A regular (daily, weekly, monthly) specialty serving of significant
or insignificant musings from the mind of an Italian Pastor.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Light of the World...Is Jesus!

I knew this would be true...and this year I wasn't disappointed. What you ask? Well, for a long time the holiday season had lost its sense of wonder and excitement. I know I am not old. But still, when you've gone through 30 of these things they tend to begin to run together. We get a tree - just like last year. We hang the decorations - just like last year. We listen to Christmas music - new CD, but pretty much sounds just like last year's. We put lights up on the house - just like last year. I set up my Lego train - yes I said a Lego train. Come on, you know you are jealous. Still I've done it the exact same way for YEARS!

Then, something changed! Little Callie Sue was born into our family. Now I knew that she would bring the excitement back...but my expectations were too high last year. She was 9 months old. She could sit up, make funny noises and that is about it. She liked the tree. She like the lights so much they got her to crawl for the first time! But, she really had no clue what was going on. She thought torn up wrapping paper was amazing while the awesome Mr. Potato Head puppy and kitty we got her were boring. Not a great year.

Fast forward to this year. She is now 2o months (going on 21). She is running EVERYWHERE!!! She is talking up a storm and we can understand a ton of her words! I know she is aware of what is going on because if we pull in to our driveway without stopping to show her the lighted star in our upstairs window she cries! She can say "Chriti-ights" with the best of them! Every morning we get up and she says good morning to our tree and counts to 3 to have the lights turn on. She has to turn on Daddy's Lego train all by herself (yes it is still Daddy's...don't judge). Since she always cranks the throttle as far as it goes, the train flies off the track every morning! We read the story for the advent calendar and she points to where the cool handcrafted ornament goes on the flannel tree (made just for us by my awesome mother-in-law).

This year we purchased the Matthew West Christmas album. On it there is a song with the lyric "the Light of the World is still here." Amy was singing the song one day and got to "Jesus." Callie then chimes in with "'ight of the wold!" Oh yeah! that is my daughter. Now anytime we say Jesus she answers with, "'ight of the wold!"

Let us not forget the amazing truth that is found in something that my daughter reminded me of.

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This Christmas, are you walking in darkness or are you allowing the Light of the World to shine though your life to those around you? Are you in awe of the Light of the World or are you allowing something to outshine the only One who truly shines in this dark world?

This year, forget all the lights that shine around us and focus on the Light that shines in and through us!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Community: Important to God and Important to Us

The English word community comes from the Latin root from which we get another English word, common. Community is based around that which is held in common. We have communities based around common locations, video games, music, TV shows, dress, lifestyles, sports, economic status, bloodlines and much much more.

Why do we naturally search out others to be in community with? Because we were designed and created for the purpose of community. When we look at the life of Jesus we see evidence of this. What was he doing while on earth? He was establishing community. He had community with twelve mismatched guys. Beyond the twelve He had community with 120 disciples of men and women. When Jesus left, He sent the Holy Spirit into the 120, thus remaining in community with them. He sent this community on a mission to grow and prosper the community. The disciples (followers) were called to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20). Disciples (followers) making disciples (followers). That is, the community of disciples (followers) were to further the community by reproducing disciples (followers). They were called to do more than share the gospel, they were called to integrate those who responded to the gospel into the greater community of disciples (followers).

Friends, we were never called to make believers. We cannot control whether or not someone believes the gospel and responds to it. However, we were called to tell them the gospel, and then to turn believers into disciples (followers). How do we do that? How can we become the community Jesus called us to be? It is all in the verses I already mentioned. It is in the call that Jesus gave to His followers just prior to ascending into heaven. Listen to the words of Jesus:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

What is the significance of baptism? It not only is a public testimony of the difference that Jesus made in a person’s life, it is a public testimony of being connected with a new community, the community of Christ-followers. After baptizing believers we are to what? Being in the community of Christ-followers means that you…follow Christ! How do we follow Christ? That is where the “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” comes in!

As believers, we should not only value people coming together and having something in common, we should value people holding a lifestyle of following Jesus in common. We are all at different places in our spiritual journey. However, we need to do our best to allow people to learn how to better follow Jesus and deepen their community with Him and with each other. I therefore pray that our lives and our churches resemble what we see in Acts 2:41-47. The early church was made up of all kids of different people who did not have anything in common. Yet, they were able to form a world changing community by holding in common lives that were lived like Jesus! May we do the same!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Only God is God...and you are not Him!

Only God is God...and you are not Him!
Do you ever wonder something to the effect of "What is God thinking?"

In speaking to many different people I have to say that almost everyone, if not everyone, has thought that at some point in their lives. It may not be profound to you to realize that guess what...you are not God!

You don't think like God. You don't have all the information God has. You don't love like God. You don't have the power God has. Maybe, just maybe God has something on you...you catch my sarcasm right?

One of the most amazing passages I have read is found in Isaiah 55. In that passage God say,

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”

Are you comfortable serving a God who is bigger than you. For some reason many are not. For me, if God were not bigger, smarter, stronger, more powerful, than I am, why would I be worshiping Him? The trick is taking what we know about God to not doubt Him but trust Him more!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Blogging Through the Bible - Final Entry Part #2

The Epistle to the Philippians:
What an amazing book. I have to say that for me, while I love the entire book, Phil. 2:5-11 is one of the most amazing passages in the NT. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

There are few passages that sum up the life of Christ so perfectly and succinctly. It is a literary masterpiece!

The First Epistle to To Timothy:
1 Tim. 3:1-13 lays out an detailed list for those who provide leadership within the church. There are two classifications: elders and deacons. Elders are the highest human authority in the church. Of course, we know that ultimately, Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5). However, leadership in the church is to be provided by men who fit the qualifications laid out here an in Titus chapter 1. Deacons are to be servants. There is some disagreement as to whether or not women can serve in the office of deacons. I personally believe the answer is yes. In Romans 16:1 we are introduced to a female deacon. Likewise, the word translated "wives" in verse 11 by the NIV can also be translated "women." Thus, a possible translation of that passage is: "In the same way, the women are to be women worthy of respect..." One reason for this interpretation is that it makes no sense for Paul to have qualifications for deacon's wives (a lesser office) and not for elder's wives (the highest office in the church). If Paul is talking to just women, what women is he talking about? Why would he take a verse in the middle of qualifications of deacons to talk to the women of the church? The way the passage can be read then is that verses 1-7 are qualifications for elders. Verses 8-10 are qualifications for male and female deacons. Verse 11 gives specific instructions to female deacons while verses 12-13 gives specific instructions to male deacons. This reading of the passage accounts for the most evidence with the least amount of problems.

While all that is interesting, the important part is to see how set apart and special the offices of church leadership are to Christ. Many churches today struggle because they do not have biblical leadership. There is a reason that these passages are given.

The Epistle of James:
What a fantastic book. If you want to know practically how to live the Christian life, read James. It is not deep theological stuff. However, try to live your life in line with James. It may be simple in theory but complex in actuality.

The First Epistle of John:
1 John 4:1-3 says, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."

What a fantastic warning. I believe this is a great place to end our journey through the Bible. We need to make sure that we test everything against Scripture. There is absolute truth and authority. It is given to us by God through His words. As 2 Tim. 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blogging Through the Bible - Final Entry Part #1

The B-90 is finally done. I made it. I was successful in reading the entire Bible in just 90 days. I needed every last day to do it. But, I did it! What I was less successful in doing was to be consistent in blogging about my journey through the Word. I mean, I suppose I could have just spewed out a few thoughts here and there. But, I usually have to give it a little more thought than that. So, since I missed almost the entire New Testament, here are some of my highlights from these amazing books:

The Book of Acts:
It really is amazing to see the difference that the Holy Spirit makes in the lives of the apostles. They were running from opposition at the end of the Gospels and now are risking life and limb to spread the message. Jesus isn't present. And yet, they are filled with an incredible boldness. Where did this boldness come from? Where did the influence they wielded come from? Acts 2 gives us the answer. The Holy Spirit came on these men and changed them from the inside out. The amazing thing is this: WE HAVE THE SAME SPIRIT INSIDE OF US!!! The challenge to each of us is to live like it!

The Epistle to the Romans:
Rom. 8:31-39, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Wow - need I say more?

The First Epistle to the Corinthians:
1 Cor. 1:10-15, "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name."

I hear so often of who people like or don't like in the realm of Christian books and videos. "I like John MacArthur," or "I like John Piper" or "I like Timothy Keller," or "I like Francis Chan," or "I like Andy Stanley," or "I like Mark Driscoll," etc. What is funny is there are an equal amount of people who say the exact opposite. I don't like...you get the picture. Are we in our own way falling into the trap of the Corinthian church? Are we just listening to the person we agree with or like? Look, we all need to be looking out for heresy. But, just because you don't like a guy, or just because he doesn't hold to as many points of Calvinism as you do, doesn't mean he is a heretic. Neither does it mean that you can't learn from him. I have even heard preferences within our own church about our own pastors. Can we have preferences? Absolutely! However, let us not divide ourselves over it or cut ourselves off from sound Bible teaching just because they are not our preference. Maybe, God wants to use something or someone who is out of our comfort zone or preferences to speak into our lives. As long as they are sound Biblically on the main things, we should be positive about their ministry and see what we can learn from them. I guarantee, whether you like them or not, they probably know a heck of a lot more about the Bible than we give them credit for when we are critical.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vitamix Blender!

Check out this amazing giveaway for a great smoothie maker! http://www.thethriftymama.com/2011/05/vitamix-giveaway.html#comment-71401

Blogging through the Bible...from Old to New

An Apology:
Well, here we are, day 74 of the Bible in 90 Days. We are almost done folks! I know I haven't done the best job keeping up with my posts. I am sorry about that. But today, my goal is to catch up! Since the last time I posted, we have read all the Prophets and most of the Synoptic Gospels. What amazing stories and theology are found in these book. Let's be honest here. how much time do we really spend reading in the minor prophets? Not very much. At least I didn't before now. If you have, more power to you! In this blog, my goal is to give you my highlights from this section of Scripture.

Isaiah 6:
Holy, holy, holy. Clearly a passage that proclaims how holy our God is. Holy: "set apart one." Set apart from what though? The most common answer is set apart from sin. While it is true that God cannot sin, does God have to be completely set apart from sin? Isaiah 6 is an amazing story of the holy God coming to a sinful man, cleansing his sin and calling him to be on mission for Him! Has God come to you, cleansed you of sin and called you to be on mission for Him? What was your response? Were you excited about being with God and experiencing forgiveness? Most are stoked about these aspects of salvation. However, were you exctied to be on mission for Him? Many are initially excited, but does it last? For most Christians the answer is a resounding no! We must make a point of restoring the excitement of our mission. We weren't just saved from sin we were saved for a mission!

Ezekiel 4:
What would you do if you were told you must lay on your side for over a year, lay on your other side for over a month, and cook your food with dung. The point of this ridiculous exercise? To show the people how they will suffer at the hands of their enemies. The kicker? The people will not listen to you! All of this, and the people will not listen. I think it is hard to serve God when you can see a tangible result. Ezekiel not only did not have a promise of success but it was a promise of failure! Serving God can be an amazing calling, it can also hurt like heck and leave you burned out and broken. And yet, God will ultimately be glorified! We do win in the end...we just may not see it in our lifetime!

Amos 5:
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

I wonder sometimes what God would think of our worship services today. We in the Americanized Evangelical church have convinced ourselves that we are doing it right. "We are Biblical" we say. "We are relevant" we say. "We are making a difference" we say. But, I have to admit. The more I read Scripture the more I am uneasy with where we are at. Is there a chance that God looks at our church and says what He said above to the nation of Israel. Are we "Biblical" and "relevant" and "making a difference" and still missing the boat? Is that possible?

Let's take my last section and move it into a New Testament context? After reading so much about Jesus, what do you think Jesus think about Evangelicalism today? Would Jesus have hung out in our church services? Would Jesus have liked what He would see going on in our buildings? Would Jesus have had time to "go to church"? Would Jesus approve of our worship? Would He appreciate our sermons? What would He think of what we place in the offering plate (or have taken out of our checking account with our online giving option)? Would He like what we do with kids? What we do with teens? What would He think? Often, we don't think about what Jesus would think. I have a feeling that we would be shocked by what Jesus would say.

In Conclusion:
I want to close this post by a quote from the last book of the Old Testament. This comes from Micah 6:6-8.

6 With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.