BASIC. Follow Jesus.

Ever thought much about what it really means to follow Jesus? I mean, I’m sure we’ve all spent time in church talking about what it means to follow Jesus. But, do our everyday lives really follow the steps of our Master? Check out this week’s video preview of “BASIC. Follow Jesus.”

We sometimes look at the Bible as words to build theological doctrines upon, as words to systematically study, or as words to memorize and meditate upon. But do we sometimes forget the most basic application of Scripture as words to do? As a life manual for how we are to live our everyday lives? Christ gives us a sobering reminder in Matthew 7 that God is not impressed with the fluff: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). So what is the will of our Heavenly Father exactly? For one thing, Jesus said, “Go, make disciples.” Are we intentionally seeking opportunities in our lives to live out this command?

Perhaps another interesting insight comes from Christ’s parable of the judgment in Matthew 25:

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.” … “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

Notice that the Judge doesn’t say, “Because you believed the right doctrines” or “Because you worshiped on the right day” or “Because you tithed faithfully.” It all has to do with whether we live out love for one another. Of course, this parable is not intended to systematically outline the conditions of salvation – salvation comes by faith and grace alone! But this parable reveals the pivotal point that God is very concerned about whether or not we are serving the needs of others. One of the most important ways we follow Jesus, then, is by living out His example to our fellow brothers and sisters in this world. Everything else falls into place after that. “If you love Me, keep My commandments…. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 14:15; 15:12).

You might also enjoy this video illustration, “Clean Your Room”:

(Videos and quoted materials taken from http://basicseries.com/)

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BASIC. Fear God.

We decided to change things up a little with our new Stepping Stones series. We’re using a seven-part video series called BASIC by Pastor Francis Chan as a launching pad for our classroom discussion. This series explores some of the basic pillars of the early New Testament church. Check out this shortened version of our first video, “Fear God”:

When we think of some of the basic building blocks of the Christian walk, I doubt any of us would start with “fear” as one of those blocks. It’s an idea we aren’t comfortable with, and yet, we find it absolutely everywhere in Scripture! We often run across these “fear” passages and we sort of brush them aside or even apologize for them: “Well,” we say, “‘fear’ doesn’t really mean ‘fear’ – it’s more like ‘a sense of respect.'” But what if Scripture’s demands to fear the LORD mean exactly what they say they mean? What, then, do we do with this idea of fearing God? How could God actually want us to be afraid of Him? I think it comes down to this: The biblical “fear of the Lord” is the realization and acknowledgment of the fact that God is a Being of infinite, incomprehensible power and supremacy, and we can’t control Him. He is a Creator who simply refuses to be limited by our attempts to define and constrain Him. At times in Scripture, much to our chagrin, He even defies our protocols of “niceness” and “friendliness.” I am reminded of this quote from C.S. Lewis when the children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ask who Aslan is. Mr. Beaver responds: “‘Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.’ ‘Ooh’ said Susan. ‘I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion’…’Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver …’Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the king, I tell you.'”

You see, when we finally realize our Creator God does not fit neatly into our definitions of “safeness” or “tameness,” our first response to this God’s immense, mind-blowing power is, in fact, to fear Him! That’s what we naturally do as humans – we fear things that we can’t fully define, control, and predict. And there is a sense in which we all need to come to that point of fearing God – of realizing that He is Someone infinitely bigger and more powerful than anything our wildest dreams could ever conceive! We need to reach that point so that our arrogance and our stubbornness will disintegrate in that experience! But our God doesn’t want to leave us in that place of fear, does He? That’s why God’s next words are always “Fear not…”

“And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Revelation 1:17-18).

Instead of keeping us distant and aloof from God, true biblical fear of God is a force that actually drives us into deeper intimacy with Him: “The secret of the LORD [the secrecy of intimate relationship] is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant” (Psalm 25:14). As Pastor Chan points out, once we’ve come to the point of complete vulnerability, complete nakedness – and even complete knee-knocking fear – in the presence of this infinitely powerful Deity, we then realize that there is nothing more to fear! We come to a place where we can simply rest in His awesome strength. Because we realize that this terrifyingly powerful God is, in fact, on our side: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Believe it or not, this same all-powerful God actually wants to call us His friends… He wants to call us His children! When we stop fighting Him, when we stop stubbornly challenging Him, we find ourselves in a place where can accept Him for who He says He is and simply rest in His embrace of unfailing love.

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:17-19)

(Videos and quoted materials taken from http://basicseries.com/)

God’s Plan Wins

Jealousy, betrayal, accusation, imprisonment, restoration, reunion – all part of one of the most amazing and dramatic stories in all of Scripture, the story of Joseph! In fact, Joseph plays such a prominent role in the Bible that it takes nearly 13 chapters to span his life. But what does the story of Joseph mean for us? How can we apply his lessons to our lives today? Our Stepping Stones class has spent a number of weeks and thought-provoking discussions on Joseph’s life, and I would like to share three of our key takeaways.

First, God never left Joseph’s side. Over the highs and lows, God was with Joseph through it all. When Joseph was steward of Potiphar’s house, we read that, “The Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did” (Genesis 39:2, NLT). And then when Joseph is thrown into prison because of the treachery of Potiphar’s wife, we again read: “But the LORD was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love.” (Genesis 39:21, NLT). God used Joseph’s darkest trial as an opportunity to demonstrate His unfailing, everlasting love!We need to remember this lesson for our own lives. No matter what we might be going through, God is always with us – no matter how difficult our situation might seem to be. God wants to use these trying times in our lives as opportunities to reveal His faithful love. The question for us is: will we give Him the chance?

Second, Joseph’s story provides a radical example of forgiveness. In many ways, Joseph’s life parallels the life of Jesus Christ. When Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers, he is in a position of absolute power over them. Just one snap of his fingers, and they would all get what they had coming to them – and they would deserve every bit of it too! But, instead, Joseph chooses forgiveness. Christ was also betrayed by His family. We are all guilty of betraying the Son of God! But, guess what, God has good news for us: “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:10, NIV)

But the most important takeaway from Joseph’s story is also the most significant lesson from the entire book of Genesis: God’s plan wins! As Joseph stands before his brothers, he makes an incredibly profound statement: “Even though you planned evil against me, God planned good to come out of it.” (Genesis 50:20, GWT).

Friends, we’ve just spent the last six months journeying through Genesis. We watched in Eden as God put into place His perfect plan for us. And then we watched as mankind shattered that perfect plan. But God still had a plan, and He called men of faith like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to play a part in it. Yet we watched as these same men managed to royally screw up the plan over and over and over again! But, guess what, God’s plan still wins! Guys, we serve an incredibly awesome and powerful God – a God who is able to take the worst of our failings and make something beautiful come out of the ashes. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT).

Friends, we’ve seen our God’s magnificent power and matchless love on every page of Genesis. I pray that each of you will take some time this week to read through a little of Genesis on your own and fellowship with this amazing Creator.

Keep an eye out for our next study series! God bless!