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July 24, 2016 - We Demonstrate Our Understanding of God by How We Treat Our Neighbors - Exodus 20:16-17

posted Jul 26, 2016, 10:34 AM by Grant Garber

  • We know about expediency. Like Pilate, we too, have learned to do what it takes to get where we are. 
  • We also know about competing ideologies. The dominant ideology of our day that can trump all others is the fulfillment of the individual.
  • The church believes that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. This isn’t truth in the form of religious laws and moralisms, which quickly digress into more ideology. Rather, it is truth as a person.
  • Jesus claimed that this truth has little to do with expediency for saving yourself or with ideological commitments that only divide us. But the truth has everything to do with the witness you make about your neighbor. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
  • The neighborhood of God is never established by similarity. It is only established when mercy is offered.
  • To avoid being merciful just because it isn’t expedient, or convenient, or because the person in need offends our ideology or morality, is to divide the neighborhood of God. It is to say he or she doesn’t belong. And that is to bear false witness against your neighbor.
  • When we say that God gives us grace, we aren’t saying God gives us what we want. Grace means that God gives us what we need. Sometimes what we need is freedom from the things we want. And that leads us to the last commandment: “You shall not covet…anything that is your neighbor’s.”
  • There is no better way to lose your life than to keep measuring it by the standards of the neighbor.
  • The real problem with coveting is that it reduces those you envy to their possessions. But the person you envy is a living soul who needs mercy as much as you. And that person belongs to you, as a neighbor, by this common need.
Pastor Jim Spon | Exodus 20:16-17 (NKJV)

July 17, 2016 - Honoring Limits - Exodus 20:14-15

posted Jul 26, 2016, 10:31 AM by Grant Garber

  • Freedom is only found in places with boundaries and limitations.
  • Jesus was always worried most of all about the heart, from where all evil is born.
  • None of us can sustain our pretensions to righteousness based on the law. According to Jesus, we’ve all broken these commandments.
  • The Gospel always comes to us with both compassion and conviction.
  • The spiritual landscape of Christianity is littered with churches that offer only half a gospel, which is really no gospel at all.
  • The law is actually a grace. Without that guide, we would never make it to true freedom.
  • It is in reaching for forbidden fruit that we lose the garden we had. And it is then that we realize the garden we had was paradise. Only now it is paradise lost.
  • We need to stop thinking about taking, and start thinking about receiving. The positive way to say, “You shall not commit adultery and steal,” is to find joy in what God is giving you.
  • If you start out on the quest for happiness, you’ll just keep consuming your whole life. And that next thing or person will always be the idol that vainly promises happiness, which is a way of stealing your soul from God.
Pastor Jim Spon | Exodus 20:14-15

July 10, 2016 - Respecting Life - Exodus 20:12-13

posted Jul 26, 2016, 10:29 AM by Grant Garber

  • The fifth and sixth commandments call us to revere life -- - the lives of those around us, and our own life that has been shaped and molded by father and mother.
  • Unless you honor the home from which you have come, you will never be able to receive the home to which you are heading.
  • To honor means to give people due importance, respect, and to acknowledge the significance they have. To honor your parents means you realize that you didn’t spring forth out of nothing and that your life was shaped, for better or worse, by those who raised you.
  • To honor the past doesn’t mean you condone it. It means you see it for what it is, and realize God has used it all to shape your life.
  • To honor father and mother also means that we don’t make them more than they were. They were neither devils nor gods.
  • Taking a human life is the ultimate rebellion against the Creator for it assumes sovereignty over life and death, and robs from God His unique right to give and take it away.
  • For Jesus, righteousness is not a matter of what you avoid doing, but of what you do, and even think and feel.
  • We dare not savor our anger because that will inevitably manifest itself in gossip or other diminishing activities that tarnish the sacred image stamped on a human life.
“Resentment is like feeding yourself rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die. It only hurts us.” Anne Lamott
  • We are most tempted to get lost in our anger at others when our own lives don’t turn out as we had hoped.
  • In a society that has lost the ability to receive life as it is, and therefore has lost the meaning of life, one of the most redemptive things a Christian can do is to know how to cherish the creativity of God that is embedded in life’s ordinary places.
Pastor Jim Spon | Exodus 20:12-13

July 3, 2016 - Living With the Holy - Exodus 20:7-11

posted Jul 9, 2016, 6:13 AM by Grant Garber

  • The Ten Commandments are not only laws but also markers for the journey through the great wilderness called life. These markers can still lead anyone to freedom.
  • What does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? What is more typical of us is not that we misuse the name of God, but that we no longer use it at all. To take God’s name in vain is to ignore His character as the Savior who is very involved.
  • Anytime you think you can find a little salvation in your own work, you are in grave danger. The danger is this: if you fail, or worse yet, if you succeed for a while, then you’re stuck with yourself for a god.
  • Ironically, to be frantic with busy-ness is a lazy thing. It avoids the hard work of calling upon the Lord’s name and looking for His involvement.
  • If, through all of life’s experiences, you are looking for the sign of God’s presence, then all of life becomes an opportunity to encounter the Holy One.
  • How do we see God’s presence in our lives? By remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy.
  • We don’t worship because we have to. We worship because we get to. This is our chance to see what is going on from heaven’s perspective.
  • Worship is our opportunity to see the glorious creativity of all of those ordinary days in-between.
Sabbath = “give it a rest”, “stop”, “cut it out”!
  • If you resist this created rhythm of your life, instead of joining God in saying, “It is good”, all you will ever seem to say is that it’s just not good enough.
  • In worship, we choose to enjoy and celebrate the goodness of God in the life we have.
Pastor Jim Spon | Exodus 20:7-11

June 26, 2016 - Our Mysterious Deliverer (Ten Markers to Freedom Series) - Exodus 20:1-6

posted Jul 1, 2016, 7:26 AM by Grant Garber

  • The Ten Commandments provide signposts that help us find our way to freedom.
  • Like the novice sailor, we, too, have drifted off course and are in need of a guide to find our way home. These Commandments will show us the way.
  • The wilderness is where we are converted from a people on the run with only a vague idea of the Promised Land, to a people of faith who have learned to walk with God on any road. And that is the only way to be free.
  • Ours is a God who liberates and who will not tolerate anything less than freedom for us. He’ll never settle as easily as we do for secure misery.
  • Christians love the cross. We wear it around our necks, and we gather under it every Sunday. It is the symbol of our freedom.
  • That is also one of the reasons why Christians are baptized. It is as if to say – we, too, have passed through the waters and begun this journey with God.
  • Along the way, we discover that the road to freedom is frightening and filled with risk. We are tempted to find another god or idol that is more manageable. But every idol will only drag us back to slavery.
  • Freedom comes, not because we found something to help us cope with how it is. It comes when we have trusted God to lead us to how it can be.
  • Why does God want so much for you to be free? Because there is one thing you can only do in freedom. And that is to choose to love – to love God, the neighbor, the enemy, and even yourself.
  • If Christians could get to the place where we were known for our gracious love, then the whole world would get a glimpse of the Promised Land.
Pastor Jim Spon | Exodus 20:1-6

June 19, 2016 - The Gideon Report

posted Jun 20, 2016, 7:34 AM by Grant Garber

June 12, 2016 - Yoked to Your Real Citizenship - Matthew 5:10-12

posted Jun 20, 2016, 7:30 AM by Grant Garber

  • We want our spirituality to get us out of trouble, not into trouble.
  • The early Christians were thought to be traitors.
  • The early Christians were thought to be unreasonable.
  • There are some who know what physical persecution is because they wear the name Christian.
  • Like all Christians who are serious about only calling Jesus, Lord, you will find that you are also persecuted for the high crime of treason, not because you’ll be thought to be a traitor to the nation, but because you’ll be a traitor to our prevailing culture.
  • Christianity claims there can only be one center to your life. Everything else has to find its place in relationship to this one center.
  • The tremendous irony is that Christianity spread through the Roman Empire during its time of persecution. Why was that? Because the Christians were free, and freedom is always compelling.
  • The church wanted these new Christians to be unafraid. So they got the dying over with. That’s what baptism means. Dying is now behind you.
  • There is no avoiding some form of persecution if you say Jesus alone is Lord. Blessed are you when you are clear about that singular identity.
  • You don’t have to go out in search of persecution to obtain this blessing.
  • Our society thinks that what freedom means is that you can do anything that you want. Freedom comes from knowing what your life is about, having the one center, being clear about your identity. The blessing is that, when you are persecuted, your reward will be great in heaven.
  • What the Beatitude means is that those who live under heaven have a compelling vision of life. They know where their true citizenship is.
Pastor Jim Spon | Matthew 5:10-12

June 5, 2016 - The Sacred Embrace - Matthew 5:6-7

posted Jun 7, 2016, 10:46 AM by Grant Garber   [ updated Jun 7, 2016, 10:48 AM ]

  • Hungry, we get. But what does it mean to hunger for righteousness?
  • The word means to be made right with God, to be made right in your relationships with others, and to be made right with yourself.
  • Everyone in the New Testament who thought he or she was righteous was denounced by Jesus. But those who know that they were not righteous and yet, hungered to be so; these are the ones who were made right simply by having the grace of Christ among them.
  • We engage in all of the spiritual disciplines, not to make ourselves right, but rather to open ourselves and to confront our hunger and thirst for God who then comes down to us.
  • Spirituality always descends. It does not ascend.
  • It comes back to the gifts of grace and mercy – which is always how we are made spiritual.
  • Mercy is very similar to love in that the more you give, the more you receive. And the only way you can lose it is to try to keep it.
  • What grace and mercy are describing is the love of God, a love that is clearly not deserved, but a love that is still given. This is a love that makes us right, simply by virtue of the embrace.
  • With Son and Spirit, with atonement and sanctification, we are brought back into the heart, the breast of the Father.
Pastor Jim Spon | Matthew 5:6-7

May 29, 2016 - Yoked to an Idea - Matthew 5:8-9

posted Jun 7, 2016, 10:43 AM by Grant Garber   [ updated Jun 7, 2016, 10:47 AM ]

  • Purity, in this context, means “singular in purpose”.
“Purity of heart means to will one thing.” ~Soren Kierkegaard
  • Blessed are those who believe that they are not necessary. The reason it’s a blessing is that it allows you to be loved.
  • One other thing about the blessing of willing one thing in life is when your heart is divided, this division permeates everything.
  • If we will the one thing that Jesus is Savior, then He is Savior of everyone and everything else, which are received by us as His gifts.
  • If you are going to share Christ’s identity, then you have to share Christ’s mission. And Christ’s mission wasn’t just to love peace, but to make peace.
  • If you are devoted to being a peacemaker you may have to give up always being right.
  • There is still a tremendous amount of trench warfare that goes on in our lives, trenches that divide us from them.
  • To be the children of God means our mission sooner or later is to climb out of our trench, to treat the person you are most worried about as brother and sister in Christ. I’m not saying that you should sacrifice your convictions about what’s right and what’s wrong. But at least one of our convictions has to be compassion. And face to face, it is easier to resolve conflicts over convictions and to make peace.
  • Serious peacemaking takes time. Peacemaking is a messy business.
  • The one thing that we are called for is to look for the truth and the salvation that Jesus alone can bring.
Pastor Jim Spon | Matthew 5:8-9

May 22, 2016 - Yoked to a Savior - Matthew 5:4-5

posted May 26, 2016, 8:27 AM by Grant Garber   [ updated Jun 7, 2016, 10:42 AM ]

  • When we are yoked to Christ as He invites us to be, we find His own gracious, easy character beginning to form within us.
  • Jesus wants you to be a spiritual person and we only become spiritual by confessing how poor we are at it.
  • Blessed are those who mourn their spiritual poverty.
  • The reason it is getting harder and harder to mourn sin is that our society is giving us more and more excuses for our sin.
  • There is no blessing for figuring out who to blame for what’s wrong in your life.
  • To maintain responsibility for your life means there are 1mes when you have to realize that it is your fault. You are the one who did this. And that leads us then to confession.
  • The Bible’s understanding of meekness makes it synonymous actually with gentleness.
  • Being forgiven as one who has confessed and is living out of their forgiveness makes you a somebody. That’s what makes you strong. That makes you a giant in the eyes of God, and that is what frees you to be gentle.
  • In order to be gentle with someone else, you have to first be gentle with yourself.
  • Gentleness comes as the byproduct of gratitude for the grace and the mercy we have received.
  • “To inherit the earth” means to have lived life well and to end life correctly. But how does one get to the right place? You inherit it.
Pastor Jim Spon | Matthew 5:4-5

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