Four Blessings

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Recognize this?

“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”  Genesis 12:2-3

This is God’s call of Abram, long before their famous covenant is made.  It’s just the beginning of their relationship, but look at all God is offering in such a small space.

Two short verses, four distinct blessings.  

Blessing #1: I will bless you (Genesis 12:2a)  God is talking to Abram and Abram’s offspring here, and says it outright:  You and I are going into a partnership, and I’m gonna make sure that your lives will be rewarding and Holy, and your future will be fruitful.  Wow. Just one blessing in and already hard to resist.

Blessing #2: You will be a blessing (Genesis 12:2b) Here’s an unexpected curve ball. Not only will Abram’s family know the blessings of God, they will also show the blessings of God.   From the beginning, here, there is a divine mission and a special purpose given. To properly receive a blessing from God is to multiply it.

Blessing #3:I will bless those who bless you (Genesis 12:3a) What?  This level of blessing is unexpected and extravagant.  God’s blessing will extend to those who show kindness and mercy to God’s people.  God’s promises now extend to all who choose blessing as a way of life.

Blessing #4. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:3b) God throws the power of blessing wide open, and makes it clear.   The world will be better because Abram and his people are a part of it.  This is a charge to make God’s blessings known through the whole earth.   Through us, God has a message to send to all who will listen.

Just think of it.  In two verses, God calls Abram into a relationship that has literally world-changing ramifications.  In four blessings, God frames out God’s task with and for humanity, a task that has in so many ways come true, yet continues to unfold.

Abraham’s children include approximately 53% of the people on planet Earth.  Christianity, Judaism, Islam and others all trace their lineage back to this man.

What would happen if those 3.6 billion people responded to God’s call to be a 4-fold blessing? We’d have to find some of them first.

(Oh yeah–I am one of them, and so are you).

Have a great week,

Mitch

 


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Don’t Tell Anyone.

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After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this,and told them to give her something to eat.   (Mark 5:40b-43)

If someone were to read the Gospel of Mark without the Easter Sunday story, they might come to an interesting conclusion about Evangelism:

Maybe we shouldn’t do it.

That’s right.  Maybe we shouldn’t tell anyone about Jesus!

Several times, like after casting out a demon, or healing someone,  Jesus makes it clear he doesn’t want people to hear about this stuff.

It’s like a refrain:  “Don’t tell anyone!”

Maybe we should take him seriously on this.

Let’s stop telling.

If someone asks about Jesus’ mighty deeds, we could say, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”  Or, “I’m sorry, but that’s classified.”  Or, “Members only.” Or, “That Holy Mystery is above your pay grade.”

You know, it just might work.  Church is in a decline these days.  Maybe we need to add a little secrecy back into what we’re doing.  Instead of showing all our cards, we can hold back a few things.

Call it “Advanced Christianity”.

What do you think?  Should we stop spreading parts of the Good News, and let folks come to us for a change?

Here’s how we could do it:

On our signs out front we could just put a great big question mark.

And we could all adopt buttoned lips but knowing smiles.

Speaking of buttons, we could have buttons that say “2B1Ask1”.

Oh wait, that’s the Freemasons.

Scholars call these statements from Jesus the “Messianic Secret”, but I don’t really think Jesus was trying to be hidden or unapproachable.

I think he was trying to make sure people didn’t just point to his miracles, and miss the message.

He wanted folks to hear the Word, not just watch the spectacle.

I get that.  The world needs to hear what Jesus has to say more than ever.

So maybe we aren’t being commanded to keep the Good News silent.  The Gospel of Mark just wants to remind us to choose our words wisely.

And as for the healing and demon-casting?

That will continue to be a Holy Mystery…

Even for us Advanced Christians.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Go Figure

Sasha Cohen

Let me ask you something.

What kind of sadist would enjoy watching people teeter on the edge of collapse at any second?

What sort of sick individual wants to see people fail publicly and dramatically?

In short, what kind of lunatic…

enjoys watching figure skating? 🙂

Truthfully, I’m the type to move into another room when figure skating comes on.  Not because I’m a sports snob — but because I get too nervous.

Why? Think about it:  Everybody who figure skates, from the kid taking their first lesson to the Olympic hero with everything on the line —  Everybody who figure skates falls down.

EVERYBODY FALLS.   Even the best of the best.

There has never been a figure skater who has not bit the dust (ice) on numerous occasions.

That’s why I’ve hated watching it for most of my adult life.  I don’t want to see that!

But recently, I’ve had a change of heart.  Maybe I’ve been looking at it all wrong.

Maybe ice skating is like Christianity.

In Christianity, as in skating, everybody falls from time to time.  Even the best of the best.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a Christian for five minutes or for fifty years — you’re still gonna slip up somewhere along the way.

The thing is, if you look only at a person’s sins, you’ll have overlooked some of  the incredible feats of faith they might have accomplished.

Instead of looking at Christianity, you’d just be looking at Sin.

If you treat the falls as if they were center stage in a person’s life, you could lose your appreciation for the triumphs — the triple axles of faith, that mark the great moments of our lives.

I think I’m ready to give figure skating another try.  I’m starting to figure out that a spill on the ice is not the catastrophic embarrassment I’ve made it out to be.

It’s just a slippery patch along the way to Glory!

Go figure 🙂

Have a great week,

Mitch

 

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How do you see it?

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Welcome to this week’s devotion, dear readers!

Greetings to readers from various subcultures, including all my Trekker,  Goth, Vegan, and Teenager readers.  Hi!

(A subculture is a group of people that exist within the larger mainstream society, with their own ways of doing things.)

I’d also like to welcome readers from various countercultures, including Hippies, Gang Members, members of PETA, and even the Mafia.  Hello!

(A counterculture is a group of people who oppose and work against the mainstream culture)

I don’t understand or even agree with you all, but I’m glad to see you.

Now, one more group to welcome.

Hello, Christians!

Hmm, I’m wondering…

Which group are you in?

Is Christianity a subculture or a counterculture?

It’s a question worth pondering.

Are Christians a group just within the culture, or opposed to it?

This is kind of tricky, and Jesus isn’t walking around here in the 21st century to tell us the proper posture to take.

On the one hand…

  • Jesus said to pay Caesar what was due Caesar, but to pay God what was due God.
  • And elsewhere he said he had not come to abolish the law, but to transform it.

Those both seem to be statements accepting the current culture and showing a willingness to work within it.

But while its true that there were times Jesus seemed okay to co-exist with culture, I’m pretty such he never accommodated it.

  • He elevated women, children, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and more far above society’s norms.
  • He preached a radical equality, a rejection of material wealth, and a life of Kingdom-centered servanthood as the goal of every follower.
  • He was willing to die, in fact, so that things might change.

Alright, then.

I believe that if Jesus were to weigh in on the subject, he would declare a strong desire that Christianity be seen as a counterculture.  A group of people mobilized for transforming the world.

I’m wondering, dear reader…

How do you see it?

Have a great week,

Mitch

1388023_10151942863970126_1635204135_nThese crosses hang in the back of the Trinity United Methodist Church Sanctuary in Ottawa, KS.

Weakest Link

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I’ve been getting caught up with lots of old friends this week.

Well, sort of.

A few days ago I got a notification from LinkedIn, “The World’s Largest Professional Network”. (www.linkedin.com)

I get lots of notifications from this online networking site, telling me about people who have invited me, or updated their information, or sent me a message.

Yeah, whatever.

I signed up for the site a couple years ago, but never used it much. I couldn’t even remember my password, but I had some time on my hands, so I did a password reset and thought I’d take a look.

5 minutes later,I had clicked two buttons, and inadvertently invited a bunch of folks on my contact list to “link” with me.

About 1000 of them. Oops!

And so, for the past week, my phone will light up every thirty minutes or so with a notification about yet another person who has accepted my invitation.

The realtor who helped us buy our house. The woman who was briefly in my congregation more than ten years ago. An old college professor. High school classmates. People I don’t recognize.

I suppose it would be exciting if there were much actual connecting going on.

Truthfully, I clicked a couple buttons, and most everybody else clicked a couple buttons, and that’s about it.

But I’ve marveled at the engine that powers LinkedIn. It’s the same with Facebook and lots of other social media sites. The powerful software behind these sites is designed to connect people with people.

That’s a huge part of what Christianity was designed to do, right? The Church largely exists to connect people with each other, in the name of God.

Yes, I think so, but as LinkedIn reminds me, that’s just not enough.

If all Christianity did was to put us in contact with all the people in our address books, then Christianity could be as simple as pressing a couple buttons and typing in a password.

And indeed, there are Christians who treat the Church like a social network–a take it or leave it kind of connection. A minimal effort kind of connection.

Nope. That doesn’t fly. Connection is only the beginning.

Christianity requires investment. Commitment.

The engine that runs Christianity is not as coldly efficient as the kind that populates a social media site, but it can be so much more powerful.

If you’re not connected, I guarantee it will be worth your time.

As for me, this week was a reminder of what a real connection looks like,

and I don’t want to be…

the weakest link.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Liking, following, reblogging, pinning, and sharing.

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There are 1.01 BILLION people on Facebook.  Tumblr (a blogging site) cranks out 55 million new posts every day.

But only about 20% of U.S. citizens go to church on Sunday.

How do we get the word out to people who won’t come and listen to a sermon?

By liking, following, reblogging, pinning, and sharing.

You know those inspirational or  thought provoking posts you come across every day online?  Think of them as tiny little mini-sermons.  Not enough space to present the whole gospel, just enough to make an impression in the 2 seconds it takes to scroll down the page.

What if those little mini-messages amount to more than warm fuzzies? What if this is how the Gospel gets spread to people nowadays?

That’s what I’ve been wondering, so a month ago I started creating little one-panel quotes like this one:

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I posted them to Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, and WordPress.  (Those are all different social networking sites, in case you aren’t familiar), and tagged them all with the name of my blog site:  AdventureChristianity.com.

I can only estimate, but in that amount of time, I figure thousands of people have seen some of these short messages.  Maybe more.

Have you ever stopped to think about what happens when you “share” something, on Facebook, for instance?  When you share an article, a cartoon, or a quote like the one above, everybody on your friends list sees it in their feed.

So when you share something inspirational, you’re actually practicing e-vangelism.  And then your friends have the possibility to like or share it for their friends.  That’s how some posts spread like wildfire across the web.

That’s fun on Facebook, connecting with your friends, but can be even more fun on a site like Tumblr where people search for tags you attach to a post, like #Christianity or #Change.  These are people you’ve never met, connecting with your Good News. Here’s a case in point:

Last week, Jan and I were driving in Kansas City and she said, “The World’s Not Falling Apart.  It’s just changing.”  I thought that was a great quote so I made this:

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I posted this to all the sites to see what would happen.  Within half an hour 3 people on Tumblr had reblogged the post for themselves.  One was a teenager girl, a Christian.  One was a teenage boy, recovering from cutting himself.  The third was a 30 year old gay man struggling to be accepted.

Wow.  In half an hour, not only were these 3 people comforted by Jan’s hopeful quote, but now that post exists on four people’s blogs.  And everyone who visits their pages gets to see it. And so on, and so on. Isn’t that cool?

Maybe you’re not an online person, if so this may sound like I’m speaking a foreign language. Sorry!

But if you are one of the vast majority who connect with others online, take this to heart:  You don’t have to create your own artwork or post your own quotes, although it’s fun and easy to do.  Just pass on to others the things that resonante with your faith.  And there’s no need to overshare, just a couple things a day will deliver the message.

If you surf the internet as an e-vangelist, you might find yourself passing on Good News to people you know, and people you don’t.

Again, the messages are shorter than any sermon you’ve ever listened to, but they can still be a glimpse of the Kingdom for someone who needs to see it.

Liking, following, reblogging, pinning, and sharing.

This is how Christians in the 21st Century

help Jesus go viral.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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http://AdventureChristianity.com