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Power and Suffering

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

Philippians 3:10-11 The Message

I was asked today if there was a danger of becoming too relaxed in our approach to Christian faith. Perhaps we might become so laid back that we lose the depth of spirituality that is possible when we're totally committed to a rigorous discipline of worship. I replied by saying that meeting with one another in community takes us beyond the discipline of private engagement with God. As we take part in shared mission, we're moved beyond intellectual assent to join in a life-changing, costly experience of Christ.

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Dog Dung CV

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I'm tearing up and throwing out with the trash - along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant - dog dung. I've dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ - God's righteousness.

Philippians 3:7-9 The Message

Dog dung. Trash. So much crap. What a way to describe a curriculum vitae, a list of achievements. Having the right family connections counts for nothing. Having a religious background - worth squat. Clean lifestyle - don't smoke, don't drink... much. Doesn't register. Orthodox theology, emergent theology... whatever. Reputation in ministry. Knowing all the latest praise and worship songs or having a great prayer life. These are not the foundations on which I want to base my life. I'm glad that even if my life falls apart I continue on the same basis with God - a relationship centred on Jesus Christ - who he is and what he's done.

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it has nothing to do with your past

how many were raised christian? and, because of that, how many think they have "got a place" with christ? well, jesus shared with us a very cool story about that:
The Story of Two Sons
"Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, "Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.'
"The son answered, "I don't want to.' Later on he thought better of it and went.
"The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, "Sure, glad to.' But he never went.
"Which of the two sons did what the father asked?"
They said, "The first."
Jesus said, "Yes, and I tell you that crooks and whores are going to precede you into God's kingdom. John came to you showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, you didn't care enough to change and believe him." [matthew 21:28-32]

when we think of who will be with God in His kingdom we always think of those "born" into the faith - but jesus explianed that that was not going to be the case. the kingdom was going to be for those who did what God asked, not those who said they would and did nothing. so, it is our actions that help us see how we will fit into the kingdom set before us.

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freedom of conscience

Say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
Romans 14:1-12 The Message

It can easily be argued that Saturday should be set aside as holy. After all, the Hebrew scriptures make it very very clear that keeping the Sabbath holy is a crucial part of obedience to God the creator.

But what if the Sabbath is more a principle than a day? Then what day should it be? Sunday? Monday? It's a luxury Christians and Jews can follow when living in a country that observes the weekend. But in a place like first century Rome that luxury was not offered to most followers of Jesus.

So - the tension between being pure and being pragmatic was around back then as it is now. Paul gives permission for people to develop a sense of personal responsibility in this tension. Having that freedom changes the nature of the gospel somewhat. Instead of being called to living as 'Messianic Jews' with one shared culture, we're invited into the multi-cultural diversity of Christ followers.

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Table Grace

A person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume all Christians should be vegetarians and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
Romans 14: 1-12 The Message
The classic application of this bit of the Bible is the debate over alcohol. Some Christians are teetotallers - total abstainers. Some Christians enjoy a pint or two. And some struggle with life-threatening addiction. I grew up in a family with all three categories. My father was an alcoholic who every now and then had moments of prolonged sobriety. My mother was an abstainer by principle. And in between was us kids who were being schooled in two cultures.

The Evangelical culture I grew up in was one of total abstinence. I remember the minister stressing out at a wedding. He wasn't sure he could even drink water for fear of people thinking it was vodka! Those in leadership were to stay off the bottle for fear of offending the abstainers.

But I don't think that's what Paul's on about here. He's not talking about bending over backwards so that we change food and drink codes for fear of offending someone. The point is not to be offended by people who develop a different approach to food and drink culture.

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The Others

"Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with - even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently."

Romans 14:1-12 The Message

Thinking about the context of 1st Century Rome I am reminded of the huge diversity experienced in the Christian community right from the beginning. The house churches in Rome were all different. Some were mostly Hebrew culture Jewish Christians. Some were mostly Greek culture Jewish Christians. And then the huge range of Gentile Christians.

It's a bit like that where I live too. There's right brain Christians and left brain Christians. See John's article at The Ooze. There's people with University degrees. And there's people who are suspicious of anything that seems to intellectual. There's country and western music people. And there's progressive rock people. Then there's a full range of opinions on sexuality etc. We all have the challenge of acknowledging and respecting one another - even when we don't measure up to each other's criteria for spiritual maturity.

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what stops you?

what stopping you from finding ways to "thin that skin?" for the past few days we have been talking about "thick skin" and how that limits our connection to God - today, as you walk through your day - ask yourself what you can do to change the "thickness" of your skin.

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