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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Video and audio posted from recent messages at Bethany Place

Recent message at Bethany Place from the series Who, What, When, Where, Why?

From 9/30/12: Video and audio for the message, Urgency & Risk, from Matthew 25:14-30: Part 4 of the series.  

From 9/23/12: Video and audio for the message Whose Story are You In from 2 Timothy 2:1-7, Part 3 of the series. The web site has my first working title “What is a Good Life?” 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Urgency and Risk

A few weeks ago I took Kat and Noelle out to a restaurant we’ve been to a few times and I immediately noticed something new. Every table had what looked like a stand-alone video game. I thought it was going to be cool. I like gadgets; I thought perhaps it operated a TV or something. What I discovered was that the device wasn’t about me at all. It didn’t meet any need I had. It provided games to play for 99 cents each.

I am an incredibly effective consumer. So are you I suspect. In a restaurant or business I’m aware when someone doesn’t respond to my needs like I think they should. I’m immediately in tune to whether I like this place or not. I notice the way it looks, the way it smells, and the way people talk to me? If the service is not good, I’m less likely to go back.

God calls his people to something other than a consumer mindset concerning our relationship to his people through his church. This week I read an article that expressed something I’ve wanted to say but haven’t found the words. The article was called The Ministry of the Pew. It’s a challenge to think about the corporate worship experience from less of a self-focused perspective. I think we, and I do include myself here, are often in danger of entering a corporate worship experience in a similar manner that I walked into the restaurant the other night. What if instead we saw it as God provided opportunity he expects us to take full advantage of for his purposes.

Here is the challenge, Sunday I urge you to think about how you can bless other people. To do this, you may need to not stay up quite so late on Saturday, because Sunday is a huge opportunity and you want to be well rested. Sunday morning, you want to get up in time to pray and spend a few moments alone with God. This is so that you will be ready not just to worship, but to hear God’s word well, and to minister to the needs of other people. What needs do they have? Well, for one, they need to see you. Your presence is far more of an encouragement to other people than you know. Also, everyone needs for someone to look them in the eye and to hear, “it’s really good to see you today.” Furthermore, most people need to be touched. Whether it’s a handshake, or a hug, or a hand on the shoulder, do you realize some people go all week without being meaningfully touched by anyone? God can use you to demonstrate his love to them through something that simple. Another need people have is for someone to sit with them. There are many other possibilities. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

The bottom line is this: what if our focus shifted from being the “helpee” to becoming more the “helper.” Of course, we never lose our sense of need before God. Also there will be times, when we are hurting and feel too banged up to reach out to anyone else. However, even in those times it may be that focusing on the needs of someone else will be what helps you out of the hole you are in.

This Sunday I’m speaking from a text that is a tremendous challenge, perhaps even a smack in the face. The basic message of the text is this: God gives us opportunities, resources, and abilities he insists we put to full use for the sake of his kingdom. The text teaches that the time is right now for fully exercising these gifts. The excuse of being fearful is sternly challenged. The text is unmistakably clear that God will hold us accountable for how we responded to such opportunity. The text makes it clear that we are to be risk takers for the sake of the kingdom. I urge you to be here Sunday, to take up your own “pew ministry” and brace yourself for a tough word from Jesus himself. I’ve been living with it all week, it’s only fair that I share it with you! You can see the scripture, outline, and discussion questions here. 

Urgency and Risk
Matthew 25:14-30
Who, What, When, Where, Why, Part 4

1.    Identify the opportunities and resources God gives you

Matthew 25:14–15 (ESV)
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.

2.    Act with diligence and urgency to the opportunity

Matthew 25:16–18 (ESV)
16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.

3.    Know you will be held accountable for what you do with these

Matthew 25:19–23 (ESV)
19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

4.    Take risks for the sake of the kingdom daily

Matthew 25:24–30 (ESV)
24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Questions for further discussion
·      Do you believe that everything good thing that you have is a gift from God? Why or why not? If so, then what abilities, resources, and opportunities has God given you? What does you think it means to utilize those gifts of God for his purposes?
·      To what extent is procrastination a challenge for you? How might a strong awareness of Jesus’ soon return create greater diligence for using God’s gifts to bless others?
·      Whose approval matters more to you than anyone else?
·      Are you a person who plays it safe or a person who takes risks? What does this parable say about playing it safe?
·      How is God calling you to risk for the sake of his kingdom?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

At all times in the Spirit

Today, I'm praying for a greater experience of what this verse talks about. Surely, I'm not the only one who wonders what this might really look like. This is especially so after spending time with a friend last night that I'm certain is far out ahead of me in this regard.

Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Friday, September 21, 2012

Whose Story Are You In?

I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for the early influences in my life that pointed me to Christ. My parents were the first and most important spiritual influences. They took me to church, I’m sure against my protests in many cases. They lived a faithful Christian witness before me that taught me, in hindsight, that God was worthy to be followed fully. They had their own spiritual influences, for mom, her pastor as a child Gifford Walters, and my great grandmother, Granny Williams we called her, whose funeral I had the privilege of conducting many years ago. Dad’s influences were his parents, my mom, and Dr. Jim Boswell of Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands). Other early influencers in my life were Dr. Joe Brown, (his twitter page) who was my pastor while I was in high school and whose passion for God, God used to awaken me to himself. An important influence of his was pastor Sam Tatum, now with the Lord, whom I had the privilege of knowing, since we served in the same region in his later years. Lastly, the first pastor I served with, pastor Roger Williams, whose faithful pulpit ministry taught me an approach to preaching I’ve never gotten over. Of course, there are many, many others down to the present whom God continues to use to challenge me and encourage me forward.

What about you? What is your story? If you have a relationship with Jesus, there were people God used to draw you to himself. Over time our gratitude for those people will only increase. But all this begs a question. Whose story are you in? We are part of a long line of those who’ve carefully handed off the faith to the next generations. This call on our lives doesn’t stop with our immediate families, though it may start there. Sunday I will preach from 2 Timothy 2:1-7 which contains this instruction from Paul to Timothy:

2 Timothy 2:2 (ESV) and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Your relationship with God is not just about you. God calls us to a long range vision that involves us not just making disciples by baptizing them (telling the gospel and welcoming them into his church) and teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded us (Mat. 28:16-20 and last week’s message) but to think about doing this in God’s power in such a way that they will then pass that on to the next generation.

This idea we will explore together further this Sunday morning at Bethany Place. It will be the third message in our series on vision called Who, What, When, Where, Why. I can’t wait to see you there as we worship God and open his word together.

Incidentally, Dr. Joe Brown and pastor Roger Williams are still faithfully ministering. You can get to online sermons of theirs by following the links on their names above. 

You can see the text, outline, and discussion questions for the message below.

What is a Good Life?
Part 3 of Who, What, When, Where, Why
2 Timothy 2:1-7

1.   Serve in God’s strength

2 Timothy 2:1 (ESV) You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,

2.   Aim at a long term hand off of the faith

2 Timothy 2:2 (ESV) and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

3.   Prepare for extreme difficulty in carrying out the task

2 Timothy 2:3–7 (ESV) Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

Questions for further reflection and discussion

  • How would you describe grace? What then does it mean to be strengthened by grace?
  • What is your responsibility to pass along the faith to the next generations? Would you describe your concern for future generations as mostly about your own family or does it go beyond that?
  • Why do you think suffering may be involved in passing the faith along to the next generations?
  • What is your responsibility to “think over what Paul says” here? Does this apply only to this text? To what extent do you think hard over God’s word seeking understanding from him about all parts of your life?