in this world must be set right. People must be held to account. Because our big brother, Jesus died on the cross for us, we who believe are covered like the doorpost of the enslaved Jews hoping to flee Egypt. The angel of death will pass over us as we are receiving eternal, abundant life.
Reflect on the cross more often. When you feel worthless, remember that Jesus paid for you with his life. When you are swollen with pride remember you were evil to the point that Jesus had to die for you to live.

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Who is My Family?

Matthew 12: 48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
I had some great family time over labor day weekend. The main reason for our trip was to clean out as much of mom’s stuff from her house as we could. Mom graduated from Erlanger, KY to heaven last November. We all were glad for her to receive her eternal reward, and in her passing, we saw more clearly who she was in Christ and all the good works that the Lord had enabled her to do. But we miss her, and I knew that being with my family, going through her stuff, would be emotional. My brothers and I were greatly helped by our wives, nephews and nieces, our cousin, and one of mom’s closest friends. When we arrived Thursday evening to begin our work, some were inclined to take it all in before we began shuffling boxes and filling up bags for the thrift store. I know that I wanted some time to pay attention to my feelings. I was comforted to be with my family.
Saturday night we had an 80’s youth group reunion. Fifty or more gathered and told stories for a few hours. We prayed for each other. We talked about my mom. We cried and laughed. A fire alarm went off and we were scattered. The event was basically over, but we didn’t leave. We waited outside for the fire department and some of us went back inside to visit and to pray. Some of my church family from those days were hurting, and we prayed together for each other. One old friend knew that one of her current struggles matched up with one of mine, and we decided to be prayer partners as we seek what only God can do for us.
I see the lines that connect to me those around me: some are blood–the blood of my ancestors that I share with my grandparent’s descendants, but the bloodline of Jesus connects me deeply to those who love the will of God.

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Everything Must be Done in Love

Ephesians 4:15 “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
I remember that verse from when I was a kid. Sometimes it seemed like the people who quoted it were about to hit someone in the head with a truth hammer. I don’t know of any good reasons to hit someone with a hammer out of love. Some of us think of ourselves as “I speak my mind.” kind of people, and others think of ourselves as “I don’t like to cause any trouble.” people. Some of us are aggressive. Some are passive. Don’t let your natural tendency override your ability to speak the truth in love.
If we are going to speak the truth in love, we have to be tough minded and tender hearted, but how do we know if we are beating up each other with the truth? How are we to know if we are being bleeding hearted types who enable the worst kinds of living?
I hope someone mouthed the name “Jesus” or “The Holy Spirit” when they read those questions.
Jesus models for us how to speak the truth in love. One of the most popular lines in the Bible “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” comes from a moment when Jesus saved a woman’s life. She had been caught having sex with a man who wasn’t her husband. Jesus saved her from the crowd because he loves her. Her told her the truth about her situation also: “Go and cut that stuff out.”
We also have the Holy Spirit to guide us in loving and truth telling. When you feel like you need to confront your wife, your husband, the principal, the anonymous person on the internet, ask the Holy Spirit about what you ought to say. Sometimes we present a straw man kind of argument to the Lord: “I’ve done all I can, and he/she still hates me.” or “I’m better of saying nothing at all to that woman/guy.” Ask the Holy Spirit what you might say or do to win them over instead of saying what you think wins the argument. Listen to His voice.

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A Gift for Everyone in the Family

When anyone showed up at my mom’s house around Christmas or around their birthday, she would go off into her gift room and look for something that she could give them. Most of the presents she gave were inexpensive and odd. One year she gave me pots and pans and cereal (among other things) for Christmas. There was a reason and a story, but I cannot remember the reasons or the story.
If my mom wanted to make sure that everyone had a gift, and maybe yours is too, how much more is our heavenly father a giver of gifts? 1 Corinthians 12 says that God has given each of us spiritual gifts, and Paul does not want the church to be uninformed about those gifts. In our churches we may not be seeing lots of people living out their spiritual gifts. The people who lead in the church service and the Sunday school teachers have gifts, and they get to use them, but maybe not many other people are using their gifts in the church for the common good. One of the gifts that Paul lists is a gift of healing. Wouldn’t you like to know if there was someone or some people in your church who have the gift of healing? You could make sure to have them praying over a critical medical issue. That might even be your gift, but you are uninformed that you have it.
The Bible does not tell us how to find them, but I’ve found at least three things to find them out: 1. Ask the Lord what your gifts are in the presence of people who have some sense about spiritual gifts. 2. Ask other people what they think your gifts are. 3. Get involved with a group of people who will let you try out your gifts.
We are the light of the world. We are the outpost of the Kingdom of God. These gifts that the Lord, the Holy Spirit, has given us are part of God’s plan to redeem the world through Jesus Christ.

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You Might Have a Problem with Jesus


I really liked something in the sermon Sunday. The preacher said that he was helping someone who said that they wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, but they were not even considering letting go of their right to continue sinning. The preacher said that this man had a problem with Jesus, not just with sin. That really resonates with me. When I don’t want to do what Jesus taught, what the Bible teaches, I am running into a collision with the God who made the universe with a couple words from his mouth. When I read the Bible and don’t like what it says, it’s up to me to seek to understand and seek grace to conform to his revealed will for me. The preacher’s example was about sex, but it applies to all my sindencies (new word meaning sin tendencies) as well. Sometimes I don’t want to be generous. That is a strain on my relationship with Jesus—not only did he tell us to give our coat and shirt to a man who asks for our coat, Jesus gave his blood and body for the whole world. Sometimes I want to hate my enemies and curse them. That presses on my relationship with Jesus. Jesus told us to love our enemies, to pray for those who are jerks to us, and he proved it all by asking forgiveness for the people who crucified him. I could go on.
Yesterday evening I spent some time talking with friends about the beginning of Matthew 8. Jesus touches and heals a lepper. From our perspective it seems like the most normal thing in the world for Jesus to walk over and touch this untouchable person and heal him, but if anyone was watching this happen, it would have seemed ridiculous. You don’t touch those people. Neither can a man just walk up and say, “You are clean.” Jesus challenges us with his words. He leads us into impossibility by his example, and he takes every step with us. Hallelujah!

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