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Why? People lack connection and growth in God’s word. Lack Connection and Discipleship
Ministry is connection, but today’s culture is disconnected and isolated since 90% of all US Christians never share their faith with anyone in their lifetime. People lack soul (mind, emotions and will) transformation “skills” to connect with others since fewer than 2% of all US evangelical Christians witness weekly to unbelievers, lead someone annually to Christ, have personally discipled someone in order to make disciples and more disciplemakers. We need authentic, inter-generational connection since 88% of evangelical, born-again Christian teens leave the church at age 18, never to return. 20 million Christian adults have left the church, according to researcher George Barna
We all have connection points learned from life experiences. These can be connected to God’s story found in the Bible. I will share seven connection point lessons learned from my personal story or experiences. These lessons are related to God, His purposes, others and ministry as a model for others to enter into their own connection points. 1. Experience God’s love and acceptance through believers and the Holy Spirit to counteract a performance and law orientation 2. Study God’s Word so it comes alive leading to personal application 3. Be equipped with God’s word to build up the body of Christ in unity using my spiritual gifts 4. Be awakened to God’s kingdom purposes through His sovereignty in tough circumstances and realize He provides everything 5. Realize that the Bible’s unifying theme is God’s covenant with Abraham, Moses, David and New Covenant promises linked to His people 6. Co-mentor those from different walks of life and generations to understand the Bible, love God, unify others and serve their community 7. Equip ambassadors to disciple others in God’s kingdom to rebuild cities and nations in every cultural sphere For example, when Abraham stretched out his knife to kill Isaac, God intervened by sending a ram. Abraham called that place, “The Lord Will Provide” (Gen. 22:14). By sharing our stories and identifying people’s relationships, we motivate others to study God’s word. I am writing an online study to help people align their experiences with God’s word called Sync: Connecting Your Life to God’s Story that focuses on the whole counsel of God from Genesis to Revelation.
God wrote a scroll of remembrance to distinguish between those who served Him and those who did not. Every act of faithful service, encouraging word and sacrifice was placed by God as a witness to the universe that I am His treasured possession. Even my tears were recorded in His scroll (Mal. 3:16-18; Ps. 56:8). Here’s my story, tears and all. Personal Story Maybe you’re like me. As a child, I was often bored in Sunday school. There were so many Bible stories with no apparent meaning or relevance to my life. Sure, some stories had action and cool characters, such as the story about a teenager named David who became a hero by killing a giant named Goliath... or the one about an uncommon twenty-something named Daniel and his three friends who, on hearing the king’s orders made the decision to ignore the royal command and ended up in a lion’s den (not to mention a fiery furnace!) (Daniel 3:6). But what was the point and how did the stories relate to me? As I grew older, I began to realize some of the truths expressed in those stories. Still, Bible stories did not capture my attention the way TV shows and movies grabbed my attention and drew me in. Then I headed for college, and something horrible happened. I suffered the humiliation of being depledged from a fraternity. Huge rejection! I was an Engineering major – not too cool socially (this was before the movie “Revenge of the Nerds,” made being a geek and a nerd cool...). I didn’t seem to measure up in the eyes of the other students and I felt betrayed. Starting over socially was scary. But God orchestrated my steps so that I crossed paths with some guys and gals who were Christians. They loved me unconditionally. And, I noticed something else. They had what I was seeking in the fraternity but didn’t find – relationships, not only with each other, but with God. Their relationships were real, personal and appealing. My relationship with these new friends helped me grow. They spent time with me at meals, taught me God’s word in small group Bible studies and encouraged me in my walk with God. My social life got much better. Still, I felt something was missing. I began to re-learn and study what I’d been taught as a child and yet I continued to feel that all the pieces did not fit. It was difficult to mesh world history with Biblical history and make the passages I was reading relate to my life. As I grew older, began a career, married, started a family and became more involved in ministry, I discovered that others had encountered the same kind of religious disconnect. We all wondered what to do next after taking the first steps (or at least considering them) toward belief and faith in God and in Christ. And this, in a nutshell, is why I developed Connecting Points for Real Life, this resource, and Sync: Connecting Your Life to God’s Story, which continues the process in connecting to Christ through the whole Bible.
Leaders’ Instructions Prior to Each Weekly Small Group Meeting Leaders do the following preparation: Leaders read the numbered “connecting point for real life” lesson statement in bold text Leaders read the section under the heading, “Personal Story” that describes various experiences that taught Mark Pomeroy that lesson Leaders read the section under the heading, “My Connecting Point for Real Life” With this text as a model, leaders write down their own personal experience(s) and a connecting point lesson Leaders prepare to share their personal experiences and the connecting point lesson they learned to model and encourage small group participation.
Leaders’ Instructions during Small Group Meeting: The goal is for people to study the sections titled, “Mark’s Story,” and “My (#__) Connecting Point for Real Life” material before the small group meeting so the group can discuss the questions under, “Your Connecting Point for Real Life.”
Connecting Point Lesson #1 Week One
Experience God’s love and acceptance through believers and the Holy Spirit to counteract a performance and law orientation Mark’s Story
I got locked in a locker in 7th grade on a dare because of seeking the acceptance of others. Unfortunately, the guy who locked me up didn’t know the combination. The shop teacher cut the lock, but not until many students gathered around wondering who was that crazy guy in the locker. I heard the buzz the next day while walking down the halls of the middle school. I felt ashamed and unloved being the laughing stock of the school. After I graduated from high school, dad encouraged me to pledge a fraternity since he was a member of one during his college days. I was miserable during my whole experience in the fraternity. I felt judged, unaccepted and had no friends during those first two quarters in the fraternity. I was de-pledged because I did not fit in socially. I then moved into a dorm at Iowa State University. I met Bill Trueblood in the commons area of the dorm. He was playing cards and helped me set up my stereo. Can you believe we used records made of plastic? Bill shared the gospel with me. I told him that the stories about Noah’s Ark and parting of the Red Sea were fairy tales. I was an agnostic moving toward atheism. I enjoyed having a friend however. Someone on the dorm floor invited me to a Campus Crusade meeting where I experienced God’s love through those I met, which attracted me to Christ. That evening in my dorm room, I placed my faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of my sin. I grew to understand God’s love and forgiveness through the unconditional acceptance I received from students who were believers. A couple in my college church modeled love in their marriage that I observed up close when they frequently invited me over for dinner. It was a real contrast to my parents who were experiencing marital problems.
My First Connecting Point for Real Life
I used to think God graded on the curve. If my good works outweighed my bad works, God would let me into heaven. No amount of good works would let me in because all of us are sinners (Rom. 3:23). I’m a slave to the world, flesh and devil (Eph. 2:1-3). I can’t earn enough brownie points to get into heaven because I’m not perfect. All my righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Is. 64:6). Either we pay for our sins or someone else has to do it. I learned that Jesus Christ died in my place so my sins could be forgiven. He offered His death on the cross as a free gift that I receive by faith (Eph. 2:4-9). Faith means I put my full trust in the object of faith. For instance, when I sit down in a chair, I trust that chair will hold me up without breaking. The chair is in this illustration is the object.
When Christ’s took the death penalty upon Himself, He carried all my sin and sorrows in order to experience peace and healing in all areas of my life (Is. 53:4-6). A later lesson will explain further implications of Christ’s death on my behalf. The good news is that Christ rose again from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of God (1 Cor. 15:3-4; Eph. 1:20). Faith in Christ to escape separation from God or hell means I can never lose my initial salvation. A person who places their faith in Christ alone obtains the present possession of eternal life (John 5:24). By definition, eternal life never ends. We can’t stop it or lose it! I John 5:11-13 became very meaningful when I first trusted Christ in 1970. When I had bad days or became depressed, my feelings made me think I lost my salvation. I now know without a doubt that I have eternal life because of my faith in Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11-13). As a result I have assurance of answered prayer (1 John 5:14-15). After I placed my trust in Christ, the Bible reinforced the extent of the love Christ has for me in dying for me, a sinner (Rom 5:8). God lavished His love on me as His child (1 John 3:1a). I am now a son or daughter of King Jesus and a co-heir with Him (Rom. 8:16-17). Everything He owns will be my future inheritance. God has been renewing my mind continually to move from a “performance and law mentality.” The foundation is God’s covenant with Abraham, known as Abram before his name was changed. Notice the eight “I will” statements in Gen. 12:1-3. God took the initiative with Abram doing nothing. After God told Abram to leave his home and family to the land that “I will show you,” He said the following in Gen. 12:1 (seven more “I will” statements): “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:2-3) God would make a great nation from Abram's descendants. He would make Abram’s name great so he would be a blessing to the whole world. In addition, God would impart a blessing to those who blessed Abram and curse those who cursed him. Finally, every family of the earth would be blessed through Abram. We define blessings as welfare, benefit and peace and curses as despise, insignificant, lightly esteemed and contempt. Those who curse Abram would be bound, hemmed in with obstacles and rendered powerless to resist. The unconditional promise God gave Abram is like receiving millions of dollars and a multitude of secret service agents for protection. How did Abram respond to this unbelievable promise? Abram left his hometown of Ur, but partially obeyed by not leaving his father's house completely. He took his father, Terah, and his nephew, Lot. Terah died in Haran after leaving Ur (Gen. 11:31-32; 12:4-5).
Abram did not perform perfectly. He partially obeyed, which meant he disobeyed. Not only did he bring Lot with him, but he didn't trust God's provision since he moved to Egypt because of famine in Canaan (Gen. 12:9-10). He also lacked faith in God's protection because Abram lied to Pharaoh saying Sarai was is sister. He feared being killed if Pharaoh found out Sarai was really his wife (Gen. 12:11-20). In the first course of Sync, we will prove that the promise to Abraham is unconditional. Jumping to the New Testament, Paul wrote that those under the law are accountable to God. No one can be justified by the works of the law since it reveals the knowledge of sin. Everyone is powerless to obey the law (Rom. 3:19-20). The law makes me conscious of sin. The law is powerless to save. The Law and the Prophets show God's righteousness because all have sinned and fall short of God's glory. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared righteous and justified as a free gift by His grace (unmerited favor) through the redemption (buy back from the slave market of sin) in Christ Jesus. God displayed Christ publicly as a propitiation (satisfactory substitute) in His blood through faith. God shows His holiness by forgiving past sins and declaring people righteous through faith in Jesus. One cannot boast in the law or works because everyone is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Faith does not nullify the Law, but establishes it (Rom. 3:21-31). We are justified by faith in Christ's death to forgive our sins. Paul died to the law so he might live for God. Being crucified with Christ, he no longer lived, but Christ lived in him. He lived his life by faith in Christ who loved and gave Himself for him. Paul did not set aside God's grace because Christ died for sinners. They never could be righteous through the law (Gal. 2:19-21). We reject the law gospel. Instead, we live by faith through Christ's grace. The law was like a tutor to lead people to Christ so they could be justified by faith. People became sons of God through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:24-26). The law leads us to Christ since it shows our need for Him. Only faith in Christ can make us righteous. Abraham had two sons, one born naturally (Ishmael) by a slave woman, Hagar, and the other born as a result of promise (Isaac) by a free woman, Sarah. Hagar represented the Law and slavery. Sarah represented the covenant of promise and freedom. Ishmael born in the ordinary way persecuted Isaac who was born by the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture said to reject the slave woman's son since he would never share in the inheritance of the free woman's son. Therefore, be children of the free woman instead of the slave woman (Gal. 4:21-31). Receive the Holy Spirit to walk in freedom as God's son instead of slavery to the law. The passages from Gen. 12, Romans and Galatians are critical to move from a “performance and law mentality” to being accepted unconditionally by Christ. In addition to the unconditional love and acceptance from believers, Eph. 1:3-14 became a crucial passage for me. Notice all the blessings God gave us “in Christ.” Eph. 1:6 says “to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (NKJV). God provides every spiritual blessing in Christ so I could believe and be redeemed (bought out of the slave market of sin) by the gospel of Christ. Paul prayed in Eph. 1:15-23 for wisdom to know God and the power of the Holy Spirit so Christ would rule in every sphere and authority on earth. This is similar to the Lord’s Prayer of Jesus: “His kingdom come, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:9-13).
After I trusted in the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ as a free gift described in Eph. 2:1-9, I do good works to demonstrate God’s love, which attracts people to the gospel of grace (Eph. 2:10). Trusting in Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit abolish the law of commandments and regulations in order to create unity (Eph. 2:11-22). I then can pray, serve and preach the gospel to transform the world trusting in God for the impossible because the love and power of Christ lives in my heart by faith (Eph. 2:11-3:21). None of it is based on my own performance. My responsibility is to pray and remain connected to Jesus resulting in Spirit-empowered works.
Leaders’ Instructions during Small Group Meeting: Leader answers the first question and then has all participants take turns answering it before moving onto the next question.
Your Connecting Point for Real Life Do you think it is possible to know God personally like a real person? Have you had an experience that awoke your heart to God? If so, please share that experience in the small group. Remembering Mark’s connection lesson of “experience God’s love and acceptance through believers and the Holy Spirit to counteract a performance and law orientation” after being kicked out of the fraternity, what connection lesson have you learned related to your relationship with God? To do this week: Ask God daily to make Himself real as you seek His love and acceptance with all your heart. Claim Mark 11:24: “You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it.”
To learn prayer and how to stay connected to Jesus, I had to incorporate a key discipline in my life that will be described in the next Connecting Point lesson.
Connecting Point Lesson #2 Week Two
Study God’s word so it comes alive leading to personal application Mark’s Story
In my two-year confirmation class, Pastor Bob had me memorize Scripture and learn Bible doctrine. It remained head knowledge until my freshman year in college. During my junior year in high school, my Sunday School teacher told our class that he was an atheist. We discussed current events while reading the newspaper. One of our youth events was hearing Donald Kahl, the political columnist for the Des Moines Register, discuss why we should vote for Hubert Humphrey instead of Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential race. Shortly afterward, I stopped going to church because it seemed irrelevant. I could read the paper on my own time. Also, I saw no point in studying God’s word. It was a large book and totally incomprehensible in my opinion. With so many denominations and conflicting opinions of what it said, what was the point in studying it? It would only lead to arguments! I also did not want to be one of those strait-laced fundamentalists who did not go to movies or play cards. They took the fun out of life. After suffering the humiliation and rejection of being de-pledged from a fraternity, I placed my faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins in April. 1970. Within two weeks, I attended a retreat that helped get me started in my new faith. God’s word became alive. I remember spending hours in my dorm room underlining verses in the Bible. It seemed that each one leaped off the page. One of the first verses was 1 Peter 5:7 about casting your anxiety upon Him because God cares for you. It helped me to stay calm while taking tests, especially during Finals Week. I still had to study. During the next three years, I became very active in Campus Crusade and a student leader. One of the Crusade staff members, John Wynthien, trained me in evangelism while watching him lead students to Christ in the student union. He watched me do the same. Many college students trusted Christ as their Savior during the Jesus Movement in the early 1970s when revival hit many university campuses. I led several small groups to help students grow spiritually. Gary Wainwright, president of our dorm, led a Bible study in his dorm room. He also drove several of us from the dorm floor to attend Ontario Bible Church. Jim Schierling had just become the new pastor. He used an overhead projector to write down the outline of a passage, often a paragraph. He explained what the words and verses meant in relevant terms. He concluded with an application to make that passage come alive in our personal experience. Before we heard the passage preached, we studied that same Scripture ourselves. We wrote our observations on a “7-Up Sheet” listing the best verse, paraphrase of the passage in our own words, outline, difficulties, questions and application for our life. After a week of study, we discussed the passage with more mature believers. On Sunday morning, Schierling preached the passage. God’s word came alive to me.
My Second Connecting Point for Real Life
For lots of people, the Bible is an intimidating book. People have a hard time getting to know God. There’s a mystery surrounding how to understand the Bible. Spiritual growth becomes confusing. The story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and their encounter with Christ showed how Christ could come alive in my life. The women found the stone rolled away from the tomb and did not find the body of Jesus. Two angels said He rose again. What they said to the apostles appeared as nonsense. Only Peter believed them because he saw the empty tomb (Lk. 24:1-12). Believe in Christ’s resurrection to experience Christ. The two disciples discussed and heard Jesus ask questions about this mysterious person as they traveled with Him. Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. Jesus said they were "slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken" (Lk. 24:13-25). Ask questions so people will think and understand Scripture. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, Jesus explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. After they invited Christ to stay and He broke bread, their hearts burned within them as He opened the Scriptures. (Lk. 24:26-35). Study and discuss the Bible in a thorough and systematic way to experience the passion of knowing Christ. While they were telling these things, Jesus stood in their midst, which startled and frightened them. Jesus asked, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” After touching His hands and feet, Christ asked if they had anything to eat (Lk. 24:36-43). Listen to God’s word so Christ can minister to your doubts and fears. Jesus said all things written about Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and Psalms must be fulfilled. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. Christ said He would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. They were to stay in the city until being clothed with God’s power (Lk. 24:44-49). Share what the Holy Spirit teaches you so people can experience forgiveness of sins. Jesus led them out and after blessing them, He parted from them. They praised God continually in the temple (Lk. 24:50-53). Tap into God’s authority through small group prayer. I tasted God’s goodness and grew spiritually as I desired the pure milk of the word (1 Peter 2:2-3). God’s word is spirit and life (John 6:63). It’s living, active and penetrates my total being judging the thoughts and attitudes of my heart (Heb. 4:12). God’s word revived my soul by making wise the simple (mind), giving joy to the heart (emotions) and giving light to the eyes (will) (Ps. 19:7-8). I grew less fearful and more outgoing. I had more joy and became a positive person. I used my spiritual gift to serve others for their spiritual benefit. Instead of succumbing to shyness, networking became a major strength.
The Holy Spirit does not operate in a vacuum, but takes the word of God and reveals it to me?those who hear or read it (John 16:13-14). This partnership between God’s word and the Holy Spirit transformed me into ever increasing measure of His glory (2 Cor. 3:16-18). I received more joy spending time with God than any other thing. Unfortunately, I often let busyness and distractions crowd out my appointment with Him. Looking intently at God’s word through memorization and meditation, I obtained greater freedom from sin and bore the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control without striving in my own strength (James 1:25; Ps. 1:2-3; Gal. 5:22-23). I gained a heart for friends and family being concerned that they also discover the free gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. I encouraged others instead of tearing them down with my tongue (James 1:26). I helped people in need instead always looking out for number one, myself (James 1:27).
Personal Walk with God
Importance Getting to know God is the most important thing in life. This will bring more joy, satisfaction and fruit than anything else. John 17:3 - "And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." Jer. 9:23-24 - Thus says the Lord, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts, boast of this, that he understands and knows Me." In today's society, characterized by speed and instant gratification, many people are looking for a "get rich quick" scheme for spirituality. There is no plan that produces instant spiritual maturity. Building a relationship with Jesus Christ is a lifelong process. Too often we get the cart before the horse. We measure spirituality by involvement or service. Yet God says He would rather have us be loyal in our walk with Him and getting to know Him than any service we could render. Hosea 6:6 - For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. The sad fact is that men and women who are really faithful to God are few and far between. Why? Because few are willing to pay the price! Few of us are willing to go through the pain of setting up goals and of building habits into our lives so that we are daily getting to know Him! Few of us pay close attention to what God teaches us daily about Himself and about ourselves. Yet those of us who are faithful will be praised by our Maker Himself and be able to enjoy fully in eternity what He now enjoys fully. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 - Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wive's tales; rather train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
Matt. 25:23 - His master said to him, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master!" (See Appendix 1 for details on “Fundamental Skills to Embrace Spirit of Life”)
Your Connecting Point for Real Life Does the Bible make sense to you? What parts do not make sense? For those who read God’s word, why do you want to spend time in it? What makes God’s word come alive in your life? To do this week: Delight yourself in a portion of God’s word and in response; express your heart desire in prayer. Claim Psalm 37:4: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Developing my personal relationship with God was foundational, but it had to be united with others in the body of Christ to stay balanced and keep the fire alive. Coals of fire must stay together to keep burning.
Connecting Point Lesson #3 Week Three
Be equipped with God’s word to build up the body of Christ in unity using my spiritual gifts Mark’s Story
My involvement during my college days at Ontario Bible Church in Ames, IA, gave me a foundation to understand how the spiritual gifts work together. Elders led the church and they worked together in unity. I saw models of healthy Christian families and a church that ministered to one another. Elders who led the church demonstrated servant leadership as elders. These years were foundational in the development of Biblical Institute for Leadership Development (BILD) that Jeff Reed founded while being mentored by Jim Schierling, lead pastor of Ontario Bible Church. During the summer of 1973, I joined an internship program with three other students. We met weekly with Jim Schierling, attended elder meetings, taught in a ministry (mine was working with middle school students), worked as a painter each morning before noon and participated in a church softball league. We attended several retreats. The internship program helped me understand the inner workings of a church. Schierling taught me Old Testament Walk-Through, basic Bible doctrine and 2 Cor. 2-6 (Paul’s heart for ministry), which became foundational in my understanding of ministry and discipleship. Schierling evaluated and observed that my spiritual gifts were in the areas of evangelism and exhortation. A spiritual gift indicator test was also helpful as I saw myself drawn to small group ministry in helping people grow in Christ. It made me sensitive in observing the spiritual gifts of others. I was house manager of a former fraternity converted into off-campus housing for 17 Christian students on three floors. We coordinated clean-up and maintenance by scheduling jobs for everyone to do. One of the residents, Tac Chow, was an international student from Hong Kong who modeled a consistent prayer life. We prayed together each evening. One of my greatest joys was evangelizing and seeing students grow spiritually in small groups. After college graduation, I taught an Old Testament Walk-Through in a Methodist church focusing on God’s covenants to Abraham, Moses, David , New Covenant ? and fulfillment of His promises in Matthew. During my corporate career from 1976 to 1983, I led the Old Testament Walk-Through and other Bible studies during the lunch hour at Harnishfeger Corporation in Cedar Rapids, IA, for both the shop and office workers. When management staggered the start times, I trained Joe Byrd to teach the blue-collar workers. A spiritual revival broke out as these UAW union workers became Christians through Joe’s Bible studies and fixing their motorcycles. During this movement of God, a young man said the King James Version was the only translation that was God’s word. It caused much division. Soon afterward, this man died of a mysterious illness. Our church went through a church split over doctrinal differences regarding the emphasis on the Great Commission on making disciples.
Charlie and Hope Pyle modeled hospitality and showed how the building of relationships wins the right to minister God’s word to others. Because of Tom Peckosh’s close relationship with me, I was able to receive an exhortation when he said that I needed to submit to authorities in order to be exalted at the proper time (I Pet. 5:5-6). He used himself as an example. As a deacon, he waited on God and did not assert his own will concerning matters of church business. He helped me to look at all the possible angles since none of us have all the information in making a good decision.
My Third Connecting Point for Real Life
I learned that it’s better to train others than doing the work myself. In the early 1970s, I studied Ray Stedman’s book, Body Life, which described the how the many parts of the body of Christ work together in unity to build each other up through the operation of spiritual gifts. As a new believer, I learned that one could disciple believers through small groups to prepare for spiritual battle (1 Cor. 11-14). Show the example of Christ in gender roles based on the order of creation (1 Cor. 11:1-16). Eat the Lord's Supper in a worthy manner to proclaim the Lord's death until He comes back (1 Cor. 11:17-34). People must not be ignorant of spiritual gifts since the control of the Holy Spirit demonstrated Jesus Lordship in their operation. The Holy Spirit, Jesus and God worked together in the variety of gifts, ministries and effects. The manifestation of the Spirit was given for the common good like the message of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits and tongues along with interpretation. God gave these spiritual gifts as He determined. Exercise various spiritual gifts for the common good according to His will (1 Cor. 12:1-11). The one body of Christ consists of many parts. A foot should not say to the hand or an ear to the eye that he did not belong to the body. God arranges the different functions of the body where He wanted them. Each part depends on the other. The weaker and less honorable ones are indispensable and deserve special honor. Every part impacts the whole body. God appointed in the church apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, gifts of healing, helpers, administration and tongues along with interpretation. We should eagerly desire the greater gifts. Employ the greater gifts in unity under God's leadership while showing honor and concern toward with one another (1 Cor. 12:12-30). Practice love, patience and kindness in persevering faith until people are conformed into the image of Christ (1 Cor. 13:1-13). Teach God's word to strengthen, encourage and comfort the church in preparation for spiritual battle (1 Cor. 14:1-25). Execute orderly, Spirit-led, interactive, small group sessions with hymns, instruction, revelation and prophecy to strengthen the church (1 Cor. 14:26-40) After people are empowered and equipped in a small group process through God’s word, send them out to preach the crucified and resurrected Christ as they minister the kingdom of God in the world (1 Cor. 15-16). The greater gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers listed in Eph. 4:11-13 are offices that equip the body of Christ for works of service until everyone reaches unity in the faith and maturity in Christ. The context for service is humility, which prevents divisions (Eph. 4:2-3). Whenever a group thinks they have a corner on the truth, they undermine the reality that we are members of one body
(Eph. 4:4-6). This lack of understanding causes splits, which I have observed too many times. As we equip believers for works of service like the exercise of spiritual gifts focused on Christ-centered maturity, then everyone can work together in love and unity. I learn to love like Christ by renewing my mind in His Word, which empowers the practice of truth, love and forgiveness (Eph. 4:17-32). Being filled with God’s word is the same as the filling of the Holy Spirit (compare similar results of Col. 3:16ff with Eph. 5:18ff). How can a believer live in unity and love others at the same time? Jesus gave up His rights as God and took the form of a human living on earth without selfish ambition. He served others and “became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Those with a humble and servant attitude follow in His steps (Phil. 2:1-11). To follow in His steps, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling by meditating on His word and trusting in God's power according to His good purpose. Epaphroditus illustrated a servant, loving lifestyle when he risked his life caring for Paul's needs. He almost died for the work of Christ (Phil. 2:1230). 2 Tim. 3:16-17 says all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching (describing right path), reproof (where we miss the right path), correction (how to get back on the right path and training in godliness (how to stay on the right path) in order to be equipped for every good work, including the exercise of spiritual gifts.
Your Connecting Point for Real Life Do you believe that God’s word can equip you for ministry? If not, what would it take for this to occur? Share a circumstance God has used in your life to equip y0u in His word? Remembering Mark’s connection lesson of “be equipped with God’s word to build up the body of Christ in unity using my spiritual gifts” through ministry experiences in college and at work, what connection lesson have you learned related to using His word in meeting spiritual needs through your spiritual gift? To do this week: Pray in faith to God daily, asking Him how and when to build someone up in His word. Claim Col. 4:2,6: “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
God will bring tough situations to test and awaken you to His kingdom purposes.
Connecting Point Lesson #4 Week Four
Be awakened to God’s kingdom purposes through His sovereignty in tough circumstances and realize He provides everything
Mark’s Story Being de-pledged from a fraternity was a huge disappointment. Not being loved and accepted was extremely painful. Getting bad grades that first quarter was very humbling. I always got good grades in high school. Socially, I had no close friends. Moving into a dorm not knowing anyone was very scary. Bill Trueblood became a great friend. God brought people into my life during these dark days. Tough times prepare a person for their greatest blessing. These events led me to a place where my hungry heart met Christians who showed unconditional love mixed with hearing God’s word so faith in Christ could be birthed in my heart. Four years later, my parent’s divorce in 1974 brought great frustration and anger into my life. This sense of betrayal was compounded in having to relate to a man my mom married who was not my father. Hurt and anger flooded my being. I told mom she was sinning if she divorced dad. It seemed like a selfish act to me. There was this sense of loneliness and disconnectedness knowing that nothing was ever going to be the same. After coming to the realization that people disappoint, I started relying more heavily in my new faith in Christ. He was the solid rock. Prayer and reading His word gave me encouragement and hope. I rededicated my life to Christ. He was the only one I had in heaven and was the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps. 73:25-26). Karen and I had a great time dating each other for a year and getting married Sept. 27, 1975. After a memorable honeymoon in Branson, MO, we learned that I was laid off my job as a line industrial engineer at Rockwell (Collins Radio) in Cedar Rapids, IA. What a shock! I immediately felt unwanted, inferior and incompetent. What was I going to do? Again, prayer and Bible reading came to my rescue. In August 1983, I was fired from my purchasing job at Norand because I wouldn’t compromise my convictions in negotiating contracts. In my prior job as a purchasing agent at Harnischfeger, I was taught that bids from potential vendors are sealed so companies will submit their best price. My boss wanted me to communicate the bids of other companies so a certain company,his drinking buddy, could bid the lowest and win the contract. My boss was mad that I led noon-time Bible study, especially when two of the Catholic believers invited him to attend. He was an atheist and did not believe in the Bible. Nothing I did at work satisfied him. Everything he said was critical. Because every detail was micromanaged, I lost confidence, lost sleep and lost weight. High interest rates prevented us from selling our home quickly after losing my job at Norand. After recently purchasing a dream house, we had to sacrifice it on the altar. We lost much money selling it compared to the original purchase price. However, the capital gains from our first house provided the cushion to withstand the capital loss on the second one. We saw God’s provision. After looking seven months for jobs in the Cedar Rapids area, I got a call from a consulting firm in Omaha, NE, Wells Engineers, which does civil, structural and environmental engineering work in cities and meat packing plants. Jim and Paula Wells , fine believers, owned the firm. Paula had just gotten her
PhD in Industrial Engineering, my field, and hired me as an industrial engineering consultant. Fifteen months later, there was not sufficient work to keep me employed. This was the fourth unexpected job loss. What was God doing? Bob Schmidt, an elder at Evangelical Bible Church (EBC) in Omaha, counseled and encouraged me to partner with Dean Hatfield in college ministry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. EBC expanded my worldview in missions since it supported many missionaries. It became evident that God has been preparing Karen and me for greater kingdom purposes for our lives. One Sunday morning while Karen was in the nursery, two ladies said Dean Hatfield from Lincoln, NE, had led their husbands to Christ while they were college students. Now their husbands were leaders in our church. Would God provide? Some individuals and our church supported us financially so we had about $1000 per month to begin. In Aug. 1986, we moved to Lincoln to begin work as a college missionary in the dorms at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln working in partnership with Dean Hatfield who has been “storming the dorms” since 1961. He would go door-to-door and ask a question to get their attention. “Could I take a few minutes? Do you know what determines the ultimate destiny of a soul? God designed one liquid that makes a difference? Can you tell me what that is?” “The Old Testament mentions lambs, bulls and goats. We don’t live under that any more. The New Testament talks about a perfect unblemished lamb representing the blood of Christ. It makes all the difference in having a relationship with Christ. Do you really know Him? Dean then shares the gospel in depth sharing various Scriptures. He has led many young men to Christ and discipled them in God’s word. Karen told me that we could do this for three months until our income was gone. Then I would have to get a real job. Could I believe God’s promise of meeting all our needs when outwardly it seemed we would run out of money? Many of our long-term friends did not understand because we were saying no to financial security and saying yes to God’s calling for our lives. It was scary and the evil one bombarded us with many doubts. We can testify that for 27 years, God has been faithful to provide for our financial needs. God used these circumstances to expand our minds concerning what He wanted to do with our lives. Praying for my dad's salvation for greater than 30 years tested my faith, but God wanted to develop my dependence upon Him by continuing to lift Him up before the throne of grace. He trusted Christ as His Savior two months before he died of lung cancer. Gary Clark, my mom’s pastor, led dad to Christ and discipled him for the last two months of his life. After Gary told dad he needed to endure God’s test of feeling bad, dad said he was not looking to earn a PhD. I saw spiritual growth during that time. Several months later, we had a memorial service complete with a Dixieland jazz band in the cafeteria of dad’s retirement home. Most everyone that lived there was in attendance to hear the gospel presented. Dad loved to party and knew how to have a good time. One of his greatest joys was dancing with jazz music. Consider this quote by Phillips Brooks, "Bad will be the day, for every man when he becomes absolutely contented with the life that he is living, with the thoughts that he is thinking, with the deeds that he is doing, when there is not forever beating at the doors of his soul some great desire to do
something larger, which he knows that he was meant and made to do because he is still, in spite of all, the child of God.”
My Fourth Connecting Point for Real Life
Consider the value of God’s kingdom in the following six questions: How could Joseph say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” after being unjustly sold into slavery by his brothers and spending two years in prison because he refused to commit adultery with Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 50:20)? How did Daniel survive the lions’ den because he continued to pray three times a day to God instead of worshiping the king (Dan. 1:8; 6:10,16)? Why could Christ say that the kingdom of heaven was like a treasure hidden in a field so that a man sold all he had and bought the field because of his joy (Matt. 13:44)? Why could Christ say the kingdom of heaven was like a merchant looking for fine pearls that he sold everything to buy a valuable one (Matt. 13:45)? Why are there six Scriptures that say that those who he find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for His sake will find it (Matt. 10:39; 16:24-26; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-25; 17:33; John 12:25)?
Joseph’s brothers were concerned that he would bear a grudge and pay back the wrong they did to h im. Joseph wept and said to not be afraid since He was not in God’s place as the Sovereign One. His brothers meant evil against him, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Joseph told them he would provide for their families (Gen. 50:15-21). I discovered that God uses evil, even job losses, to accomplish His good purposes in the world. Joseph told his brothers that he was about to die, but assured them that God would care and bring them to the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Joseph made his brothers swear that they would carry his bones from Egypt to Canaan (Gen. 50:22-26). I learned that God cares and intervenes in my life even when others sin against me. My “unreasonable” boss at Norand was the key event that propelled me into God’s kingdom purposes for my life. The Spirit helps our weakness for we do not know how to pray but the Spirit intercedes with groans that words cannot express. God searches the hearts and knows the mind of the Spirit because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Beginning with being de-pledged from the fraternity, God causes all things to work on my behalf according to His will. His intercessory prayers on my behalf and circumstances designed by Him transform me into the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:26-29). So far, we have addressed the divine side of God’s sovereignty as He uses tough circumstances to awaken us to His kingdom purposes. In the Sermon On the Mount, Christ described the role of prayer in receiving God’s provision in His model prayer, the Lord’ Prayer. He knows what we need before we ask Him. Nurture an intimate relationship with Him by withdrawing from the world. Ask that God’s
rule and will correspond to His wisdom and power in heaven. Pray for daily needs for our lives (Matt. 6:8-11). Lay up our treasure in heaven by serving God and not money (Matt. 6:19-24). When we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all our needs will be met (Matt. 6:25-34). Culture of Comfort to Culture of Mission A culture of comfort has superseded a culture of mission in many of our churches. Too many Christians" are busy playing church instead of seeking the heart of Jesus. In many cases the church is like a country club where Scripture is manipulated so people can become richer and more popular, but unfortunately, more worldly. As a result, the church is declining in the US. Jesus example and teaching in Luke 5 helps us move out of a culture of comfort into a culture of mission. Following Jesus' pathway bears fruit in evangelism even though it's chaotic and uncomfortable (Lk. 5:111). Prayer provides the power for physical and spiritual healing (Lk. 5:12-16). To be like God, be compassionate towards sinners instead of condemning them (Lk. 5:17-26). Verbally witness and challenge people to follow Christ so they will repent (Lk. 5:27-38). Influence sinners by having meals and personal contact (Lk. 5:29-32). It's appropriate to delight in God's presence and have fun relating with others (Lk. 5:33-35). Put creative ideas in new structures and don't view the old ways as superior (Lk. 5:33-39). One naturally gravitates toward the familiar and comfortable, rules and regulations, instead of being led by God’s Spirit. The old and new wines are opposites. You can’t combine them without destroying both. The gospel of the kingdom can’t be hindered by man-made rules of the Pharisees. The new wine is sharp and unrefined. It's not as smooth to the tongue and finely aged like old wine. New wine is alive and can’t be contained in old structures or wineskins. Description of Kingdom of God Ministry God's way of ministry is completely opposed to the world. The world says to trust your strategic plan. God says to listen and obey Him. The world says to have all your resources, including finances in place, before proceeding with ministry. God says to trust Him and move forward even when it's not all figured out or been provided. The world says you need education and credentials. God says He will provide power and authority to proclaim and heal in the kingdom of God. The world says that my church can do ministry without assistance from other congregations or community leaders. God says to collaborate with other members of the body of Christ and city leaders to get the job done. The world says to serve those with resources who can financially support your ministry. God says to give first priority to the least of these who can never pay you back. Of course, education, research, strategic plans, resources, etc., are tools that God can use, but never allow any of them to take priority over Him. Trust God to provide as you proclaim kingdom of God and perform healing (Lk. 9:1-6). Worldly authorities are perplexed and curious about Jesus' mission of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom (Lk. 9:7-9). Be available, organize, give what you have and trust Jesus to provide additional resources (Lk. 9:10-17). Commit yourself completely to following Christ and His will for your life (Lk. 9:18-27).
Listening to God is your most important priority (Lk. 9:28-36). Trust the greatness of God, even when you are betrayed by men (Lk. 9:37-45). Give priority to serving the least and disenfranchised among you (Lk. 9:46-48). Collaborate with other members in the body of Christ since you serve on the same team (Lk. 9:49-50). Your goal is to improve peoples' lives in all respects (Lk. 9:51-56). Separate from anything that hinders you from following God's will completely (Lk. 9:57-62). Journey toward Gospel of Kingdom Ministry Most of us envision church as something to go to on Sunday morning. We hear sermons, sing songs and talk to the same people, while remaining unchanged and oftentimes bored. Our main focus becomes programs, maintaining the building and limiting ministry to those in our congregation. Is this what ministry is all about? Does God have a more exciting and fulfilling ministry for you and me? Luke 10 provides guidance on your adventurous journey toward gospel of the kingdom ministry. It's more exciting than riding the largest wave on a surfboard, making that million dollar sale, experiencing the thrill of victory or getting an A on that final test. Prayer - walk an area first asking God to send out laborers into His harvest field (Lk. 10:1-3). Trust God's provision as you invest time discipling men and women of peace in homes among their networks (Lk. 10:3-8). God's holistic miracles of healing authenticate your ministry to those who experience God's kingdom (Lk. 10:9-16). Disciplemakers offer feedback to their disciples to maintain their proper priorities (Lk. 10:17-24). Show compassion in ministering to peoples' real needs as they come across your path who could be men and women of peace (Lk. 10:25-37). Prioritize your relationship with Christ to remove distractions from your purpose in ministry (Lk. 10:38-42). Ingredients for Effective Disciple - making Develop your relationship with God through prayer so others experience the full implications of the gospel of kingdom (Lk. 11:1-4). God provides the power of the Holy Spirit to answer to diligent and persistent prayer (Lk. 11:5-13). God's power overthrows strongholds and idolatry that a person trusts in (Lk. 11:14-26). Commit yourself as doer of the word, not just hearer (Lk. 11:27-28). Repent of sin and ask God for wisdom in what he wants you to do (Lk. 11:29-32). Discipling people in God's word allows others to see Christ (Lk. 11:33-36). Cleanse your heart so it becomes pure and full of mercy and compassion (Lk. 11:37-41). Help the weak who can't pay you back experience justice and God's love (Lk. 11:42-44). The five-fold ministry of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers provides the context so people can know God intimately (Lk. 11:4552). The world hates Christ and His agenda (Lk. 11:53-54) God Answers Persistent Prayer The best and most neglected activity in God's kingdom is prayer. God responds to persistent, bold and specific prayer. God answers persistent prayer to Him if you don't lose heart (Lk. 18:1-8). He who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Lk. 18:9-14). Do everything you can to help people experience forgiveness of sin through Christ (Lk. 18:15-17).
Those who follow Christ and not the world will receive great temporal and eternal reward (Lk. 18:1830). As disciples of Christ, you take up the cross by humbling yourself and being exalted like Him (Lk. 18:31-34). Persistent, bold and specific prayer is answered once you get Christ's attention (Lk. 18:35-43)
Your Connecting Point for Real Life Have you seen any purpose for hard circumstances in your life? What was the hardest circumstance you have experienced? Remembering that Mark’s connection lesson of “be awakened to God’s kingdom purposes through His sovereignty in tough circumstances and realize He provides everything” through his parents’ divorce and job losses, what connection lesson have you learned from that hard circumstance, which awoke you to God’s purpose for your life? To do this week: Pray daily that God fulfills a specific kingdom purpose in the midst of specific obstacles. Claim 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.”
God challenged you to study the full counsel of God to be equipped fully in your kingdom purpose.
Connecting Point Lesson #5 Week Five
Realize that the Bible’s unifying theme is God’s covenant with Abraham, Moses, David and New Covenant promises linked to His people Mark’s Story
Having an atheist for a Sunday School teacher my junior year in high school encouraged me to not read my Bible. It made no sense. My family said a college education and good paying job was the ticket to success. It did not provide satisfaction, significance or meaningful friendships. After trusting Christ as my Savior, I did topical, fill-in-the-blank studies. It did not connect the dots in my understanding of Scripture to get the big picture. Scriptures were taken out of context. One aspect of a subject would be addressed without the balancing truths. Unfortunately, half truths turn into false teaching. It is like being in a thick fog where only the closest objects are visible. When the fog lifts, you have a full and clear perspective of the view. Christian researcher George Barna explains this dynamic well: “For years, churches have been exposing Christians to scattered, random bits of Biblical knowledge in services and Christian education classes. People read a truth here and hear about a certain principal there. They nod their heads in approval and feel momentarily satisfied. But within the space of just a few hours those principles or truths are lost in the busyness and complexity of daily life. These Christians didn’t capture the profound truths and hold on to them or “own” them, because too often, sufficient context was not provided, nor was a method taught that could enable them to analyze, categorize and utilize the principles or truths discussed in class. This inability to systematically apply Biblical truth produces a spiritual superficiality and immaturity that is reflected in the behaviors and attitudes of general society and sadly, in the Church as well.” I have also seen the simplistic way many Christians handle the Bible. They look for personal word from God that is often far from what the text within its context is really saying. *--It becomes too easy to rely on our favorite verses removed from their context. In 1989, I saw the large-scale biblical illiteracy among college students and in our churches. Ron Waymire, a student I met through college ministry, encouraged me to take several communication theory courses to expand my horizons and develop my writing skills. My wife, Karen, met the wife of the dean of Journalism in Bible Study Fellowship. I introduced myself to her husband, Will Norton, dean of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications, encouraged me to pursue a masters degree in journalism to improve my writing skills for the discipleship curriculum. Seeing God at work, I obeyed Him to begin writing a small group Christian discipleship training curriculum called Sync: Connecting Your Life to God’s Story, after I earned my Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications in 1996. As people understood God’s covenants to Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant predicted in Jeremiah with all of them fulfilled in Matthew through Christ, God connected the dots in peoples’ understanding of Scripture.
Nathan Kroll of Campus Life had the same experience. After completing the six-week course in one church, he was asked to teach it again with a new group. He now has completed his seventh class in that church alone. Nathan said that people taking the class always commented that they learn how the Old and New Testament fit together. He found it opening up a simple way to share the gospel. Several students claimed to be atheists with no knowledge of Scripture. By week four they asked very different questions and several made professions of faith. Nathan has taught the class greater than 50 times. My experience with Promise Keepers showed that men can’t live life by going to conferences two days a year. They need a foundation in God’s word found through the kingdom of God.
My Fifth Connecting Point for Real Life Big Picture of the Bible (1st Sync Course) Promise to Abraham
Land, Descendants, Blessings Unconditionally receive promised land as God’s disciple to experience His favor
Promise to Moses
Land Discover your promised land within your cultural sphere to serve the least of these in obedience to God
Promise to David
Descendants Become kingdom-minded disciple within your promised land through the power of prayer
Promise of New Covenant
Blessings Rely on the Holy Spirit by serving in your promised land to influence society in your cultural sphere
Be equipped by Christ through the New Covenant to model and mentor others with the gospel of the kingdom in serving the least of these and making disciples in your cultural sphere
Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and New Covenants People need more than the Four Spiritual Laws when you preach the gospel to them. After the number of Jerusalem disciples increased rapidly, Stephen preached before the Sanhedrin about God’s promise to Abraham, Moses, David and New Covenant. The God of glory appeared to Abraham when lived in Mesopotamia and said to leave his country and relatives and come to the land He would show him. After Abraham's father died in Haran, God brought him to Israel and gave it to him and his offspring as a possession. They would be slaves and mistreated in a foreign land for 400 years. God would judge Egypt and allow them to come out and serve Him. Abraham became the father of Isaac with Jacob his grandson who had 12 sons as patriarchs. The people multiplied fulfilling God's promise to Abraham before Moses was born (Acts 7:1-19). Abraham received God's promise of possessing land and descendants unconditionally and forever. Stephen next focused on Moses who was educated by the Egyptians. He became powerful in words and deeds. After an Israelite was mistreated, Moses took vengeance and fled to Midian. Forty years later, an angel appeared in a burning bush to tell Moses to rule and deliver the Israelites. He performed wonders and signs in Egypt, Red Sea and wilderness for 40 years. Moses received living oracles on Mt. Sinai that the people disobeyed by making a golden calf and worshiping Mooch and Rompha. Moses instructed them on how to build the tabernacle of testimony that Joshua brought while dispossessing the nations until the time of David (Acts 7:20-45).
God’s promise to Moses concerned unconditional ownership of the land, but their possession and enjoyment of the land was based on obedience. Even though Moses grew up with riches in Egypt, learning about its culture, he left it in obedience to God (Heb. 11:24-27).
Stephen next focused on David who asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob, but Solomon
built a house for Him. The Most High did not dwell in houses made by humans since heaven is His throne and the earth His footstool (Acts 7:46-50). David received God's promise of establishing His house (lineage of people), kingdom (sphere of rule) and throne (royal right to rule) eternally and unconditionally. God taught him the need to give up control just like I continually learn and relearn. Stephen next focused on the New Covenant since men always resisted the Holy Spirit and disobeyed the law like their fathers who killed the prophets who announced the coming of the Righteous One. They were convicted by Stephen's preaching and began gnashing their teeth at him. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. They began stoning him and the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of Saul. Stephen called upon the Lord and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" and then died (Acts 7:54-60). Teaching God's covenants with Abraham, Moses and David convict people of sin and lead to dramatic response, including the salvation of Saul later. The New Covenant gives people a new heart and new spirit to believe in Him so they can be forgiven of sin. Kingdom of God After Christ was baptized by John, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. A voice said this was His beloved Son of whom He was well-pleased. Satan then tempted Christ in the wilderness. Because the kingdom of God is present right now, I repent of my sins and believe the gospel. By following Jesus, He makes me become a fisher of men (Mark 1:9-20). My identity in Christ as God's beloved son, not performance orientation, provides the context to withstand the world's temptations and spread the kingdom of God in the following ways:
1. Feed Upon God's Word: Listen and respond to Jesus' authoritative teaching through the
Scriptures (Mark 1:21-22)
2. Meet Felt Needs: Command unclean spirits to come out of people in the name of Christ & heal
sicknesses, diseases and demon-possessed in Christ's name (Mark 1:23-34)
3. Pray & Preach Christ: Continuous and constant prayer to determine what Christ wants you to do
& preach gospel of Christ (Mark 1:35-39a)
4. Show Compassion to Disenfranchised: Cast out demons & show love to "lepers" or the
marginalized (Mark 1:39b-44) As a result of Christ being affirmed on a human level, the kingdom of God spread to the leper who shared the good news of Jesus freely so people came to Him from everywhere (Mark 1:45).
Society and my family placed straightjackets on me hindering me from obeying God in the following ways: 1. Follow God’s Expectation and Not Limited Family Vision: When Jesus taught in his hometown synagogue, many scoffed about his wisdom and miracles. As a result, he did not do any miracles (Mark 6:1-6). 2. Trust in Christ, Not in Preparation and Planning: Jesus sent out the apostles in pairs giving them authority over evil spirits and told them to rely on hospitality of others (Mark 6:7-13). 3. Embrace Moral Purity and Don’t Compromise to Get Ahead: King Herod arrested and killed John the Baptist because he confronted the king about his immoral marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias (Mark 6:14-32). 4. Trust God to Multiply Your Meager Time, Talent & Treasure Resources: After the apostles rested from their short-term ministry assignment, Jesus felt compassion for 5,000 people who were like sheep without a shepherd. The disciples fed them with five loaves and two fish (Mark 6:3344). 5. Pray and Rely on God’s Wisdom, Not Your Own: During a storm, the apostles saw Jesus walking on the sea. Once Jesus got into the boat, the wind stopped (Mark 6:45-52).
Your Connecting Point for Real Life: How do God’s promises to Abraham, Moses, David and New Covenant make a difference in your understanding of the big picture in the Bible? Does understanding the kingdom of God make a difference in how you live your life? If yes, what next steps will you take? If no, what gaps must be filled in for you so the kingdom of God makes a difference in how you live? Remembering that Mark’s connecting lesson of “realize that the Bible’s unifying theme is God’s covenant with Abraham, Moses, David and New Covenant promises linked to His people,” which connected the dots for him, what connection lesson have you learned related to God’s promises and the kingdom of God? To do this week: Thank God daily in advance for fulfilling His kingdom purpose according to His covenant promises as you wait for His answer. Claim John 14:12-14: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.”
God is asking you to mentor or be mentored spiritually by someone different than you.
Connecting Point Lesson #6 Week Six
Co-mentor those from different walks of life and generations to understand the Bible, love God, unify others and serve their community Mark’s Story
In 1993, Bill McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers (PK), challenged me to cross racial and denominational barriers in pursuing biblical unity. The following year, I founded Real Men of Integrity while working alongside PK. Instead of criticizing the church, God wanted me to be part of the solution. Men were leaving the church and abandoning their families. They were not loving their wives like Christ loved the church or shepherding their church. Real Men was an opportunity to see men become spiritual leaders in their home, church and community. We had monthly Real Men breakfasts in various churches until 1995. I led a task force of men representing various ages, vocations, races and denominations. In 1997, I attended Stand In The Gap in Washington D.C. While there, I reconciled with the individual who led the revolt in our PK task force. It was amazing to see God’s power to bring unity to relationships. Seeing one million men praying for their families, churches and nation was inspiring and humbling. I will never forget sharing God’s word together in the 24-hour bus ride back to Lincoln. A personal highlight was reconciling with the person who tried to overthrow my leadership with Real Men of Integrity. That same year, I attended an Intimate Encounters marital intimacy class, but did not do the homework because I was too busy in ministry. My wife, Karen, and I had a disagreement over a theological issue. We always had been on the same page spiritually until this issue came up. Karen considered ending the marriage, but a friend encouraged her to persevere and be patient. After humbling ourselves by confessing our pride, we agreed to disagree. We were reconciled and experienced God’s supernatural love. A marriage intensive allowed focused time to heal our marriage through confession, forgiveness and leaving childhood hurts so we could effectively teach Intimate Encounters marital intimacy classes. We now lead nine-week workshops for couples as God opens the door. In Sept. 2007, I joined Human Services Federation that networked 200+ social services agencies in Lincoln so they could work together and even mentor one another. It gave me a great heart to see the church of Jesus Christ come together for the sake of the city. I joined the religious affinity task force of the Human Services Federation to develop a video and packet resource, “Do You Really See Me? to help churches engage issues of poverty in the community. I began a relationship with an ex-homeless person, Bill Rhoads, who met with downtown churches discussing how to develop a hospitality to homeless network.
Later that year, we scheduled our third annual Leaders’ Prayer Summit that included the police chief, two city council members and the superintendent of Lincoln Public School discussing issues they would like to see the church address. They showed me that the church had been too self-focused instead of being salt and light in the world. The gospel of the kingdom is effective to transform the world if we make ourselves available. In 2009, I partnered with Bob Bauerle in starting Champions (www.heartofachampion.net) so local churches could teach personal development leadership skills and help people discover their mission and vision and learn goal setting skills. Those with the best outcomes had mentors in the seven key areas of life (spiritual, health, finances, education, job, family and social needs). That same year, I attended Circle of Support training in Council Bluffs showing how people in poverty have the resources to help one another and the rich learn about relationships with God and others. Later, several of us drove to Ames, IA, to experience a Circle of Support community meal held in a local church.
My Sixth Connecting Point for Real Life
Why doesn't the world take Christians seriously? Often our lives are no different than non-Christians. People aren't attracted to the church because they don't see sparkle and a zest for life. Getting involved in the lives of others will make you come alive! Co-Mentoring Between Rich and Poor Co-mentoring relationships and rich folks and the poor enhance friendships, accountability and shared learning. The poor teach the rich how to depend on God in faith (James 2:5-6). An example of the poor benefiting the rich occurred in the life of Elijah. The Lord told him to go to Zaraphath in Sidon where He commanded a widow to provide for him. He asked for water and bread after finding her gathering sticks at the city's gate for her last meal. Elijah said the bowl of flour and jar of oil would last until the Lord brought rain. She obeyed God's word through Elijah and her household ate for many days (1 Kings 17:8-16). God calls you to serve Him by faith in His word despite appearances. Jesus told the host to not invite his friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors, lest they invite him in return. When giving a reception, invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind in order to be blessed since they have no means to repay. Wait for payment at the resurrection of the righteous (Lk. 14:1214). Spend time with the poor, crippled, lame and blind. Jesus told another parable about a certain man who prepared a great banquet but his guests had various excuses being too busy. One bought a piece of land and had to look after it (property); one bought five yoke of oxen and had to try them out (possessions) and another married a wife (family). The master told his slave to go immediately into the streets and bring in the poor, crippled, blind and lame.
After finding there was still room, the master said to "go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." None invited shall taste of His dinner (Lk. 14:15-24). Leave your comfort zone so the poor, crippled, blind and lame can experience a personal relationship with Christ. Matt. 25:40 says that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Jesus continued to share about the cost of discipleship since one's love for family and his own life should be hated in comparison to Christ. Being a disciple involves carrying a cross. Just like calculating the cost to build a tower or king taking counsel whether he is strong enough to win in battle, count the cost before becoming a disciple. If you put possessions in their proper perspective, then you can become a disciple. Not paying the price of discipleship results in being tasteless and ineffective (Lk. 14:25-35). To influence others, pay the price by not letting other things exceed your love for Christ. The rich learn humility and faith. The poor learn skills for greater opportunities. We are suggesting a tipping point for kingdom growth if the rich and poor come together. A tipping point is a culmination of a build-up of small changes that effects a big change. Malcolm Gladwell popularized the concept in his book, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," showing examples of technologies, procedures, services or philosophies reaching critical mass and becoming mainstream. In the prior chapter to the banquet parable, Jesus lists kingdom benefits. He said people would perish unless they repented. For three years, a fig tree did not produce fruit. If the tree did not bear fruit the fourth year after putting fertilizer around it, he would cut it down (Lk. 13:1-9). God designs circumstances so people repent of sin and bear fruit. This is God’s desire for both rich and poor. A woman stood erect after being bent double for 18 years with a sickness caused by a spirit when Jesus laid His hands on her. Because the Sabbath healing upset a synagogue official, He asked why a daughter of Abraham should not be released from Satan's bonds (Lk. 13:10-17). Jesus wants to release rich and poor from Satan's bonds so they can experience freedom. Spiritual needs are more obvious among the poor like this woman bent double for 18 years. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that grew and became a tree. The kingdom of God was also like leaven that a woman hid in meal until it was leavened (Lk. 13:18-21). God's kingdom spreads throughout the world from small beginnings to impact a person from the inside out. The poor can teach God’s word to transform hearts among the rich. When someone asked if just a few are saved, Jesus said to enter by the narrow door since many seek to enter without success. Those who know God's will, will eat and drink with Christ and those left out will experience weeping and gnashing of teeth (Lk. 13:22-30). God's kingdom is revealed to those who do God’s will. The rich drink with Christ when they give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothes to the homeless, care for the sick and visit the prisoners (Matt. 25:35-36).
The Pharisees told Christ to leave since Herod wanted to kill Him. He told them of His goal to cast out demons and perform cures until His death and resurrection. Christ expressed His sorrow over His people rejecting and not seeing Him again until His Second Coming (Lk. 13:31-35). Christ calls on everyone to believe in His death and resurrection. The poor who are “rich in faith” can help the rich believe in Christ (James 2:5). Co-Mentoring Between Old and Young The co-mentoring of older adults with young people also enhances friendships, accountability and shared learning. Young people bring joy and energy to older adults. The latter’s greater life experience brings wisdom and perspective to young people. In Paul’s two letters to Timothy, the young man, we see these mutual benefits illustrated (2 Tim. 1:4-8; 4:9-10). The wounds from a friend can be trusted and wisdom found in those who take advice (Prov. 13:10; 27:6). By ignoring discipline, you come to poverty, but honored if you heed correction (Prov. 13:18). Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; if one falls down, his friend can help him up . . . A cord of three strands (subgroup) is not quickly broken (Eccles. 4:9-12). A person cannot grow in the depths of God’s precepts or be able serve Him fully unless he or she is mentored. If you chose not to be a mentor, you will be putting off someone else’s spiritual growth too. If many people decide not to be involved in mentoring relationships, your church will remain in the “status quo” with many pew sitters. The heart is deceptive, wicked, foolish, and evil, if left to natural inclinations of trusting yourselves (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Prov. 28:26). Mentoring relationships sharpen one another like iron sharpening iron so each one can grow spiritually and become complete in Christ while living in the world as witnesses, not of this world (Prov. 27:17; Col. 1:28-29). A mentor shares his or her life with someone by modeling, inspiring, encouraging and teaching another person on how to live the Christian life through our mutual faith (Eph. 4:15-16). As a mentor, your life, Christian experiences and educations are tools to teach and inspire by words and example. Mentoring involves mutual learning and being a coach to the mentee. As a role model who is growing in the Lord, you need to be authentic as you come alongside someone in their personal development. This relationship is a process since friendship takes time (Eph. 4:29; 2 Tim. 2:1-7, 22-26; 3:10-16; 4:1-5; Heb. 3:12-15).1 Ezra recovered the authority of God’s Word in the lives of people (Neh. 8:1-8). Paul entrusted God’s Word to faithful men so they could share it with others (2 Tim. 2:2). Titus 2 is full of instructions about inter-generational relationships to “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” Faith comes from hearing and knowing the Word of God (Prov. 16:20; Rom. 10:17).
Jesus’ purpose for His three years of earthly ministry was the discipleship and equipping of the twelve disciples. He spent most of His time with the twelve teaching them about the kingdom of God so they would see beyond their present situation to the life to come. Joshua was mentored by Moses and Elisha by Elijah (Ex. 33:11; 2 Kings 2:9). Mentors help their mentees or disciples spend time with God to build their faith and character before they go out to minister (2 Tim. 3:10-11; Heb. 13:7). We must know the condition of our flock through understanding their needs and difficulties along with their general working and living conditions (Prov. 27:23). Busyness and limited time are key conditions today in technological societies. Mentoring is an aspect of discipleship to help people live a real and impactful Christian life so they become partakers of the Kingdom. We desire an integration of head, hand and heart in thinking, doing and being in order for each person to discover God’s calling and sense of identity in Christ so they can walk out God’s purpose for their lives. Even though mutual learning occurs – in Sync we encourage an expectation that both members of a partnership will learn from each other – the mentee is willing to learn from the mentor who has more knowledge and experience. The mentor is a spiritual adviser for someone younger in the Lord in age and/or knowledge. The mentor tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.2 From interviews with young adults and according to experts like long-term Dallas Theological Seminary professor Howard Hendricks, a greater number of older teens and young adults desire to be mentored, but there are not enough available mentors. We believe this is because no tool has existed that will intentionally and deliberately build community among the generations through short-term pairings, individual study, group discussions and shared experiences in which Sync users can work together to build the kingdom of God on earth. Whole Counsel of God Paul told the Ephesian elders that he served the Lord with humility and tears declaring what was profitable. He taught publicly and from house to house. Paul sacrificed his life preaching the kingdom and not hesitating to declare the whole will of God. He told the elders to be on guard for themselves and the flock since the Holy Spirit made them overseers to shepherd the church of God bought with His own blood. Savage wolves from among them would distort the truth drawing disciples after them. Paul never stopped warning them night and day for three years (Acts 20:17-38). Teach from the whole Bible to prevent distortion of truth and deception from false teachers. Paul prayed for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so they could know God better. He prayed that believers have enlightened hearts to know His hope, His glorious inheritance and His great power that God used to raise Christ from the dead. He sat at God's right hand far above every rule, authority, power, dominion and title in the present and future age. God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church. Christ filled His body, the church, with His fullness in everything and every way (Eph. 1:15-23). Ask for wisdom to know God and work in the power of the Holy Spirit so Christ rules every sphere and authority on earth.
Desired Goals Malachi told Israel that God showed love by loving Jacob and hating Esau. They did not honor and respect God like a son to His father. The priests despised His name by sacrificing crippled or diseased animals on the altar they would not offer to their governor. God was displeased and found these useless fires unacceptable. They shamed and cheated Him by sacrificing blemished animals instead of offering acceptable males they vowed to give. Israel was to show nations that God was to be feared as a great king (Mal. 1:1-14). Surrender your heart to show God's greatness to unbelievers. If priests did not set their heart to listen or honor God, He sent a curse and cut off their descendants. True instruction was in Levi’s mouth as he walked in peace and uprightness turning many from sin. Priests should preserve knowledge so men seek instruction from the messenger of the Lord Almighty. But they turned from the way, violated the covenant with Levi and their teaching caused many to stumble. They were despised and humiliated before everyone since they did not follow His ways. They showed partiality in matters of the law (Mal. 2:1-9). Teach the whole Bible to turn people from sin and create desire for instruction. First Sync Goal: Upward—Spiritual Intimacy in Full Counsel of God. Judah broke faith with one another by marrying the daughter of a foreign god. God did not accept their offerings because they broke their marriage bond through divorce. He sought godly offspring from the one flesh relationship between husband and wife. Husbands who guarded their spirit prevented breaking faith with the wife of their youth since God hated divorce (Mal. 2:10-16). Guard your spirit for unified marriage to bear godly offspring. They wearied Him saying those who did evil were pleasing to Him and questioning whether there was a God of justice. No one could stand the refiner's fire of God's coming as He purified the Levites like gold and silver. Judah's and Jerusalem's righteous offerings would be acceptable. God would judge sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers. He was against those who defrauded laborers of their wages, oppressed the widows and fatherless, and deprived aliens of justice without fearing God (Mal. 2:173:5). Participate with God to purify His people and hate oppression of others. Second Sync Goal: Inward—Unified Relationships with People in Different Walks of Life. His people should return to God and His word so He would return to them. He cursed Israel because they robbed Him of tithes and offerings. Bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse brought food into His house. By testing Him, they saw Him open the floodgates of heaven to pour out so much blessing that there was no room for it. He prevented pests from devouring crops and fruit from their fields. All nations called them blessed in a delightful land (Mal. 3:6-12). Give financially to God's kingdom and reap His blessing. Israel said it was futile to serve God since evildoers prospered and those who challenged God escaped. The Lord listened and wrote a scroll of remembrance for people who feared Him and talked with each other. He distinguished between those who served God as His treasured possession and those who did not (Mal. 3:13-18). Expect God to write a scroll of remembrance by fearing Him. Third Sync Goal: Outward—Sacrificial Service to Give Generously One’s Time, Talent and Treasure.
A day would come to burn the arrogant and every evildoer. For those who revered God's name, the sun of righteousness would rise with healing so they leaped like calves released from the stall. They trampled down the wicked like ashes under their feet. Malachi commanded Israel to remember the law God gave Moses at Horeb. He would send Elijah before the dreadful day of the Lord to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and hearts of children to their fathers or else curse the land (Mal. 4:16). Release God's healing for closer heart relationships between fathers and children. Fourth Sync Goal: Inter-Generational Mentoring to Heal Heart Relationships. Sync’s Learning Goals (Malachi): (See Appendix 2 for Jerome Stilwell’s prophetic word) Spiritual Intimacy in Full Counsel of God: Encourage authentic and intimate relationship with God. Unified Relationships with People in Different Walks of Life: Equip families and churches in unified relationships of integrity. Sacrificial Service to Give Generously of One’s Time, Talent and Treasure: Empower disciples for sacrificial service to present Christ credibly in all of culture. Inter-Generational Mentoring to Heal Heart Relationships: Create mentoring community that helps younger & older adults live out God’s plan.
Your Connecting Point for Real Life Have you enhanced friendships, accountability or shared learning with someone younger or older than you? Describe what it looked like. If you have not experienced friendship, accountability or shared learning, what is your next step? Have you enhanced friendships, accountability or shared learning with someone of a lower or higher economic level than you? Describe what it looked like. If you have not experienced friendship, accountability or shared, what is your plan of action? Remembering Mark’s connection lesson of “co-mentor those from different walks of life and generations to understand the Bible, love God, unify others and serve their community” from his experience with Promise Keepers, what connection lesson have you learned related to the influence of others who are different than you. To do this week: Spend extra time daily with God to be empowered to love Him, unify others and serve the community. Claim John 15:7-8: “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”
Consider being an ambassador who disciples others in God’s kingdom to rebuild cities and nations.
Connecting Point Lesson #7 Week Seven
Equip ambassadors to disciple others in God’s kingdom to rebuild cities and nations in every cultural sphere Mark’s Story
Dad told me in 1968 to act enthusiastic to be enthusiastic.” He learned in Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” that one showed interest in other people by listening to their stories. It is also important to have a firm handshake and look the person straight in the eye. My experience with Biblical Institute for Leadership Development (BILD) while a college student gave me a model for church leadership development patterned after the Antioch church in Acts 13:1-3. Trained leaders were sent out by the Holy Spirit after much corporate prayer and laying on of hands by the local church. . In 1994-96, Alvin Simpkins, Promise Keepers Regional Manager, challenged me to pray frequently, boldly and with others. I learned from my experience with PK and local men’s breakfasts with Real Men of Integrity that big events produce little-long term fruit if it is not backed by fervent prayer and a predetermined follow-up plan of discipleship. In 1995, my prayer life deepened after experiencing a Korah-like rebellion from the Real Men task force. Friends who I trusted went behind my back and tried to take control of Real Men. They wanted frequent and still larger breakfasts events with renowned speakers. Prayer was a waste of time in their view. In 1997, I was appointed Nebraska field rep. for Promise Keepers. I trained key men and ambassadors across Nebraska and met many pastors from various denominations. God gave me an appreciation for the worship and passion of charismatics and the social action of mainline denominations. I learned that spiritual Christians inhabit every congregation no matter the denomination. In Jan. 1998, Sam Keyzer invited me to attend a four-day pastor’s prayer summit in Seattle to build biblical unity within a city. Afterward, we started a weekly pastor’s prayer group in Lincoln. A 1999 Disciple a Whole Nation (DAWN) conference in Houston exposed me to city-reaching concepts and the paradigm of one church in the community with many congregations. George Otis, Jr. presented his first Transformations video. Each of the various segments within a city must be reached by the whole church since any one church or ministry has insufficient resources to do it all. In 2001, I worked with Christ Lutheran Church to bring Alvin VanderGriend to do lighthouse of prayer training in Lincoln and Kearney. This initiative encouraged me to focus on neighbors and help churches be more externally focused on the community. In Nov. 2005, after much prayer and networking with Lincoln pastors, we held our first annual Lincoln Leaders’ Prayer Summit. About the same time, God provided Steve Janovec as a prayer partner and friend. For a season, we prayed daily from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. Mon. through Fri. and once a week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It provided great accountability and encouragement.
In Oct. 2006, I became a Lincoln based missionary with Christ For the City Int. A Hispanic network was launched in Lincoln after Costa Rican missionaries began ministering locally. After joining the Human Services Federation (HSF) in 2007, I learned they had a kingdom agenda to make Lincoln a better place even though most of the members were unbelievers. I heard things like, “Evangelical Christians don’t care about this life, they are only thinking about heaven.” or “They want to get people saved instead of serving them” or “They stay in their four walls and don’t care about peoples’ real problems” or “They don’t know how to work together because they are so divided.” Because of federal and city budget cuts, city leaders, including mayors and city councils, desire to see the church more involved in human services. Our former police chief said to 60 church leaders, “Get out of their protective bubbles and minister to the tax-gatherers and sinners like Christ.” When I praised the chief for his message while inviting him to lunch at my office, he said to me, “I have shared this same message for 12 years in many church congregations, but they aren’t listening.”
My Seventh Connecting Point for Real Life
Rebuild Cities Your people will rebuild ancient ruins (mentoring across different walks of life and generations), raise up age-old foundations (whole counsel of God), repair broken walls (spiritual intimacy and unified relationships) and restore streets with dwellings (sacrificial service) (Is. 58:12). God was looking for someone to intercede (Is. 59:16). The Spirit anointed Isaiah, fulfilled in Christ, to preach good news to the poor, sent him to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners. After they rebuild the ancient ruins and restored the devastated cities, He called them priests of the Lord and ministers of God to feed on the wealth of nations (Is. 61:1-7; Lk. 4:18-19). Preach good news to heal the captives and restore ruined cities. No longer would they be called Deserted and Desolate, but the Lord delighted in them with the land married. Watchmen called upon God without rest day or night until He made her the praise of the earth (Is. 62:1-7). Pray intensely day and night until your city displays salvation and glory. God's people ate the fruit of their labor and praised Him. They built up the highway, removed the stones and raised a banner for the nations to prepare for the Savior's arrival and reward. They were called The Holy People, Redeemed of the Lord, Sought After and City No Longer Deserted (Is. 62:8-12). Praise God's name so the Savior redeems His holy people. Experience a foretaste now through gospel of kingdom (Isaiah 65:17-25) • Spiritual (v. 17-19) • Health (v. 20) • Finances (v. 21) • Education (v. 22a) • Job (v. 22b)
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Family (v. 23) Social Needs (v. 24) Whole environment transformed (v. 25) (Seek God's blessing in all practical areas of life to transform the environment.)
The Lord said heaven was His throne and the earth His footstool. He was looking for a humble person who trembled at His word to build a resting place for God to dwell. Those who mourned over Jerusalem should rejoice and love her. God extended peace to Jerusalem like a river and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream (Is. 66:1-16). Respond to God's word with a humble heart by mourning over your city so it can receive peace, wealth and comfort when He reveals Himself and judges your enemies. All nations and tongues saw His glory. God sent some to distant islands who had not heard of His fame or seen His glory. They proclaimed His glory among the nations. They brought all their brothers from all nations to His holy mountain in Jerusalem as a grain offering to Him. God selected some as priests and Levites (Is. 66:12-21). Make disciples in all nations by proclaiming His glory and equipping disciple - makers. Pray and Select Right Ambassadors After we find prepared hearts who desire to be prepared spiritually and learn disciple-making skills in response to the crisis learned in Isaiah, we begin praying for, choosing and equipping Spirit-filled ambassadors who will rebuild cities and nations. In Jeremiah, we learn to pray for and find qualified ambassadors who have the ministry vision to disciple nations, ministry mission to change culture and ministry values to rebuild cities so they can go forth in action-oriented obedience. Action-oriented obedience learned in Jeremiah expresses itself by plowing the soil and preparing your city for God’s word in Ezekiel. Confront injustice, pray against strongholds of sin and do not trust in prosperity, wisdom, skill, wealth, beauty and people. Develop a biblical worldview by speaking against false teaching, help the poor and needy, refuse trusting in human strategies, get a new heart and be broken over a community's sin (Ezek. 1-29). Plant God’s word by selecting ambassadors among faithful disciples who practice and teach God’s word. Teach God’s word as you surrender and confess sins daily to God, apply His word, rely on the Holy Spirit, make disciples, pray with others across racial and denominational lines and select ambassadors among faithful disciples (Ezek. 30-48)
Train Ambassadors Personal Preparation: Make Christ Your Leader by Practicing Spiritual Disciplines Founded on God’s Word for Fruitfulness (Hosea) City-Wide Preparation: Bring Life to Your City (Joel, Amos) Ministry Launch: Pursue High-Impact Ministry (Obadiah, Jonah)Ministry Strategies: Restore Godly Foundations to Defeat Sin (Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk) Ministry Priorities: Seek God and Participate in God’s Kingdom Purposes to Build the Church Internationally (Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah) Ministry Goals: Spiritual Intimacy in Full Counsel of God, Unified Relationships with People in Different Walks of Life; Sacrificial Service to Give Generously of One’s Time, Talent and Treasure, & Inter-Generational Mentoring to Heal Heart Relationships (Malachi)
Environment to Send Out Ambassadors The term, “ambassador” is a master disciple -maker who starts a disciple -making movement in their part of the world. I believe there is one church in a city that meets in various locations. Paul wrote his letters to the church of Ephesus, Corinth, etc. In the book of Acts, prayer and the word of God under the leadership of the Holy Spirit were key ingredients in establishing the church so it made disciples in all nations.. The church continually devoted themselves to united prayer with one mind under the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1-26). It resulted in evangelism (2:1-47) and ministry of healing (3:1-26). The infrastructure was small groups founded upon the word of God, fellowship, worship, and prayer, which led to evangelism. Boldness in preaching stirred up spiritual warfare leading to persecution from authorities and disunity within the body. They taught and proclaimed the gospel of Christ daily from house to house (4:1- 5:42). As the priority of prayer and the Word of God were maintained among its leaders, the word of God kept on spreading, disciples increased, and unchurched (priests) were coming to faith (6:4-7). With story telling from Genesis to Revelation as a teaching foundation, the church expanded geographically under the leadership of the Holy Spirit (6:8-8:1a). The building and testing of the church caused believers to be scattered around the world as new leadership was being developed to prepare for further expansion (8:1b-12:25). The church continued to increase as it enjoyed peace while being built up in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Spirit. The word of the Lord continued to grow and be multiplied (9:31; 12:24). The church in Antioch sent out a group of multi-ethnic, equipped ambassadors after a time of united prayer and fasting (Acts 13:13). They planted churches in strategic cities, build up new leaders and established churches so they could function on their own quickly to further the gospel where Christ was not named (13:1-28:31). The disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (13:52). The churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily (16:5).
A network of ambassadors (Sopater of Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, Gaius of Derbe, Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia) traveled with Paul from various cities (Acts 20:4). Thessalonica became a model city (1 Thess. 1:7-8). Train a working team of ambassadors from various cities that teach and spread God's word together. Paul left Timothy as an ambassador (disciple -maker) in Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3). In 2 Timothy, we learn that Paul entrusted God’s word to reliable men (ambassadors) who taught others, endured hardship in obedience to God, and accurately handled the full counsel of God’s word to break the curse of sin and trap of the devil (2 Tim. 2:1-26; Acts 20:27). Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy that all Scripture was inspired by God and profitable for four underlined priorities: teaching & reproof, correction and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). All Scripture means Genesis to Revelation. We have three additional underlined ministry priorities: Timothy was mentored by his mother, grandmother and Paul (2 Tim. 1:5; 2:2). Paul discipled Timothy through his letters (1 & 2 Timothy), prayers (2 Tim.1:3) and personal relationships of accountability (2 Tim. 1:4; 3:10-11; 4:9, 13, 21). Daniel as Example Ambassador Daniel is a great example of an ambassador who impacted his cultural sphere of politics in Babylonia and Persia. Trusting God during temptations, crisis and stress reap benefits. By committing to purity, you reap greater learning and competence in your work. By asking God for wisdom and communicating with humility during a crisis, you reap promotion, provision and influence. By refusing to worship idols and trusting God during stressful circumstances, you see unbelievers praise God (Dan. 1-3). To see prosperity and influence, one must acknowledge God's reign, confess sins, exalt Him, humble yourself, trust His sovereignty and protection, and worship the King of Kings. Then God's kingdom will come in His time to remove prideful leaders and enable you to endure trials (Dan. 4-7). To lead people toward wisdom, trust in God's plan to destroy evil; claim God's promises in His word through prayer; pray intensely expecting God to answer prayer for insight to overcome evil powers; and instruct people to know God, be wise and purified knowing He wins in the end (Dan. 8-12).
We all have connection points learned from life experiences. These can be connected to God’s story found in the Bible. We have examined seven connection point lessons Mark learned from personal experience along with discussing your own. I will review these seven connection point lessons: 1. Experience God’s love and acceptance through believers and the Holy Spirit to counteract a performance and law orientation 2. Study God’s Word so it comes alive leading to personal application 3. Be equipped with God’s word to build up the body of Christ in unity using my spiritual gifts 4. Be awakened to God’s kingdom purposes through His sovereignty in tough circumstances and realize He provides everything 5. Realize that the Bible’s unifying theme is God’s covenant with Abraham, Moses, David and New Covenant promises linked to His people 6. Co-mentor those from different walks of life and generations to understand the Bible, love God, unify others and serve their community 7. Equip ambassadors to disciple others in God’s kingdom to rebuild cities and nations in every cultural sphere
Your Connecting Point for Real Life Can you envision yourself being an ambassador or master disciple - maker? If not, what would have to change in your life to consider it? What are issues that need rebuilding in your city? Can you see yourself being part of the solution? Remembering that Mark’s connection lesson of “equip ambassadors to disciple others in God’ s kingdom to rebuild cities and nations in every cultural sphere,” through his experience with city reaching and the Human Services Federation, what is a connection lesson you have learned related to leveraging your vocation or calling to help others grow spiritually? To do this week: Be strong in God’s power daily to disciple others. Claim Eph. 1:19-20; 6:10-11: “I pray you know His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”
Consider enrolling in Sync: Connecting Your Life to God’s Story, an online small group curriculum, so you can be equipped in the full counsel of God.
Appendix 1 Fundamental Skills to Embrace Spirit of Life
How to Gain Freedom Appointment with God Importance
Jesus Himself found it necessary to get up early and spend private time with His Father (Mark 1:35). He knew the importance of keeping things open between His Father and Him. Building a relationship with someone is a two-way street. You must communicate to the other person and that person must communicate to you. So the two essentials for knowing God is for God to speak to you through His Word and for you to speak to God through prayer. Our attitude is most important in building a relationship with God. If you really want to be friends with someone, you give that person quality time by setting an appointment. If you don't give God top priority time, regularly, you will develop the habit of squeezing Him in when you have time (Appointment with God, The Navigators).
The right attitude without methods to apply it results is in hollow idealism. Falling into the trap of performing a method without the proper spirit or attitude will result in a dry relationship strangled by legalism. Creative methods built on the right foundation consider that a relationship with God requires: a. Time for growth b. d. Communication Top priority c. Getting to know God through a variety of circumstances e. Objective to do the will of God Creative methods built on these essentials will result in a continually vital relationship with our Savior.
a. Plan regular time in your appointment with God (Psalm 5:3; 143:8). Planning is part of God's character (Isaiah 25:1) and part of Paul's character (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). b. Write down (journal) what God reveals to you. This will do three things: 1. Discipline your mind to think a thought through 2. Let God know you are paying attention 3. Help you remember what you learned c. Keys to Quality Prayer
1. Expect answers. Use a request/answer sheet 2. Include all types of prayer. Remember the acronym: ACTS a. Adoration - reflecting on God's greatness, power, majesty, etc. b. Confession - acknowledging every known sin by agreeing with God (1 John 1:9; Psalm 66:18) c. Thanksgiving - thank God for specific things d. Supplication - ask specifically concerning others' needs and own needs d. Read good Christian biographies occasionally. Examples are Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret and Shadow of the Almighty by Elizabeth Elliott e. Read good devotional books occasionally. Examples are Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and Knowing God by J.I.Packer
Will you commit yourself to developing a relationship with God so you can experience “springs of living waters” through the power of the Holy Spirit (Jer. 2:13; John 7:37-39)?
How? Examples include Bible study; memorization and meditation of Scripture through the day; taking a key phrase that God reveals through Bible reading and relating it to situations as they come up during the day. Remember these facts in setting a goal (more intimate relationship with Christ): a. Think of a goal = 5% likelihood of achievement b. Think of a goal + write = 15% likelihood of achievement c. Think of a goal + write + schedule = 55% likelihood of achievement d. Think of a goal + write + schedule + accountability = 95% likelihood of achievement There are several disciplines which must be maintained on a consistent basis if we are going to get to know God and walk with Him. They are: 1) spending time with God on a regular basis 2) memorizing and meditating on the Word day and night 3) being exposed to God's Word as a whole 4) applying God's Word to your life 5) paying attention to what God is teaching you and communicating to Him through prayer Another way of looking at this is through the hand illustration that the Navigators have developed: 1) little finger: Hearing the Word (remember 5% of what we hear) 2) fourth finger: Reading the Word (remember 15% of what we read) 3) third finger: Studying the Word (remember 35% of what we study)
4) index finger: Memorizing the Word (remember 100%) 5) thumb: Meditation of the Word (accompany other four methods)
When and where will you spend time to experience “springs of living.” Start with one of two of the five items listed above. (Remember: What you don’t schedule will not get done?) Select a mentor who can encourage and hold you accountable on a weekly basis.
Words from Jerome Stilwell:
The prophetic nature of God’s word is one of its most beautiful attributes. When we read the text and see the role that it has in our lives, it’s no wonder why it is best read on our knees. The absolute authority and truth that can be gleaned from its pages brings our souls the food we so long for. These words have been tried and tested throughout the centuries. Not only by the blessed men empowered by the Holy Spirit who wrote them, but also by the many who have lived by them years after they have been written. No other words in our history have been tried and tested as much as the life giving words written on the pages of scripture. They have been debated, burned, thrown in the trash, taken away from common readers and tested by every kind of academic one could think of under the sun, yet not one word has failed or been disproven. Every word has stood the test of time and has transcended it as well. We could fill libraries with the books we could write concerning the testing and persecution of God’s Holy Writ. In the end we come to the same conclusion; faithful and true are these wonderful words. In them you will find a path, a narrow path and that path will lead you right to the heart of the One who wrote them. You find a loving Creator that is revealing Himself through each word that is read. We find conviction of the terrible condition we are in, as well as, the solution of how we are to repent of that condition. We can also find another conviction; to stand on His truth and the standard of His system that He has set forth. The scriptures show a way of living that is so foreign to us that one could marvel a lifetime into the depth and simplicity found in its pages. The love, grace, mercy and patience that are written on its pages are things that the carnal man cannot understand. O’ dear pilgrim these are the Lord’s words and understanding the Lord’s words requires the man’s life. These are not words written to exalt man but to exalt the One who created them. Dear readers think of the truth of these words and the God that dips down from heavens courts and places Himself right in the middle of us. Look around you, there is not one thing that doesn’t cry out for our God. Not one thing that He isn’t sovereign over. Many are the afflictions of our Lord, for He has shown through His word that the afflictions that we face, are really arrows aimed at Him. If any tears should fall on the pages of scripture they should fall because of the utter rejection of man to his God. War is being waged in the name of our God; when our Lord clearly teaches us about unity and peace. From His word, you can hear His cries calling you by name saying, “Look,” simply look unto Him and be saved. This is all that He has asked for. My question is, do you “Look”? Do you dare look at Him who is, who was, and who is to come? Do you look and see the awesome display of His glory? If not, look to Him and be saved. No need to ask what you will be saved from. If you look, He will show you what it is that you are being saved from. Beloved, when you see that abyss that is between sinful man and Holy God jump in with faith and believe. Trust that underneath are the everlasting arms of God and He will drive out the enemy from before you and says, ’Destroy.’”
What is God saying to you after reading the above word?