An Avenger named Vision

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Paul Asay’s review at Patheos captures a lot of what struck me about Age of Ultron, so I’ll post that link below and you can click to read it.

For my part, I think it’s good the movie is drawing so many people to theaters. Our world needs more people who understand what’s good, what’s evil, and what’s at stake, people who are willing to lay down their lives to save lives.

Absorb the thought of an Avenger named Vision (without which the people perish) who identifies himself as “I am.” Understand that there is nowhere to run from evil, that you cannot hide in terror, that you have to step outside and take your stand. There is a hero in you, and we’re going to need as many heroes as we can get, given what’s ahead.

Paul Asay: Age of Ultron May Be the Most Spiritual Superhero Movie Yet

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The Gospel *includes* helping people in need

What is the Gospel of Jesus you preach?

Notice the Apostle Paul says, in the passage below, that helping people in need proves obedience to the Gospel (v.13b). That means the Gospel includes helping people in need.

“And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God. So two good things will happen — the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanksgiving to God. You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts. For your generosity to them will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the wonderful grace of God shown through you.” (2 Corinthians 9:11b-14 NLT)

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Headed to the lake of fire

Revelation 21:8 lists some of those who will die a second death and suffer eternal destruction in the fiery lake: unbelievers who do not trust God, corrupt people (the word means you can’t stand the stench), murderers, immoral people (pornos), those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers (which includes greedy and covetous people), and all liars (fakes).

Pretty much what you expect, right?

But there’s one more on that list. It even begins the roll call: “cowards who turn away from me.” (NLT)

The Greek word translated ‘coward’ is deilos. It means “timid, fearful.” It’s the word used in Matthew 8:26 of the disciples — “men of little faith” — who were afraid when their boat was about to be swamped by stormy waves.

Does that get as close to home for you as it does for me?

I think of courageous hearts — Syrian, Iraqi, Ethiopian, Egyptian — forced to kneel before evil men who demand they renounce Christ, yet they refuse … and their throats are slit because of it. Then I think of Christians in the West who are caving in when all they are facing is cultural pressure. I think of myself when I am facing what seem to be overwhelmingly impossible circumstances — like the children of Israel gazing at the fearsome giants of the Promised Land.

God’s Word says: “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid of them! The LORD your God will go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT)

Adapted from this longer post.

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Romans 6:23 is a word for Christians

God’s voice rang clear in the Word this morning:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 NLT)

We proclaim it as a word of warning and promise from God’s lips to the ears of those who have not opened their hearts to Christ — and that it is.

But don’t miss the fact that the author actually is speaking to Christians — those who God’s grace has set free from the law (v.15), whose old sinful selves were crucified with Christ (v.6), who have been set free from the power of sin and will share his new life (vv.7-8).

Why does a Christian need to be reminded that “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”?

Because “whatever you choose to obey becomes your master.” Paul is explaining to Jesus-followers that “you can choose sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God and receive his approval.” (v.16)

Paul says this is easy to understand: “Before, you let yourselves be slaves of impurity and lawlessness. Now you must choose to be slaves of righteousness so that you will become holy.”

And he is saying that to people who already are “free from the power of sin” and “do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.” (v.22) He is warning them that they must not allow themselves to once again become slaves of impurity and lawlessness (v.19) and do the things that end in eternal doom (v.21)

Salvation is a gift that Jesus has given you, keeps giving you, and will one day give you. Your part at first was to choose to accept that gift, and now your part is to keep choosing to accept it.

You are free from the power of sin! As slaves of God, do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life. (v.22) Consider yourself dead to sin and live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus! (v.11)

Because the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

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‘What you gonna do when they come for you?’

I am Simon Peter. One minute, I’m declaring my “whatever it takes” determination to die with Jesus, and the next I’m nodding off while my Lord agonizes in prayer just a few feet away. When the soldiers arrest Jesus, I scuttle off into the darkness with everyone else. Accused of being a Jesus-follower, I deny it … using some very emphatic language. Throughout the crucifixion of my Lord, I maintain a safe distance. After his burial, I fall into a deep depression and can’t do much but sit around and grieve.

Then … resurrection! … and Pentecost! Fiery passion fills my heart and I am telling everyone I can about what God has done through Jesus. But now the soldiers come to get me. The government council tells me to shut up about this Jesus nonsense. And all I can say in reply is, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.”

This year at Eastertime, the mob has tasted blood. They are determined to force Christian faith into a closet. They would like to kill it altogether. Some disciples have denied the truth and scuttled off into the darkness. One day soon, you will be warming yourself at a fire in the high priest’s courtyard — or perhaps even standing before the Council. What will you do?

If you are going to stand with Jesus, “whatever it takes,” you will need the power of resurrection and Pentecost to strengthen you.

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‘You will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy’

With miracle after miracle, the Lord delivered his people from bondage in Egypt and brought them to the edge of the abundant land he had promised to give them. But the people shrank back in fear of losing the battle for conquest, then (ridiculously) blamed God that they were stuck in a wilderness. Moses begged God to not destroy the people, but those faithless souls had made themselves opponents of the Almighty. His judgment was severe: Not only would the adults of that generation die in the wilderness, as they feared, but their children would wander in that desolate place for 40 years as well.

These words of judgment, however, are particularly chilling: “You will discover what it is like to have me for an enemy.” (Numbers 14:34 NLT)

Not a place you want to be, but that’s where fear, disobedience, and faithlessness will take you. How much better to courageously trust God and take possession of what he has promised!

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Why would God pour out his Holy Spirit on such a church?

Godly leaders are calling the church to prayer for great spiritual awakening in America. Like Hosea, they call on the people to “bring your petitions and return to the Lord.” (Hosea 14:2a NLT)

An outpouring of God’s spirit, however, comes only after true repentance. Genuine sorrow and confession precede true repentance and forgiveness. Hosea calls out the sins of the people like charges being read in court.

Today’s church will experience renewal when, like Israel, American Christians recognize they are Gomer to the Lord’s Hosea: enthusiastically engaging in worship that is meaningless before the Lord, following false religion and bearing children that are not the Lord’s, seeking security in military might, making idols of their silver and gold, filling the land with violence and immorality, slaughtering their own children, forming alliances with godless foreign powers, getting rich through injustice. Even the king makes a fool of himself.

Why would God pour out his Holy Spirit on such a church? “They have become as worthless as a half-baked cake!” (7:8b) They are like “an old man with graying hair, unaware of how weak and old he has become.” (7:9b)  They are “a crooked bow that always misses its target.” (7:16b) “They have planted the wind and will harvest the whirlwind.” (8:7) The prophet describes in horrific detail the punishments God is about to personally inflict on his people.

The people arrogantly refuse to walk in God’s ways. “The people have been offered new birth, but they are like a child who resists being born.” (13:13a) O foolish people! You will be destroyed, for you refuse to understand.” (4:14b)

Hosea’s call: “So now, come back to your God! Act on the principles of love and justice, and always live in confident dependence on your God.” (12:6)

Hosea’s warning: “Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those who are discerning listen carefully. The paths of the LORD are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But sinners stumble and fall along the way.” (14:9)

 

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