Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gospel and Salvation (Week 2 of Gospel Series)

Learning Experience:
People gather in groups of 3-4 to put together the pieces of the puzzle. However, the pieces they are given don’t match the picture on the envelope.
What happened?
When you realized that the pieces didn’t fit the picture, what did you do?
Were you more committed to the pieces or to the picture on the envelope?

The picture on your envelope is called “The Bridge Illustration.” It works like this. We are the person on the left. God wants us to have life and joy and peace. But we sinned and made a huge gap between us and God. Because we sinned, and because “the wages of sin are death,” death is coming our way. We live a life that isn’t really life, and when we die, we’ll go to hell for eternal death.

Most of us try to bridge the gap. We try to do good things, to help other people. Maybe we go to church or give money to the poor. We try to get closer to God, but we can never be good enough. We always fall short.

But here’s the good news. Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He died instead of us. He made a bridge for us to be close to God. Now we can put our faith in Jesus to forgive our sins so that we can live with God again. Now we can have life with God in heaven.

I grew up with the Bridge Illustration. I have probably drawn it 100 times to explain the gospel to others. The beauty is that it is simple. It is easy to draw and easy to understand.

But over the past few years, I have begun to feel like this picture is too simple. At first, I started to make changes to the picture. I added an arrow for faith – showing that we put our trust in Jesus and cross the bridge. I drew a community of people on the side with God to show that we’re part of the church.

But finally, I decided that I couldn’t make enough changes to this picture to really describe the Gospel that we find in the Bible. This picture of salvation was too small, too individualistic, too much like a business transaction, to stagnant. After the person puts their faith in Jesus, they are done. That’s the end of the picture. They cross over. They become a Christian. The end.

That’s not what I read in the Bible. Becoming a Christian is the beginning of a journey, not the end. When we become a Christian, we still have a lot of work and learning left to do. We need a new picture. We need a new way of thinking about the Gospel and salvation. ...

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Gospel and The Bible (Gospel Series: Week 1)

When I was growing up in the 1980’s, there was a huge controversy about backmasked messages in rock music. Conservative Christian groups began accusing various famous rock bands of having secret backward messages in their music that would entice people to follow Satan, use drugs, or have illicit sex.

Ÿ Led Zeplin’s song “Stairway to Heaven” is alleged to have the backward message: “Here’s to my sweet Satan.”

Ÿ Queen was accused of including “It’s fun to smoke marijuana,” backmasked in their famous song, “Another One Bites the Dust.”

Most bands vigorously denied these claims. However, as the fury and controversy over backmasking raged in the 1970s and 1980s, some bands joined the backmasking trend with some funny messages.

Ÿ In 1979, Pink Floyd backmasked the message: “Congratulations! You’ve just found the secret message.”

Ÿ Weird Al Yankovic hid the message: “Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands.”

There are hundreds of real or alleged backmasked messages. Some of these backward messages are funny. Some are strange, and some are scary. But the simple truth is: when you play something backwards, sometimes you get an entirely different message.

Most of us here today really start reading the Bible at the end. We start with the book of Revelation and its dramatic pictures of heaven and hell. Heaven will be streets of gold and pearly gates and everyone will be filled with joy worshiping God, no tears, no pain, no sadness. Hell will be fiery furnaces and pits of sulfur and ash and eternal torment day and night. Of course, we all want to go to heaven and avoid hell. But how?

Well, we keep reading backwards. . . .

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Exiled King - Isaiah 62

Isaiah 62

Once upon a time, there was a great King, who was just and fair and humble. The motto of his Kingdom was: LOVE AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. He taught his people how to live well. The King helped his people to love each other and to help each other. He taught them that everyone is connected, that one person’s success is a victory for all of us, and that another person’s suffering is a wound in all our hearts. He taught people to live with kindness and mercy – helping the weak, befriending the lonely, hugging the children, celebrating with joy, and encouraging the good in all to flourish and grow. His Kingdom grew, and his people prospered.
However, as is often the case, some powerful people wanted more power. They didn’t like this love and justice philosophy. They believed in the survival of the fittest. They believed that everyone gets what they deserve. The strong should get stronger, and the weak … Well, who cares about them anyway.
This group of power-hunger Powerfuls led a coup d’etat. In a quiet revolt, they sent the King into exile and imposed a new government. Their motto was: FREEDOM AND HAPPINESS FOR ALL. They filled the streets with their propaganda: “Let us throw off those ancient social norms. Let us rid ourselves of the shackles of concern for others. Live free. Pursue happiness above all else. If you want it, do it. If you like it, buy it. If you can’t afford it, work for it and work some more. Anyone can have anything they want if they only work hard enough or smart enough.
Most people gladly accepted this new government and their message about life. It is not easy always being concerned about others. Often that means putting aside what we want – at least for a while. This new way of life was much easier. It was such a relief simply to be concerned about yourself. There was a time of celebrating and revelry in the streets. Wine and women moved freely.
But carnival cannot last forever...

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God Sent You!

ONE 2009

If you are not yet a member of ONE, sign up and help out!
If we join together, we really can eliminate extreme poverty this century. (Extreme poverty is defined on living on less than US$1 a day.)

Good Advice (mostly)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Precious - Isaiah 43:1-7

KNU International English Church

Josh Broward

January 10, 2010

A few years ago YoungMin told us a story about Tommy Walker, a Christian worship leader. When Tommy was traveling, his group regularly visited inner city ministries that were serving poor children. They would just go and hang out with the kids.

At one ministry center, there was a little girl named Jenny. She sat next to Tommy and picked up a crayon and said, “My name is Jenny. What’s your name?”

Later, on the swings, she said, “Hi! Do you remember my name?”

Tommy said, “Yeah, hi Jenny.”

Later, while they were eating some snacks, she looked at Tommy and said, “Do you remember me? What’s my name?” He said, “Yeah, you’re Jenny. Want another cookie?” Again and again throughout the day, Jenny found Tommy and asked him: “Do you remember my name? What’s my name? Do you remember my name?”

Tommy asked the local workers what was going on, “Why does she keep asking me if I remember her name?”

They said lots of people come in and out of that ministry center. Many of them don’t really bother to learn the kids’ names since they won’t be staying very long. When they come back and they don’t remember the kids’ names, the kids feel hurt. They feel like they don’t really matter, like they’re not really important. Jenny was trying to make sure that Tommy remembered her. She was trying to make sure that she mattered.

That really impacted Tommy. He thought about Jenny and all of the other kids in all of the other poor communities he had visited. He realized that there are lots of Jenny’s in the world – lots of kids nobody remembers, lots of kids who feel like they don’t matter, lots of kids for whom nobody knows their names. He realized that he couldn’t reach all of those kids. He couldn’t love them all. He couldn’t help them all. He couldn’t remember all of their names.

But he also realized that there is someone who can. He went home and wrote the song “He Knows My Name,” about the God who loves us, remembers us, and deeply values each one of us.

I have a Maker
He formed my heart
Before even time began
My life was in his hands

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call

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