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“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” —Romans 12:11
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” —Romans 12:11
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” —Romans 12:11
Passion drives us. It drives our education, careers, hobbies, relationships, and how we spend our free time. People’s passion drives new inventions, creates books and blogs, saves animals, produces vaccines, starts businesses big and small, and even makes us choose one coffee shop over another. Passion also drives some of our biggest mistakes, especially in relationships — the bad boy you shouldn’t have dated, the girl you lost because you came on too strong, the affair that destroyed the marriage, loosing friendships over politics, etc.
Passion, zeal, fervor, devotion, enthusiasm, intensity, or whatever you want to call it, there is a good chance you have it about something. But do you have it for God?
Simple challenge: Answer these questions in your head, in a journal or with a friend:
- What are you passionate about?
- Is God on that list? Why or why not?
- Do you let God be apart of the other items on your list? How can you?
This Friday, Extra Life Ministries will be hosting a board game night at Crossroads Christian Fellowship. We will have the usual favorites like Scrabble and Apples to Apples, but also some lesser known ones like Tsuro and 1960. You are welcome to bring your own game too. There will be a nacho bar and a potluck of snacks to give you energy as you get your game on. Everyone is welcome to join!
Crossroads Christian Fellowship is located at 5501 Dewey Drive, Fair Oaks, 95628. For questions email Brian@CrossroadsJourney.com.
Last week we had a great bible study on the first chapter of the book of Hebrews. It was heavy in discussion, which unfortunately we can’t replicate for you effectively, but in this post we will give you a look at what we were talking about. If you missed it, don’t forget to check out part 1 .
This passage gives us a great hint to the nature of angels.
Hebrews 1:14 NIV
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?
They’re spiritual beings who are, by the accounts we read of people’s encounters with them, pretty fearsome. But here they’re described as servants. And we know that one of the ways they serve is as divine messengers.
Hebrews 2:2-4 NIV
For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
In this culture, when a messenger delivered a message, it was as though the originator of the message was speaking. That’s why you will sometimes see references to “the angel of the Lord” speaking, and sometimes it will just say “the Lord said.” Based on this passage, the Law was delivered through angels; that is “the message spoken through angels.” We can tell that from the context, and through at least one reference in the Old Testament.
Most of chapter one is devoted to demonstrating that Jesus is not just a mere messenger. This is really important when you consider the message. The beginning of chapter one sets Jesus as superior to the prophets—and as we discussed, His message is the culmination of everything the prophets said.
What is the author saying about the Law and the Gospel here?
Remember how strict the punishments were for breaking the Law? God will be just as strict with those who reject Jesus. The Gospel is the new standard. Don’t ignore Jesus.
Application: Are you trying to save yourself?
Really, the Law just demonstrated the fact that we couldn’t save ourselves with self-effort. That’s why God instituted a system of sacrifice; we needed cleansing. Are you drowning in shame every time you make a mistake? Are you striving to prove yourself worthy of God’s love, worried that you won’t get it otherwise? Are you judgmental of yourself and others? Don’t ignore Jesus. We’re saved by grace. Accept that, and act like it. Make peace with it, and you will begin to leave fear behind and move toward love.
Application: Are you spreading the Gospel?
How will the people around us escape if they ignore so great a salvation? This message is for all of us. Jesus has commissioned us to be His messengers, to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us in order to bring the world to Him—and maybe even to go and do signs, wonders, and various miracles. What is your part? We know this is God’s priority; listen for Him, and He will show you.
Please feel free to join us for bible study on Wednesdays at 7pm at Crossroads Christian Fellowship (5501 Dewey Drive, Fair Oaks, CA 95628). We hope to see you there!
Last night we had a great bible study on the first chapter of the book of Hebrews. It was heavy in discussion, which unfortunately we can’t replicate for you effectively, but in this post we will give you a look at what we were talking about.
Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
Who is the author comparing Jesus to in these verses? What is the implication?
The author is comparing Jesus to the prophets of the Old Testament. Think about it: this is written to the Jews. The author is comparing Jesus to other people that had revelations from God. These were men and women inspired by the Holy Spirit, who delivered God’s messages to the people. They performed incredible miracles. They were heroes, and are still revered for their faith in and service to God.
Who are some of the prophets of the Old Testament? What did they do?
Elijah called down fire on the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel, debunking the existence of Baal and proving God’s power to an idolatrous people. Moses parted the sea to lead Israel to safety, led them through the desert, and talked with God face to face. The prophets predicted the rise and fall of nations. They faced death and emerged victorious. And they predicted that a Savior would come. As great as they were, the prophets were looking forward to the coming of someone greater than them: the Messiah, the Anointed One.
Application: Do we treat Jesus’ words with the proper reverence?
It’s easy to treat Jesus as one voice among many. We often give more weight to our own desires, beliefs, opinions, and deductions than we do to Jesus’ words. We don’t give Jesus the authority in our lives that He deserves. What influences do you allow to overpower Jesus in your life?
Originally posted by Pastor Brian Armitage on his personal blogon Dec 25, 2010. It’s a modern day look at the nativity story.
The Hanukkah travel rush was over, and Bethlehem was quiet again. Hence, the corner where Ben Simon worked the graveyard shift hadn’t seen a car pass in ten minutes. He looked up from his English textbook and peered across the street, to the small booth where his friend Isaiah worked. They had both gotten late-night jobs at gas stations at about the same time, and frequently used faux company loyalty as an excuse to pick on each other. Diagonally across the intersection from Ben was a third gas station manned by Mordecai Steinberg. While Ben and Isaiah had the occasional squeegee fight in the middle of the empty road, Mo usually stuck to his booth dutifully, reading the Torah.
Tonight was too cold for squeegee fighting, and the batteries had just run out in Ben’s Game Boy. His parents were mad at him for working on the Sabbath, and he had homework due on Monday.
Ben was all but dozing off when someone knocked on his Plexiglas window. He started and sat up on his shop stool.
“Sorry. What do you need?” Ben rubbed one eye with his palm as he looked up.
Outside the window stood a young woman wearing a military dress uniform. She was all straight lines – vertical spine, squared shoulders, and perfect uniform creases. And yet her face was gentle, hinting at a smile. Ben had no doubt she could take him apart in a hand-to-hand fight, and no one would make fun of him for getting beaten up by a girl afterwards.
Her eyes grabbed his, very pale and very clear, and she smiled. “What are you doing here?”
All at once, the world burst open. Light poured through the dingy windows of the gas station, and left no shadow. Ben Simon’s ears popped, his eyes widened, and he threw up his hands in terror. The woman outside the window threw light like a pure white sun, her smile only growing wider.
“Don’t be afraid!” she whispered to Ben. “I bring good news. The best news the world has ever heard. An hour ago, right here in Bethlehem, a Savior was born. The Messiah, Ben. Right here.”
At her words, the fear began to drain away. Ben lowered his hands and looked at her. Her eyes were bright and full of joy, and they stole his breath away.
The Messiah. Here.
He found his breath, struggled to pull it in. “Wh-“
“Not five blocks away. Down the street,” she said, lifting her arm to point, “you’ll find a newborn, wrapped in cloth. He’s in the laundry room of the hotel, lying in the sink.”
Ben barely had time to picture the King of Kings in his makeshift cradle before the angel looked over her shoulder, laughing. A battalion of soldiers in the same uniform, burning brighter than the day, swept in on wings of gold and silver, filling the intersection and the surrounding streets. Their voices shook the walls of Ben’s booth as they shouted, “Hallelujah in the highest! Peace on Earth to the favored of God!” There voices were as joyous laughter, filled with love and zeal.
The angel looked back to Ben, her wings unfolding like the sunrise. “Go, go!” she shouted giddily, and he lifted herself from the ground. Behind her followed the rest of the brilliant soldiers, shouting their chorus again and again. Moments later, the night was quiet again, and Ben could hear only his own riotous pulse. He stumbled out of his booth, staring at the sky, until he finally looked down to see Isaiah and Mordecai standing next to him.
“You… you heard that. You saw it,” Ben stammered.
“I know which hotel she meant,” Isaiah started, stealing glances at the stars. “We should… I mean, we’ve gotta- Mo! Wait!”
Mordecai Steinberg had turned and run headlong back toward his gas station, pumping his arms like an Olympian. He spun about breathlessly and shouted back:
“I’m getting my car! Don’t move!”
* * *
“Fernando! Is it refreshing?”
“Crap, I’ve got no bars. We hit a dead pocket… no! Wait, there it goes. What does it say?”
“Turn around! Shaun, turn around!”
The van halted sharply, and the young man and woman in the back braced themselves as best they could. Bina Zarafshar clutched at the notebook computer on her lap as the monitor swung forward and down. The cord running from the computer to their team’s cell phone snapped taught, and Bina caught her breath.
Fernando noticed at the last second and pulled down his hand, slackening the cord. He chuckled nervously and sat down. “That was bad. Almost tugged it right off your lap.”
“It’s okay. It’s fine. Wait. Did we-“
“Yes, yes, we got dropped. But we’ve got good reception here. Good spot to reconnect.”
Shaun parked the van and climbed into the back.
“How close are we?”
Bina looked to the chart. The latest data from the feed had been factored in, and the numbers were huge. Monumental.
“Oh, we’re close.” She couldn’t help but laugh. They were almost on top of it. “Try turning right back at that last intersection.”
Fernando nodded and grinned eagerly. “This is too good. Too good. You should redial now.”
“Oh! Right.” Bina double-clicked the link to her ISP, and the cell phone began dialing. None of them considered the absurd charges they were racking up, connecting to the Internet through an international call. The signal shot through the atmosphere, and a few moments later, the connection was up again.
“Good,” said Shaun. “You let me know if we get dropped again, okay?” His eyes grinned every bit as much as his mouth. He hopped back into the driver’s seat.
“Of course. Just brake easier!” Bina looked back to her screen. She logged back into the University network, and the feed began again. “All right, we’re receiving data… yes, definitely turn right back at that intersection. The stream was almost off the chart right there.”
“Let me see,” Fernando said, leaning in to see the screen. Bina turned it toward him, and he laughed aloud. The graph, which read “Divine Particle Density,” showed a spike in an already remarkably high, steady level at about the time they had passed the intersection.
“When we show this to the Nobel committee,” Fernando smirked, “do you think they’ll mind the name ‘divine particle?’”
“It’s as good a name as any for what they are,” Shaun shouted from the front, putting the van back in gear. He swung the vehicle around as fast as he dared and headed back along the road. “Tell me the convergence hasn’t moved.”
Bina shouted back, “No, it hasn’t moved for hours! And it has to be in this town… where are we?”
“No, what country?”
They all laughed. For all they sleep they had gotten in the past week of tracking and traveling, they should have been exhausted. But sleep was far from their minds.
* * *
No one was doing laundry this late, thankfully. There was a slight draft from under the door, but other than that, the room was warm enough. Joseph leaned on the wall by the sink, sleeves rolled up, looking down at his son. He hadn’t stopped grinning for hours. He couldn’t help but think that there was a better place to put him, but he had dried out the basin well enough. And besides, the child had been sleeping peacefully since the doctor had left.
Joseph sighed happily and threw a glance at Mary, who stirred on her cot. A few thin, dark curls still stuck to her wet forehead, and her face was still ever so slightly flushed. Joseph knelt by her side, by his wife’s side, and let himself just stare at her face. Her mouth was barely open, her breath steady and calm. A nice change of pace from… had it only been an hour ago? He shook his head in awe and smoothed Mary’s hair back from her face.
“My God,” he breathed, “you’re amazing.”
Her breath drew in sharply, and her eyes flickered open.
“Oh! Did I wake you up? I’m sorry…”
“No, no, it’s okay,” she said sleepily, squinting her eyes and stretching. “Is the baby still…”
Joseph nodded. “Yeah. Still asleep in the… sink.” He chuckled despite himself.
Mary smirked, shaking her head from her prone position. “The sink. Oi.” She slipped her hand into her husband’s, catching his eye. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
Joseph squeezed her hand and held her gaze. He merely nodded, and leaned in to kiss her.
It was then that the doorknob turned. The couple looked up sharply as a young man poked his head into the room.
“Hello?” he said.
“Hello,” Mary replied. There was suddenly no sleep in her voice, and she sat up on her cot.
The young man was jostled forward by someone behind him. He stepped through the door, and two other teenagers followed, all scanning the room expectantly. They all wore blue uniforms with the logos of three different gas stations on their breast pockets. Their eyes settled on the sink in the corner at the same time. The one in the back gasped. “Is that… is the baby…?”
Joseph threw his wife a confused look, and found her doing the same. “How do you…”
“This way! It’s got to be right here!” came a woman’s voice from outside, speaking English.
A moment later, three Americans burst into the laundry room, carrying a laptop hooked up to a cellular phone. They all wore wrinkled, lived-in shirts and jeans, and were watching the screen of the laptop with awe in their eyes. The only light-skinned one of the three, who had nothing in his hands, looked urgently to all those assembled in the small room.
“Please, tell me one of you speaks English.”
The three gas station attendants, Mary, and Joseph, all began speaking at the same time, in English.
“Oh, thank God. Look, there’s a completely unique quantum event happening in this room, right here! We’ve been tracking it from America for the last nine months, and… what is it?”
Bina had set down the laptop and walked over to the sink, almost in step with Ben. Joseph took a step toward them, but Mary put a hand on his arm. The Jew and the gentile peered over the edge of the basin.
And there, wrapped in three of his father’s old t-shirts, was the child, his breath whistling softly through his nose. If peace were a child, it could be none other than this. Ben’s breath caught in his throat, and Bina’s eyes lit up.
“It’s a child,” Bina gasped.
Joseph breathed deeply, still uncertain. “How did you know we…?”
And all at once, the rest of the new arrivals realized that they had found what they were seeking. Suddenly they were all laughing in delight. Ben knelt by the sink, eyes locked on the Anointed One. Shaun grabbed Fernando by the shoulders, tears in his eyes. “A child! Of course it’s a child!” He turned to Mary and Joseph to explain just as Mo Steinberg did the same, and they launched into their stories as one.
“Wait, wait, wait!” It was Ben, who only now looked back up from the sink-turned-cradle. He held up a hand for silence, and turned reverently to Mary and Joseph. “What is his name?”
Mary met his gaze, slowly beginning to smile again. “His name is Joshua.”
They all took in the name in silence. Fernando grinned and nodded in approval. “Joshua. Jésus in Spanish. It means…” His voice trailed off.
Mary nodded with him. “The Lord saves.”
I’m sad that October is almost over. I love this time of year. Fall is here and with Halloween in a few days, we all have an excuse to indulge in some spookiness. As such, I decided to draw the themes for our first XLM weekly Bible studies from horror stories.
I love my job.
My notes are below.
Cosmic Horror: the Universe Does Not Love You
H.P. Lovecraft was a pioneer of what’s called weird fiction. The bad guys in his stories are often these unspeakable cosmic horrors — vastly old, utterly alien creatures that cause trouble for humanity. Among them is Cthulhu, one of the Great Old Ones. He’s gigantic and has a squid head. Very creepy.
Lovecraft worked with that theme of alienness a lot. Much of the scariness of his stories comes as his characters learn unimaginable secrets about the universe. Because of that, one of the other themes that crops up a lot is madness. In the Cthulhu Mythos, when you learn the truth, the truth will drive you insane. Cthulhu and other figures in the mythos have evil cults that worship them and do terrible things. Their presence corrupts their followers. One of the things that happens in Lovecraft stories is that, if they don’t go nuts, people slowly become monsters.
Lovecraft’s work reflects his personal beliefs about the world. His philosophy is called cosmicism, which holds that the universe is an impersonal, chaotic, mechanical place. The universe was born of chaos, and produced only more chaos.
If that were so, what would it imply?
- Our lives are completely and totally insignificant.
- Good and evil are meaningless.
- Life has no purpose.
- There is no justice.
- We could all be wiped out at any moment.
- Suffering is arbitrary.
- Love is, at best, a chemical reaction.
Ever feel like that? Ever doubt that your life, your experiences have any meaning? Isn’t it horrifying to think that they might have no meaning at all? Ever get the feeling like no one cares about what you’re going through and life is nothing but chaos?
Let’s look at some contrasts between the universe of the Cthulhu Mythos and the universe that Jesus describes. Read the rest of this entry
Starting October 17 at 7 pm, Extra Life Ministries will have a weekly Bible study at Crossroads Christian Fellowship.
A group of truly awesome individuals will be breaking off with me from Crossroads’ Wednesday night Bible study to start this new geeky endeavor. We’ve got a good group, and I’m honored that they’re with me for this.
The XLM Bible Study is a place where geeks can be at home as we talk about God and how He works. Topics are spiritual; the flavor is nerdy. Our goal is always to connect geeks and gamers—inside and outside the church—more deeply to God.
And since we’re going weekly in October, why not start off with some Halloweeny action?
Our first series will be Jesus vs. the Horror! Bum-bum-buuuuuuuum! We’ll dig into the likes of The Ring and the works of H.P. Lovecraft to find truth in spooky places. First up: Jesus vs. Cthulhu.
Come join us! Tell your gamer friends! Assemble! This is gonna be fun.
Update (Oct. 4): My mistake! I counted wrong. The 10th will be our small group wrap-up at Crossroads. You’re invited to that, too! The XLM Bible Study at Crossroads will start on the 17th.