Archives For New Testament Theology

Feeling Like a Drain Plug

February 1, 2013 — 3 Comments

The Christian’s life is a fickle thing fraught with interesting turns and challenging twists. One day we feel like God is our BFF and nothing can separate us from His abundant love and the next day we feel like there is a cosmic chasm between God’s grace and the fate of our everlasting souls. While taking a bath today after a somewhat intense workout I put my hand over the drain and felt the pressure of the water weighing heavy on my hand. I thought about what a perfect metaphor a drain plug is for the Christian life because of one major fact: WE ARE OFTEN STUCK IN BETWEEN.

You read that correctly. If you are a Christian then you understand there comes a time where the tension of the drain plug becomes the very definition of our souls. Because we are so close to going down the drain but we, for some reason, are alive but the weight of the water (the world) is pressing down on us. So there we are, stuck between being flushed and holding the world and the pressure is too much to bear but alas, we are stuck.

Yet…

To relieve the pressure the plug must be drained. The plug cannot pull itself, it must be pulled. Jesus died so that all the pressures of this world can go down the drain (Matthew 11:28-30). Did you know that a drain is not designed to go down the drain? We are not designed to be flushed, drained, evacuated, disintegrated, bombarded or discarded.

WE ARE DESTINED FOR GREATER THINGS.

We are invited to participate in the kingdom of God and to reign-in what God is doing in heaven so that it can be established on earth and the chains of spiritual warfare cannot have dominion over your souls. We are promised an eternal kingdom where the apostle John tells us that the second death will not reign over our souls (Rev. 20:6). Did you catch that? Jesus is pulling the plug and all of the worldly sorrows are flushed.

So what do you need to let go?

What do you need to focus on? In what ways are you experiencing (not?) the abundant life (John 10:10)?

In what ways are you feeling sorry for yourself and not allowing Jesus to change your life?

Feel like a drain plug?

Allow Jesus to pull the plug.

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Great day I experienced with classes, super-sessions and keynote messages from some of the finest people in Christianity. I typed 10 pages of notes yesterday so I cannot include everything here but I want to give you some highlights that stood out to me.

Tuesday Morning, Mike Cope “Spiritual Intubation: How Community Keeps Us Alive” The Wizard of Oz: Revelation’s View of Community

  • “No church ever existed in a pure state. The church is made up of sinners. The fleas come with the dogs.” (Eugene Peterson)
  • Four characters who are known by their deficiencies. Much like Christians today.
  • Showing of who Oz really is. “The great Oz has spoken, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
  • Pergamum
    • It’s a great distance from Colorado Springs to Pergamum.
    • In Pergamum it was very, very different.
    • Everywhere people went they told two stories: the power of Rome and Greek gods and goddesses. Everywhere they went they are told that they are caught up in and how could they not believe it. It “has to be true.”  Every market, athletic event, silver item told them about temple worship.
    • Where is the Pergamum church of Christ?
      • A tiny…insignificant few.
      • Imagine holding on to the story of Jesus while walking among the temples and other places where the minority is huge.
      • Have you been the minority?
      • Power, honor, identity was wrapped up into gods and Rome not Christ.
    • Persecuted Christians get it
    • “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators.” G. K. Chesteron
  • Deep Community is anchored in Jesus
  • Deep community has to be eschatological in nature.
  • Deep community is at its best when it is part of a mission…a larger story.

Tuesday Morning Keynote Kurt Johnston @kurtjohnston “Deep, Redefined”

  • Have you ever stopped and thought about all the things in youth ministry that you don’t do very well? We are great at trying to control the perceptions of other people. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great at creating perception of us.
  • Four truths I have learned that have 1) pointed out my shallowness and 2) led him into a deeper experience in faith.
    • Life is a squiggle
    • I need a travel partner
    • Busyness will keep you in the shallow end.
    • When you begin to have a long view of youth ministry

Tuesday Super Session Frank Viola @FrankViola “The Missing Ingredient”

Observations about ministry to young people:

  • Catch30 Crisis – Human beings go through developmental stages as they get old. When they are 30 they reassess every decision they made in their 20s and they either abandon what hey believed or abandon them. You don’t know where someone is spiritually until they are thirty. You could not serve in the house of God until you were 30. Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was 30. Young people need to be prepared for this.
  • There is a difference between youthful enthusiasm and spirituality. Most of the big Christian movements are built on youthful enthusiasm. The problem is that many operates on youthful enthusiasm and the well runs dry
  • You can’t pass on to those whom you minister to what you have not experienced yourself.
  • I have to prepare them for the forgotten beatitude. Blessed is he who is not offended by me.

Other Notes from class…

  • If you cut the bible in any place it will bleed Jesus Christ.
  • Moses and Christ
  • Creation and Christ
  • Isaac and Christ
  • Jacob and Christ
  • Conclusion  – #1 – Find Christ in the bible. #2 – Do business with the Lord

Tuesday Afternoon Class 1 Josh Graves @JoshGraves “The Bible Jesus Read: Genesis 1-2”

2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 5

  • We need a more mystical understanding of Scripture. But also how it calls us to new spaces.
  • “All Scripture” does not exist yet and he has in mind Torah.
  • Inspired…he does not infallible, inerrant. They never show up in the bible. Sometimes the most important work we do is not learning new things but relearning old things.
  • 2 Timothy is not about proving Scripture over science but it is about inviting people into God’s world in order to see the world differently and “to do something about it.”
  • These stories carry the freight in any given culture.

Genesis 1

  • God can’t help but to create. He is in control. The things God creates would not be believable if we have not seen them.
  • Everything else that has creativity or imagination that somehow it is all linked back to the God who started.
  • One of the ways Genesis invites us to go deeper and that we live in a good creation. Does not deny the dark side of life but he made everything and called it good.
  • Most people who tell the story of God begin with Genesis 3 and not Genesis 1.
  • We have to introduce paradox to our students. Life is full of joy and pain. Paradox is one of the greatest contribution to the Western world.

Tuesday Afternoon Class 2 Sally Gary @centerpeaceinc “Reaching out to Teens Who Identify as Gay and Lesbians”

Many who struggle with same sex attraction but still love the Lord.  Struggles do not divide us.

Starved for Intimacy. Facebook and its struggles for intimacy. Question is: How can we meet this need? This desire for community. There is a great need for this connection.

What teens learn from the world: Glee, Modern Family.

What teens learn from the church: Nasty messages about homosexuals from the church

What they need is looking for a safe place.

How to be a safe place?

Deal with our own fears.

  • Change our thinking
  • Change our language
  • Listen
  • Be consistent
  • Model the Love and Acceptance of Christ

Tuesday Night Keynote Frank Viola @FrankViola “God so loved the world vs. Love not the world.”

The world in the New Testament is used in two ways…

  1. Speaks of the material universe. Jesus of Nazareth is this world’s true Lord.
  2. A system or network or order of things designed to draw us away from God.

Historically Christians have taken two postures: 1) Retreated from the world’s system (Isolationism) 2) Enmeshed by the world and married to it.

The most miserable person is a Christian who is living in a way where deep inside them they are told to give something up and they can’t. When we are in community with other Christians the Holy Spirit is clearest.

The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is of the world.

2 Kind of legalists: 1) Salvation by works 2) I am going to take what the Holy Spirit has shown me personally and make it a law to you.

“The gospel spreads best not through force but through fascination” (Shane Claiborne)

Dinner in Colorado Springs: Uchenna Ethiopian Restaurant

This was ranked #2 in Colorado Springs by TripAdvisor and it was awesome. I had Yebeg Alecha which was tender pieces of lamb marinated with butter then sautèed with ginger, garlic, and 12 spices. There were no forks but you had this roll that you put the meat and the sauce in. It was excellent. The owner’s name is Maya and they cooked everything to order so it took a while but the food was worth it. They have mostly organic food and a substantial vegetarian menu. I have never tried authentic Ethiopian cuisine but this was a must! Went a left the owner looked at me and said, “Go in peace.” I love her already.

 


1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

I saw a video[1] that said when Jesus quoted the beginning of Psalm 22 that he was using a rabbinic technique called “ramez” where the entire Psalm applies when Jesus mentions the first verse. I would like to believe that and it still may be true but the problem is that we do not have a shred of evidence to support this. It sounds more like something you would hear in a Rob Bell video (not slamming him but just sayin’) than you would in a commentary. Having said that, Psalm 22 is the most popular lament psalm in the entire psalter. Why? Jesus quoted this (already mentioned) in his prayer to God while dying on the cross (see Matthew 27:45-50). Yet this was first uttered by David hundreds of years before Christ died. It was a personal lament that placed him in perspective but also asked God the brutal question of “Why?”.

Why did he ask the brutal question? Certainly because of his enemies:

  • They mock him – v. 7
  • They are bulls surrounding him – v. 12
  • He experiences physical pain because of them – vv. 14-16
  • They divide his garments – v. 18

I am tempted to talk about Christ as Christ later exemplifies this in many aspects. Yet, David, in our context, is enduring much at the hands of many. He struggles with this not because the concept of impending pressure of enemies is uncommon but for David the struggle lies in the very nature of God himself. God, you are holy (v. 3), you answered our fathers when they cried (v. 5) and you protected and will protect your people but right now you have left me (v. 1), you are not answering me (v. 2) and because of this I find no rest.

Let’s stop for a minute and think about this. Have you ever felt like that before? I talk with teenagers all the time who experience in part what David experiences in whole. I hear comments like, “Robbie, it’s so hard to trust in God because it feels like he is not there and not listening.” If pressed they would probably admit that they feel like God has left them. Ever felt that way before? Ever experience that type of brokenness before?

What’s David’s solution?

Intense trust in God’s ETERNAL character (vv. 8-10), a request for his presence and deliverance (vv. 11, 19-21) and in all of this personal anguish he promises (fancy word is “vows”) to praise God (vv. 22-31).

You tracking with that?

David vows to praise God in the midst of impending destruction and intense physical, emotional and spiritual anguish. We think the world is going to end because a democrat got elected president but last time I check people don’t want our heads on a platter. Our issues are not even a blip on David’s radar. He would consider many of our issues as wastes of time. But even David said, “I will tell of your name…” (v. 22).

What would it look like for many of us who have cancer, terminal illnesses or many of us who have lost loved ones to proclaim in the midst of intense anguish, “I will tell of your name”?

“Yeah God, you have left us and I don’t fully understand it all but I trust in your divine purposes as one who created me (see vv. 9-10) and because of your infinite ways I will tell of your name.”

That is what you call BIG FAITH!

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does this psalm help in your ups and downs with God?
  2. Why praise God in the midst of intense suffering?
  3. In what ways does this entire psalm help inform you about Christ’s suffering and death?

Sermon on Patience

September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

I am speaking tonight at Crittenden Drive Church of Christ in Russelville, Kentucky and this is my lesson on patience. It’s not the typical lesson on patience you might hear…

Patience

James 5:7-10

            I am struggling at speaking with you tonight because the topic assigned to me is one that I immensely struggle with. I struggle with it because it has to do with something that cause counterintuitive to every fabric in which God has wired me. To illustrate this I want to share a personal story with you. I am a youth minister and I consider that a pretty stressful job. If all you think a youth minister does is hang out with teenagers and eat pizza and play XBOX all day is what youth ministers do then either 1) you have no clue about what a youth minister does or, 2) you have a lazy youth minister. . When we are stressed our ability to persevere becomes stretched and unfortunately our impatience is forced against those who are closest to us.

I was stressed this particular day and to make matters worse I had to go shopping with my wife at the place where Satan reigns: Wal-Mart. I am a pretty likable guy unless I cross the threshold of the den of iniquity known as Wal-Mart and then my attitude suddenly goes sour and I forget that I am even a minister. I just lose it. People cutting you off, the cart pulling to one side, the whole in the milk jug, people in the 20 items or less with 30 items. I could go on and on. On this day I was irritable from work and then irritable from Wal-Mart and then to top it off my kids were possessed by demons in Wal-Mart. Again, that’s because Satan owns it but I digress. So the kids are terrible, we are crunched for time and I had a bad day at work. We get home and our routine is that we put all of the groceries on the kitchen floor and after we have unloaded all of them from the van we then begin the process of putting them away. After the second load I come to the kitchen to find my oldest son Kaleb (who was very young at the time) emptying the contents of the bag on the floor. So I lose it. I don’t have to define what I mean by “lose it” because you have been there. I screamed at him (because a 4 year old is supposed to know every rule I have ever created for them) and then told him to go to his room. I will never forget his response to this day. He looked at me, and with tears in his eyes said, “But daddy, I was just trying to help.”

We are closing this summer series out with a doozy. A tough one for us to handle. I find it strikingly ironic that we saved patience for the last lesson. I would have expected us to hurry up and let it be the first one but here we are with it being the last one. What we are going to do tonight is first define patience from a biblical perspective, then we are going to look at some thoughts on why we are not patient and finally I want to offer some suggestions on how to improve.

WHAT IS PATIENCE?

Over and over again I hear good churchgoing people who mean well completely butcher what patience is. There is this pervasive thought that patience is this passive mentality where you sit and simply act as a nice person with a Christian smile on your face.  That’s not what Biblical patience is. There is a strong element of waiting that is tied in with patience but the waiting is always about participatory expectation. The Greek words for patience (hupomone, makrothumeo) might be best defined as “steadfast endurance.” It means you bear under intense trial and tribulation. We think an intense trial or tribulation is waiting at McDonalds for them to biggie size your French-fries. Patience is intense endurance under some of the most painful circumstances. To illustrate let me quote a verse from 2 Peter.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness (you already see the first century Christian’s impatience here) but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

God is patient with all of creation so much so that he does not desire to have us perish. The word for perish in other contexts means to be destroyed. God is patient with us. God suffers long for us. Think of a person in your life who constantly has disappointed you and has done everything wrong no matter your wishes or desires. Then think of having an intense desire for this person who has disappointed you time after time to still succeed. That is like God except at an infinitely different level. Think of how many times you have sinned and disobeyed God yet he still loves you at a deep level. That, my friends, is patience.

But in my experience we are impatience with the small things which means we are impatient with the large things. How many times have you gone through a season of suffering, pain, affliction and you threw up your hands and said, “I’m done with you God! The pain is too much. I’m done!” I think we are impatient for a few reasons…

WHY ARE WE IMPATIENT?

We can probably list a bunch of different reasons here but there are two that I can think of that come to my mind that probably stand out more than others…

  • WE ARE SELFISH.

Ever since the fall there is one thing that has been on our minds more than anything else combined: ourselves. We think about ourselves all the time and this leads to our impatience. Think about when the people of Israel built the golden calf in Exodus. Their main reasoning for building that calf was because they were too impatient to wait for Moses and they wanted something right now. We are selfish. I wanted to lead and say that we are impatient because of the culture that we live on but then I thought that in order to have culture you have to have people. Our impatient culture is a product of our own impatient people. Every generation might think they are the worst of something but I really think we are the worst generation at waiting. The concept of delayed gratification is about as a foreign as bipartisanship or something else. I see it most often at a fast food restaurant.

Think about the time and effort it takes to cook hamburgers and make French fries. It may take 20-30 minutes of prep work and then the grilling may take 10-15 minutes and so you might have a meal in an hour if you’re lucky. Yet, when we get to a fast food restaurant we somehow lose the capacity to think and freak out when we don’t get our food immediately. If I don’t get my food in three minutes I start sweating and getting irritated. After 5 minutes I am usually livid screaming, “How long does it take to make a Baconator?” If they are longer then 5 minutes I usually say, “Guess they had to go slaughter the cow and pig to get the beef and bacon.” At the core, I am selfish. On a serious level we place time constraints on God as if we know our will better than he does. That leads me to the next point.

  • WE ARE LIMITED IN SEEING THE BIG PICTURE

I love the book of Nehemiah. The book is filled with so many different leadership lessons but for time’s sake the lesson I want to share with you from this book is the lesson of patience and sticking to God’s vision. The story of Nehemiah is one of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah commissions workers to build this wall not knowing what the wall was to look like. He simply was there to work and trust that God would lead them through this process. There were all kinds of distractions coming from wicked men who wanted to deter Nehemiah from building this wall. Nehemiah withstands the criticisms from without and probably from within and builds the wall. Now Nehemiah did not know how things would turn out and at the end of the day the people would still be in exile under the rule of a foreign nation. But…he trusted God with both the little things (finishing the wall) and he trusted God with the big things (ultimate purposes of Israel).

Cancer… wars… financial hardship… divorce… sudden death… accidents… genocide. I could go on and on. Like the Psalmist we are oft-tempted to proclaim, “How long, O Lord?” If you are a Christian for longer than a baptism and if you are honest with yourself there are times when you throw up your hands and think, “This is it God, I can’t take this anymore! This Christian walk thing is not all it’s cracked up to be.” I understand your pain. I get it. But we are not given the plans that God contains. Sometimes God gives us a window and let’s us see the big picture but sometimes we are left with more questions than answers. Our anxiety, our impatience, and all of our brokenness should lead us to long for something more. Something deep. Something true.

SUGGESTIONS TO HELP

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:7-10).

There is a lot to unpack here but notice how, at least in the book of James, the themes of suffering are linked with patience and joy (James 1:2). Suffering, persecution and affliction were common in the first century and very much expected. So there was an intense desire for something greater and that’s why the Second Coming of Jesus was a major theme throughout the letters of Paul and other epistles. Patience was not a subject about how to deal with cutthroat bankers or shady investors or slow Taco Bell workers (all though that’s important too) but how do we reconcile the pain and brokenness of this world with God’s redemptive purposes. Their solution was, “we may never find healing in this life, and we may never find peace in this political climate but one thing is for sure, there is something better and we long for that!” How often is the Second Coming of Christ a conversation in your churches? How often is it a conversation in your families? Patience comes from an intense desire to have all things made right through the glory of God. Part of experiencing the Christian life means we bring in now in part what we will experience in full later.

Waiting on the Lord is not a passive, idle response as Paul was strongly opposed to those people who just wanted to go to heaven but did nothing about their faith (2 Thess. 3). Waiting on the Lord and patience as a fruit of the Spirit means patience comes with anticipation! Anticipation means we make ready our lives to wait on the coming of the Lord. I think Isaiah alludes to the same concept in a popular verse:

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isa. 40:30-31)

This is most comforting because we all like to know that our life here on earth does not go in vain. We like to know that if we do have cancer that God’s purposes will come forth through that. We like to know that if we do lose a loved one that the glory of God will come forth through that immense pain. That is where patience moves from passive time-killing to steadfast endurance. That is why the other verses in Scripture about make sense when we understand that patience is about endurance…

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom. 8:25)

            Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Rom. 12:12)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant. (1 Cor. 13:4)

“If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.” (2 Cor. 1:6)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thess. 5:14)

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:16).

We could go on and on but you get the gist of the idea. Patience is more than a virtue, it is a way of life. When it comes to difficult times it is not a matter of if but when and when it comes you must be ready.

CONCLUSION

So may you be ready. May you look at your impatient lives and discover the source of your angst and may you replace that source with an insatiable desire for what Jesus offers to us. May you who have lost loved ones cling to the almighty who knows all, sees all and understands all and may you long for a day when you will see your loved ones again. May you, who are dealing with cancer or some other life-threatening illness, trust in the promises of God that he will heal you if it is his will but if no healing comes God will use your illness to bring others closer to him and receive glory. May you who are going through difficult marriages and tough finances place your allegiance to Jesus Christ who died, was buried and rose again for our sins. May you who are addicted find healing in your difficult time. May you, who long for Jesus to come, anticipate his coming and help others to do the same. In the word of John in the book of Revelation, “Come, Lord!”


© sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Last night I had the opportunity to speak at the Old Hickory Church of Christ on the subject, “Crafting Your Personal Vision.” I made the statement that in order to find your personal vision one needs to understand what bothers them in this world. In other words, in their heart of hearts, what do they look at and think to themselves, “This needs to change”? I made the statement that isn’t it ironic that many of the things we are most passionate about hold no eternal weight when it comes to the kingdom.

Enter Alabama Crimson Tide Fans.

I have witnessed a lot of SEC fanatics and the conference has some of the craziest fans in the world. The team that takes-the-cake are Alabama Crimson Tide fans. These people are dedicated and come in masses overtaking the Facebook, Twitter and every other social networking site. It is phenomenal and somewhat impressive. It’s also somewhat comical because these fans (every school has them…BAMA just has more) have real problems differentiating between Tide football just being a game versus the meaning of life. Remember this guy?

BAMA fans I realize you are getting mad right now and probably have websites, pictures and evidence to prove me wrong. I can hear the chorus now, “Robbie, there is a reason why BAMA has 14 national championships and your team doesn’t.” I guess so. I even think it is hilarious when I go to some of the major conferences among some of the youth ministry circles I run around in. Without failure I will see more Tide paraphernalia than any other team combined. It’s hilarious. I wish I saw more VOLS stuff there but we have had little to cheer about. I digress.

My point?

Why are we not that passionate about the gospel? What would it look like to have droves of people lining up to hear, proclaim and share the good news of Jesus Christ? I look at some other settings like The Village Church, The Church at Brook Hills, Mars Hill Church and North Point Community Church and the masses are coming to hear the gospel and I wonder, “Why can’t we do that?” I am not talking about copying models or giving up core doctrines but I think it comes down to something: passion. I wish we had 1/8 the passion for the gospel that BAMA fans have for football.

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

What do you think?


From cmykmag.com

I need corrective lenses to see well but if I do not have them I can get by. I have pretty good vision but with my contacts I have perfect vision. This past week on vacation one of my lenses broke and I failed to bring an extra pair so I was left without perfect vision for two days. An important lesson came to mind: Almost perfect vision is still not perfect vision.

I find the story of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52) intriguing because it was a blind man who confessed Jesus was the son of David while the disciples struggled to do so. A man who has no vision seems to have more vision than those who have it. Ironic? I thought about not being able to see perfectly and it reminded me of a few lessons related to church and youth ministry:

  • After a while it becomes more and more difficult to function.
  • What is at stake is our ability (or inability) to focus on important issues.
  • I did not notice the details like I should have.
  • I never knew how much I could not see until I put my contact lenses on.

So what would you add to this?


The biblical character Job endured more suffering than most people will ever experience. The “Satan” works a couple of deals with God, an act we may never understand fully, and inflicts unimaginable suffering on Job by destroying his children, his livestock and ultimately his physical body. Job’s three friends (four if you count Elihu) and mourn with Job for seven days and seven nights. Then commences the part of the book of Job that most people don’t read: the dialogue section of poetry in Job 3-42:6. Immediately in the first speech of one of Job’s friends (Eliphaz) we are introduced to an apparently prevalent belief system in the Ancient Near East. After hearing Job curse the day he was born and a desire to go back where he came Eliphaz says this:

Think now, who that was innocent ever perished?
Or where were the upright cut off?
As I have seen, those who plow iniquity
and sow trouble reap the same.
By the breath of God they perish,
and by the blast of his anger they are consumed. (Job 4:7-9; NRSV)

What Eliphaz introduces to Job in a tactless manner is what we call the Doctrine of Retribution.

DOCTRINE OF RETRIBUTION: Those who do good things in this world will reap wonderful rewards from God but those who do bad things in this world will suffer.

This is a shortened version of a more complicated definition but I think this best summarizes the doctrine. Paul talks about this doctrine a little bit in his letter to the Galatians:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Gal. 6:7-9; ESV).

If we are honest, many of us are bent this way when it comes to the Christian life. When bad things happen to us we assume it is because we are doing bad things or transversely when good things happen to us we assume it is because we have prayed right, attended church right and read our bibles. The entire book of Job is a quest for one man to reconcile the fact that he has done every pious thing he could think of and has withheld evil from his house and still he is suffering. If you pay attention to the dialogue I think both sides are struggling with the doctrine. One says he has done all good and does not deserve this evil (I agree in that no person deserves suffering) and the other says he is experiencing evil therefore he must have done something wrong. A verse from Torah reminds us of this type of thinking:

But if you do not do this, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out. (Num. 32:23; NRSV)

I want to write a mini-series on this doctrine and hope to give you some biblical wisdom to shed light on the subject. I believe there are formidable ramifications to this doctrine and our youth and churches will be in serious tension if we do not stifle this type of thinking. Here is the outline

  • Introduction
  • It’s Ramifications
  • It’s Opponent
  • It’s Truth
  • Doctrine of Retribution Glorification

Sticks and Stones

February 15, 2012 — 1 Comment

Whoever said “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is a liar. If you’re like me, you can recall exactly what you were wearing, where you were located and even what certain smells were when somebody said something that really hurt. I am not talking about comments said in jest that were not truthful but I mean those comments that pierced your soul because with them carried the two-edged sword of truth mixed with ridicule. I was sitting in the car coming home from school one day when a person we were riding with called me “pizza-face” because I had severe acne on my face. I laughed and brushed it off but I remember the pain in my soul when those words were uttered and other people laughed at me. The truth is that words carry with it power. James said that the tongue was a “fire” (3:6) alluding to both the destructive nature of the tongue but also it’s ability to spread. Fire both spreads and destroys in a quick fashion.

We have bullies in our schools, in our churches, at our jobs and even in our families who use the power of words to get their way or to belittle those who are “less fortunate” (using that negatively) than they are.  Using words in that capacity feeds in to Darwin’s idea that only the strong survive. So the image of God is not sufficient enough for some people because they do not look, act, talk, smell, react, work, worship, dress or __________ (you fill in the blank) like we do. As if “we” are the authority as to what is right. James said:

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (3:10-12)

So be careful little tongue what you say, for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.


Lesson #4 – What are the implications of advent?

INTRODUCTION

Hopefully, if done right, this lesson will be delivered around (or on) Christmas day and will be good for discussion.  Please feel free to go over what has been taught and learned in the previous four weeks and discuss any revelations that have occurred amongst the students during this focused time.

ILLUSTRATION:  What we are going to emphasize today is the biggest component of Advent: Waiting.  What I want you to do is to introduce the class that we are going to talk about the implications of advent.  Then what I want you to do next is wait.  Don’t say anything, don’t do anything but just sit there.  You can do it for one minute or three minutes.  Inevitably teenagers are going to give you weird looks because they can’t stand 15 seconds of silence let alone a full-blown minute.

ASK…

WAS IT HARD FOR YOU TO WAIT?  WHY OR WHY NOT? 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT US THAT DRIVES US INSANE WHEN IT COMES TO WAITING? 

SAY…

[You can use your own personal story that emphasizes our impatience] I can’t stand to wait!  If a web page on my iPhone does not come up in less than four seconds I become angry.  If I don’t get my Wendy’s Baconator in less than three minutes then I get irate.  I mean how long does it take to throw half a pig on half a cow and throw some cheese in there?  Come on people!!!  We all struggle with waiting because of the digitized, fast-food mindset of Western Culture where we have to experience things right now.

This lesson is to allow us to focus on being ready for Jesus to come with patience but also with anticipation.  This lesson is short, but simple.  Here is the bare outline.

BODY

Two things…

Waiting means we must be ready!

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt. 24:44).

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak” (Luke 12:38).

4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  (1 Thess. 5:4-11).

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS DO WE NEED TO BE READY FOR THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD?

SAY…

When Jesus came John the Baptist prepared the way for the people compelling them to repent for the “kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mark 1:1-8).  In like manner we are compelled to be ready no matter what the cost may be and that means we are to “bring-in” the kingdom of God by being disciples and making disciples.  You hear of people talking about “Christmas cheer” and what they mean is giving gifts and such but the Christmas cheer is that we need to be ready for the coming of the Lord.

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS ARE PEOPLE NOT GOING TO BE READY FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD?

SAY…

In the first century they thought that Jesus was going to come soon (you could make an argument that Paul even thought that).  Paul was very upset at people who stood around “idle”.  Paul said, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6).  In other words we have no clue when Christ will come (see 1 Thess. 5:4 above) so we should not give up our labors of spreading good news to the world.

Waiting means we must be drunk with anticipation!

“The LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire.Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night— as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion. Be stunned and amazed,  blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer” (Isa. 29:6-9).

SAY…

The verse in Isaiah is given to talk about a time when the Messiah will reign from Zion and the people will be drawn towards his reign.  The kicker for the Christian is that Jesus now reigns (i.e. his “kingdom”) and Jesus will always reign.  We need to be intoxicated with anticipation at what we can participate in and what God has called us to do.  “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

ASK…

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD “ANTICIPATION”?  WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

SAY…

I remember the birth of my first son (Kaleb) and the weeks felt like years until he finally came into this world.  There was excitement, fear, desire, longing, responsibility and humility all wrapped-up in a box known as anticipation.  It means we become ready for something and eagerly long for it.

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU/ARE YOU ANTICIPATE(ING) THE LORD’S RETURN?

CONCLUSION

SAY…

To anticipate for something you must have some sort of desire to fuel that anticipation.  Anticipating the Lord’s return gets me excited because of a single group of verses:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:1-5).

This is the final moment when the Lord returns and the new heavens and new earth form and all things become completely new.  It is when the curse of Adam is ultimately lifted and mankind is allowed to enter Eden again.  It is where we participate in complete union with God and with his risen saints and we join in the eschaton at the table (see Isaiah 25:6-9) and feast forever.  No tears, no sorrows, no pain, no suffering…peace, perfect peace.

Enjoy this video and I hope you enjoyed this series.  We all can join the early Christians in a popular saying called Maranatha.  It simple means, “Come, Lord” (see Rev. 22:20).  So, “Come, Lord Jesus…Come!”


LESSON #3 – What are some things we can do to help us make the most out of advent?

INTRODUCTION

ASK…

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN SURPRISED BEFORE?  LIKE A SURPRISE BIRTHDAY PARTY OR A SURPRISE GIFT.  WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

SAY…

[This is my personal story but you should share your own] I remember the biggest surprise I ever received was when my wife through a surprise birthday party for me a few years ago.  She went through the trouble of getting some people from church to gather and they all surprised me with gifts, food and laughter.  I felt completely excited and at the same time humbled that people even cared for me like that.

In the same way the season of Advent is about a Child who came and reordered the world as we see it and the fact that he is going to come again and re-reorder the world into the New Heavens and the New Earth.

BODY

Have students break up into groups of 3-4 and read the following passages: Isaiah 49:1-50:3; 50:4-51:8; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-3.  Talk about how these passages all are Messianic Prophecies discussing how Jesus (the Servant) was called into this world to serve the brokenness of our humanity.  Have the students talk about how these verses portray Jesus and anything else that spoke to them during the reading.

After they have finished reading…ask them to pray for what needs to be done in their lives to be ready for the coming of our Lord.  Then ask them to pray for what they need to do to help others be ready for the coming of the Lord.

Give them a few minutes…

SAY…

I want you as a group to come up with ways, like Jesus, you need to serve people in your communities.  It could be people inside of your local church but it could also be people outside of the church.

Give them a few minutes then SAY…

To make the most out of this season we need to do three things (I shared some of these in the sermon I preached at Main Street this past Sunday so these may be new to you but old to some others)…

  • SERVE…

Here are some ideas of areas where you may serve.  Donate your time to a charity or to a family in need.  Put up Christmas lights for a family.  Put up decorations for the elderly.  Bake cookies for someone who lost a loved one in your local church.  Provide warm meals for the homeless.  Sing carols at a local shelter.  Read Christmas books to children in the hospital.  [add more ideas…]

  • SIMPLIFY…

The average American will spend $646 dollars this Christmas season.[1]  Check this statistic out: In 2010 the total amount Americans gave to charities was $290.89 billion.[2]  According to the National Retail Federation  on Black Friday this year Americans spent a record $52 Billion.[3]  The same organization estimates that in 2011 Americans would have spent an estimated $465.6 Billion on Christmas spending alone!!![4]  Paul said it best, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:7-9).  Do you really need those presents?

  • SURRENDER…

 Herod the King did not want to Jesus to come into this world.  The reason was because he felt his kingship was threatened.  The prevailing view was that the Messiah would come and would establish himself on the throne and all other kings, rulers and princes would be subjugated to serve the Messiah.  This is why Herod sent wisemen, or Magi, to go find where Jesus was born (Matt. 2:1-7).  Herod said that he wanted to worship the child (2:8) but the real motive was that he wanted to harm the child so he could remain as king (2:12).  What I am concerned about is the reaction the Magi had to the Messiah when they saw him: “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” (2:11).  Do you want to know what this season is about?  It is about an opportunity to participate in the kingdom of God where Christ sits as both Lord and King.  Presents are ok, ham is ok, lights, trees and all of that is ok but it is only a shadow of what is really important.  Jesus serves as our king and our Lord and this season calls us to simply surrender to the one who came and will come again.  “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).

  • SHARE

How good is “good news” if we do not share it?  The real story of Christmas needs to be shared to someone and perhaps you can offer them a chance for them to participate in the story.  A chance for them to be “washed” of their sins but also a chance for them to live a holy and sanctified life with the saints helping others join the kingdom.  “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8).  “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me” (Ps. 66:16).

CONCLUSION

As you well know I am big into media and visual images with powerful songs.  A most powerful song is “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”