Archives For Eschatology

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.


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.

 

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!”


Slide Design by GracewayMedia.com

We are starting a new series in our Wednesday night class called “A Messy World.” I thought about this series a year ago but have put it on the back-burner until now. The basic premise is that because of The Fall we all live in a messy world (messed-up) world. Sin is pervasive no matter who you are and the only cure for this messy world is placing our full faith and devotion in Jesus Christ. Last night to begin our lesson I decided to trash the youth house to give it that messed-up appearance.

Below is an outline of our study. You can also download a copy of our introduction and first lesson below. Let me know what you think.

·         The Messy Beginning (1 Lesson)

·         Personal Messes (3 Lessons)

o   Addictions

o   Depression

o   Idolatry

·         Relational Messes (3 Lessons)

o   Family

o   Friends

o   Significant Others

·         Spiritual Messes (3 Lessons)

o   False Christianity

o   The Sinful Nature

o   Suffering

·         The Clean Ending (2 Lessons)

o   Return to Eden

o   Admitting our Mess

Download: INTRODUCTION

Download: Lesson 1 – Teacher Copy


O Lord the pain is more than I can bear,

The Devil’s arrows come fast, fierce and strong.

I fear the worst my soul may prove unaware,

Of the Satanic force, a line too long.

 

Why must men toil in a war he did not choose?

Against forces men can’t see with their two eyes.

If angels do exist why do we lose?

Listening to the sound of death, with fierce cries.

 

God if you are up there, we need you now,

To send your Spirit to reign in this place.

For we are a people forgetting how,

To feel your presence, and your sweet embrace.

 

So God come quickly in wisdom, justice and might.

Redeem your creation to stand and fight.


In my morning reading I came across a familiar passage and wanted to share it with you and some of the thoughts I wrote down in my journal.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good. Psalm 14:1 (ESV)

Perhaps your experience is similar to mine in that when this verse is read, quoted or used it is within the context of atheists. I have heard many Christians say, “How could someone not believe in God? The Scripture says ________.” They will quote Psalm 14:1. I think people do not believe in God for a variety of reasons (hypocritical Christians?) but I wonder if we could go a different direction with the interpretation of this Psalm. Let me ask the question, “Who is the fool in Psalm 14?” They are those, contextually, who God looks down and sees that the people are 1) not understanding, 2) not seeking after him, 3) they have turned aside, and 4) become corrupt (14:2-3). Now surely this broadens our interpretation of simply atheists. Surely you know some folks at church that fit the bill there right?

Look at how Eugene Peterson words the Psalm in The Message

1 Bilious and bloated, they gas, “God is gone.”
Their words are poison gas,
fouling the air; they poison
Rivers and skies;
thistles are their cash crop.

2 God sticks his head out of heaven.
He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
one man, even, God-expectant,
just one God-ready woman.

3 He comes up empty. A string
of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
follow their fellow.

I wonder then, who is the fool? I find it interesting that Psalms 14:1-3 is quoted nearly verbatim in Romans 3:10-12. The context there is that we are all sinners in need of the justification of God by faith. So then is it a stretch to say that the fool in Psalm 14 who says “there is no God” might be us? The immediate context for David are the enemies of his kingdom but the larger implication is that sometimes we are fools. Consider the following:

  • We are fools when we do not believe God will deliver us in a difficult situation.
  • We are fools when we try to conduct ministry, spiritual formation and kingdom-work on our own without the guidance of our Father.
  • We are fools when we do not lead our families spiritually.
  • We are fools when we try to bind things in Scripture that God never intended to be bound.
  • We are fools when we make it our goal to “correct” every person’s theology whom we have contentions with as if we can come up with a perfect theology on our own.
  • We are fools when we neglect the poor and build massive buildings (does Babel ring a bell?) and have big-screen TV’s, elaborate pulpits complete with techno-savvy ways to make ministry “easier.”
  • We are fools when we do not evangelize and disciple others.
  • We are fools when we judge people, as if we are the perfect standard.
  • We are fools when we say God can’t do something, as if our existence were not evidence for God being able to do something.
  • We are fools when we keep sin to ourselves.
  • We are fools when we spend too much time at work and forget our families.
  • We are fools when we do not take care of ourselves physically.
  • We are fools when we isolate ourselves in our Christian bubble, forgetting that God actually came in the flesh.
  • We are fools to think God does not care about us (how many hairs do you have on your head again? God knows).
  • We are fools not to learn from the past, redeem the present and wait, with hope, for the future.
  • Finally, we are fools when we think it is up to us to become righteous.

Tough list. I look at it and mourn. Because I want to be honest with you, I am a fool. At times, my actions and thoughts reveal the claim that there is no God even thought intuitively I know there is. Sad. Christ, forgive me.

Who is the fool?

 

 


I have read a few books that have changed the way I perceive Christianity, culture and the world but few have changed my life like this book.  Under the Overpass is about a journey of two guys named Mike and Sam who decided to take the words of a sermon seriously and go and live among the poor for a few months.  They sought guidance from spiritual advisers and decided to start in a Mission in Denver.  They traveled from city to city panhandling for food by playing their guitar and singing worship songs.  What you get when you read this book is a first-hand perspective at the ugliness of poverty and the grip Satan has on people with the drug culture.  Mike has an excellent flow to his writing and he has many keen incites to the heart of the gospel and its concern with those who are struck with poverty.  In this book it not only opens your eyes to basic assumptions about the homeless, but it calls into question our prejudice towards those in a lower socioeconomic status.  I wish I could find something wrong in this book as I usually find things I disagree with or something I would have said differently.  Not the case in this book.  What you get are real, authentic and raw stories about two guys on a journey to find God both in themselves and in the streets of America’s toughest cities.

Below are some memorable quotes from the book that I wish to share and let me challenge you to read the book and then put your faith to action.

  • I watched an old man take a slow, thankful sip of coffee and put his cup back on the table, careful not to spill a drop. “Come all you who are weary …,” said Jesus. It was moving to watch the weary man come, even more to see his desperation give way to peace, if only for a little while. (p. 24).
  • If we are the body of Christ—and Christ came not for the healthy but the sick—we need to be fully present in the places where people are most broken. And it has to be more than just a financial presence. That helps, of course. But too often money is insulation—it conveniently keeps us from ever having to come face-to-face with a man or woman whose life is in tatters. (pp. 36-37)
  • I felt my frustration rising until I realized how unentitled I really was. No one deserves mercy. And no one walking by owed us a dime. Mercy is, by definition, undeserved, or else it isn’t mercy. Every coin in the case looked different after that. (p. 52).
  • While kids might pretend people who don’t exist do, it’s the parents who pretend that unwanted people who do exist don’t. (p. 55)
  • Praying “Thy will be done” means you don’t believe in chance (p. 79)
  • What’s worse? To do dope or to not love your brother? Why do we kick drug users out of the church while quietly overlooking those who are ignoring their own different but equally destructive sins? Why do we reject the loving, self-sacrificing, giving, encouraging, Jesus-pursuing drug addict but recruit the clean, self-interested, gossiping, loveless churchgoer? Which one do you suppose Jesus would rather share a burrito with under a bridge? (pp. 96-97)
  • “Oh, my gosh!” I exclaimed, stopping. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” “What?” said Sam. Then he saw what I was looking at. “Oh,” he murmured. A large gray church rose up behind a wrought iron fence in front of us. The building was old and weathered. Above the mahogany double doors hung a sign in red letters: “No Trespassing. Church Business Only.” A new chain and two huge padlocks secured the gate at the sidewalk. “It would take bolt cutters and a battering ram to get into that church,” I said, suddenly angry. “ ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden’? Yeah, and what, die on my front steps?” (p. 104)
  • “Then again, I guess we aren’t supposed to expect circumstances to be easy or safe just because we’ve prayed about them. We’re supposed to go into them knowing that we’ll be given what we need, when we need it.” (p. 139)
  • The words “Jesus loves you” take on a whole different meaning when you’re down and out. You hear them differently. You need them more. Just saying them to the next desperate person you meet could change his day. Wrap those words in friendship, a home-cooked meal, bus fare, and you could change his life. (p. 148)
  • We don’t go to church, we are the church. So many problems that show up on the church steps, or in the pews, or between congregations seem to start with misunderstandings about that. The church isn’t a physical building or a doctrinal statement or a perfectly produced program. It is us—we are the living expression of Christ’s presence in the world, His body. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we’ll be able to be the healing body of Christ to our sin-sick world. (p. 155-56)
  • I had discovered that I pulled better tips playing the guitar outside the liquor shop than across the street outside the family restaurant. Drunk people are more generous than sober people. (p. 181)
  • As we talked, the four of us agreed on one thing: Yes, God is alive and well on the streets of America, but so is Satan … He is busy stealing talents from promising lives. He is breaking bodies and smashing dreams. He is locking up good minds behind the bars of addiction. He is trading in the music of God for the sound of a crazy man yelling his head off in the middle of the street, destruction barreling straight at him. (p. 189)
  • The bottom line is that real love always shows itself in action. Nothing happens or changes in this world unless, by faith, we actually do something. (213-14)
  • I doubt those risks will have much to do with putting on a Christian acronym bracelet or a cross T-shirt. More likely, your journey will lead you toward utter dependence on the King of kings and a resolution to follow Him wherever He may ask you to go. (216)

Want to settle for the status quo and feel good about all the money, clothes and stuff you have?  Want to feel good about the middle-class church you attend where you have your nicely structured worship, comforting singing, warm pew and cordial hand shakes?  Don’t read this book.  Why?  It will change the way you think about Jesus, the church and your calling.  But if you want to change, read this book.  “There’s only this left to do: Walk off the edge with Him” (p. 218).


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 #2 – Why should we even bother celebrating it?

INTRODUCTION

I am big on visual illustrations and movies and such so that is why I use a lot of videos.  I think you will enjoy this one.

ASK…

What were your reactions to the video?
How did it change your perception on how we should approach the holidays? 

BODY

ASK…

DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR CHRISTIANS TO CELEBRATE THIS TIME OF YEAR? 

SAY…

For some it is a waste of time to think about religious seasons like Advent, Lent and others.  They point to verses like Colossians 2:16-17 saying religious days should not be recognized.  Actually the verses point to religious days as being a REQUIREMENT for spiritual growth.  We shouldn’t require people to observe it but we should also not say that it is pagan or evil to observe the days.

ASK…

WHAT ARE SOME REASONS YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE CELEBRATE THIS SEASON?

SAY…

Below are some reasons I think we should celebrate Advent or Christmas (or the holidays if you can;t bring yourself to say those two).  [I am not going to expound much on these as I wanted to give you just a raw outline]

  1. Because everyone else is talking about it.  Good or bad people are talking about gifts, vacation and this is the one time many people will cross the threshold of a church auditorium.  To not talk about the birth of Jesus, the point of advent and the hope of mankind is, at best, awkward.  Imagine you never go to a church and you decide to pick the local church of Christ to attend Sunday morning Christmas worship.  You listen to the songs and they sing Blues Skies and Rainbows, The Old Rugged Cross, Each Day I’ll Do and you think, “What is going on here?”  Then you the preacher gets up and you think, “Well this will be better as he will talk about Jesus.”  But he delivers a sermon on premillenialism and never mentions Jesus.  Was that ok?  Sure.  Did they do things biblically?  Absolutely.  Dis they miss an opportunity?  You better believe it.  This is an opportunity to make sure the right story is told.  They hear stories of consumerism, selfishness, and gluttony why not correct that with the real story of Jesus?
  2. It allows us to see how God redeemed mankind, and how he will eventually redeem the church.  God created everything good (Gen. 1) but eventually mankind encountered the Fall (Gen. 3) but God established his covenant with his people (Gen. 9, 12; Exodus 20, et al) and assured the people that eventually the Messiah would come to redeem the people from their oppressive state.  Jesus came to save mankind from their fallen state and died on the cross for our sins.  To participate in the saving act of Christ we become disciples of the church through faith, grace and baptism.  God has promised (Rev. 21-22) a particular time where he will redeem the church and we will live with him forever.  The first coming was the birth of Jesus and the second coming will be his return.
  3. It places perspective on what our weaknesses truly are.  Last lesson we learned about what Christmas really has become: a consumerist buffet for getting things we really do not need.  We as an American people struggle immensely with greed which, ironically, was something Jesus did not come for.  He came to free the captives and proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (Isa. 61:1-2) yet we proclaim it the year of the iPad, the PS3, the cool outfit, or insert whatever you have desired.  Advent forces us to focus on THE reason for Christmas: Jesus Christ.  Not just Jesus in a Let’s-sing-sappy-songs-about-Jesus-and-feel-all-warm-and-fuzzy-inside kind of way but a Jesus is going to come again so you better be ready kind of way.  That’s perspective.
  4. It gives us an evangelistic (missional) thrust with a sense of urgency.  My good friend Rusty Pettus is doing a series of lessons called, “Telling Your Friends About Jesus” where he is taking advantage of the season to help his students talk to others about Jesus.  Great time to do this as it gives us a sense of preparation and urgency.  Right now!

CONCLUSION:

Again….another video.

 


LESSON #1 – WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF ADVENT?

INTRODUCTION

Show this movie….thanks to Adam McLane for the referral

ASK…

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS AS PRACTICED IN YOUR FAMILIES?  WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TRADITIONS YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED?

Talk about consumerism and how it has taken over not only the original meaning of Christmas but many other holidays.

ASK…

WHAT IS THE POINT OF CHRISTMAS? 

BODY

SAY…

We live in a time where the original meaning of Christmas is trumped by people spending insane amounts of money to “keep up with the Jones'” and make sure little Johnny and Sally have what they want.  This past year we had a record Black Friday where the National Retail Federation reported we spent close to $52 billion through Sunday (SOURCE).

ASK…

DO YOU REMEMBER ALL THE TOYS AND THINGS YOUR PARENTS HAVE BOUGHT YOU? 

SAY…

Most of the time we don’t remember what our parents purchased for us and we spend more time using what we have now and then moving on to the “next best thing.”  Surely this was not the original intention of Christmas.  The original Christmas was about a moment when the people of Israel anticipated the coming of the Messiah.

Read and discuss Messianic passages like 2 Samuel 7:16; Daniel 9:24-26; Isaiah 7:14; 11:10; 40:1-5, 9; 49:6; 50:6; Jeremiah 23:5; Micah 5:1-2.

ASK…

DO WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS IN A WAY IN WHICH WE TALK ABOUT THE MESSIAH?  WHY OR WHY NOT? 

SAY…

The Christian calendar is a tool that allows Christians to move through the year focusing on different seasons of Scripture.  This time of the year is what is called “Advent” and has been focused on for many years.  The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus meaning coming and stems from the New Testament Greek word parousia which focused on the Second Coming of Jesus (cf. 1 Thess. 5:1-11).  The point was for Christians to focus on the birth of Jesus Christ this time of the year like the early Jews did.  Advent is about anticipation and being vigilant and sober for the second coming of Christ (1 Thess. 5:6, 8).  The early Jews were vigilant and sober for the first coming of Christ (i.e. Messiah) as he would right all wrongs and establish justice to those who were oppressed and his kingdom would reign forever.

Dennis Brown, in his lovely article “The Christian Season of Advent,” shares these splendid thoughts about advent:

In this double focus on past and future, Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of individuals and a congregation, as they affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. That acknowledgment provides a basis for Kingdom ethics, for holy living arising from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful stewards of what is entrusted to us as God’s people. So, as the church celebrates God’s inbreaking into history in the Incarnation, and anticipates a future consummation to that history for which “all creation is groaning awaiting its redemption,” it also confesses its own responsibility as a people commissioned to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

So Advent, and its history, is about the who (Jesus came and will come), the what (incarnational kingdom-living) and the to-what-extent (until the new heavens and the new earth). Different things are done on advent like feasts, fasts and special services all of which are not the means to an end but merely a way of praising God for what he has done and will continue to do.

CONCLUSION

ASK…

WHAT ARE SOME WAYS CHRISTMAS COULD BE BETTER CELEBRATED BY CONCENTRATING ON ADVENT?  WHAT ARE SOME PRACTICAL THINGS YOU AND I NEED TO DO?

Show this video to close.  (Thanks to my friend JP and the Village Church in Texas)

CLOSE THE LESSON IN SILENCE, PRAYING FOR BOTH JESUS TO COME BUT THAT WE WOULD ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE STORY OF REDEMPTION OF THE WORLD’S BROKEN PEOPLE.