Weekend Wrap-up

What a great weekend! We had lots of people shoveling snow from Quincy Street to the backyard of the church. We had a strong team moving Erin to her new place. We had a group of people praying for the needs and opportunities that are outside our church. We tried our new parking plan. (Many thanks to everyone who is beginning to walk from the Washington-Lee Parking Garage).

During Lent, I will be preaching through 6 of Jesus’ parables about Life in the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is one that is already but not yet. We get tastes of what it is like that mostly seem to fuel anticipation and longing for when it comes in its fullness. We will see during this series that Life in the Kingdom can be captured in 11 words:

Scatter Widely. Expect Rejection. Love Anyway. Pray Like Crazy. Anticipate Grace.

You can hear the first sermon here.

When Jesus tells the parable of the soils, he is explaining why he tells parables and what effect His Words have on those who hear them.  I said,

Parables seem like easy stories to understand–  and in many ways they were.  But Jesus says, I don’t tell them because they are easy.  I use parables to talk about my Kingdom because I don’t want people to get it.  Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, “I want them to see but not see and hear but not understand…”  Jesus tells parables to create a barrier between those on the inside and those on the outside.  It’s a permeable barrier, but it separates those who get the secrets of the Kingdom and those who just parables.

The passage Jesus quotes is this:  Isaiah 6: 9-10  God said to Isaiah, “Go, and say to this people:   “‘Keep on hearing,  but do not understand;   keep on seeing,  but do not perceive.’  Make the heart of this people  dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes;    lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”

Isaiah asks the logical next question…  how long do I have to do this, Lord? This doesn’t sound very fun.  God says, “Until the cities are gone and everyone has moved away.”  Isaiah’s task was to preach to a people who would never respond, who would ignore him, and ultimately completely turn away.  What a hard calling!

But this was to prepare the way for the Messiah, to test people’s hearts, to create in them longing for redemption and restoration.  Because Isaiah also foretold of One who would come to bring Good News, who would bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim liberty to the captive. (Isaiah 61)

Jesus used parables to probe people’s hearts.  You see, you can be curious about God or Jesus and never really get to a place where you yield. Jesus wanted people who wanted Him, not just the cool tricks He could do or the clever way He had with words.  Parables got people curious.  Parables were also a means for people to respond and become convinced.  My hope is that during this season, we would be people who take the words we hear and ‘hold them fast in an honest and good heart.’

Lets peer forward to see the King.

February 21, 2009

Small and Hidden – Luke 8 by David Hanke

Do you fast?

Do you fast?

We will be talking about another pillar of Islam this week: the fast. Jesus had several things to say about fasting and whether it should be a spiritual practice for those who follow Him.  Richard Foster has been a helpful instructor to me as I think about spiritual formation.  Here is insightful instruction from his book, The Celebration of Discipline.

One issue that understandably concerns many people is whether or not Scripture makes fasting obligatory upon all Christians…  One of the most helpful passages is Jesus’ startling teaching on this in the Sermon on the Mount.

Two factors bear directly on the issue at hand.  First, his teaching on fasting is directly in the context of his teaching on giving and praying.  It is as if there is an almost unconscious assumption that giving, praying, and fasting are all part of Christian devotion.  We have no more reason to exclude fasting from the teaching than we do giving or praying.  Second, Jesus states, “When you fast…” (Matt 6:16).  He seems to make the assumption that people will fast, and is giving instruction on how to do it properly.

Having said this, however, we must realize that these words of Jesus do not constitute a command.  Jesus was giving instruction on the proper exercise of a common practice of his day.  He did not speak a work about whether it was a right practice or if it should be continued.  So, although Jesus does not say “If you fast,” neither does he say “You must fast.”  His word is, very simply, “when you fast.”

The other helpful passage from Jesus about fasting is the one we are talking about on Sunday.  Come wrestle through it with us.

Do you fast?

Why not? For what end?

January 24, 2010

Discipline of Prayer – Luke 11:1-13 by Julian Dobbs

January 17, 2010

Discipline of Evangelism – Luke 3:7-22 by David Hanke

Deeper thoughts on the Trinity

Picture 27

Credit: http://janknegt.eccwireless.com/

We have begun our 5 week series on The Gospel and Islam.  Yesterday I gave a lot of background on Islam and talked about Muslim and Christian understanding of the Trinity.  Specifically what is the difference that Jesus makes.  I found this video series from The Buxton Initiative really helpful.  I’ll stick it at the bottom of the post.  The speakers are insightful, charitable, and passionate about truth.  Thank you Buxton for posting this!!

I hope you are in a small group this trimester wrestling with Scripture, getting to know people, and enjoying the opportunity to live life with others.  Say no to isolation!!

I hope you got a copy of this free book on Sunday. We gave a copy to every person who came.  If we ran out before you got yours, let us know in the comments and we’ll order another round.  I love how the author talks about Jesus.  He gives us a picture of how we should talk about our faith with anybody–  with charity, sincerity, love…

Loved singing God of this City. (Thanks Matt and Bethany)  “Greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.” This so vividly captures my heart and passion for what we are building at Restoration.  Hope you come along for the ride.

Buxton Initiative Videos on the Trinity

The Hedging of the Bets

Picture 21

We are getting ready to start a 5 week series on The Gospel and Islam. Here are all of my caveats and disclaimers…

  1. I am not an Islamic scholar. I am a pastor and a Christian leader. I do not for a second propose that I fully understand or can even grasp all the geo-political consequences of the profound tension between the Abrahamic faiths. My focus is not geo-political. My focus is how Muslims and Christians answer this question: How can I be close to God?
  2. Christianity is personal but not private. This truth is absolutely fundamental to understanding Jesus, the mission of the church, and the existence of Restoration. We believe that Christianity has a mandated place in the marketplace of ideas. We must lovingly, faithfully, reasonably, passionately engage our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family with the fundamental questions of life. This series is one more shot at doing just that.
  3. There are profound differences in religions, world-views, and faith traditions. This might seem obvious, but I want to be clear that although Islam and Christianity often talk about similar ideas and practice, they always end at different conclusions about who God is. I am very comfortable with that difference. I am not seeking to reconcile those differences. In fact, my goal is to lovingly and graciously highlight those differences so that people can make an informed choice about to whom they will give their life and allegiance.
  4. Talking monolithically about a world religion is fraught with opportunities for misunderstanding. Yep, that’s right.

The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas

Spiritual Disciplines in the Marketplace of Ideas.
During the season of Epiphany, I would like for our church to engage with one of the other Abrahamic faiths (that is Christianity, Judaism, and Islam–  who all claim Abraham as a spiritual father) that is rapidly growing around the world, Islam.

According to a Pew Forum study, there are currently 1.57 billion Muslims, representing 23% of the world’s population.

My hope is to focus on the spiritual practice of Muslims and Christians.

What we do flows from what we believe

The religion of Islam is organized around five pillars.  My aim is to take one week on each of these practices.  Since what we do flows from what we believe, we can understand what Muslims believe about Allah from the way they approach him.  For any religion, our sincerity is measured by how our belief shapes the choices we make.  How does Muslim theology affect Muslim practice and by corollary, what does Muslim practice reveal about Muslim theology?  Helpfully, Christians, are instructed to practice many similar disciplines.  The way Jesus talks about them and the way we engage in them also reveals what we believe about God.

My hope is that four things will happen by the end of the series:

  • We will all understand a little more about Islam, so that we can engage our Muslim neighbors and co-workers in meaningful dialogue.
  • We will all understand and love Jesus more as we engage with his instructions and teaching.
  • We will all think about the benefits of spiritual disciplines for our intimacy with God (especially as we prepare for the season of Lent).
  • We would all find that our zeal and passion to talk about Jesus and His Gospel would increase.

Check back tomorrow for all of my caveats and disclaimers…

January 10, 2010

An Uncomfortable Zeal – Psalm 139 Pt. 3 by Erin Coleman

January 3, 2010

You Can Run… – Psalm 139 Pt. 2 by Erin Coleman

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