Friday, July 31, 2009

Being a Better Neighbor

by Ben

Here's a great article about some simple ways to connect with people around us every day. It's as simple as playing a game of catch and inviting kids to join you, offering someone an extra blanket or bug spray or offering to take a picture and email it to them. I'm terrible at this, and it goes against my (our) natures as introverts, but these are great ways to build life-giving relationships with those around us.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Christian Breathing

by Ben

Yesterday we heard a great quote in the sermon: "Repentance and faith are like Christian breathing." For the Christian, life is a continual process of breathing out -- knowing our brokenness, seeing it more deeply, repenting of it -- and breathing in -- turning from other objects and our own efforts for satisfaction, self-worth, significance and turning and trusting in Christ alone with all our being through faith. I think this is close to what Jesus described as "abiding in my love," (John 15) and "feeding on me." (John 6) Repentance and faith are not only things we do when we become Christians, but what we do every day as Christians. But what is faith? I also came across this article about what it means to fight your sin. On the one hand, it's not "morbid introspection or ascetic legalism." It's not just telling yourself: "I'm just going to knuckle down and be a better Christian, because Jesus tells me to." But on the other hand, grace doesn't mean that "sin is really no big deal, that Jesus paid for it at the cross and therefore we are home free." Faith in the bible is described as fighting -- "by the spirit, put to death the deeds of the body, and you will live." (Rom. 8:13) How do we FIGHT without becoming legalistic, relying on our own moralistic efforts? The key is HOW we are fighting -- the bible always describes fighting as fighting in the spirit, by faith, trained by grace, abiding in Christ's love. The article describes fighting this way: "The greatest weapon against our opponents is Spirit-empowered faith in the promises of God, promises that have been guaranteed by the death of Christ. Don't trust the promises of the flesh; trust in the promises of your Savior."

Fight to believe and trust in the radical grace of God above all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Better "Gospel Presentation"

by Ben

If you had five minutes to explain the gospel, what would you say? I think most of us might present the gospel like the diagram below: We sinned, therefore we are separated from God, God bridged the gap through Jesus, now we can be with God.

There's nothing unbiblical persay about this presentation, but I think it doesn't do justice to the gospel as it is presented in the bible and it causes a lot of problems. First, it skips the entire the whole Old Testament -- or it jumps from Genesis 1-3 (Adam and Eve sinned) to Romans. Second, it makes it seem like the "gospel" is all about how individuals are saved. But what about all of the created world around us? Is the bible just about rescuing individuals out of a sinful world and sending them to heaven while the world around us rots away? The bible's answer is a resounding "NO!" (this would be another blog post) On the other hand, it's true that the gospel is also NOT just about making the world a better place without preaching individual salvation through Christ. I recently came across this gospel presentation from these guys in Britain called the "Crowded House" and it's the best, clearest one I've seen so far. Here it is:

Summary: God promises the world we all want; Jesus shows us God's new world.

1. We have spoiled God's good world.

2. God promises a new world.

3. We cannot create God's new world.

4. We can enjoy God's new world because of Jesus.

5. Christians are God's people waiting for God's new world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TV Notes

by Rachel

One of our favorite things to do is lounge at home in the evening and watch true crime shows like Dateline and 48 Hours Mystery. I actually look forward to Friday nights in large portion because it means the weekend, going out to dinner with my husband, AND watching Dateline. I also normally don't like the cold weather, but it feels extra cozy when you can curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa and watch a murder mystery show. (Is it bad to be entertained by this?)

I feel like these shows are gaining in popularity. There are already other ones on various cable channels; plus there's usually a 48 Hours Mystery marathon on TLC on Saturday evenings; now there's Primetime Crime on ABC. We have seen so many of them that when a promo for a recent Dateline episode came on, we were like, "Hey, we already saw that story covered on 48 Hours Mystery."

On an unrelated TV note, Ben observed that both Verizon FiOS and Comcast have their own commercials featuring the other's sales/installation guy as a buffoon-ish character.

Speaking of commercials and buffoons, I also hate all of the commercials (often for healthy foods and cleaning products) where the wife is portrayed as the smug, all-knowing authority and the husband as the buffoon-ish, slightly chauvinistic/arrogant fool. They both annoy me, but the wife annoys me more. To me it just reinforces women's tendencies to want to control their husbands instead of trying to show them respect.

I talk about TV a lot.