Thursday, May 31, 2012

Prayer Stations 5/30

Last night at WNW we spent the night in prayer at different prayer stations.  We opened up with a couple of songs:  "Awesome Is The Lord Most High" (Chris Tomlin), and "Beautiful" (Phil Wickham).  Students were given prayer guides to take to each room where the prayer stations were set up.  The first part took place right after the song "Beautiful" and students were to focus on the beauty of God.  This beauty of course is not a physical beauty like we are accustomed to thinking about, but beauty in His power, authority, grace, mercy, etc.  Students had the lyrics of the song to read and spend some time in prayerful worship as they considered the beauty of God.  We also read Psalm 96:6 and Psalm 27:4 to go along with this theme.

I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say
You're beautiful

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It's all proclaiming who You are
You're beautiful

I see You there hanging on a tree
You bled and then You died and then You rose again for me
Now You are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You're beautiful

When we arrive at eternity's shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We'll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we'll sing
You're beautiful

In this room students walked in to a scene set up like a coffee shop and read the following:
The past couple of weeks we have been talking about sharing your faith story of how you were saved.  As you sit in this "coffee shop" scenario, imagine you are somewhere like a real coffee shop.  Think about all the people that would be there who you may or may not know.  When out in public like this, do you ever consider whether the people around you are saved or not?  Do you ever talk to the people around you that you do not know in order to learn more about whether or not they have a relationship with Jesus Christ?  As you sit in this scene, imagine for a few moments that everyone around you is lost.  This thought should beak your heart.  Think about what we have discussed the past couple of weeks and how you might begin a conversation with someone and possibly share your faith.
Now spend a few moments in prayer asking God to give you opportunities to share your faith.  Pray that He will give you boldness in sharing the gospel so that lost people will come to know Him and be saved.

Right now it seems everywhere you turn there is a new movie about superheroes.  As you see the pictures of these superheroes, think about some of their qualities that make them a superhero.  Now think for a moment about the people who have been heroes in your life.  These people do not have superpowers, but instead have been a great positive influence in your life and influenced you to follow Christ.  Write the names of your heroes below and spend some time praying for them.  Thank God for their influence in your life.

In this room the students spent time praying for the following in relation to MFUGE that is next week:
Greenville, SC- Pray for this city that we will be serving.  Pray that the people of the city will be receptive to the gospel and that lives will be changed.  Pray for North Greenville University as this school feels the calls to reach this city.
Students- There are 13 students going on this trip.  Pray that God will use each one of them.  Pray that this week God will speak truth into their lives, and that they will be intently listening to Him.  Pray that their lives will be changed by God.
Leaders- There are 4 adult leaders going on this trip.  Pray for their wisdom in leading the students.  Pray for strength and energy they need.  Pray that God will not only use them, but that He will have a great impact on their lives as well.
Ministry Sites- Pray for the sites that the students will go to serve at.  Pray for safety at all times.  Pray that the work they do will be used to point people to Jesus.
Travel- Pray for the safety of not only our group, but all groups as they travel to Greenville.  Pray for safety each day as we travel to sites and back to campus.  Pray for our safety as we travel home.
Unity- Pray that this week God will continue to unite our group.

After completing these stations students went back to their original seats and spent some more time in prayer.  We closed the night by singing "Grace Like Rain" and talking about a few things that we focused on during the night.  A few students shared who their heroes are and how they have had a positive influence in their lives.  

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cease Striving

A few weeks ago I was having one of those really busy days when in the midst of it I heard God speak to me "Be still".  I admit I was working frantically getting some last minute details finished before the start of our Disciple Now weekend and while it was not bad stuff, I sensed God calling me to slow down and spend some time with Him.  He brought Psalm 46:10 to my mind which most know as "Be still, and know that I am God...".  I mainly use the NASB and I love this version of this verse as it says "Cease striving and know that I am God...".  As I sat and spent some time meditating on this verse I knew that there were some things that God was challenging me with.  I wanted share and challenge you with these things as well.  

Many times we can be going through our daily routines and while the things we are working toward are not anything bad, we fail to take adequate time to focus on God and worship Him.  As this verse says "cease striving", we need to consider the things that we are striving toward and ask ourselves if they are what we really should be striving toward.  Sometimes in my own life I can get sidetracked as I strive for success.  For some it may be acceptance. For others it may be finding happiness.  Whatever it may be, if we are striving for something other than God, then it is a waste.  As I seem to have brought up in so many of my messages over the past bit, it becomes an idol.  So I want to challenge you today to allow God to examine your heart and reveal to you what you are striving toward.  Is it God or something else?  Are you willing to cease striving so that you can focus on God and allow Him to lead you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sharing Your Faith

Last week at Wednesday Night Worship we spent the night thinking about sharing our faith. As we are approaching summer camps of MFuge and Younite it is great to think about this, plus it is a great reminder for us all as Christians.  We began the night with a worship set that included:  One Way (Hillsong United), Opposite Way (Leeland), Blessed Be Your Name (Matt Redman), I Give You My Heart (Reuben Morgan).  Then we watched a funny video from my good friend Jason Wallis on Bad Evangelism which you can watch at the end of this posts.

We discussed about why we should share our faith, which is obviously so others will be saved.  We talked about some of the excuses for not sharing our faith which is usually because we are scared and do not know what their reaction will be.  Another reason why people do not share their faith is because they are not believers.  You cannot share something that you do not have.  Some Scripture we looked at on why we share our faith were Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20, and Acts 8:26-39.

First we talked about having a meaningful conversation.  It is best that you get to know them before sharing the gospel.  I shared an easy to remember acronym FIRM:
F= Family- ask questions about their family, siblings, etc.
I= Interest- ask about their hobbies.  What are some things they like?  This is the best way to have a conversation with a person you have just met anyway.
R= Religion- ask them if they go to church and if so where
M= Message- You share the message in two parts:  1) Your Story and 2) The Gospel

Your Story
-This should consist of three parts
1)  My life before Christ...
2)  How I met Christ and how He changed my life...
3)  How Christ impacts me today...
The 3rd part is where many people get hung up on because they are not seeking Christ in a way to allow Him to impact their life.

The Gospel
-There are many different ways to present the gospel.  You have to do it the way you most feel comfortable.  However any Gospel presentation must include our human sin problem, how it separates us from God, and how Jesus came to resolve it.  I shared 3 ways to present the Gospel.

1)  4 Part Gospel
-God- is Eternal (Psalm 102:12); is Holy (Revelation 15:4); created us and everything else (Genesis 1-2)
-Man- man is sinful (John 8:34)
-Christ- fully God and fully man (John 1:1, 14), He came to serve (Mark 10:45), He came to take our place (2 Corinthians 5:21)
-Response- our response is to accept Him, and love and serve Him back

2)  Gospel Key Words
-We looked at John 3:16 and took out key words to talk about
-Creation- God created everything
-Sin- man's sin separates us from God
-Jesus- Jesus came to live a perfect life w/o sin
-Cross- Jesus died to take the place of our sin
-Eternal Life- Jesus rose from dead and offers eternal life to all who trust in Him and repent
-Restored- When we trust in Christ, our relationship with God is restored

3)  Roman Road
-Probably one of the most familiar ways of sharing the Gospel
-Romans 3:23- All have sinned
-Romans 6:23- The wages of sin is death
-Romans 5:8- Christ died for us showing His love for us
-Romans 10:9- If you confess Jesus and Believe on Him you will be saved
-Romans 10:13- Whoever calls on Him will be saved
-Romans 5:1- Our Faith justifies us bringing us to peace with God
-Romans 8:38-39- When we are truly saved then nothing can take that away from us

In closing I challenged the students to let these things stir in their hearts as this coming WNW we are going to spend some time putting it into practice, working on our story and sharing it with each other.  I told them to never feel like a failure when they are obedient in sharing their faith if the person does not receive Jesus.  If they have followed God and have been obedient then they did their part.  They may have planted a seed for someone else to later work on.  I told them to be confident in sharing their story because God will speak through them.  I challenged them to pray for boldness in sharing their faith, and to also pray for opportunity.

Here is the silly video on how not to evangelize that we showed:

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Kingdom Divided

I haven't done the best job of blogging lately but hope to do a little better.  Yesterday I had the privilege of preaching in our Sunday morning services while Pastor Wayne was out of town.  It had been almost two years since I preached on a Sunday so it was nice to have this opportunity.  Since our church is in the middle of doing "The Story" as a congregation I decided to stick with it and we looked at the divided kingdom in Chapter 14 of the study.  

I began by summarizing 1 Kings 12:1-15 where there is a division between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.  Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, has succeeded him as King of Israel.  Jeroboam along with some others approach him to see if he would rule lighter than Solomon had.  Rehoboam sends them away three days while he ponders his decision.  He seeks the advice of the elders that had advised Solomon and they tell him that if he will serve the people that they will in turn serve him and follow him forever.  He is not fond of that advice and turns to his friends who advise him to rule even tougher than Solomon did.  He follows the poor advice of his friends and it does not turn out too well.  There are a couple of quick lessons to learn here.  First of all, be wise about who you seek counsel from.  Even your close friends can lead you astray if they are not following God like they should.  Second, we all need the wisdom counsel of older and wiser people in our lives.

We then read 1 Kings 12:16-20 where the kingdom divides into two.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel makes Jeroboam their king, while the Southern Kingdom of Judah keeps Rehoboam as their king.  A nation and kingdom that had once thrived, was now falling apart.  This division begins an 80 year period of war, then 80 year period of peace, then a 50 year period of war, then they went spent 70 years in captivity in Babylon.  While God's plan in the Upper Story will still be accomplished as He is bringing us back into fellowship with Him, this is heartbreaking to see.  This nation should have never had any issue in disobedience but they did.  We see this today however if our eyes are open to it.  We see division all around us.  There are broken marriages and families that are divided.  There are churches that are dead because they are divided and falling apart.  Sadly the church has been one of the most divided groups throughout history.  We also do not have to look too far as we see our own nation divided.  It breaks my heart though as we are often divided on issues that Scripture clearly gives us the standard to follow.

The main point I wanted everyone to consider is this:  Division between people never begins at the point of contention, it begins previously in the hearts of the people involved.  The division did not begin at the point of contention between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, it began previously as they made decisions to not follow God.  Their hearts were divided and were following their own desires, or in other words they were worshiping idols.  They were more concerned about following the idols in their own hearts instead of following God.  One thing to consider is the fact that we all know how Satan loves division.  Satan loves to find a way to get into families and churches and cause division between people.  However sometimes I think we may give Satan too much credit.  Sometimes the division can occur simply because of our own doing without the help of Satan.  In David Nasser's A Call To Die he says "Satan doesn't give much merit to many of us because we aren't a threat to his purposes."  That should really make us think.  If we are not suffering from Satan's attacks then it is probably because we are not following God in a manner that poses a threat to Satan.

I laid out five affects of division that occurred in Israel, and occurs in our lives as well when we do not deal with division:
1)  Division Lowers Your Standards
In 1 Kings 14:25-27 the king of Egypt takes away the gold shields from the temple, but Rehoboam just replaces them bronze shields.  Bronze is definitely not as nice as gold but he replaces them this way because he had lowered his standards.  We lower our standards as well when their is division.  This lowering of standards is not in the manner of gold, but in our standard of what is morally right and wrong.  We allow sin to creep into our lives where we would not have previously.  The sin comes easier and easier and further isolates us from God.  We even do this as Christians in the ways we give and serve.  We begin to do things that are just "good enough" to get by on.  I often tell the students that "Good" is the enemy of "Great".  We will sometimes serve and give in ways that are good, but not great in the manner that God has called us.
2)  Division Leads Others To Sin
In 1 Kings 15:3 and 15:26 we see where a king follows in the footsteps of their father and live in sin.  Scripture tells us more than 20 times that Jeroboam himself led Israel to sin.  When your heart is divided, you lead others to sin.  These men followed their fathers.  This is why it is so important that dads are leading their family to God.  All dads are leading their family to something, but the question is whether or not they are leading them to God.  Everyone no matter who you are, where you are, or what stage of life you are in have a great influence over the spiritual condition of others whether good or bad.
3)  Division Leads To More Division
As if one division in Israel wasn't enough, we read in 1 Kings 16:21 that the Northern kingdom of Israel is now divided itself.  This wasn't a short division of a few weeks.  Instead it lasted four years.  If division and sin is not dealt with, it will continue to grow.
4)  Division Affects Others
We read in 1 Kings 14:15-16 that division and sin not only affected those who committed them, but affected the entire nation.  Many people in Israel were suffering, and would suffer even more as a result of this division.  What eventually takes place is that Israel is captured by Babylon and suffers in captivity for 70 years.  Persistent rebellion against God often brings long-lasting consequences and sometimes to succeeding generations.  The books of 1 and 2 Kings (originally written as one book called "Kings") was written to show the Israelites why there were living in such a terrible situation in Babylon.  It was to show them that it was as a result of their persistent unfaithfulness to God and in hopes that they would live differently.
5)  Divisions Leads To Fall
Mark 3:24 tells us that a kingdom divided cannot stand and will eventually fall.  The nation of Israel eventually fell into captivity.  If you do not deal with division you will eventually fall as well.

As we closed I challenged the congregation to search their own hearts, and definitely not look at others who may be dealing with these affects of division.  I challenged them to search their hearts and let God examine to them to show them what in their lives may be causing them division from God.  I ask you to do the same.  What divisions exist within your heart?  What are you willing to do to change.  In 1 Kings 15:11-15 King Asa gets rid of everything that causes division and sin.  He even removes his mother or grandmother (it could have been one or the other based on the position) from her position because of the idol worship that she was involved in.  Asa raised the standard and was wholly devoted to God.  He left a legacy of a man who followed God.  Are you willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of sin and division so that you will leave a legacy this way?  Not so that you are glorified but so that God is glorified through you.  You and only you are responsible for this.  You may not be in control of all of your circumstances in life, but you can control how you react to them.  You cannot blame anyone else for your own failure to obey God.  You have to take ownership, and be willing to turn your heart back to following God.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Younite 2012 Promo Night

Last night at Wednesday Night Worship we took a look at our upcoming Younite mission camp which will take place July 25-29.  Younite is our 2nd summer camp we do each year where we serve the community and spend time studying God's Word.  We watched a couple of the previous year's Younite videos and did the songs that we sang last year which were:  "Song of Hope" (Robbie Seay Band), "Oh Happiness" (David Crowder Band), "Starry Night" (Chris August), "Running to You" (Newsboys), and "Opposite Way" (Leeland).  

This year's Younite theme is "Alive" and is based on Romans 6:11- Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  What if we lived our lives as an act of worship to God?  Even though we have been made alive by Jesus Christ, we continue to lives our lives as though we are dead.  God has blessed us all with an incredible life, even when times are tough.  We should live our lives as an act of worship to God.  This is going to be our focus this year and our main theme song will be "Good to Be Alive" by Jason Gray.  I am excited with a couple changes we are making this year.  Our own student worship band will lead all of the worship services.  Also we are going to do all of the services in our youth house.  Each year we work hard to make it look cool to match the theme, so why not have our services there?  The cost per student is $35 which includes a t-shirt, all meals, etc.  Students must have all registration forms and payment turned in by July 8.  Join us in praying that God will use our students to impact our community, and at the same time be impacted by God.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ideal to Real- The Ugly Reality

We wrapped up the "Ideal to Real" series this week that has been a challenging series as we take a look in the mirror and really examine our hearts as we ask God the reality of who we are.  We began the night with a worship set that included:  "Tell The World" (Hillsong United), "Enough" (Chris Tomlin), "Good" (Chris Sligh), and "More Like Falling In Love" (Jason Gray).

Throughout this series as we have examined our hearts and looked at what the ideal person/Christian to strive toward is, the truth is that it is rarely the reality of who we are.  It is not so much about becoming who we want to be ourselves, but becoming who God wants us to be.  As we have looked at topics such as emotional highs after Christian events and truly being on fire for God, we wrapped up this series by looking at the topic that inspired the graphic we used.  The image we created depicts the church and world on opposite side and in opposite colors of the color wheel.  As Christians we are to live our lives in the world but not of it.  The ugly reality is that many Christians go to church and appear to be living one way, but outside they are no different than the world.

We see in Galatians 2:11-14 a moment where Paul had to call out Peter for this.  Peter was eating and socializing with the Gentiles, but when the Jews were around he would not.  Peter was giving into the peer pressure from the Jews to not associate with the Gentiles.  Even though God had spoken clearly to them previously that salvation is for both the Jew and Gentile, it is apparent that Peter does not want to some of the Jews to know that he has been associating with the Gentiles.  The word "withdraw" in verse 12 in the Greek refers to a strategic military withdrawal and implies that Peter's withdrawal was gradual and deceptive.  Peter was trying to be one way with one group of people, and trying to deceive the other group by being another way with them.  This is much like when we act godly at church but are living our lives completely different outside while in the world.  It's times like this where we hear the common phrases about Christians are just hypocrites. As Christians we are all hypocrites at some moments in our lives.  The word hypocrite refers to an actor who wears a mask to depict a certain character or mood.  In the spiritual sense it refers to someone who masks his/her true character by pretending to be something he/she is not.

I wanted the students to not think about others that they think fit this, but examine their own hearts.  I challenged them that if this is how they are living your life then they must consider the following:
1)  You're Not Fooling Others
-Peter was not fooling Paul.  You might be fooling some people, but not everyone.  You certainly are not fooling God.
2)  It Leads Others Astray
-Verse 13 tells us that the rest of the Jews and even Barnabas were following Peter in this hypocrisy.  When you live like this, you lead others astray.  You are also turning people away from Christianity.
3)  If You Live This Way With No Conviction Then You Are Not Saved
-Matthew 6:24 tells us we cannot serve 2 masters because we will love one and hate the other.  James 4:4 tells us that we are an enemy of God if we are a friend of the world.  In other words, how can you call yourself a Christ follower while living worldly and being ok with it?  I do not see how it is possible because as a Christian when you sin, the Holy Spirit is there to convict you.
4)  God Hates It!
-Isaiah 1:10-15 show us how God feels about those going through the motions of worship but are living in the world.  He hates it and would rather you not worship Him while attempting to live a double life.

We closed the night like we have each night of this series with a time spent in prayer and reflection asking God to show us the truth of who we are.  We need to ask God to search our hearts daily and reveal to us who we really are.  We may not like the answer we get, but we can then begin to make the changes to become the person that God has called us to be.