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Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. (Paul the Apostle, Letter to the Galatians, 4:19, NLT)

This line from Paul has stayed with me for two days. It comes from a section of the Galatian letter when Paul has shifted from teaching to recounting his personal relationship with the Galatians and the love he has for them. The metaphors here are especially insightful.

Paul isn’t in labor pains for the Galatians to come to faith as new believers. That’s already a reality. No, Paul is in “labor” as the Galatians are struggling in their journey toward Christ being “fully formed” in their lives. In other words, Paul is watching the struggle of real disciples, in the growth process, and his heart is the heart of a mother in labor and a father who longs to see a healthy child.

The Galatians aren’t the Corinthians, but they are in a mess. Flatterers have taken them down the road of a false Gospel. What was a solid church plant is at real risk, but Paul is not just concerned about doctrinal correctness. He is concerned over what will be the result of moving away from Jesus and the work of the Spirit, instead encouraging a dependence on flesh and the works righteousness of the old covenant. He sees dark results ahead if the Galatians lose this battle. (more…)

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I can’t speak for anyone else, just for me.

When I became a Christian in 1974, I was immediately taught to define myself three ways.

First, did I believe that I was a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins so I could go to heaven?

Second, was I doing the the things my church taught me to do: attend worship, pray, read the Bible, tithe, “witness”, come to Sunday School, be a good Baptist?

Third, was I not doing the things my church taught me were sinful: drink, dance, use drugs, watch R-rated movies, listen to rock music, have sex outside of marriage, use profanity, work on Sundays, marry a Catholic?

That was the menu. Simple. Comprehensive. Understandable. (more…)

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“Anything that one imagines of God apart from Christ is only useless thinking and vain idolatry.”- Martin Luther

It’s been a very interesting day. I can’t tell you much about it, but I can tell you something.

When a discussion starts about God, the Christian is not faced with the same choices as other people.

Most people can go wherever they want in the discussion. They can talk about “God as I understand him” or “my higher power” or “my church says that God….” and so on. Really, the choices are practically infinite. (more…)

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He stands,
poised on the brink of two worlds:
One, land of eternal day,
the other, earth of mire and clay.

Behind Him,
legions of heavenly host,
bright faces covered, praising,
all chanting, voices raising.

Before Him,
chaos yawning, swift and deep,
known, yet unknown. Fear unfurling,
death and darkness churning, swirling.

He turns.
One last look at golden glory.
The Three part; He is now One.
The Father’s voice says, “Go well, my Son.”

He leaps
into the abyss.

His next memory will be a Mother’s kiss.

~ Denise Day Spencer, January 1999

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rbr4Step into the study, pour yourself a cup of coffee, get comfortable and let’s enjoy the Gospel of Mark.

Our passage this week is Mark 1:14-15. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (RSV) Because this is the first statement Jesus makes in the Gospel, it will set the tone and direction for the entire book. Mark summarizes Jesus’ entire mission and message in these two statements.

I am always struck by the fact that one rarely hears a sermon from this text in most churches! Yet it is the message of Jesus. There is a tension in much of Christianity between the message about Jesus and the message of Jesus. Some liberals have charged that Christianity itself is a vast misunderstanding of this very point; that we should not be asking anyone to believe in Jesus, but to do what Jesus says. While I believe the basic charge is wrong, I do believe many Christians excuse themselves from dealing with the message Jesus preached because they think believing in Jesus is sufficient. Mark would not understand such a distortion. For him, there is no separation between the message of Jesus and the person of the savior. For the person who accepts the Bible as authoritative, this is why we need both John and the Synoptics. In their quite different approaches to Jesus, they present the whole picture, which will not allow any separation between belief in Jesus and following the message of the Kingdom. (more…)

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Some of you may remember a post at this blog about Christians praying at the gas pump for cheaper gas. God heard and answered, so why stop there.

We now have Christians- evangelicals, of course- praying at…on?.. the Golden Bull on Wall Street.

Wonkette has pictures…and more pictures.

The chapter you are thinking about is Exodus 32.

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Crucifix

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