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"Let us reason together…" Isaiah 1:18

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Thomas Sunday: Confess and Believe

Proper confession and belief are vital to growing to your full potential in Christ.

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10

Confessions are not true and life-giving because I confess them.  I confess them because they are true and life-giving.

Beliefs are not true and life-giving because I believe them.  I believe them because they are true and life giving.

The most succinct and powerful of all confessions is “Jesus is Lord.”  Romans 10:9

The most succinct and powerful of all beliefs is “God raised Jesus from the dead.” Romans 10:9

Confessions and beliefs are integrated matters of the mouth and the heart.

  • What you confess with your mouth should be what you believe in your heart.
  • What you believe in your heart should be what you confess with your mouth.

Confession without belief is hypocrisy.

Belief without confession is doubtful and incomplete.

Notice the confess/believe tension in John 12:42-44

42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

Early Christians, expanding upon the “Jesus is Lord” creed, unified the Apostles’ beliefs and teaching into what is known as the Apostles’ Creed.

This creed is called the Apostles’ Creed not because it was produced by the apostles themselves but because it contains a brief summary of their teachings. It sets forth their doctrine “in sublime simplicity, in unsurpassable brevity, in beautiful order, and with liturgical solemnity.”” https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds/apostles-creed

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places

Creedal scholar Jaroslav Pelikan has collected and evaluated “nearly 1,000” Christian creeds.  In various times, places and cultures the Apostles’ teaching has been woven into relevant creeds.

Masai Creed

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created Man and wanted Man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the Earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know Him in the light. God promised in the book of His word, the Bible, that He would save the world and all the nations and tribes.

We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, He rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through Him. All who have faith in Him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the Good News to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for Him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

Today’s primary text, John 20:24-29, invites us into the confess/believe struggle with Thomas.

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Without a doubt Thomas missed it, got it and then changed the world.

The honesty of Thomas confessing what he believed is healthy.  Authentic honesty is necessary.

Thomas’ disbelief of the other disciples’ report, “We have seen the Lord,” is a huge mistake and error.  Mistakes and errors are costly and painful.

Jesus meets Thomas in the place of his disbelief with grace, mercy and love.

Jesus corrects Thomas.  “Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

Thomas immediately corrects his error becoming the only disciple in the Bible to be recorded as confessing Jesus as, “My Lord and my God.”

Jesus then prepares Thomas for a life of ministry that requires believing (and its twin – confessing) BEFORE or WITHOUT seeing.

The Holy Spirit will minister with love, grace and mercy to you when you are in the “Thomas moment” of tension between belief and disbelief.

Like the father in Mark 9:23, 24 we may fully believe and at the same time have room for more belief.

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can? All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

This week I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead because it is with my heart that I believe and am justified and with my mouth that I confess and am saved.

This week I safari with Jesus and trust Him to protect me from the hyenas.

Posted on 27th April 2019 in Realized Potential, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Jesus: The Impossible Possibility

All of Christianity is anchored in the birth of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus.

  • At conception, Jesus was 100% God and 100% human. Jesus is the God/man.
  • Jesus lived, every moment of every day fully God and fully human.
  • Jesus died fully God and fully human.
  • Fully God and fully human, Jesus was dead for three days and three night.
  • Jesus conquered death as fully God and fully human.

These five actualities about Jesus are the universe’s most crucial truth.  It is impossible for God to be human and yet God became human thus revealing the impossible is possible.

Jesus is the “Impossible Possibility.”

Of huge importance are the realities of “Silent Saturday” on which Jesus, fully God and fully human is dead.

God did not raise Jesus from the cross.  God raised Jesus from the dead.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

The Bible reiterates it many times.  Jesus was not raised on the first day but on third day.  Jesus was dead part of or all of three days.

Jesus’ three days of death are filled with impossible possibilities.

Consider the impossibilities of Holy Saturday.

  1. It is impossible for God to be absent. But Jesus, fully God and fully human was not present.
  2. It is impossible for God to be finite. But Jesus, fully God and fully human finite and lay dead in Joseph’s tomb.
  3. It is impossible for God to be perishable. But Jesus, fully God and fully human is dead and decaying.
  4. It is impossible for God to be dead. But Jesus, fully God and fully human is dead.

The impossibilities in the dead Jesus shout to us, “Every distance of separation from God, sense of God-forsakenness and awareness of the absence of God has been personally and deeply experienced by God the Son.”

God who keeps His promises, said, “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.”  Leviticus 26:12

In His death, Jesus walks with us into and out of these great impossibilities.

The world aches for a Lover who engages our fragmented loneliness with a pursuit that reaches us even in the most desperate betrayals. We pine for a Redeemer who has exhausted the power of the violence in our hearts by taking it fully, even fatally, into his own heart, returning peace. We crave a companion in suffering who not only empathizes but can give precious worth to our pain. Only a Mediator who descended into the hell of human rebellion against God can conclude our long war with the Father. Only a Christ who willingly received the lethal consequences of our sin can truly take away the burden of them. Only one who has been there, in the hell of our making, can comfort us in our suffering. If Jesus didn’t get all the way to the bottom of our predicament, our lost and forsaken condition, then we are left unredeemed at the root. We will be forever lonely, ever tarred with shame, never feeling known, never at peace. But because Jesus entered fully into the deathliness of our human existence, then he can bring us into the eternal life of the Triune God. Dawson, Gerrit S. Raising Adam . Oil Lamp Books LLC. Kindle Edition.

Somewhere in the place of the dead and at some time on Holy Saturday night, God (Jesus) transformed from dead victim to Living Victor!

I, he says, am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I, he says, am the Christ.  Melito of Sardis, Died Ad 180.  http://www.kerux.com/doc/0401A1.asp

God the Son transformed “Why have you forsaken me?” into, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:6

God the Son transformed “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit (Matthew 27:50)” into “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25, 26).

God the Son transformed His finiteness of death into, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore… (Revelation 1:17, 18).

God the Son transformed death’s bondage into “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:17, 18)

In your life experiences when God seems absent, finite, perishable and dead, know that God profoundly and personally understands.

God’s experience of transforming the impossible is ours today as we believe and confess Him in His death, burial and resurrection.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Romans 10:9, 10

Jesus, the impossible possibility, proclaimed, “Because I live, you too shall live.”  John 14:19

Posted on 20th April 2019 in Holy Week, Resurrection, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Palm Sunday: Luke’s Perspective

Lifelong full engagement is a primary message of Luke’s presentation of this day in the life of Jesus.

Luke presents five scenes in Jesus’ day now commonly known as Palm Sunday.

  • The transformation of Zacchaeus. Luke 19:1-10
  • The parable of the ten minas. Luke 19:11-27
  • The triumphal entry. Luke 19:28-40
  • Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. Luke 19:41-44
  • Jesus cleanses the temple. Luke 19:45-46

In the narrative of the transformation of Zacchaeus, Luke gives us his theme of Jesus’ ministry.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.  Luke 19:10

Jesus then taught the Parable of the Ten Minas with the following primary emphases.

  • I will leave.  Luke 19:12
  • Stay fully engaged in seeking and saving the lost while I am gone. Luke 19:13
  • I will return.  Luke 19:15

Jesus then enters Jerusalem as the King in what is known as The Triumphal Entry.

  • God’s future kingdom is already launched here and now!  Luke 19:38
  • Staying fully engaged in exuberant and energetic worship is a crucial component of seeking and saving the lost.

After this glorious event in Jesus’ life, He becomes deeply emotional and weeps over His city’s inability to see who He is and what God is doing.

  • Most people don’t see what God has done and what He is doing and what He will be doing.  Luke 19:41
  • Staying fully engaged emotionally is crucial for seeking and saving the lost.

Luke’s final component to Jesus’ Palm Sunday is the cleansing of the Temple.

  • Day to day life and business can easily distract and displace us from proper engagement in the mission to seek and to save the lost.  Distraction and displacement must be driven out.  Luke 19:45
  • Staying fully engaged in prayer is essential to the mission of seeking and saving the lost.  Luke 19:46

Personal Reflections

  1. Am I fully engaged with Jesus in seeking and saving the lost?
  2. Between Jesus’ first triumphal entry and His second triumphant entry, am I fully engaged in His mission?
  3. Am I fully engaged in seeking and saving the lost through exuberant and energetic worship?
  4. Knowing people I love don’t see who Jesus is or what He is doing in our world today, am I fully engaged emotionally in their plight?
  5. Am I avoiding the distractions and displacement of business as usual and staying fully engaged in consistent, powerful prayer?
Posted on 13th April 2019 in Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Becoming People of Realized Potential: God’s Commitment to those in Christ Jesus

Interwoven into the human, by God at creation, is the potential to become.

In God’s providence we are blessed with the opportunity to change.

  • We can move from worse to better.

And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.  Luke 22:59-62

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”  John 21:17-19

  • We can move from better to worse.

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ Revelation 2:2-7

  • We can move from one type to another.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

With eternity set in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) we long to transcend the temporary for the permanent.  In changing from worse to better, better to worse or from one kind to another we are faced with the temporariness of our best intentions and most diligent efforts.

Thanks be to God, He is entirely different than this.

God does not change and is not temporary.  He is perfect in every way (thus changeless) and permanent in every way (thus eternal).

There is no worse in God (he is perfect in every way) to change for the better (there is nothing better than His perfection).

There is no better in God (Being perfect, He is best in every way) to move to worse (perfection removes the option of becoming imperfect).

There is no other for God to become.   To become something other is to no longer be God.

To God, nothing can be added.  From God nothing can be subtracted.

Malachi 3:6 states, “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”

Deuteronomy 33:27 features God’s eternality.  “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Notice, in Hebrews 6:17-20, the changeless nature of God is a sure and steadfast anchor for our souls.

17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purposehe guaranteed it with an oath18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

From Heidi Reeder, author of Commit to Win: How to Harness the Four Elements of Commitment to Reach Your Goals, we understand the equation of commitment.

(Treasure – Troubles) + Contributions – Choices = Commitment

Applying the best of contemporary commitment science, we can confidently answer the question, “Is God committed to me?”

With current commitment science highlighting “treasure’ as the first integer of the commitment equation, I must ask, “Does God treasure me?”

When I place my trust in Jesus for salvation, I am adopted into Israel.  In this way, I am part of the “people (clans or tribe) of God.”

Consider Jeremiah 31:1, “At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people.”

As a person in the tribe of God’s new Israel, am I treasured by Him?

I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Jeremiah 31:3

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.  Exodus 19:5

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”  Deuteronomy 7:6

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  1 Peter 2:9, 10

These Bible verses place strong emphasis on God’s eternal commitment of love which allows us to become His treasured possession.

To His treasured possessions (Those in Christ Jesus), God is eternally and unchangingly committed.

Yes, God is eternally and unchangingly committed to us.

Therefore, we long for eternal (permanent) and unwavering (changeless) commitment to and from our friends and tribe.

The Apostle Paul reveals his deep longing for his friends and tribe to practice permanent and unwavering commitment.

Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  2 Timothy 4:9-18

May God’s eternal and unchanging commitment to me…

  1. Be reflected in an eternal and unchanging commitment from me to Him.
  2. Be reflected in an eternal and unchanging commitment from me to my closest friends.
  3. Be reflected in an eternal and unchanging commitment from me to my tribe.
Posted on 6th April 2019 in Realized Potential, Uncategorized, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Growing to Our Full Potential in Christ: Commitment

By God’s grace and mercy, we are becoming people of fully realized potential.

Primary Text:  Ruth 1:15-18

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

We have identified the four most important decisions every human being decides for becoming people of realized potential.

  1. With who will I travel and stay?
  2. Who are my people?
  3. Who is my God?
  4. Am I fully committed to these three decisions?

Today we begin investigating “Am I fully committed to these three decisions?”

Commitment is the foundation of all great accomplishments. Without commitment, Amelia Earhart wouldn’t have become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Without commitment, Bill Gates wouldn’t have cofounded Microsoft and become one of the wealthiest people in the world. Without commitment, Roger Federer wouldn’t have become the greatest tennis player of all time, continuing to play even after the analysts said he was past his prime. Without commitment, Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher, from James City, North Carolina, would not have been married eighty-six years, garnering the Guinness World Record and a lifetime of love and family. Inspirational stories about commitment are all around, but commitment is also a crucial ingredient for everyday goals, like designing a new marketing plan, training for a triathlon, or even quitting a terrible job so you can move on to something new. Despite its influence, few people truly understand what commitment is or how it’s created.

Reeder, Heidi. Commit to Win (p. 3). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Consider the following as a working definition.  Commitment is the experience of being internally attached to something and intending to stay with it.

God designed and created humans in His image (Genesis 1:27).  God, the Holy Trinity, was, is and always will be “internally attached and intending to stay with it.”

Valuing commitment is part of God’s nature placed inside every human by being created in His image.

Commitment is the living out of our deep desire for permanence.  We do not want anything of value in our lives to be temporary or disposable.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  Ecclesiastes 3:11

The temporary/permanent dilemma is beautifully considered in 1 John 2:17.

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

We are hardwired by God with longing for life’s most important and meaningful relationships to never pass away but to abide forever.

Commitment includes everything required to ensure these relationships abide forever.

In “Commit to Win: How to Harness the Four Elements of Commitment to Reach Your Goals,” Heidi Reeder summarizes current commitment research in the following equation:

(Treasures – troubles) + Contributions – Choices = Level of Commitment

Treasures                    Rewarding and fulfilling

Troubles                      Challenging and costly

Contributions             Resources invested

Choices                         Other equal or better options

The Apostle Paul weaves all of this together powerfully in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18.

Treasure

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us…

Troubles

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Contributions

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Choices

No other options!

This is Paul’s grand slam home run on the temporary/permanent dilemma!

18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Considerations for increasing my experience of being internally attached and intending to stay with it (Him).

  1. Treasure Him (God) and everything He treasures. Psalm 73:2, 23-26
  2. Accurately assess the troubles. 2 Chronicles 20:15
  3. Increase my contributions. Colossians 3:23
  4. Hold firmly to God as my only John 6:68
Posted on 30th March 2019 in Realized Potential, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Becoming People of Realized Potential: The Importance of Your Tribe

Ruth succinctly states four crucial decisions in every human being’s life.  Ruth 1:15-18

  1. With who will I journey and stay?
  2. Who is my tribe and who are my people?
  3. Who is my God?
  4. Am I fully committed to these three decisions?

 

Today we consider the importance of “my people and tribe” as I journey to Father’s House.

 

From conception we begin our journey to Father’s house.

 

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:1

 

From the Trinity, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we gain insight into an exclusively Christian experience of fellowship.

 

  • 14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14
  • God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9
  • that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3

 

Christianity is a common shared life (fellowship).

 

With whom am I in fellowship as I journey home to Father’s house?

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer captured the high value of fellowship in his book, Life Together.

 

The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians.  Man was created a body, the Son of God appeared on earth in the body, he was raised in the body, in the sacrament the believer receives the Lord Christ in the body, and the resurrection of the dead will bring about the perfected fellowship of God’s spiritual-physical creatures.  The believer therefore lauds the Creator, the Redeemer, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the bodily presence of a brother.  The prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God.  Visitor and visited in loneliness recognize in each other the Christ who is present in the body; they receive and meet each other as one meets the Lord, in reverence, humility, and joy.  They receive each other’s benedictions as the benediction of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!

It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day.  It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed.  Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living in common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart.  Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.

 

Christianity is a common shared life, it is fellowship and we are extremely blessed by this grace.

 

Careful selection of those in your fellowship is very important.

 

“…your own performance is either improved or diminished by the other people in your scenario.” Cloud, Henry. The Power of the Other (p. 9). HarperBusiness. Kindle Edition.

 

  • Ruth was improved by Naomi.
  • Samson was diminished by Delilah.
  • Paul was improved by Barnabas.
  • David was diminished by Saul but improved by Jonathan.

 

Careful observation of the Acts 2:42-47 church reveals seven beginning points for this glorious improved common shared life (fellowship).

 

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

 

The Early Church Common Shared Life Our Common Shared Life
Devoted themselves to….the fellowship Devote myself to the fellowship
The fellowship includes communion and prayer Devote myself to holy communion and prayer
All who believed were together Devote myself to being together with the fellowship
Had all things in common Devote myself to sharing with the fellowship
As any had need Devote myself to meeting the needs of the fellowship.
Every day attending the temple Devote myself to daily corporate worship
Eating together daily Devote myself to eating with the fellowship

 

When someone prioritizes these seven beginning points of fellowship with you, they are, as Bonhoeffer said, “a gift of grace” for whom “we thank God on our knees.”

 

Fellowship is a double blessing.  We are at home in our fellowship as we travel Home to Father’s House.

MCA Life Group Homework

Listen – My Story

  • Do you have a memorable eating together experience?
  • Is there a time when a Christian friend was “the presence of Christ” for you?

 

Lift – Prayer

  • Please pray for God to increase your joyful anticipation of being in Father’s House someday.
  • Please pray for each Life Group member’s hopes and wishes for their tribe and people.
  • Please pray for Connie Ordway, long-term MCA member nearing Father’s House.

 

 

Learn – Digging Deeper

  • Read 1 John 1:1-7.
  • From this passage, do you see any differences between friendship and fellowship?
  • Who are the fellowship partners in verse 3?
  • What does God require of his fellowship partners? 6
  • What are the two benefits of walking in the light? 7
  • Who are the fellowship partners named “one another” in verse 7?

 

 

 

Life – Taking it Home

  • Which of the seven beginning points of fellowship do you need to prioritize with your tribe?
  • Is there someone you should consider adding to your tribe?
  • Is there someone you should consider deleting from your tribe?

 

 

 

Posted on 9th February 2019 in Realized Potential, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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Full Potential: Position, Decisions and Desires

People who realize their full potential understand that key life decisions position them for experiencing their deepest desire.

Christians live a well-decided life within an all-encompassing unique framework.

Prior to the often-helpful framework of personal core values, purpose and mission statements, the Christian comes to terms with every human’s deepest desire.

Decisions and desires are a closely woven tapestry.

“The highest dream we could ever dream, the wish that if granted would make us happier than any other blessing, is to know God, to actually experience Him.” Crabb, Larry. Shattered Dreams (Kindle Locations 188-191). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

A well-decided Christian life becomes evident in those who understand their deepest desire is to know and experience God.

Notice, in Philippians 3:7-11, Paul’s emphasis upon his deepest desire to know and experience God.

Considered a Loss Considered Great Gain
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ,
  10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

Our most important decisions are to be made in harmony with our deepest desire.

In the experience of two women, Naomi and Ruth, God reveals the four most crucial decisions in every person’s life.

A short version of the narrative is:

  • There is a famine in Bethlehem.
  • Elimelech moves cross culturally to Moab with his wife, Naomi, and their two sons.
  • Elimelech suddenly dies. Naomi is now a widow.
  • Their sons have married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.
  • Suddenly, both sons died too. Naomi is a widow who is childless.  Orpah and Ruth are now widows.
  • Naomi decides to move back to Bethlehem and encourages Orpah and Ruth to enjoy their Moabite lives.
  • Orpah agrees.
  • Ruth disagrees and reveals to us the four most crucial decisions every human being makes.

Ruth 1:15-18

15 And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” 18 And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

Ruth’s Statement My Crucial Decision
For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. With which persons will I journey and stay?
Your people shall be my people Who will be my people?
and your God (shall be) my God Who will be my God?
May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you. Will I fully commit to these decisions?

With which persons will I journey and stay?

  • The wise selection of my spouse and closest friends is crucial.
  • In what ways do we help each other pursue and realize our deepest longing for God?

Who will be my people?

  • The wise selection of my primary group or tribe or cohort is crucial.
  • In what ways do we help each other pursue and realize our deepest longing for God?

Who will be my God?

  • The wise selection of God, as revealed in the Bible, is crucial.
  • The wise selection of how you and God will relate is crucial.

Will I fully commit to these decisions?

  • Have I developed the wisdom to courageously and loyally serve these three decisions?
  • When these decisions and life as God allows it to come to me become exceptionally difficult, will I remain steadfast and unmovable in these commitments?

MCA Life Group Homework

Listen – My Story

  • What is your best ever decision (other than trusting in Jesus for salvation and selecting your spouse)?
  • Who most helped you make that decision?

Learn – Digging Deeper

  • Read Philippians 3:4-6. What are Paul’s reasons for “confidence in the flesh?”  Would most of Paul’s audience consider these reasons for confidence as positives or negatives?  Are there positives in our lives today that we should consider loss?  Are there negatives we should consider loss?
  • How might we develop Paul’s love (deepest desire) for knowing Christ, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and becoming like Him in His death? Philippians 3:10
  • Ruth helps us understand the four most crucial decisions every human being makes. Ruth 1:16-17
    • With whom will I journey?
    • Who will be my people?
    • Who will be my God?
    • Will I fully commit to these decisions?
  • Read Mark 8:27-30. Talk about why the question Jesus asked is still the most important decision every human being will make.

Lift – Prayer

  • Pray for each other to more deeply understand and experience the soul’s deepest longing for God.
  • Pray for each other to confidently join Paul in knowing what to personally “consider loss.”
  • Pray for the each other’s petitions.
  • Take time to listen for the voice of the Lord.

Life – Taking it Home

  • Is there something you need to do this week regarding Ruth’s four questions?
  • Is there something in your life regarding the four questions that you should consider loss?
  • Is there something in your life regarding the four questions in which you are experiencing the strong presence of God?

Share the Joy – Invite a Friend to Your Life Group

  • Someone in your circle of influence very much longs to be included in your spiritual tribe.
  • Some may even deeply desire having you as a very close friend.

 

 

Posted on 2nd February 2019 in Realized Potential, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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The Maker Has Made Himself Known: Make Him Known

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2018

What part of God’s world do you love?

Last weekend we investigated a two-way relationship with God, “Because He loves to give the gift of making Himself known to you, He also loves it when you give Him the gift of making yourself known to Him.”

 

In the same manner, “God so loved the world that he gave,” is His extravagant invitation for us to love God’s world as He does and participate in making the Maker known to others.

Pause for a moment and experience the exquisite joy of the angelic declaration first shared with a group of shepherds.  Luke 2:8-12

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Embrace the Good News!  Jesus’ birth, sinless life, miraculous ministry, death and resurrection are for “all the people.”

At the birth of Jesus, Bethlehem becomes God’s centerpiece of lovingly drawing all people to Himself.  God loves to make Himself known and demonstrate His love for all people.

People who have lived rough, messed up lives are included in God’s love story.

  • Men – David, the King and King Solomon (Matthew 1:6, 7)
  • Women – Tamar (Matthew 1:3) and Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6)

People considered undesirable and unwanted are shown they are desirable, wanted and loved by God.

  • The shepherds (Luke 2:8)

People who deny the true and living God are included in God’s loving Self-revelation.

  • The magi (Matthew 2:1)
  • “even the most pagan of pagans may respond to Jesus if given the opportunity (cf. Jonah 1:13-16; 3:6-4:1, 10-11). For one special event in history, the God who rules the heavens chose to reveal himself where pagans were looking.” Keener, Craig S.. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (p. 100). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

People who love the true and living God are also recipients of God’s love and Self-revelation.

  • Joseph – Righteous (Matthew 1:19), humble, obedient (Matthew1:24), gracious, gift of discernment
  • Mary Highly favored, the Lord is with you (Luke 2:28), I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word (Luke 2:38)

The Good News of great joy is for all the people!

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  John 6:35-37

“The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires (whosoever will) take the water of life without price.” Revelation 22:17

What part of God’s world do you love?

  1. Do you love people who have lived rough, messed up lives and are waiting for you to explain and show that they are included in God’s great love?
  2. Do you love people that others consider undesirable and unwanted who long to be included in God’s circle of love through you?
  3. Do you love people who deny the true and living God and are looking for you to bridge the gap to God’s love?
  4. Do you love people who love the true and living God and hope you will love them too?

Someone near you is waiting, longing, looking and hoping you will make the Maker known to them.

Jesus’ statement, “God so loved the world that he gave,” is His extravagant invitation for us to love God’s world as He does and do our part in making the Maker known.

Posted on 22nd December 2018 in Christmas, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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The Maker has Made Himself Known: Make yourself known to Him

The Third Sunday of Advent 2018

Have you ever had a secret admirer?

Who is your secret admirer? It can be hard to tell who’s been secretly sending you gifts or romantic messages, especially when he or she doesn’t want you to find out. You will need to use all the clues you can find. Look carefully at any messages or gifts that they have sent you. Ask around to find out who might be crushing on you. Be aware of the people in your life and keep your eyes peeled for potential admirers. Be careful and be patient. Your secret admirer is probably shy at the prospect of talking to you in person, so try to be tactful and respect his or her privacy.  https://www.wikihow.com/Find-Your-Secret-Admirer

God is no secret admirer.  He LOVES to love you lavishly (1 John 3:1), publicly, extravagantly, unbelievably and eternally!

An unknown love is discouraging, depressing and unrewarding.

God, the One who loves you beyond human capacity to understand, is not a secret lover.  He knows you and everything about you.

Isaiah 43:1

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Jeremiah 1:5

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you: I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Psalm 139:1-6

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

There is NO DOUBT! God knows you and loves you.

This encourages us to embrace a couple of questions:

  1. Do I know myself?
  2. Do I present the self I know to God?

1 Corinthians 13:12 is insightful on love and knowing.

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

To be dependent is to only receive. (Creates indebtedness)

To be independent is to only give. (Creates impoverishment)

“Even God who is uniquely self-sufficient lives in the triunity of persons in a full giving that is a full receiving, and a full receiving that is a full giving.” Gloria Patri (2007), Nicholas Ayo, page 52

God is perfectly healthy in every way.

Because He loves to give the gift of making Himself known to you, He also loves it when you give Him the gift of making yourself known to Him.

We are invited into a “know and be known” relationship with God.

“The One who knows be best, loves me most.”  Bill Gaither

The Advent Text for this week is Zephaniah 3:14-20.

Verse 17 is the pivotal fulcrum for the experiences and expressions of the other verses.

 

3:14 Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!

 

3:15 The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.

3:16 On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.

3:17 The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing

 

3:18 as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.

3:19 I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

 

3:20 At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.

 

We are to sing aloud.

We are to shout.

We are to rejoice and exult with all our hearts.

 

 

Why?  The Lord has taken away the judgments against you.

He has turned away our enemies.

He is in our midst and we shall fear disaster no more!!!

 

 

We do not fear and we do not let our hands grow weak.

We stay strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.

 

What is the Lord, our God, in our midst doing?

He is a warrior who gives victory.

He rejoices over us with gladness.

He renews us in his love.

He exults over us with loud singing.

 

He removes disaster from us.

 

 

 

He deals with all our oppressors.

He saves the immobile

He gathers the outcasts and exchanges our shame into praise and renown in all the earth.

 

 

He will bring us home at the time He gathers us.

He will make us renowned and praised when He restores our fortunes before our eyes.

Because God loves to give the making of Himself known and also loves to receive the making of ourselves known, we respond energetically with King David in Psalm 139:23, 24

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Prayer

Thank you, Father God, for loving to make yourself known.

Although I am dependent upon You, I don’t want You to do all the giving.  I respond to your gift of making yourself known by truthfully, authentically and openly giving you the gift of making myself known to you.

Although you are independent of me, I don’t want to do all the receiving.  Please receive my open and honest making of myself known to you as my heartfelt gift.

AMEN

 

Posted on 15th December 2018 in Christmas, Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post
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The Maker has Made Himself Known: Preparing for God’s Self-revelation

Second Sunday of Advent 2018

In advent we prepare ourselves for the arrival of Jesus, past, present and future.

Today we reflect upon Jesus’ arrival in yesterday’s Bethlehem, embrace His arrival in our experience today and prepare for His arrival in our tomorrow.

God, in His Son Jesus, has made Himself known, is making Himself known and will make Himself known.

God making Himself known in the birth of Jesus was glorious.

John 1:14

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Luke 2:8-14

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

God making Himself known in daily life is powerful too.

Consider the miracle of the axe head floating.  2 Kings 6:1-7

Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

God loves to make Himself known in powerful ways in the material things of our day to day lives.

  • In miraculous provision.
    • Food (manna and Quail) in the desert for the people of Israel. Exodus 16
    • Miracle catch of fish. John 21
    • Multiplying fish and loaves.
      • John 6:1-15 – Feeding 5,000 with five loaves and 2 fish (12 baskets of overflow)
      • Mark 8:1-13 – Feeding of the 4,000 with seven loaves and a few fish (Seven baskets of overflow)
    • He makes Himself known by continuing the wedding feast by turning the water into wine, saving the parents from embarrassment and providing for the joy of the wedding guests
    • He makes Himself known to the disciples by miraculously providing money to pay taxes. Matthew 17:27
    • He makes Himself known by healing paralysis, leprosy, withered hands, calming storms and raising those who have died.

God loves to make Himself known in our tomorrows too and we are in search of ways to prepare ourselves for God’s Self-revelation.

Can I prepare today for a greater Self-revelation of Jesus tomorrow?

Today’s Second Sunday of Advent text is Malachi 3:1-4

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

From our text we learn things we can do to prepare the way for God’s Self-revelation.

  1. The preparer is sent by God. 1 “Lord, send me to prepare my heart for your arrival.”
  2. The preparer prepares the way for the Lord. 1  “Lord, may I prepare my heart for the way of the Lord rather than for my personal preferences.”
  3. When the Lord arrives in the prepared place, it can be something to be endured as being in a refiner’s fire and being scrubbed with fuller’s soap. 2.  “Lord, your Self-revelation is worth everything to me.  Please give me grace to endure the fire and scrubbing necessary to prepare me for your revelation.”
  4. In the process I am becoming like refined and purified silver and gold. ‘Lord, I celebrate the results you are producing in me and I come as a purified offering of righteousness to you.”
  5. Preparing the way of the Lord followed by His arrival is making me pleasing to Him.

Thank God for His Self-revelation through:

  • The first Christmas.
  • The material things in our lives.
  • Preparing my heart for His arrival tomorrow.

Jeremiah 29:13

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

Posted on 10th December 2018 in Weekend Talks  •  Comments are off for this post