The Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Life and Death in Israel’s “Wild East”
I have always equated the book of Judges with the American portrayal, in film and television, of the Old West. Laws were few, wars and violence were constant, new settlers struggled against established natives, and heroes would rise from the ranks of the common people. In this period of Israel’s history, there was little unity; no king or central government. The twelve tribes existed as a confederacy, each tending to its own territory, enemies, and issues. The stories that emerge from this period of time are full of lessons on leadership, perseverance, faith, and charisma. But they are also full of lessons on greed, vengeance, selfishness, and failure. The careful reader can learn just as much from the bad examples as the good.
Faces of Community
Will the Real Church Please Stand Up?
We really need it to, because there seems to be a lot of confusion as to who or what she really is. Is the church a business? Or a social organization? Or a consumer commodity? Or an entertainment venue? Or a spiritual au pair? (That’s a nanny, for those that don’t know.) John’s Revelation was really a letter sent to seven different churches, all trying to follow Jesus in some capacity, but all dealing with different temptations and struggles. For John, the Church is the Witness; the Testifier to God’s work in the world and his salvation available through Jesus. The letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor provide both warning against ceasing to be the true church, as well as encouragement to continue the work. The local church and all of her members must constantly give attention to spiritual growth and transformation in their lives, a sort of remodeling, or renovating, to make sure their lives are arranged in such a way that the true essence of Christ’s Church exists in growing capacity in their midst.
Meet the Neighbors
Who Is Your Neighbor?
The question was asked of Jesus by an inquiring man who wanted to make sure he had covered his bases in “loving his neighbor.” The answer was probably not what he was expecting. Instead of telling him who his neighbor was, Jesus told him a story about what it meant to be a good neighbor. To love one’s neighbor demanded that he take the initiative in extending mercy to one with whom his path crossed. And while the identity of “the neighbor” can be diverse, Jesus’ story serves to remind the church today that opportunities to be a good neighbor come our way just about every day if we will only open our eyes to see them.
Overcoming Suburban Addictions
Lives of Excess, or Lives of Self-Control?
Living in what very well may be history’s most prosperous country during history’s most prosperous age is a great blessing. But as with all blessings, inherent challenges arise when blessings run the risk of becoming idols. The musings on Solomon’s life, wealth, wisdom, and prosperity that are presented in the book of Ecclesiastes offer a unique case study for Christians and churches seeking to operate faithfully in today’s United States. Join us for this 7-week study as we strive to ensure that our American suburban blessings don’t become suburban addictions.
Life and Faith: Full? Or Fulfilled?
Did you know that in many cultures around the world, meals can be two or three-hour events? Not just one or two days a year, but sometimes every day—and not just dinner, but also breakfast and lunch! Most Americans can only reply, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” This example is just one illustration of how very busy our lives can be. The letter of Hebrews draws the reader’s attention to the reality that “full” doesn’t necessarily equal “fulfilled.” Both our lives and our faith can fill to the brim with things that matter less, crowding out the things that matter most—the things that really bring fulfillment. In our fall study of Hebrews, we’ll consider the message that Jesus brought fulfillment to God’s grand plan of salvation, thus bringing about a new possibility for humanity to know God and walk with Him. But if we are going to experience that fulfilled walk with God and fulfilled lives here on Earth, we have to be willing to make Him our top priority.
The Once & Future Kingdom
This is How We Live - VI
Following THE Way Means Living THIS Way
Before the term “Christian” began to proliferate with regard to those who followed the example of Jesus, the early church simply referred to each other as followers of “the way.” They had seen the way Jesus lived, and they sought to follow his example by living according to the same “way.” As we celebrate our 40th anniversary this year at UBC, and as we practice 40 ways of living the Christian life, we thought we would take 40 weeks to reconsider exactly what living the Christian life should look like. As a starting point for our investigation, we’ll consider the original covenant instructions given to God’s people, the Ten Commandments, and we’ll observe how those ten words served as principles of living for God’s people from the wilderness all the way to the early church and beyond. Far from being “old” laws that no longer apply to the church, we will see that the Commandments represent the simplest explanation of what it means to love God and love your neighbor, as well as a broad enough explanation to potentially speak to every area of the Christian’s life. While specific applications change with time and place, the principles themselves clearly define what it means to follow “the way.” This is what it means to live the Christian life.