Monday, August 14, 2017

Unknown


God had sent Paul on a missionary journey and one of his stops was in Athens.  He needed to stay there while he was waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him.  It is during this time that he gave one of his most famous sermons at a place called Mars Hill.   I’ve highlighted verse 23 because there is a lot we can learn from his style of engaging with people who don’t necessarily see the world as you or I might.

Acts 17:23
 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.


Things to think about:
·      I love this little excerpt because it says so much about how to reach people.
o   I walked around
§  Paul was in Greece, a very foreign place for a well-bred Jew.  Rather than keep to himself, he went about into the area and explored it.
o   I looked carefully at your stuff
§  He made it a point to be observant of their culture, the things that were of interest to the local people.
o   I especially remember this one thing
§  Paul calls out on item in particular that gave him a point of connection from which he could share the good news.
·      Paul was very intentional in his approach. He got out of his comfort zone and steeped himself in the culture of the folks of Athens.  He wanted to know what they believed, not just tell them what he believed. He even identified a specific, relevant example that provided a door through which he and they could walk.
o   What else do you notice about Paul’s style of engagement?
o   How different of an approach is that compared to today where many just want to scream/tweet louder than the next person?
·      Let’s get level set on what’s going on here and take a step back:
o   While he was mingling with the locals, he spoke with all kinds, not just likeminded people (Jews, God-fearing Greeks, as well as whoever happened to be there). Paul was not an intellectual or religious snob.
o   Just like today, there were hyper-liberals (Epicureans) and hyper-conservatives (Stoics). And just like today, they insulted him by calling him a babbler and peddler of weird ideas.
o   They basically put him on their version of a talk show to interview him on his wacky philosophy.  It is at this point he makes his observation about their altar to an Unknown God.
·      He effortlessly pivots from this Unknown God to the one true God who created everything, gives life to everyone, as well as everything we need.   For in Him we live and move and have our very being.
o    God determined the times and places of all human history so men might seek Him and reach out to Him, though He is not far from each of us.
§  He is still doing this today! You are who you are and where you are by His perfect design so you can know Him.
·      But the real stumper for the men of Athens was the assertion that Jesus was raised from the dead.
o   vv. 30-34 - …but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead. When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. 
·      Did you ever think that in 2017 you would wind up where you live? (I didn’t!)  But here we are by God’s perfect plan.
o   If you haven’t already, now is a good time to seek Him and reach out to Him.  In Him we have our very being!
o   If you have already taken the step of faith and turned to the one God has made Judge, then how can you take a lesson from Paul to understand other’s points of view and have rational discussions to shed truth amid darkness?

o   Not everyone will believe but that is between him or her and God.  The important thing is that we partake in His work and help others to believe in The Known God.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Fake News



“Fake News” is defined as the intentional dissemination of false or misleading information.  This is not a new phenomenon and is as old as time. If the Gospel is the Good News, then what is some of the fake news being circulated?  Let’s be good journalists and ask the key questions any good cub reporter would.

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

Things to think about:
 WHO   
·      Who is Jesus Christ?
o   Fake news says He was a good person, a wise teacher, a prophet, but He is not God
o   The Gospel says in John chapter 1:1-3 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
o   Who do you say He is? 
o   Who have you said earlier in your life?
·      Who am I?
o   Fake news says either “you’re a pretty good person” so just keep doing what your doing and don’t think about it too much, OR “you’re worthless” and how could God ever accept someone like you?
o   The Gospel says in Galatians 4:6-7 – “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
o   Who do you say you are?
o   Have you always felt this way?

WHY
·      Why do we need Jesus?
o   Fake news says you don’t need Him! Just try to be a good person and it’ll all work out. Besides, you don’t want to be one of those religious, crazy, right-wing zealots who looks down their noses on other people.
o   The Gospel says in Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life Christ Jesus our Lord.”
o   Why do you believe you do or don’t need Jesus?

WHAT
·      What do I need to do to be a son of God?
o   Fake news says go to church, give some money, and try not to do any of the really bad sins (or at least don’t get caught).
o   The Gospel says in Romans 10:9 - If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 
o   What do you need to do to be a son or daughter of God?
·      What happens after this life is over?
o   Fake news says nothing happens that’s consequential.  You die and you turn into worm food.
o   The Gospel says in Matthew 25:46, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
o   What do you believe happens when you take your last breath?
o   What if you’re wrong?
WHEN
·      When do I need to make a decision?
o   Fake news says you don’t. See talking points for Who am I? Why do I need Jesus? What happens after this life is over?
o   The Gospel says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
o   What is keeping you from saying Yes today?

o   When will be the right time if not today?

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Uncharted Waters


The fourteenth chapter of Exodus is the well-known story of Moses parting the Red Sea. Sometimes remarkable things can become so familiar to us that they lose their impact and thus their ability to rouse us.  May God renew and refresh this story in our minds as a testament to His unmatchable presence and power. Moreover, we can see in this historical account parallels to another dead-end God engineered a solution for, the penalty for sin.

Exodus 14:16
“Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”

Things to think about:
·       You will remember that the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for over 400 years.  God had chosen Moses to be the deliverer of the people from slavery to freedom in the Promised Land.  After the multiple plagues God inflicted on the Egyptians, (culminating with the Passover) Pharaoh finally relented and let the Israelites go free.
o   Just as the Hebrews were captives, we too are told that we were slaves to sin (Romans 6:20)
·      But, as the people were heading out into the desert to begin their journey, Pharaoh once again had a change of heart and began chasing the Israelites down with the full force of his army.
o   Even though we have been set free from the power and penalty of sin, our adversary has not given up (1 Peter 5:8)
·      Led by a great cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, the angel of the Lord took them on a circuitous route that brought them to a dead-end at the Red Sea.  With Pharaoh’s army breathing down their necks, the Hebrews wondered aloud why they hadn’t just remained in Egypt as slaves rather than get crushed by the Egyptian army.
o   Many people mistakenly believe that following Jesus will make all of their problems go away.
§  What would you say to somebody who is either espousing this perspective or who hopes it’s true?
o   In the previous chapter, we learn that the long way they took was no accident or miscalculation
§  Ex. 13:17-18 - “God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.”
o   God rarely takes a straight path but He always knows where He’s taking us.
§  Why do you think God operates this way?
§  In verses 4 and 18 He tells us why – “I will gain the glory..”
§  He leaves no room for our pride to be stroked through our own cleverness or strength.  If only God can do the impossible then only God gets the glory.
·      Then “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
o   Moses’ faith was strong, even in the face of hostility and facts that belied his unwavering belief.
o   Are you standing before uncharted waters today with friends or family asking you what in the world you think you’re doing?
·      Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”

o   They had to literally step out in faith and walk through the path God had provided
o   Faith plus action equals God’s provision
o   Why must our faith be joined by action?
o   Are you in a situation currently where it’s time to “move on”?
·      Here at the Red Sea, God made a path from certain death to life.  It required nothing less than a miracle.
o   Just as Moses raised his staff to part the waters, God raised up His Son to create a route to Himself
o   John 14:6 - Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
§  What are other routes people try besides God’s way?
§  How many miracles can you think of with respect to our salvation?
·      And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
o   And so we see that God got the glory then and even today as we continue to honor and praise Him for what He has done
·      What Pharaoh (fear-aoh) is chasing you down today?
o   Does it feel like God is taking you down the longer, slower route?
o   How does today’s study encourage to both “be still” and “move on”?

o   Remember, all of this is happening for God to get the glory!