Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sermon--What is it about Jesus that Sent Him to the Cross-- Mark 1:9-14

Listen to the audio of this message here.

When tragedies strike, one of our first reactions is to ask, “Why?” We want to have explanations for tragedy—did they leave a note, were there any warning signs that were missed. It’s natural to seek a reason for our experience.

We’ve just come out of the Easter Season when Jesus was crucified, buried, but raised to life. It was one of the most tragic moments in human history. Last week we looked at those who were confident on Easter Saturday but were confused after Sunday. Those who were confused on Easter Saturday became Confident on Easter Sunday and beyond. All of this was due to the conquering power of Jesus—His ability to conquer sin and death, conquer the power of Satan . It was tragic—Jesus was crucified—but also a week of hope—Jesus is Risen.

Why did it ever come to that?
Why was Jesus crucified? What was it about Jesus and His message that so threatened the leaders and so warranted His crucifixion? On a human level, why did their deception cause them such hatred?

There are, I believe some indicators found in Mark 1:9-15.

1. A Message Shared with a Prisoner

a. Mark 1:14—“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee.” Do you hear how scandalous that sounds?

b. The local authorities had just thought that they had taken care another troublemaker responsible for big crowds, insulting local officials. John the Baptist was now in jail, but someone else is right there to step into those shoes—someone who could cause a whole lot more trouble. The leaders, the teachers of the law were already primed to deal with trouble. But they didn’t know what to make of John or his message, just that he was a threat.

c. During Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem, He asked these teachers of the law—Mark 11:30--“John’s baptism—was it from heaven or from men? Tell me?” They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘from heaven,’ he will ask, ‘then why didn’t you believe him?’ but if we say, ‘from men’… ‘we don’t know,’” they eventually answered.

d. Jesus met with John, was baptized by John, and the first message Jesus gave parallels John’s own message—“Repent and believe the Good News!” sharing that same message doesn’t get Jesus started on the right foot.

e. I can understand this sentiment. What would you think if all of the Presidential candidates started getting their speeches from convicted felons? Would it change the way you view the candidate? I would think so.

f. But this message is the truth—shared with one who was speaking with the inspiration of God. It’s not the first time someone speaking the truth in love ran afoul of the authorities—Jesus is part of a long tradition of rejected spokesmen. It’s no wonder that Jesus is still one of the most divisive figures in the world—dividing history, nations, families, even households. He is not someone you can honestly take a fence riding position on—Jesus offends, Jesus forces a decision—the Kingdom of God is Near—Repent and believe the good news.”

g. In reality—Jesus was the One who was free—free from the curse of sin—while the rest of humanity was imprisoned—held captive in the Kingdom of Darkness—we were ones who have embraced our cage, accepted our prison bars—and Jesus is opening the door and inviting us to leave our captivity—Jesus shared His message with a prisoner, but was truly inviting freedom.

2. A Message of Fulfillment

a. Feeding the great messianic expectation, many had come in the past claiming to be the One promised, but they came and went usually in defeat and death at the hand of the ruling powers, not only for themselves, but also suffering for those who followed them.

b. But Jesus was different—Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of all that John was pointing to. John himself denied being the Christ when he was asked about it in John 1. John said that he was preparing the way for one was coming after him that was greater than he was, one who’s sandals he was not worthy to untie, the One who would baptize, not just with water, but with the Holy Spirit. The Messiah is Coming—as the Scripture has promised. And many of the leaders thought they had the Messiah all figured out.

c. The Messiah of their understanding and expectation was someone they could understand, who had the same goals and someone they could predict or control. They had a Job Description, they had Profile Criteria with 7 areas of Compatibility—they put E-Harmony to Shame in their desire to Match the Messiah with a Candidate.

d. Jesus claimed to be that fulfillment—Luke 4:16-21—“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
LK 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

e. Jesus claimed to be that fulfillment, but He didn’t fit the Profile of what the ones who put John in jail wanted or what they thought He should do. The Actions and Teachings of Jesus did not meet the expectations. What started out as curiosity—soon turned to opposition—this frustration eventually turning to the cross. This is more than just a bad break up—this is a bitter dysfunction and divorce.

f. Has Jesus fulfilled your expectations? Do you have a profile of wants and desires of what you think Jesus is supposed to do in your life? Did you sign up for some miracles, a perfect marriage, a satisfying, well paying job—then you need to know that Jesus is probably not a good match for you. He leads you to count the real cost of following Him, He leads you to the Cross of suffering. Jesus is not the cure-all, Mr. Fix-It—genie in a magic Lamp and He does not come into your life or mine to fulfill your expectations, my expectations—He comes into your life and mind with a Kingdom Agenda—to live fully and completely in and for this Good News and to be about Sharing this Good News with those who are still in prison. One of the first is that of Repentance.

3. A Message of Repentance

a. Mark uses the phrase, the Kingdom of God is near, “at hand” which means to be brought near to you. What’s interesting is that in order to make it into this kingdom, to be set free, you have to change your direction.

b. To repent means to change one’s mind—to turn around—what was once perfectly fine and acceptable is now wrong—the direction in life that was once so right and good needs a course correction.

c. To make it to the Kingdom of God—you need to change the direction of your life—and believe. This is a Road sign to the Kingdom--Detour

d. Imagine on your next flight that as you are coming in for a landing, the pilot comes on to the speaker and tells everyone—“ladies and gentlemen, we are beginning our final approach onto runway 476. I just wanted to let you know that the Air Traffic Controllers and the Tower have been hounding me to alter my approach vector for the last 5 minutes—that I’m in danger of missing the runway and crashing in the lake—but they don’t know what they’re talking about—so sit back, relax and enjoy the remainder of the flight.”

e. What kind of confidence would you have at that moment?

f. If you’ve listened to Christian radio lately, you may have heard a commercial for a comedian making light of the bumper sticker that says—“God is my co-pilot” by pointing out that you’ve got to be a great driver if God calls shotgun when you drive.

g. The idea of God being the co-pilot appeals to us b/c it still implies that I’m driving. I’m the one in control, I’m the one choosing the destination and deciding the route to get there.

h. How many of you, when you’re driving, hate constant instruction and criticism of your driving? “you should turn here,” “slow down,” “don’t get so close,” “you’re going the wrong way”

i. You need to understand that is exactly what a message of Repent is—“You’re going the Wrong Way!” God needs to get out of your Co-pilot seat and get into the Driver’s Seat and put you in the back seat! God is offering to be your chauffeur and let you enjoy the ride.

j. As hard as it is for you and me to accept and receive directions from someone else—you may already know this about yourself, but there is little more difficult for a good and decent and committed religious person to hear than “you’re going the wrong way. It’s not just the sinners who need to repent—you need to repent. You’re not as good as you think you are—you don’t have it all together like you think you do.

k. The Kingdom of God is Near—it’s close by—but you’re not going to get their on your own by your own strength or by your own power. You are not good enough—you are going in the wrong direction, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God—still locked in your own prison—the direction of your own life, the strength of your own efforts to earn God’s favor, to earn God’s blessing of eternal life may seem right, but leads only to death.

l. That is not a popular message, but it is the message of Jesus—and the way of the Kingdom of God led Him not to military victory—not to a luxurious palace—not to worldly power, but to the Cross.

m. Repent—turn and believe the Good News

4. A Message of the Good News

a. Jesus’ message and His good news is this—Repent—stop going your own way, Stop trying to earn your way to heaven—stop trying to bear the burden of Sin and let Me bear it for you—stop living in uncertainty, stop living in fear of messing up—stop being afraid that you can never be forgiven—stop trying to hold on to God and let Him hold on to you. The Good News is the Gift of God—the gift of God is eternal life through-because of, by means of, by the power of Jesus Christ our Lord—He is holding you in His hand and no one can take you out..

b. As long as you try to live with God as your co-pilot, you are not trusting and believing and living in the truth of the Good News.

c. Ephesians 2:1-9—“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”

d. You may find this hard to believe, but the message of Grace, the Good News was just as responsible for sending Jesus to the Cross as anything else.

e. For those religious authorities who draw their power by insisting that others live your way—perform certain duties under a code of legalism—the last thing you want getting spread around is the doctrine of Grace—that God’s love is Generous and Free—that while the price for forgiveness is High—that God will pay the price with His own blood.

f. They wanted to make the hoops for you to jump through to be right with God—it’s not about your efforts—it’s about His efforts and Work on the Cross. Trying to do it yourself is a form of bondage—trying to free yourself from a straight-jacket you yourself have tied. Grace and Forgiveness set , the Prisoner free.

g. Turn from your own way—believe—actually believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life—and you will be given the forgiveness that invites you into the presence of Almighty God for eternity.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Hand of Blessing-- Beatitudes, Sermon on the Mount

I know it’s mostly been sermons lately. Sorry about that. But I wanted to share something that came from my preparations UBC’s for Wednesday night study. We just started looking at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, which typically starts with the Beatitudes.

They start out with the phrase, “blessed are the…”

Some translations will go so far as to say, “happy are the…”

I’ve never liked that translation. Because being blessed is so much more than just an emotional response—it is a state of being—it is something applied to you. One thing that came to mind changed the way I approach this moment.

The Jewish culture and many others in the area was a culture of hands on blessing. Whenever a father wanted to pass on blessing to his son, he brought him close, laid his hand upon his head or his shoulder and pronounced his blessing. This can be seen throughout the Old Testament. In the New Testament, there is the ceremony of laying on of hands—bestowing or passing on the Holy Spirit—sometimes literally, sometimes symbolic. Laying on of the hand continues in the ceremony of baptism. Taking hands was also a hand of fellowship. Jesus also, when His disciples tried to prevent children from approaching Him, actually drew them close to Him and “blessed them”. Jesus was and is a very Hands On type of person.

So for a culture that understood blessing passing from person to person by the physical contact and application of hands, the thought came that perhaps we should understand this type of blessing in the beatitudes as God passing on His blessing to us—thereby understanding that the Hand of God is upon those who are poor in spirit, the hand of God is upon those who are mourning in His touch of comfort, the Hand of God is upon those who are meek for they will receive an inheritance.

This Hand of God is not one which comes in times of discipline, but often of protection, reassurance, of favor, etc. Just think how much it means to you when another human being—in your moment of discouragement or need—comes and lays their hand on your shoulder, comes gets close to you, takes your hand and prays for you. That is what God is doing in these moments. God’s Hand of favor and blessing is upon you—contrary to what the world and popular opinion might be at the time, disdaining those very things Jesus commends. Their ultimate fulfillment may not come until the glorious return of Christ, but know that in the meantime, God’s hand of favor is still with you all along the way.

It’s changed the way I approach those texts—not just an experience of joy (though that is included)—but the assurance of God’s presence and love. You know someone is near when they are close enough to touch you.

What about you? What does it mean to be blessed?

Monday, March 24, 2008

3-23-08-- Easter Sunday-- The Confident, The Confused, The Conquering

Listen to the audio of this message here.

The Confident

testimonies--dramatic readings
All this time, I thought I was going to have a real problem with Jesus. For the last week my best minds were unable to show him as the blasphemer I knew he was. Turns out, He was just like all the others before him. All talk but nothing to back it up. The Temple is safe from his threat. Consider this little challenge to my authority handled. People like him have come and gone. It won’t be a couple of weeks before his name is forgotten, now that Jesus is dead.


The Old Tyrant sure wasted his time with that one—Jesus couldn’t save himself much less his people. I knew all those exorcisms and healings were just a bluff. He walked right into my little trap and he couldn’t get himself out of it. I don’t know why I’m surprised—no one escapes death. Game, Set & Match—all those centuries preparing the “Chosen People” to bring in the Messiah was wasted. They’re all still mine. Do you hear me? They’re all still mine! Now that Jesus is dead and buried, You will never get them back. Unless of course, you’re willing to cut a deal—there’s still time—I’m willing, but you know my price. If you really love them as much as you claim, then I’m confident that you’ll see my light and give me what is mine.

The days before the Resurrection was, I believe, a time of mistaken confidence. The High Priest was convinced it was better that “one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."—John 11:50

In the mind of the chief priests, the “Jesus Problem” had to be taken care of. He was challenging their authority, threatening the Temple, claiming to be God. So the High Priest had asked Jesus in Matthew 26:63—“I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” and with that question hanging in the air—the course of History was changed by the answer—“Yes, it is as you say.” He heard the Blasphemy, tore his robes and knew—Jesus had, in his eyes, condemned Himself—

Caiaphas was confident of the outcome—if he was able to get the Romans to do it—he knew their brutality could end all debate about Jesus. He never believed Jesus was the Messiah, never believed there was something special about Him. They watched and made sure as Jesus died on the cross. He was confident the problem was “laid to rest”. All he was worried about was his followers. Matt. 27:62-65. Caiaphas had covered all his bases.

Notice they don’t fear Jesus’ words coming true, they only fear the lie that the Disciples would tell if they stole the body. Satan—the real motivator behind these efforts believed that the disciples would resort to his tactics and deception. But he clearly does not understand the plan and the heart of God.

A man like Caiaphas had been concerned about this problem for only a couple of years at most, but the fear and expectation of this moment had plagued Satan ever since the word came in the garden, when he heard the prophecy saying—“He will crush your head and you will strike His heel”

After obsessing for millennia on how to stop the plan—he finally thought he had figured out a way—get other humans to kill him and make it as painful as possible. After all, killing Jesus as a baby didn’t work, tempting Jesus to sin didn’t work, scaring Him away from Jerusalem didn’t work, killing him was the last option. And it had worked. In some twisted way, Satan thought he had finally thwarted the eternal plan of God. Satan thought he had out-thought and out-maneuvered God Himself. And perhaps for the first time since his rebellion, he had a moment of rest and relaxation.

Both of them were confident of their success, but their confidence was misplaced. They both thought they had God and this situation all figured out. But God had a little surprise for them.

God is a God of the unexpected—He is unpredictable—His ways are not our ways. He doesn’t do what we think He should do, He doesn’t heal whom we think He should heal, and when He does, it’s not the same way twice. What appears to us as foolishness is often the lynchpin of His plan. Who would use a woman past menopause to have a child that would be the foundation of a nation? Who would use a virgin to bear the Messiah? Who would conquer death by dying?

So many of us in America think we are smart enough to figure it all out. Many unbelievers think we can push God out of the equation by explaining away miracles, creation, the soul so that we no longer need a God at all. But believers are just as susceptible—thinking you’re so close to God, so good at hearing His voice that you not only know His plan for your life, but also what He’s going to do in everyone else’s life. Or when you know the mind of God so well that even when something is wrong for everyone else, you know He will buy your rationalization and let you off the hook.

We act so confident that it’s as if we can debate with God, argue with God and win, convincing Him that we’re in the right. And so God becomes predictable, charted out and conformed to your mind.

If you think you have God all figured out, if you think you are the master of all your problems and situations—expect God to surprise you, expect Him to do the unexpected in your life—in many ways to shatter your confidence in your own strength, your own plans, your own power. The Resurrection shattered the Confidence of the Confident.

The Confused--Uncertain—The Disciples and other friends of Jesus

testimonies--dramatic readings
Apostle John,

I’ve been ashamed at my lack of understanding. I thought I had Jesus all figured out. Jesus would enter Jerusalem and finally proclaim Himself the Messiah and the Kingdom of God—true justice for the world would begin.

But that all changed on Friday. The man I thought of as my Messiah was arrested, beaten like a criminal and executed. At any moment, I thought Jesus display the power He commanded—but He never did. And I’ve been walking around in a daze ever since—not knowing what to do. My whole world came crashing down. I don’t even remember going back to the house—but apparently I made it. I’ve barely eaten since I saw what they did to Him. I remember crying out in anger—“God, how could this be a part of Your plan?”

I didn’t know what to do—neither did anyone else—we were all so confused.

Mary Magdalene,

I knew exactly where I was going—I’d followed the men who had taken Jesus body—it was my intention to finish what we’d started—to finish putting the spices and other things with Jesus so He would have a proper burial. After all He’s done for me, it’s the least I could do for Him. I was expecting to have some trouble with the doing it—I knew there was a guard and I knew there was a stone in front of the tomb—but my thought was that God would grant us favor with the soldiers—a small group of women were no threat to them.

But then we arrived—the guard was pretty much gone—the stone had been moved. I went in looking for Jesus and I couldn’t find Him. All I could think was, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, where have they taken Him?” I didn’t know what to do or what it meant. We started looking around for some kind of explanation and couldn’t find anything. I was so confused.

John and Mary were not alone in their confusion. The lives of all those following Jesus were turned upside down. Jesus tried on several occasions to warn them even explicitly telling them—

Luke 18:31-34—Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. 32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. 33 On the third day he will rise again."

18:34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

I can’t blame them for being so confused. Nothing had ever happened like it before. Nothing ever happened quite like it since. The confusion had caused them to struggle and doubt. Some holed up together in houses, others left town together in order to get home. And they were in a daze.

LK 24:13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.

When the Risen Jesus asked 2 men about the events in Jerusalem, their confusion was evident saying that Jesus Luke 24:19—“was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. 22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23 but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."

I shared on Good Friday how dazed and confused we would be if 3 days after some national tragedy—everything was restored. You get a glimpse of how these people would have felt by

Imagining if on December 10th, 1941—you woke up to read that everything in Pearl Harbor was undamaged—“this is a joke, right”.

Or If you woke up on November 25, 1963 to read that JFK was alive and addressing the nation—“how’s that possible?”

Or if you turned on the TV on September 14th, 2001 and saw reports about the miraculous reappearance of the World Trade Center Towers—“How is that even possible?”

Some of you are so confused—in a daze from hurt and pain, disenchanted from life, from people, from God—wondering whether God is trustworthy, if life can really go on, or if there is any plan or purpose to what’s happening.

Some of you for many reasons are confused about who God is, and what He is doing—about whether He really loves you, cares for you and can meet your deepest heart desire. Let me assure you that the Resurrection proves the Heart of God and gives Encouragement to the confused.

Those 2 men—upon hearing Jesus explain the situation, upon Him breaking bread and giving thanks said in Luke 23:32—“were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
LK 24:33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

To Thomas whom we describe as doubting, but who I believe was too scared to open his heart up to being let down again—Jesus spoke encouragement and offered proof, not condemnation—John 20:27—“Put your finder here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put in into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

To Peter, who had denied even knowing Jesus’ name. Jesus spoke 3 commands of Restoration—“Feed my lambs”, “Take care of my sheep”, Feed my sheep.”

If you are here today, confused and uncertain—unsure of whether God loves you, what He’s trying to do in your life. Then see that the Resurrection is the source of Encouragement, the source of our hope. It was the Risen Jesus that took a scared group of disciples and changed the world. John, Mary and the others didn’t know what was going to happen next, but they knew that if death could not stop Jesus then no other power on earth could as well. Do you believe that? STOP

The Confident have their confidence Shattered
The Confused have their confusion Encouraged
And it’s all because of

The Conquering—Victorious—Jesus—

When the Stone was rolled away and Jesus exited the Tomb resurrected—confidence was shattered—the best laid plans failed. Caiaphas now had a new problem—Jesus had become bigger and better than ever. The disciples who had been afraid to unlock the door had their confidence restored to the point that they could stand before the best of the teachers of the law and speak with boldness, conviction and power. Caiaphas had his confidence was replaced with confusion.

Satan’s Victory along with any confidence crumbled away with the first signs of life. Jesus promised that the Church that was established upon the Resurrection would not be on the defensive when it comes to spiritual matters, but would be on the Offensive—knocking down the Gates of Hell—binding up the strong man and robbing his house by rescuing the captives held in the kingdom of darkness.

Satan’s chief weapons, Sin & Death had lost their power, their hold, their sting by the Conquering Power of Jesus Christ—

1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
1CO 15:55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
1CO 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When death was proven powerless over the Son of God, all those who had put their trust and faith in Him received the encouragement they needed; their confusion was replaced with Confidence and Hope.

1CO 15:58 Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Our King conquered Death, our King conquered the grave, our King conquered sin, our King Conquered Satan, our King Rescued you and I from the Kingdom of Darkness.

Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords—the One who says with Power—“I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no one Comes to the Father except through Me., who says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore Go and make disciples of all nations.” Who says, “Behold, I am Coming Soon”, “I Am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End…

Jesus is the Conquering Hero who confuses the Confident, Encourages the Confused and Invites you and me to be a part of the Conquering.

He is Risen!

Arise in our Hearts—Awaken in our Hearts a Heart for You Lord Jesus

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday-- Day of Tragedy, Promise of Hope

Day of Tragedy, Promise of Hope

There are days in the history of nations that are forever ingrained into the peoples' memory. Days of great Victory and days of tremendous tragedy. Sometimes I believe we better mark the Tragic days than the Victorious days. For the Jewish people in the Old & New Testaments, 3 moments of tragedy stand out

Isaiah 6--the great vision of God on his sovereign throne, surrounded by the Seraphim all occurs within the context of "In the Year that King Uzziah died"
In the midst of this terrible moment--God was still sovereign and on His throne and the vision was a vision that there is a mission that comes even in those moments.

In 586 BC, another tragedy struck--Jerusalem and the Temple was destroyed by an invading army. The future was in doubt. How could they approach and worship God without the Temple?

70 years later, the generation carried off, upon their return, upon seeing the foundation of the new temple—were moved to tears. They remembered how it used to be--they remembered where they were when their world was shattered.

And yet there was hope. For this Temple survived and was expanded and became the Temple standing during the life of Jesus in which He was dedicated, in which He taught, in which He drove out the money changers.

All the renovations that Herod the Great started were finished in 66 AD, but just 4 years later, tragedy struck again and the Temple was destroyed by the Romans--and Judaism lives in this tragedy to this day. In many ways, their world was shattered--2000 years later, the Jewish people are still trying to make sense of it. They still hope for restoration, many still hope for a return to the Temple and for the coming of the Messiah.

The days following these events would have been hard--the stories lingering and being passed on for generations--"where were you when you heard about King Uzziah dying?" "Where were you when Jerusalem was destroyed?" "Where were you when the Romans destroyed the Temple."

Our own nation has experienced similar tragedies. I'm going to guess and say no one remembers where they were when Lincoln was assassinated. Maybe some will remember where you were on December 7th, 1941 when you heard news of Pearl Harbor. Maybe more will remember where you were when news came of Kennedy's assassination, November 22, 1963. For many, even the emotions of the days and following linger from September 11th--even our world was shattered and for many families, they have not recovered. The pain and loss is still too great. For those in New York, whether they walk, drive, or ride in the city--the skyline will remind them of what is missing.

Now you may be wondering, "I thought this was a Good Friday service?" It is... I say all this to perhaps give you and me a sense of the loss of this day and perhaps a sense of what the disciples would have been thinking and feeling.
For the Disciples and all those following Jesus--their world was destroyed and upended--their world was tragically altered. In just a few hours, some had gone from arguing about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, to denying they even know Jesus, to hiding out in homes wondering if they would be next--preparing to say their last respects to the One they had devoted, some, the last 3 years of their life to.

Do you think they remembered where they were on that day? Do you there was a part of them that could not stop watching? Just as our own eyes in times of tragedy were glued to the reports, so were theirs.

Luke 23:27--a large number of people followed Him, including women who mourned and wailed for Him."

Some stayed to the end and watched from a distance—but close enough so that Jesus still saw to the future of His mother.

Some were so affected and so afraid that they couldn't bear to watch, so ashamed, so fearful that they couldn't get close, but hid themselves.

If this was the end of the story—the crucifixion of an innocent man—then none of us would dare call this moment—Good Friday. If the crucifixion were the end of the story—then perhaps for a few people, perhaps for a generation, they would tell their children—“I remember that day”, “I was there”

We talk about Good Friday 2000 years later, because 3 days later, that all changed. Something happened to them--their world was restored and they were given a greater power, a greater hope and reason for living.

To imagine how monumental this reality is. Imagine for a moment, how your life would have been affected if you woke up on December 10th, 1941, opened up the newspaper and read how miraculously, Pearl Harbor was restored, all the ships were back in their moorings, all the lives lost were restored

Imagine how you would feel if woke up 3 days later on November 25th, to read that Kennedy had come back to life.

Imagine if on September 14th, you woke up to see the World Trade Center Towers back in their place and all those who died were back.

What kind of emotions would you have?

It's hard to imagine isn't it? And yet, that is the life, the experience the followers of Jesus lived. 3 days later, their life was restored--their hope was restored, their faith in God was restored. Is it any wonder that they changed the world? Any wonder that they gave their lives for their Savior? What kind of confidence would you have to face the future?

For the world, the moments of tragedy linger, but for the believer, there is the Promise of Hope. This is where our Hope comes from, this is where our Power, our Joy, our Expectation comes from.

We have more than the Promise of Victory—we have its Demonstration. We have more than the promise of Restoration—we have its Fulfillment.

That Power, at work in raising Christ from the dead is available to you. All of that is available to you because we, you and I live in that victory.
Ephesians 1:18-23--I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

3-16-08-- Triumphal Entry - Palm Sunday - Laying it All Down

I hope this message makes sense. Much of it was still in my head--Here is the audio of this message.

We had Palm Branches for everyone, and they needed them to respond to the end of the message.

Triumphal Entry

John 12:12-15—Palm Branches brought to Him
Matt. 21:4-9—vs. 8—“a very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!

Our Lives can be Hindered

Hebrews 12:1b— let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Our sin can hinder our life, it can trip us up and prevent us from running the race God has for us.

Our prayers can be Hindered

Peter tells us that, as husbands, our prayers can be hindered by how we treat our wives. In no way do I think that is an isolated, married man only problem—your prayer, my prayer can be hindered by how we treat others.

Paul encourages us to pray in the Spirit in all occasions, implying that it is possible, perhaps even easier to not pray in the Spirit—there are then things, such as our sin, such as our broken relationships that can interfere and prevent us from Praying in the Spirit. And if our prayers can be hindered, so can our

Our Worship can be Hindered

MT 5:23 "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift

We are better off leaving our gift and striving for reconciliation than we are just to push forward with an offering of worship. Our human relationships interfere with our worship and need to be rectified before we can truly worship unhindered and undistracted. That kind of rectification requires saying, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” If God desires this of us in our human relationships, how much more do you think He expects this of us before we come to Him in worship?

In regards to Communion, the Lord’s Supper, The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say…
1 Corinthians 11:28—“ a man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.” This is a sound principle when approaching God on any level—in recognition of what He has done—in light of the fact that our sin, though redeemed and forgiven—still interferes—we should seek to rid ourselves of those things that hinder us and so easily entangle us in coming into the presence of God.

This week is known as Holy Week—when the Gospel accounts slow down to focus on the last days of Jesus’ life—when He is in Jerusalem, in the Temple in the city that will welcome Him one day, but reject and kill Him in less than a week. It slows down even more in agonizing detail of Jesus’ arrest, trial, beating and Crucifixion.

This slowing down, this focus on the last days of Jesus are an opportunity for us that we must not miss.

We must not miss these moments of preparation—we must not enter into this week leading up to the most world changing event in history—without examining our hearts, without calling out in repentance—without seeking reconciliation with each other and with Him. If we do not—we miss something in the heart of God—we will miss something that He wants to show us—we will not experience the full impact of what is happening around us because there will be something that interferes, something that comes between us, something that hinders us—something that keeps us from truly responding to Him and His love.

Part of our problem with Palm Sunday and the Triumphal entry is that we get so wrapped up in the shouts of Praise and the Hosannas that we remove it from surrounding events— just a few days before coming up to Jerusalem, Jesus was weeping—a friend had died, his name was Lazarus—and Jesus was weeping—not just for the loss of His friend, b/c Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He was weeping b/c He knew that people there witnessing this moment would still refuse to believe in Him.

John 12:37— “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still did not believe in Him.

MT 23:37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, `Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.' "

For all Jesus did and said—it wasn’t enough for some to believe—they were still unwilling. The were unmoved—their lives, their prayers, their worship was hindered and unreconciled. You and I need to respond to His weeping—because that is the heart of God—it grieves the heart of Jesus when we are unresponsive to Him—unwilling to lay our sin aside.

Some shouted—“Hosanna”—but didn’t really mean it.
Some shouted—“Hosanna”—but didn’t really understand it
Some shouted—“Hosanna”—but didn’t let it change them

But notice in the text vs. 8— “a very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.”

They laid something down—then they Praised Him.

Laying things down before Jesus—Helps You Proclaim His Name Louder

Everyone take one of the Palm Branches from the floor—bring it to the Front—they represent sin—

I want to follow that model of laying it all down before Jesus this morning.

Look at the palm branch I hope you still have. I want you to picture that that palm branch represents everything that hinders—everything that comes between you and God—everything that is holding you back—be it bad attitudes, be it bad habits, be sinful behavior, representing the things that we are holding on to—the things we’re afraid to admit to, the things we’re afraid to acknowledge—the hurts we have felt—the hurts we have inflicted—the wrong attitudes, the wrong spirit—the unwillingness, the hard heartedness anything and everything that interferes with your life, your prayer, your worship and your life for the Kingdom of God.

And I want you to lay it down. Bring it up here and lay it down at the altar—cast it aside—spend some time praying and seeking God.

The first message that Jesus brought and proclaimed was “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near”

This is what we need—this is for us a Sacred Assembly—I time of examination and preparation

JOEL 2:12 "Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."

JOEL 2:13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

JOEL 2:14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing--grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.

JOEL 2:15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly.

JOEL 2:16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.

Nothing is more important than this! Coming before a Holy and an Awesome God without anything in between. Come forward and lay it all down.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sermon-- 3-9-08 - Vision for Fellowship

At a meeting of the American Psychological Association, Jack Lipton, a psychologist at Union College, and R. Scott Builione, a graduate student at Columbia University, presented their findings on how members of the various sections of 11 major symphony orchestra perceived each other. The percussionists were viewed as insensitive, unintelligent, and hard-of-hearing, yet fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and unathletic. The orchestra members overwhelmingly chose "loud" as the primary adjective to describe the brass players. Woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical. Interesting findings, to say the least! With such widely divergent personalities and perceptions, how could an orchestra ever come together to make such wonderful music? The answer is simple: regardless of how those musicians view each other, they subordinate their feelings and biases to the leadership of the conductor. Under his guidance, they play beautiful music.
Today in the Word, June 22, 1992

Awakening a Heart for God in the Heart of Macomb with
Empowered Worship
Emboldened Witness
Expressive Ministry
Enlightening Discipleship
Expanding Fellowship

There is great confusion over what Fellowship is

Too often we think of Fellowship in relation to the Fun things that we do together. While those are important actions to be doing—we are doing them together not to create Fellowship, but because we are a Fellowship.

Fellowship is not just the things we do together—even the fun things—be they picnics, game night, lunches after church, or even the greeting time during our service.

Fellowship is the Faith we Share Together—without our faith we would not be a Fellowship—we are a fellowship

United Under the Lordship of Christ
Bound Together by the Indwelling of the Spirit of Christ
Working together for the Glory of Christ
Continually until the Return of Christ

What we do together has far less to do with our Fellowship and everything to do with Jesus Christ.

1 John 1:3--We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
The Greek word for fellowship comes from a root meaning common or shared. So fellowship means common participation in something either by giving what you have to the other person or receiving what he or she has. Give and take is the essence of fellowship, and give and take must be the way of fellowship in the common life of the body of Christ.
Christian fellowship is two-dimensional, and it has to be vertical before it can be horizontal.

Here are some things that through our actions, activities and Faith—will prayerfully strengthen our Fellowship. We need a…

Vision for Fellowship that Expands Sincere Love for One Another

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

It’s good to know that not even the early church could do things together without food. But one thing that I think is missing from our fellowship is the part about doing things together in their homes.

This fellowship both came from and produced Glad & Sincere Hearts. What is a sincere heart? What does it look like? With Sincerity, there is Trust.

In most cases, true fellowship is established and tested not in the good times, but during the difficult times, the times of suffering, the times of struggle.

2Corinthians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

We need our Fellowship to Expand a Sincere love for each other—one that is not superficial

A Vision for Fellowship that Includes Testimony, Teaching and an Opportunity to See God’s Hand at Work

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!" 11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. 12 The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.

As much as I love getting together with each of you—we must have Fellowship With Purpose

They were coming together to hear teaching & testimonies--Together to pray

They were coming together to Grow together in their faith. You and I cannot be duped into believing that a strong fellowship can be built once a week with a couple of minutes of greeting.

True fellowship requires much more than that—and it must be centered around the faith that you share. While I don’t expect every conversation to be dominated by spiritual issues—we should not let moments pass by when we can encourage each other’s faith—pray for one another, support one another.

There are many church members around the country and here that will not talk about spiritual issues with each other except at a church meeting. There are many that aren’t interested in spiritual conversations—that are bored by them, turned off by them—want to get away from them. And if that is the case, you don’t have true fellowship.

A Vision for Fellowship that Empowers God’s Love in Us

Did you know that the power of God is greater when we are together? That we understand better the Love and Grace of God when we come together as the body of Christ.

Power Together--
Epheians 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

We understand God’s love more, His forgiveness more, His grace and joy more and that will translate to discipleship – translate into our ministry which will translate into our evangelism.

Alone, there’s only so much I can do—my strength and ability can only do so much and in reality—it’s actually very little. However, my strength added to yours accomplishes much more. That’s why you and I have been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit—so that the Body of Christ may be Strengthened and Empowered

Romans 12:4-8--4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

1 Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Apart from Christ—outside the fellowship we can do nothing
As an individual, you are only capable of so much—you join a group a team to contribute to something greater than you can be by yourself.
Fellowship is truest in the sense when we are contributing ourselves to something greater—but the Fellowship itself becomes greater by your joining.

A Vision for Fellowship that Encourages the Best out of Us

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

If the only fulfillment of Fellowship you are getting is the few minutes of greeting during the service or even the conversation following, I can say with confidence that you are severely lacking in your fellowship with other believers. We are not the body of Christ on Sundays only. You are not getting your fill in the amount of time we are here together.

I don’t know about you, but there are few things that I really prefer to do alone. I hate playing volleyball by myself. I really hate playing catch by myself—I really hate playing chess by myself.

I also don’t like eating by myself—I don’t like talking by myself. In the same way, there are things that we need to do together—visiting each other—witnessing together—praying together—studying the Word of God together—showing patience and love and ministry to difficult people together—resisting temptation together.

We need to Spur Each other On—to Love & Good Deeds

Purposeful in our Fellowship
Unifying in our Fellowship
Strengthening in our Fellowship

Colossians 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

The Fact that Paul mentions Patience, Bearing With, Forgiving grievances—says that these things will happen—what makes us a Fellowship is how we respond.

So as a result—we must be intentionally

Protective of our Fellowship

A Vision to be Protective of Our Fellowship

Deliberate Avoidance and Breaking of Fellowship due to Pride (Loves to be first) & Gossip (maliciously) is never satisfied until it gets others to join with them

3 John 1:5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth.

3JN 1:9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. 10 So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

Who’s kingdom was really hurt by all of this? John’s kingdom? No. God’s kingdom was hurt.

Fellowship that Is Expanding— Acts 2--the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.—

When We are Being the Fellowship God Called us to Be—He will Expand and Grow our Fellowship—because we will be faithfully fulfilling our calling

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sermon-- Vision for Discipleship -- 3/2/08

Here is the audio of this message.

In looking at a Vision for Univeristy Baptist Church, we’ve looked at several things--
• Empowered Worship
• Emboldened Witness
• Expressive Ministry
o In the Name of the Lord
o Engages People because that is Serving God
o Intentional—not just doing for the sake of doing
o Internal & Binding—strengthening the fellowship of believers
o External & Evangelistic—reaching those who are hurting and in need
o Energized and Energizing Ministry
• Enlightening Discipleship

Ephesians 1:18--I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you

To help people experience a growing knowledge of God—Discipleship

To be a church whose purpose is to be Christ-like in our daily living by emphasizing total commitment of life, personality, and possessions to the Lordship of Christ.

It’s possible to be a Christian for years and never grow. It’s possible to be a part of a church for years and not become an effective disciple. And yet it is part of our calling—part of our Mission & Mandate from Jesus Himself. We are called and commanded to “Go and make Disciples of all nations—

So as a church, we must have a Vision for both Being and Making Disciples

We are called to Be Disciples
Before you can make Disciples, you must first Be a Disciple.
"One who professes to have learned certain principles from another and maintains them on that other’s authority." emphasizing total commitment of life, personality, and possessions to the Lordship of Christ

We are called to Make Disciples—this is not just a one time and we’re finished event. Becoming a disciple begins at the moment of decision—of repentance and salvation—it continues until when? When is the process of making a disciple over?
A life-long process
Is it possible to be a disciple and not be growing? YES
It is Possible to Be Immature Disciples
1CO 3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly--mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

HEB 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.

Spiritual growth is not automatic—you can languish in immaturity even after years of being a believer—must want to, decide to, make an effort to, and persist in growing

Growing as a Disciple requires deliberate action & Commitment—something for which we must be willing to count the cost—because circumstances are going to come after you so that you’ll want to stop, you’ll want to quit or you won’t think it’s important any longer.

But We are Called to Grow
1PE 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Ephesians 4:13-15
until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

A Vision for Growing Young & Immature Believers to Passionate Maturity
A Child is designed to grow—in most cases—you couldn’t stop them if you tried—growing happens automatically in most cases. If they are not growing, we know that something is wrong. While they grow physically without much help—they do need help in order to grow spiritually. And we are Charged to pass on our faith to the children God has given us. We are to encourage the children to come to Him. We are, according to Deuteronomy—to “impress them upon our children” less we raise up a generation that neither
Judges 2:10 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

That’s why an effective ministry to Children is so vital to the life and future of any church. When there are fewer children & youth running around, the future of the church is in jeopardy. In most cases, those kids represent families—families that are being impacted. Parents that see their children being ministered to are more likely to allow themselves to be ministered to.

Show me a church without a strategy or desire to minister to children and I will show you a church that is withering on the vine. For some kids, the church is the only place they hear and feel the love of God. For families that are involved, the church is not your replacement for spiritual development—it doesn’t get you off the hook of modeling and providing spiritual guidance—we are a resource for you.

More believers make decisions for Christ while they are children than at any other age. Sadly, when we do not engage them and deliberately move them to a passionate & mature faith—we don’t see them for years after they graduate high school. Some trickle back, some are harder to reach than ever because they’ve gotten a taste of a relationship with Christ and left dissatisfied or hurt.

And not just children—young in the faith are also vital—if all we are attracting to our church are those who have been Christians for years, something’s wrong. We must be seeking out those who need Jesus—reaching those who are marginalized in their faith and helping them heal—teaching them to obey everything—teaching and modeling Bible Study—teaching and modeling prayer, teaching and modeling worship—teaching and modeling ministry—teaching and modeling how to share our faith.

We must be a part of Making Disciples—no one comes to the Father unless the Spirit draws him, but the Spirit positions His people, empowers His people to accomplish it.

In order for us to have teachers and leaders in the future, we must begin locating and training younger or immature believers today. In 5 years, we will have a crisis in leadership at UBC—you and I must be seeking them out today.

A Vision for Challenging Plateaued Believers to Energized Effectiveness
2 Peter 1:3-8-- His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

2PE 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is possible for us to be Ineffective and Unproductive—and that usually happens when we have stopped growing personally: when prayer becomes infrequent or disconnected, when you no longer get anything out of Bible reading—much less actual Bible Study—after all, you’re too busy for that.

In our Christian life, it’s common to start out fast and burn out. It’s common to experience rapid periods of growth followed by extended periods of level as we adjust to and apply what we have learned. But too often for us, what is supposed to be a temporary period becomes a pattern or rut that binds us from growing further. Such a state saps our strength, darkens our spirit, frustrates our soul.

It can frustrate us so much to the point that even when we offer Bible Study, even when we offer services, groups, conferences, retreats—you don’t take advantage of them because you really don’t think it will make any difference.

We must examine what we do as a church to awaken, even provoke each other out of our ruts. For our Discipleship to be Effective—it must Energize and Enlighten even the Mature in the faith because without it we will be Unproductive and Ineffective.

And Jesus promises to Prune any branch that is Unfruitful so that it will become fruitful.

A Vision for Discipleship that Strengthens the Body of Christ

What is Discipleship supposed to Accomplish?
Grow/Increase my Love for God
Grow/Increase my Knowledge of God
Grow/Increase my Desire for God
Grow/Increase my Worship of God
Grow/Improve & Increase my Witness for God
Grow/Increase my Love for my Fellow Believers
Grow the Fruit of the Spirit in me—
Grow the ability to resist temptation
Grow & Shape the Call of God in my life
Grow the Gift of the Spirit in me—to serve the Body of Christ

Discipleship not just for the Individual. We often view discipleship as a personal edification project, it's not

Grow/Increase the Number of Sowers & Harvesters
Grow/Increase the Number of Servants & Leaders
Produce the Unity of the Body of Christ
Grow our Love for our Brothers & Sisters in Christ
Prune the unproductive to be more productive—as iron sharpens iron
Grow our Impact in the Kingdom of God
Grow our Magnification of our Savior

Fruit of the Spirit—are not just internal and individual—they are relational—they are expressed in terms of interactions with other people—made manifest in the fellowship of believers. With whom are you required to exercise patience—those you’re closest to--your immediate family, and your fellow believers—Lord knows we can frustrate one another.
With whom must you be gentle? With whom must you exercise self-control? To whom must you show love? Each of those are manifest in the context of relationship—each of those make you more like Christ—because how He treated others, how He treated His disciples and served them—how He had compassion on the lost, the hungry, the searching, Demonstrated His Heart.

Purpose Driven Life—“God develops the fruit of the Spirit in your life by allowing you to experience circumstances in which you are tempted to express the exact opposite quality.”

Gifts of the Spirit
RO 12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

1CO 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 1CO 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1 Cor. 14:12--Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

1 Peter 4:10-11--10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.

We Grow as a Disciple,
Ripening the Fruit of the Spirit--
Maturing in use of the Gifts of God
For the Benefit of the Fellowship of Believers
For the Advancement of the Kingdom
For the Glory of God

A Vision for Discipleship that is Applied for Kingdom Glory

Being a Disciple and Making Disciples cannot become merely an academic exercise. Whenever we compartmentalize Discipleship into personal growth we are in danger of doing so. Only a part of Discipleship is accomplished through personal growth & study—you will be immature in your faith if that is the only way you want to grow your faith. There is an element of Hands On Training Required to Understand and Know what it is to be a Disciple.

Jesus did not come to start a university—He did not make His disciples—Peter, James, John and others take a class and do a few assignments after researching in the Library. He took them Out among the people—to Do Ministry—to see the hurt and the need—He Sent them out—often 2 by 2 to Do Evangelism and proclaim the Kingdom of God.

Teaching was coupled with Action with the Intention of Making Disciples
A Vision for Discipleship that Involves Doing not Just Knowing—

James 1:22-- Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Not just listening to the word, but doing it
We know we should love the poor--
For Faith without works is dead—
More than just knowing about missions or giving to missions, but going on Mission—summer opportunities—

Korea-- dates are Aug 4-18. will be conduct two english Bible camps. Similar to VBS but in english and with the purpose of evangelism. First we will have preschool and elementary kids for 3 days. The pastors will share a message and then the teachers will apply that message through Bible stories, crafts, recreation, drama, music,etc. At night the pastors will preach in different churches. Each pastor will be in two churches during the mission. After the children are finished we will have jr. high and high school camp with the same format. the cost is $1,800 due to high air fares. I will work to get lower fares. Also we need to order tickests soon. So I will need to know by March 15 with a deposit of $750 by March 31. I really need another pastor and could use more workers. I think this will be a very good mission. We also going to be treated by our host to a 3 day tour at the conclusion of the mission.

College to Beach Reach
VBS & Children’s ministry need volunteers