Author Archives: Robin

June 1, 2009

2 Corinthians 1:5 We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.


Where do you look for comfort? What we often see in the media is people looking for comfort through sex and booze. I’m sure that goes on but what I see in real life is people seeking comfort in food. Yep, food. People eat to feel better (or sometimes refuse to eat to feel better). It very literally fills an empty place inside us and gives us comfort. Certain foods do this better than others, but eating to deal with the discomfort of stress or boredom or loneliness is common. Of course this is a short-lived comfort, as are sex and booze. Could Paul really be saying that being connected to God through Christ can make us feel OK about ourselves and our life, even while problems continue? Maybe instead of sitting in front of the TV with my snack and soda I could find greater comfort being still in the presence of God. Think it over, and hand me that bag of chips.

Don

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May 26, 2009

1 Corinthians 10:12 Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.

My dictionary defines hubris as “arrogance resulting from excessive pride.” It has been the fatal flaw in otherwise great people throughout history, this confidence deep within us that we have things under control. It often gets expressed in a round about way as we shake our heads in puzzlement wondering how others, past or present, could have been so blind or stupid or immature. Here Paul warns his friends in Corinth that they need to be careful. They feel that they are on top of things and others are missing the boat. There is an old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I hope the beginning of summer finds you feeling good about life and your place in it. I hope you are looking forward to enjoying long, warm days and restful nights. But I also hope you will remember that it is all a gift, a gift for which we will be held responsible by God. Will the change of season and schedule make us more self-focused or God-focused? May we learn this summer what Paul asked of the Corinthians: to cultivate God-confidence.

Don

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May 19, 2009

1 Corinthians 3:18 Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you can be wise merely by being up-to-date with the times. Be God’s fool—that’s the path to true wisdom.

How easy it is for us to fool ourselves. We can all look back at our lives and remember things we did or thought that seemed right at the time but in retrospect were not in touch with our true selves. Maybe we wanted something so badly that we refused to see what now seems so evident. Maybe we were just going with the flow of our friends or culture but looking back we doubt the wisdom of doing so. It is hard work to examine our hearts long and deep enough to confront our true motives and feelings. Often we don’t wish to take the time or the energy and settle for our first impulse. Paul asks his friends in Corinth to make the effort. He suggests that they question the conventional wisdom and try to see things form God’s perspective. That may require times of silence and solitude. It may require saying “no” to some other things in life to carve out the space to say “yes” to this kind of reflection. I think many of us instinctively know that doing this would be worthwhile but it doesn’t come easy, so we fool ourselves into thinking we will be all right without it. Paul suggests otherwise. Memorial Day is coming up. Many of us will supposedly have some extra time. Conventional wisdom says go, go, go. Maybe God is saying “be foolish” and use some of that time differently.

Don

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May 13, 2009

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Here’s the deal- you’re going to change. Try as you might, you can’t stop the progression of time and age. The issue is, will you change for the better? Here Paul tells his readers to be transformed. This implies that some outside force (God) does the transforming. He tells them to do this by the renewing of their minds. The word mind for his readers would not be limited to academic pursuits or simply the logical or rational. Mind had to do with their whole inner orientation and attitude towards things. So he is basically saying let God change you by giving you a new way of viewing life. I have been reading a wonderful book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation by Ruth Haley Barton. You can (and should) purchase it on the following website: www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=833331&netp_id=434169&event=ESRCN&item_code=WW&view=covers. It explores this theme in depth. Hey, you are going to change anyway. Why not make it a change for the good?!

Don

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May 4, 2009

Romans 5:5 In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

How much is enough? I guess that depends what you are talking about. The passage above is from the Message Bible’s version of Paul’s letter to the folks in the church at Rome. He’s been telling them that they can’t do enough to make themselves right with God. That shouldn’t be so strange an idea. Most of us know that we can’t even do enough to make ourselves right with ourselves. Take your pick. We don’t make enough money, can’t lose enough weight, can’t get high enough grades, can’t live in a good enough neighborhood, to feel like our lives are good enough. So some of us try to make up the gap with other things. But then there isn’t enough booze, or enough sex, or enough fun to be enough for long. Yet here Paul says that God is willing to give us enough and more. Remember that Paul’s life was filled with imprisonments, beatings, hardships and conflict. Yet he claims that the reality of God in his life is, and can be in his reader’s lives also, enough and more than enough. In fact, it’s more than we hold. And it is all a gift that we can’t earn but can only accept in humility and gratitude. Why not ask God to show you what this means for you in your own life this week. Enough already!

Don

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April 27, 2009

Acts 26:28, 29: But Agrippa did answer: “Keep this up much longer and you’ll make a Christian out of me!” Paul, still in chains, said, “That’s what I’m praying for, whether now or later, and not only you but everyone listening today, to become like me—except, of course, for this prison jewelry!”

What would you change about your life if you hit the lottery? I bet you have a few ideas about the way you might spend a cool million. I’ve read stories indicating that for some people coming into a lot of money is the beginning of their lives unraveling leading to a tragic ending. Yet I’ve also known people with little means that were perfectly content, even happy, with what they had. I don’t think I’d ever turn down some extra cash, but I’m more intrigued with someone like Paul in this passage who claims to have peace and joy even though his circumstances are oppressive (he was imprisoned and on trial at the time). The message of the Bible is that God is that good. Without God, nothing is really satisfying. With God, joy and peace are possible in any circumstance. Imagine living a life that was so solid that, instead of wishing to be in others shoes, you’re wish for others would be that they could share in the wonder of your life. Pain and suffering are real and not to be diminished. Still, even in the face of it, the message of Christianity is that a life of overflowing love and contentment is still possible. That’s the kind of life I want. How about you?

Don

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April 20, 2009

Acts 20:21 I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus.

This is Paul telling his friends what he wanted them to remember about him. What he is emphasizing is that he told everyone he could, everywhere he could, the things he knew about God. We live in a mass media age where TV, movies and music are viewed by millions of people around the world. A recent Utube video made a Scottish housewife an overnight celebrity to millions as clips of her singing on the British version of American Idol circulated around the globe. But when you think of the places in your life where the greatest impact was made I bet you can associate a flesh and blood personal encounter with another human. At our Reunion Sunday yesterday many folks saw pictures of people that God used in their lives to share deep and meaningful spiritual experiences. It seems it always comes down to another human being to spread this God thing; Jesus, Paul, your parents, your Sunday school teacher. Sooner or later it becomes your turn to be that person who embodies and shares the love of God to another. As in Paul’s case, it may be someone you might not expect or someplace you might not have planned. The possibilities are everywhere God is present, and God is present everywhere. If we are attentive to God, we too can become part of God’s story today. Maybe years from now someone will be telling others how God used you in their life. That would be a pretty great thing.

Don

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April 13, 2009

Acts 12:5 All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.


In this week’s sermon I spoke about the way Acts, chapter 12 (and really, all of Acts), was the sequel to the life and work of Jesus. In Acts the story continues with the disciples living out much of what Jesus lived in his time on earth. In this sequel, as it is told in Acts, Peter and later Paul have the starring roles. But there is a large supporting cast and in this scene the supporting cast has the role of prayer. If I am correct in assuming that the sequel of the Easter story continues to this day and includes us then we can take a lesson from this passage. Prayer is a vital part of the story, and those who pray, though they may be seen as supporting cast by others, have a significant role to play. Maybe we need to learn to pray not that we will be part of God’s continuing story, but that our prayers in and of themselves become part of that story. What if we touched the reality of the resurrection as we prayed? What if prayer became the way we live with God, an end in itself and not a means to something else? May we find the life of the resurrected Jesus in our prayers this Easter season.

Don

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April 6, 2009

Acts 5:38,39: “So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!”

We get a lot of catalogs through our home this time of year from L.L.Bean to Victoria’s Secret. They are marketing their summer fashions that, I suppose, are, to some extent, different than last year’s. It makes good economic sense to create a new trend so that people will feel the need to buy the new product only to be replaced the following year with yet another variant. In addition it satisfies a basic human proclivity towards the new and different. Still, aren’t we hoping that some things in life are more than just what happens to be hot at the moment? In the passage above a famous teacher is advising the leaders that the then current “Jesus movement” could easily be just the latest in a series of hyped events that come and go without leaving a lasting mark. Of course, if it’s not, if it is something of lasting value that God is doing, then maybe it should be treated with more respect he reflects. And so here we sit 2000 years later. I think it is safe to say that the events from Palm Sunday through Easter that we remember this week have had a lasting affect. When our world and our lives can too often be consumed by the transient, maybe it’s a good time to consider if the Jesus story has something more permanent to say to us, something we can build a life around while other things come and go.

Don

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March 30, 2009

John 20:30-31: Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.

Some people believe this is where the gospel of John ended originally and that chapter 21 was added later. It certainly does make a good ending. What it says is that we don’t have everything that happened but we have what we need. It stands in contrast with Thomas who a few verses earlier proclaimed that he needed more, that he needed to touch the holes in Jesus’ hands and side. We would all like more, wouldn’t we? We would like things explained and revealed on our terms, the way we like them and in ways we find comfortable. Sometimes we get closer to this experience and sometimes it seems far away. But what if, despite the incompleteness of our understanding and experience, we really do have what we need to live life in God’s grace and goodness? What if, instead of always wanting and sometimes demanding more, we lived like what God has provided is truly enough, both spiritually and physically? May your rest in God’s “enough” this week.

Don

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