An Un-hypocritical Love

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Law starts with love. Because how did Jesus say we are to do the law? By loving God and neighbor as ourselves.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10

“Love must be sincere…” And then Paul continues in the chapter with all these things we should be doing: hating evil, clinging to good, being joyful, patient, blessing those who curse us, etc.

And not just love, but sincere love. If we’re focused on the list, box checking, refrigerator list Christianity, even though they are all things you should be doing: you are practicing hospitality or sharing with those in need…there’s a danger- we may have a secret ulterior motive.

One of our motivations is the hope that we’ll be loved back.

So, in that case, you’re really doing it for yourself. It’s self-love.

  • What can I get out of it?
  • Will people like me more?
  • Will God love me more?

Self love is not sincere love. Sincere means without hypocrisy. And if we’re not sincere, we’re hypocrites. Self love is hypocrisy.

We’re not really doing it because we love others, we’re doing it because we love ourselves.

Check out how we learn to do it the right way, in love, here:

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Jesus gives us a risky new way of Being Human. How do we do it? How do we live this new way? The difference is in who is keeping you. Someone is always keeping us. We’re either keeping ourselves or someone else is. 1 John 5:18 says:

the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 

Who is the One “born of God”? Jesus.

When we keep ourselves, we base our worth on how well we do what the world expects of us. How well we keep all the balls in the air.

But when Jesus keeps us- the pressure comes off. What he did for me- accepting me even though my kids aren’t perfect and I didn’t get the job I wanted. That freeing.

Being “Born of God” gives us a whole new way to begin to be human in the way that God originally designed us. We gain a new understanding of both ourselves and Jesus that changes our hearts. And because its Jesus who keeps us, we can take the risks associated with this new way of living.

Click to listen to the whole thing…

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/being-human/

Injustice and Suffering

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How do we handle injustice and suffering?

1.   Mourn for the sins that are in the world. In Ezek. 9. When God gave Ezekiel a vision of men slaying idolaters throughout Jerusalem- he only spared the ones that  mourned what was going on. So don’t ever become numb to it. Think about it, lament it, pray about it, do something in your community about it.

2.  Sanctify God through it: By mourning- we are sanctifying God. When we are being sanctified- we are becoming more holy- when we sanctify God however- we are simply recognizing his holiness- in every circumstance- as in mankind means something for evil- while God will use it for good somehow and will also come to the aid of the oppressed.

3.   It prepares us: mourning prepares us for when suffering comes upon us. If we can sanctify God when others suffer injustice, it will be easier to sanctify Him when we suffer as well.

If we’re not ready when it comes, if we’re not sanctifying God and thinking of his supreme magisterial knowledge- if all we know is to say trite things to people- like oh it’ll be OK- then when suffering comes to us, its going to go badly.

  • Ultimately, its a low view of humanity that causes the injustice and oppression that leads to the suffering we experience.

Click below to hear the “rest of the story”-

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/injustice-and-suffering/

 

Control Freak

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What makes you angry when your not in control of it? Your work, your kids, your job, your finances, what people think of you? Answer that question and you may have just found your idol.

Yes, even you, Christian. And its actually worse for us. Because we’ve tasted the gospel. We’ve at a minimum given up on trying to control our eternal destiny- given up on the idea that we can ever commit enough good deeds to make up for our sin. We know we can’t do it. We’ve given up control of that to Christ.

But then, we default back to control in every other area of our lives and it becomes where we find our worth other than God. Its almost better to have never tasted the peace and comfort and stability, the ability to trust God, then to have tasted it and gone back to white knuckling everything. Because we know its futile- but we do it anyway.

Beren and Luthien, are the star crossed lovers of Tokien’s prequel to the prequel of the LTR trilogy called the Simarilion. Luthien, the elven princess could never truly be with Beren the man unless she gave her heritage up, her immortality, being with her people, her elven magic. She had to lay it all down to be with Beren. And she did.

God was so desperate to be with us that, in Jesus he gave up all his control as God, his immortality, his supernatural powers and omnipotence, and became a human. If he’s that desperate for us- to give up all the control of God- can’t we be a little desperate for him- and give up just a little control to Him?

Jesus gives up control on the cross, to show us its OK to give it up ourselves.

Click to listen:

https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-power-of-powerlessness/

The Politics of the City

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So we have this biblical wisdom- Christian beliefs, theology- based on scripture. And we have a mandate to live them out. Biblical wisdom teaches us what is desirable- and politics is a way we implement it. Biblical wisdom teaches us what ends are desirable. While politics teaches what means are effective. Wisdom is the end- politics are a means to that end.

Now the means doesn’t always justify the end- so biblical wisdom also tells us what means are permissible- not all laws are lawful…scripturally. You can find a clear example in the sanctity of life issue, i.e. abortion and euthanasia. But what about the poor? There are different and perfectly acceptable political means that we can disagree on as ways to try to remedy that.

  • Biblical wisdom is the heart changing, lifelong growing and maturing guidance that comes from scripture and the gospel. It’s bottomless.
  • While politics has a very limited scope. There are only so many ways to apply government, laws and regulations.

But when we take God out of the equation, we’re left with politics alone- and that’s pretty limiting. Trying to use politics alone to make the world a better place is like using an ice pick to sculpt a glacier.

Listen to the whole talk here:
Or here: https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-politics-of-the-city/

The Toil of Pleasure

The Toil of PleasureIf the author of Ecclesiastes sounds so modern, it’s only because he has captured the utter despair of life without meaning, and how death brings it all to an end. At least he believes in God though. And because Qoheleth believed in God, but questioned him, he’d be a good modern day believer as well. We believe in God and Jesus and that he died for us- but we struggle with what it means in the everyday- for wisdom, for our work, for pleasure- and how we live it all out. Click to listen to last weeks talk…

 

Or click to download: https://www.cedarrun.net/sermons/the-toil-of-pleasure/

Sanctuary Cities

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God is so interested in justice, that one of the first things He told Israel to do in their new land was to create sanctuary cities. If someone accidentally killed someone in ancient Israel, they were to flee to one of these cities. There they could find justice. They had some familiar protections: the right to face their accuser, trial by jury, and witnesses. No ransom was allowed either. So there was equality under the law for the poor. If the death was accidental, then the killer was to safely reside in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest.

So even manslaughter is sin. In fact, all sin requires blood. And its the job of the blood avenger to get it. In the sanctuary city however, the sinner is safe, but if the offender is found outside the city, the blood avenger has the right to kill you. An avenger is someone who gets something back- as in, I’m gonna get you back for what you did. But if you’re a Christian, you don’t have to run any longer, because the blood of the ultimate High Priest has paid for your sin. He has also gotten something back for you- you’re place with God.

Click the link below to hear the whole talk and learn three things about sanctuary cities: the refuge of the city, the justice of the city and the blood of the city…

The Grace of Vengeance

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How could there be grace in vengeance? Well, first and most importantly, God sent His Son, Jesus to take the vengeance that we deserve for our sin- that’s the grace of the gospel. And secondly, if we truly believe that is God of justice, then we don’t have to take vengeance out on the people that have wronged or oppressed. The pressure is off, because we know God is going to do it. That’s grace, too- and by extension, it allows us to show grace to our enemies as well.

That doesn’t mean we sit on our hands, though. Jesus has a two fold mission: to declare freedom for the prisoners, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor… and eventually…the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61). But today it is only the first part. Jesus comes today not to condemn but to save (John 3:17). How often are we condemning? We can still be “matter of fact” about our principles and morals, but we also have to love and relate and serve those around us like Christ did, while focusing on that first part of Christ’s mission- of lifting up, freeing and proclaiming. That attracts despite differences.

Vengeance has a lot in common with its cousin, revenge- but its not revenge. It’s similar in the sense that it involves cause and effect- it’s a response to something- a wrong. But the difference is in who does the judging.

For the full scoop, click below to listen in on my talk at Cedar Run Community Church last week on Numbers 31: The Grace of God’s Vengeance.

Striking Christ

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Water of Contention- Numbers 20

NoVA feels like one of the most workaholic cultures in the world. As the 80s band Loverboy sang: we’re all working for the weekend. We strive and contend with God to get him to give us what we want, when we want it. What’s the one thing you have to have or do- that, like water, is your most basic and core need? That you have to stay on top of? And when things don’t stay on schedule, causes us to strive and contend- and there is no rest until you get it. So how do we get to a place of rest where we can trust in God for our most basic needs? How can God quench our thirst? Not just physically, but spiritually.

  • Check out this talk on Numbers 20 and how a quarreling, contentious and thirsty Israel tries to hold God’s feet to the fire and how when we do that we’re actually laying our rod across Christ’s back: