Mission: CORE

Here is regular friendly reminder to head over to Proverbial Thought for today’s devotional thought from the wonderful book of Proverbs!

This has been an interesting couple of months. I have led you through the Four Core Facts (Jesus’ death on the cross, the despair of the Disciples, the change in the Disciples, and the conversion of Paul) and the Four Core Values (Desperate pursuit of God, diligent prayer, consecrated heart, focused life) for the youth group I work with, led by our wonderful youth pastor, Jesse Bollinger (www.ferventyouth.org).

After learning about why the Christian faith is true and what that means for the Christian (the Core Values), that leaves one important thing to cover:

The CORE Mission:

The Core exists to make a worldwide impact for Christ through fervent prayer and by living consecrated lives.

It is true that this was all covered over the past two months. It is also true that sometimes we just need a concise reminder of important things, that little thing to kickstart or restart us into action.

As has been discussed over the past couple weeks, things seem to work well together and often need each other to work well.

The Reason

If Jesus of Nazareth really is Jewish Messiah, the Son of the Living God, then everything He said and did really happened and really matters.

If Jesus really died to take away the sins of the world, the world has a reason to love God and needs to know.

If Jesus really rose from the dead and conquered the grave, the world has a reason to hope and needs to know.

If Jesus really said it requires repentance and belief to be saved from their sin, then the world needs to know.

If Jesus really is God, He deserves our hard work and worship.

The way (Small “w”)

The most efficient way to share the message of Jesus Messiah with the world (also known as sharing the gospel, which means “good news”) is also one of the most difficult things in life … but also the most worth it.

As discussed over the past month, it takes a life focused on the desperate pursuit of God. This means needing a consecrated heart, a heart dedicated to finding and loving God wherever He may be. It is easier to know where God is moving, to dedicate your heart and stick to the dedication of your heart to God, and focus on following and serving God when you are in constant communication with God.

It can easily be argued, therefore, that this all hinges on communication with God.

It must first be understood that God always initiates contact first. We come to God, because God seeks us out. He even reminds us again and again when we forget Him, yet He still likes us to come to Him.

Coming to God is reading the Bible, spending time with other believers, and praying.

When done with a sincere heart willing to be changed by God’s love, grace, and majesty, it becomes easier to give our hearts and lives completely with joy and to know when and where God is moving. We also have a growing desire to share the love, grace, and majesty of God with others.

The Hard Part

This sounds rather easy, though. We simply need to grow closer to God and share Him with others.

Yet, consider this:

  • Reading your Bible means setting aside time from watching your favorite show.
  • Praying means setting time aside from hanging out with friends, seeing that movie, and … learning to be quiet. (Trust me, it is way more difficult than it sounds, especially in our culture)
  • Helping and sharing with others means risking rejection, hurt feelings, and being taken advantage of by others, even loved ones.

The Core

It may be hard, but as I said, this life means time with other Christians. The Core may be the name of the youth group, but we all need to be in a “Core”. Jesus had His 12 Apostles, and of those He was closer to Peter and the brothers James and John. These were Jesus’ core group.

Your core group should include Jesus at the center and some with whom you are close, those who can hold you accountable and lift you up when you fall or are feeling sad, defeated, or stressed.

Most importantly, your core group is where you draw closure to our Lord. As a group you are able to grow in knowledge, grow in compassion, grow in grace, and grow in love. It is most effective when you are also reaching out to others. Not just Christians, but especially to non-Christians and/or those in need (the Bible usually says “the poor, the orphans, and the widows”).

GO!

The moral of the story: the Core Mission is to obey Jesus command to “go and make disciples of all nations” through constant communication with God and by growing in love and grace through study, fellowship, and reaching out to others.

So go! Get to know God better. Grow closer to others. (Matthew 22:36-40)

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 09/30/2012

I think a young woman from the camp I worked in five years ago put it perfectly:

“Live a weak life!”

—Cheyenne (camper at Junior Camp, UCYC, June 29, 2007)

We must live a weak life.

We can try to use our strength,

But we can only get so far.

So, if we live weakly,

God can move through us.

When we are weak,

He is stronger in us.

Live a weak life,

and God will use you.

Taken from deeper words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 168.

Funny, eh?

I can not remember where I found this, but I had to share it:

FUNNY ISN’T IT?

  • Funny how a $10.00 bill looks so big when you take it to church, but so small when you take it to the mall.
  • Funny how big an hour serving God looks and how small 60 minutes are when spent playing golf, fishing or shopping.
  • Funny how long a couple of hours spent at church, but how short they are when watching a movie.
  • Funny how we get thrilled when a football game goes into overtime, but we complain when a sermon is longer than the regular time.
  • Funny how laborious it is to read a chapter in the Bible and how easy it is to read 200-300 pages of a best-selling novel.
  • Funny how we believe what newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.
  • Funny how people scramble to get a front seat at any game, but scramble to get a back seat at church service.
  • Funny how we cannot fit a gospel meeting into our schedule with yearly planner but we can schedule for other events at a moment’s notice.
  • Funny how we need 2 or 3 weeks to fit a church event into our schedule, but can adjust it for a social event at the last minute.
  • Funny how much difficulty some have learning a simple gospel well enough to tell others, but how simple it is for the same people to understand and explain gossip about someone else.
  • Funny how we can’t think of anything to say when we pray, and don’t have any difficulty thinking of things to talk about to a friend.
  • Funny how we are so quick to take direction from a total stranger when we are lost, but are hesitant to take God’s direction to be found.
  • Funny how people are so consumed with what others think about them rather than what God thinks about them.
  • Funny how so many churchgoers sing “Standing on the Promises” but all they do is sit on the premises.
  • Funny how people think that they can get more accomplished in a lifetime without God than in an hour with Him.
  • Funny how everyone wants to go to heaven, provided they don’t have to believe, or to think, or to say, or to do anything.

Funny how we all need to read this.

The Core Values: Engrossed Existence

Here is another friendly reminder to head over to Proverbial Thought for today’s devotional thought from Proverbs!

We now continue our look at the Four Core Facts and the Four Core Values, having examined the desperate pursuit of God, diligent prayer, and a consecrated heart.  If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the Core Facts and the Core Values, look up my wonderful youth pastor, Jesse Bollinger, at Fervent Youth.

As I said before, all of the Core Facts and Values flow together. The Values are useless without the truth of the Facts. Without a desperate pursuit of God bathed in diligent prayer creating a consecrated heart, we play a dangerous game with the fourth Core Value:

A Focused Life

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified . . . For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7

Why would I say we play a dangerous game with a focused life without the Core Facts and Values?

Perhaps you have heard that line that goes something like “Those who believe in nothing will fall for anything.” People can devote their lives to just about anything out there (read the tabloids, news, and/or history books).

Some people even dedicate their lives to God without considering the possibility that God will come collect. Then they are surprised at what God wants.

It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly
and only later to consider his vows
Proverbs 20:25

This is why we need a foundation based on the reality of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God, and a value-system based on the truth revealed in the Bible.

FOCUS!

Have you noticed how easy it is to be distracted? Humans have always found a way to distract themselves, but Modern Man has really excelled in this area.

We have access to an entire world in ways barely imaginable 100 years ago, from cars to trains to airplanes.

We have access to an entire world through the internet.

We have access to endless entertainment through books, movies, television, video games, sports, the internet, and various other entertainment-industry options too numerous to list here.

We have access to friends and family any time of the night or day around the world through telephones, cellular phones, e-mail, Facebook, the internet (noticing a theme?), and so many other things.

We have more than enough to distract us, and we have even made it possible to stop using our own imagination.

But what do the most successful people in our world have in common?

Focus.

Their lives are dedicated to one major thing (which can include many smaller things, but usually related things), and they do not let anything get in the way of their dreams and goals.

They each have a focused life.

This is basically what God has called all who would follow Him to do. Be focused.

On what?

The answer comes in a rebuke of Peter by Jesus:

“You must follow me.”

We have to focus our lives on Jesus.

However, I will take this a step further.

There are a lot of people who claim to follow Jesus, and they show up to church regularly, tithe, donate, and volunteer.

They live good lives.

While their lives are engrossed in Jesus, I would posit that their entire existence is not engrossed in Jesus. (See the title of the post worked in there?!)

In truth, these people (and even many people engrossed in following Jesus can succumb to this) are distracted by serving.

How do we know when we get distracted by service?

One of two things is usually what happens:

  1. We are not going where Jesus is going. We find ourselves in the church building all the time, or at church functions, and we know everyone we see or know someone who knows that person well and we are all Christian. We rarely encounter anyone who is hurting, mourning, in desperate need, or stuck in sin (of which we are aware).
  2. We are exactly where Jesus is, but we are “pulling a Martha. Sometimes, we are so busy serving Jesus that we forget about actually serving others, and we are surrounded by people who really need Jesus.

The Problem and Solution

We are not fully engrossed in following Jesus. That is just the way it is.

This is where the other values come in. To be fully engrossed we must desperately pursue God by reading the Bible, learning what it means through teachings and fellowship, and seeking where God is working. To effectively pursue God, we must be in constant communication with Him through diligent prayer, and this helps us grow in a desire to study the Bible and find where God is going. As we pray and study, we find our hearts are growing ever more consecrated to God, and our desire to seek Him and talk with Him grows. The more consecrated our hearts become for God, the more we find our life being focused on God.

The only other step is that we must put it all into practice.We must be with those who are hurting and in need. We must show love and grace. We must forgive ALL people.

We must effectually become like Jesus Christ.

Our focus in life must be to be completely engrossed in living and loving like Jesus, pushing aside distractions and pushing on in faith, grace, and love.

Next week, I will briefly discuss The Core Mission.

What are your thoughts? How are you doing?

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 09/23/2012

While it is not always pleasant to think about, one of the biggest ways God grows a consecrated heart in us is through trial and pain.

towards hope

You allow suffering to come
they are sent so we become
a people that will persevere
even if these last for years
with Your strength to get us there
it builds up our character
as we become a people for You
we get a hope that is true
it encourages us to the inmost parts
as You pour Your love into our hearts
as towards hope we continue on
it is because You sent Christ Your Son
He came when we were powerless
at the right time in our distress
because You sought our hearts You missed
Your love was demonstrated in this
while we still lived lives of sin
Christ died to bring our hearts to Him
because He persevered to death
yet He rose up to life again
let us persevere through struggles
towards hope that is eternal

Taken from deeper words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 165.

This is an amazing look at “loving your neighbor.” I enjoy reading the posts over at Tearmatt, because it is raw, real, and from the heart. This one is just as great, and since I have a theology blog, I thought it appropriate to share it (It helps that one of my favorite movies of all time, “Back to the Future”, is mentioned!).
A word of warning for my more sensitive readers, there is one spot of strong language toward the end (about his motorcycle).

The Core Values: Cardiac Consecration

Here is your regular, friendly reminder to head over to Proverbial Thought for today’s devotional thought from Proverbs!

We now continue our look at the Four Core Facts and the Four Core Values, having examined the desperate pursuit of God and diligent prayer.  If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the Core Facts and the Core Values, look up my wonderful youth pastor, Jesse Bollinger, at Fervent Youth.

As I said before, all of the Core Facts and Values flow together. The Values are useless without the truth of the Facts. Without a desperate pursuit of God bathed in diligent prayer, there is little need for the third Core Value:

A Consecrated Heart

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8, NIV

This requirement of a person seems simple enough. To put it in overly simplistic terms, we are required to do good, be forgiving, and live life honestly … with God.

Why are these so difficult, then?

To do good, to act justly, often means to think of others before yourself and to sacrifice.

To be forgiving, to love mercy, often means showing love, grace, and, yes, forgiveness to those you feel are least deserving … or to whom you would rather not.

To live life honestly, to walk humbly, often means realizing you do not understand this world or yourself as well as you think. It always means realizing you are someone in need of a Savior.

These are the beginning steps to having a consecrated heart.

But what is the first step?

Why not start with what it really means to have a consecrated heart …

From Merriam-Webster:

1
: to induct (a person) into a permanent office with a religious rite; especially: to ordain to the office of bishop
2
a: to make or declare sacred; especially:to devote irrevocably to the worship of God by a solemn ceremony
b:to effect the liturgical transubstantiation of (eucharistic bread and wine)
c: to devote to a purpose with or as if with deep solemnity or dedication
3
: to make inviolable or venerable <principles consecrated by the weight of history>
I especially like definition 2a. In fact, the second definition is the whole point.

In fact, this may help sum up this post pretty quickly.

Having a consecrated heart simply means that you declare your heart sacred, that you set aside your heart to be devoted completely to worshiping God.

Simple, yes? Declare your heart as God’s own.

For it to really mean anything, as stated before, it requires the Core Facts and the other Core Values.

You need faith that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was necessary for your salvation. Without this knowledge, you can consecrate your heart to anything. It happens all around our world every day. Look at all of the religions, numbers of gods, lack of gods (and God), and every other belief, including in the self. Apart from God, we can do nothing, especially save ourselves from condemnation. (A simple, quick explanation: No God = No humans, thus we can do nothing without God.)

You need to have a desperation to know God, which comes from a desire to know truth. (Many seek truth, but not all seek to know truth.)

We grow more desperate to know God through diligent prayer. At the same time, diligent prayer usually grows out of a desperation. (Kind of like wanting to talk to that boy or that girl on the phone at all times of the day or night, because you can not seem to get enough. You find yourself falling ever more in love the more the two of you talk. You know what I mean 😉 .) With the desperate pursuit of God and diligent prayer, it can often be a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma. It always depends on the person, the circumstances, and the ways of God.

When you believe something so strongly, you dedicate your life to it. That is what a consecrated heart is. It is praying “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, NIV)

And it leads to the fourth Core Value: A Focused Life

What do you believe? Why? What do you spend your time doing and with whom and about what do you talk? To what have you dedicated your life?

Why?