Thoughts

Decoding Jesus

Jesus lived quite a while ago. In the meantime, we followers of Jesus have had ample opportunity to tell stories about him, put some spin on his life, and generally mold him into a leader who tells us to go exactly where we already are. Fortunately, we have the Bible, which contains four books of stories about his life, so that we can read those stories and bring ourselves back to who Jesus actually was. Or can we? So often pastors tell people to read their Bibles and believe what they read, to view the Bible as the instruction manual…
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Discipleship

For a while, I’ve tried to imagine a church that took obedience to the greatest commandment as its primary mission – to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. To me, this is one of the best ways to be Calvinist as well: to respond to God’s irresistible grace and unconditional election with a gratitude that manifests itself in love, which to me is God’s primary characteristic. Everything we know about God flows from God’s love for the world and for us: God created the world out of love, God created…
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Happiness

I just experienced a great birthday weekend. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, so part of the birthday present was a conscious effort to focus on positivity – positive thoughts, fun activities, and paying attention to what I needed to do to enjoy life. It didn’t take too much effort, and it worked! Despite a couple distressing things happening over the past two days, I have felt happier, “lighter”, and more in control of my life than I would have otherwise. The funny thing about the Kingdom of God that Jesus promises is coming soon is that it’s already…
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Stuck in the Mud, in a Pit, in a War

Lately, Jeremiah’s situation right before the fall of Jerusalem has been speaking to me. The whole situation surrounding Jerusalem’s fall in 587 BCE was terrible: The Jewish people, under the leadership of King Zedekiah, had revolted against Babylonian leadership and allied with Egypt (against God’s wishes, of course). Babylon responded by seeking a more complete control over its newly acquired territory, laying siege to Jerusalem for over two years. The city’s resources were strained to the breaking point; living conditions were abysmal. No one could see any hope unless the Egyptian army came to save them. In the midst of…
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Justice Like Water

“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great- grandfather, and great- great- grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises— the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great- great- grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great- grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His…
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What is the Bible?

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember, but I spent 7 years of my life slowly, bit by bit, coming to a greater understanding of what the Bible is and what it means for me. And honestly, who has the time to do that? Certainly very, very few people other than those who are preparing themselves for ministry like I was. And so, as someone who has invested my life into the study of the Bible and discipleship to Christ, I have a great responsibility to communicate what I have learned with others so that the body of Christ can…
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A reinterpretation of 1 John 4:7-12

Love one another. Why? Because love is from God. That is, love is created by God. If love is created by God and is a part of God, then everyone who loves knows God. Furthermore, if love is from God, then those who love are also from God. By contrast, those who do not love do not know God, which implies that the only way to know God is through love, since love comes from God. Love must, therefore, be the only approachable part of God for humanity. Love is not only from God, God is love. This must be…
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Don’t Do the Things!

Take a second to read this little comic. Step 1: Laugh. It’s a pretty funny piece of comedy. Step 2: Ask yourself – is the primary takeaway from the Bible the instruction to “not do the things”? Clearly, much of the story of the Bible is centered around commandments. Over and over again in the Pentateuch, God’s people are told to obey God and keep God’s commandments. In the Great Commission, Jesus tells the disciples to teach everyone to obey everything he commanded. There are many rules to follow. But – are the most important rules the ones that tell…
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Famous and Important

There was a young boy whose teacher asked him what he was going to be when he grew up. He said, “I’m going to be famous and important!” And his teacher told him that it’s difficult to be famous and important, and he would have to work hard to do it. And the boy took her seriously: he worked hard at school, always getting his assignments done on time, always earning good grades. Because of his hard work, he was recognized by the mayor of his small town for an outstanding civics project. The mayor asked him why he worked…
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Death and Life

Here’s a sermon from a few years ago, which has become relevant for worship at church this coming Sunday. This sermon was given to the Presbyterian Mission Agency at a board meeting. Alex Becker Preached at PMA Board Meeting 9/12/2012 “Death and Life” Given the short time I’ve spent as a Presbyterian pastor, I feel that I am quickly becoming an expert on death. I performed my first funeral before I officially began working at Henryville Community Presbyterian and Mount Lebanon Presbyterian and I did my second funeral soon after. The two churches I serve have less than 50 members…
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