Saturday, February 28, 2009

More Lent Resources

Per Christum posted a link to daily Lenten readings from the Church Fathers. The early church writings continue to have a lot of wisdom for today. Both a full version of the readings and also a shorter, more manageable version are available. Check them out.

My good friend Mrs. W referred me to another great resource put together by a minister in NYC. This Lenten study that proceeds with Jesus toward the cross. Download it here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Entering Lent

This Wednesday we entered Lent. Lent is a season of listening for Jesus calling us to follow him, to deny ourselves and take up our crosses. A the bottom, Lent only makes sense as a time to get ready for the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter. But in between us and Jesus' victory over death is the road to Jerusalem, to rejection, at the end of which stands a lonely cross. That is the cross we need to take up.

The Five O'Clock Community is going to spend some time in the coming six weeks asking how Jesus is asking us to go with him to the cross. How can we become more faithful disciples? Lent began as a time to get ready for baptism. In the earliest days, the church made its practice to baptize people on Easter, highlighting the fact that by going down into the water we are dying with Jesus and that when we are raised out of the water we are raised into his resurrection life. Being raised into Jesus' life means a lot more than just a hope for a happy place to go when we die. Living in Jesus' life means living in the way Jesus lived, carrying out our lives as his disciples.

The church has often taken Lent as a time for fasting and repentance. This originated in the forty day period before baptism when people would consider the new way they were committing to live and the old way of living they were leaving behind. We take this period of fasting and repentance as a time to speak honestly to God about the ways in which we have failed in the last year to follow Jesus, to go where he goes. And in the leanness of soul, the singleness of purpose that the season brings with it, we pray again for God to enable to follow  his Son.

Below are some helpful resources for Lent. I will post more as I find more.

The first is Christine Sine's Lenten study A Journey Into Wholeness.  The study is available for download, but there is a suggested donation of $5. You can find it and other resources on her blog Check out some of her other posts for some other great resources for Lent.

The second is "Fasting with Jesus, Struggling with the Devil", an article by Mark Van Steenwyk posted on Jesus Manifesto that explores what our repentance during Lent is all about. Again, there's a lot more good resources on the site (like Mark's update about his "Facebook Fast" and articles by Jacque Elull).

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Feb 22 - Dirt

First Presbyterian Church of DuPage - The Five O’Clock
Mk 4.1-34 - “Dirt”

When Jesus was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. He said to them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those outside, everything is in parables, so that although they look they may look but not see, and although they hear they may hear but not understand, so they may not repent and be forgiven.”
He said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? Then how will you understand any parable? The sower sows the word.”

I am going to ask you to make a decision tonight. Jesus has some strong words for us, and they force us to a decision.

I rode the bus for the first year and a half of high school. Pretty early on my freshman year, I became good friends with a high school girl who also rode my bus. We both lived out in the sticks, so we’d be on the bus together at least a good forty-five minutes. We both liked to read the same science-fiction and fantasy books, so we’d talk about the books we read while we bounced down the dust, washboard roads. The beginning of sophomore year, we were still both riding the bus, and still really good friends. Or, I thought we were just good friends. She had secretly been considering other ideas. One day she worked up the courage to tell me that she really liked me, and not just as a friend. “Do you want to go out, Josh?” she asked. Here I am, blindsided by this confession (I was kinda an oblivious teenager!). What am I to do? Do I pretend I misheard? Do I ignore her? Do I say yes and figure out the consequences later? I am forced to do something. After a few minutes mumbling and backpedaling, I worked up the courage to tell her that I just wasn’t really ready to date anyone yet, and we got back to being good friends.

This is the way it is with Jesus’ message about God’s kingdom. It’s like he shows up and says, “I, uh, really like you.” Really, it’s more like he’s the guy who runs into the store yelling, “There’s a bomb! The door’s over here! Everyone get out while you still can!” These sort of things, a confession of love, a bomb warning, they force us to respond. Do we bolt toward the exit sign, to escape, to safety? Or are we the sort of people who get distracted by the fashion display or the Dollar Spot on our way to the door? Do I date my friend, do I let her down gently, or do I pretend she never said anything? Whatever we do we are responding.

We’ve heard and seen and got “wrapped up in” in three parables tonight. What is a parable? Some people assume that it’s all about symbolism and secret meanings. Other people go to the other extreme and just look for some sort of moral or feel-good principle. But these stories aren’t really either of those things. A bit closer is to call a parable a riddle, but the most useful definition of a parable I’ve heard is “a story with a point.” So what is the point of the parables we’ve heard tonight?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Common Root 2009: Tom and Christine Sine

Last weekend I attended The Common Root 2009 in Minneapolis. Jesus Manifesto, a blog associated with the community who hosted the conference, posted the first videos of some of the speakers. Follow the link below to check out two of the speakers I heard.

The Common Root 2009: Tom and Christine Sine

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Jason dreams of leaving home"

These are some of my favorite people in the world.  This is Jae and Rachel and their family.  You can find out a lot more about them on their blog.

They are going to Russia to work as missionaries.  They fly out in just a few days. I want to encourage all of you, especially those of you from the Five O'Clock Community, to pray for them. I know from experience that landing in a foreign country where one is going to live for the next however many months can be very challenging.  Pray for their accommodation to the new culture, for easy language learning, and, especially, for some close friends to walk and work and fellowship with them there.

Jae and I grew up together in Bozeman, Montana. We spent many early mornings sharing our faith and prayer with one another while drinking coffee at Perkins. We headed up attempts to get the Bible clubs on our high school campuses to work together to share Jesus' message with more people.  We even played in a band for a little bit. I am confident that God has amazing plans for Jae, his wife Rachel, and their daughters in Blagoveshchensk.
A few months ago, Jae and Rachel record an album of worship songs. They have it for free download on their blog here.  Download, and remember to pray for them whenever it plays.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Feb 8 - Conflict and Response

First Presbyterian Church of DuPage - The Five O’Clock
Mk 2.1-3.6 - “Conflict and Response”

I. Jesus returns from preaching throughout the area around the Sea of Galilee. He’s been proclaiming the good news that God’s kingdom is just about to arrive. He’s been casting out demons. He’s healed a leper. But now he’s back on his home turf, Capernaum the town he’s adopted, the town where Andrew and Peter and Peter’s mother-in-law live. And word gets out. Mark writes, Now after some days, when he returned to Capernaum, the news spread that he was home. So many gathered that there was no longer any room, not even by the door, and he preached the word to them.

From here on out things are going to get interesting. So far Jesus has met nothing but success. We saw him get baptized--the all-important revelation of who Jesus is that I warned you to keep clear in your heads. We heard God’s special message to him, “You are my beloved Son; I take great delight in you.” Then we saw the Spirit cast him out into the wilderness where he faced down the devil. Next, Jesus came into Galilee heralding the good news that God’s kingdom was just about to arrive. Those he called into his community came; the demons he cast out had to leave. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law, remedied all the ills of the crowds, preached all throughout Galilee, and cleansed a leper. He’s unstoppable--the devil can’t stand up to him. Sickness and disease, the things that plague us and break down our bodies, are no match for him. The demons have to acknowledge his authority, his power to destroy them, and run.

But here things change. Jesus comes home and finally runs into some roadblocks. It’s like Mark takes Jesus out on a test-drive in chapter one, saying, “Look, here’s what this guy can do! He really is God’s Son; he really does have all the power to undo the effects of sin and the authority to pronounce judgment on it.” But by chapter two we’ve bought into the story, put our money in on the ticket for the long haul, and now we get to see how Jesus handles the hard and stony hearts of people like us. Is Jesus still powerful? Of course. Is Jesus still God’s Son, still the one given authority to announce God’s kingdom, to cast out the devil, to heal the sick, and to pronounce judgment? Definitely. But if the story were to be all power and glory, we wouldn’t worship a messiah who got himself crucified.

Tonight we’re going to listen to five scenes in Mark’s story that go together, showing us how Jesus meets increasing opposition, not from Satan, but from us. It starts out small, just some critical thoughts, just some seemingly well-grounded disbelief, but ends up quite big, ugly, and murderous. Then we’re going to ask some questions about where this disbelief comes from and what this part of the story says to us, its audience.

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