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Essence Of Christianity

I have been/am blessed to Rowland personally, and he is one of those rare people who is always learning. growing, and asking the hard questions This is one of his sermons….

Essence Of Christianity

by Rowland Croucher

Human beings have three basic needs – for unconditional love, a sense of belonging, and a purpose for their lives.

When I was asked to speak about the essence of Christianity tonight, I thought of these these three basic human needs – they partly explain why I am a follower of Jesus.

1. ACCEPTANCE / UNCONDITIONAL LOVE

When a child is born – and, indeed, from conception – it receives messages, non-verbal and verbal, from the significant people in its life about its worth. A person’s mental and emotional health right through life is built on that foundation.

An article in the March 2002 issue of Scientific American, ‘The Neurobiology of Child Abuse’ (Dr Martin Teicher, Harvard Medical School) claims that child abuse actually affects the structure of the brain. Later in life this causes depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorders, etc. Dr. Teicher: ‘Early maltreatment damages the hippocampus by over-exposing it to stress hormones.’ Research into all this has produced the discipline of ‘biopsychiatry’. So all the little, caring inputs to a child’s life are incredibly important. When you cradle your child gently and sing ‘Rock-a-Bye Baby’ there are long-term effects of that gift of gentle love…

Is this negative process curable? To a considerable extent, yes (which is one reason why the motto of our little counseling practice is ‘It’s never too late to have a happy childhood’!) And that’s one reason I believe in Jesus. He set us an example of relating to others in terms of their being made in the image of God. His habit, when meeting ‘damaged’ people, was to offer them unconditional love – love-before-worth, not love responding to worth.

The Pharisees and other religious leaders in Jesus’ day didn’t understand that. (They still don’t). Some of them taught, for example, that Gentiles were created to be fuel for the fires of hell. They defined people in terms of their sinfulness or their otherness. To the woman caught in the act of adultery Jesus first said ‘I do not condemn you’ before ‘Go and sin no more’. Even the early church fathers couldn’t understand that, which is why the story went missing from many manuscripts between 140 and 400 AD!

At a prayer breakfast in Melbourne a year or two ago I offered a little prayer which included the line: ‘Lord, thank you for loving us before we change, as we change, after we change, and whether we change or not.’ The emails I received were astonishing. Many experienced Christians had never thought of God like that!

2. BELONGING. A child – indeed anyone of any age – needs a sense of belonging to be a whole person. ‘This is my family, my people, my place.’ The institution Jesus founded to fulfil this need is the church. Which raises some interesting and disturbing questions. Why are there more people who claim to pray, and who believe in God, NOT in church these days than at any time in the church’s history?

That’s a complex question, and there are many articles on the John Mark Ministries website about it all. Briefly: our commercial culture has rejected the ‘one size fits all’ notion, and people’s expectations have become highly specialized in terms of ‘what they want’ from church. Also, I believe, there’s more ‘projection/transference’ going on as the tender fabric of our community life unravels. We want the church to be a substitute for the ‘family values’ we did not experience, and are usually disappointed.

‘The church is full of hypocrites’. Of course it is. That’s what the church is for. The people in it are not yet fully redeemed. They’re in process of becoming whole, and that includes those who get into leadership in the church.

But I believe that a follower of Jesus has to ask another question: What does he think of the church? He loves it. It’s his bride. He delights in the church. We humans have been infected with this ‘you get the love/esteem you deserve’ mentality. Jesus doesn’t think like that. He offers the church – even the church! – unconditional love. We live in families to experience love-in-the-midst-of- imperfection. Ditto the church. As we mature in the faith of Jesus we too will love the church, in spite of its imperfections.

If sociology has taught us anything, it has affirmed (in the words of Robert Merton) that ‘all institutions are inherently degenerative.’ The evil in institutions is greater than the sum of the evil of the individuals within them. Institutions organize themselves to organize the behaviour and beliefs of the humans. So the church-as-institution, for example, offers us creeds to regulate our beliefs and constitutions to regulate our behaviour. Part of it is explained in the notion of ‘the routinization of charisma’: where prophets bring us life, the commissars step in after a generation or two to regulate everything!

Jesus comes into this fallen world of institutions and invites us to be realistic and penitent. Realistic about the effects of our sinning when we relate to institutions, and penitent about our lovelessness in not handling the imperfections of people as individuals and in groups as well as Jesus did. But there’s hope! If we allow the spirit of Jesus to rule our hearts and motivations, we can change and grow and become whole.

3. COMMITMENT.

Humans need a cause to live – and die – for. The best cause I know is to be committed to doing in our world what Jesus did in his. A summary can be found in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 11:42 – pursuing justice, loving God, practising compassion, and encouraging faith. Justice is relating to others as being made in the image of God (rather than primarily as sinners, in the image of the devil). It is the urgent task of followers of Jesus to resist evil and the abuse of power (as when, for example, Jesus ‘cleansed the temple’ of those who ‘ripped off’ pilgrims).

Justice deals with the causes of pain; compassion with the symptoms of pain. Compassion asks ‘What kind of resource can I be for you in your need?’ Faith helps us believe that the world and our lives have meaning. And love for God is the spiritual dynamic/energy which fuels the process of becoming more like Jesus.

The ‘essence of Christianity’ hasn’t got much to do with creeds and constitutions and liturgies and religious formulas for this-and- that. It’s all about turning from whatever in our lives impedes our becoming whole (the traditional words are ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’) committing our lives to Jesus, following him in a sad and disintegrating world, belonging to a community-of-faith which can strengthen those commitments, and, perhaps above all, ‘accepting our acceptance’.

Shalom! Rowland Croucher http://www.pastornet.net.au/jmm

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Quiz: Are you a Beatles Fan?

Can You name the titles to the songs that include the following lyrics?

1. All the lonely people, where do they all come from?  All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

2.  He like to keep his fire engine clean. It’s a clean machine.

3. He blew his mind out in a car. He didn’t notice that the light had changed.

4. I’m in love for the first time. Don’t you know it’s going to last.

5. I don’t know why nobody told you how to unfold your love

6. Tuesday afternoon is never ending. Wednesday mornings paper didn’t come.

7. I say high, you say low. I say why. You say I don/t know.’

8. So many days you passed me by. See the tears standing in my eyes.

9. Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be. There’s a shadow hanging over me.

10. Remember to let her into your heart, then you can start to make it better.

11. Now my life has changed in oh so many ways. My independence seems to vanish in the haze.

12. I need you, I need you, I need you. I need to make you see.

13. But of all these friends and lovers, there is no one that compares to you.

14. When the sun shines, they slip into the shade and sip their lemonade.

15. That boy took my love away. He’ll regret it someday.

16. When I think of all the times I tried so hard to leave her, she would turn to me and start to cry.

17. Many times I’ve been alone and many times I’ve cried. Anyway you’ve always known the many ways I’ve tried.

18. When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom… 

19. I am he as you are he as you are me as we are all together. See how they run likes pigs
from a gun. See how they fly. I’m crying.

20. Don’t want to leave her now. You know I believe and how.

21. Living is easy with eyes closed. Misunderstanding all you see. It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out.  It doesn’t matter much to me.

22. Here I stand, head in hand, turn my face to the wall. If she’s gone, I can’t go on, feeling two foot small.

23. I once had a girl, or should I say she once had me. She showed me her room. Isn’t it good ,,,

24. Got a good reason for taking the easy way out. Got a good reason for taking the easy way out.

25. You tell me that it’s evolution, well you know we all want to change the world.

26. Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner but he knew it couldn’t last. Jojo left his home in Tuscon Arizona for some California grass.

27. She was just seventeen if you know what I mean and the way she looked was way beyond compare.

28. I never realized what a kiss could be. This could only happen to me. Can’t you see. Can’t you see.

Titles listed below.

1.Eleanor Rigby
2. Penny Lane
3. A Day in the Life
4. Don’t Let Me Down
5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
6. Lady Madonna
7. Hello Goodbye
8. Mr. Postman
9. Yesterday
10. Hey Jude
11. Help
12. Michelle
13. In My Life
14. Rain
15. This Boy
16. Girl
17. A Long and Winding Road
18. Let It Be
19. I am the Walrus
20.. Something
21. Strawberry Fields Forever
22. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
23. Norwegian Wood
24. Day Tripper
25. Revolution
26. Get Back
27. I Saw Her Standing There
28. I Should Have Known Better
 
If you knew less than 10 == definitely not a Beatle fan.
11 to 15    pretty good
16 to 22    Beatle Fan
more than 23   Beatle expert

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People often say with pride, “I’m not interested in politics.” They might as well say, “I’m not interested in my standard of living, my health, my job, my rights, my freedoms, my future, or any future.”
    — Martha Gellhorn, writer/journalist   (1908-1998)

Live simply. Love generously.
Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Leave the rest to God.

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Every 3.6 seconds a real person dies from hunger somewhere in the world!!!
Feed a hungry person today:
http://www.hungersite.com

My YouTube Channel
http://www.youtube.com/Ninure

God is still speaking
http://www.stillspeaking.com

John Mark Ministries
http://jmm.aaa.net.au/

What was that all about – a Stillspeaking Devotional

What’s That All About?

Joshua 4:20-24a

Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, saying to the Israelites, “When your children ask their parents in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, so that all may know the power of the Lord.”

Matt Laney

Go visit Stonehenge in the English county of Wiltshire and ask, as people have for centuries, “What do these stones mean?” The only honest answer is “We don’t know” or “Go ask an archeologist.” If there ever was a plan to pass on the meaning from generation to generation, it didn’t stick.

Go visit the Holy Land and you’ll find rocks everywhere. Big ones, little ones and stacks of them, just like the pile described in Joshua 4 near the Jordan River. As soon as the Israelites stepped in the river, the waters parted, Red Sea-style, and the whole nation crossed over. It was a moment to remember.

But Joshua was smart enough to know that even mighty miracles are easily forgotten unless we do something to remember them. The twelve stone pillar was meant to arouse the curiosity of younger generations who would see it and naturally ask, “What’s that all about?” We are instructed to answer: “It’s there to remind us God is real and powerful and faithful.”

A common fear for parents of confirmation students is that their child will ask a question for which they have no answer. What’s baptism all about? What’s communion all about? And what about miracles, the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection?

The honest answer might be “I don’t really know” or “Go ask the pastor.” But if all we offered was the Joshua answer: “Those things remind us God is real and powerful and faithful,” it would be enough.

Today we don’t have a pile of twelve stones. We have a pile of stories, poems and letters known as the Bbble to arouse our curiosity and help us remember God’s presence and faithfulness. It’s really the only thing worth remembering.

Prayer
God help us to remember that you never forget us.

About the Author
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.

“I trace the rainbow through the rain and see the promise is not in vain.”

My YouTube Channel
http://www.youtube.com/Ninure

God is still speaking
http://www.stillspeaking.com

John Mark Ministries
http://jmm.aaa.net.au/

Challenge, Controversy and Change – a Stikkspeakng Devotional

Challenge, Controversy and Change – Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Acts 21:17-26
When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law. But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them.

Reflection by Ron Buford

Among religious people, breaking the 10th commandment is a great stumbling block: “Thou shalt not covet.” Here are two Christian sects: one Jewish; the other Gentile. The Jewish sect has good reason to ask, “Why keep Moses’ law when newcomers don’t have to keep it?”

The church today stumbles similarly. Why do we accept unmarried couples living together? We had to get married. Why do we let gay people get married? They used to have enough shame to keep their behavior a secret. Why do we accept people who are divorced? We stayed married and hated each other. Bottom line: We suffered, you suffer too; God requires it.

Correction: No, not God but our imperfect understanding of God required these things for a while. The love of God, changing our understanding, and our own repentance compel us to risk making change, no matter how much it costs us, no matter how many jobs, members, churches, or friends we lose. God’s ever-expanding inclusion and grace is the greater good—even greater than everyone getting along.

In the book of Acts, Paul connives (yes, connives), strategically dividing his enemies based on their theological differences, opportunistically seizing upon his Roman citizenship to bring about change. He escapes Jerusalem’s perception of control over God’s plan, moving it to the Roman Empire–whose control will also eventually fade . . . just as we and so much of what we believe and do eventually fade into the arc of God’s future.

Prayer
Gracious God, we believe in You, and to Your deeds we testify. Let the stillspeaking God be true, and every human trapped in time and space be a liar. As we receive new light from You, grant us courage in the struggle for justice and peace, Your Presence in trial and rejoicing. Amen.

  Join us on i.ucc.org for prayer and conversation.

My YouTube Channel
http://www.youtube.com/Ninure

God is still speaking
http://www.stillspeaking.com

John Mark Ministries
http://jmm.aaa.net.au/

STUDENT WHO OBTAINED 100% ON AN EXAM – it’s to laugh.

STUDENT WHO OBTAINED 100% ON AN EXAM:

(I would have given him 100% for his wit! )
Q1. In which battle did Napoleon die? * his last battle
Q2. Where was the Declaration of Independence signed? * at the bottom of the page
Q3. River Ravi flows in which state? * liquid
Q4. What is the main reason for divorce? * marriage
Q5. What is the main reason for failure? * exams
Q6. What can you never eat for breakfast? * Lunch & dinner
Q7. What looks like half an apple? * The other half
Q8. If you throw a red stone into the blue sea what it will become? * It will simply become wet
Q9. How can a man go eight days without sleeping ? * No problem, he sleeps at night.
Q10. How can you lift an elephant with one hand? * You will never find an elephant that has only one hand..
Q11. If you had three apples and four oranges in one hand and four apples and three oranges in other hand, what would you have ? * Very large hands
Q12. If it took eight men ten hours to build a wall, how long would it take four men to build it? * No time at all, the wall is already built.
Q13. How can u drop a raw egg onto a concrete floor without cracking it? *Any way you want, concrete floors are very hard to crack.

Every 3.6 seconds a real person dies from hunger somewhere in the world!!!
Feed a hungry person today:
http://www.hungersite.com

My YouTube Channel
http://www.youtube.com/Ninure

God is still speaking
http://www.stillspeaking.com

John Mark Ministries
http://jmm.aaa.net.au/

Hippie Rant: A Challenge for Conservative Christians

A Challenge

Here’s a challenge, promarily directed towards those “christian” posters/leader/politians who spend so much time “standing against sin” and/or letting the worlf know who is and isn’t a “real” christian.

Your audience has never heard of Jesus, have never ever heard of the Bible, have no acess to the Bible.

You, yourself, have no acess to a Bible..

Explain now, what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is.

Explain why YOU are a Christian.

Explain why they should believe what YOU are telling them.

Keep in mind, before you do the usual “”argumentum ad hominem” (Google the term if you don’t know what that means), please keep in mind that this is a world-wide forum and that there surely many “lurkers” may have never heard the “Gospel”….

Can you answer the challenge? – Ninure da ippie

Some Random (Hippie thots) – reposted from 2006

Just sharing some random thoughts....

If the teachings of the one called Jesus Christ were “common sense” there would be far more remarkable Christians in the world.

But in reality, there is much that us non-sense in His teachings..which means that a true follower must be, in the eyes of the world, a fool.

This may be one reason why when one sees certain preachers speaking on the issues of the day, one rarely hears them quoting Jesus.

Someone told me that there are some 2,000 passages in the Bible that “talk” about the poor and needy, and only six passages that could possibly be interpreted as dealing with homosexuality.

I haven’t figured out how to confirm that 2,000 figure, but a quick search of my New International Version found 177 containing withboth the words “poor and needy”.

Christians who remember their Lord was unjustly and cruelly given the death penalty have a hard time being enthusiastic about imposing the death penalty on others.
– Glen Stassen

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Every 3.6 seconds a real person dies from hunger somewhere in the world!!!
Feed a hungry person today:
http://www.hungersite.com

God is still speaking
http://www.stillspeaking.com

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