Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Grace & The Wild Man

We took a break from studying Acts last night in youth group (had a topical lesson). So, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you a story about God’s transforming grace. It involves a close friend (the wild man) and God’s way of transforming him (His grace & Holy Spirit). I’ll let you listen to his words as he shares his testimony.

“Hello everyone. For those who don't know me I am an old childhood friend of Tim (And can provide many embarrassing stories). I've recently come to the family of God these past two weeks, and the changes have been profound. Although he had been calling me for years I used every fiber of my being to resist him. My mission was to have fun and Christians don't have fun following all of those rules right? However, many signs were sent to me that couldn't be ignored which ultimately changed my life forever. Everything is so much sweeter through him, and life has definitely been more fun. A small army that has been praying for me the past 27 years supported this. I emphasize this point for those of you who have been praying for something you feel will never happen. The first major lesson I have learned is that I am on his schedule, he is not following mine. The second lesson is that I never want to lose this feeling. How many of us fall in routines in our daily lives, and it is so easy to make worship a routine. Reflect upon those first few weeks you became a Christian. It feels like a fireball is going to jump out of you because you want to tell the world about your newfound experiences with God. I already know that it's going to keep getting better, and I am anxious to see what he has in store for me.”
- Todd Spangler

So, for any doubters or skeptics out there, watch out. BEWARE OF GOD! Be very cautious, because you never know when or where you might encounter the living God. He has invaded our planet and is seeking us out. And He has the power to transform anyone; no one is out of reach for Him.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Conflicting ideas (Acts 15)

Acts 15:36-41 contains another awkward moment (there’s a lot of those in the Bible). It’s kind of uncomfortable having it in our Bible. Paul and Barnabas, both of which are godly Spirit filled men, have a fall out. Barnabas wants his relative Mark to go along on a strengthening trip with Paul. Paul objects on the grounds that John Mark earlier deserted them (Acts 13:13). Then, something rather odd happens. Paul and Barnabas have a “sharp disagreement.”

The Greek word used here for “sharp disagreement” is the word paroxysmos. Simply put, it means a heated discussion. So heated in fact, it led to Paul and Barnabas splitting ways (v. 39). Two Christian men who disagree over something so strongly that it caused them to split ways. Does this whole situation or conflict between these two unnerve you a little? It does me. But, like I said last week, I hate conflict!

For kicks and giggles: I found a great quote that goes along with this, written by Phillip Melanchthon.

“In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In all things charity.”

Just some simple questions to throw at you this week:

- Do you think this “sharp disagreement” should have even come up?
- Who do you think was right in this argument?
- Who would you have sided with in this argument?
- Paul or Barnabas?
- Why?

*Side note: This may make you feel a little better about this whole situation. It seems this “sharp disagreement” wasn’t the death of Paul, Barnabas, and Mark’s friendship. Check out these verses where Paul mentions them: 1 Corinthians 9:6, 2 Timothy 4:11, Colossian 4:10.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Conflict (Acts 15)

I hate conflict and I have no problem admitting it. (Although I do enjoy watching it unfold in the lives of other people. I know, I’m sick.) Why is it that we can watch talk shows, reality shows, and any other type of media piece and get excited because something conflicting happens? Another confession: I think reality shows are boring unless there happens to be a fight (conflict) of some sorts taking place. There’s irony in all this (and maybe a seed of selfishness) because when conflict enters my own personal space I become livid and wish it were never there.

Acts 15 (Click to read) is one of those passages in our Bible that makes you scratch your head and speculate. “What was Luke thinking putting this here?” or “Why did God allow this to be placed in His Word?” Like the whole David and Bathsheeba story, truth is on display. If this portion of scripture never appeared, we might not have known how a Christian is to work things out when he is in disagreement with another Christian. Or how to handle conflict within our churches. We also see in this chapter of Acts that Christians can disagree with one another and work the conflict out. This passage also shows God at work in the hearts and minds of those who love Him (See Acts 15:28).

Here’s what I observed from this passage on dealing with conflict:

1. The issue was addressed and dealt with. (v. 2) Paul and Barnabas never denied the severity of the problem. But, more importantly, they never denied dealing with it. A lesson to be learned by all of us. When conflict arises deal with it! Especially conflict within the your church. Don’t shrug it off and hope for it to disappear, because it could cause rotting. For Paul and Barnabas, this meant going straight to the source (Jerusalem) of where the issue arose. They didn’t hesitate or wait around for it to just go away, they acted as if it were their main concern for the moment.

2. A solution was offered. (v. 19-21) Trouble was brewing for the Gentile Christians. Imagine hearing from your pastor that in order for you to continue being a Christian, you have to slice off a chunk of flesh from your body? And if you don’t, you’re going to be cast out of the church. If there were no solution to this and Sunday after Sunday you heard it, what would you think? You were just told by someone else that 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 (Romans 10:13). Now, something else has been added to that! You’ve been duped! Thank God the elders and apostles came up with a solution to the problem together. (See Acts 15:24-29)

Questions to consider:
- What are some ways you deal with conflict?
- How does that measure up with Acts 15?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Revival (Dr. Tom Hermiz)

No youth group last night. Our church was in a 4-day revival with Dr. Tom Hermiz (excellent preacher of God’s Word!). So, I thought I would share a little on that this week. Feel free to share your thoughts on it too.

Psalm 80:18b reads, “revive us, and we will call on your name.” Our church tasted revival this week. It was a magnificent time! It was a very sweet tasting meal for me personally. God brought me to my knees in a full surrender to Him. What a wonderful scary moment that was!

Revival is a much-needed event for the soul and Body of Christ (Church). In the words of one of our former evangelist, “It’s the nature of a fire to go out.” I notice this happens often after revival ends and the nitty gritty of life smacks us in the face. Our blazing fires dwindle down to a flicker (if it doesn’t go out completely) amongst the world. But, what if something is different this time? What if the fire doesn’t dwindle or go out but grows bigger?


What if in our search for God, we have actually discovered Him? We’ve discovered the God of the universe, the Divine Being who created everything, stars, planets, space, time, animals, oxygen, humans, and life. Is He not big enough to keep your fire burning? Before you answer skeptically consider our sun. Its been burning for at least 5,000 years (sustained by God). I believe God loves us more than that gigantic fireball in the sky. So much more that He would give us a helper (the Holy Spirit) to guide us, empower us, and help us to love God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and, to love our neighbor as ourselves. He (this is scary) lives within us as the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Below are some practical tips I’ve received over the years and things I believe the Holy Spirit has taught me to help the revival fire continue to burn in my heart. Take them for what they’re worth. If you have any others be sure to let everyone else know about them.

Post-revival advice:

- Stay involved in Church. Make attending Church a priority in your life. No matter the cost, be there. Maybe you need to make some adjustments in your work schedule, don’t hesitate but do what needs to be done to ensure you can attend. I think there’s a direct connection between fires dwindling in our hearts and how involved we are with Church. Look at what happened because you attended church for revival. Maybe you only made it 1-2 nights, but evaluate how it made you feel and the change that took place because you were there.

- Stay involved in God’s Word. Do not let your Bible collect dust. Open it up and read it. Even if you don’t understand fully what you are reading…read it! I believe things happen when we read God’s Word with a desire to know Him better. Things I can’t explain logically. Things like, the Word entering our lives and sticking to our hearts, sticking in our minds, reminding us of our hope in Jesus Christ, and giving us a godly zeal for holiness. Remember what Jesus said about the Word of God? “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

- Stay involved with the Truth. Just because you don’t feel like you did when revival was happening doesn’t mean the fire has gone out. A lot of us base faith on our feelings. So, naturally we’re up and down and all over the map spiritually. Why? Because that’s what our feelings do. But, I challenge you to trust in the facts. Trust in God’s Word. Base faith on the Rock. And I’m talking about Jesus Christ! What does He tell you? Does He suggest that because you don’t feel like a Christian that you aren’t? No! Does He suggest that because you don’t feel happy that you aren’t in love and sold out to Him? No! Does He suggest that because you don’t fully understand terminology like sanctification, progressive sanctification, and entire sanctification that it hasn’t occurred or is occurring in your life? No! He does say, “Whoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life.” That’s Truth!
(Read 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 for another dose of absolute Truth!)

Once again I don’t claim this list to be comprehensive and I know there are a million more ways and things to do to keep the revival fire burning in our hearts. Maybe some of you would testify to your revival experience(s). Thanks for reading and I encourage you to support your local church with your time, talents, and money.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ideas for Discipling (Acts 14)

We had a wonderful District Midwinter Retreat 4 weeks ago! The theme was taken right from the pages of the Bible. “Follow the Leader” based on Luke 9:23. “If anyone would come after me, he should deny him/herself and take up his/her cross daily and follow me.” We looked closely at discipleship and what it truly means to be following Christ. Kevin beautifully delivered the hard to hear message of discipleship, discipleship that stems from a thriving and fresh relationship with Jesus the Christ.

Acts 14 gives a little information on how Paul and Barnabas discipled the early Christians. In v. 22, Luke uses the word strengthening to describe one of their actions. In Greek the word is episterizo. A verb meaning: to confirm more, strengthen more, and establish more in the faith. Which got me thinking…what are we doing to confirm each other more in the faith, to strengthen each other more in the faith, and establish each other more in the faith? So, I brainstormed 20 ideas you can use to get involved in doing such a task.

Ideas on ways to disciple yourself and one another:

1. Find an accountability partner of the same sex. One whom you can meet with regularly to confess sins, struggles, and pray with.
2. Start a small group of accountability partners to meet with regularly. Like a guy’s or girl’s accountability group. Keep these groups the same sex as yourself (makes sharing personal things a little more comfortable). Plan out the specifics of what you will discuss each week and keep focus on that.
3. Ask someone to be your weekly prayer partner. Meet each week outside of church to pray for one another.
4. Start a weekly prayer group to meet at church. Spend time praying for one another, your youth group, your local church, and God’s Church around the world.
5. Ask your pastor if he has any discipleship materials for you to use. If he doesn’t, he’ll love finding you something!
6. Start a Bible study outside of church. Maybe before or after school.
7. Use the Lectio Divina Bible study series from the Beacon Hill Press and Wesleyan Publishing House.
8. Use the Life Change Series of Bible studies for in depth studies of individual books of the Bible.
9. After you finish going through a particular Bible study, ask someone else if they would be interested in having you take them through it.
10. Memorize portions of Scripture such as a Psalm, Beatitudes, and other favorite verses.
11. Buy a set of 5’ x 7’ index cards and write your favorite Bible verses on them and post them in places you frequent and see a lot of. (e.g. Car, bathroom, dresser, locker, notebook, kitchen, microwave, bedroom, mirror, friend’s back, TV, radio, and any other place you visit a lot.)
12. Attend church regularly. Essential to being a disciple.
13. Get involved in helping out at your local church. Ask your pastor(s) for ways you can serve others through the ministries of the church.
14. Ask a friend to join you in reading through a particular book of the Bible. (e.g. John, Acts, Galatians, etc.)
15. Find a special place around town or in your house where you can go to be alone. Spend this time in prayer.
16. Use this same special place to meditate on portions of Scripture.
17. Find a good book on the spiritual disciplines and read it with a friend (e.g., Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, With Unveiled Faces by Keith Drury).
18. Attend Sunday school regularly.
19. Bring a notepad and your Bible with you to every church service. This way you can follow along and keep notes on the sermons or lessons being taught.
20. Carry your Bible, journal, and notebook everywhere you go. This way if you ever have to wait or have nothing to do, you can pull it out and start reading and writing about what you read.

I’m sure there are a million more ideas on ways to disciple yourself and others. This is just a quick brainstorm I had. If you have any others please suggest them! Any suggestions, comments, new ideas, are more than welcomed! Thanks and I hope this helps someone!