Saturday, October 2, 2010

Share and Prayer Experience 6- God Calls Us to Take Risks for the Gospel

Monday July 12th

The miracles that God worked through Moses challenged the many gods of Pharaoh. Yet, in another time, there was a Pharaoh who promoted the belief in one deity. Pharaoh Akhenaten pointed to the rising and setting sun as the great deity who gave life to the earth. His religious symbol for Aton, the sun god, was represented by a single disc of light with emanating rays. Though this Pharaoh’s idea came closer to the one God of the Bible, it was still idolatry.
When Paul addressed the people in Athens, he was grieved by the idolatry in that city. Yet he used the people’s imperfect understanding of God to point them to the God of Scripture. Of their efforts in trying to find God, Paul said: “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24).
In our increasingly pluralistic world, the people around us may worship a multiplicity of deities. Yet their spiritual journey need not end there. We never know when someone might be moving toward the kingdom of God. Following the example of Paul, we should respect a person’s religious background, watch for spiritual receptivity, and then point him or her to the one true God of Scripture.

A Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to lead the lost away from all that is false. And to lead them to You—the one and only God— who alone offers true life. Amen.

God alone is worthy of our worship.

Tuesday July 13th

Francis Chan, in his book Crazy Love, tells of a family with an interesting Christmas tradition. On Christmas morning, the Robynson family doesn’t focus on opening presents under the Christmas tree. Instead, they make pancakes and coffee, and serve the breakfast to the homeless. This is a small but creative way to show God’s love and generosity to the poor.
God expected this kind of generosity from His people. In Deuteronomy 15, Moses emphasized the reality of poverty and how the more affluent must deal with it. They were warned of four dangers:
A hard heart, ignoring the needs of the poor (v.7). A closed hand, withholding what the poor lacked (v.7). An evil thought, hesitating or refusing to loan money to the poor because the year of canceling debts was nearing (v.9). A grudging spirit, a reluctance to satisfy the needs of the poor among them (v.10). Not only were they warned about selfishness, but more important, they were encouraged to be spontaneously generous (vv.8,10,11). Among God’s people, there must always be a spirit of generosity toward the poor. Let’s open our hearts and our hands.

One grace each child of God can show
Is giving from a willing heart;
Yet, if we wait till riches grow,
It well may be we’ll never start. —D. De Haan

Wednesday July 14th

Luke 15:19 If you’re like me, you love a good deal. Not just bargain shopping, but when you manage to cut a great deal for yourself without giving anything up in return. So if you can identify with these kinds of deals, you’ll understand the prodigal son’s scheme when he decided to return home.
There were three kinds of servants in those days: day workers who were paid on a day-to-day basis; hired servants who worked long hours on the estate but lived in town with their independence intact; or bond servants who lived on the estate and gave all of themselves to serving the family.
When the prodigal son hit rock bottom, it’s interesting that his planned apology involved asking if he could be like a hired servant. Why not a grateful bond servant? Some commentators suggest that perhaps he was trying to negotiate a deal—a way to get a paycheck and keep his independence as well.
Often we approach God like, “I’ll serve You but You can’t take away my freedom.” It may seem like a good deal at the time, but God’s deal is so much better. Just like the boy’s father, His arms are ready and willing to receive repentant sinners as part of His family. There could be no better deal and no better way to serve Him!

Lord, take my life and make it wholly Thine;
Fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine.
Take all my will, my passion, self, and pride;
I now surrender, Lord—in me abide. —Orr

Thursday July 15th

Psalm 71:18 On a recent flight, I got ready to do some work. Spread out on my tray were my laptop computer, backup hard drive, iPod, and other gadgets that are part of being a 21st-century “road warrior.” As I worked, a young man seated beside me asked if he could make a comment. He told me how inspirational it was for him, a young man, to see someone my age so enthusiastically embracing modern technology. In spite of his intention to compliment me, I suddenly felt about 120 years old. What did he mean by “someone my age”? I wondered. After all, I was “only” 57. Then I remembered Psalm 71, the psalm for folks “my age” and beyond. It reminds us of the value of a life well lived and of the worth of lessons learned: Lessons are not just for our benefit but also for us to pass along to the next generations. The psalmist wrote, “When I am old and gray headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come” (v.18) So, maybe being “someone my age” isn’t such a bad gig. It is the privilege of “veteran” Christ-followers to declare the strength and power of God to the younger generations. That’s how we can truly be inspirational to them.

The older saints who trust God’s Word
Have trod where younger ones now walk;
They’ve fought the battles they will fight—
Their wisdom teaches truth and right. —Branon

Abraham’s Risk:

Sometime after the birth of Isaac, Abraham was commanded by God to offer his son up as a sacrifice in the land of Moriah. The patriarch traveled three days until he came to the mount that God taught him. He commanded the servant to remain while he and Isaac proceeded alone to the mountain, Isaac carrying the wood upon which he would be sacrificed. Along the way, Isaac repeatedly asked Abraham where the animal for the burnt offering was. Abraham then replied that God would provide one. Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, he was prevented by an angel, and given on that spot a ram which he sacrificed in place of his son. As a reward for his obedience he received another promise of numerous descendants and abundant prosperity.

Jeremiah’s Risk:

The LORD called Jeremiah to prophetic ministry in about 626 BC,[27] about one year after Josiah king of Judah had turned the nation toward repentance from the widespread idolatrous practices of his father and grandfather. Before I created you in the womb, I selected you; Before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations…See, I appoint you this day Over nations and kingdoms: to uproot and pull down, To destroy and overthrow, To build and to plant.
– Jeremiah 1:1-10 (JPS)
After Jeremiah had prophesied disaster for Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, Pashhur the priest, chief officer in the temple, beat Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks overnight.[59] After this, Jeremiah expresses lament over the difficulty that speaking God’s word has caused him and regrets becoming a laughingstock and the target of mockery.[60] He recounts how if he tries to shut the word of the LORD inside and not mention God’s name, the word becomes like fire in his heart and he is unable to hold it in.[61] The experiences are so troubling for Jeremiah, that he expresses regret at ever being born. The Biblical narrative portrays Jeremiah as being subject to additional persecutions. After Jeremiah prophesied that Jerusalem would be handed over to the Babylonian army, the king’s officials, including Pashhur the priest, tried to convince King Zedekiah that Jeremiah should be put to death because he is discouraging the soldiers as well as the people. Zedekiah answered that he would not oppose them. Consequently, the king’s officials took Jeremiah and put him down into a cistern, where he sank down into the mud. The intent seemed to be to kill Jeremiah by allowing him to starve to death in a manner designed to allow the officials to claim to be innocent of his blood.[62] A Cushite rescued Jeremiah by pulling him out of the cistern, but Jeremiah remained imprisoned until Jerusalem fell to the Babylonian army in 587 BC.[63]
The Babylonians released Jeremiah, and showed him great kindness, allowing Jeremiah to choose the place of his residence, according to a Babylonian edict. Jeremiah accordingly went to Mizpah in Benjamin with Gedaliah, who had been made governor of Judea.[64]
The biblical narrative includes a number of cases of Jeremiah being given unusual instructions requiring him to act out parables or behave in ways contrary to expectations of prophetic office. For example, many prophets in scripture are found interceding with God on behalf of the people. Abraham intercedes with God regarding the destruction of Sodom;[67] Moses intercedes for the people after their sin with the golden calf[68] and after the people refuse God’s instruction to go take Canaan;[69] Samuel promises to continue interceding for the people.[70] In contrast, on several occasions, the LORD commands Jeremiah not to intercede for the people.[71]
So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.
– Jeremiah 7:16-18(NIV)
God was so angry over their sins, that he says that even if Moses and Samuel were to intercede for the people, he would not relent.[72]
Much like the prophet Isaiah who had to walk stripped and barefoot for three years[73] and the prophet Ezekiel who had to lie on his side for 390 days and eat measured food,[74] Jeremiah is instructed to perform a number of prophetic parables[75] to illustrate the LORD’s message to his people. For example, the LORD commands Jeremiah to bury a linen belt so that it gets ruined to illustrate how the LORD intends to ruin Judah’s pride.[76] Likewise, Jeremiah buys a clay jar and smashes it in the Valley of Ben Hinnom in front of elders and priests to illustrate that the LORD will smash the nation of Judah and the city of Judah beyond repair.[77] The LORD instructs Jeremiah to make a yoke from wood and leather straps and to put it on his own neck to demonstrate how the LORD will put the nation under the yoke of the king of Babylon.[78] In order to contrast the people’s disobedience with the obedience of the Rechabites, the LORD has Jeremiah invite the Rechabites to drink wine, in disobedience to their ancestor’s command. The Rechabites refused, and God commended them.
During the siege of Jerusalem, when it was finally obvious that Jeremiah’s prophesies of disaster would be fulfilled and that destruction and exile were imminent, the LORD instructed Jeremiah to make a real-estate investment by purchasing a field at Anathoth from his cousin Hanamel. Jeremiah obeyed, weighed out the silver on scales, and had the deed witnessed and sealed. The LORD was making the point the nation would eventually be restored and that houses and fields would once again be bought in the land.[79]

Peter’s Risk

Three of the four canonical Gospels—Matthew, Mark and John—recount the story of Jesus walking on water. Matthew additionally describes Peter walking on water for a moment, but sinking when his faith wavered.Matt. 14:28–31
At the beginning of the Last Supper, Jesus washed his disciples' feet. Peter initially refused to let Jesus wash his feet, but when Jesus responded: "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me", Peter replied: "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head".Jn. 13:2-11 The washing of feet is often repeated in the service of worship on Maundy Thursday by some Christian denominations.
The three synoptic Gospels all mention that, when Jesus was arrested, one of his companions cut off the ear of a servant of the High Priest.[18] The Gospel of John also includes this event, and names Peter as the swordsman and Malchus as the victim.Jn. 18:10 Luke adds that Jesus touched the ear and miraculously healed it.Lk. 22:50
All four canonical gospels recount that, during the Last Supper, Jesus foretold that Peter would deny him three times before the following cockcrow ("before the cock crows twice" in Mark's account).
The three Synoptics and John describe the three denials as follows:
1. A denial when a female servant of the high priest spots Simon Peter, saying that he had been with Jesus. According to Mark (but not in all manuscripts), "the rooster crowed." Only Luke and John mention a fire by which Peter was warming himself among other people: according to Luke, Peter was "sitting"; according to John, he was "standing."
2. A denial when Simon Peter had gone out to the gateway, away from the firelight, but the same servant girl (Mark) or another servant girl (Matthew) or a man (Luke and also John, for whom, though, this is the third denial) told the bystanders he was a follower of Jesus. According to John, "the rooster crowed."
3. A denial came when Peter's Galilean accent was taken as proof that he was indeed a disciple of Jesus. According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, "the rooster crowed." John, though, does not mention the Galilean accent.
Matthew adds that it was his accent that gave him away as coming from Galilee. Luke deviates slightly from this by stating that, rather than a crowd accusing Simon Peter, it was a third individual.
The Gospel of John places the second denial while Peter was still warming himself at the fire, and gives as the occasion of the third denial a claim by someone to have seen him in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' prediction of Peter's denial is coupled with a prediction that all the apostles ("you," plural) would be "sifted like wheat," but that it would be Peter's task ("you," singular), when he had turned again, to strengthen his brethren.
In a reminiscent[19] scene in John's epilogue, Peter affirms three times that he loves Jesus.

Andrew’s Risk

John reveals Andrew as one who was constantly bringing people to Jesus. He began by bringing his brother Peter to Jesus.Later Jesus is teaching the multitudes on the mountainside and he asks Philip where they could find food to feed the crowd and Philip says “Eight months wages could not buy enough bread” to feed them. It was Andrew who brought the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Jesus which Jesus miraculously multiplies into enough food to feed everyone.
And it was Andrew who during the Passover Feast brought a group of Greeks (Gentiles) to meet Jesus which prompts Jesus to remark “when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men to myself.”
Andrew knew that Jesus came not only to save Israel but everyone on earth.
The last time Andrew is mentioned in the Bible is in Acts chapter one where he is listed as one of the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and His ascension into Heaven.

How strongly does WHBC avoid risk-taking? Rate on a scale of 1-5

I think we are a 3. We don’t like to go beyond our comfort zones, and we don’t like too much change at one time. We tend to stick with what has worked in the past to maintain our current level. We have been in a plateau for so long and a time of self caring that we haven’t looked beyond just being content to exist to taking on things that may be challenging and may or may not work for our congregation. But if we don’t try then how will we know? How will we be able to assess what works and what doesn’t work for us?

Must the congregation take more risk if it is to live into God’s calling and vision? Why or why not?

Yes, absolutely. And so what if our risk taking fails. It will still tell us a direction to move in so that we can discover where God wants us to be and what He wants us to be doing.

What do you believe is the impact of a congregation that fails to take risks for the sake of the Gospel and God’s call?

I think we run another more dangerous risk- of becoming stagnant, ceasing to move forward and eventually dying out as a congregation. We will not survive. And God doesn’t want us to be Luke Warm anyway. He wants us all to be on fire for Him!

What did you learn from this prayer about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus?

It means that God will guard us from the Evil One. We are not defined by the world. He will make us holy- consecrated- with the truth. He has given us a mission in this world.

What are the implications for Christ’s church?

Jesus consecrated himself for our sakes so we will be truth –consecrated in our mission. He died so that we would be saved and still be able to be used as God intends for us to be used.

Serving Jesus is not without risk- Why?

Matthew 16:21-23:
(21) From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. (22) And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." (23) But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."
Jesus began to show his disciples the necessity of his suffering and death "from that time" - the time of Peter's confession of him as the Christ. Once the disciples were aware that he was the Christ, it was necessary for him to correct their misconceptions.
In that Matthew says Jesus "began" to show them, it is clear that their misconceptions were so ingrained that they would not be swept away in one display. What he has to teach them - the necessity of his suffering and death - is not an easy lesson to learn. It is not easy for us to learn, either.
He likely "showed" them from the scriptures, just as he showed the two men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25-27). Scriptures that foretell his suffering include Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Jesus also saw Jonah 1:17 as speaking of his three days in the grave (Matthew 12:40). Daniel 7 can be seen as speaking of his suffering and resurrection. In Hosea 6:2-3, Israel was expecting its own national resurrection in three days, but Israel was wrong. The resurrection of Israel was tied up in the resurrection of Christ, on the third day. A true understanding of the scriptures helps correct our misconceptions about the shape life should take.
Jesus must go to Jerusalem, the city of David, the city where the Son of David, the Christ, was expected to reign. But Jesus does not say he is going to Jerusalem to reign; he says he is going to Jerusalem to suffer from the elders, chief priests and scribes, those who comprise the Sanhedrin, the leadership of Israel, the very people who would be expected to follow him. Sometimes, at the time and place where we think everything is supposed to come together, disaster strikes.
Peter takes Jesus aside in order to speak with him undisturbed, and probably to correct Jesus in private before he could speak with the other disciples any more about these nonsensical ideas. Peter had just identified Jesus as the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). A living God - with a Son to be killed? The words of Jesus shatter the window through which Peter sees life, and the shards of broken glass have cut him deeply. He is in shock, and he doesn't have the wherewithal to seek an explanation, only the impulse to assert what is true about the Christ - what must be true. So he takes the Lord aside, and he rebukes him. Similarly, when our world view takes a hit, we desperately try to reassemble the pieces, at least at first.
As Jesus "began" to tell his disciples about a suffering Christ, Peter "begins" to tell Jesus about a victorious Christ. As much as Jesus sensed the need to tell the disciples about a suffering Christ, and understood that one telling wouldn't do the trick, Peter sensed a similarly urgent need to tell Jesus that "this shall never happen to you."
Peter was following this Christ who would be killed. As a follower, he expected life to take a certain shape. He expected victory over Rome. Life would get better, not worse. Easier, not harder. Painless, not painful.
Literally, the text says that Jesus spoke to Peter "after having turned." Mark tells us that Jesus turned and saw his disciples (Mark 8:33). The turning, then, is a turning to see the disciples before speaking to Peter. Perhaps the needy state of his disciples strengthens his resolve to resist the temptation that he hears in Peter's voice. Our needy state helped Jesus in his resolve to obey the Father.
After Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Lord said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona." Now he says, "Get behind me, Satan." Earlier he said, "You are Peter (Stone), and upon this rock I will build my church." Now he says, "You are a stumbling block to me." Earlier he said, "Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father who is in heaven." Now he says, literally, "You are not thinking the things of God but the things of men." (Matthew 16:17-18). A more stunning turnaround could not be imagined - from blessed to banished, from Simon to Satan, from cornerstone to stumbling block, from mind open to the revelation of God to mind fixed on the things of men.
What is happening? The Son is obeying the Father. The path will end at the cross, where the Father will turn his back on the Son, who will absorb the sins of the world. The assignment was not a pleasant one, at least initially. Even the Son would ask the Father if there was another way (Matthew 26:39).

Are the circumstances the same today?
There is still risk in following Jesus today…

Lord I pray for divine discontent within our congregation. A divine discontent rooted in God’s call for us to no longer “play it safe” or be satisfied with second hand experiences. I pray that out of this divine discontent comes desire, willingness, and faith to embrace risk taking for the sake of the gospel, risk taking that is likely necessary if the congregation is to live into God’s calling and preferred future.

Take a risk as a disciple of Christ.- be ready to share it at the next meeting.

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