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October 9, 2012

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Local Church

It is a humbling privilege to know that someone is praying for you and pastors frequently hear this from members of their congregation how they are praying for them, for strength, wisdom and a growing, deepening love for Jesus Christ and His Church.  I'll never take those prayers for granted either and how grateful I am to hear that there are people praying for me and the other pastors I work with.  It truly is humbling.

The Apostle Paul, I'm sure, had others praying for him, but we often read in his epistles how he prayed often for other churches and their leaders.  It's a model that the local church can put into practice immediately too.

On Sunday evening, September 30th, I had the privilege to preach from 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 that described that very habit of the Apostle Paul.

In this sermon, the following points are identified:
  1. The Gratitude of His Prayer
  2. The Discipline of His Prayer
Then there are three things that the Apostle Paul is specifically thankful for with regard to this local church:
  1. Their work for Christ
  2. Their love to serve Christ
  3. Their persistence of hope in Christ
These three things that Paul is thankful for, relate to the 3 cardinal graces of the Christian life: Faith, Hope and Love.  1 Corinthians 13:13.



May this be an encouragement to you and the pastor(s) of your church and if we may have the privilege to pray for them, please let me know.  We would love to pray for them.


Faithfully in Christ,

Pastor Kurt

October 6, 2012

RADICAL: Day 3, WHERE IS YOUR TREASURE



We've been conditioned to expect not only having our cake but eating it too.  Nowhere is this more visible than in our commitment to our possessions.  Despite the warnings over and over in Scripture about the danger of wealth and money, as well as exhortations to give freely and sacrificially, we continue to find any way we can to justify our excess.

Materialism, maybe more than anything else,  stands in opposition to the call to follow Jesus.  It certainly did for the potential follower in Mark 10 who has come to be known as the rich young ruler.
  • Read Mark 10:17:31.  Does this man seem as though he genuinely want to follow Jesus?  Why or why not?
  • Does Jesus' response surprise you at any point?  Why or why not?
  • If a man like the rich young ruler had come to you asking a similar question, how would you have responded?  Why?

This guy was young, rich, intelligent, and influential.  He was a prime prospect for the Kingdom, eager and ready to go.  If we were in Jesus' place, we might have been salivating at the opportunity.   Think about what a guy like this with all his influence and prestige, could do.  It's a no-brainer; we have to get him in.

Unfortunately, Jesus didn't have the personal-evangelism books we have today that tell us how to draw the net and close the sale.  Rather than leading him through a simple prayer, Jesus gave him something else to do: "You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow Me. (Mark 10:21)
  • Why do you think Jesus responded this way 
  • What does the young man's ultimate reaction reveal about the way he felt about his possessions?

Jesus is nothing if not consistent.  It's the same call He issued throughout all the Gospels to His would-be disciples: "Come, but when you come, leave everything else behind."

But let's not neglect the second half of Jesus' invitation: Come, follow Me (v. 21).  Jesus wasn't just calling the man away from his treasure: He was calling him toward greater treasure.  This is very important because if we aren't careful, we can misrepresent these radical calls to abandonment and think Jesus doesn't want the best for us.

On the contrary, Jesus loves us so much that He's unwilling for us to settle for less than the best.
  • Reread the previous sentence.  Where do you see that principle at work in the story of the rich young ruler?
  •  At what point did Jesus love the man in verse 21?
  •  Why is that significant?

Jesus looked at the man and loved him.  It was from this love that Jesus gave the call to radical abandonment.  Jesus wasn't trying to strip this man o fall his pleasure.  Instead, He was offering him the satisfaction of eternal treasure.  Jesus was saying, It'll be better not just for the poor, but for you as well when you abandon the stuff you're holding on to."

Read Matthew 13:44.  How is the truth of this parable similar to the story of the rich young ruler?

Notice in this parable that the finder of the treasure didn't begrudgingly sell his property.  Instead, he recognized the true value of what he had found and in joy sold everything he had.  Why?  Because he had found something worth losing everything for.

This is the picture of Jesus in the Gospels.    He is someone worth losing everything for.  If we walk away from the Jesus of the Bible, we might be richer on earth, but we sacrifice eternal life and riches.  However, when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to Jesus' radical invitation, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing Him.


THE QUESTION IS WHETHER
 WE REALLY BELIEVE HIM TO BE WORTH IT.

October 3, 2012

RADICAL: Day 2 - A CALL TO DIE



What if Jesus was serious?

It’s a haunting thought isn’t it?  The implications are staggering.  They shake the core of what we think we believe as Christians.  The truth is that people in many parts of the world take Jesus’ words seriously.  People abandon their families and careers.  They have to when they’re threatened with persecution and mistreatment.  They’re living the truth of Luke 9.

  • Read Luke 9:57-62.  Record what Jesus claimed was the cost of following Him. 
  • How do we misunderstand these words of Jesus when we don’t take them literally?

 Three men approached Jesus, eager to follow Him.  It would have been an evangelist’s dream.  All that was left for Jesus to do was to walk through the Roman Road or lead them in a sinner’s prayer.  Right?

But in surprising fashion.  Jesus seems to have tried to talk them out of following Him.  To the first man Jesus said to expect homelessness on the journey ahead because followers of Christ aren’t guaranteed that even their basic need for shelter would be met.  To the second man Jesus said there’s a higher priority than even the closest familial relations.  To the third Jesus said being in a relationship with Him requires total, superior and exclusive devotion.

Become homeless.  Let someone else bury your dad.  Don’t even say good-bye to your family.

  • What do you imagine the response would be if such a sermon were given in a North American church today? 
  • Read Luke 14:25-35.  In one sentence what was Jesus’ core message in this teaching?
Jesus never sugarcoated His message.  He didn’t play it down in order to gain popularity.  He never glossed over it in order to increase His influence.  He alswyas told people the truth.  But even after two thousand years we’re still trying to find loopholes in the cost of following Christ.

That’s the whole point of Luke 14:25-35: to consider what we’re getting into before we do.  Following Jesus isn’t meant to be an add-on to real life, whereby we can do other things and follow Jesus too.  The call to follow Christ is the only thing.  It’s all or nothing.
  • Read Luke 9:23.  Why do you think Jesus chose the image of the cross to describe following Him?
This verse takes counting the cost to another level.  In fact, for Jesus’ original audience the teaching would have been even more scandalous.  We lose some of the impact when we read it today, but for the original hearers the cross wasn’t a bumper sticker or a piece of jewelry.  It was a mark of shame and death.  Crucifixion remains the most brutal form of execution ever devised. 

Jesus was calling His followers to pick up an instrument of torture to follow Him.  If someone was carrying a cross through town, nobody wondered where he or she was going.  There was no hope left for them.  No dreams.  No aspirations.  No hope of escape.  Their fate was sealed.

That’s what Jesus compared the Christian life to.  It’s first and foremost a call to die.
  • What parts of life are you still clinging to? 
  • If you took seriously the call to die, what are some practical ways your life would have to change?
Carrying the cross has a finality to it.  It’s about giving up any claim on your life.  That’s what it really means to call Jesus Lord.  It means  He is your Master and your King.  He has ultimate ownership over you, and that ownership transcends your desires, perceived needs and dreams. 

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK?

HAVE YOU REALLY COUNTED THE COST?

October 1, 2012

RADICAL: Day 1 - FOLLOW ME

Yesterday began our first DVD study session of David Platt's book RADICAL and I was challenged from reading just the first chapter of the book as well as from session 1 of the DVD.

One of the resources that we'll be utilizing throughout this study will be the study guide, which has just a few pages of thoughts, recommended passages to read from the Bible and questions to answer as well.

Since our study guides weren't available to be distributed on Sunday (mostly my fault), I decided to type those pages each day and send them to our small group and then I thought, why not share it with my blog too.  So, I will.

Each day this week, I'll post what we've been given to follow up on for our next study.  I realize that those who are reading these posts aren't part of the small group, but maybe through what we are being challenged with, you may be too and maybe you'll want to see this curriculum offered at your church.

So here is DAY 1.  FOLLOW ME.

Picture the scene with me. It’s a clear day out on the lake. Two brothers are fishing, and the catch is good. They already know this is going to be a good day, and they’re excited about totaling up the final catch at day’s end.

They hear someone talking to them from the shore a short way off. They shield their eyes from the sun and cock their heads to listen. They’re able to distinctly make out the two words that would change the rest of their lives:  “Follow Me.”

Read Matthew 4:18-22. Why do you think Jesus called Peter and Andrew to follow Him rather than believe in Him?


  • How are following Jesus and believing in Jesus linked together?
  • What did abandonment require for the early disciples identified in this passage?
“Follow Me.” These two words contained radical implications for the lives of the disciples. In a time when the sons of fishers were also fishers, these men would have grown up around the sea. Fishing was their source of their livelihood and all they had ever known. It represented everything familiar and natural to them.

That’s what Jesus was calling them away from.

Look back at the passage again. What, specifically, did these men have to leave in order to follow Jesus? List those things udner LEFT BEHIND. Then list udner WHAT IT REPRESENTED those things that are represented by what they left.

LEFT BEHIND





WHAT IT REPRESENTED





By calling these men to leave their boats, Jesus was calling them to abandon their careers. When He called them to leave their nets, he was calling them to abandon their possessions. When He called them to leave their father in the boat by himself, He was calling them to abandon their family and friends. Ultimately, Jesus was calling them to abandon themselves.

The men were leaving certainty for uncertainty, safety for danger, and self-preservation for self-denunciation. Let’s put ourselves in the positions of these eager followers of Jesus in the first century. What if you were the one stepping out of the boat? What if you were the potential disciple being told to drop your nets? What if it were your father asking where you were going?
  • Put yourself in the boat that day. How do you honestly think you would have responded?
  • What would have been the most difficult part of following Jesus in that moment? Why?
  • Do you think most Christians have had to leave much to follow Jesus? Why or why not?
This is where we need to pause to consider whether we’re starting to redefine Christianity. We have to give up everything we have to follow Jesus. But slowly, subtly, we have reduced following Jesus to the idea of following Jesus.

We do this in all sorts of ways. We rationalize Jesus’ demanding teachings: “Of course, Jesus wasn’t actually telling you to abandon your family. And of course, He wasn’t really saying to leave everything behind to follow Him.” While it’s true that Jesus didn’t – and doesn’t – require everyone to leave their father and the occupation to follow Him, He does require absolute obedience and commitment. Rather than joyfully embracing His call, we have the self-serving tendency to water it down to be theoretical sacrifice and hypothetical abandonment. We want to follow a Jesus that doesn’t require anything of us.


  • Have you ever rationalized like this when reading Jesus’ words? Do you remember a specific occasion?
  • Why do you think we do this?
In essence, we’ve redefined Christianity. We’ve given in to the dangerous temptation to take the Jesus of the Bible and twist Him into a version of Jesus we’re more comfortable with. It’s a Jesus who’s OK with our materialism, fine with nominal devotion that doesn’t require any sacrifice, and please with a brand of faith that requires attendance on Sunday but no real commitment in day-to-day life.

But I wonder if I could help you push through the haze of self-justification and ask a simple question as we study the words of Christ together:

WHAT IF HE WAS ACTUALLY SERIOUS?