When they become us

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Aside from an actual Them magazine which is a real publication published in Japan, my reference to a “Them” magazine is purely fictional, as a send-up of Us. I couldn’t help but think if we had an Us magazine, then we should surely have a Them magazine to go with it. Can’t you see these two magazines side by side on the magazine rack — Us next to Them? Which one would you pick up? If you were wanting to know about famous people and those who consider themselves in the know, you might be more inclined to pick up Us. If you were more concerned about the little people, the forgotten, the little-known people in the world, you might pick up Them. Actually, I bet most of us would probably pick up Them because we would be curious. Us is going to be about the same people we keep hearing about — those who know they are important because they are Us, and everyone wants to be a part of us. But Them? Who could that be?

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What about “Them” magazine?

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Marti received an “Us” magazine in the mail a couple of days ago. I haven’t talked to her about this yet, but I’m sure it wasn’t something she chose. We’ve gotten caught in a few of those magazine subscription schemes. Usually it involves an inner-city kid who is trying to work his/her way out of the economic depression of the ghetto. Impressed by their congeniality and their ambitious goals, we help them out with a small donation and suddenly the next week we receive 14 magazines we don’t remember ordering. (A slight exaggeration, but you get the point.)

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Like a moth to a flame

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Okay, I want to know how many of you have ever tried to catch a moth with a Dustbuster. Come on … fess up. It’s a dangerous game. Truly. You might not think so, but when you’re standing on the edge of the bathtub so you can reach the ceiling corner over the tub and you have to work around a chandelier while your wife is yelling, “Over there; no, to the right; now he’s behind you!” And you’re twisting and turning, waving the Dustbuster everywhere trying to keep up with the moth and avoid the chandelier while keeping your balance with nothing to hold onto … it’s a dangerous game, and hardly worth suffering a broken leg or worse. So Marti spotted me as I continued to following the moth’s erratic path.

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Render unto God

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It’s tax time. Time to render unto Caesar. You know where this comes from. The teachers of the law were trying to trap Jesus and they thought they had the perfect question to do that. So they sent a couple of their interns to ask Him in front of the people about paying taxes to Caesar. It was a controversial matter. The Jews had to pay a temple tax and then, as an occupation of the Roman Empire, a Roman tax as well. Many protested paying the Roman tax, so they knew they had Him. If He said not to pay it, they could turn Him over to the Roman authorities; if He said to pay it, He would lose popularity with the people.

So they started off with the worst case of brown-nosing ever recorded, undoubtedly to set Him up for the big fall He was about to take in front of the people, “‘We know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. [Yada, yada, yada.] Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?’”

Jesus replied, “‘Show me the coin used for paying the tax… Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’

‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.

“Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’” (Matthew 22:15-21) End of story.

We marvel at this wisdom, just as they did, and we talk about our responsibility to our own “Caesar,” but how often do we think about rendering to God what is God’s?” What does that even mean?

It could mean many things. It could mean rendering our tithes and our offerings to Him; it could mean worshiping Him in all that we do; it could mean glorying in the beauty of His creation; it could mean giving our lives to Him in service. It could mean all of these things, but I got to thinking about this and started to wonder about something else. If the image of Caesar on a coin placed a rightful sense of ownership and proper allegiance to the state, where do we find the image of God in the world, if not on all of the people He has created, upon whom He has stamped His image? Does not every person we meet, then, indicate God’s ownership, and call forth our allegiance to Him? That would truly be rendering unto God what is God’s.

So look for Him in everyone you meet today. He’s there. The image is implanted in everyone. And it calls forth our allegiance and reminds us of His ownership. It matters not that people don’t know it; we know it, and that calls for us to treat them accordingly as bearers of the image of God.

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Towards a Spirit-driven life

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Both Andrew and my wife pointed out one small detail I failed to mention in my Catch yesterday where I pointed out that the commands of God had all been reduced to a single simple one with two parts: Love God and love each other. That detail is the issue of empowerment. Great, John, but how do we do it? I made it sound easy. Well it’s not. It’s easy to focus on what to do because Jesus summarized ten commandments into one, but doing it is another thing altogether.

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Ten into one

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“Love the Lord your God…”  Deuteronomy 6:1, 6:5, 7:9, 7:12, 10:12, 11:1, 11:13, 11:22, 13:3, 19:9, 23:5, 30:6, 30:16, 30:20

Fourteen times in the book of Deuteronomy we are commanded to love God. It must be important.

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The Churches “R” Us

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Let’s cut through the stage fog.

What is church? According to our friend Keith Giles, author of Jesus Unveiled: Forsaking Church As We Know It To Experience Ekklesia As God Intended, and our guest last night on our BlogTalkRadio show, an unbiased, unindoctrinated observer of the most popular churches today might easily come away with the idea that church is little more than a rock concert followed by a TED talk. Now that might satisfy lots of folks, and a steady diet of that might be what most people want out of church — a hip, fun experience that fulfills the idea that they have paid attention to their spiritual life by getting themselves together and going to “church” once a week, but that isn’t doing it for me, and I think also for a growing number of people, especially millennials, who are looking for something different, more personal, and more meaningful than this.

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Play on

My love is warmer than the warmest sunshine

Softer than a sigh

My love is deeper than the deepest ocean

Wider than the sky

My love is brighter than the brightest star

That shines every night above

And there is nothing in this world

That can ever change my love

          Written by Tony Hatch, Sung by Petula Clark, 1965

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Old pop songs never die, they just come back as oldies. Even some of the worst ones still come back. This isn’t necessarily the worst, but it was never one of my favorites. You’ll remember it too, and you may hate me for bringing it up, because it’s one of those songs that gets stuck in your head and plays on and on and on. Then you really do dislike it because it just won’t go away.

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