Tuesday, March 25, 2008

DNOW 2008

Are you coming to Disciple Now? This year's theme is Identity: Purity On Display. You'll explore the playlist of your life and how it resonates with personal faith. You won't want to miss it, April 24-27.

Check out Jacques our guest speaker this year,

Monday, March 3, 2008

Uncharted - Loving Your Neighbor

What responsibility does the church have to its community? To pose another question, if the church ceased to exist what would not get done in the community; would it even be missed? Unfortunately, many churches have become so inward focused they forget the world around them. Christians have created their own private world that is without interaction with its surrounding culture and community. Rather than being a light to the world and reaching out the church has too often become preoccupied with itself (its own routines, facilities, needs and people). If the world is to be reached for Jesus Christ and healthy transformation (education, poverty, along with physical/emotional and spiritual health) is to happen in our communities then the church must shift its focus outward.

Luke 10:25-37
Loving others displays your love for God.
As a lawyer came to Jesus asking the requirements for eternal life, Jesus responded that a person should love God and love others. Loving others is a tangible display of our love for God. The Bible is filled with passages describing how the people of God should care and provide for those in need around them.

James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” [see also faith without deeds 2:14-26]

1 John 3:17-18 “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Why should we love Baltimore?
Baltimore is a city in desperate need. It ranks 12th as
most dangerous, having the highest homicide rate of all US cities, nearly 7 times the national rate. It is one of America's most sinful cities. Addiction, crime, poverty and lack of education are all part of Baltimore’s reputation. These characteristics show the opportunity and need for transformation.

Uncharted has the potential to impact hundreds of lives for the good of the city of Baltimore and beyond. This is not because Uncharted is such a cool conference with just the right musicians, artists or platform guests. It is because students & leaders have the opportunity to take the gospel of Jesus Christ that they have received in their life and explode it incarnationally throughout a city. I cannot tell you how excited I am that our youth ministry has this opportunity. Pray not only that we can impact Baltimore with the gospel but that we catch God's passion for our own community too.

Loving others displays God’s love for you.
This is the most important principle of the two. Jesus commands believers to love others as a sign of our love for him, but it is also a sign of his love for us. Acts of mercy on earth point to the ultimate act of mercy in the Father sacrificing the Son to forgive the sin of the world.

The Pharisee and Levite chose to walk past the man in need. They were more concerned with external religious practices (Pharisees could not touch a corpse due to impurities – even crossing the shadow was thought to make them unclean) rather than displaying the reality of a heart radically transformed by the grace of God. Believers are ones who truly understand that they too were dead in sin yet God made them alive in Christ; therefore we cannot help but share what God has done in our own life.

• Does the church/Christians have a responsibility to its community? If so, what?
• What is the reputation of your church in your community? Is it thankful, annoyed, or ignorant of the church’s existence?
• Should Christians seek to serve more inside or outside the church walls?
• Read & Describe how the following verses may relate to this lesson: Matthew 5:13-16, Luke 6:31-35, Acts 20:35, Romans 12:20-21, Galatians 6:9-10, Ephesians 2:10, 2 Thessalonians 3:13, 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Titus 2:11-14, Titus 3:8, Hebrews 10:24, James 1:27, James 2:14-26, 1 Peter 3:13, 1 John 3:17-18

The Church of Irresistible Influence by Robert Lewis
“Should Evangelical Churches Be Involved In Community Ministry and if so, Why?” By JD Greear found at http://www.theresurgence.com/jd_greear_2008-01-31_evangelical_churches_in_community_ministry
Bob Roberts – “Glocal Church Ministry” found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/july/30.42.html and “We Aren’t About Weekends” found at http://www.christianvisionproject.com/2007/01/we_arent_about_weekends.html

Lukewarm Disgusting, pt. 8 (end of Revelation series... for now)

Revelation 3:14-22

Laodicea was a prosperous city, known for being a center of trade and communication between other Roman cities. Much of its wealth came from production of glossy, raven black wool from local sheep (dyed or original unknown) as well as from its school of medicine, known for “Phrygian Powder” used to help cure eye and ear defects. In A.D. 60 an earthquake rocked the city destroying many of the buildings. The extent of the city’s affluence was that it rebuilt on the wealth of its own citizens, without the help of the Roman government.

Jesus is disgusted with lukewarm Christianity.
Laodicea certainly had wealth and prosperity. It had money, technology, power, influence; all the outward signs of productivity and success. Yet, inwardly it was empty and wasting away. With the entire city’s independent wealth it was not as self-sufficient as it might have desired. The city did not have its own water supply and had to pipe water in from 2 closer cities, 6 miles north from Hierapolis which was known for its therapeutic hot springs and 10 miles east from Colosse, which was known for its cold, pure drinking water. By the time the water reached Laodicea it arrived lukewarm. Jesus used this as an illustration for how the Laodicean church was uselessly lukewarm, neither providing healing for the spiritually sick (hot springs) or refreshment for the spiritually weary (cold water). Their lukewarm spirituality made Jesus want to vomit! By continuing to look at Jesus’ criticism against the Laodicean church one can understand the dangers of lukewarm Christianity.

Lukewarm Christianity is useless; so change!
Jesus told the Laodiceans he wished they were either cold or hot but they were neither. They were of no use to him or to others, therefore it required a change. Laodicea had undergone various outward changes yet still leaving them empty. They needed an internal change, inward repentance resulting in total transformation (v.19). Christians were not created to be useless or spectators, they were created to express and demonstrate the beauty and character of God throughout the world.
Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
James 2:26 “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
John 15:2, 5, 8 “Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit… I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing… By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Romans 6:13b “… present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Lukewarm Christianity is self-absorbed; so serve!
Jesus chastised the Laodiceans for allowing their wealth to cloud their desperation for God and service toward those in need. They settled for the complacency of being rich in the world rather than rich in eternity (Matthew 6:19-21, Isaiah 55:2). In reality, Jesus says they were wretched (miserable and utterly hopeless – same word in Romans 7:24; 1 Corinthians 15:19), spiritually bankrupt, blind and without direction and shamefully exposed being naked before a holy God.
In other words, they had grown arrogant and prideful over their achievements without recognizing these as the blessing of a gracious God. As James said, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights” (1:17). Material prosperity does not equate spiritual prosperity. Wealth and riches are given by God to be stewards of those resources for the advancement of the gospel, not personal gain. When a person recognizes God as the source of blessing they cannot help but give back to God and toward the needs of others. Serving others helps a person see beyond selfishness to real needs in the lives of others. In fact, this is why Jesus came saying, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
Likewise, students can be self-absorbed. Reports say teens are responsible for $80 billion and quite materialistic
[1]. They can be externally wealthy with loads of material possessions, wearing brand name clothing and perfect eye sight YET emotionally & spiritually bankrupt, morally naked and without sight or direction for life. The best solution to this is allowing students to see reality beyond their own me-centered world.

Lukewarm Christianity is God-absent; so surrender!
Lastly, the Laodicean’s had placed God at arms-length. Jesus is somehow standing outside the church knocking on the door to enter. It is an amazing thought that a church that makes Jesus want to vomit is the same church Jesus is graciously pursuing to associate with. Notice that Jesus is not simply knocking on the door but he appears to be talking (shouting?) from the outside for those inside to hear his voice and open the door. He is doing everything in his power for the Laodiceans to not miss his presence in their life. His rebuke and discipline is for their good in hope they will repent and return to living for Jesus. They must surrender and open the door to allow Jesus to sit on the throne in their life as the Lord.

·What things are not good lukewarm but that would be good if they were cold or hot?
·What does it mean to be spiritually lukewarm? How do the three characteristics describe lukewarm spirituality (put it in your own words)?
·What makes you vomit? (Students may talk about bad food but allow them to discuss what seriously sickens them inwardly. This may open some vulnerable discussion) What actions or attitudes do you think make Jesus want to vomit?
·Describe what it means to be self-absorbed? Do you know anyone or any group like this? Why is this something negative? How does serving others help you to put your own needs in the proper perspective?
·Why does God allow some people to have wealth and others not? What is the purpose of wealth and material blessings?
·How can a church or person continue with all its activity (events, relationships, schedules and deadlines) yet God not be a part of it, being on the outside looking in? How does this happen? How do you know when it happens? What do you do to reverse this happening?

[1] See www.packagedfacts.com “The Teens Market in the US”.