As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

When is the Resurrection

The Letters to the Colossians and to Philemon (Pillar New Testament Commentary)
For two thousand years Christians have speculated about the return of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead. There are plenty of passages in the Bible that speak of these future events, yet we can focus so much on the future that we miss the here and now. The Bible speaks of the resurrection in both future and present terms. In Colossians 3:1-11 Paul wrote of the contemporary resurrection in the life of a Christian. We experience that immediate resurrection as we focus on the things over which Jesus Christ rules. We ought not allow the things of this world to crowd out that reality. Our old lives are dead. The real action is taking place among those who are in Christ now. When Jesus returns, our present resurrection will be revealed in glory. Live resurrection lives now.

Dangerous Illustrations

The Silent Killers of Faith: Overcoming Legalism and Performance-Based Religion
Overcoming Legalism
It is sometimes said that more legalism creeps into the church through sermon illustrations than anything else. That may be true and certainly Colossians 3:1-11 could be an example of that. If we focus on what we practice more than the One who makes it possible, then we are in danger of becoming just another judgmental legalistic group, with a list of rules whereby we look down our noses at others. That is the danger of illustrations. We miss the cause and look at the effect. And so some Christians carefully avoid swearing or using abusive language, but still don’t live the resurrected life. Yet, Christians are resurrected to new life and ought to live like it. Our sights ought to be on heavenly realities rather than this dead world. Our real life is hidden with Christ in God.

Checking the List & Missing the Point

The Resurrected Life
The Resurrected Life
In Colossians 3:1-11 Paul wrote of Christians living the resurrected life here and now. Then he gave a limited list of examples to illustrate what he meant in practical terms. If we have a legalistic mentality, that list becomes a new set of rules to obey, rather than some applications of his point. That kind of thinking misses the point. It sees Paul’s illustrations as the whole story instead of just a very brief sketch of what the resurrected life looks like. Some folks would never be caught swearing but gladly engage in slander or ethnic bigotry because they have chosen part of the list and think that was the whole idea. It was not. The principle was: Christians ought to live the resurrected new life in Christ now and put to death the sinful ways of this world.

The Big Yawn

The Crown Jewels & Coronation RitualWhen a descendant of oppressors of dozens of countries around the world gets married why are people even interested? Though their ancestors tried to write only glorious family histories, the truth has slipped through. A house that has plundered many nations now wants us to celebrate a family wedding. In modern Democratic culture suppression of the truth no longer works, but propaganda does. Just as Stockholm syndrome causes kidnap victims to have affection for their kidnappers, so too there is a strange affection of a subject people for their oppressors. The only king who willingly gave up his wealth, got dirty and died for his people is a big yawn to many so deceived. When we realize how wonderful the King of Kings really is, then the big yawn will be for the royalty of this world (John 13:1-35).

Real Christians Get Dirty

Basic Stained Glass Making: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started (Stackpole Basics)
Stained Glass Making
Stained glass windows can be very beautiful and are very expensive. Church furniture can be luxurious and enormously costly. Many church services in wealthy western countries are fashion parades of opulence and grandeur. In such a setting it may be hard to imagine the church service that Jesus performed at that Passover season before his death. It was a dirty ceremony, totally without the pomp and majesty of a grand cathedral. Jesus took off his robe and wrapped himself in a towel to wash feet (John 13:1-35). There is no sin in splendor and pageantry. The is plenty of that to be read about in the temple and heaven. However, that is not the core of Christianity. At the very heart of our faith is service in love for others. Love for neighbor is where real Christians get dirty.

Real Leaders Get Dirty

Rubbermaid 2951-AR-BISQUE Dishpan
Foot-washing pan
As we watch royalty or other wealthy people at charities, we may imagine them talking at arms length, consoling and then returning to their luxurious homes. It somehow seems like a mere token gesture to create popularity but not a real personal sacrifice. Do such people actually get their hands dirty? Jesus was a real leader, not only because he willingly died on the cross for his followers, but he also got his hands dirty. In John 13:1-35 we see the example of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Typically, one of them hinted that it was beneath a leader’s stature to wash feet. We might be tempted to say the same. Yet, Jesus said that if they would not allow him to wash their feet, they had no part with him. Do we allow him? Real leaders get dirty.

Who Will Lead

History: The Definitive Visual Guide (From The Dawn of Civilization To The Present Day)Throughout human history we have tried various forms of government. All have failed us miserably. All have the one common ingredient that caused them to fail: humans and their sins. At one time or another we have tried Absolutism, Anarchy, Aristocracy, Authoritarianism, Autocracy, Communism, Democracy, Despotism, Dictatorship, Fascism, Federation, Feudalism, Kleptocracy, the Lot, Matriarchy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Constitutional Monarchy, Regency, Oligarchy, Patriarchy, Plutocracy, Police state, Polyarchy, Republic, Socialism, Synarchy, Technocracy, Thalassocracy, Theocracy, Totalitarianism, Tribal, Chiefdom and Tyranny. Although the Kingdom of God is described in monarchical terms it is unlike any form of human government. The rule of God begins with leadership that is willing to die for its citizens (Matthew 26:14-27:66). When we have found the perfect leadership, there is no more reason to choose another failed variety of human leadership. There is only one vote left, to choose Jesus.

One Faithful Leader

JesusA reason for democracy is the abject failure of every other form of human government. When human leaders abuse or dishearten us, at least in a democracy we can vote them back out of office. The great weakness of democracy is that there is a constant need to change leadership, because the next person we vote in will only disappoint us too. On the way to the cross, we read a litany of human leadership failures. Roman and Jewish leadership was brutal, vicious and double-dealing. Even Church leadership that Jesus had trained for three long years failed miserably (Matthew 26:14-27:66). When the rest failed, he stood the test and did not quit until he had paid the penalty for all of us. We can only forgive fallible human leadership while looking to Jesus as history’s one faithful leader.

Where to find Forgiveness

How Can I Forgive You?: The Courage to Forgive, the Freedom Not ToWhen Judas repented of his betrayal of Jesus, the words used are not much different than those used of Peter. However, Peter found forgiveness. Judas did not. Why? Judas went to the wrong place. He went to the chief priests and elders (Matthew 26:14-27:66). Their reply showed their callousness, “What is that to us?” Judas could not even forgive himself and committed suicide. There is a place to go to find forgiveness. Peter found that place, and the forgiveness was so profound that it allowed him to become a great leader of the Church. The place of forgiveness is with God and the people of God. If a church will not forgive, like those hard-hearted elders long ago, we are in the wrong church. When we are unforgiven even by ourselves, there is a place to find it.

Money and Pastors

Money Matters in Church: A Practical Guide for Leaders
Money Matters
in Church
This is a touchy subject. However, I have always believed that how congregation members value their pastor reveals how much they value the gospel. When a preacher goes up to the annual conference or church convention, what attitudes do the people have to the accommodation? What attitudes are there towards salary, expenses and even small luxuries? In Matthew 26:14-27:66 we read about several different extremes of attitude towards Jesus and the delicate topic of money. The worst attitude of all was that of Judas who betrayed his teacher for blood money. The most positive attitude of all was that of a woman who anointed Jesus’ head with a very expensive perfume. Even the disciples were critical of such a waste of money blessing their leader rather than giving it to the poor. Is there a time for both?

Two Betrayers

Experiencing betrayal at some point in our lives is common. Whether a friend reveals private information or a spouse breaks marriage vows, betrayal hurts, deeply. Breaking trust even happens in the Christian community. Before his death on the cross, Jesus was betrayed by friends who he loved (Matthew 26:14-27:66). Even harder than being stabbed in the back is forgiveness of the one who did so, yet forgiveness is a distinction of the Christian life. In the Our Father, we pray for God’s forgiveness AS we forgive those who trespass against us. Peter’s unfaithfulness was probably due to fear, whereas Judas’ double crossing contained some measure of greed. Neither act of treachery was unforgivable by God, yet their regret took them in two very different directions. We have all betrayed God. He is always willing and ready to forgive.