Issue Christians

I thought this was a great post from my friend Ed Stetzer. Very insightful on leadership

Yesterday, I had an “encounter” after services in the line where I shake hands after the service. A well-dressed man came up to me after church, shook my hand, and immediately started a conversation about prophecy.

I listened initially, but within a couple of minutes he had quoted one passage he feels is related to the founding of Israel in 1948 and another about Israel occupying Jerusalem in 1967. “Why don’t churches talk more about prophecy?” he asked.

At that point, I could have redirected our conversation and tried to persuade him that we believe in biblical prophecy and will teach on it another time (both of which are true). Or, since he approvingly referenced both Jack Van Impe and John Hagee, I could have found some ways of positively connecting with each of these men.

In most cases, I’ve decided that “this is not the church for you” is actually the right response for “issue Christians” who are visiting the church.

Honestly, if this person were unchurched and told me they thought highly of Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer, I would have sought a point of contact and encouraged further discussion. I probably would have tried to get together– if they were open– to see what the Bible says about the kinds of things that Wayne Dyer talks about. I would have used the bridge to talk about Jesus.

You can read the rest of it here:  http://www.edstetzer.com/2011/10/why-i-have-no-difficulty-helpi.html

The Reason For God Study Guide – Epilogue

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

The Reason for God – Epilogue

Where do we go from here?

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?

Study Guide

Examining your motives

Why do you follow God?

  • Do you want to use him for your own ends?
  • We must admit that all of us begin our journey toward God because we want something from him.
  • Eventually we need to begin thinking, what do I have to do to get him?
    • If you don’t make this change you will never meet the true God, only a caricature.

Counting the Cost

  • We must realize that Jesus is Lord.
  • Bono’s conversation. Jesus is claiming to be Lord rocks our thinking about him.
  • There is no use saying you believe in Jesus unless that reality changes your views on everything.

Taking Inventory

Set of questions to help you process your questions to God.

  • Content Issues – Is there parts of the Christian message that you don’t understand or agree with?
  • Coherence issues – Are there doubts and objections to the Christian faith you cannot resolve?
  • Cost Issues – Do you perceive that a move into full Christian faith will cost you something dear? What fears do you have about commitment?

You need to do this in community. Do it in a Christian church.

If you do return to God how do you know if this is a first time commitment or a rededication?

  • I cant tell, and it doesn’t matter.
  • To do either you must do 2 simple things: 1. Make the move. 2. Believe in Christ

Making the Move

The first thing you must do is Repent.

  • Not just making a list of things to be sorry for and want to change.
  • Repentance is when you recognize that your main sin, the sin under the rest of your sins is your self-salvation project.
  • Repentance is confessing the things besides God himself that you have been relying on for your hope, significance, and security. (repent for the motivations behind our good works)

Second thing to do s Believe in Christ.

  • Believe means he was show he said he was, that we require salvation, that he rose from the dead.
  • Faith that changes the life and conn3ects to God is best conveyed as trust.
  • You don’t have to wait for all doubts and fears to go away to take hold of Christ.
  • Faith begins as you recognize and reject your alternative trusts and gods and turn instead to the father asking for a  relationship to him based on what Jesus has done, not your moral effort or achievements.

Committing to Community

  • Being a part of community is vital to being a Christian who makes it.
  • Repentance and faith must be done both individually and communally.
  • Being in community is hard because Christians are a mess. But it is like the ocean. It is diverse and enormous. That doesn’t mean you don’t go into the water.

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

Download Week 2:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

Download Week 3 here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Week%203.doc

Download Week 4:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Week%204.doc

Download Week 5:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Chapter%205%20%20Reason%20for%20God.doc

Download Week 6:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%206.doc

Download Week 7

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%207%20%20You%20cant%20take%20the%20Bible%20Literally.doc

Download the Intermission:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God-%20Intermission.doc

Download Week 8:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

Download Week 9:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

Download Week 10:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx

Download Week 11:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2011.docx

Download Week 12

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2012.docx

Download Week 13:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2013.docx

Download Week 14:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%2014.docx

Download the Epilogue:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Epilogue.docx

The Reason for God Study Guide Chapter 14

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

Reason For God Chapter 14

The Dance of God

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?
  • Does the Trinity mess with you?

Study Questions:

The Divine Dance

God, father, son, and spirit live in community and glorify each other.

  • It is not self-centered or static.
  • The life of the Trinity is characterized not by self-centeredness but by mutually self-giving love.
  • They are entered into orbit around each other centering themselves on the desires and interests of each other.
  • This creates a dance.
  • The concept of the trinity overloads our minds.

 

The Dance of Love

Since God is Triune and is love then loving relationships in community are the center of reality.

  • When people say God is love they usually mean that God values love or wants us to be loving.
  • In the Christian understanding, God really has love as his essence.
  • He has been loving others from all eternity. God models true love in the way that he loves himself and the community of persons that he is.

 

The Dance of Creation

God created the world not to fill a void in his life. He created the worlds o that we could join him in the dance. He loves to create things to enter the dance of relationship with him.

Losing the Dance

Viewed through the lens that all creation is a relationship dance with God, brings new perspective on sin.

  • Sin is the losing of the dance. It is becoming self centered and isolated from God.
  • God doesn’t leave us there. Jesus died so that we could renter the dance wit him.

Returning to the Dance.

Jesus brings us back into relationship with himself and others when we move toward him.

The Future of the Dance.

So how will the story of human history end? The world wont melt away, instead heaven will come to earth. God will reengage with creation in a new way and we will continue to live with him.

The Christian Life

How do we respond?

  • WE see that Christianity is not only about getting one’s individual sins forgiven so we can go to heaven.
  • That is an important means of God’s salvation but it is not the end or final purpose of it.
  • God wants more from us than to just get us to heaven.
  • We are saved for God not just from sin.
  • We are a part of God’s plan to restore creation
  • When we get to heaven we will say we are finally home. Just like In CS Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia. Our adventures are just only the cover and title page.

Reflection Questions?

Do you long to Dance with God?

Do you long for heaven?

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

Download Week 2:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

Download Week 3 here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Week%203.doc

Download Week 4:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Week%204.doc

Download Week 5:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Chapter%205%20%20Reason%20for%20God.doc

Download Week 6:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%206.doc

Download Week 7

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%207%20%20You%20cant%20take%20the%20Bible%20Literally.doc

Download the Intermission:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God-%20Intermission.doc

Download Week 8:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

Download Week 9:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

Download Week 10:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx

Download Week 11:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2011.docx

Download Week 12

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2012.docx

Download Week 13:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2013.docx

Download Week 14:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%2014.docx

 

The Reason for God Study Guide Chapter 13

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

The Reason for God Chapter 13

The Reality of the Resurrection

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?

Study Guide:

If the resurrection is true it changes our lives completely.

  • It is a huge historical philosophical issue.
  • The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.

There is a burden of proof for both believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers need to come up with another plausible account for how the church began. They must deliver another narrative.

 

The Empty Tomb and the Witnesses

Timing

  • There was not enough time that passed between the writings we have and the events, which took place for them to be fabrications. There were living eyewitnesses to the empty tomb and the resurrection when the gospels and the letters of Paul were written.

Problematic accounts of the resurrection

  • There are too many quirks to the resurrection accounts to be fabrications. Women were used as eyewitnesses. There was no advantage for them to be used as witnesses. They had no social standing. There was probably pressure to remove these stories from the account but they could not because it was too well known.
  • The empty tomb and the accounts of personal meetings with Jesus are even more historically certain when you realize they must be taken together. If there was only empty tomb you would think the body was stolen. If just the meetings with Jesus you could think it was a dream or vision. Both together = resurrection.
  • Christians proclaimed Jesus resurrection from the beginning. That means the tomb must have been empty. No one would have believed them if the tomb wasn’t empty.
  • We cant permit ourselves the luxury of thinking that the resurrection accounts were only fabricated years later. Whatever happened, the tomb must have been really empty and hundreds of witnesses must have claimed that they saw him bodily raised.

Resurrection and Immortality

Chronological Snobbery

  • Some people believe that 1st century people were not as educated and so because they wanted to believe in a resurrection then they believed it. This is a false understanding of the ancients. To all the dominant world religions of the time, an individual bodily resurrection was almost inconceivable.
  • In the 1st century Mediterranean world the universal view of the people at that time was that a bodily resurrection was impossible.
    • In Greco-Roman thinking the soul or spirit was good and physical world was weak and corrupt. So salvation was the leaving of this body. You never wanted to go back.
    • The resurrection would also have been unthinkable to the Jews. They wanted to be resurrected but saw it as a far off event in the future when God changed the world. The resurrection was merely one part of the complete renewal of the world.
    • The idea of an individual resurrection was inconceivable to both Jews and Greeks.
    • Many other would be messiahs were executed in during this time. None claimed to have come back from the dead. This would be impossible unless he actually was raised from the dead.

The Explosion of a New Worldview.

After Jesus death the entire Christian community suddenly added a set of beliefs that were brand new and up to that point had been unthinkable. The 1st Christians had a resurrection-centered world view. This was a new and unique set of beliefs.

  • Every other instance that we know of where such a massive shift of beliefs only happens to a group of people over a period of time. It usually takes years of discussion and debate to have one single narrative that wins out. That is how cultures and worldviews change.
  • However in Christianity , the view of resurrection sprang up in full-blown reality after the death of Jesus. There was no development or debate. People were just telling others what they saw.
  • The subsequent history of the church gets even more difficult to account for. How could a group of 1st century Jews worship a human being as divine? Eastern religions believe God is an impersonal force that is in all things, Western religions believed that various gods took human form. Jews however believed in a single transcendent personal God. It would be blasphemy to believe that you should worship any human being. Yet hundreds of Jews began to worship Jesus overnight. What broke their cultural and religious mold?
  • Pascal. “I believe those witnesses that get their throats cut.” All the disciples and early church leaders died for their faith. They died not for what they believed but for what they saw. Big difference.

The Challenge of the Resurrection

Nothing in History can be proven the way we can prove something in a laboratory. However the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact much more fully attested to than most other events in ancient human history that we take for granted.

  • If you don’t short-circuit the process with the philosophical bias against the possibility of a miracle, the resurrection of Jesus has the most historical weight and proof for what happened than any other explanation.
  • 1st century people felt the same skepticism about the empty tomb as you and I do. The only way people embraced the resurrection was by allowing it to change their perception and worldview
  • If you doubt the resurrection you should want it to be true. It gives us hope for the future. Why sacrifice what we have for those who have none if it all this doesn’t matter?

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

Download Week 2:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

Download Week 3 here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Week%203.doc

Download Week 4:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Week%204.doc

Download Week 5:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Chapter%205%20%20Reason%20for%20God.doc

Download Week 6:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%206.doc

Download Week 7

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%207%20%20You%20cant%20take%20the%20Bible%20Literally.doc

Download the Intermission:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God-%20Intermission.doc

Download Week 8:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

Download Week 9:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

Download Week 10:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx

Download Week 11:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2011.docx

Download Week 12

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2012.docx

Download Week 13:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2013.docx

Resources for Staying in Touch Internationally

Many times on mission trips people struggle to stay in touch with loved ones. Honestly one of the biggest spending mistakes I have had happen on a mission trip was on phone calls. We had several devoted husbands on a trip in South America who rang up a $1500 phone bill calling home every night. They were using American calling cards to try to minimize expenses but were calling the US through the hotel’s switchboard and being billed $3 dollars a minute by the hotel. I think we all learned a valuable lesson on that trip about being careful on how different and difficult it can be to communicate while in a different country.

Here are some great options that I have found for communicating back home while abroad.

1. Email, blogs, twitter and Facebook.

I know these are almost no brainers today but I am always amazed by how helpful they are to keep large numbers of people connected with your team while you are abroad. Most hotels have free internet overseas so it is easy to keep people connected with what is going on on the trip by daily communicating through blogs and Facebook. On our last trip to Israel we had several people even tweeting and checking in on Facebook.

2. Skype

Skype allows you to do a couple of cool things. First of all it is free if you are connecting to someone else online either through voice or video. However you can also get a really cheap calling card option through it to call land lines and cell phones. There are other great options like skype out there as well like Face Time, Google Talk and Qik.

3. International calling cards, international phone plans and rent a phones

There are several options for calling cards and international phone plans. Many times you can get a roaming package through Verizon or ATT for about $30. Usually there is a limit to how much information you can download (usually about 20 MG) but you can use your iPhone or Blackberry that way while you are overseas. You can also get some calling cards through other online sites. I recommend http://www.nobelcom.com/ and http://callbacktoday.com/ . One thing I have seen be really helpful too is having a cell phone for use in the country you are serving in. I recommend  http://www.mobal.com/international-cell-phones/. They will actually mail you a phone and assign you a phone number.

The Reason for God Study Guide Chapter 12

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

Reason for God Chapter 12

The (True) Story of the Cross

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?

Study Guide:

Why did Jesus have to die? Why couldn’t He just forgive us?

The First Reason: Real Forgiveness is Costly Suffering.

Economic Terms: Illustration of a car being damaged and a gate is destroyed.

  • Either you pay the price for the accident, or the owner pays the price for the accident. But the debt does not vanish in thin air.

Most wrongs done to us cannot be assessed in purely economic terms. If you have been wronged there are two things to do.

  1. Seek ways to make the perpetrators suffer for what they have done.
    1. There are problems doing this. You can be damaged by the process of getting justice.
    2. You can forgive.
      1. This means refusing to make them pay for what they did.
      2. But you have to suffer for this to happen, you have to absorb the debt.
      3. This death leads to resurrection instead of lifelong living death of bitterness and cynicism.
      4. Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt.
      5. Forgiveness is the only way to stop the spread of evil.
      6. Forgiveness makes you free.

The Forgiveness of God

God had to pay the debt for us. God did not inflict the pain on anyone else but took it on himself.

The Second Reason: Real Love is a Personal Exchange.

If you take away the Cross you don’t have a God of love.

  • To help others you must give of yourself.
    • To help emotionally drained people you must be drained emotionally
    • To have children thrive you must sacrifice.

The Great Reversal

God identifies with the weak because of his sacrifice. He understands the pain of his people.

Why did Jesus have to die?  US!

The Story of the Cross

The story is the greatest story of redemption. It is also really personal. It is a true story about us!

The fact that Jesus had to die humbles us out of our pride. The fact that Jesus was glad to die for me assured me out of my fear.

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

Download Week 2:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

Download Week 3 here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Week%203.doc

Download Week 4:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Week%204.doc

Download Week 5:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Chapter%205%20%20Reason%20for%20God.doc

Download Week 6:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%206.doc

Download Week 7

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%207%20%20You%20cant%20take%20the%20Bible%20Literally.doc

Download the Intermission:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God-%20Intermission.doc

Download Week 8:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

Download Week 9:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

Download Week 10:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx

Download Week 11:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2011.docx

Download Week 12

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2012.docx

The Reason for God Study Guide Chapter 11

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

The Reason for God Chapter 11

Religion and the Gospel

Ice Breaker: What personal win have you had this month?

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?

 

Study Questions:

Christianity teaches our main problem is sin. What is the solution to sin?

There is a profound and fundamental difference between the way other religions tell us to seek salvation and the way described in the gospel of Jesus.

All other major faiths have founders who are teacher that show the way of salvation. Only Jesus claimed to be the way of salvation himself.

  • Religion= Salvation through moral effort
  • Gospel= salvation through grace

Two forms of Self-Centeredness

Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde in the moment of his pride.

Sin and evil are self-centeredness and pride that lead to oppression against others, but there are 2 forms of this.

  • Being very bad and breaking all the rules
  • Being very good and keeping all the rules and becoming self righteous.

The best way to avoid Jesus is to avoid sin.

  • If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you then you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model and helper but you are avoiding him as Savior.
  • You are trusting in your own goodness rather than in Jesus for your standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus.
  • This is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus. It is a Christianized version of religion.
  • You are able to avoid Jesus as savior by keeping rules in the same way as breaking them.

Ultimately religion and irreligion are spiritually identical courses to take. Both are sin.

  • Religion leads to self-righteousness, pride, comparison and bigotry
  • You never deal with the root issue of who you really are.

You need a transformation of the motives of your heart.

The Damage of Pharisaism

Who were the Pharisees?

Although Pharisees live in legal righteousness they have lives that are if anything, more driven by the despair of sin than “sinners”.

They think they are living righteous lives but at their core they know they aren’t because they are not doing enough. This leads to anxiety, insecurity and irritability.

Because they are insecure, they feel that they need to attack anyone who doesn’t agree with them doctrinally or culturally.

Pharisee’s turn people off against church and God.

The Difference of Grace.

There is a great gulf between the understanding that God accepts us because of our efforts and the understanding that God accepts us because of what Jesus has done.

  • Religion = I obey –therefore I am accepted by God
  • The Gospel  = I am accepted by God through what Christ has done – therefore I obey
    • What does this mean to you?

What is your motivation? Trying to prove yourself or because of who you are?

Motivation:

  • Religion= We obey the divine standards out of fear. If we don’t obey we are going to lose God’s blessing in this world and the next.  Fear of rejection.
  • The Gospel= Gratitude for the blessing we have already received because of Jesus. Desire to please because you want to look like the one who gave his life for us.

If you are following religion you have the temptation to find your identity in the religion. This makes you feel superior to others but at the same time very unconfident in your own standing.

Christianity allows us to be both humble but confident. You don’t think more or less of yourself. You don’t need to notice yourself, how you are doing and how you are regarded, as much. You are secure because you have been forgiven.

Religion and the gospel differ in how they treat the “Other” – those who don’t share your beliefs. Often we define ourselves by those we are not.

A Christian is not defined by excluding anyone, but it is found in the person of Jesus Christ, who was excluded for me. His grace humbles me because I am to flawed to ever save myself through my own merit, but affirms me because I know God loves me unconditionally.

  • This means that Christian cant despise people who don’t believe like ourselves. We are not saved by our own good we cant be proud.
  • But we are not intimidated either because nothing can be taken from us. We are God’s people. God values you.

Religion and the gospel also lead to divergent ways of handling troubles and suffering.

  • Moralistic Religion = If you life an upstanding life, God owes you respect and favor.
    • But if life begins to go downhill then crisis and anger enters their world. They feel God owes them happiness, health and wealth.
    • Gospel = Makes it possible for someone to escape the spiral of bitterness, self-recrimination, and despair when life goes wrong. They know that the basic premise of religion, if you live a good life, things will go well for you is wrong. Jesus was the most moral person in the world and he lived a life full of poverty, rejection, injustice and even torture.

The Threat of Grace

When many hear of the difference between religion and the gospel they think it sounds too easy. They think, “If that is Christianity, all I have to do is get a personal relationship with God and then do anything I want.”

These words are only spoken on the outside of an experience of radical grace. No one on the inside speaks like that. Grace can be quite threatening.

  • If you do good works you can have limits to what God can ask you. If you are saved by sheer grace, there is nothing God can’t ask of you.

If you are saved by grace you no longer have rights and you are owned by Jesus.

  • From the outside this sounds like an obligation. From the inside, the motivation is all joy.
  • What happens when you fall in love? Your great commitment means you are bound to that person but it is not a burden. It is joy to be bound to that person.
  • When you get engaged you don’t say next, ok now I can do whatever I want, and date anyone I want. No you excitedly pursue a relationship with the one you love to the exclusion of any other love.

The most liberating act of free, unconditional grace demands that the recipient give up control of his or her life.

Is this a contradiction? No, see chapters 3 and 9.

We are not in control of our lives. WE are all living for something and we are controlled by that, the true lord of our lives. If it is not God , it will endlessly oppress us. It is only grace that frees us form the slavery of self that lurks even in the middle of morality and religion. Grace is only a threat to the illusion that we are free, autonomous selves, living life as we choose.

The Gospel makes it possible to have such a radically different life.

It is critical to recognize this fundamental difference between the gospel and religion. Christianiy’s basic message differs at the root with the assumptions of traditional religion.

  • The founders of every other major religion came as teacher not saviors. They said: “do this and you will find the divine.”
  • Jesus came essentially as a savior rather than a teacher (although he was one as well). Jesus says: “I am the divine come to you to do what you could not do for yourselves.”

The Christian message is that we are saved not by our own record, but by Christ’s record.

  • So Christianity is not a religion or an irreligion. It is something else altogether.

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

Download Week 2:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

Download Week 3 here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Week%203.doc

Download Week 4:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Week%204.doc

Download Week 5:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Chapter%205%20%20Reason%20for%20God.doc

Download Week 6:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%206.doc

Download Week 7

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%207%20%20You%20cant%20take%20the%20Bible%20Literally.doc

Download the Intermission:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God-%20Intermission.doc

Download Week 8:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

Download Week 9:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

Download Week 10:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx

Download Week 11:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2011.docx

Reflections on Israel

We are finally back in Nashville. I am so glad to be back but battling the jetlag and coming down from a wonderful trip. We had a wonderful time in Israel. It was a truly memorable and special trip.

First of all our team was fantastic. I have never been a part of a more unified and uplifting team. Everyone pulled their weight and was for each other. There were no cliques or awkward mission trip romances. I can truly say that everyone was there for the right reasons. I am missing the team today. After spending 2 weeks together, sharing meals in community every day, its tough to wake up and go to work without them. I am blessed to have them in my life.

Secondly, we were able to experience some wonderful ministry on this trip. I was so impressed by the opportunities our team was able to take advantage of.  We were able to share the gospel on a daily basis while we were in Tel Aviv. The outreach we were able to do there will change the way our team sees the gospel. So often Christians in America are good at doing pre-evangelism, (talking about church, and living moral lives among non-believers) but are not good at actually sharing the gospel and their testimonies with unbelievers. I am so glad that our team got to experience the joy of sharing Jesus with others. They were fulfilling the great commission these past 2 weeks.

Lastly it was awesome to be able to see our team experience Israel from the perspective of a spiritual pilgrimage. When you are in Israel, the Bible comes to life. It is awesome to be able to experience the scriptures first hand. We were able to see what the sea of Galilee looks like. We were able to taste the Jordan River. We were able to baptize one of our own in the Sea of Galilee. We were able to smell what Jerusalem smells like. These sights, sounds and smells of the Holy Land will be with us forever.

I walked away with a deep love for Israel and its people after this trip. There are some really unique and wonderful people living there. My deep desire is for them to come to know Jesus as their personal savior. Thank you so much for journeying with us through this blog. Maybe the next time we go to Israel you can come along with us in person.

Here are some final pictures:


Our team in the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee from where the Sermon on the Mount was Preached

Peter's house in Capernaum, where the story of the Paralytic took place.

The Judean Wilderness/ Where the parable of the Good Samaritan takes place

The Jordan River in Tel Dan, Mt. Hermon

Calla getting Baptized in the Sea of Galilee

 

The Reason For God Study Guide Chapter 10

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.

Reason for God Chapter 10 The Problem of Sin

Interpretation Questions

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?

Study Questions:

Sin

The world is fundamentally flawed. Christians call this sin.

Most of us do not understand what Christians mean by the term of sin.

  • Why is talking about sin important?

Sin and Human Hope

Many of us have the impression that the Christian doctrine of sin is bleak and pessimistic about human nature. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

  • What is the legal model of explaining sin?
  • What is the medical model of explaining sin?

How are both broken models?

The essence of sin is a wrecked relationship with God, one another and the whole created order.

  • Sins are attempts to fill voids. We fill the void of right relationship with God with other things.

How do you achieve “low self esteem?” Why is this important? What does achieving low self esteem mean?

  • You are free when you lose the right to make others the reason why you are a mess.

The Meaning of Sin

Soren Kierkegaard: Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God…. Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God.

  • Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity apart from hi.

What does this mean?

  • Everyone gets an identity from somewhere or something.

So sin is not just breaking rules but making good things into ultimate things.

Our need for worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identify and value on we essentially “deify.” We will worship it in the same way and passion that we worship God, even if you are non religious.

  • In what ways do you see this as true?
  • How do you see this as true in your life?

The Personal Consequences of Sin

How does sin destroy us personally?

  • If we put our value in anything but God that is a fundamentally unstable position.
    • What if you are a bad parent, or you lose your job?
    • An identity not based on God leads to deep forms of addiction.
      • We become slaves to what we use as god. They control our hearts and actions.
      • We are in denial to the degree which we are controlled by our god –substitutes.
      • One has only the choice between God and idolatry.
    • A life not centered on God leads to emptiness.
      • What happens if you do get the desires of your heart?
      • You climb the mountain and realize there is nothing there. You are still unfulfilled and flawed.

The Social Consequences of Sin

Sin does not only have an internal impact on us but a devastating effect on the social fabric.

  • Jonathan Edwards: Society is deeply fragmented when anything but God is our highest love.
    • If our highest aim is the good for our own nation or tribe or family then we put our own interests above that of others.
    • When God is our ultimate good and life center, we will find our heart drawn to not only people that we like and that are like us but to everyone of all types and to the world.
    • If we get our identity by our politics or social nationalism we are prone to despise and demonize the opposition.
    • If you get your identity from being very moral or good you look down at people who are not as good.

The Cosmic Consequences of Sin

The Bible is unique in the way it depicts creation. It isn’t a result of a battle or violence, it is lovingly made and crafted by God. God made the world at peace. Sin destroys that peace. WE have warped the world from the way it began.

What can put it right Again?

We need to find our identity in Jesus. We need to find our entire identity in Jesus. God wants us, not our achievements, status or things.

  • We need to realize we are sinners who need a savior.
  • We need to trust God and his plan.
  • Allow Jesus to be our center.

Everyone has to live for something. Whatever that something is become “Lord of your Life,” whether you think of it that way or not.

Jesus is the only Lord who if you receive him, with fulfill you completely, and if you fail him, will forgive you eternally.

Prayer Time

Download Week 1:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%201.doc

Download Week 2:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%202.doc

Download Week 3 here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20%E2%80%93%20Week%203.doc

Download Week 4:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Week%204.doc

Download Week 5:  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Chapter%205%20%20Reason%20for%20God.doc

Download Week 6:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%206.doc

Download Week 7

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%207%20%20You%20cant%20take%20the%20Bible%20Literally.doc

Download the Intermission:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God-%20Intermission.doc

Download Week 8:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20For%20God%20Chapter%208.docx

Download Week 9:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/The%20Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%209.docx

Download Week 10:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/1370227/Reason%20for%20God/Reason%20for%20God%20Chapter%2010.docx