GENUINE MOTIV TION

SEP 2011

YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN

IDOLATRY
IN THE WAY
COVERED

IN THE DUST OF YOUR RABBI
WRETCHED

UNDER PRESSURE

FILLING THE JOY VOID

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YOUNG CHRISTIAN MAN
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ROB BELL Randy kOsLOski ThOmas mOLLOhan ThE mERRy mOnk WiLL dOLE

Feature Article: Covered in the Dust of your Rabbi

On The Couch: Wretched Under Pressure Can You Relate: Idolatry in the Way May God Bless the Hell Out of You: Got Fruit? Press On: Filling the Joy Void A Recap: Youth Programs: From the Pit of Hell
ROB BEamEs

Another Recap: @StickyJesus
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Last Recap: iFaith: Connecting to God in the 21st Century

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S E P T E M B E R 2 0 11

Editor in ChiEf / ROB BEAMES Art + CreAtive DireCtor / DANIELA BERMÚDEZ

R A B B I

COVERED IN THE DUST OF YOUR

FEATURE ARTICLE by ROB BELL
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Education was huge in Jesus’ day, and there was an ongoing argument as to which age a rabbi would receive a youth as a pupil. One rabbi made the statement, “Under the age of six, we do not receive a child as a pupil. But from six upwards, receive him and stuff him with Torah like an ox!” You see, education was important to educators, students and parents in those times. The Mishna has a phrase that says, “Above all, we pride ourselves on the education of our children.” This is the same system that Jesus would have probably grown up in and learned from. Jewish education was made up of three primary sections: Bet Safar, Bet Talmud and Bet Midrash. Bet Safar usually ran from ages five to 10, and was a time taught in the synagogue by the rabbi. During this time, good Jewish boys memorized Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – memorized by the age of ten! Whoa! Progressing on from Bet Safar Bet Talmud went from 10 to 14. During this time, the student would continue his memorization of the Psalms, prophets and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament). It wasn’t uncommon in that day for a good Jewish boy to have the Old Testament memorized by the age of 14. The student would also during this time begin to learn the art of questions and answers.

temple at the age of twelve (Luke 2), we find him doing just what a boy of his age would be doing, questions and answers with the elders. At the age of 14, the best of the best would continue with Bet Midrash, applying oral and written law from the Talmud, the Mishna, Sages, and learning years and years of commentary on the scriptures. Each rabbi would have their own interpretation of how to live out the Torah. For instance, Honor the Sabbath: One rabbi might say that you can’t go farther than the distance to the synagogue. While another might say you can’t go twice the distance to the synagogue, because you have to return home. There was the law itself and then the rabbi’s interpretation of the rules required to obey the law. The rabbi’s rules were called his yoke. When you studied under a rabbi, you took his yoke upon you. But Jesus came and said His yoke was easy. That He isn’t about endless lists of rules and regulations (Matthew 11). You see, when Jesus is speaking, He’s not just picking words out of the air; He’s speaking as a rabbi would. When rabbis spoke, they got into heated, animated debates because these are the teachings of God and a direct reflection of worship. They believed that the highest form of worship was study and that true study always leads to wonder. So a rabbi might ask a student, “What does it mean to honor the Sabbath?” And one student being wrong might answer, “To sit and do nothing and have a boring day.” The rabbi would passionately respond, “No! You have abolished Torah!” meaning that the student has missed the point. But another student may respond, “To remember and reflect that we are no longer slaves. That we are brought up from a kingdom of darkness and redeemed by the blood of the lamb. That we take one day a week to remind ourselves that our worth doesn’t come from making bricks, but from the one who made us!” And the Rabbi would then say, “Yes! You have fulfilled Torah!” And Jesus comes (Matthew 5) and says I didn’t come to abolish what you’ve learned, but to show you what it looks like in flesh and blood. So, at the age of 14, the best of the best, the Harvard and Yale of the Jewish boys took another step. All Jewish boys wanted to be rabbis, because teachers were the most respected people of the day. At 14, the Harvard and Yale guys would approach a rabbi and request to become his disciple.

IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION TODAY, WE ARE INTO INFORMATION TRANSFER, BUT IN THOSE DAYS, ANSWERING A QUESTION WASN’T QUITE AS DIRECT.
A rabbi might ask a student what is two plus two? Today, we would spout off the answer of four. But back then when a rabbi would ask what two plus two was, a student might answer with, “What is the square root of sixteen?” This not only told the rabbi that the student heard and understood the question, but was able to process it and respond with a question of his own. So you see, when we find Jesus in the

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The rabbi would then quiz the boy. For instance, he may have asked, “Give me the four references to Deuteronomy in Habakkuk in order.” And as if that weren’t enough, the rabbi would also engage the boy in what were called remezes. A remeze is where the rabbi would form his question based around a piece of scripture, so he would quote, for instance, the first three verses of the passage. But the actual question the rabbi was asking was about the fourth verse. Now, because the boy had been raised through Bet Safar, Bet Talmud and Bet Midrash, he knew the scriptures and his mind continued on through the next verses and was able to understand that the rabbi was really referring to verse four with his question. The boy would then form his answer around another piece of scripture and quote a few verses, stopping just shy of the one he was referring to or starting shortly after it. The rabbi would then have to figure out what the boy was referring to and judge how well he had answered his question. If it sounds complicated, it was! If the rabbi quizzed you and determined that you were good enough, that you were indeed Harvard or Yale material, he would say, “Come, take my yoke upon you and become my disciple.” And at that time, the boy would leave everything (home, mother, father, synagogue, community…) and devote his entire life to being just like the rabbi. This system continues today to some extent in Israel. It’s not uncommon for a rabbi to go into the bathroom and be followed by his disciples. Coming out of the stall, the rabbi might say, “Blessed art thou, O God, for giving us holes in our bodies.” And then the disciples would repeat what the rabbi had said, because their entire purpose is to be exactly like their rabbi, even down to bodily functions. One of the sages from the Mishna is quoted as having said this: “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.” Rabbis are passionate and animated. They would spend their days taking their disciples around teaching them, and as they traveled from place to place, they would literally kick up a cloud of dust. And because the disciples were following the rabbi, at the end of the day, they would actually be covered in the dust their rabbi had kicked up: May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi. Now there is always the possibility that the rabbi might decide while quizzing you that you are not the Harvard or Yale type. He would say, “Obviously, you know Torah, but you don’t have what it takes to be just like me. Go, make babies, pray that they become rabbis, and ply your trade.” Go learn the family business and live a good life that your sons may grow up to be better than you. And that brings us to the text, Matthew 4:18-22 and

16:13-20. As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers; Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman.

WHAT WERE THEY? FISHERMAN. WHY? BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT! A RABBI HAD PROBABLY TOLD THEM THEY WEREN’T THE BEST OF THE BEST, AND SENT THEM TO “PLY THEIR TRADE.”
Jesus goes to the losers and rejects and calls them! “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Now, how many of you, honestly will say that this has never made sense to you? It didn’t to me. Here comes a guy walking down the beach. Peter and Andrew are probably learning the family business. This is important to them. Their family’s well-being is probably dependent upon how well they learn this trade. They probably have a lot of money wrapped up in their equipment. And this guy comes walking up and says, “Come follow me.” They drop everything and do it! On top of the picture I paint, Christian movies show a guy, wearing a bathrobe, a lightblue Miss America sash, who has Third Day hair, calls them out and like he has some mystical power, they jump out of the boat and chase after him. But that is what happened! There is no more. Nothing is missing. The author didn’t leave anything out. You see, Jesus was a rabbi! He is calling disciples! He thinks they are good enough, even though others did not. He’s giving them a chance to fulfill their dream. So of course they drop what they’re doing and follow after the rabbi. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Where’s the part about Zebedee filing chapter 11? Or the

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part about him standing on the dock waving his fist as his boys leave him stranded with a struggling family business? There is no such part. It was an honor to have your sons leave to follow a rabbi. Instead of Zebedee being upset, I can see him that night, getting home, telling his wife, “The boys are gone!” “Where did they go?” she might ask. “The Rabbi Yashewa of Nazareth called them and they are following his teachings now!” In fact, the next morning, I can picture Zebedee walking through town, chest puffed out, maybe even walking with a bit of a swagger to his step as he tells of how his boys are now gone. Do you really think Jesus thinks you can do it? That’s the whole premise of the system. The Rabbi won’t accept someone who can’t make it. We can tell, based on the context that several of the disciples were in their late to mid teens. Peter had a mother-in-law, and usually by the age of eighteen, a boy would be married. Jesus calls teenage rejects and second-class citizens to be his disciples. And He continues to call them today! But that’s not all. What did Jesus do with his newly found disciples? Read beginning in Matthew 16:13. When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi – where was that? Just another place? No, it was a center of pagan worship. It was literally at the base of a really tall cliff. Onlookers could walk up to the top of the cliff and look down at the pagan worship going on below. In the face of the cliff there was a slit in the rock that was believed to be the point at which the spirits would enter and leave this world. The slit in the rock was named “The Gates of Hell.” Here Jesus asked his disciples, “‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are Messiah, the

Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’” What’s He saying? See, Jesus has just marched these boys up on top of this rock at Caesarea Philippi. Good Jewish boys just didn’t go there. This is the place parents tell their kids, “You can’t go there.” The disciples were probably freaking out thinking, “If my dad finds out, he’s gonna kill me!” But here they are, and the Rabbi is teaching them. He asks them, looking down at the pagans, who people say He is. Peter finally speaks up and tells Him who he thinks Jesus is. And Jesus acknowledges that Peter has been given that understanding from the God. And here’s the really important part: Christ looks down at the pagans and tells the disciples that “upon this rock” – on these types of people, the worldly, ordinary people – Christ will build His church. And even the “gates of Hades” – the spirits of the world – can’t get in the way because it is commissioned by God Himself. He’s telling the disciples that they are going to help Christ build the church among those types of people. He’s not focusing all His attention on the religious people hanging out in the synagogues. Jesus is still calling teens today. He’s calling you! You see, upon that rock, the people in your city, your school, your circle of friends, He wants to use you to build His church. And not even the gates of hell can get in the way, because God Himself has ordained it to happen. But it all comes back to you – right where you are. Christ is walking down the beach towards you. He’s calling out, “Come and follow me.” What will your answer be?

MAY YOU BE COVERED IN THE DUST OF YOUR RABBI!

Rob Bell is an author and pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich. Visit him on the Web at www.RobBell.com. The content for this message was taken from Rob Bell’s message on the same.

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WRETCHED UNDER PRESSURE
by Randy Kosloski

on the couch

I am never as wretched as I am when I play sports. More than once I have physically hurt friends of mine in an unapologetic and callous way. Even to teammates I am demanding and I do not consider them far beyond what they can contribute to the win. I have often minimized this attitude reasoning that the issue is isolated to sports about which I am simply too serious. The reality is that this attitude is a character flaw that competitive sports happen to bring to light. Under pressure, certain sports push me to act in a way that is natural to me. For instance, it comes naturally for me to use people for my own benefit. It’s amazing what you can find out about people if you add a little pressure. It can force people into behaving as who they really are. For me, that’s an ugly site, but like every good therapist would say, the first step to positive change is admitting that you have a problem. Greg, like me, had a problem. He was probably addicted to money and to material things. He always seemed to care about these things more than he cared about his wife or his two daughters. I think he wanted to care about people, but he didn’t seem to know how. Greg reminded me of myself in many ways. Greg’s pressure was to measure up to the level of success that his parents expected of him. For Greg, the way to meet those expectations was to create the image of success, using money, family and possessions. His wife and two daughters were only part of the image he was trying to create and only some of the expectations he was trying to meet. His family felt the lack of priority in his life and was angry with him. He was in anguish over the way he continued to hurt his family, so he came to me for help realizing at some level he wasn’t only losing control of his family, but was also losing control of himself. In Genesis chapter 31 and 32, the Bibles describes Jacob departing from Laban after taking his flocks and his family. Jacob then met Esau on his journey home. It is interesting how these back-to-back stories detail two very different encounters for Jacob. Uncle Laban was a user. He exploited Jacob as much as possible. He talked Jacob out of leaving several times in order to further his selfish goals. Laban switched Jacob’s wives, changed his wages numerous times and went back on his word without restraint. When Jacob left without consent, Laban pursued and still tried to force his way on Jacob. Further complicating things, Rachel took her father’s idols, potentially giving Laban a foothold to accuse Jacob. But after Laban failed to find his idols and after exhausting every option, he makes a covenant with Jacob. Only then, does Laban finally cut his losses and preserve what favor he has left with God and Jacob – again, probably for his own gain. In the next chapter Jacob meets Esau. Despite the fact that Jacob had treated Esau much like Laban had treated him, Esau greets Jacob in brotherly love

and respect. Jacob tries to give Esau many of his possessions, but Esau would not take them at first. Jacob and Esau part ways with Esau trying to leave some of his group behind to help Jacob make his journey.

LABAN AND ESAU: TWO MEN, TWO VERY DIFFERENT DISPOSITIONS. WHAT ABOUT ME? AM I MORE LIKE LABAN OR AM I MORE LIKE ESAU? AM I A USER OR AM I A FRIEND?
In his book Connecting, Dr. Larry Crabb writes about when, “someone sees us as we are and still delights in us, still believes that we could become a responsible, giving people. When that someone sees us as fundamentally acceptable, courage develops, hope appears and we press on with life, eager not only to receive more connection but also to provide it to others.” Esau did this for Jacob. Even though Esau knew exactly how ugly Jacob could be, Esau’s reception created a positive impact which has already rippled through the ages. Laban, on the other hand, would have fit right in on my hockey team. Greg would have as well. In as much as he was able to, he loved his family, but he needed to do some personal work before getting on the path to loving them the way God was asking him to love them. Like me, Greg needed to understand his own insignificance, as well as his parents.’ Sometimes to be a new creation in Christ, you must, as Yoda said, unlearn what you have learned. Greg continues to work with other professionals now and I believe is making positive progress. Everyone knows who the jerk is on the sports field. Even more so, everyone knows who the gentleman is in the same arena. Those of us who are jerks might say that you have to be a jerk in order to be good at sports. This is, of course, not true. There are many examples of true gentleman stars, such as Cal Ripken, Magic Johnson and Barry Sanders. These are all good guys and great players. Unfortunately, I am not a great player, so I don`t even have an excuse for being a jerk. What I do have is a Redeemer, a Saviour and a path to light. A little pressure can reveal that Christ`s transforming power is still at work. I hope it continues to work – even after I make it to the NHL!

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can you relate

/

by thom mollohan

Troubling times? Well, yeah. But not for the reasons we might think. If our nation, our world, is in a mess right now it’s not because of terrorists. It’s not the economy either, and it’s not necessarily due to any of the recent devastating natural disasters. No, what makes these times truly troubling is our calloused hearts and indifferent attitudes towards our Maker. Nonetheless, the Lord has His eye on you and desires to break through the racket of everyday static, reaching straight to your heart. What’s stopping Him? Glad you asked. In a word: “idolatry.” Idolatry isn’t just a stone statue on the mantel or rabbit’s foot in our pocket. Neither is it a daily horoscope addiction or occasional visit to the palm reader. Idolatry is anything to which we selfishly devote our time, energy and resources and it is also trying to make God something that He is not. Viewing God as a wish granter, or some vague force that we hope will ensure that we live pleasant lives, is the same as bowing down to an idol in the form of our false concept of God. Historically speaking, it’s the human thing to do. But God has higher hopes for us than this. In Judges 6:7-10, the Israelites slip once again into idolatry. “When the Israelites cried out to the LORD because of Midian, he sent them a prophet, who said, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I

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brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians. And I delivered you from the hand of all your oppressors; I drove them out before you and gave you their land. I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.” But you have not listened to me.’” Baal and Asherah – Canaanite forms of Ishtar – were the Israelites idols of choice at that time. God’s people had so muddled their worship with trust in the Baals and Asherahs that they barely worshiped God at all. To really worship Him, one must bow to His supremacy in all things and depose of all the competition. Consequently, God permitted trouble to wash over them until they simply couldn’t stand it anymore. Foreign invaders oppressed and so effectively impoverished them that the Israelites had to keep secret places of safety for themselves and for their crops. But in spite of their obstinate refusal to give up their idol worship, God showed them grace. It so happened that in this particular instance, God sent His angel to an unsuspecting man named Gideon who was secretly threshing his wheat in a winepress – the bad guys would have swiped it all if he did it in the open. (By the way, it doesn’t matter to God where you are, what you’re doing or who you think may have forgotten about you.) “When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’ ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, “Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?” But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.’ The LORD turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’ ‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.’ The LORD answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive’” (Judges 6:12-16). And so began the greatest adventure that Gideon had ever known. It started with Gideon offering genuine worship to God (Judges 6:17-24). The very next thing he did was become a catalyst in his family, town and people for spiritual truth and he radically challenged their worship of idols (Judges 6:25-32). Notice that God didn’t just wink at their spiritual adultery while setting them free from their oppression: He was determined to attack their spiritual oppressors first!

After the Lord had addressed their spiritual need, He set Gideon to the task of preparing an army which God promptly whittled down to a mere 300 men – any more than that would have raised some doubt about who really was going to win the battle for them (Judges 7:1-7). (God is not interested in service to Him done in our own strength.) Yet, God used this tiny group of 300 men to overthrow an army of about 135,000 warriors. Now, if the Lord can accomplish such an astounding victory with a small force like that, what can He do through you in the face of such adversaries as doubt, hate, grief, greed, hate and violence? What could He do with a man who would render Him sincere and unadulterated (unidolatrized) worship along with a life of wholehearted service? He can take someone like you and change the world. All He needs from you is a willingness to trust Him.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ... Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”
(2 Peter 1:5-8, 10-11).

Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 15 ½ years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at pastorthom@pathwaygallipolis.com.

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GOT FRUIT?
MA GOD BLESS THE HELL OUT OF YOU Y

BY THE MERRY MONK
I recently started a garden. I’ve been growing tomatoes, peppers, green beans and squash. Well, I’ve been trying to grow those things. If I ever need to grow my own food to survive, I’ve learned from my gardening experiment that I’m going to starve! Considering that I planted late, the tomatoes and the green peppers did great. But the beans turned out to be bush beans instead of pole beans and ended up in the shadow of the tomato plants, so they didn’t produce. One day I walked out to the garden to find the squash shriveling up! It got the same amount of water, light and organic stuff as the rest of the garden, so I don’t know what happened. The leaves eventually rotted away, along with one sick little squash fetus which just wasn’t meant to be. The only explanation is that a bad plant equals bad fruit. It’s downright biblical. When we read in the Bible that a healthy tree doesn’t bear bad fruit, we don’t think about oranges or apples; we start thinking about our sin. We know all too well about our bad fruit. Sometimes we even practice the fruit of the Spirit, but it doesn’t take an expert fruit inspector to discern that overall, we trees are bearing some nasty produce.

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As we are reminded of our bad apples and sour grapes, the offering of forgiveness begins to comfort us. But just as we breathe a sigh of relief and cautiously approach to dip our roots into the healing water of life, along comes the guilt kicker, “After all that Jesus has done for you...” It goes on to tell us that although salvation is a free gift, now that we’re forgiven we should step up the effort to show our gratitude. Or the message becomes worse and we start to question our salvation – a personal experience of mine as a new believer. We are reminded that faith without works is dead, so we’d better start proving we’re a real Christian or else we’re gonna’ get it! Of course, we should be grateful for our salvation and glorify God with our actions, but failing to acknowledge all that Jesus has done for us damages the roots of both gratitude and holy living. Increasing our carnal effort by giving God our all, seems to make sense, so we thank God for the forgiveness and get back to work. We trees walk away determined to prove our love for God by bringing Him more fruit instead of faithfully abiding by the water which imbibes life – for we know the fruit inspector is coming again soon. What’s wrong with this picture? It’s not that we lack desire, or effort. We’d make bushels of fruit if we knew how. And it’s not because we aren’t told repeatedly about how rank bad fruit is. Week after week we’re urged to produce, but something is missing. As Matthew 7:18 tells us, the problem isn’t the fruit… it’s the root. Jesus makes this even clearer when He says, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad…” (Matthew 12:33). How are trees made good? The answer is so simple that we don’t trust it. God makes trees good, but unfortunately we don’t always reckon them as such. Even if you have the flimsiest faith in Jesus it’s proof that God chose you from eternity to be His child. Faith the size of a mustard seed can throw your mountain of sin into the ocean of God’s love and forgiveness. Now, I haven’t planted any mustard seeds in my garden, but I hear them seeds is pretty small. And the little faith you have was planted in you before time began. “Praise be to the God…who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…In love he predestined us to adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 1:3-6). Notice these things have already been done! Commenting on Jeremiah 31:3, Geerhardus Vos said, “The best proof that He will never cease to love us lies in that He never began.” What’s this have to do with good fruit? When God begins something, it’s guaranteed that He will finish it (Philippians 1:6). Because of His great love for you, the Father has planted in you His seed of faith and it will yield a harvest of love and holiness in your life. Motivation by guilt, shame and fear incites us to declare that God is a “hard man.” As a result, we bury God’s gift of

grace in a faithless grave instead of planting it in the good soil of trust which says our Father will bring the work He started to a fruitful completion. Effort motivated by guilt veils the glory of the gospel of grace and inhibits faith in the finished work of Christ, and sanctification suffers. It’s like placing fruit trees in a dark cave and showing them the fruit they should be producing hoping they will blossom. The preacher who resorts to this tactic unwittingly reinstates enmity with God in the hearts of God’s children. Enmity with God is friendship with the world. This is in direct opposition to Scripture’s witness that believers are covenant friends of God. It introduces disease into a healthy tree and hacks at the root of faith. Instead of trusting God’s nature in believers to take its course, these misguided preachers encourage unhealthy introspection as the route to holiness. However, the good seed can’t grow when it’s repeatedly being dug up only to examine its growth! Instead, we should proclaim the truth: believers are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation and a people for God’s own possession. It’s not that Christians should be these things with increased effort, but that they already are these things by faith in God’s grace. Knowing this, we set good trees in the brilliant sun of God’s love to be nourished by His warm rays, stretched toward Him, and drawn by the living water of the Spirit through the root of faith. In these conditions good trees will bear good fruit!

Gratitude motiv ates good works, so let people be flooded by God’s love.
It’s the only thing for which they can be truly grateful. Everything that God requires of us has already been given to us in Christ. “And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). Even possessing the flimsiest of faith, all is ours because it all depends on God’s finished work. What joy and fruit awaits us! If we simply dare to believe this good news, we will agree with Charles Spurgeon, “While I regarded God as a tyrant, I thought sin a trifle. But when I knew Him to be my Father, then I mourned that I could ever have kicked against Him. When I thought that God was hard, I found it easy to sin. But when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could have rebelled against One Who loved me so and sought my good.”

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FILLING

THEJOY
As I thinking about what to write this month, I kept coming back to the idea of joy, and strangely, relative to the above quote from my friend. What do faith, hope and the truth of God have to do with joy? That’s a good question. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis describes in great detail his definition of, his experiences with, and his desire for joy. He capitalizes the word “joy” because it is so central to everything in his life. In this work, he calls joy the experience “of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.” And he also asserts that joy is something very distinct from pleasure or happiness. It is often more closely connected with our longings than the things with which we satisfy those longings. He goes on to explain that our longing for something that we expect to bring joy is actually closer to what joy really is than the actual experience we would have if we obtained that which we desired.

PRESS ON
BY WILL DOLE

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As I reflect on my own experience, this definition seems to be quite fitting. Nothing I chase after in this world will ever satisfy. Everything I consume in an attempt to fill my longings ends up leaving a desire for something more. None of the temporary happiness these things bring could truly be described as a genuine sense of joy. To borrow a concept from Blaise Pascal, joy is the vacuum that I keep trying to fill, but nothing in this world is capable of filling it. My desire remains unsatisfied because nothing the world offers will fill it. Why is this? We see in the first three chapters of Genesis that God establishes a world where man walks in a perfect relationship with Him. It is one where man glorifies Him by reflecting His image (Genesis 1:27), and enjoys Him (Philippians 4:4). God created everything for His glory. God created us to reflect His glory to all of creation. He created and designed our very souls in such a way that when we are walking in these ways, we receive joy! He creates us for a joy that comes only through knowing and reflecting Him. However, we know that these things are broken when we sin, and sin separates man from God. This was demonstrated by Adam and Eve after they sinned. God kicked them out of the garden. Since our primary problem is our separation from God, we desire to have this longing filled most desperately. This is implied in Romans 5:10 where it tells us that Jesus came to reconcile us to God. So our unsatisfied longings are logically connected to the fact that we are – in our natural state – separated from God. We chase our own ways and we do not seek God. We instead seek our own glory. We fail to reflect Him properly. And we fail to find our enjoyment in Him. Joy is not something we can experience in our sinfulness and it becomes, at best, an unsatisfied desire without Christ’s complete act of reconciliation. The reason Jesus tells us in John 15 that He is the vine and we are branches connected to Him is so that our joy may be filled (vs.11). Paul further tells us in Colossians 3:10 that Jesus is restoring the image of our Creator in us. So we see in God’s plan to redeem the world that He desires our joy. He indeed has designed us to have joy in Him. This is a hard truth to grasp. Why does the God of all the universe care about my joy? Has He not stated that the very reason He created me was to glorify Him? Doesn’t it say in Acts 17 that He is not served by human hands, and is above us and really has no need for us? If these things are true then why does my joy matter? Am I not self-seeking when I pursue these unsatisfied longings that I have? Understanding the word “glory” more completely can help us come to grips with these concepts. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the Hebrew

word translated this way in Isaiah 43:7, and other places, means to ascribe weight, splendor or copiousness. To consider something or someone glorious is not merely to think that they are swell, beautiful or nice. It means to view that person in their splendor and to consider it a weighty matter to place a great value on that individual. So how does this help us understand how we are to relate to God? The Bible begins with the fact that God is in the beginning, and that as the Creator, He is above Creation. No object is greater than its maker. So if God is above the heavens and the earth, if He is the Creator of time, space and matter, then who can compare to His value? The obvious answer is no one. There is nothing more real than God because everything that is real was created by Him. He is the ultimate reality. And if this is the case, then God is supremely valuable. Not only is He supremely valuable, but He is also then supremely enjoyable because He created joy! The fact that we have an unquenchable longing for joy points to the fact that there is something outside of us which is greater than we are. There is a bigger reality; and that reality is God Himself. He has created in us a longing that can only be satisfied in Him. We give Him glory by recognizing His supreme worth, His incomparable value and His unspeakable glory. We honor Him when we humbly recognize that our human efforts to fill the vacuum mentioned earlier are in vain. Only He can fill that desire. He has loved us so much that He fills this desire we have to enjoy Him! So where do

FAITH,

HOP&ETRUTH
meet our pursuit of joy?

Faith is the gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9), which gives us hope (Romans 8:24) in Jesus Christ, Who in His great love fills us with joy. This is the only way the void we have for joy in our souls can be filled. That is weighty. That is amazing!

GM : 15

After watching the documentary film “Divided,” produced by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC), all Christians should appreciate one point: Parents should be intimately involved in the discipleship of their families. But really, have all youth programs resulted in a “50-year failed experiment,” as NCFIC Director Scott T. Brown proclaims? The biggest disappointment in this film was the divisive way in which “Divided” makes this claim.

The premise is that age-segregated learning commonly used from children’s church to Sunday school to youth programs was developed by atheists for secular education and then adapted to church, and as such, is not Biblical. Supposedly, adopting this strategy has provided the excuse fathers need to relinquish their responsibility to disciple their families. The movie goes on to say that since there is no direct mandate in the Bible for the nurture of teenagers through youth programs, it is not Biblical to use such programs, even when they do work. The movie also portrayed youth

GM : 16

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A RECAP

YOUTH PROGRAMS: FROM THE PIT OF HELL?
DOCUMENTARY by:

NCFIC

Review by:

ROB BEAMES

programs as generally failing to teach truth, while throwing a bunch of immature kids together with the hope that they will train each other. The call to fathers everywhere to disciple their children is a message which cannot be encouraged enough. But let’s face it; fathers didn’t need youth programs to justify bowing out of their divinely appointed leadership role. It started in the Garden of Eden when Adam allowed Eve to lead him astray. This failing is clearly not, as this movie suggests, caused by faithful

youth pastors who have given a large portion of their lives to the redemption and spiritual development of teenagers. The propensity exists now as it has for centuries. If anything, a historical and cross-cultural review might show that fathers of this generation are more involved in parenting than they ever have been. The statistic that 88 percent of all teenagers in youth programs walk away from the Church never to return is alarming. But how accurate is that number? A “bias estimate” of 40 percent is also mentioned in the film. Regardless of which is more accurate, other studies have shown that many youth leave the Church, not necessarily because of their youth program, but because they found the Church boring and irrelevant to their lives. This can make the attractions of the world teens live in all the more alluring. And something the stats don’t consider is the numbers that leave the Church but return, after having discovered the truths they grew up with – some of which were learned in healthy youth programs – to be reliable. Glance at the film’s website (http://www. dividedthemovie.com), and you can’t miss the statement, “Modern youth ministry is contrary to Scripture.” The film asserts that since we are not specifically told to use these ministries, we must abolish them. In fact, we are in disobedience to God even if these programs do work because they cannot be Biblical if they have pagan origins. Following this line of reasoning – as some do – we should not celebrate birthdays, Christmas or even believe in the best model we have for God: the Trinity. As for the Biblical support of their position, “Divided” ironically points to passages where Jesus calls the children to Himself. These instances supposedly describe the Biblical way fathers are to disciple their children. Yet, the primary passages where this happened (Matt 19:1315; Mark 10:13 and Luke 18:15, 16) describe Jews bringing babies and little children to Jesus for a type rabbinical blessing and prayer – not for discipleship or teaching. While I wholeheartedly agree that these passages display the heart of Christ for young ones

and that they should encourage fathers to love their own children with the same intensity, to say that they express God’s disapproval of modern youth ministries is tragic. Following the movie’s argument, Jesus should have pushed them away and instructed their fathers to disciple them, because He was obviously not their father, but He didn’t. In fact, if we consider that He often had young people hanging around Him, wouldn’t Jesus fit the mold of most youth pastors today? He did things differently than the parents and religious leaders of the day. He was a young man who was exciting to hang out with. NCFIC takes their stance too far regarding things which Scripture does not clearly address, such as the way we evangelize and disciple youth. Further, in Jewish culture, a 13-year-old was a young man, not a child. There is no primitive church equivalent for the man-child of today’s culture: the 13 to 18-year-old male who is old enough to reason and work like a man but still lives like a child in society. Should we, as NCFIC suggests, eliminate youth ministries? Fathers are clearly called to disciple their families, but they need all the assistance they can get, including youth ministries which point young people to Christ. To discard all youth programs because some fathers have used them as a way out of their responsibilities would be like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Instead of embracing a new direction which destroys good methods with the bad, we need to answer the more difficult challenge of examining each youth program, every event, even individual lessons, if necessary, to ensure that every aspect of our youth ministries reflect Christ and His gospel. Has God not commanded the Church to reach out and touch the youth of our world in a winsome way in order to draw them to Christ? Paul became “all things to all people so that by all possible means,” he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22). Isn’t that the premise of most youth ministries? NCFIC sorely misses this parallel.

GM : 17

@STICKYJESUS
RECAP

“More people will log on to blogs, Facebook, and Twitter this Sunday than will go to church.” -@stickyJesus

My blog is not quite 3 months old. I’ve had visits from 44 countries and 48 states. (Where are you Vermont and New Hampshire?) I’m just a pinhead in “the Land of Shiny Things.” I had no illusion that anyone (except maybe my mother and sister) would be interested in anything I have to say. I did not fully grasp the fact when I began to “book” and tweet and blog that I would be a “digital scribe.” I did not realize the potential snowball effect of a single post or tweet. I had never heard the word “sticky” used in a context other than those such as dried orange juice on my kitchen floor or hair matted with gum. And now Tami and Toni present a field guide for Christ followers in @stickyJesus: How To Live Out Your Faith Online, for those of us who want to be online light shedders and dark shredders using social media to share our stories and offer hope to those who hurt. For those of us who seek and share. For those of us who long to share the stickiest of messages.

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ANOTHER

BOOK by:

TAMI HEIM AND TONI BIRDSONG
Review by:

SANDRA HESKA KING

This book drips Jesus and challenges us to stick to Him as we build and interact with our online community. Tami and Toni call their chapters “files” and summarize each in a “download” and end with an “upload” prayer. They include stories of real people making a difference online for real people. They provide hints and helps for dummies and geeks in an easy-to-read, hard-to-putdown format. “This book is for every Christ follower residing on this side of heaven. It’s for those who realize–and those who have yet to understand–the awesome moment into which we’ve been born. It’s for technology novices, casual surfers, and those already folded comfortably into the online world. Wherever you are in your skill level, it’s time to direct your heart toward the sticky things of God.” ~@sticky Jesus The ends of the earth sit at our fingertips. And we are here for such a time as this. Do you want to make a difference for Jesus as a “digital scribe?” Get. This. Book. And check out the @stickyJesus website.

We’re a generation raised on instant: Instant formula. Disposable diapers. Satellite TV. GPS navigation. Online check-in. Automatic everything. We’re always plugged in and wired. We’re accustomed to having answers at the snap of our fingers. We’re used to being in control. How does this affect our communication with God? This is the question iFaith seeks to answer. What has life at warp speed done to our souls? Has faith been replaced with a false sense of security? Has the digital and technological revolution made us more impatient with the God who delights in making His people wait?

Daniel Darling has his finger on the pulse of today’s technology. In his newest book, iFaith: Connecting with God in the 21st Century, he speaks to the “card carrying members of the instant generation” among us with sound biblical advice on the basics of Christianity. In iFaith, Dan Darling uses the language of social media and delivers sound, biblical truth on a variety of subjects such as waiting on God (Chapter One: Read Receipt), being angry with God (Chapter Three: Prayer in ALL CAPS), and my personal favorite because it includes advice on social behavior in a digital world (Chapter Ten: Friend Me.)

These are among the many Christian book reviews available at The Vessel Project. Reviews used with permission.

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LAST RECAP

IFAITH: CONNECTING WITH GOD IN THE 21ST CENTURY
BOOK by:

DANIEL DARLING
Review by:

KEIKI HENDRIX

There are several witty illustrations throughout the book, some public and some personal. All are on-point. Scattered throughout are select Bible verses (ESV, NLT, and KJV) and quotes from some of my favorite authors like Josh Harris, E. M. Bounds, Ray Prichard, and Oswald Chambers. The writing is witty, genuine and honest. Because each of the ten chapters end with a list of discussion questions and a resource list, this book is ideal for a youth or young adult bible study group. The timeless truths presented in the book would make it perfect for any Church library. I recommend it highly.

GM : 19