Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Being affectionately desirous of one another: How English camps work. My talk w/ the Haviřov youth group.

1. Mission - service and gospel
2. Worship
3. Growth - relationship, discipleship

“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8; cf. Acts 17).

TTYN: turn to your neighbor

English Camp: A place/tool to introduce Christ and Christ in our lives to non-Christians through relationships.
English camp does not work if you are only “affectionately desirous” of one another. When your affection extends toward the lost, camp is an incredible place where you see God bringing His kingdom and working in the lives of those who do not know Him yet.

How do we do cultivate this affectionate desire?
It's basically doing for others what Jesus did and is doing for us.
  1. Thank God for them (1:2)
  2. Imitate Jesus and your leaders, and be Christians worth imitating (1:6-7). This does not mean perfect. It means humble, honest, sincere people who point others to Jesus not only with our holiness but with our confession and repentance and joyful reception of His forgiveness BECAUSE it’s all Jesus (1 Cor. 15:10).
  3. Have boldness in our God to declare to [them] the gospel of God [even] in the midst of much conflict (2:2).
  4. Speak to please God, not man - one another or unbelievers. This means without words of flattery or to get something from them - money, honor, approval, popularity, worldly acceptance, glory, etc. (2:4-6). Do not be “charlatans or false prophets in order to gratify [our] own vanity, line [our] own pockets, or gain (even legitimate) honor (vv. 5–6).
  5. Be gentle and selfless (2:7). Also see 1 Peter 3:13-17, esp. v. 15).
    1. Is there anyone who is a mom that will be with us or anyone who is a father? It would be great to have the mom or dad or both talk about the gentleness and selflessness in a mother nursing and taking care of her children. We could also ask the students to share what kind of gentleness and selflessness they see in a mother’s care of her children. I think it would be worth it to ask, “Why? Why does a mother care of her children, and why does she do it this way - gently and selflessly?” How can we go and do likewise with a) one another and (b) our lost friends and family?
  6. Share the gospel. Share your life (2:8).
    1. Are you doing this with one another? Are you trusting God and each other with who you really are? Are you sharing the gospel with each other?
    2. Confess your sins and joys to one another. Repent with another. Share the gospel with one another. Forgive one another. Pray for and with one another.
  7. Work hard. Have holy, righteous, and blameless conduct (2:9-10).
  8. Encourage and exhort one another (2:11-12).
  9. Thank God for when they receive the word of God as the word of God (2:13).
  10. TTYN: What are you most looking forward to doing? Why? What are you least looking forward to doing? Why? What looks like the easiest or most natural for you? What do you think is/will be the hardest? Why? What will require the most faith for you? Why?
How can this happen?
  1. Remember and remind each other of God's affectionate desire for us:
    1. Loved by God (1:4).
    2. Chosen by God (1:4).
    3. Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1:5). “Power (miraculous power, or power in preaching, or both), the Holy Spirit (manifestations of the Spirit’s approving presence), and full conviction (transparent sincerity and integrity, bringing certainty to the hearers’ minds).”
    4. Received the gospel with joy (1:6)
    5. Left old desires and gained new desires (1:9-10).
    6. Delivered.
    7. Approved by God (2:4).
    8. Entrusted with God’s gospel (2:4).
    9. The word of God is at work in you (2:13)
    10. Called into His kingdom and glory (2:13).
  2. TTYN: What excited you most on this list? Why? What is hardest for you to believe/accept? Why? What barriers are between these truths and your belief/acceptance of them? How will God and His body - the church - help you overcome them?
“Abide in me - make your home in me - and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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...I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me...I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 15:4-5; 17:23, 26).
Abide in me means to continue in a daily, personal relationship with Jesus, characterized by trust, prayer, obedience (see v. 10), and joy. Be at home in Jesus.

How do we do this at camp?

Every part of camp is designed to create community, which gives non-Christians a direct experience of Christ in us, and, we hope and pray, Christ Himself. All of it is experiencing and sharing life with others. Through this we are able to build relationships and share the gospel with our words and actions. In all these areas we hope and pray the students will see someONE different than the world. That someone not being ourselves but Jesus.

English groups: This is our main act of service. We create an environment where we teach and learn and build each other up with a Christ-like attitude - accepted as they are, whatever their English level and we help them improve.

Sports: We create an environment where we intentionally bring others into equal participation regardless of skill. The goal is not to win or to beat the other teams but to build stronger friendships through the activity of sports. This is a main place others will see Christ in us.

Evening Program: Having fun together. We have games, camp songs, the camp dance, a testimony, and a story from God’s word. More opportunities to reach outward and express your "affectionate desire" for them. Stand by someone new or different. Don't just participate in camp with your friends from Mladez.

Conversation groups: Creating an environment where students can be heard, their voice and presence can be affirmed and appreciated. We communicate who they are is worthwhile regardless of their mistaken beliefs. We want those beliefs to change, but in the meantime that does not make them as a person any less created by God in His image whom He desires to come to repentance and life.

Camp is...
A mid-year event. It is not the finish line, and it is not the beginning. Camp starts six month before - in the six months before camp it is your relationships, love, and boldness in reaching out to your friends and schoolmates that makes camp possible. You have to invite your friends and communicate your genuine desire for them to be there.

The six months after camp is continuing to live life in relationship with your friends and peers from camp. Your youth group vision must be lived before, during, and after camp:
1. Mission - service and gospel
2. Worship
3. Growth - relationship, discipleship

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10).

A tool in the greater picture of Christ’s commission. It is one week in one year in a whole life and community lived with this purpose: “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

A spiritual undertaking. English camp is not just an event. It is a place of spiritual battle. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:10-12). Satan hates us and does not want us to succeed. Nothing can stop God’s purposes, but Satan will do whatever he can to quench our witness through temptation, division, fear, sickness, and spiritual attack. We must fight the battle. Jesus has already won the war, so as His church we put on His armor and fight His way: 2 Cor. 10:3-6.

A response to Christ’s love for us and an act of love toward others. Remember, this is not in a vacuum. Camp isn’t happening on its own. Let camp be another response to Christ’s love for you and an act of love toward others. Are you responding to Christ’s love now? Start remembering and believing and responding to His love for you now!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Who is God? What does He do? Who does God say I am? = Who am I? What does God say I have? = What I have? Kairos youth group teaching, 01/10/2013

Text: Ephesians 1; Isaiah 28:15-19
If I could have a white board or one of the English camp boards with white paper, that would be great. If we have the board with paper, then I would also like some strong tape for hanging the paper up.

What do they need to know?
They need to know who they are in Christ.
Why do they need to know it?
The truth of who God made them sets them free from slavery to lies producing freedom expressed through joy and worship and obedience (a result of love).
What do they need to do?
They need to believe the truth about who God has made them and says they are instead of the lies told them by the world, people around them, and themselves.
Why do they need to do it?
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).
Where is the gospel?
The Christian's identity is purchased by Christ's obedience to the point of death on the cross and His resurrection and ascension in victory over Satan, sin, and death.
How can I help them remember?
Interactive study of Ephesians 1.

Me: I always tried to make changes by being sorry and working really hard to do the right thing. Why? I felt bad for sinning. I knew I wasn't doing what I ought, and I felt guilty, and I felt like I constantly disappointed God. He saved me, but He would rather me get everything right. "I have to forgive him again? Ugh, fine, here's more grace." That's what I thought God said. I didn't know who God very well, and I didn't know who I was. I was a Christian, but I didn't know what that meant. I thought I could lose God's love, and I thought He didn't want to continue giving me His love for this life. I was wrong.

We: We all need to know who we are, who God says we are. That is what really matters. Satan and our flesh would have us believe anything but that, and they are all lies, and they will enslave each and every one of us if we believe them, but God has the last word. So, tonight we are going to find out the truth of who God is and who we are, and Jesus said to those who believe in Him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:31-32 emphasis mine).

God: Tonight the word we will be studying is Ephesians 1. Now, the the book of Ephesians is in the New Testament, and it is a letter the apostle Paul wrote to the church in the city of Ephesus, which is in modern day Turkey, while he was a prisoner in Rome, and Ephesus loved false gods. They had some of the most stunning temples in the entire Roman Empire, and Paul is writing to the Christians, the church, in that city. And this is the word of God, which was written not only for their sake, but for yours and every other Christian around the world, for your instruction, to give you examples of rejecting God and following God, to teach you and reprove you and correct you and train you, so that you could praise God.[1] So, David is going to read Ephesians 1. Listen in. You got to turn off those mental mp3 players and cell phones we all have. This is FOR YOU. Translator reads Ephesians 1. Amen.

Alright, I am going to split you into groups and give each group a set of verses to look at. Each person will need a pen and a piece of paper. We are going to do a lot with this chapter, and I'm really excited for God to show you His love and truth tonight, and give you freedom.

Split youth group into groups of 3-5 students.

Alright, fold your paper in half hamburger style (across the middle horizontally). For three groups: Now, Group 1 has verses 1-8; group 2 has verses 9-16; and group 3 has verses 17-23. So, keep your paper folded and look at the top half of your paper. Write on it across the top, "Who is God? What does He do?" So, each group will look at their group's verses and write down your answers. Then each group will share with everyone else what they found. This is where we have to start on our journey into truth and freedom. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly... Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 10:10; 14:6). We need to know who God is first.

Time to study and write.

Alright, let's start sharing what God has taught us. During the sharing time, the translator or another volunteer who knows Czech will write down their answers via whiteboard or typed up on a projector.

This is awesome. God is showing Himself to you. Loot at who God is and what He does, and He has revealed Himself to us, to you, so that you could know Him! That is amazing. Do you believe all this? Not just here (point to head) but here (point to heart)? Pause.

Maybe right now you are realizing that some of these are hard for you to believe and accept; maybe some of these you do not believe and accept at all. This is where those lies in our life are fighting, and it's easy to believe them. We are used to them; they are normal and safe and comfortable for us, and they enslave us and steal our joy and hope and love and seek to destroy us. What are some of those lies you believe about who God is? These can from Satan - he is the accuser and father of lies - if you are hearing second person statements in your mind: "You're not worthy. You're not loved. You are disgusting," those are ACCUSATIONS. God does not speak to you that way; those are the words of the accuser; the world - messages from books, movies, songs, advertisements and more; and relationships - friends, parents, teachers, siblings, enemies, and more. For example, maybe your father or mother left and has pretty much abandoned the family, abandoned you, and his or her actions communicate, "I don't care. I won't take care of you. I don't love you," and many other statements, and the lie Satan, the world, and your flesh want you to believe is that God is the same way: He does not care. He won't take care of you. He doesn't love you. He will abandon you. And those statements are ALL LIES. Maybe you believe other lies. Maybe your teacher says that you are stupid and not worth anything, and you think that God says or feels or believes that you're stupid and not worth anything. Again, LIES. Maybe a guy or girl has rejected you and told you you're not acceptable because of your outward appearance, and you think God sees you the same way. LIES. Or maybe a guy or girl has accepted you because of your outward actions and appearance, and you think God accepts you the same way. LIES!

So, what do you think and feel about God that does not line up with what you just wrote down and shared, with who God is? Unfold your papers. On the back side on the half where you wrote down, "Who is God?" I want you to write, "Lies I am tempted to believe about God." Now, take some time individually to think and pray and ask God to show you what lies you are tempted to believe and do believe. Write those down, and if you know the reason why you are tempted to believe that lie and perhaps do believe it, you can write that down to. 

Time to think, pray, and write.

Alright, now I am going to have you back in your groups. I would like you each to share one lie you wrote down with your group, and if you see a truth about God that confronts that lie, share that too. If you do not want to, we will not make you share, but I encourage you to take a step of faith with God and your brothers and sisters in Christ and be vulnerable: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16);[2] and when you are listening, listen as Christ would. Christ receive the confession of sin and responds with love and forgiveness, and you are standing as His ambassador to be a vessel of His love and forgiveness in word and deed.

Time to share.

Okay, we're going forward. We are now going to look at ourselves. What? Yes, we are going to look at ourselves, but through a different set of eyes. Each group will have verses 1 and 2. Group 1 vv. 3-6; Group 2 vv. 7-11; and Group 3  vv. 12-14. On the bottom half of the truth side of your paper make three columns. At the top of the first column write, "Who does God say I am? = Who am I?" At the top of the second column write, "What does God say I have? = What I have?" And at the top of the third column write, "Why did God do this?" Each group will look at their sections verses and write down their answers. Then each group will share with the rest what they found.

Time to study and write.

Alright, let's start sharing what God has taught us. During the sharing time, the translator or another volunteer who knows Czech will write down their answers. I will also do some short explanations/fleshing outs of what the students share.

Wow, this is great stuff. Look at who God says we are, which is who we really are if we follow His Son. Look at what God says we have, which we really have if we follow His Son. Look at the reasons why God did all this! It's amazing. Do you believe all this? Not just here (point to head) but here (point to heart)?

What are some of those lies you believe about yourself? Again, these can from Satan, the world, and relationships. For example, maybe your father left, and in his actions he has told you, "You're not wanted, or you're not worth it, or you're on your own;" and the Satan and the world and your flesh want you to believe these are true, and all those statements are FALSE; THEY'RE LIES. Maybe a different lie you believe is, "I'm hopeless," because you keep sinning when you know you're not supposed to, and feel like you can't stop. That's a lie too! Other lies could be: I'm unloveable. I'm a lost cause. I need to protect myself.

So, what do you think and feel about yourself that does not line up with what you just wrote down and shared, with what God says about you and for you? Unfold your papers. On the back side on the bottom half I want you to write, "Lies I am tempted to believe about myself." Now, take some time individually to think and pray and ask God to show you what lies you are tempted to believe and do believe. Write those down, and if you know the reason why you are tempted to believe that lie and perhaps do believe it, you can write that down to.

Time to think, pray, and write.

Alright, now I am going to have you back in your groups. I would like you each to share one lie you wrote down with your group, and if you see a truth about God that confronts that lie, share that too. If you do not want to, we will not make you share, but I encourage you to take a step of faith with God and your brothers and sisters in Christ and be vulnerable. Remember, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16);[4] and when you are listening, listen as Christ would. Christ receive the confession of sin and responds with love and forgiveness, and you are standing as His ambassador to be a vessel of His love and forgiveness in word and deed.

Time to share.

Alright, let's bring it back up here. So, now what? God through Paul has just told us all these awesome, incredible, true things about God and us. What now? Paul knows that without God these words will never come on the page and make their home in our heads and hearts. He knows God has to press these deep onto our souls. So, what does he do? He prays. In verses 16-23 he is praying God would work in His children to know and believe all these things God has revealed about Himself and who we are in Him, and He finishes His prayer by reminding his readers of God's "immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe," the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is applied to making you remember and believe God's truth about Himself and you. David reads verses 16-23. So, what are we going to do? We are going to do exactly what Paul does after sharing these truths. We are going to pray. So, I want you to get back in your groups and pray verses 16-23 over one another, and after that David will close with prayer, and then we will get to respond with worship. Amen? Amen. Let's pray.

After worship.

You: So, you may be wondering where we go from here, when the night's over and tomorrow comes or next week comes or next month or next year, what's next? Fight to remember and believe these truths - Who God is and who you are and what you have and why He did it.

So, here are some ideas to help you fight to remember and believe:
  • Take your truth page home and hang it where you will see it regularly - bedroom, bathroom mirror, by your computer. Notice how we put the truths on the front and lies on the back. This way you have a visual reminder not only of the truth but also that the truth - Jesus - conquers the lies.
  • Read God's word, seriously, read it, by yourself and with other brothers and sisters. If you want to look especially at this topic, read Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians; and ask these same questions. And the next question after all these is, "How then am I called to live?" Remember, it is always who God IS and who you ARE before it's what you get to do :)
  • Confess and repent to Jesus and one another and love and forgive and pray for each other.
  • Journal: Journal out (write down) lies that you are believing, and it will help you see, "Okay, that’s a lie," and then write a Scripture or a truth. Ask yourself and say, “This is a lie. What’s a truth? What’s a counter response to this?” Journal those out, so that you can actually look and see, “Okay, I’m believing this lie again. What’s the truth?” And you may need to this for a while - there's nothing wrong with that - until God renews your mind in certain areas, because we are all prone to believing certain lies. So, I think it’s good to see it on paper and see that we actually are believing in certain lies.[4]
  • Go see Les Miserables together and ask, "What's true in this film? What's not true? What character(s) do I identify with most? Why? Where is God in my life?"
  • Visit the websites and Watch and listen to sermons. Read good, true articles and books that will point you to Christ and encourage your soul.
I thank God I got to be here and teach and walk through God's word with you all tonight. May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ multiply His grace and peace to you this year and all the years to come until He returns, and may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

[1] Romans 4:23-24; 15:4; 1 Corinthians 9:10; 10:6, 11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 102:18
[2] Cf. Prov. 28:13-14; Gal. 6:1-5; Matt. 18:15-35; 1 John 1:8-10
[3] Ibid.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sexting and the Vacuum

Sexting: the use of text messaging to send sexually suggestive texts and/or pictures to others. It is now being practiced more and more commonly by junior high and high school students (See: MTV Study on Digital AbuseThe "Sexting" CrazeU.S. judge rules for teen girls in "sexting" caseHype, Buzzwords, and Permanence of "Sexting"SextingSexting: Just a modern version of spin-the-bottle?; or watch these two videos: 1 and 2.)  And it is one way among many that young people are using to find the attention, affirmation, and affection they long for.

Sexting has painful consequences: the distribution of child pornography by minors, selfish and abusive and threatening relationships, blackmail, a complete twisting and distortion of honor and shame, right and wrong, what a healthy relationship based on love looks like (see my three part "Love" series: 12, and 3).

Now, many have concluded this is deviant behavior that ought not continue, but no one has a basis to say why.  "It's wrong because it's against the law," some say, "And look at all those negative consequences," others state, but why is it a law in the first place?  Why are these consequences negative?  Why are these costs considered 'too high'?  Without God (the Trinitarian God of the Bible) there is no basis for a satisfactory answer.  "Without God all is permissible." (Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment).  The Apostle Paul seems to endorse such a conclusion regarding the absence of objective meaning and morality apart from God when he says, "If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'" (1 Cor. 15:32).

Temporary (fleeting) physical pleasure and temporary (fleeting) attention, affirmation, and affection often outweigh, in our own minds and hearts, the consequences.  We are all looking for someone to say we are good enough, strong enough, beautiful enough, and etcetera, but it never fulfills: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus” (Blaise Pascal).

We search and we search for some person or some thing or some list of do's and don'ts  to give us the attention, affirmation, and affection we need.  But we're all broken people, and nothing and no one and no list of do's and don'ts is capable of closing and filling the "God shaped vacuum in [our] hearts."  Our sin tore us away from God and His all satisfying attention, affirmation, and affection.

And so God sent His Son: "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit...For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father" (1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:18).  The good news is God had a plan, and this plan was to send His Son, Jesus, who lived a perfectly obedient life and fulfilled our need for a perfect sacrifice for our sins.  He, Jesus, paid the debt of our sins on the cross, and He died, and three days later He rose from the dead, and His perfect life of obedience, His willing death, and His resurrection achieved for us forgiveness of sins and justification as He took our sins on the cross and gave us His righteousness, and ultimately, He brings us to God who loves us and gives Himself to us as a free gift of grace we receive by faith.

Therefore, when we seek the attention, affirmation, and affection we were created to have, God says, "Come home. Return to me and be healed. Turn away from your searching, your life of sin and shame; leave your broken cisterns and receive from me living water - my salvation - receive Me."[1] May today be the day of your salvation, and if you already believe in Christ and have received Him, may this reminder stir you up to love and good deeds, to remember and believe and truth the Father who with joy sent His Son for you, who's Son, with joy, went to the cross to bring you home to His Father who receives you with joy. Hallelujah! Praise His name. Amen.

[1] Maybe you are still wondering, "Why isn't forgiveness or a new life or heaven ultimately the good news? Why is God Himself the good news?" Good question. Here is one of the best responses:
"God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking his own praise is the ultimately loving act. For him self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When he does all things "for the praise of his glory" as Ephesians 1 says, he preserves for us and offers to us the only thing in all the world which can satisfy our longings. God is for us, and therefore has been, is now, and always will be, for himself. Praise the Lord! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord" (John Piper).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Pumped Up Kicks" and the Gospel

So, before you watch the video below and listen to the song I want to tell you it is very catchy and peppy, but the song is about brokenness and sin and evil. There isn't any profanity, but through some conversations with others I believe I need to put this disclaimer up. To read the lyrics click here.

This blog was inspired by a conversation I had with couple friends about a month ago. One was sharing how she was really upset that the radio stations were playing this song - a song about a boy who found his father's gun and killed his father and goes on to kill his peers (or at least muse about it). I hadn't heard the song yet, so I went home and checked it out. Yes, it is really catchy and upbeat and fun to sing, and it is about those dark topics and stories we rarely come in contact with until they are thrown in our face by circumstance or media.

What I heard in the song God used to stir me to compassion. There are young men and women all over this country in all of our schools and lives that are bitter and betrayed, disconnected, broken, forgotten, and outcast[1]. This song tells of a boy who is abused and unloved by his father, and finds solace at least in the thought of killing him and killing others.

Therefore, what are we to make of this song, the young men who wrote it, and the many who listen to it not because it is fun and catchy but because they resonate with the story of a young person in pain and anger? I believe it ought to stir us to compassion and evangelism. How many people around you and me need the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of redemption, that Christ took the wrath we deserved and cleanses and heals us from the sin committed against us? How many people around us who are bitter, betrayed, disconnected, broken, forgotten, and outcast are seen through the eyes of our flesh - strange, weird, amusing, not worth it - without grace - instead of through the eyes of Jesus Christ - "For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (1 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 12:2).

When we hear this song or other songs like it, may we be stirred to pray for more laborers to go into the harvest; may we pray for God to give healing and salvation to the writers and performers of these songs and to those represented by the song. May we remember that "God so loved the world [the world of people that did not know him and and who loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16; 1:10; 3:19) and do likewise: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34 cf. John 15:9, 12).

Finally, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned...Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's [Jesus] obedience the many will be made righteous...In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...[He has] come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in [Him] may not remain in darkness." (Romans 5:12, 18-19; John 1:4-5; 12:46).

[1] Gross, Craig, and Jason Harper. Jesus Loves You This I Know. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009. Print.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seeing the Trajectory

I was recently (within the last month or so) inspired to read Exodus.  I had listened to a couple sermons, and I wanted to begin diving into what these pastors were pointing at.[1]  That is the trajectory of the Old Testament to Jesus, looking at how the words of God in the Old Testament are "pregnant or round with the gospel"[2].

So, I've been reading the Exodus, and it has been incredible.  I am seeing Moses as a mediator in a whole new light.  It is even more clear and amazing how Christ is the new and perfect Moses.  Just as the physical tabernacle of the Jews were shadows of the heavenly tabernacle, so Moses is a shadow of God's ultimate mediator - His Son - Jesus.

I have been thinking about all the sacrifices and offering that were required of God's people - sin offering, burnt offering, grain offering, wave offering, drink offering, and etcetera.  Jesus did not just fulfill completely the sacrifice of atonement, but he accomplished and fulfilled the requirement of all of these offerings and sacrifices.  Whatever these offerings were supposed to accomplish but could not (Hebrews 10:4) Jesus accomplished in fullness in His life, death, and resurrection.

Today I was reading Exodus 33:12 - 34:16.  In these passages Moses pleads with God to be with him and the Israelites or not to lead them to the Promised Land at all.  God responds and declares He will be with them; He will give them rest; His people have found favor in His sight; He will make them distinct from the other nations; He knows His people by name.  Pregnant with the gospel.  Do you see Jesus and His work?

Jesus has made the plea and He Himself has responded; He is preparing us for and leading us into the Promised Land - eternity with him.  Jesus declares, "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20); He promises and gives us rest (Matthew 11:28-29; Ephesians 2:6); Jesus found favor (grace) in the eyes of His Father (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Ephesians 1:3); He has made us distinct from the rest of the world: "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. 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).  He knows us individually and personally (John 10:14, 27; 2 Timothy 2:19).  "Round with the gospel."

What a hope we have in Jesus!  No longer must we say, "Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people...If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”" (Exodus 33:13, 15-16).  We can and do proclaim, "Yes!  Because of Jesus we have found favor in your sight.  You have made us a people for yourself.  You do show us your ways (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 John 2:27)!

May we - His people - ever marvel more at the glorious sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ - taking the wrath of God and purchasing a people for Himself forever.  May more and more people all over the world - from every tribe, tongue, and nation - come to marvel at the glorious work of God their Savior. 

[1] Messages from the Gospel Coalition's 2011 National Conference:
[2] From Mike Bullmore's message at The Gospel Coalition's 2011 National Conference:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Promise Fulfilled

I gave my word to a friend I would have a new blog written by the end of the day.  This is me fulfilling that promise.

Josiah Venture: I am almost done with the application to be taken on as a full-time Josiah Venture missionary. One big personality/ministry profile test to go.

Josiah Venture 2: I will be going back to the Czech Republic this summer to co-lead an intern team with Tyler Patty.  I am really excited for who God is bringing together and what He has planned for this coming summer.  I am thankful to once again be a laborer sent to fields white for harvest.

Books: I just started Love Wins by Rob Bell at the encouragement of two friends - Matt and Tim.  So, we'll see how that goes.  I'll be sharing my thoughts on this book with all of you from time to time right here.

Prayer Requests: Continued growth and maturity in life and faith.  Preparing for leadership and ministry this summer.  Boldness and courage in speaking the truth in love whether that is confronting sin or foolish decisions or sharing the gospel with friends and strangers.

Sermons: I recently listened to sermons from John Piper on spiritual gifts.  They are fantastic.  Head over to to listen to, watch, read, or download them.  They are "Spirtual Gifts", "Faith: The root and trait of all spiritual gifts", "Using Our Gifts in Proportion to Our Faith Parts 1, 2, and 3".  Enjoy :)  I'll be listening to Matt Chandler's sermons from his series through Habakkuk.  You can listen to or read them here.

Good times: I cut my hair and beard (Thank you, Rachel, for the extra nudging.  Many people are very grateful).  I turned 23: morning and afternoon with my dad, dinners with family and friends, one of them being my first steakhouse dinner with my first steak and red wine pairing.  It was fantastic.  Also, I got to enjoy some red wine and dark chocolate for my birthday with friends as well.

Grace Groups: I'm in a Grace Group going through Book 2.  If you don't know what a Grace Group is, just click here.  Good, tough stuff.

Movies: Recently, I have had the opportunity to enjoy some really good movies.  I humbly recommend "Get Low" with Robert Duvall and Bill Murray, "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" with Michael Cera, "It's Kind of a Funny Story" with Zach Galifinakis, and "RED" with Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman.  Check them out at your leisure.  They are all worth seeing.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

San Antonio

It is nearly two months since my feet touched down on American soil.  After seven months abroad, I've learned that the soil itself feels the same nearly everywhere; it is the newness of what you have known and experienced before that can be a bit dizzying.

I have enjoyed the "culture shock moments" of being back - a toilet swirl, the American social, conversational murmur, pricier food, driving again, having conversations exclusively in English, and returning to my home church - Wayside Chapel.  I think it looks a bit like being at college, and you have only eaten cafeteria food for a whole semester.  Then you return home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Suddenly it's family and friends and incredible amounts of food all at once, and you love it, but it can be overwhelming at times, especially if you eat too much.

So, good times (Tak, dobrý časy).  It was an incredible time in the Czech, and I miss living there - the friends, the food, the places; and it has been a blessing to be back.

More to come here in the days and weeks ahead.  I am looking forward to blogging once again.