Sunday, January 17, 2010

 

Our Stories Matter: Telling Our Stories Following Paul's Example Acts 26

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A while back I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on January 17, 2010. The lesson is on Acts 26:1-23. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

Our Stories Matter
Telling Our Story Following Paul’s Example
Acts 26:1-23

Introduction
My Story

The Power of Personal Testimony
Think of them as “transformational stories” rather than “witnessing”

Questions
What is the gospel?
How often do you tell the gospel story?
Describe the last time you shared the gospel

Paul’s Story: An Example for Us
Acts 26
A strategy for sharing our story
Your story matters, but it must be told to be effective

Prelude: Keep Your Story Fresh
If you aren’t a Christ follower, become one
If you are, show integrity in living the story

Proverbs 20:6-7 Many a man proclaims his own loyalty, but who can find a trustworthy man? A righteous man who walks in his integrity—How blessed are his sons after him.

Love God
Frederick Buechner describes the Word of God as a portrait of a Lover pursuing his beloved, of God’s pursuit of all of us in love, of our failures and his successes. I’m pretty sure that he is right. Once the biblical story becomes my story, then I in some sense begin to incarnate the written word of God so as to complete the mission that Jesus started (and finished) so many centuries ago. Didn’t Jesus say to us that he will send us in the same way that the Father sent him? Didn’t he tell us that we would do greater works than he did? Why are we so unwilling to enter the story, to become willing participants in the great work and story of almighty God? We 21st century Christians are sometimes out of sync with God’s story and miss his “Once upon a time” and “happily ever after.” John Eldredge is (to a degree at least) correct to point out to us our loss of story, our loss of God’s great epic being told even today. Take the verses quoted above—in today’s post-modern culture, the idea is to win at all costs. But if we live without faithfulness or without integrity, we are actually hurting the generation after us.

Love your neighbor
Treat them kindly
Listen to their stories
Find their need so that you can meet it

Your story matters, but it must be fresh before it is told
Your story matters, but it must be told to be effective

How do we “tell” our story?

1. Tell Your Past
Acts 26:1-11

Paul’s Past
a. Religious man
b. Full of zeal
c. A leader in his religion
d. Opposed to Christians

What was your life like before Christ?
Maybe you grew up in a church
Or were Irreligious
or were Running from God

On this point avoid putting blame on others or on religious organizations for your sin. Don’t glorify your past, but be honest about it. If you don’t have a story like Paul’s, simply tell the truth. Don’t try to “make your story better.”

Your story matters, but it most be told to be effective

2. Tell Your Conversion
Acts 26:12-18

Paul’s Conversion
a. Not many stories of becoming a Christ follower are as amazing as this
b. Bright lights, audible voices, a conversation with Christ
c. No wonder Paul converted

How did you come to Christ?
a. Family member shared
b. Altar call
c. Prayer
d. Reading the Bible
e. A chance encounter with a Christ follower

It doesn’t matter how “flamboyant” the story is, tell it straight.
Be specific in “how” you put faith in Christ

Your story matters, but it most be told to be effective

3. Tell Your Current Walk
Acts 26:19-23

Paul’s Current Experience
a. On trial for his faith
b. Faithful in sharing the story of faith in Christ
c. Telling the story to any who will hear
d. Bold and Unashamed

What’s your current walk like?
a. Don’t sugar coat
If you are struggling, admit it
If you are experiencing good times, admit it
b. Keep the focus on what God is doing
c. The story is about him and what he can accomplish
Remember, even it your walk isn’t a great one now, your God is still great
Your struggles may help others to relate to Truth
Don’t let the focus be on your emotions or experiences, focus on God's work

Your story matters, but it must be told to be effective

4. Tell the Content of Scripture
Acts 26:22-23
1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Luke 24:26-27; Acts 8:26-40

Let the Truth of God’s Word talk
Your experience should reflect what God has said
If not, go back to the prelude

Your story matters, but it most be told to be effective

This point requires practice
We must find an approach that we can easily use

Some Methods

a. Romans Road
Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:8b-10; 10:13; 5:1; 8:1; 8:38-39

b. John 3:16-22: Gospel in a nutshell

c. FAITH
F is for Forgiveness: We cannot have eternal life and heaven without God's forgiveness(Eph. 1:7)
A is for Available: Forgiveness is available for all, but not automatic (John 3:16; Matthew 7:21)
I is for Impossible: It is impossible for God to allow sin into heaven. God is loving and just and therefore judges sin. We are all sinners. (James 2:13; Romans 3:23)
T is for Turn: Turn means to repent. Turn from sin and selfishness. Turn to Christ alone (Luke 13:3b; Romans 10:9)
H is for Heaven: Heaven is eternal life both here and hereafter (John 10:10b; John 14:3)

d. Four Spiritual Laws

e. Others?

Sources
5clicks.com

Evangelismcoach.org

Namb.net (North American Mission Board of SBC)

Application
1. This week, go to 5clicks.com and write out your testimony

2. Practice your story every day
Tell it in the morning before you leave the house
Tell it again when you return

3. Pray for an opportunity

4. Listen to conversations around you

5. Share your story with someone else


Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

 

The Biggest Losers, Part 1: Jesus Lost His Grip, Philippians 2:5-11

Hello y'all:

I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A few weeks ago I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on January 10, 2010. The lesson is on Philippians 2:5-11. If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!

The Biggest Losers
Jesus: Lost His Grip
Philippians 2:5-11

Introduction

Last week’s message: “My Name is Jacob”
Ended with a list of folks the world would consider “losers”

Traveling home from Christmas in Tennessee
DeGarmo and Key: “All the Losers Win”

"You say 'winners don't need a crutch
Only losers could believe in such'
You don't need God, you don't need anything
You'll face life alone and take what the future will bring

"Here's to all the losers that lose all guilt and sin
Here's to life in Jesus, where all of the losers win

"You think I've missed what success can bring
I miss success like trees miss cold in spring
You think that all is far too much to give
That's what Jesus gave so that this loser could live

"Here's to all the losers that lose all guilt and sin
Here's to life in Jesus, where all of the losers win"

Biggest Losers
Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; John 12:25

Philippians 2:5-11
The lesson from today’s passage
Jesus lost his grip and gained a lot

If we lose our grip, we will find gain

1. Losing a Grip on Position
Philippians 2:5-8

Questions
a. In what way did Jesus not regard equality with God as something to be grasped or used for his own advantage? What did it look like?
b. In what way did Jesus “empty” himself?
c. What does humility look like in Jesus’ life?

Jesus lost his grip on his personal position
Jesus laid aside his glory to identify fully with humanity
2 Cor. 8:9; Heb. 4:14-16

He did not grasp personal benefits too tightly
He became sin, so that we might be righteous
2 Cor. 5:21

He did not take advantage of his position
a. He emptied himself
b. He became a servant (“form” and “likeness”); Mark 9:35
c. He humbled himself; John 13 (foot washing)
d. He was obedient even to death; Rom. 5:8

C. S. Lewis quote
“God descends to reascend. He comes down – down to the very roots and sea-bed of the nature he has created. But he must go down – to come up again – and bring the ruined world up with him.”

He did not demand attention
Instead of expecting recognition, applause, or service, Jesus served others

By losing his grip on his position, Jesus found great gain
a. He gained salvation for others
b. He gained followers
c. He gained exaltation

If we lose our grip, we will find gain

2. Losing a Grip on Promotion
Philippians 2:9-11

Notice that the next few verses tell what is done “for” Jesus, not by him
Jesus didn’t go out and “grasp” an opportunity for promotion
His humble obedience simply lead to exaltation
2 Peter 5:5-7

Jesus’ exaltation includes:

a. The “Name”
Name above all names may equal God’s own name: “Yahweh”
“Jesus” or “Jeshua” already means “Yahweh saves”
Jesus also is “Lord” over all things: Lord means master, king, ruler

b. Worship: Every knee will bow

c. Disciples/Followers

Jesus lost his grip on promotion and found himself the center of not only God’s attention but of the attention of all creation

If we lose our grip, we will find gain

Application
Jesus existed in the form of God, but he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped for his own advantage. He was willing to let it all go. He lost his grip. He became a loser. Christ was willing to abandon those external trappings that declared him unmistakably to be God. Jesus was willing to lose it all, even his own life, so that we could gain life.

We are not able to claim that we are conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of Jesus’ gospel unless we share his attitude, until we are willing to surrender the things that give us an advantage as he was willing to sacrifice for us.

"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.“ C. T. Studd

In light of this truth, are we prepared to follow in Jesus’ footsteps? Are we willing to release all the things that we value in order to live a life pleasing to Christ who loved us and gave himself for us? Are we willing to serve others as he served us?

Here are some suggestions for this week:

a. Your title should not shape your attitude
b. Rather your life should exhibit humble obedience/service/death
c. Make a list of things in your life that are benefits to you, that give you an advantage
d. Choose one of those things prayerfully and let it go or to use it for the promotion or advantage of someone else
e. Make a commitment this week to do one random act of kindness without any hope of recognition or repayment
f. Learn to serve others, especially those who cannot pay you back
g. Make a meal for someone, go visit an elderly person you don’t even know, write that check for a charity you want to support, help that person that “bugs” everyone else, give a 30 percent tip, share the love of Christ with a stranger

The result will be that God will certainly reward your servant attitude

Discussion Questions
What are the privileges, rights, perks, titles, or status you tend to want to “grasp” for your own benefit or advantage? What can you do to avoid using these for selfish benefit or promotion? How can you use them to bless or to promote others?

In what ways can you empty yourself on behalf of others? What would that look like?

Where are servants needed in our church? At your job? In your neighborhood? Where can you serve? Will you?

What is your level of obedience? Are you willing like Christ to humble yourself in obedience even to the point of death to those things that benefit you?

Who in your circle of influence could use the benefits God has given you? Will you be a humble servant to them to make sure they receive those benefits?

What can we do as Christ followers to focus less on our own gain so that we may focus on serving others? What stands in our way?


Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 08, 2010

 

The Sacrament of Life

I don't have a lot to say today, and I'd rather let two authors whose writings I respect speak for me. I want to say, however, that I have been thinking a bit today about how life is sacramental--how all that we experience can be full of the holy awesomeness that is God. Remember, Jeremiah said that God's mercies were new every morning, just like the morning dew. Today can be full of the sort of radical presence of God as to overwhelm us. In 1999, Ray Bradbury gave the following view of life:

"It is neither all beautiful nor all terrible, but a wash of multitudinous despairs and exhilarations about which we know nothing. Our history is so small, our experience so limited, our science so inadequate, our theologies so crammed in mere matchboxes, that we know we stand on the outer edge of a beginning and our greatest history lies before us, frightening and lovely, much darkness and much life."

This description of life sees our existence as awe inspiring and frightening, and such it is on many occasions. Storms come and blow and bluster against us, threatening to undo not only our homes, but our very lives. As Bradbury said, life can be frightening and lovely at the same time. For the child of God, however, life has a more sacramental flavor. Oh, we may not "feel" it every day, but the truth is (as the Greek Orthodox have said) Jesus' very life has in some sense sanctified the mundane daily experiences of human life. His birth sanctified the birth process, his childhood sanctified childhood, yes, even his teen years consecrated those experiences in our own lives. As Frederick Buechner said:

"[C]hurch isn’t the only place where the holy happens. Sacramental moments can occur at any moment, any place, to anybody. Watching something getting born. A high school graduation. Somebody coming to see you when you’re sick. A meal with people you love. Looking into a stranger’s eyes and finding out he’s not really a stranger. If we weren’t blind as bats, we might see that life itself is sacramental." From Wishful Thinking.

I like that last part--"if we weren't blind as bats, we might see that life itself is sacramental." Yesterday God spoke to me in silence, today I seem to hear his voice in the mundane. Life is sacramental and sacred.

Don't take it for granted.

Enjoy the sacramental wine of your life, drink deeply from the grace of God in the everyday.

You won't be sorry.

Thanks for reading!

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