Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Peace

   I wrote this little ditty on peace for a dear friend.  I wanted to do it to show how much I appreciated our friendship and to give him some encouragement.  I figured I would share it and hopefully someone else can find it useful.

Peace- Freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquil

A lot of things can learn a lot about peace through popular slogans and catch phrases. Two of my favorites are something to the effect of "Peace in the Middle East" and "No Jesus No Peace, Know Jesus, Know Peace." Popular slogans and catch phrases are cool, but often they miss the point or makes things to be cleaner and neater than what they really are.

The first idea of Peace is this: Peace is not the absence of chaos, strife, or oh crap moments, its how we deal with them. We can stick two people in the same stressful situation and one can make it worse, while the other makes it better. True peace is more than a response, because if it was, we could fake it all the time, True peace is apart of our character and it comes from within. In other words, it can not be manufactured or faked

The second idea of Peace is this: the worlds definition and Gods definition are totally different. The worlds definition tends to be all is right in the world along with conflicts being resolved. It is the end of every action movie, because everything has been made right. Now Gods definition has this in mind and all will be made right when either God calls us home or Christ returns. Gods peace is navigating those tough situations with grace, peace and humility. True peace is taking on the issues as they come and not minimizing or overblowing the situation. Its also realizing that there is a God and we are not Him, so may be we should stop acting like it.

The third idea of Peace is this: The Apostle Paul thinks that peace is a big deal. He has scattered the issue peace all throughout of his letters. I think Paul truly understood that people will look anywhere or do anything to find peace or at least the appearance of it. People are trying to find peace in the next big thing or to get rid of something or activity. Often we have no idea where to find peace, especially in the midst of being tossed all around and being hung upside down. The peace that Paul is talking about does not come from within or some magical drug, but it only comes from God and He is the only one that can give it out. One of Jesus final reminders to us before His ascension was that not only does He give out peace, but He leaves it with us. Gods peace brings comfort, understanding, and courage, no matter what life throws at us.

The fourth idea of Peace is this: sometimes it is being ok with the ambiguous. There are some things or situations that just can not be tied up with a red ribbon while everyone is walking away happy to theme music. I think we should strive for this, but sometimes the hardest part is accepting things we can not change. Whether it is a relationship with a parent, child, significant others, or the ex, sometimes the hardest thing to do is accept the situation as is. This does not mean we keep adding fuel to the fire, but its knowing how to deal with the wierdness cause we all know that life can get weird fast.

The fifth idea of Peace is this: It is actually calming down and realizing that we not God. The Psalmist writes that we are to be still and to know that God is God. In the midst of this Psalm, life is in utter chaos and we have two choices. We can do things the hard way and contribute to the madness and this tends to add fuel to the fire. Or we can defuse the situation be remaining calm and not only realizing that God is still God, but it is putting Him on is throne. As the Prophet Elijah learned, God can be found in a lot of places, but He is most commonly found in the still and quiet voice.

So here are some basic questions in relations to Peace: What are some the ways you add chaos to your life or to the lives of the people that are close to you? What are some of the distractions that limit you from not only seeking God, but hearing from Him? What do you need to do to change that?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Humilty

  My sister got married this past weekend and as a gift I wrote a short piece on humility.  My mom added a little pinterest flash to it and then she framed it up.  This is what I wrote to them as the begin their marriage and it is good reminder for all of us.  I based my rambling thoughts on Phillipians 2, where Christ humbled himself to the point of a gruesome death on a cross and His resurrection allows Him because of this, He is sitting at the right hand of the Father.



 

The definition of humility is: the quality  or condition of being humble, modest opinion, or estimate of ones own importance or rank
 
As the two of you begin your new life together, the word humility keeps coming to my mind. Here are several things of what humility is and use this as a reminder. Also the ultimate definition of humility is found in Philippians 2

The first key to humility is: knowing who you are and who you belong to
Knowing who you are often saves us an identity crises and from others singing the Who’s famous song Who are You. This prevents us from getting into the trap of a job, title, or letting a relationship define you. Knowing who you are allows you to have peace with your past and know where you are going. It is being comfortable in your own skin and in who you are while still pushing yourself to grow. We all belong to someone, whether it is ourselves, some cause or relationship. Being humble is realizing that first and foremost you are a child of God. When we live in that relationship first everything else is put into its proper place. To put it bluntly, it is getting off of our high horse and choosing to serve instead of being served. When we serve, its not about doing things to get some something. True service calls us out of our comfort zone and to people and situations that challenge us. True service is what God calls us to do and empower us for His glory.

The second key to humility is: learning to forgive and to be forgiven
Yes this means we have to learn to put on the big kid pants and not only seek forgiveness, but grant it also. In every relationship things that are said, done, and forgotten about that will cause disappointment, anger and even resentment. Seeking forgiveness is not only saying "my bad", but also growing in maturity to take steps to correct the situation. Granting forgiveness maybe the hardest part because it not forgetting about the situation, but dealing with it in its proper context and not letting it eat you alive. Humility is granting forgiveness because we have been forgiven much ourselves. Its also not letting that one thing live rent free in our head.
 
The third key to humility is: being strong and courageous
Life is scary and we can either hide from it or we can face it head on with God. In Joshua 1, the phrase strong and courageous comes up at least four times depending on the version you read. Life tends to through a lot scary stuff at us and there is a lot of uncertainty, but there is hope. God is not only buy our side, He also leads us, walks besides us, and even pushes us at times. True humility is realizing that we can not do it our selves and relying on God and being in relationship is the only way to Go.
 
The fourth key to Humility is: having a proper view of life
There are times when we need to take lessons from Aaron Rogers and take time to R-E-L-A-X, and there are times when we need to be diligent in what life brings our way. It is being flexible with life and yet having solid boundaries with relationships, commitments, career and life in general.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Roman Road



  Here is a continuation of the Discipleship curriculum that I am helping a friend write on the basics of evangelism and the Romans Road
 
The Lesson


Introduction – One of the commandments that we have the most trouble with is the one about sharing our faith. We have already seen how in Matthew 28 we are to go out into the entire world to share the Gospel. This doesn’t mean we need to become a pastor or a missionary to do it. All you have to do is to start with the people you come in contact with on a daily basis. There are many ways that we can share our faith, but the key in all of this is having a personal relationship with that person. Relationships allow us to build trust so they will listen and will help you to share the Gospel out of love for them, not because you see them as a project. The last time you took advice from someone is probably because you had a relationship with them and that you also trusted them and that you knew that they had your best interest in mind.  So when you team up your relationship with people, the truth of the Gospel, and the work of the Holy Spirit anything is possible. In the next few chapters of our evangelism/discipleship discussion we will go over a few simple ways to help you present the Gospel.
The Roman’s Road – One of the ways we can share the Gospel is through what is called the Romans Road. It is a way we can share the Gospel through using the Book of Romans. None of the methods we present are meant to be the only way or even the best way to share the Gospel. These are simply tools that will allow you to walk through a Gospel presentation with someone when the time calls for it.
We are all sinners – The first concept is that everyone has sinned and we are in need of Salvation.  (Romans 3:10-23) Sin is our action and attitudes that separates us from God and His holiness.  The reason that sin separates us from God and His holiness is because God’s character prevents Him from being around it. Many people struggle with the concept that they are so bad they deserve condemnation but this only shows they do not know what sin is. Sin is a violation of God’s will, who created us all. Furthermore, not only do we sin our actions but are very hearts are sinful. God, in his righteousness, would be perfectly just and wiping us all out. Yet because He is a God of love He does not.
Our sin has consequences – The second concept of the Romans Road is that the consequences (or wages) of our sin is death (Romans 6:23). The final consequence of sin is our physical death and eternal separation from God but sin also leads to a spiritual death now. Spiritual death is our separation from God, our bondage to sin, and inability to save ourselves. Our sin doesn’t only have consequences for the future but leads to the brokenness we see in our world every day.
Jesus died to save us from our sin – The third concept is that Jesus died for our sins (Romans 5:8).  There is no way we can atone for our sins and to bring ourselves back into  a right relationship with God. But God loved us so much that He made the ultimate move and gave His own Son (who had never sinned) to be the ultimate sacrifice and took away our sin so that there is a way we can have a relationship with Him again.
We must accept this gift from God – The fourth concept is that they only way we receive God’s free gift is through accepting it (Romans 10:9-10:13).  Even though Jesus’ death and resurrection was for anyone and everyone, we still need to accept it.  We need to confess that Jesus is Lord and that our actions and attitude is what separated us from Him. Along with confessing, we also need to believe. Believing is putting into action what we say or confess. It doesn’t do much good to confess something if we don’t believe in it. Believing in what Christ has done for us means that we turn from our old ways of sin and self-glorification and we live to glorify God and to make Him known.
Salvation is found in Christ alone – The fifth concept is that salvation is through Christ alone (Romans 8:1;38-39; 5:1). Our salvation is based on Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross. There is no other way we can get to heaven, receive eternal life, or have peace with God. We cannot try and work our way to heaven, or find some other option because there is none. The only way to have peace with God and to be in right relationship with Him is through accepting the free gift of Jesus. The question is: will you receive God’s free gift of grace through faith in Christ Jesus?
Conclusion – The Roman’s Road is a quick, simple way to walk through what the Gospel is all about. One of its strengths is that it allows you to ground every step with some key verses (obviously all found in Romans). You could easily jot down the five concepts with the key verses somewhere in your Bible, or even keep it in your wallet. If you felt like you needed help explaining the Gospel to someone you could use this as a resource to help you give you confidence.
Application
1.  Take a few minutes to practice using the Roman’s Road with your discipler. Go over it a few times until you feel you can confidently walk someone through all of the concepts.
2.  Share with your discipler how you like to share the Gospel with others. What tools do you use if any?

3.  By this time (now at least sixteen weeks) you should have been able to identify a few people you want to share the Gospel with. This of course should be done by the prompting of the Spirit and should be in the context of relationships. However, the reason most of us never share is because of fear. Talk with your discipler about sharing the Gospel message with someone this week.


4. Continue to focus on building intentional relationships with people in your community. Always be looking for opportunities to share about your faith in Jesus.


Discussion Questions
1.  Discuss any hesitations you have about sharing the Gospel with someone. What are the steps you need to take to be confident?
2.  Why is that so many Christians know they should share the Gospel but do not do so? Have you felt this struggle in your own life?
3. If you have not already done so, make a plan with your discipler for you to share the Gospel with someone this week.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Who is God Part 2

  As stated earlier, I am helping a friend help write a discipleship curriculum for his church plant in Colorado.  Here is the chapter on who God is. 


As we begin our three week series on who God is and trying to wrap our heads around how the Trinity relates to each other and to us the creation, I would like to start off with a question that Joan Osborne’s ask in one of her more famous songs and that’s "What if God was one of us?" Is God just as dysfunctional and a big of a slob as we are, or is God someone or something that is greater than we are who has the world at His fingertips. We can dive deeper into God becoming one of us more in depth when we talk about who Jesus is, but one of the essential questions that we need to answer as a Christian or looking into the Christian faith is that who is this God and is He someone who is almighty as He is billed to be, or just a fake and a crutch that people rely on just to get through life. If we really claim that God is who He says He is, lets take a look at some of the essential characteristics of who God is.





The first characteristic that wee need to look at is that God is love. This characteristic along with His holiness is the basis for everything who He is and everything that God does. If God is the beginning and the end, and the creator of all things (will be discussed next) what is Gods motivation for doing it and what do these characteristics say about who He is as a being. What does it mean that God is love? We see in 1 John that not only God is love, but love originates from Him. Love seeks to be in a relationship that is open and that hides nothing. Love also means that there are consequences for wrong actions. Consequences does not mean God hates me, but it is designed to bring us back into a full relationship with God and to rely on Him only?


The second characteristic of God is His holiness. What does holiness mean and does God sit in some ivory tower untouched? The basic meaning of holiness means that God is without sin and to be seperate. Sin is more than just having a blemished record, or doing a wrong action, but it is a character flaw. The character flaw is putting the created above the Creator. Gods holiness disallows Him from being around things or people who have this character flaw. This character flaw takes us out of a relationship with God and if not corrected, will lead to an eternal separation from God. To go along with holiness is this idea of transcendant. The most basic definition of this is that God is greater than we are and no matter how hard we try, we can never be God, because we can never be all knowing, all powerful, or everywhere at once. With God being holy and sinless, this makes Him the Judge of all things. With God having never sinned, this means His character is without blemish and can see for things as how they really are. This means that God judges everything based on His very character and intention and not our corrupt character and intentions that aim to lift us up.


The third characteristic that we need to look at is the concept that God is eternal. To put in basic terms, He has no beginning or no end. God. Outside of the Trinity, this is one of the more difficult things to wrap our heads around because how can something have no beginning or end, and will always be there. If God were to just randomly appear or be formed from something, that would not make Him God because it would mean that He is apart of the creation and not the Creator. The major take away that I want people to come away with is that God will always be there, long before the earth was ever created, and even if the world were to somehow cease to exist He would still be in existence.


The fourth characteristic that belongs to God and that ties into the first concept of being eternal is that He is the Creator of all things. How can something not be in existence and create, that would be a foolish idea. One of the big ideas of evolution is that everything evolved from some sort of cosmic stew or a big bang. If this was true, how did the cosmic stew get formed or who made the big bang go bang? One of the cool things about being God is that He can create things out of nothing. The big theological word for this is ex nihlo. As we see through the first few chapters of Genesis, God spoke and it came into being. With being God and having that type of authority, He doesn’t need to be wearing the white lab coat and being that crazy sciencetist hoping what is brewing in lab will work out. He speaks and it happens, and there is no questions asked.


The fifth characteristic that God is, is that He is a relational God. God did not create the earth to walk away and leave it alone to run itself into the ground (this is also known as dualism). God wants to be in relationship with us and this is why He sent His very Son to earth to take the punishment four our sin. Just as a parent wants to be in a good relationship with their children, so does God. He does not want anything to come between us, but He also will let us suffer the consequences of our actions.


Application


1. Define who God is in your life. Is He non existent, a defiant thug, or a loving Father?


2. Is our goal to reach God to be in relationship with Him, or to make ourselves look good?


3. If God’s goal is to be in relationship with us, what are the things in our lives that help or hinder with this process?


Discussion Questions


1. After reading 1 John 4, what does love God to do with it and is there anything that you wont do for love?


2. If God is holy and His character unblemished, can or should we strive for those things and are they obtainable?


3. After reading Genesis 1-3, what are your observations and some of the consequences of this passage?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The joy of the Lord

Todays message is going to be coming from the book of Nehemiah and lets cover a little history so we can understand are passage better before we come to it. The book starts out with Nehemiah pleading to God on the behalf of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. The city of Jerusalem is destroyed and a portion of Israel was hauled off into captivity for the sins and disobedience of the whole nation. God was using the captivity as a form of punishment for Israel disobedience. Nehemiah was reminded of this destruction and the consequences of Israel’s actions. He was mourning over what had happened and He was pleading with God to remember His promises and to keep the covenant. This promise or covenant is saying that the nation of Israel will be Gods people and dwell in His presence and that God is a gracious and forgiving God. Lets dive into our passage which is Nehemiah 2:1-10


1. In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?" 4 The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it." 6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites. Nehemiah 2:1-10


This passage is our starting point today and we will hit a few highlights throughout the rest of the book before we are done. There are several things that captured me about Nehemiah and some of the qualities that he displayed. The first quality that I see with him is one of vision. I think true vision is standing in the present, seeing what has been and seeing what could be and making it happen. As we see with this passage, Nehemiah saw the destruction of his homeland, and he wanted to make things right. It is more than just getting things done, because we can all get things done and have it fall apart again. True vision is seeing things being restored to who what they were meant to be. Nehemiah wanted the nation of Israel to be Gods people again, to have a place to worship and to have a city where they could live, worship and dwell with each other. When we have a vision, it is being passionate about something on steroids. Passion tends to fade and it tends to be what we want to do. Vision is about bringing Gods kingdom here on earth. Vision is seeking God and seeking His passion for us and combining it with follow through to impact the lives of others.

Having vision also takes courage. When Nehemiah made the request to the king, the king had every right to say no. If the king thought if it was a dumb enough of an idea, he could of had Nehemiah killed. The thing about vision and courage is that it often calls us out of our comfort zone. When we have a vision from God to be a bridge for someone or a community, it takes courage because it is often scary and it pushes us to grow and to rely on God. As John Wayne put it, Courage is being scared, but saddeling up anyway. When we get to this point, there is no backing out, no throwing in the towel, because there is to much on the line. There are people here who have been with the church from the very beginning, because of any circumstances, were there thoughts of throwing in the towel, quitting, questioning if it is really worth it. But having vision and courage is this plan is from God and if it is to work, it needs to be His plan and trusting that God will come through because if He doesn’t it wont work.

Having vision and courage also takes a risk assessment.  What good is having a vision or courage, if there is no real chance that failure could happen.  I am not saying that we should want or expect failure to happen, but we live a fairly safe life when failure is not an option.  So here is my question for us all, what is that God sized dream that you have, that they only way it will succeed is if God shows up in a mighty and powerful way.  None of us like failure, but God is calling each one of us to get up off of the couch in some way and live outside of our comfort zone.  It could be with reaching out and starting or continuing a relationship with someone, doing something you have never done before, moving on from a job, relationship or habit.

Courage also takes determination and dedication. Here is the thing about the rebuilding of the Temple and of the wall, its was going to take time. I am sure that Nehemiah would of loved everything to of been done in one day, but that wasn’t a reality. How many of us struggle with instant now and we become a hot mess when we don’t get what we want yesterday. It doesn’t help when we have instant coffee, we can find out what someone is thinking half way across the world instantly, or even a boss or significant other or child wanting that particular thing done that particular way done five minutes ago. How do we develop or have endurance for our community, relationships, church, work and any other number of things. Here are a couple of suggestions. The first one is a reminder that there are some things that is a race and not a sprint. When you have vision, courage and endurance, it means that you are in it for the long haul and there are no easy fixes. You are willing to see it through the end. To bower a popular fishing metaphor, we are not and should not be on the catch and release program. When we do this, we are saying that there is always something bigger, better, less trouble, or even not as much work. Another suggestion for endurance is prayer. There are various ways we can talk with God, find what we works best with you and do it. A third way to develop endurance is to have deep relationships. Find a person or a group of people that you can do life with. This means that you are in this together, to give encouragement, to be a sounding board and to kick each other in the butt when needed. The quickest way to loose endurance is to think we are doing it alone and we are the only ones who can do it. The fourth idea is that everybody does there part. Everybody had a job in rebuilding of the Temple and the wall surrounding Jerusalem. When everybody does their part, it makes everything go so much smoother. It also prevents people from thinking they need to do everything and bing superman. The last idea is treat people as people and things as things. How often do we treat objects or our pets better than our own family members? Just remember, we are to be with people and to encourage each other and use things and not vice versa.

When we are doing what God has called us to do, there is going to be opposition. If you have any sort of leadership responsibilities and you never have had someone disagree with you, you might be doing it wrong. In the story of Nehemiah, this person was Sanballat. The full confrontation can be found in chapter four. He was questioning everything that the Jews were doing and were even hurling insults. He even got the king to hault construction on the wall for awhile. When we face actual opposition, we have to ask ourselves and have listening conversations to decide wither the issues are really valid, or is it people not wanting to change. In any group setting when a decision is made, there are people who are going to disagree for various reasons. Then there is what Taylor Swift calls haters and yes haters going to hate. It is more than just having an opposition to someone or something. They try by every means to tear down, destroy and be a pain the the side. It often goes from disagreeing to character assination through gossip, and trying to turn people against what God is trying to do. They are often disgruntle or mad at either God or themselves, so if they are miserable, everyone else should be to. We need people to hold us accountable in our lives and there are Godly people who we can seek advice and counsel from, but here is my question for you all. Are we more concerned about what others have to say to us or about us, or what God has to say? The ultimate test to know what one is suppose to be doing is in so much the praise or discontent of people, but do we have the applause of God in our ear no mater the situation

The story of Nehemiah does finish up with the exile Jews returning home, the wall around Jerusalem being built and the Temple was finished. Starting in chapter 7, there is the gathering of Gods people together as a nation to consecrate themselves, to bring tithes into the temple and to hear the Word of the Lord. Israel realized who they were in relation to each other and to God. If they were to be called Gods people and for God to dwell among them, they need to follow Gods laws. Gods laws are not meant to be legalistic, but are to promote healthy boundaries in our relationship with God and others. In 8:10, there is a profound statement that we all should consider and that is the joy of the Lord is my strength. God wants to and desires to be in a relationship with us, and when we stay with in the healthy boundaries, God dwells among us, and He protects us. Our joy should not be in what we can do for God or the degrees we have on our wall, or the job title we carry at work. Our joy should come in that God dwells among us and He is our defender, protector and giver of life. We can have a great vision, everyone does their part, endurance, and have a handle on haters, what does it mean to have the joy of the Lord as our strength.

Having the joy of the Lord is realizing that it is not about me, but its about God. When it is about me, its about my talents, my agenda, and what I need to do or serve instead of what can God do through me, I am using the talents He has given me and I want to serve. I think a lot of this comes down to our attitude and how we perceive ourselves, God and others. I encourage everyone to read through Phillipians 2 this week and it is where Paul explains to us that we need to have the very same attitude of Jesus, who was God, and yet humbled Himself to become a servant and to die on a cross, so He could be raised again.

Another way to have joy in the Lord is through our time of worship. This goes beyond singing a few songs and hearing a long winded preacher. True worship is how we live our lives on a daily basis and who we are giving glory to. There are only two people we can give glory to, and that is wither ourselves or God. Worshiping God is about singing songs, reading ones Bible, but is also working for more than just a paycheck, it is how our children our raised, its having wholesome conversations with other people. True worship is connecting with God on a daily basis, in the greatness, to the mundane and even in the worse of it all. Worship is pledging allegiance to God and only to God and making Him first.

The third thing about joy is that it does not mean we are always happy. Happiness is the warm fuzzy feeling when someone buys us our meal. Joy is not so much based on what happens to us, but what our response is to life. Joy is going about life and praising God because of or in spite of our life circumstances. Joy so often is a conscience decision to thankful, content and humble. I think true joy is knowing who we are in God and that we do not have to earn anything because God freely gives grace and that we are one of His children and nothing can change that.

The joy of the Lord being our strength means that we do not have to do this life by ourselves or on our own strength. One of the hardest concepts to hear and learn from the Bible is that not only God loves us, but He adores us and wants to be in a relationship with us. He loves our warts and all, and the cool thing is, is that we do not have to stay the same way, God wants to change €us into His image if we allow Him to. When we have the joy of the Lord, it tends to lead to action and we see the world differently so that God can change it through us.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Being right vs being truthful

I’ve been reading a biography on 18th century politician Henry Clay and he is credited with the quote of "I would rather be right than president." So let me ask a burning question. What is that one thing that you want, desire, or maybe even need, and you are willing to do anything to get it? Are you willing to work hard and honestly for it, or are you willing to cut corners, stretching or concealing the truth, (because all out lying is just plain wrong) or selling out anybody and everybody you can to get what you want or so you can be right? So here are some observations about being right and being truthful.

Being right and being truthful do have some similarities, but I think there are some differences. The first observation about being right is that it follows a strict guideline. The thing about being right, is that it can focus on something that is an objective standard, like how the sun rises in the east. But being right also can be very subjective, and it comes down to personal preference like who is the better football team, the Vikings or Packers. When we focus on the more subjective issues, we tend to argue to we are blue in our face with someone and we will get nowhere fast.

A second observation is that being right is based on our standards that we create. It is really hard to be wrong in our own eyes, especially when we define what is right and wrong. When we get to define what is right and wrong, we tend make what we like into the things that are right, and things that we struggle with or dislike we tend to make wrong. It tends to be very subjective and self glorifying, but in this self glorification, we tend to become weighed down and legalistic. It is doing something because we have to and not because we want to.

A third observation about being right is that we tend to go on personal crusades. We are seeking people to join us and to tear down anybody who opposes us. This thought process tends to over glorify people and making them out better than what they are because they agree with us. We also tend to vilify people who don’t agree with us or are not on our team. A prime example of this is this years presidential election.

Here are some observations about being truth or being truthful.  To be blunt, when we are truthful, we are right, but we are not always truthful when we are right. My first observation of being truthful is that we carry the attitude that we would rather be truthful than right. Are ego is not at stake and it is making sure things are being done and told the right way the first time. When we are truthful, we check are egos at the door, realize what our biases are and seek to be honest not matter the consequences.

The second observation about being truthful that it is based on objective statements or standards. Truth can stand on its own, and there is no wiggle room around it. Truth is based on something that is concrete and never changing to meet our needs and the times. All truth is found in and through God and He is the standard. When we are truthful, we are aiming to live a Godly life and to have His ways be our ways. It is a realization that all is good and holy comes from God.

The third observation about being truthful is that according to the Gospel of John, when we know the truth, it shall set us free. To put it plainly, when we tell the truth, we don’t have to remember what we say, because our story will always be the same. The other freeing part about truth is that it looks at things fort they way they are and what they could be. Truth takes a look at things honestly and shares it without sugar coating it and there is always a sense of tack. In all reality, it doesnt make a mole hill into a mountain and it doesn’t turn a mountain into a mole hill. The most freeing part of being truthful is that it is done out of love and care not only for other people, but ourselves. When we are truthful, it brings about honesty and in all reality, what is more freeing than honesty and Jesus?

The last observation for now about truth is the idea that it does not seek to gain or manipulate. When we tell people things that we think they want to hear, or expect that from others, we are really lying and manipulating others and ourselves to either get what we want or to make ourselves look better. Truth is about being honest, no matter what the consequences are.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Prayer

Prayer
Introduction – There are two very common questions when it comes to prayer. The first question is why do you pray and the second one is how do you pray.  These are questions Jesus disciples asked, too(Luke 11). Does one pray to change the mind of God, or so that we can get what we want or need, or do we pray so that we can hear what God has to say?  In this chapter we will explore how to prayer through a method called ACTS. There are multiple ways to pray, and this is just one method. We want to encourage you to explore other methods and find what works for you. From there we will explore a little bit of why we pray.
A.C.T.S –
Adoration – This is where we become familiar with who God is and what His characteristics are.  God is someone who is holy, forgiving, gracious, righteous and many other things.  All of these attributes are a part of God’s character and adoration is simply praising God for who He is.  Adoration is more than just telling God who is, which is important, but it is us realizing who God is and aligning ourselves with who He is and having God change us.  
Confession – Confession is more than just saying I am sorry but is moving from also doing something about it. It is about allowing God to change our character and allowing Him to have more control of our lives.  One of the most famous confessions of the Bible is found in Psalms 51, where King David confesses his affair with Bathsheba.  Confession is seeking Gods mercy and realizing that our words and actions have consequences and accepting those consequences. Confession is also seeking God’s forgiveness, so that our actions will not be held against us by God.  It doesn’t let us off the hook for those consequences, but confession and forgiveness brings us back into right relationship with God and we have nothing to hide from God.  
Thanksgiving – Whether we do this through song, writing, or spoken word it is telling God and the world what we are thankful for.  Prayer teaches us humility and grace, because in it we realize that we do not have it all together and we cannot do it by ourselves. A prayer of thanksgiving allows us to be reflective and think on how God has worked in our lives over a period of time. It helps broaden our view and when we are in the middle of living life and getting bogged down, a time of reflection and thanksgiving will remind us how God has been there before and will be again. Thanksgiving is a reminder that God’s grace is perfect and new every morning and we can be grateful for what God has done for us.  
Supplication – This is where we tell God what we need. God is the giver of all good and perfect gives and sometimes we receive those gifts, is if we go and ask for them.  Just a reminder, God is not Santa Clause and is not there to give us our every want and desire.  God wants to provide for our every need in this life and the only way He can do this is if we spend time with Him in prayer talking to Him and listening to what He has to say.
Why do we pray? – Knowing how to pray is one thing, but we all have to answer a question of why do we pray.  Is it so we can dictate the will of God and to get what we want? Or do we pray so that we may hear from God? To paraphrase a quote from C.S. Lewis, “I pray not to change the mind of God, but so God can change me.” We believe there are several reason to pray and want to take a moment to explore a few.
We pray to communicate to God – God wants and desires to be in communication with us.  Prayer is a way where we can communicate with God and He with us.  Whether it is us telling Him how our day is or asking for guidance, God wants to hear from us.  Prayer is also about listening.  How else are we supposed to here from God unless we take time to be quite and listen?  God may speak through that audible voice or through our conscience or through His word.  This allows God to build us up and to share the areas where we need to change and He gives us the power to change through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit.
We pray to build our faith – We all submit to someone’s authority, whether it is ours, Gods, or someone else’s.  When we pray, we are admitting that we do not have it all together and we are submitting to God’s authority in our life.  This is a realization that God is the King of the Universe and we are His creation. We are taking the problem out of our hands and bringing it to the only one who can truly do something about it. And as we see God provide and answer prayer it will only build our faith all the more.
We pray to be in community with others – Prayer is something we can do with other believers and a way where we can intercede for each other.  Whether we are praying for peoples healing (James 5:13-20) or life struggles, prayer is something that can unite each other as fellow believers.  We can share life with each other through prayer for each other and we can intercede on someone else’s behalf.
We pray to be a part of God’s ministry – Many people struggle with prayer because they cannot wrap their minds around why God would change our circumstances based on us coming to Him. Why not just do what He is going to do anyway? The answer lies in realizing that God wants us to pray to give us the opportunity to participate in His ministry. This is why we preach the Gospel, serve the poor, and love our neighbor. Yes, God could do all those things and does not need us be He gives a chance to be a part of what He is doing in our world. Prayer is another part of this. God allows our prayers to change our circumstances because it gives us the chance to participate in His ministry.
Application
1. Spend some time with your discipler this week going through the ACTS model of prayer. Take some time to discuss any other models of prayer you would like to try and spend some time using those.
2. Commit to making prayer a more regular part of your daily life. With your discipler set some goals to be engaged in prayer and keep track of how you are doing.
3. As we discussed above, prayer helps us form Christian community. Take sometime this week to pray with some others. You may have to initiate the conversation and ask how you can pray for them.
4.  Explore different of prayers in the Bible such as ones of lamenting or prayers for healing, or of desperation. How are each of these important to the faith?
Discussion Questions
1.  Do you struggle with prayer, seeing God as a genie to grant your every wish? Or do you tend to struggle with why God would answer prayer at all?
2.  Read Psalm 51 together and discuss this passage. What do you observe about how David confesses? What would you like to adopt as a part of your own prayer of confession?
  
3.  How much of prayer is talking about or to God, and how much of it is listening? What are ways you can listen to God? What does it sound like or look like when God has spoken to you?
4.  Do you believe your prayers can change the circumstances around you? Why or why not? How does seeing prayer as participating in God’s ministry tie the two together?