Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Day in the Life of Jesus by Frank Black



Have you ever thought about what it would be like to spend some time with Jesus? - back when Jesus walked the roads of Israel with his disciples, going from village to village.  We’re given the “Reader’s Digest” version in the New Testament.  Wouldn’t you like to know “the rest of the story” – kind of “read between the lines.”  I certainly would like to join Jesus on his travels and spend “A Day In The Life Of Jesus.”


  We’re not told what transpired along His journey from one place to another.  The Bible will simply say something like, “A few days later when Jesus again entered Capernaum…”  or   “…He traveled from village to village.”  Well, do you realize that those few days were filled with the daily living of Jesus and His disciples – their walking, eating, resting, sleeping, etc.  Speaking of “walking”; how do you think Jesus got around?  He probably exclusively walked from place to place.  This is easily said, isn’t it?  I can tell you first hand, from being in Israel in August 2011 that it’s very hot and dry and dusty (it was over 100 degrees most days we were there).  So how far did He walk?  It’s about 30 miles from Nazareth (Jesus birth place and boyhood home) to Capernaum (where Peter lived and where Jesus spent a lot of time).  While I’m talking distance; do you realize it’s about 68 miles from Nazareth to Jerusalem.  I don’t want to lose you in the geography; but my point is that in the daily life of Jesus he often walked up to 20 miles a day in various harsh conditions.  If you walk 4 miles per hour, this would be a minimum of 5 hours walking per day.


What did Jesus do during all these hours He spent walking?  Can’t you just imagine the amount of talking and teaching he did with His disciples.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have been with Jesus during those times!  To listen and to learn.  We’re not privy to all these conversations that would have taken place or the situations that Jesus would have handled in His divine ways. Of course Jesus would have had “small talk” and all the usual conversation when living and traveling with people.  Remember He was totally human [yet divine]:    * Philippians 2:6-8 - “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death…”


Have you ever wondered whom Jesus used for advice – where did He get His counsel?  We’re often told in the Gospels that Jesus would go out alone and talk [pray] to His Father God.  As in Jesus’ conversations with His disciples, we’re not privy to what Jesus prayed [only when He instructs His disciples how to pray (the “Lord’s Prayer) and His anguished prayers after His capture in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross].  Here we have the divine Son of God having regular prayers with His Father God.  Amazing!  This being the case; how much more should we commune [pray] with our Father God!  I confess my deficit here, and I imagine most of you can say the same. 


Jesus was real; the historical Jesus is a substantiated fact - [the topic for a future article].  If you sometimes have difficulty realizing, understanding, believing that there is an all powerful, creator God; then just keep your eyes on the real Jesus.  Jesus came from God, regularly prayed to God, honored God, and lived by God’s desires.  We can be confident of this and put our total faith and trust in our God because of Jesus.


I also find great strength and confidence in the fact that Jesus prayed for me [and for you]!!  Yes, He did. 

* John 20:29 – “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” -  (this is us)

* John 17:20“My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.” – (this again represents us)


Let us all continually find faith, strength, and confidence through Jesus – as we frequently spend “A Day In The Life Of Jesus”.


                                    Frank Black – June 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Inserting Light into Dark Places by Chris Kirby

Two weeks ago, I was in hot and humid Honduras.  This week, I’m in hot (but not as bad as most IMPACTS) and humid Tennessee.  Two weeks ago, I was camping in a bunk house with 9 other men watching Fred run from a scorpion.  This week, I’m living large in a 12X20 dorm room with Jill and Hudson, grateful that we are in the part of the dorm with working AC.  Two weeks ago, I spent 8 hours a day in the hot sun laying brick to build a house for a lady and her children who had no home of their own.  This week, I’m watching more than 2,000 teens build on their faith in God through powerful worship and challenging lessons.  Two weeks ago, I ate my meals in an open-aired dining area on top of a mountain with a group of worn out workers.  This week, I eat my meals in a multi-million dollar facility packed to the gills with young people who are completely excited to be there with each other. 

On the surface, the two weeks couldn’t be more contrasting.  Our time in Honduras was in response to the fact that it is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and in turn is filled with great need that most who live in USA cannot fathom.  Think about this: The average worker in Honduras will earn approximately $10-$15 per day with many making less.  For IMPACT, our teens pay over $200 for the week to live in cramped dorms.  What a privilege!  Many children in Honduras spend the day working hard in jobs that are dirty and dangerous just to bring money home for their family’s survival.  At IMPACT, our teens have free time in the afternoons to play games, and nightly entertainment that is designed to make us laugh and have a good time in a clean and safe environment.  The two worlds look very different. 

So, what’s my point?  Is it to make us feel guilty for going to spend time and money at IMPACT rather than building houses?  Is it to try to make a statement out of wealth and privilege?  It’s none of those things.   While I could go on and on with the contrasts of these two events, I’d rather take a minute and talk about one big point that these two events hold in common:  God is present.  In both places, there is darkness that God is inserting Himself into to bring light and reconciliation.  And what’s even more powerful is realizing that God has decided to let me be part of His plan! 

God called His people out to provide for the needy, lonely, hurting, and homeless in Honduras and so Mission Lazarus (ML) was started.  It’s not just because Jarrod Brown is a great person, but because God moved in him to be passionate about bringing Jesus’ presence to the middle of darkness and hurt.  The lives of orphans are given hope through ML.  Families are receiving homes.  The sick are being healed.  Hungry people are being fed.  Some people who are saddled with poverty are even employed or trained for better jobs through ML.  But more importantly, lives are being changed because the people of Honduras are seeing the presence of God and have a chance to give their lives to Jesus.  A light is shining in a dark place because people are reflecting Christ.   

But, what about IMPACT?  We definitely didn’t build any houses in Nashville.  If I had shown up with a hammer and trowel to any of the $500,000 homes around Lipscomb, I would have had a little explaining to do when the Nashville PD arrived.  So, what is the darkness here?  What is the need?  I think it’s this: there is a campus full of teenagers who are growing up in a culture that wants to teach them lesson after lesson that flies in the face of everything that Jesus stands for.  Here are just a few of those teachings from our culture:

·         It’s my (or mom and dad’s) money, I’ll spend it on me!

·         If it feels good, do it

·         The only reason it’s rated R is for violence.  It doesn’t hurt me to watch that.   

·         Respect for authority is stupid

·         I can wear what I want to wear

·         My value is judged by how I look

·         My value is judged by how much I have

·         The world revolves around me

I could go on and on.  You could even make your own list that might look different than mine.  But, the bottom line is that we are in a dark culture filled with values very different from God’s own heart.  Some of those notions are even rooted in the “American Way.” Misconceptions like having plenty is always a blessing, or long-held religious practices must be correct.   The sad part is that these values are soaking into the core of who our young people are and forming their attitudes about themselves, faith, and the world.  God wants to tear those bad teachings apart.  He wants to tear away the blinders and let his light pour in!  For many years, I’ve seen IMPACT used as a tool for God’s presence to come in and change teens through the worship and teaching.  I’ve seen teens gain confidence as they learn that identity isn’t based on who they are, but on whose they are.  I’ve seen teens challenged to not look at what they have as something to be used just on their own desires, but to share with others who have need.  I’ve witnessed girls decide to dress more modestly and guys make convictions to throw away certain video games and turn off things they shouldn’t be watching.  We also learn how to have fun as Christians and laugh at things that aren’t laced with profanity or depending on mocking God.  IMPACT has been on this mission for years.  It’s not just because the people who run it are great people.  Rather, it’s because God put a passion in their hearts to bring His light into a culture filled with darkness.  Teens’ lives are being changed.

So, what is the point?  Go to IMPACT (most Christian universities actually have adult programs in the summer that are really good as well!) and Honduras next year so you can see God?  Well, maybe.  Both are great experiences and could change you!  But, before that, I’d like for you to think about what immediate areas of darkness God might be calling you to bring His Light into.  The cliché answer is “everywhere.”  And that’s true.  But, where might God be calling you to specifically be an ambassador for His Kingdom?  Is it someone in your neighborhood who needs you to take a weekend and do their yard work because they can’t?  Is there someone at your work going through a family crisis who needs support?  What classmate in your school is being left out or bullied?  Is there a problem like hunger, homelessness, or slavery in the world that God is calling you to interject His presence and hope?  What sins in your own life need to be swept out and replaced by the light of God?  Are your finances a dark place because you spend money only on selfish things?  Is there something about Southeastern that needs to be awakened or changed by a fresh invitation of God’s presence in the place of religious tradition?

God will find a way to present His light into dark places!  The question is:  Will we be part of the delivery system?  I sure hope so.  Now, GO SHINE!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Perspective by Terry Gardner


By Terry Gardner

It was a Saturday morning with a rainy ugly kind of start to the day.  I was supposed to go work out but I did not even want to get out of bed.  It took every ounce of my resolve to make myself go work out.  As I began to walk on the treadmill, entering the gym came a young lady, about 24 years of age.  Her left leg had been amputated above the knee.  In a few minutes she was on the treadmill next to mine walking faster with one leg and her prosthesis than I was walking with two good legs.  I began to run and soon she too was running and she ran faster than I ran.  This was simultaneously embarrassing and encouraging.  I quit walking and running after 35 minutes, my one legged neighbor was still going strong.

This event called to mind a long forgotten memory.   My senior year in high school there was a fellow student named Steve Gardner.  We were not related.  I never shared a class with Steve and I can’t recall any conversation with him.  We moved in different circles.  However, I do recall Steve coming to school one day on crutches, his leg had been amputated above the knee.  Steve had bone cancer and he soon passed from this life into the next one at barely 18 years of age.  Steve and I are side by in the yearbook the only two Gardners at my high school.

The cover of this same yearbook features a lone runner moving effortless through the eucalyptus trees at the Burlingame Country Club.  The photograph was taken on a still, cool California morning and in full vibrant colors.  The runner is me, enjoying the knowledge that my senior yearbook would have my photo on the front cover.  I gave no thought to Steve or anyone else.  I was a self-absorbed 17-year-old kid without perspective.

Today I am a much older “kid” still lacking perspective way too often.  Thanksgiving should characterize every Christian.  Paul tells us to “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.”  (Phil. 4:6).  Am I thankful for each day that God grants me on the good earth?  Do I make the most of my opportunities?  Am I grateful to God for all his gifts to me?

When we have problems we tend to make them worse than they are.  The Hebrew writer asks us to consider, to think about “Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  The writer then adds “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.”  (Hebrews 12:3-4).  I always see my problems as worse than they are.  I am usually pretty sure I am suffering more than I really am.  Do we consider Christ at times like these and think about what he suffered?  That kind of comparison puts my own sufferings in perspective.

My paternal grandfather died at age 51 of black lung and tuberculosis after spending twenty years as a lead-zinc miner.  When I am having a “bad” day at work I try to remember my grandfather.  When I don’t want to work out, I try to remember the one-legged girl.  When I think I am suffering spiritual persecution, I think about Christ and what he endured.  The right perspective helps me see things as they are and not as I wish them to be.  How is your perspective?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Facing Our Fears by Greg York

Facing Our Fears

I heard an interview with Stephen King recently.  Stephen King has the ability to scare people out of their wits, whether you’re reading his novels or watching one of the many, many film adaptations.  Scaring people is what he does.  But in the interview, he was asked what scared him.  He responded by saying that the movie that had really scared him in the last few years began this way:  There’s a seated woman writing the line “the branches creaked in the…”  She stops and asks her husband, “What are those tall things in the backyard?  Birds land in the branches…”  And her husband says, “Why, Iris, those are trees.”  “Trees, yes, that’s it!”  And she continues to write and the movie begins.  The movie is Iris, the story of Oxford writer and philosopher Iris Murdoch and her battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.


Stephen King, master of horror, a man who makes his living (a good living) assisting people in feeling fear, says that what scares him most is the thought of losing his mind.  That is his boogeyman.


What is your boogeyman?  What is it that you fear the most?  Maybe another way to put it is this: What is the thing that you would absolutely not want to happen under any circumstances?


Maybe it’s cancer.  Maybe it’s that something will happen to your kids or your grandchildren. Maybe it’s financial ruin.  Maybe it’s that someone will find out about what you did that time.  Maybe it’s that you’ll lose your job or your car or your house.  Maybe it’s that you’ll be a victim of a terrorist attack.  Maybe it’s that you’ll have to live in constant pain.  Maybe it’s that your spouse will leave you.  Maybe it’s that you’ll be lonely.


Maybe, like Stephen King, it’s that you might spend the last years of your life not in your right mind and utterly dependent on others.  (This may be one of the only ways Stephen King and I are alike.)


Or, maybe you are one of those folks for whom there’s a revolving set of “greatest fears”—this one today, another one tomorrow…plenty to go around.


Here are a couple of thoughts to keep in mind:


That one thing, or all of those things, you fear the most might, in fact, happen sometime.


That one thing, or all of those things, you fear the most, will, in fact, probably not happen.


(Some of you don’t believe that last line, but my concern going forward is not to convince of that…so, we move on…because…)


Here is a bigger thought to keep in mind:


Whether that thing you fear the most—or all of them, at once—ever happens, on one level, it doesn’t matter.


Not if you are a child of God.  (I know that is easier said than lived, being myself perhaps not a professional, but at least an accomplished amateur worrier.)  But it is a truth to go back to as a touchstone over and over.


So, Greg, what does this have to do with learning life in Christ?  Isn’t that supposed to be the point of this blog?


John says that “perfect love casts out fear” (see 1 John 4.18).  Perhaps the flip side of that is true, as well: perhaps fear can cast out of our hearts our awareness of God’s perfect love.  Or, maybe I’m the only one that finds it to be true that when I’m focusing on my fear concern du jour, my trust is God is pretty much non-existent.  And you can’t live for him when you don’t trust him.


Here’s a lesson a lot of the folks in the Bible learned: in the facing of our deepest fears, God’s presence is found.


Think Abraham and the call to sacrifice Isaac.  Think Moses the fugitive going back to Egypt. Think Esther going to see the king (as Dale pointed out in his sermon a couple of Sundays ago).  Think Jesus in the Garden and then going on to the cross.


Or, consider the prophet Habakkuk, who is not happy with the behavior of the people, wants God to do something about it.  But then he is upset with God, confused and fearful when he finds out that God’s plan is for the Chaldeans to destroy Jerusalem and take the people into exile.  But after God gives him some information and some time to think, Habakkuk concludes:

Though the fig tree does not blossom,
   and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails
   and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
   and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
   I will exult in the God of my salvation
(Habakkuk 3.17-18).

(Translation: “If the worst possible happens and life falls completely apart, I’ll still rely on God.”)


Or, consider the early preacher/missionary Paul, with all he endured to do that proclaiming about Jesus (there’s a handy listing of his troubles in 2 Corinthians 11.23-29).  And yet, what is his core conviction?  I think he states it quite eloquently in Romans 8.35, 37-39:


Who will separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?      No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Translation: “Nothing that I might fear will ever be powerful enough to take me away from God.”)


Some of our fears may, in fact, come true.  (Most will not, thanks be to God.)  But whether they happen or not, we can rest assured that God is with us, even there, in the fear, and he will see us through.  Whatever you fear the most is not as powerful as God.  Every now and then, I need that reminder.