ripple effect: vacaville

d186 Real Authority
October 31, 2007, 10:41 am
Filed under: abraham, elijah, elisha, god, jesus, luke, naomi, ruth

Read Luke 7:1-17.

1. OK…things I’m noticing from this story. One, we are talking about a powerful guy’s servant who’s sick here. Not a family member. Also, it just says that he “valued” him. That could mean he either had compassion or needed someone to get the job done. And then, you’ve got the fact that this guy doesn’t go to Jesus himself. He sends important Jewish elders along. And, the elders (who you’d think would be thinking spiritually) say that Jesus should help him because he loves the nation (good) and built the synagogue (um…so, he is valuable to them?). To me, unless I’m reading this with a suspicious eye, I haven’t really seen a huge amount of faith or spirituality yet…
2. Wow…and then everything changes in the second paragraph. He sends out friends to stop Jesus from coming. He felt unworthy to see Jesus or even have Him under his roof. Whoah. I think I’m beginning to understand this guy. He’s a Roman leader in a Jewish nation. And he’s seeing God in their synagogue, and he’s seeing God in this Jesus. But, he feels unworthy, as a Gentile, to have Jesus near him. His only hope is for a long-distance relationship because of who he is. (I love that Jesus doesn’t think like that…)
3. How about this dude’s faith! He just asks (through his friends) to have Jesus “say the word.” He believes that when someone is in authority that a command is carried out. So…he believes that Jesus is in command over life and death, so why wouldn’t they do what He told them to do?
4. For Jesus to say this about a Gentile was an act of grace. It was faith that mattered to Jesus, not lineage to Abraham. So…this guy simply took Jesus at His word. I think we still squirm at Jesus’ teachings and promises. So…it’s refreshing to see someone who didn’t have childlike faith, but more like military certainty-like faith.

5. A widow (no husband) losing her only son (no heirs, no providers) would be up a creek without a paddle in this culture. (Kind of like Naomi in the book of Ruth and the widow that Elijah stayed with.) In the two previous cases, we know that God has compassion towards widows…
6. Jesus’ heart went out to this lady, while she was in the funeral procession. He tells her not to cry… What do you think her response was at that moment?
7. I love Jesus style here. Almost to reinforce what the centurion had said, he commands the boy to get up. He does! And he talks. I wonder what he says!
8. Prophets could do what Jesus just did (see Elijah and Elisha…of course, that was only with the power of God). So…it comes as no surprise that the people simply think that Jesus is a prophet. Oh…but He’s so much more…


d185 Huffing and Puffing
October 30, 2007, 10:05 am
Filed under: god, jesus, matthew

Read Matthew 7:13-29.

1. The small gate (narrow road) and the wide gate (broad road). The wide gate leads to destruction. The small gate leads to life. Hmm…this is all pretty vague. I guess Jesus is hinting at the fact that most people aren’t going to be able to identify who He is and experience everlasting life. My odd question of the day is, “Well, why does it have to be that way?” Isn’t that what preachers are for? I mean, shouldn’t “Spirit-filled” Christ-followers be able to reach multitudes and get them on the narrow road? It’s almost as if Jesus is saying that this is inevitable– that people won’t get it. Why do you think that is?

2. A wolf dresses up to make you feel “safe.” No one worries about killer attack sheep (well, maybe Monty Python). Then he eats you. Hmm…and this is what false prophets are like. They feel safe, but then they end up damaging you. So…how can we detect these wolves? By the fruit. So…if a “prophet” is living a life that bears fruit (I would assume that this would be publically and privately) that they are truly bringing messages from God. I definitely believe that my sin often clouds my ability to receive messages “directly” from God. A lot of times I feel like a sinner grasping for truth in God’s word. I definitely think those people who always name-drop God by saying “God told me to tell you…” and “I feel the Spirit telling me…” are on slippery ground. How can that be dangerous?

3. This is one of the most troubling passages in Scripture. “Not everyone who says to [Jesus], ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” We have to obey God and that takes a lot more than words. I read those “Left Behind” books a couple of years ago, and I remember being shocked that a minister was left behind after Jesus came to warp the believers into heaven. The guy explained that he had been preaching but never really “got it.” Do you think that’s possible? And, if it’s possible with preachers, is it possible for the rest of us?
4. It seems like “those” people were all about the demonstrative acts of God’s power: prophesying, casting out demons, and performing miracles. Note that there are no deeds of love or compassion here. Makes you wonder about what it really means to be “filled with the Spirit.”

5. I want to build my life on a rock. I can hear Bob Seager singing now…”Like a rock, oh baby, like a rock!”
6. Sometimes I am an in-one-ear-and-out-the-other Christian. That’s sandy. And that’s not good.
7. Notice that in both scenarios there are storms. What differs is where the foundation is. Reminds me of a song by Big Tent Revival called “Two Sets of Joneses.” Kind of cheesy, but it brings home the point of this parable very well.
8. The teachers of the law weren’t teaching like they had authority? Hmm…that’s a problem right there. Yeah, I guess Jesus would stick out.

d184 Salmon, oh, I Thought You Said Copperhead…
October 29, 2007, 3:05 pm
Filed under: god, jesus, matthew

Read Matthew 7:1-12.

1. Wow…this thing about judging is in the Bible? I thought it was Christians’ jobs TO judge. Isn’t that what we act like? (I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here…)
2. Let’s stop and think about this: “the same measure” that I use to judge other people will be the way that I am judged by God. So, basically, if I judge by outward appearances, that means that God would judge me by my outward appearance– no excuses, no context, no benefit of the doubt. I look like an “unspiritual” sinner, so I must be one. That scares the crap out of me. God is gracious IN SPITE of the fact that He knows me. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be if God judged me like I judge people. Wow… This is something I need to work on. We’re all heroes and heroines of our own story, but we love to point the finger at the people we deem ourselves capable to judge.
3. Great word picture that Jesus gives us here. I’m nitpicking because “Julio” over here’s got a speck of dust in his eye. “Hey, Julio (down by the schoolyard), you stink for having that speck in your eye.” I can imagine my wife coming up to me and saying, “Um, Paul, you do realize that a 2 X 4 is coming out of your eye, right?” That would be quite comical. But, we do criticize people for outward appearances when we actually have something a whole lot worse than appearances going on in our hearts.
4. Jesus also says that our “speck” finding might be related to the fact that our vision is warped. In other words, “Maybe what you think you see isn’t really what you see. Has it ever occured to you that you might be viewing people through a ‘sinful’ lense?”
5. What’s going on with this stuff about giving dogs sacred stuff?
6. Why would you put pearls on a pig?
7. And what does this have to do with speck / plank removal or judging?

8. Ask for what?
9. Seek what?
10. Knock on what door?
11. I remember that time my brother asked me for a loaf of bread, and I gave him a rock to bite down on (good thing he had that plank in his, so he didn’t notice…).
12. Oh, yeah, and there was that time where he asked for a piece of salmon and I gave him a live copperhead. Oh, the holidays were hilarious in the Mannino household! He he he…
13. How about Jesus calling it like it is…He says we are EVIL. And, if we know how to give gifts to our kids, then don’t you think God (who is by far not even close to being evil) would know how to get the right stuff on our gift registry?
14. The golden rule: do to others as you would have them do to you. How sad, though, that in our culture, we are raising up generations of people who hate themselves (and could care less about treating others with any kind of dignity). How do we reverse that trend?

d183 Hakuna Matata?
October 28, 2007, 2:39 pm
Filed under: god, jesus, matthew

Matthew 6:19-34.

1. Gosh, I hate it when the moths ruin my treasures. He he he… Just kidding. Yeah, so Jesus is saying that we should store up treasures in heaven. Our heart is in our treasures. You know, that’s tough for me because I’m definitely a “collector.” But, what should I (we) be collecting?
2. This reminds me of a great quote by Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
3. And then we get this part about out eyes. What would cloud our eyes?
4. Why would this be mentioned right after talking about our “treasures”?
5. Boy, is that true about loving God and money. Just last Sunday, our finance elder came up and talked about our upcoming “Consecration Sunday.” Judging by the uncomfortable looks in the crowd regarding the idea of church and money, you’d have thought he said “Constipation Sunday.” Anyway, we do love our stuff; and when church and our stuff collide, well…

6. Jesus is telling us not to worry. Maybe this is a logical extension of Him talking about materialism. Worrying about your life. Worrying about food. Worrying about my body. Worrying about clothing. Yeah, these are things I “need,” but it doesn’t mean that I should lose sleep over worrying about these things. And we often exaggerate our “needs” anyway.
7. Yeah…birds live without worrying. Maybe we could too?
8. I have worried a lot in my life, and you definitely can’t get much out of it. It is definitely a time-waster.
9. Flowers are pretty without having to go to the mall.
10. You know, for us Americans, I think we know that (at the end of the day) we’ll get what we need. But, how do you think this would sound to a culture in starvation, like the Sudan?
11. Seek first the kingdom of God and then all these things will go along with it. Hmm…makes you wonder if this is more in a spiritual sense: spiritual food, spiritual clothing…
12. Today does have a lot of worries. That’s for sure.
13. OK, so where’s the balance between this and “playing it safe” and making sure “all your ducks are in a row”?

d182 Giving, Praying, and Fasting
October 27, 2007, 2:41 pm
Filed under: god, jesus, matthew

Read Matthew 6:1-18.

1. Man, this flies in the face of the whole idea of churches selling bricks with your name on them to make big buildings or having plaques put up or having gyms named after you. Jesus wanted us to give so that no one knew. Dare I ask why?

2. And then you’ve got the prayer thing. Do it in private. And don’t blab to God. And don’t try to sound flowery. Man. I definitely think Christians get this wrong all the time…
3. Notice that “the Lord’s prayer” is a HOW to pray and not a WHAT to pray…
4. Starting with recognizing our relationship with God. He is our Father. That’s always a good place to start.
5. Praising God for who He is. Notice that Jesus wants us to see who we are to Him before we even get to that. To me, that’s amazing.
6. To ask God for His will to be done requires that we follow His will. It’s not a magic prayer for “world peace”; it’s a prayer that we could become that peace.
7. DAILY bread. A lot of us try to “get our fill” of God on Sunday…that would be WEEKLY bread. I think God wants to sustain us everyday. At least, that’s what the language suggests… Remember what happened to the manna when the Israelites tried to store it?
8. I’ve always liked saying “tresspasses” and “those who tresspass against us” more than the debt/debtor thing. To me, it hints at the idea of where the debt comes from– sin. In America, debt’s no problem. That’s what credit cards are for. Anyway, we can’t really ask to be forgiven by God if we don’t forgive others, can we? That’s just tacky…
9. God wouldn’t lead us to temptation. We would lead ourselves. So, I think this means that we should walk in a way so as to avoid being tempted. Maybe that’s just me…
10. Who do you think “the evil one” is?

11. Imagine that…making a big deal about fasting… OK…I’ve been guilty of that. 30 Hour Famine always seems to place you in an “event”-oriented style of thinking. And, then there’s “I gave up potatoes for Lent.” Shoot…do we ever fast just for fasting? Why did fasting lose its acceptance within the Christian subculture?
12. People used to make themselves look pathetic while fasting so people would think they were super-spiritual. Wow. The idea behind this passage is to hide that you are fasting (you’re not fasting for people anyway!).

Three passages about doing things for God’s eyes and not man’s eyes.

d181 Pursuit of Perfection
October 26, 2007, 2:14 pm
Filed under: god, jesus, matthew

Read Matthew 5:31-48.

1. So, according to Jesus, you can’t divorce someone unless there has been sexual immorality on the spouse’s part. Also, you can’t marry someone who has been divorced for a reason beyond sexual sin as well. Man…kind of makes you wonder what Jesus would think about our weak cultural “irreconcilable differences” reason for getting a divorce.

2. So…apparently people got into the habit of making grandious promises or “swears” back in the day. Jesus is saying to skip all that stuff (because, most of the time, people end up just cursing themselves anyway) and let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.

3. Hmm…so what do you think is going on here with the whole seeming reversal of the “eye for an eye” justice system? I mean, these seems like a 180 compared to what it used to be.
4. This is where the phrase, “go the extra mile” came from.
5. The description of the person Jesus is describing here seems like someone who could easily be taken advantage of in today’s society. What do you think?

6. How hard is it to love your enemy, the person who is hurting you?
7. Apparently if you did, you would look more like a child of God. That says something about the character of God.
8. Tough saying of the day: “Be perfect.” Wow…why do you think Jesus raises the bar so high for us?

d180 Porn Again Christians?
October 25, 2007, 9:31 am
Filed under: god, jesus, matthew

Read Matthew 5:17-30.

1. Unfortunately, a lot of Christ-followers do just what Jesus said not to do– they abolish the Law and the prophets from their mind. They think to themselves, “Oh, the Old Testament God is different than Jesus…I like Jesus better, so I’ll just follow what He says and ignore the whole first act of the story.” How sad…I can see the heart of Jesus in the way that God the Father deals with the nation of Israel throughout the Old Testament.
2. What does it mean that Jesus is fullfilling all this?
3. Greatness in the kingdom of heaven seems to be related to how seriously you take ALL of God’s commands.
4. OK…so…if I was listening to this, I would be thinking, “How can I possibly be more righteous than a Pharisee?” That seems impossible. They spend their whole lives working on being righteous. I think what Jesus is saying has more to do with the holiness of God than the righteousness of the Pharisees– if they aren’t close, no one is close. How do we become righteous then?

5. Have you ever murdered? I have. I have hated. Instead of nitpicking about things like whether or not the death penalty or war is murder, let’s focus on this. Hate is murder. Wow.
6. Calling people contemptable names is murder. So…take your pick on racial slurs…
7. Calling someone a fool is murder. Why do you think this is such a big deal to God (I mean, it must be…He talks about the fire of hell)?
8. Man, this passage changes a lot. Have you ever, with your family, been in a knock down, drag out fight before church; but, then, when you showed up, you put on the fake happy face. God doesn’t want that. God wants us to make things right. I, for one, would prefer that, if any student had a problem with another student, that they would work things out INSTEAD of pretending that everything’s fine during worship. There, I gave you permission…
9. Interesting about trying to settle things out of court. This was the way it was supposed to be. But, I watch thoughtless entertainment like “Judge Judy” and see people taking people to court for the dumbest reasons. Why do we feel like we need to do that? I’m not going to sue Coke Zero for tasting like regular Coke!

10. Well…you knew this was coming. Again we nitpick over what adultery is. Is it premarital sex, sex with another married person, etc… But, here, Christ takes the nitpicking away…it’s about having lust in your heart towards another person. Have I ever committed adultery? Yes. I confess that I have by this standard. So, any self-righteousness that I feel about being a great husband fades away when I realize this. Maybe that’s a good thing…
11. My right eye doesn’t work anyway. He he he… But seriously, this is a hyperbole to describe how important it is to remove the things from your life that cause you to lust. Hey, I’m going to be super-honest here. That’s why I am careful not watch movies with nudity in them. Do I sometimes feel like a tool for not being able to see the same stuff that everyone else is watching? Yeah. But, at the same time, it’s important to me to not get the fuse burning. Yes, I have made exceptions (after asking my wife permission…yes, asking HER permission); but, for the most part, I avoid stuff that is loaded down with sexual imagery. So…no “Good Luck Chuck” or “The Comebacks” or “The Heartbreak Kid.” Those movies would, more than likely, cause me to lust; and I’d rather just pluck it out. Hey, guys, I’m strong enough to admit I’m weak. Are you? Shoot, I even asked my wife to not bring anymore of those Us Weekly magazines into our home because they inevitably have pictures that could get my mind going in the wrong direction. If you struggle with pornography and feel guilty about it and wish that you could just stop, do you really think that watching naked chicks in movies or perusing the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is going to help? Might be time for some plucking guys. Oh, and I also have read statistics that say that 20% of Christian women have difficulty with viewing pornography; so it’s not just the guys (and you’re not a total freak if you struggle, all my lady friends).
12. If you want to get out from under the bonds of the sick-cycle carousel of lust, check out this site: XXX Church. Yeah, the name sounds crazy; but there is real help on there. And, guys, there’s definitely help here too. If you want to talk about it, I’m willing to pray with you and try to figure out a way to get you on track. You can’t disgust me to the point that I wouldn’t still care for you. Remember, if you don’t feel righteous, it’s because, on your own effort, you aren’t. Only through the strength of God can we overcome our un-righeousness. Apparently, Jesus thought it was important to take drastic measures; so you might have to!