This Past Sunday's Conversation

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, November 29, 2005 at 8:14 AM

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Don't you just love it when people get stoned to death, then come back to life, then invite people who almost buried them to join their crew? I know I do. This week our conversation centered on Acts 16, where this scenario played out for real. On Paul and Barnabas' 1st missionary journey, Paul was stoned (apparently to death), and drug outside the city where many disciples of Jesus gathered around him. Among those who gathered around him, highly speculatively, was a young man named Timothy. Here in chapter 16, five years have lapsed and Paul with Silas (not Barnabas) are again in Lystra. It is now that Paul invites Timothy to join his crew. Hmm...How intimate of a relationship with Jesus Timothy must have had to join with Paul even after witnessing first hand the price of such a life.

As I prepared for this discussion and as we entered into it, the Spirit spoke to my spirit something I did not want to hear. Those who belonged to the early church accepted not only open, but also closed doors, as avenues of God's guidance (as seen in this story). Crap! I hate when God takes away a perfectly good reason to be irritated with Him (j/k...kind of)! Aside: I have been searching for a new job closer to the Hermitage/Mt. Juliet area, which is where my wife and I live, and all I have run into is closed doors. Seemingly perfect jobs that I would fit well in--but nothing but closed doors. Thank you Jesus for sharply correcting me. Even further aside: I feel that, like Paul, God deals with me harshly and sharply because I am so freakin' stubborn.

Enter Lydia. A shrewd dealer in purple cloths and a worshipper of God who Paul, Silas, and Timothy happen upon along with some other women who had gathered by the river (can't help but think about Chris Farley's "Matt Foley" character on SNL) for prayer. Two things jumped out to us here. The first is that the missionary party appear to not have "pounced on their prey" like many Christians do today when flying the flag of "evangelism". No, they sat down to talk with the women gathered there--who knows when the topic of Jesus came up. I would suspect that it came up when Paul and his companions had sensed that "the Lord opened her [Lydia] heart." Oh that we would have such a spirit of discernment to know when the Harvest is ripe. I wonder how many stalks of wheat we ("Christians") cut to the ground prematurely when they need but only one more day to believe.

The rest of this particular chapter is an intricate story of how far God will go for the one single man to come into His Kingdom and family. This will be the quick version b/c it's a VERY long story. A slave girl possessed by a demon begins to follow Paul and his crew around shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved." This irritates Paul so much that, finally, he wheels around and casts the demon out of the girl in Jesus' name. Why? She was telling the truth! But does it not undermine the very work they are about that a demon testifies to it??? What's worse is that the Greek text shows us that the people believed it to be the spirit of the god Apollo, who was worshiped in that region. So because the girl's owners could no longer turn a profit from her divination, they had Paul and Silas beaten, flogged, tortured, and jailed. The hour grows late. Their bodies are bloody, bruised, and broken. Yet there they sit, in the chamber of their torture--singing and praying. Suddenly an earthquake strikes and all the jail doors fling wide open!!! The guard awakes to believe that the prisoners have escaped, draws his sword, and just before he falls on it Paul screams out, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" Why didn't Paul and the prisoners escape as Peter did in a similar scenario? Because this earthquake wasn't meant to free His servants from prison--it was all that the guard might come to know the love of the Jesus that these men served. Consequently, the guard's entire household came to serve the Lord.

I wonder, how many times do I look for an escape, when God wishes that I remain in my proverbial prisons for the sake of one who know Him not.

My Life as a Chimney Sweep

posted by Jeffrey on Friday, November 25, 2005 at 7:34 PM

*I've moved, and my posts have come with me! Check out my new blog at* least that's the way it's seemed the past 3 days! I so thoroughly enjoyed putting up Christmas lights with my dad while growing up that I swore when I had a home of my own it would have lights on every eave at Christmas time! This year I accomplished it. Here are some pics of my adventure:

The most BEAUTIFUL sunset I've ever seen!! This shot was taken from the tip top of my roof 2 nights ago.

More of the same sunset:

Chim Chimminy Chim Chimminy Chim Chim Cha Roo...

Finally done!!! How does it look?

Sunday's Conversation

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, November 22, 2005 at 8:31 AM

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This past Sunday evening we jumped back into our journey into the book of Acts with chapter 15. Here we have the first scenario of it's kind for the early Church. Some "Judaizers" (Christians who still bound themselves to the requirements of the Law of Moses) had begun to spread false doctrine among the new Gentile (non-Jewish) followers of Jesus in the city of Antioch. They were teaching the people that before they could be saved they must be circumcised--which was a requirement under the Law of Moses.

Enter our first topic of discussion. Was there anything wrong with circumcision? Of course not! The symbolism of the act is actually quite beautiful for the people of God. The physical cutting of excess flesh (and we all know where that was located!) symbolized the cutting off of our spiritual "flesh"--which is our nature of sin. The error in the teaching, however, was that it is NOT required before one can be "saved"! In fact, the apostle Paul goes on to say in Romans 2:25-29 that circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the circumcision of the heart that only Christ can perform!

At any rate, Paul and Barnabas are not happy campers upon learning of this fallacy that is being spread. They "sharply dispute" those who are guilty of the teaching, and then when they cannot resolve it among themselves--off to Jerusalem for the first early Church council, The Council at Jerusalem.

To make a long story short (though I hope you'll read the whole story for yourself), the Council decided to only require four things from the new Gentile Christians: 1) abstain from food sacrificed to idols 2) abstain from blood 3) abstain from the meat of strangled animals 4) abstain from sexual immorality. Who is it though who made the first stand (at least as Luke recorded it here in Acts)? The apostle Peter. "So what?" you might be saying to yourself. Just a few chapters back Peter--who used to be allllll about being a "good Jew"--had a vision.

His vision was a good ole' fashion but kicking from God that was used to reveal some faulty theology in his own life. In his vision he saw a sheet being let down with all kinds of animals in it and the voice of the Lord saying "kill and eat". The problem for Peter was that among the animals were some that were ceremonially "unclean" for Jews to eat, so Peter felt he would be sinning in doing so. The Lord goes on to chastise him with the words, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean". Can't you just hear those words of the Lord resonating in Peter's heart as he sits in the Council at Jerusalem??? "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Peter..."Do not call anything impure that God has made clean!!" So what does Peter say to the council? Essentially, do not call anything impure that the Lord has made clean--including the Gentiles who He calls His own!

My question: what things (or who) do I deem as unclean, that the Lord has made pure?

Choose Your Tongue

posted by Jeffrey on Monday, November 21, 2005 at 1:24 PM

*I've moved, and my posts have come with me! Check out my new blog at*

11/23/05 Update: embarrassing typo in title fixed! Why doesn't stupid spell check examine the title AND body? lol...
Thanks to the best free stat tracker in existence (, I see a possible need for some language translation on our humble space tucked away in the corner of the blogosphere. Over the past week we have had visitors from Switzerland, Canada, Chile, the Netherlands, the UK, and of course the US. Obviously, some of those countries are English speaking, but some are not. So thanks to Google's free translation service, visitors speaking Dutch, French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, and Portuguese can read the content in their native tongs--if they so desire.

How Awesome is This?!?!

posted by Jeffrey on Saturday, November 19, 2005 at 6:28 AM

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Cancer. Quite possibly the most dreaded and feared word in our vocabulary today. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to have been spared from seeing a loved one struggle through this nightmare. Unfortunately, Greg and Gina--two of those who "gather" with us as a community of faith--have had to see both their mothers take up this fight.

Good news though!!! Gina got a report yesterday that her mom's cancer markers were CONSIDERABLY down in the most recent test! The cool thing is that her mom, Ann, has decided not to go through kemo treatments, but instead to use two alternative treatments that are more natural and organic. Yes, modern medicine is wonderful and I thank God for His gift of knowledge to those women and men who have made those advances and luxuries possible, but let's not forget that our medicine today is--modern.

For thousands of years God kept we humans, who He loves, healthy by making what we need readily available in nature. So isn't it possible that sometimes where modern medicine may fail, the answer we seek lay right in front of our very eyes every single day. Only a highly creative and loving Creator-Savior God could make such a story possible. What's your story?

The Return of Every Other Mid-Week Dinner Thing

posted by Jeffrey on Wednesday, November 16, 2005 at 9:46 AM

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It's back! Don't miss the return of the every-other-mid-week-dinner-thing at my and Shaunna's house tonight at 6:30! The main course: Shaunna's famous taco soup!!!! Mmmmm...

Calendar of Gatherings

Last Sunday's Conversation

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 at 9:12 AM

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Prayer is sooo crucial to the life and survival of the Church. Can you imagine what kind of relationships we'd have if we never spent time in conversation with those close to us? One thing is for sure--we probably wouldn't have any one who is close to us. Why is it then that prayer seems to be the thing that we as followers of Jesus neglect most often? How does it get pushed to the side and into the shadows without us (or maybe just me) ever realizing it.

For all these reasons and more, we felt God leading us this past Sunday into a journey of prayer for the entire evening. We began the evening by sharing in the Lord's supper together in a way that we have not done so before. After reading and briefly discussing passages from Mark and 1 Corinthians about this sacrament, we listened to "I Repent", by Derek Webb. This song provided a reflective backdrop as we searched our hearts so that we might confess and repent from any injustice that was harbored there. The song also lists ALOT of sins that I may not necessarily think of normally. Perhaps my favorite line is, "I repent...from our suburbs, where we're safe and white...I've been wrong and of these things I repent...". After reflecting inwardly, we moved to an area where plates filled with sand were stationed. There we wrote into the sand the sins in our lives that God had revealed during reflection, and then wiped them away. After that, we took part of the bread and the cup.

We then moved into a different room where we spent time praying for our community of faith, the Gathering, as a whole. In this place, any who wanted to prayed out loud as the others identified with them. Moving from there we came into Gina's massage parlor where soft music and candles added to the ambiance. Here we sat in silence and wrote out prayers for family, friends, and neighbors. After we were done writing, we spent time reading each others prayers, thanks, and adorations as we prayed over them as well. Moving from there, we came back into the living room where I led us in prayer for the Kingdom of God, as a whole, throughout the entire world.

What an incredible evening spent in the presence of God through silence, music, incense writing, reading, touch, taste, and friendship. How incredibly God moved Shaunna's ( my wife) heart to create these various atmospheres for us to meet with God in prayer.

This Coming Sunday's Conversation

posted by Jeffrey on Friday, November 11, 2005 at 6:07 PM

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This Sunday's Conversation will be a special one. We're going to be gathering with each other for the specific purpose of coming before the throne of grace in communal prayer. Not quite sure what exactly that'll entail, but we'll probably engage in a number of interactive prayer exercises as well as some more reflective and personal times.

Last Sunday night Greg offered the creative challenge of coming to the table this week with ideas of "things to do" as the Gathering. No, not like programs or institutional type things, but to spend time dreaming of how we as a part of the Church could encourage each other and those who do not yet know the adventure and romance of a relationship with Jesus. If you feel so inspired, come with some dreams to share this week...

How the Tangible Music Industry Died

posted by Jeffrey on at 5:58 PM

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As of October 31st, Sony BMG decided to cut off its nose despite its face. When you buy an audio CD from Sony BMG it comes with a free gift--digital rights management technology from them to you. Here's the scenario: You buy a CD, pop it into your computer (just to play it--not rip it) and wham, the "root kit" is installed on your PC. What comes in this special package from Sony? All kinds of little goodies--including a Trojan Horse. If you try to clean it from your PC you may very likely have your CD drive trashed.

Wow, with this kind of self sabotage from the tangible music industry, the digital music industry will save millions on marketing!

I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't seen it on CNET--a reliable technology source.

link to full story

Sunday's Conversation

posted by Jeffrey on Tuesday, November 08, 2005 at 7:48 AM

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Mobs, plots, murder, and miracles--welcome to the normal life of those devoted to the early Church and to becoming disciples of Jesus. This past Sunday we continued our conversation of the book of Acts with chapter 14. How incredible it is to see the progression of God's invitation and pursuit of the Gentiles (non-Jews)! In Lystra, God heals a man crippled from birth through Paul and Barnabas but the people hail these men as the gods Zeus and Mercury. After grieving the missed message, the two journeyers explain that they are mere men who come to tell the people about the Living God! Almost immediately it seems, Paul is stoned and drug outside the city for death. But death was not what God had planned--seemingly by the work of a miracle, Paul springs to his feet and goes back inside the city--the city from which he was just drug out of! Funny how the nature of the mob can change so quickly. One second they want to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas as gods, and the next...murder.

Am I so fickle in my own relationship with God? Am I merely tossed to and frow by the wind? Is my mind so easily poisoned by bitter and cynical people as those residents of Lystra? Am I sometimes a bitter and cynical poisoner of minds??? Am I willing to face death and then walk right back in to serve my aggressors? These and more are some tough questions I've been pondering since Sunday.

One thing I'm sure of, just as Paul and Barnabas revealed God's visual testimonies of His faithfullness throughout history, during this season of fall I am constantly aware of God's prescence as I am awe struck by the colors of His changing creation.