Do We Get a Cheat Sheet?

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S (Scripture): Acts 15:6 The apostles and the elders gathered to consider this matter [of circumcision]. 7 After much debate, Peter stood and addressed them, “Fellow believers, you know that, early on, God chose me from among you as the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and come to believe. 8 God, who knows people’s deepest thoughts and desires, confirmed this by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, but purified their deepest thoughts and desires through faith. 10 Why then are you now challenging God by placing a burden on the shoulders of these disciples that neither we nor our ancestors could bear? 11 On the contrary, we believe that we and they are saved in the same way, by the grace of the Lord Jesus.”

12 The entire assembly fell quiet as they listened to Barnabas and Paul describe all the signs and wonders God did among the Gentiles through their activity. 13 When Barnabas and Paul also fell silent, James responded, “Fellow believers, listen to me. 14 Simon reported how, in his kindness, God came to the Gentiles in the first place, to raise up from them a people of God. 15 The prophets’ words agree with this; as it is written,

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After this I will return,

        and I will rebuild David’s fallen tent;

        I will rebuild what has been torn down.

            I will restore it

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            so that the rest of humanity will seek the Lord,

                even all the Gentiles who belong to me.

O (Observation): The leadership of the Church fathers in Jerusalem for what becomes known as The Jerusalem Council. At the council, circumcision is discussed.Is it necessary – or not – for one to be circumcised before one can become a Christian?

For those who never ventured out to foreign lands nor turned their attention to any wisdom other than their own teachings, OF COURSE one must be circumcised FIRST!

Yet to folks like Peter and Paul and Barnabbas, who remained open to God’s movement and actually paid attention to the Gentile population, they witnessed God inviting ALL people into the fold. So for the disciples and Paul, of course we welcome in all who accept Jesus Christ without the need for circumcision.

What matters are two things: 1.) in the quote from Amos we see above, God has already, from time immemorial, welcomed who all seek to call on God’s name – Jew and Gentile; and, 2.) as Peter claims, we are saved by grace and no work from the Law of Moses.

A (Application): Where do we spend our time? Is it looking only at our own teachings and customs? Or do we spend time in places we aren’t comfortable and learning about religions and customs other than our own?

Seems to me that this text is really, really challenging us to open our eyes to the new thing God has done, is doing, and will do.

When do we ever stop thinking and just get a list of rules to live by as Christians? The answer is: never.

So, we must be ready to listen. How do we do that? With practice.

We listen and share what God has spoken to us. We share with other Christians to confer with other disciples and we move forward in grace.

Most of all, we remember how we got to where we are as Christians: through grace.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us of our humble nature as Christians. Help us to listen to your voice. Amen.

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1 Corinthians 13 – Its Not Just for Weddings

S (Scripture): 1 Coronthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

O (Observation):  Paul has been harping on the idea of Christian community.  He just finished up talking about how all members of the body of Christ are indeed ONE in the body of Christ.  They have great need of one another.   They are inextricably linked to one another.  They are to see one another as helpful in their own ways.  No one is more important.  No one is less useful. Each has a place, regardless of prior background (Jew, Gentile, Slave, Free, etc).   

A (Application): How is this type of community lived out? In a word: LOVE. Love is the hallmark of the Christian. One who receives grace and mercy and love extends the same to the world, especially in the Christian community. Others who look in on Christian community wish to see how differently the Christian realm is will hopefully see a community rooted in love.  

This text is used quite often in weddings.  I see nothing wrong with this use.   I simply take the opportunity today to remind us all that this text was originally meant for how we are to treat one another within the Christian community.   And maybe, by extension, how we might treat others in the world.   

So go ahead…use it at your wedding.   See how love roots you together to your loved one…but then also see how love roots us all together in community.   See love’s impact on the world around you!   And get ready for transformation.  

P (Prayer):  Lord, love is simple, but hard.  Help us to love.  Amen.   

The Hardest Part About Being Christian…


S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 

O (Observation):  Paul encourages Jesus’ followers to acknowledge the work of the Spirit in their midst.   Everyone has a gift of the Spiritnti share for the common good.   Gifts of the Spirit are not made for the individual, but for the whole community.   And no one should be jealous of another’s gift, for we are all working towards the common good.  

The one Spirit gives these gifts for God’s people (and thus, for the benefit of the whole world).   

A (Application):  The hardest part about being a Christian…is other Christians : )

We are one church, one body, despite our differences and despite our theologies: we are on in Jesus Christ.    We don’t want to acknowledge this, quite often, especially when our political leanings take control of our frontal cortex : )

We want our religion to fit into our boxes that we have constructed.   And if anything is outside of that, we dislike it or dismiss it.  

When we see others using a spiritual gift that we don’t have, instead of celebrating, we typically wonder why we don’t have that gift? Or why that other person is “showing off.”  (I don’t think people are showing off when they use their gifts, that’s just our perception, quite often.)

So, let us celebrate our ONEness in Christ Jesus.  

May you own and use that gift of the Spirit for the common good.  

May you celebrate when others use theirs.  

P (Prayer): Lord, what is up with these spiritual gifts and all the division?   Help us, O Lord, to be one in practice and spirit.  Amen.