Cityview New Testament Challenge 2009

This Sunday Cityview begins a 13 week journey through the New Testament.  I am expecting God to do amazing things in our lives as we read and apply His Word together.  I hope you will be a part of the New Testament Challenge by doing three things:

1.  Commit to read the New Testament with us over an 83 day period.

2.  Join a Growth Group for encouragement and growth.

3.  Be a part of our weekly gatherings to explore the challenges God’s Word presents to our lives and how to meet them.

You can sign up Sunday on the Communication Card.

You can download the Cityview New Testament Challenge 2009 Guide.  This guide has the schedule for the readings, questions for your personal reflection after each message, and a weekly memory verse.  It is also packed with information about our Cityview Growth Groups and with other pages on how to grow in your faith.  Download the pdf and print it out as a booklet.

SPECKA–bible study any place any time with anyone

I’m always on the lookout for ways to promote study and application of God’s Word.  I believe we need to move our western romance with information or knowledge on toward speedy obedience when it comes to us and the Bible.  Please don’t hear me saying that I am against education.  I just think we get inoculated against the power of God’s Word to change our lives when we become dependent on a “studied person” as opposed to seeing every person empowered to open the Scripture and experience the shaping work of the Holy Spirit.  Here is a way to do that.

If you are using a narrative passage of Scripture have someone prepared ahead of time to tell the story.  Then have someone read the text.  Then make your way, one question at a time through the following questions:  SPECKA

S  is there any SIN to confess or avoid in this passage?

P  is there any PROMISE to claim?

E  is there any good EXAMPLE to follow or bad EXAMPLE to avoid?

C  is there a direct COMMAND to obey?

K  is there any KNOWLEDGE about who God is or how He works?

A  what is the APPLICATION?
     1st.  What are the general APPLICATIONS from this passage?
     2nd.  What are your personal APPLICATIONS from this passage?

 

Enjoy.  And if any of you do this by yourself or with a group of friends please give me feed-back on how it went.

learn wisdom from the stories of Scripture

Here is our Big Idea this past Sunday at Cityvew:  Seek to honour Jesus today by learning wisdom from the stories of Scripture.  We were camped out in Daniel 5 building on what it means to Live Like Strangers in our culture but not of it.   Belshazzar knew the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation and exaltation, but he failed to grasp the wisdom to be found in the story; Daniel had to re-tell the story for Belshazzar now that B. had seen the writing on the wall.

Unfortunately, like Belshazzar we can be the same way about history–we don’t learn from our mistakes or the mistakes of others.  The Christian worldview presses us to learn from other people–particularly their stories in the Scripture–without having to learn solely from experiences.  There is great benefit in godliness, holiness, righteousness, in living an undivided life from relationship with Jesus; and that benefit can be ours if we learn wisdom from the stories of Scripture.  We don’t have to go out and experience ALL THIS WORLD HAS TO OFFER in order to be a whole person.  Belshazzar was literally living the last day of the Babylonian Empire in a party of bravado and drunkenness.  Devastation was at his doorstep, yet to the end he never humbled himself and declared himself dependent on God as Nebuchadnezzar had done.  So… how can we avoid the same mistakes.  We can learn wisdom from the stories of Scripture.

1.  Listen to the stories of Scripture to enlarge your view of God.  Daniel tells a story that Belshazzar knew but had been unable to access the wisdom in it.  Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

2.  Put the story in its context.  This was easy for Daniel to do and sometimes more difficult for us.  But the context is often where the story begins to show us the HOPE we can have for today and tomorrow.  The Apostle Paul highlights gift of Scripture in Romans 15:4;  “For everything that was written in the past was written to encourage us, so that through the endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

3.  Pay attention to the warnings that illustrate the consequence of being consumed by your culture’s independence from God.  Every culture has aspects of it that seek to move us toward independence from Jesus Christ.  Nebuchadnezzar’s personally testimony in Daniel 4 was a proclamation of God’s sovereignty and grace:  “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.  And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”  Belshazzar missed the warning.  In one of his letters to the church in Corinth, Paul seeks to help them grasp God’s purpose for the stories of Israel for them:  “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.”  1 Corinthians 10:11

4.  Adjust your belief and behaviour accordingly.  A genuine change of heart and is reflected in a change of behaviour.  When we change our allegiance from self to Jesus our beliefs and behaviours should reflect His exclusive claim to our lives.  The stories of Scripture are used by the Holy Spirit to heal us and to move us into the way and mission of God.  Paul reminds his mentee, Timothy, that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17

Learn wisdom from the stories of Scripture.  Hey try it yourself as we get ready for this coming Sunday’s message, by reading and reflecting on Daniel 6.

a case study on humility and persuasion

Are you nervous when people in suits knock on your door?  Ha, I am too.  And there you know that I understand emotionally one of the objections to Christian faith that I encounter:  the missionary zeal of those who follow Jesus.  The accusation is that it is deeply arrogant to believe that every one needs faith in Jesus Christ in order to know God and enjoy Him.  While I believe that is possible and necessary for us to examine our “beliefs” as exclusive claims to understanding reality, I do not believe that the attitude of those holding to exclusive faith statements, whether christian, religious, or of material and “secular” nature means that one must be arrogant.  Some who believe are arrogant and some who believe are not arrogant.  Arrogance is that quality of heart that pervades both word and body to communicate that I am better than you, for you have failed, and I have not; I am worthy of love and you are not.  Conviction of heart and the desire to persuade is often confused as arrogance in our setting. 

I believe liberty is the common grace of God to all people in a society whereby a collective value on freedom of conscience within that setting requires the energetic debate of ideas but the utmost respect of the dignity of persons–even and perhaps most desperately–when they disagree.

A fascinating case study on humility and persuasion is contained in the apostle Paul’s writing in Romans 9-11.  It should be observed that this former Jewish persecutor of the followers of The Way, as the earliest followers of Jesus were known, was a flaming evangelist.  He wanted to convince others even at the cost of his life that Jesus was the messiah, the Christ, the destined judge of all humanity.  Notice Paul’s zeal and passion for persuading his “tribe,” the Jews, to trust Jesus as their Saviour:

“I speak the truth in Christ–I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit–I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.  For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my own race, the people of Israel.”  Romans 9:1-4

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.  For I can tastify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based in knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”  Romans 10:1-4

“I am talking to you Gentiles.  Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.”  Romans 11:13-14.

Paul argued that the inclusive claim that Jesus was the only saviour for all humanity–both Jews and Gentiles– could not be accompanied by arrogance.  He says “Do not boast over these branches;” the branches of many in Israel who have been broken off.  In looking back over the discourse from Romans 9 to 11 Paul gives  seven reasons that could be said to that rule out arrogance and argue for humility.

1.  The benefits of knowing the messiah are rightly Israel’s.  Romans 9:1-5.

2.  Knowing God and living in fellowship with Him, depends not on the efforts of humans, but on the mercy of God.  Romans 9:14-18.

3.  Righteousness–or being in right relationship with God–comes about not by works, but by faith in Christ.  Romans 9:30-Romans 10:4.

4.  Our faith in Jesus–which came from hearing the Word of God–was dependent on the obedience of someone else to the call of God.  Romans 10:5-15

5.  The Gentiles who believe have been graciously grafted into the  covenant relationship with God.  Romans 10:11-24.

6.  The Gentiles who believe and enjoy the covenantal relationship with God will be a source of envy stirring up saving faith among the Jews.  Romans 11:25-32

7.  The Merciful God is greater and wiser and more inclusive than I am.  Romans 11:33-36

So, when I step into the realm of persuader I must also check into the realm of humility.  I do not argue for Christ in fear that I need you to believe in order to justify my belief; that’s the stance of a fundamentalist.  Rather I argue for faith in Christ out of the generative and humble stance of one who has been blessed and senses that it is not just for me to keep it to myself.  I’ve been blessed and must pass it on as a life-giving and enhancing option available to others.

the gospel of mark: a window on the authority of Jesus

1.  Jesus comes with power.  John the Baptizer proclaimed, “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I batize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  Mark 1:7-8
2.  He comes with the Father’s blessing and the Spirit’s annointing.  Mark 1:9-11
3.  He passed the “test” of Satan’s temptation and was ministered to by animals and angels.  1:12-13
4.  Jesus had authority to usher in the Kingdom of God.  1:14-15
5.  Jesus called people to himself as his followers.  1:14-20
6.  Jesus had authority over the demonic.  Mark 1:1-25
7.  People observed that his teaching was “with authority.”  1:27
8.  Jesus had authority over sickness; 1:29-31.  Deafness, 7:31-37; Blindness, 7:22-26
9.  Jesus had authority to restore people to religious and social society.  1:40-43
10.  Jesus had authority to forgive sins.  2:1-12
11.  Jesus could call people living outside the bounds of society’s norms.  2:13-17
12.  Jesus had authority over the Sabbath.  2:21-28, 3:1-6
13.  Jesus could share his authority with those he called.  3:13-19
14.  Jesus had authority over Satan’s havoc.  3:20-30
15.  Jesus had authority over nature.  4:35-41, 6:45-56
16.  Jesus had authority over death.  4:35-43
17.  On occasion Jesus excercised his authority according to the faith of people.  6:1-6
18.  Jesus had authority to send the disciples out to preach and heal.  6:7-13
19.  Jesus had authority to provide for people’s needs miraculously.  6:30-44, 8:1-13
20.  Jesus had authority to discern the values that ordered the application of the Law.  7:1-25
21.  Jesus had authority because of who he was.  Mark 8:27-30
22.  Jesus had authority to know and share his future.  Mark 8:31-37
23.  Jesus had authority greater than Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets.  9:2-13.
24.  Jesus used his authority to call his disciples to serve and welcome the weak.  9:33-37
25.  Jesus had authority to usher people into eternal life and the Kingdom of God.  10:17-31
26.  Jesus had authority to lay down his life as a ransom for many.  Mark 10:45
27.  Jesus had authority over the activities of the Temple.  Mark 11:12-21
28.  Jesus’ authority became a “bone of contention.”  11:27-33
29.  Jesus understood his authority to derive from his identiy.  12:1-12, 35-40
30.  Jesus did not use his authority as an excuse for himself or his disciples to recklessly abandon the earthly authorities.  In fact he called on people to honour both appropriately.  12:13-17
31.  Jesus had authority to identify the greatest commandment.  12:28-34
32.  Jesus had authority to speak prophetically about the future.  13:1-37, 14:27-31
33.  Jesus had authority to receive the worship of people.  14:1-10
34.  Jesus had authority to recast the Passover meal to the delivereance He would bring.  14:12-26
35.  Jesus used his authority to fulfill the Scriptures.  14:48-50
36.  Jesus spoke his authority when he remainded silent except to declare his identity in court.  14:53-65
37.  Jesus had authority to open the way between God and humanity.  15:33-39
38.  Jesus had authority over the grave.  16:1-8

And because of the Resurrection of Jesus I accept that the authority He had, He still has.