Sweet Spots

Ideas and messages from Len Sweet.

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Stop Talking and Start Walking

Stop Talking and Start Walking Story Lectionary 12 May 2019 Celebration of the Christian Home God’s Promise (Exodus 23) Psalm 34: Taste and See Jesus’ Suffering Foretold by Isaiah (52-53) The Great Mourning (Zechariah 12) The Promise of the Messiah (Jeremiah 33) I Will Raise You in Three Days (Hosea…
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“A Rock in a Weary Land”

“A Rock in a Weary Land” Lectionary 12 May 2019 4th Sunday of Easter Festival of the Christian Home Acts 9:36-43 Psalm 23 Revelation 7:9-17 John 10:22-30 Text to Life In Washington State several communities have recently passed new laws making it illegal to prohibit residents from having certain breeds…
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Get Back Up and Run

Acts 9:36-43

Tabitha (Dorcas) had died.  She was one who had done so much for so many.  For someone who was so full of life to be an empty shell was devastating to those around her.

You see, the name Tabitha (Dorcas) means Gazelle.  Not only was Gazelle her name, but it was also most likely how Tabitha lived. 

A gazelle is a beautiful animal who can run exceedingly fast and leap in quick bursts.  The gazelle is seen as an animal of beauty and grace. Many times, you will find beautiful people compared to gazelles.

Even more enlightening is that she lived in the town of Joppa which means beauty. Here you have a beautiful woman who lived a beautiful life, spreading love and life to those around her, living in a town called beauty.

But she now she is dead…

Her friends called Peter to come and help.  Peter was in a nearby town… a town called Lydda. Ironically (or maybe not) means strife.  Peter travels to Joppa and goes up to the room where Tabitha’s is laid.  Peter clears the room, then prays. After he prayed, he turns to Tabitha and says “Tabitha, get up.”   Life again flows into her, and she gets up! Not only was Tabitha resurrected, but her because of her life renewed, many around her came to Christ.

Here is the rest of the story… Tabitha was most likely a seamstress. She spent her life making clothes for. She was also always ministering to others.  She was probably burnt out. This is what happens to so many people who serve others. Yet there is healing that comes out of strife (Lydda).

Peter prayed for Tabitha; Peter asked Tabitha to stand, then Peter helped Tabitha to stand.

There are many people who are hurting, there as so many who are dead inside. Ours is to call them back to the beauty they were created to be. Maybe we are them…so…Stand up and Run.

We were created not just to live, but to be alive.  But sometimes we find ourselves burnt-out, defeated and living a life which leads to death.  Yet Restoration comes from Christ.  Renewal is in Christ. Revival is found in Christ; resurrection is found in Christ.  As he was resurrected, we too can be resurrected. As we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Easter, Like Tabitha, let us get up!

In the song “Resurrection Power” by Chris Tomlin, we are reminded that because of Christ, we can be resurrected, we can be restored, we can be restored. https://youtu.be/AxH8Q8ue65o ffffffffffff

Paul: A Biography

Paul: A Biography

by N.T. Wright

–Review by Teri Hyrkas

The title says, Paul: A Biography, which is simple and straightforward. But if you surmise from the title that N.T. Wright’s latest book is a dry and dusty retelling of Apostle Paul’s life, you would be completely mistaken. Written in 2018 and published by Harper One, Wright’s newest book might best be described as a probing exploration of the dangerous activities of a world-class, mission-minded Torah teacher. It is, indeed, the breathtaking story of the perilous calling of Paul of Tarsus, the brilliant Jewish thinker and preacher who faced beatings, stoning, imprisonment and death for proclaiming Jesus Christ as Messiah. Thorough, gripping, fast moving, eye-opening? Yes; Dry and dusty? Nope.

In Paul, Wright wants to upset our entrenched notions concerning the Apostle by asking numerous personal questions about him: What was Paul’s life like as he was growing up? Why was he so dead-set against the early Jesus followers? Did he understand what was happening to him on the Damascus Road? After the Damascus encounter, what did Paul think he was doing when he set off on his travels and why was he so successful at achieving his ends? These and many other questions about Paul are presented and investigated throughout the book, but first Wright sets the historical/cultural stage so that the reader can interpret the circumstances of the events knowledgeably. The author writes: “[When] we try to understand Paul, we must do the hard work of understanding his context — or rather, we should say, his contexts, plural. His Jewish world and the multifaceted Greco-Roman world of politics, ‘religion,’ philosophy, and all the rest that affected in a thousand ways the Jewish world that lived within it are much, much more than simply a ‘frame’ within which we can display a Pauline portrait.” (10 Kindle)

In the early chapters of Paul, Wright snags the reader with this biographical hook:

“Paul’s letters give us a few tantalizing glimpses of his life, and this is one of the strangest:

   ‘When God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, was pleased to unveil his son in me, so that I might announce the good news about him among the nations–immediately I did not confer with flesh and blood. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. No, I went away to Arabia, and afterward returned to Damascus.’ ” (Gal. 1:15-17)KNT[1] (61 Kindle)

Wright looks at this somewhat odd statement from Paul and instead of giving the standard “Arabia was Paul’s first missionary journey” explanation, he opens a conversation about Paul and the prophet Elijah. Wright compares Paul’s zeal for his ancestral traditions to Elijah’s zeal to defeat the worshippers of Baal. He reminds us that it is Mt. Sinai in Arabia where the covenant between Israel and God was sworn and it is also the place where Elijah fled when Queen Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life after the defeat of the Baal worshippers. Mt Sinai in Arabia is the very location where the once zealous, now hobbled, prophet Elijah, receives his assignment from the Lord to go to Damascus, anoint new kings and appoint the prophet Elisha to take his place. Wright explains that in Galatians, “Paul says that ‘he went away to Arabia’ — just as Elijah did– and ‘afterward returned to Damascus’ — again just like Elijah….”

“The parallel with Elijah — the verbal echoes are so close, and the reflection on “zeal” so exact, that Paul must have intended them — indicates that he, like Elijah, made a pilgrimage to Mt. Sinai in order to go back to the place where the covenant was ratified. He wanted to go and present himself to the One God, to explain that he had been “exceedingly zealous,” but that his vision, his entire world view had been turned on its head. And he received his instructions, “Go back and announce the new king.” (64 Kindle)

Have you ever thought of the Apostle Paul as a prophet? I had never once considered that possibility until reading Paul: A Biography. Wright’s book is filled with these kinds of “wake up and smell the incense” moments in Paul’s life.

 In Paul, Wright chisels away centuries of rock solid, predominantly European-Protestant notions about Apostle Paul and offers us a fresh, bold look at the first-century, religiously zealous, faithfully Jewish person underneath. This inside look at Paul’s life and culture, and particularly his religious upbringing and early influences, adds a wealth of understanding to Paul’s astonishing meeting with Christ on the Damascus Road. Wright titles his book Paul: A Biography in order to make it clear that he is not writing another historical/theological study about Paul and his letters — Wright has written four books on those subjects — but a volume that is “searching for the man behind the texts.” I believe Wright has achieved his goal.

By following a timeline, an ancient map and reading Apostle Paul’s writings, most anyone can form an idea about Paul’s life and travels. But Wright provides the background for Paul’s letters, poems and prayers; fleshes out his friends and enemies; and offers a passionate account of Paul’s successes and failures, fears and triumphs. The result is that Paul, who, in his letters, consummately proclaims the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah, is himself masterfully and marvelously made known by N.T. Wright in Paul: A Biography.


[1] The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation by N. T. Wright. (Harper Collins, 2011) ffffffff

Pastor’s Prayer for 12 May 2019

O Lord, who has mercy upon all, take away from me my sins,
and mercifully kindle in me the fire of Your Holy Spirit.
Take away from me the heart of stone,
and give me a heart of flesh,
a heart to love and adore You,
a heart to delight in You,
to follow and to enjoy You,
for Christ’s sake.

St Ambrose of Milan

Be Strong

Be Strong Story Lectionary 5 May 2019 Moses Commissions Joshua to Succeed Him (Numbers 27:12-23) The Story of Samson (Judges 16) The Passing of the Mantle from Elijah to Elisha (1 Kings 19 and 2 Kings 2) The Book of Jonah (including the Song of Jonah) Psalm 51: Create in…
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Blindsided

Blindsided Lectionary 5 May 2019 3rd Sunday of Easter Acts 9:1-6 (7-20) Psalm 30 Revelation 5:11-14 John 21:1-19 Text to Life It is now truly, fully Spring. So it is now officially “getting stuff in the ground” time. At least, if you want any veggies, fruits, or flowers during the…
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Pastor’s Prayer for 5 May 2019

Most High, glorious God, enlighten the shadows of my heart, and grant unto me a right faith, a certain hope and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may accomplish Thy holy and true command. Amen.

–St. Francis of Assisi