Friday, August 31, 2012

Everything to Follow

Last week Jon shared a lesson on how we find ultimate fulfillment in God alone and last night, JJ Pyche continued that idea with a message about the cost of following Christ.

He started out with a harmless, joking question like "How much would we pay to graduate school right now with a 4.0 and not have to ever go to class again?". Everybody was on board when the price was into the 5 to 500 dollar range, but dropped pretty quickly when the price was bumped up to 5,000.

Then JJ asked a more serious question: "How many years of your life would you give up to have a perfect life?". How many would you give up if you could have the car, house, and family of your dreams, if you could go anywhere you wanted, if you could have the perfect career?

What cost would you pay to have eternal life? What is that worth to you?

We looked at Mark 10: 17-34 to understand exactly what Jesus says it costs to inherit eternal life.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

This guy that came up to Jesus has a lot of things(he's super rich and successful and well known), but he's shown to be so desperate for answers to a meaningful life that he humiliates himself by falling on his knees (a Jewish culture thing).

You know the good Christian answers that everyone is supposed to say in Sunday school? Ironically and comically, this is the answer that Jesus first gives to this guy in verse 19. Most of us wouldn't think twice about "living a good life, following the 10 commandments, and going to church on Christmas and Easter so that you look even better"...but Jesus here is trying to help this guy see that he's not living the life he thinks he is living. 

Just when the guy thinks he's set for eternal life, Jesus adds something. Because, as Mark importantly added, Jesus had compassion and tells the guy the truth (more than the generic bible school answer).

In verse 21, Jesus tells the man to sell everything he has and give the money to the poor, then follow Him.

But check out the underlying wisdom in what He said. Jesus told him to do this because He knew the man was failing at not coveting wealth(10th commandment there for those of you who don't know). This guy's whole identity was wrapped up in wealth and his understanding that wealth was a sign of God's favor. He was completely mistaken and he was living for the wealth instead of living for God. Jesus was being subtle and not completely calling this guy out in front of everyone, but the man knew what He was hinting toward.

Jesus is pointing out that this guy's works are not working for him.

Jesus told His disciples that it's hard for the rich (not just materially wealthy, but rich in any way) to enter Heaven because they have a tendency to put their identity in their "things", rather than in God. The entire point of this story in Mark is that Jesus says if we give up our idols, He has something even better for us (Like giving up 5 dollars in exchange for a college degree).

In verse 26, Jesus finally answers the man's question on how to inherit eternal life.

He simply says "come and follow me". This is actually deceptively difficult.

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Well, following someone means doing what they do. We are to do what Jesus did. And in verses 32-34 Jesus is telling His disciples about His imminent crucifixion. Basically He's telling these guys "Hey, if you are going to truly follow me, you're going to have to die." If we want life, we are actually going to have to die.

Usually for us in a first world, largely Christian country, we die figuratively. We become what the Bible refers to as living sacrifices. We are to give up all our idols and identities. We have to die to ourselves and our desires in order to follow God's will for our lives. But in a lot of other places, this can mean a literal death.

Jesus is telling us "if you give me you're life, I will give you mine".

So on one hand, eternal life will cost you everything, but when we get Jesus' life, we realize that the "everything" that we spent our lives doing and chasing was really nothing. On the other hand, eternal life costs us nothing, it's free. The life God gives you overcomes death.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Chasing Wind

M28 Charlotte started the year off with a bang...literally. Our first Big Meeting went off without a hitch and I think everyone loved having amplified sound. Worship was fantastic...I especially loved having two cellos. We had a fantastic turnout...as you can sort of see from this horrid picture from last night(my camera was being moody).
It was great to see so many new faces in addition to seeing old friends once again. Several of us spent time in prayer beforehand and it was such a joy to just come together and pray for the semester...God is doing great things on campus and I think we're all just so excited to be a part of it.

Jon taught a fantastic message from the book of Ecclesiastes. Jon started off by asking us a couple of questions.
  • What makes life worth living?
  • What brings true fulfillment?
To help you out for a second, fulfillment is attaining whatever gives you happiness or purpose. Think about those questions for a second before you keep reading. Be honest with yourself. We are all on a search for fulfillment, happiness and pleasure. We pursue it, we try to buy it, we do anything we can to try to find true fulfillment.

Ecclesiastes is a book about Solomon's life. Solomon was the richest, wisest and most popular guy on the planet at the time. Think Donald Trump, Einstein and Steve Jobs all rolled into one person. Remember that as we read...
Ecclesiastes 2:1-8 I said in my heart, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself.” But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, “It is mad,” and of pleasure, “What use is it?” I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine—my heart still guiding me with wisdom—and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man.
Solomon has begun the pursuit of pleasure. He has left no stone unturned in his search
Ecclesiastes 2:10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil.
 Whatever he wanted, he had...parties, sex, servants, food, friends...everything. Anything that you could imagine that would bring you pleasure...Solomon had it...and had more of it than you could ever hope to afford or imagine. Don't be jealous of Solomon though...because even though he had all that money could buy, everything that anyone could ever hope for...he found that it was all vanity. It was all pointless...there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Meaning, that there is nothing in this world that will truly satisfy or fulfill or bring you true happiness. He searched the world over and couldn't find it. The only thing he found is that pleasure doesn't work...it doesn't bring fulfillment.
Ecclesiastes 2:11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
So maybe you're thinking, "Okay, well I can see that...things break...friends leave...parties end...maybe he just needed wisdom." Well, Solomon was actually know for his wisdom...he was one of the most wise. But just to be safe, he tried wisdom too...he searched for fulfillment in knowledge and wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 2:12-17  So I turned to consider wisdom and madness and folly. For what can the man do who comes after the king? Only what has already been done. Then I saw that there is more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness. The wise person has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. And yet I perceived that the same event happens to all of them. Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.

Wisdom is vanity...Solomon found that even wisdom doesn't bring fulfillment because we all meet the same end no matter fool or wise. We all die. At this, Solomon despaired because it seemed that there was no hope for fulfillment or happiness. He had one last thing to try...work.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-23 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity. So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
Out of even work...Solomon found that you cannot take the things you labor for with you. All possessions, progress and striving will be lost when you die. We seek pleasure, wisdom and work but none of it will fulfill you...it's all empty - like trying to chase the wind. What would you think if every day you saw someone in your yard or neighborhood or park or work just running around all over the place literally trying to chase the wind? Would you think him a fool? Would you think he was crazy? Would you think that his life was pointless...going nowhere? When we strive for fulfillment in pleasure, wisdom and work...we are no different than that man who is chasing wind. We will not find infinite fulfillment in finite things.
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after. 
 Generations come and go but nothing changes. You might be thinking, "Well...I'm fairly certain that Solomon wasn't using an iPad to jot down his thoughts." You'd be correct...but Solomon isn't talking about technology. He's talking about the fact that ever since the beginning of time, we've been searching for fulfillment. We've been chasing wind...not going anywhere for generations. Maybe you've found temporary fulfillment in academic success, sex or money. Maybe you feel extremely happy with that...but let me tell you, it won't give you significance or purpose. When you die, it's all gone. Sometimes, it will all be gone long before you die...it's fleeting.

So Solomon searched the world over and couldn't find a single thing on the earth that would give him fulfillment or happiness. He found that it was all vanity...it was all worthless. At the end of his search, he came to this conclusion:
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Fear God and keep his commandments...this is an eternal fulfillment. This gives us an eternal relationship with the God who made us and sustains us. God will fulfill you...everything you need is in Him! Are you running after wind or are you being fulfilled by the only one who can truly fulfill you? Don't miss the gospel in all of this.

We have searched for ages for fulfillment in the things of this world...we look among created things instead of to the creator of all things.
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

 We owe God a debt...we love his stuff but we rebel against him. We put all our eggs and all our dreams into a worldly basket...we worship stuff.
Ecclesiastes 1:15 What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.
We put all our hopes and dreams and lives into crooked, worldly, lacking things instead of a perfect and infinite God.

Here's the deal though, we can't come to a place where we are seeking out God all on our own. God loves us and wants to have a right relationship with us...but because of our sin...there's a separation there. God sent his Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life in our place...he didn't stray like we do...he lived a perfect life and died on a cross to take the punishment that we deserved for our sin and rebellion. God poured out all of his anger and wrath toward sin on his own son. Jesus conquered death and sin on the cross, rose again three days later, and now reigns in Heaven at the right hand of God the Father. So what dos this have to do with us? Through repentance of our sins and faith in Jesus, we can have a right relationship with God, we can pursue fulfillment in Him rather than in chasing the wind.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
There is no way to find fulfillment or happiness or eternal life except through Jesus.
Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Through the gospel, Jesus saved you from a pointless and vain life. What a cool thought. We don't have to chase wind anymore...we can have a right relationship with God and be eternally fulfilled in him.

Please hear me, I'm not saying to quit school or quit your job or stop doing things you enjoy doing...I'm saying that ultimately, you need to make following God your first priority. If you fear God and keep his commandments, everything else will fall into place. Don't give up your responsibilities...God has you at school, at work, or wherever you are for a reason. Pursue God in your school, pursue God in your work, pursue God in everything you do and you will not live a vain life. Praise God that he rescued us from chasing wind and made a way for us to be completely fulfilled in him.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guess what...

STARTS TONIGHT!!!

I am so excited for M28 to start up again! After a summer of discipleship and book studies, I'm so excited to see what God is going to do this semester/year. Tuesday night we had our first event, Capture the Flag...about 75 people came out and I got the opportunity to share the gospel with someone...if that's any indication about how amazing this semester is going to be...I'm beyond thrilled to see what God is going to do on campus and in the lives of those in M28. So if you think about us, please be praying for us that God would use us, pray for the campus of UNCC, and overall just pray that he would work mightily in us and through us this year. Can't wait to share with you again! Also, check out M28's awesome website... m28charlotte.com

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Scripture vs. Society: Mediocrity (Just a side note)

Wow...well said Emily. I think she is right on point and I wanted to add my voice to this weeks topic. Mediocrity is definitely something that pricks my heart...it is so easy to just settle for what those around us expect from us rather than stepping up and doing what God calls us to do.

I was talking to my mom about this the other day while we were watching the Olympics...about how interesting it was to be the youngest in a group and no matter how talented you are, it is still surprising to people when you do well. Even sometimes in the church. At one point, I was in a small group where I was the only person under the age of 25(I think I was only 12 or 13). I remember people being shocked every time I opened my mouth and brought something of value. It didn't matter that they'd known me for years or that I regularly contributed to the conversation...they didn't expect it from me because I was young.

Kids these days aren't expected to do anything! If we really want to get down to it, lets go back a few decades even...women my age were probably already married and had children. Children of all ages were expected to wake up early, do chores, tend to the farm, cook, clean, hunt, fish, do laundry, do the dishes, and so much more! Children today can't even be made to put away their own clothes or make their own beds...and heaven forbid unloading the dishwasher!

This is a fail of epic proportions. We have all failed our culture by lowering our expectations. Our older people have given up expecting from us the things that were expected of them when they were our age...and because of that, we who are growing into adulthood are expecting even less of the coming generations. We have to put a stop to this! We cannot continue to allow the expectation level to sink any lower...we have to stand and raise the bar!
1 Corinthians 13:11 - When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Where in that scripture does it say anything about being a teenager or a young adult? Where in there does it say that even though I look like an adult and sound like an adult, I can still act like a child? It doesn't. Plain and simple. This is a call for maturity and the expectation level is pretty high...it's God's expectations for us.

We can no longer afford to be complacent and mediocre...the next generation needs our example. We cannot expect them to do much if we don't do much. We are failing right now...we have fallen to the worlds expectations of us. So wherever you are, put down your game controller...turn off your cell phone and go make your bed, go wash the dishes, go do your own laundry...go outside and see if your neighbor needs help...go get a job or if you have a job start working as if you've never worked before because...
Colossians 3:23-24 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
We are called to work for the Lord! We are called to live in this world but not to be of this world! That means not settling for the world's expectations of us. We are working for the kingdom of God...and that means whatever you do (making your bed or making disciples) you must go the extra mile and do things that are hard in order to make a difference...not only in this generation but the next as well. Rise up generation! This is not the time to be mediocre...this world needs us to set an example! Lead the way!

Scripture vs. Society: Mediocrity


 
Mediocre (adj.) - Of only moderate quality, not very good, ordinariness
Have you ever heard the phrase “monkey see, monkey do”?
In Alex and Brett Harris’s book, “Do Hard Things”, they talk about what I originally thought was the most random and impertinent thing: elephants of India. After reading and seeing the connection that was made between the elephants and my generation, I was stunned at the relevance to today’s culture. The analogy goes like this (paraphrased):
Fully grown elephants in India weight about 5 tons and are used to uproot trees and carry heavy loads with their enormous strength. But when it’s time to leave the elephant behind for the night, the owner takes a piece of string and ties the animal to the fencepost and every morning the elephant stays right where he was left.
Why?  Why can an animal used to uproot trees suddenly not easily be able to break a string?
Taken away from its mother, a baby elephant is trained very young. The owner places a shackle around its hind leg and attaches it to a tree trunk. After straining for weeks, the elephant eventually realized that its exertion is useless. Over time, smaller trees and chains are used until the elephant stays put with only a piece of string tying it to a small branch. Its mind is fully committed to the idea that it cannot go anywhere as long as something is around its back leg.
Just like the elephant, our generation is accepting defeat and settling for less because we’ve been conditioned by our twisted media and culture to believe that mediocrity is to be expected.
Think about it. Older generations are not surprised anymore when today’s youth and young adults are lazy, uninspired, promiscuous, and irresponsible. “We are fluent in multiple computer languages, but aren’t expected to be able to hold an intelligent conversation with other adults about things like personal finance, politics, or our faith.” (Alex Harris). We should be disgusted by this! Why are we sitting back and letting this image of us to develop?
History shows us that our generation can and should be much more competent and are capable of much higher goals than the ones we find ourselves generally faced with. It’s insulting where the bar of excellence has been placed for us recently. Children used to be encouraged to transition to adulthood as early as possible, now we seem to be prolonging the transition for much longer than necessary, leaving young adults almost completely unprepared for adult life.
“The only thing holding young people back in America today is the twine of this perpetual recess called adolescence and the twig of lowered social expectations. We expect immaturity and irresponsibility, from ourselves and from one another, and that is exactly what we get” (Alex and Brett again).
We fall short of our true potential because we aim only as big as the next fish in our small pond, but a commitment to growth kills complacency. We could be so much greater and make much more impact on the world around us if we actually lived up to what we know we’re really capable of. Why are we settling?
So what does this mean specifically for the Christian? What could happen if we took that mentality and drive for excellence and translated it into fuel for changing global issues like world hunger or the abolishment of modern day slavery? What does it look like for a disdain of the ordinary to be paired with the gospel of Christ?
I think God responds when a group of people, maybe especially young people, radically live for Him and pursue Him, when people use the enormous potential that they have to do what Jesus did, to rescue and change a lost and dying world, to change the course of nations.
Jaime Tworkowski, founder of the nonprofit, “To Write Love on her Arms”, writes:
“We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body and to move for things that matter. God is not invisible when we come alive.” I agree so greatly.
Our entire purpose is to live for and proclaim Christ. If we don’t start speaking up now, no one will. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of bare minimum Christianity.
The global cause that has gripped my heart for years now is the issue of human trafficking and the pursuit of the abolishment of modern day slavery. I took up that cause after I first heard about it at a “Next” Christian conference in Baltimore in 2009 and my passion for it has really grown (and is finally starting to materialize) this year through watching both the movie “Amazing Grace” and the Atlanta Passion2012 conference and reading the Alex and Brett Harris’s book “Do Hard Things (which I strongly recommend reading).
There is a quote from the “Amazing Grace” movie that really keeps me going and I believe so immensely that if we honestly took it to heart and lived like it, it would change history forever. The quote is simply this:
“We’re too young to believe that certain things are impossible, so we will do them anyway”.
So this is a call to my generation to start living up to our God given potential and purpose and raise our own bar for what is expected of us. Don’t accept the shackles of mediocrity. Let’s stop functioning on bare minimum Christianity and radically live for and proclaim Christ. Let’s start changing the world and making a positive name for ourselves in the history books.