Rahab and the Force of Faith

Part 2 of the series “Wonder Women of Advent”

Joshua 2:1-21

A couple of years ago we cut the cable cord, bought a digital antenna, and we now only get the free over the air channels on our TV. At first I thought we would be missing out (and I do miss the occasional game on ESPN), but I also discovered a few gems out there I hadn’t imagined. For example, buried on the free TV dial are some channels that show old, old reruns of TV shows I grew up with—shows like Happy Days and Black Sheep Squadron (which was always one of my favorites), Wild, Wild West and even The Love Boat (which looks even cheesier now than it did back then!).

One of the channels runs a series of old westerns each afternoon—shows like The Rifleman, and Wagon Train. You can see a young Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Gaines in Rawhide or Steve McQueen in Wanted: Dead or Alive. Then, of course, there were the shows that were on our black and white Philco TV every night back in the late 60s and early 70s: Bonanza (which I loved and which they named a steak house after in our town—that’s where I always wanted to eat for my birthday), and then there was Gunsmoke, which is probably the quintessential western of them all.

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Tamar and the Power of Perseverance

First in the series “Wonder Women of Advent”

Matthew 1:1-3a; Genesis 38

As someone with a passion for history, I’ve always been interested in genealogies. Maybe it’s because, as an adopted child with no knowledge of my birth parents, I don’t know my own history—where my family originated, what the stories are, etc. Some recent developments have helped, however. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania recently opened some old adoption records to allow people like me to apply to receive their original birth certificate, which I have sent away for. And, for my birthday this week, I received one of those Ancestry DNA kits which will tell you what regions of the world your DNA comes from. I’m hoping it will once and for explain why I love bagpipes! It’s exciting to learn about your ancestry.

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Philemon: Partners in the Gospel

We continue our look at the short, personal letter of Philemon this week with a little review. Last week, we looked at the occasion for the letter—the apostle Paul is trying to reconcile a runaway slave named Onesimus (which means “useful”) with his master Philemon, and in doing so Paul wants to erase the distinction of status between them. He wants them to see each other as brothers in Christ, no longer as slave and master. Such is the reconciling power of the gospel that Paul preaches.

In many ways, this letter is also an echo of the very thing that Jesus taught and practiced. In fact, we might look at the situation in Philemon as being very similar to the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. You remember how that story goes—a young man takes his inheritance early and runs off on his own to a far country. In effect, he is saying to his father, “I wish you were dead, I am taking what’s coming to me,” and he heads off to a far country where he squanders everything. He is so broke that he finds himself slopping pigs and eating what they’re eating—about as low as a Jewish boy could go.

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From Useless to Useful: Philemon and the Power of Grace

Philemon 1-11

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already arrived at Thanksgiving week this year. Seems like only yesterday it was Fourth of July and we were enjoying the summer sun. Advent and Christmas will soon be here, so we’ve reached the beginning of the “holiday season.”

The holidays bring a lot of joy, but also a lot of stress—particularly the kind of stress that revolves around relationships. As we gather with distant family and friends, there are bound to be old conflicts that surface, old grudges that don’t seem to go away, and annoyances that tend to be magnified. As someone put it to me once, “I like the holidays because they remind me why I don’t live close to my family!” In a culture that is always talking about “family first,” we sometimes forget that family can be our most significant challenge.

And that’s just our family of origin. As we said in the last series, the church is also a family—a family on mission, an oikos of faith. The relationships within that family are vital and they have some bearing and impact on the relationships we might have with our biological family or family of origin. It’s in the church that we learn how to be better at living with and loving one another as Jesus commanded.

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Oikonomics: Financial Capital – Investing for the Kingdom

Matthew 25:14-30

We have come to the conclusion of our series on “oikonomics” and how we invest the five capitals of life in the kingdom of God the way Jesus did. We’ve been looking at each of them in order of priority, beginning with spiritual capital, which is hearing the doing the Word of God. That is the ultimate investment of life—to live out our vocation as people created in God’s image, to be stewards of his creation and to reflect his glory. Closely related to that is relational capital—we invest in relationships with others because we were created for community—to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves. These are the two primary capitals and most important investments of our lives.

We then looked at physical capital, or how we invest time and energy in the work of the kingdom. I talked about Jesus’ image and example of a rhythm of abiding and fruitfulness. Last week we talked about intellectual capital and how a transformed mind can help us keep the capitals in order and enhance our investment.

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