Monday, April 29, 2013

Disciple Now Weekend 2013

We recently had our Disciple Now Weekend 2013 and it was a great weekend.  This year's theme was "Exchange:  Gaining Through Giving Up."  The sessions covered were "Exchanging Death for Life", "Exchanging Self for Christ", and "Exchanging Hate for Love", and "Exchanging Comfort for Calling".  We held a kickoff service on Thursday and then students went to their host-homes Friday night.  On Saturday we were able to help Hayden finish his Eagle Scout project by doing some landscaping at Women At The Well Ministries.  That night we had another worship service and challenging message.  It was a great weekend spending time with students and seeing them grow in their faith in Jesus. The video shows a lot of eating and playing 4-square (which was very competitive) but the weekend was so much more!



Friday, April 19, 2013

Instalife- Part 1


This past week at WNW we began a new 2-week series called "Instalife".  In this series we are going to look at some self-destructing tendencies that we have and look at it around the subject of Instagram.  We began the night with a worship set that included:  "Dancing Generation" (Matt Redman), "Blessed Be Your Name" (Matt Redman), "Sovereign Over Us" (Aaron Keyes", and "If I Could Just Sit With You Awhile".  

I opened the message with talking about what Instagram, for those few who did not.  I explained that it is a social media platform where you post pictures online by applying a filter to make the picture look better than it really is.  I showed some examples of this with a picture I took in front of the office.  I shared how Instagram used to be full of really cool pictures until teenagers began to join, and now it has a lot of silly pictures, including "selfies".  I shared how it is a snapshot of your life, showing the web version of my own Instagram account that shows some of my own favorite pictures that include pics of my wife, my nephew, some coffee, etc.  While we post the pictures that are important to us, we never post pictures that are honesty of our sin nature such as showing greed, anger, and those days when we feel defeated by sin.

Our focus for the night was filters.  Just as we apply filters to a picture to make it look better, we apply them to our own life to make us look better than we really are.  We read 1 John 1:5-9 and broke it down by verse:
verse 5- God is light- No filter is needed
God is truth in the purest form.  He is the definition of truth.  With God there is no deception.
verse 6- Filter= Religion
John was writing this because there were false teachings taking place that denied the existence of sin or the importance of sin.  It is a lie and deception when we say that we are in fellowship with God, yet continue to walk in darkness.  We work hard on this filter sometimes so that others perceive us to be holier than we really are.
verse 7- Filter= Blood of Jesus
If we are saved and are pursuing Jesus, then God sees us blameless because we are covered in the blood of Jesus.  We can approach Him because we have this filter that works for our good.
verse 8- Filter= Self-Deception
This is the most dangerous filter.  Just as on Instagram we only post the pictures we want others to see, we only let people see the parts of ourselves that we want them to see.  If we are not careful with this deception, we will eventually end up believing it is our true self.  If we ignore our sin long enough, we will begin to justify the sin, not believe it is bad, and eventually believe that we are not sinful.
verse 9- The Solution
-We confess our sin to God and allow Him to forgive us and cleanse us.  We then forgive ourselves, and we wage war again our sin (Hebrews 12:4).

It is necessary for us to see the danger of the filters that we use in life.  Not only are we lying when we use these filters, but we take on a self-destructing tendency that will lead us down a road we do not need to go on.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Excuses

I am currently reading through the book of Exodus which is my favorite Old Testament book.  I love the story of Moses and how God works in him and through him to lead the stubborn Israelites out of slavery into the promised land.  While I look at the life of Moses as that of a great leader who I aspire to be like and in no way see myself as anywhere close to being like him, I do see myself in him in a couple of areas.  The main place that I see myself in Moses is in the form of excuses.  We all make excuses sometimes for not doing something, especially when it comes to serving God.  I find my self esteem to be like his when God tells him to go confront Pharaoh to let the Israelites out of slavery.  
Exodus 4:1 - Then Moses said, "what if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?  For they may say, 'The Lord has not appeared to you.'"
I see myself here in the times that God leads me to do or say something and I make the same excuses.  What if they will not listen to me?  What if they laugh off my credibility?  What if they completely ignore what I have to say?  This should not even be a concern of mine.  If God has told me to do or say something, then I need to do it.  The results are not up to me.  God takes care of the results.  I often have to remind myself of this and that if they do ignore and not listen, then they are not rejecting me but rejecting God just as He spoke to Samuel in 1 Samuel 8:7.

What I find interesting in the story with Moses is what happens next.  God does not simply stay silent in regards to Moses' concerns.  He shows him what to do.  He gives him authority to throw down his staff and it become a snake and then back into a staff.  He tells him to stick his hand inside his coat and that it will be covered in leprosy.  He gives Moses this power to show Pharaoh Who has sent Moses.  But what does Moses respond?
Exodus 4:10-13 - Then Moses said to the Lord, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."  The Lord said to him, "Who has made man's mouth?  Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now then go, and I, even I, will be your mouth, and teach you what you are to say."
So Moses has been shown this power and he still makes excuses about not being an eloquent speaker.  How at this point could you feel inadequate?  Whatever reason, Moses did.  However God clearly tells Moses that He will speak for him.  What an amazing promise!  But what does Moses respond to that?
Exodus 4:13 - But he said, "Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will."
Wow, God has given him miraculous abilities and tells him that He will speak for him and Moses still wants out.  So what happens here is really no surprise.  God becomes angry and says that Moses' brother Aaron will speak in his place.  

As I read this I see myself in the way that I make excuses like I said previously.  I allow my low self-esteem and fears speak lies louder than I hear God speak truth.  I forget the promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 that God will never leave me nor forsake me.  So why would I doubt myself?  Why would I allow fear to overcome?  I really do not have a good answer for that.  What I do know is that I see a moment in Moses' life that is honestly a bit sad and one that I think we can learn from.  Since Moses continued to doubt God and doubt the power that was given to him, he missed out on an opportunity.  While Moses was heavily involved in all the events leading to the Israelites departure of Egypt, he could have had more involvement.  Instead of being the one doing all of the talking, Aaron was the mouthpiece for God.

So what is the big deal?  God's will is still accomplished isn't it?  Well of course it will be.  I believe that God's will cannot be thwarted.  However I do not want to miss out on being a part of His will.  I do not want to miss out on being a part of the magnificent work that He is doing.  So my challenge to myself and to you is this:  do not make excuses when God calls you to do something.  Do not miss out on the ways that He can use you to accomplish His will.  Do not sit by while others are doing the work that you were called to do.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

30 Pieces- Part 2

This week at WNW we wrapped up this brief series called "30 Pieces" looking at the life of Judas Iscariot.  We opened the night with a worship set that included "Oh Happiness" (David Crowder Band), "Running to You" (Newsboys), and debuted "Dry and Brittle" (They Came Running).  We then went straight into the message.

After a brief review of the previous week I shared a story about a wasted opportunity of mine.  When I played basketball in the 8th grade we were playing a game that was really close and went into the last few seconds of the game tied.  One of our guard shot a 3-pointer and missed which I rebounded.  With just a few seconds left I went up for the game winning shot, rushed it....and missed.  The game then went into overtime, and we lost.  It does not bother me anymore, but then I completely blamed myself for that lost.  I had an opportunity to win the game and be the hero but I wasted it.  When we look at the life of Judas Iscariot we see the epitome of someone who wasted opportunities.  Judas would have walked around following Jesus day in and day out listening to all that He taught.  Judas could have asked Jesus any question.  He could have received help in any matter that he needed.  He could have exchanged the burden of sin for the easy yoke that Jesus offers.  Sadly though Judas wasted these opportunities.  

Probably just a few days before Judas went to the leaders to conspire to betray Jesus for the small piece of money, he would have heard Jesus teach the "parable of the talents" in Matthew 25:14-30.  Jesus teaches this parable to warn of the dangers of wasting opportunities.  We often look at this parable to talk specifically about money sine a talent is a measure of weight in relation to money.  While we definitely need to consider that when reading this parable, I think we need to consider being a good steward of the opportunities that God places before us as well.  We also read about this in Ephesians 5:15-16.  I challenged the students that they have an amazing opportunity to come to church and be challenged with God's Word each week.  They also have the opportunity to learn from God's Word daily as we have the privilege of having the entire Bible.  I challenged them to not waste the opportunity they have to grow in their faith at events such as Disciple Now, MFuge, and Younite.  We can learn from Judas that it is possible to be near Jesus and associate with Him closely but be hardened in sin and not transformed.  Judas followed Jesus daily and heard His teachings, but never let it take residence in his heart.  When we waste these opportunities then we kiss Jesus with betrayal for something that is less valuable than 30 pieces of silver.  

I ended the night challenging the students to search their hearts to see what path they are headed down.  It is quite possible that you are going down the same path as Judas simply because you do not take advantage of the life that Jesus offers and waste the opportunities that God has placed before you.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

30 Pieces- Part 1


It was good to be back at Wednesday Night Worship this week after not meeting last week since it was Spring Break.  We began a 2-week series called "30 Pieces" based on the life of Judas Iscariot.  We gave a student the opportunity to win free registration for our upcoming Disciple Now weekend by showing a picture of Leonardo Da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper" and asking them to guess which disciple is Judas Iscariot.  It is a pretty tough guess if you have not been told and while the student made a good guess it was wrong.  We then went into a worship set that included "Salvation is Here" (Hillsong United), "Beautiful" (Phil Wickham), and "God Is Able" (Hilsong United).

I began the night giving a little background on Judas Iscariot.  The name "Judas" literally means "Judah lead".  This means that his parents had hopes for him to be led by God.  Judas was a common name then and there were even two disciples with this name.  Of course they are always distinguished between the two.  "Iscariot" is not his last name, but probably denotes that he was from the region of Kerioth-hezron.  Judas was the only apostle that was not from Galilee.  In every gospel list of the disciples (Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, and Luke 6:14-16) Judas is listed very last in the list.  The list in Acts 1:13 does not even list him.  We then looked again briefly at Da Vinci's "The Last Supper".  There are few things to note that are very interesting.  Of course the original is in terrible shape because it has not been preserved the best.  The building it is has been used for many things over the years.  At one point in history it housed soldier and they would throw their boots at Judas.  Da Vinci went to extreme detail in the painting and one thing that can be noticed is that Judas has knocked over a salt shaker which probably is in reference to the near-Eastern expression "betray the salt" which means to betray one's Master.  You can also notice that Jesus and Judas are reaching for the same piece of bread.  Also you see that Judas is clasping a money bag that either signifies the 30 pieces of silver that he has already obtained to betray Jesus, or the fact that he was the treasurer.  Here is a close-up of Judas taken from a copy of "The Last Supper" by one of Da Vinci's students Giampiertino.



We then took a look at the events surrounding the betrayal in linear order.
-John 12:1-8 - Mary washes Jesus' feet with perfume that was extremely costly.  The disciples and specifically Judas complain that the perfume could have been sold for 300 denarii.  This would have been the equivalent to 11 months wages.  Judas wasn't the only one that complained as Matthew 26:8 says the disciples complained.  However as John pointed out Judas specifically, he was probably the main one.  Jesus, as He rightfully can, called Judas and the disciples out on it.
-Matthew 26:14-16 - Immediately after Judas went to make a deal to betray Jesus and received the 30 pieces of silver.  The people had been wanting to kill Jesus and probably had made it well known that if someone would help them out they would pay them.  Judas would have been aware of this and probably after being called out by Jesus he decided to go for it.
-John 13:1-4 - Satan had tempted Judas but did not force him to betray Jesus.  It isn't possible for Satan to force anyone to do anything.  If you say that it is a cop out for your poor decision.  Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him, and still washed his feet anyway.
-John 13:21-30 - Jesus predicts that someone is going to betray Him. The disciples are completely confused by this as they have no clue the true heart of Judas.  How is it possible to be around someone day in and day out and not know that they are a traitor?  Probably because Judas did a good job of hiding his true self from everyone.  The disciples started asking Jesus if it was them that would be who betrays him.  Matthew 26:25 points out that with intent to deceive everyone else Judas even asks if it is him.  After this Judas immediately leaves the upper room and goes to meet the Sanhedrin.  It is at this point that now that Judas is gone that Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper and shares many great things with His followers.
-John 18:1-4Matthew 26:47-49 - He knew that Jesus would be at the Garden of Gethsemane because Jesus went there often to pray.  He came with a group of people that included the Roman Cohort which was 600 soldiers.  So there was a huge crowd of people who came to arrest Jesus.  Judas told them that Jesus is the one that he kissed.  A kiss was a sign of homage, special honor, and respect.  The thing is though Judas did not respect Jesus or he would not have betrayed Him.  Also in John it says that Jesus came forward.  So there was really no need in Judas giving Him the kiss.  We know what happens from here that Jesus is arrested, beaten, and murdered.  Judas regrets his decision and makes the choice of taking his own life.

So in thinking about this series title Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  Today this would value $327.  Judas betrayed Jesus for $327.  Essentially in todays terms he betrayed Jesus for an XBox and some games.  According to Exodus 21:32, 30 pieces of silver is the price of a slave.  We look at Judas as the worst sinner of all time for doing this awful deed, but truth is you and I do the same everyday.  As in the Song "Down Here" by Shaun Groves says "I've kissed for less than 30 pieces".  Everyday we sin and most of the time it is for a small moment of selfish pleasure.  We sometimes make the mistake of looking at the fact that we are not committing what we call the "big sins" but ignore the "small sins" in our life that we must turn away from.  The beautiful thing about it all is that when Jesus and Judas meet in Matthew 26:50, Jesus does not call Judas by name, or call him something like "backstabber" or "betrayer".  Instead Jesus calls him "friend".  Jesus met him, called him friend, and willingly gave himself to be arrested and murdered on the cross.  He also calls each one of us "friend".  Not only did he call Judas "friend", but he died for him and each one of us on the cross.  That is why we have reason to celebrate and worship.  He still calls us friend and was willing to die for us.

So don't compare your sins to others to make yourself feel better.  Realize that each day you sin and in that moment of sin you betray Jesus for something far less valuable than 30 pieces of silver.  But thankfully we have a Savior who is willing to forgive and loves us greater than any betrayal we commit against Him.  When we begin to grasp this reality then our lives will begin to look drastically different.

Here is the song "Down Here" by Shaun Groves that inspired this message and series.  In the second verse he sings the "I've kissed for less than 30 pieces".