Spiritual Growth

Scripture is Relevant

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By: Sean Scott

There are often sermons, seminars, or other talks that I listen to that hit me as profound in the moment, and even hours afterwards, but slip away from memory and I’ll never revisit them again… Does that sound familiar? Have you ever listened to anything and thought to yourself “I need to write these things down because I resonate with this and ought to use this in my daily life!”

This is an exercise of revisiting a series of sermons from our high school conference this past summer. Reverend Russ Whitfield, who is the director of Cross-Cultural advancement for RUF, was the keynote preacher for the RYM Colorado conference, and spent the week exploring various passages to drive home the larger point that “Scripture is Relevant”. Below, I will link to each talk and provide a short overview of what Russ covered in each passage.

At first, this post was simply aimed at providing a series of sermons in case you were interested in the topic “Scripture is Relevant”, but it has been more than that for me as I went back and listened to these talks. I find myself distracted by how busy my days are, wrapped up in work tasks, preparing a baby room at home, spending too much time on twitter, and often letting valuable resources like these fall to the side. Although these sermons are preached to high school students at a summer conference, I find myself scribbling furiously as he energetically explains and illustrates the ways in which God’s word speaks to our daily life as followers of Christ.

Talk 1: Jesus as the Benediction of God (Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:1-4)

Russ begins by introducing the series “Scripture is Relevant”. As he moves into Hebrews, he makes the point that “God speaks to different people in different situations, but he is always on target. We need to lift our expectations for what God can do in our lives.”

Ultimately, the truth we find in Hebrews 1:1-4 is that the author was most concerned that the audience heard their need of Jesus. Russ shares that “the most relevant thing to their situation is a reminder of the truth of who God is for us in Jesus.”

Have you ever wondered, specifically, how all the events in redemptive history led TO Jesus and all events thereafter only exist in the light of Him? Russ gets into that as well!

Talk 2: True Healing (John 5:1-17)

It’s hard to leave the life we know. It is hard to develop habits of running to Jesus for absolutely everything, and yet we know intellectually we are to do exactly that! This story in John’s gospel about the healing pool at Bethesda represents a story of a man seeking healing in the wrong places. Some of the questions Russ addresses: Where do we run for healing? Is the truth about who Jesus is at odds with who I want Jesus to be? Am I open to actually receiving true healing mercy?

Talk 3: How fear operates, How faith liberates (Isaiah 43)

We live in a culture of fear. And even though we are the people of God, we are susceptible to being governed by fear as well. God meets us with the command “Do not fear” frequently in the Bible, and yet isn’t that far easier said than done?

Isaiah 43:1-7 is a beautiful passage, Russ will walk through this text with the two points: How fear operates, and how faith liberates. This text describes people at a different time, and yet when we dig into the needs and fears they had, it’s like looking in a mirror. This passage is relevant to us, God’s word understands us and communicates truth about him in response.

Talk 4: God’s standard for neighbor love: Everyone, Always (Acts 10:1-35)

Russ goes through this story from Acts and tackles a hard topic. Do Christians lower the standard of neighbor love so that our lives as God’s people don’t have to look much different than the what we’re doing right now? Do we take a step back and look at the decisions we make in order to not be around people that aren’t already like us?

The proposition made is that “We must begin by seeing our own hearts as they are – then we need to see the heart of God as it pertains to this topic.” God brings people from all walks, all cultures, all skin colors to himself. God is building his church and this story is a beautiful picture of how he converts the most unlikely and will use even the churches greatest enemies for that purpose.

Talk 5: How do we respond to the Gospel…Every day? (Mark 4:1-20)

“You have to get in the script in such a way that the script would get into you … The Bible is a script. It is the story of the world, the story of humanity, highs and lows, character development. We learn the kind of character we are meant to become.”

Do we view the Bible as a book of laws? Or a book of advice? In this final sermon from RYM Colorado, Reverend Whitfield takes the parable of the sower and dives into our place in God’s story through two points: Engaging the script, and Embodying the script. We are to respond to the Gospel every day, and our response to the Gospel is the ground on which we’ll have to answer to God one day. What we do with the word of God matters!

The Foundation of Sin

By: Mike Newkirk

The Bible is full of stories. Stories are a primary vehicle that our Creator God uses to teach us about reality; the realities of who He is and who we are and what will come to pass. No surprise about that assertion. The Apostle Paul told us that in 1 Corinthians 10:6-11.[i] And stories, ours and others, are how we still learn.

One of the most compelling stories I have heard in recent years is the story of Rosaria Butterfield’s conversion to belief in Jesus Christ. Dr. Butterfield first wrote her biography, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, in 2012 (expanded version in 2014). She explains why she wrote it:

“I am often asked to share my spiritual journey. People are interested to know what it is like to travel a long journey to Christ. I am not hesitant to oblige. How our lives bear the fruit of Christ’s spilled blood is important. The stories of our lives can serve to encourage and warn others.”[ii]

Her story of conversion from a tenured professor at a major research university and an activist in the LGBTQ community to a follower of Christ, pastor’s wife, and home-schooling mother of four is dramatic and emotional yet logical and intellectual. Since I read her first book, I have had the chance to meet her and hear her story first hand several times. I learn something new each time. In several addresses, paraphrased, she identified her primary offense against God as unbelief not her homosexual lifestyle even though she saw that as sinful too.  And she said this unbelief was driven by her pride. The first and greatest commandment Jesus said was to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind. [iii]  Jesus also said that if you love me you will keep my commandments.[iv] Therefore, it follows that if I disregard what He has declared about anything then I am not loving Him. I am loving myself. I am following myself. What I want. What I think is acceptable. At that point I am not believing Him but choosing my prideful and arrogant way.

The reason her statement impacted me was the realization that I am the same. One of the passages in the Bible that most frequently comes to my mind is what the man in Mark 9:24 said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And yes, I also resonate with her declaring that at the root, unbelief linked to pride, is the real issue with my sinfulness. It makes me defensive when criticized although He has said He will defend me. It makes me critical of others when He has said to be gracious and loving. It makes me worried and anxious when He has clearly said He will never leave me nor forsake me and works all things for my ultimate good. I could go on.

I would encourage you to get her books or at least her testimony. This YouTube video of one of Dr. Butterfield’s talks captures the essence of her journey. She is a dear sister in Christ who is a gifted and compelling communicator.


 


References

[i] 1 Corinthians 10 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

[ii] Butterfield, Rosaria. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Kindle Locations 74-76). Crown & Covenant Publications. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (ESV)

[iv] John 14:15   “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

 

Loneliness, the Movie Solo, Motherhood, and Community Groups

By: Dan Seale

How are loneliness, the movie Solo, motherhood and community groups connected?

Before I make that connection, let me ask you…

Do you ever feel lonely? 

When do you feel lonely? 

Why do you feel lonely?

Surprisingly to me, I can sometimes feel lonely in crowds, or in busy seasons of life.  It seems to pop up at unexpected times.  It’s important to distinguish between loneliness and aloneness. They sometimes overlap but they are not the same thing.   Even though I am blessed with good friends, a close family, and a great church family, I still have times of loneliness. 

 

In Finding God in my Loneliness, Lydia Brownback writes,

Loneliness is an indicator that something is missing, and that something is found only in Jesus Christ…Loneliness is everywhere, but we don’t talk about it too often. Perhaps that’s because we’ve grown accustomed to its oppressive weight that we’ve lost awareness of it altogether.

This summer Sean Scott blogged about loneliness and linked to a very helpful article about this topic. (Read it here)

However, I want us to keep talking about this topic because I think it is a great entry way into talking Gospel conversations with one another and with those who do not yet know and follow Jesus.  Loneliness is all around us. Something seems off for people, and underneath all the possible solutions is the need to recognize that our loneliness is calling us to God and that God redeems our loneliness.   Pick up Finding God in my Loneliness if you want to see how God speaks into various causes/circumstances of loneliness.

Now what’s the connection between loneliness, Solo, motherhood and community groups?

Loneliness is a growing destructive epidemic and provides a great opportunity for us to direct ourselves and others to God who came near to us in Jesus.

 

Pastor Sam Allberry writes about how the movie Solo reveals that the answer to our aloneness is not necessarily romantic partnerships but deep friendship.  Chewie was in Han’s life far longer than Leia.  The movie shows the beauty of friendship. Read his thoughts here.

 

Melissa Kreuger writes about the loneliness of motherhood, the beauty of friendship and the goodness of God in this article.  This shows how friendship can help us connect to God and one another more intimately.

 

Lastly, community groups provide a set time and space in your schedule to share life with other people.  We need to make space to find and build the kind of friendships that help us enjoy and pursue God.  If you are feeling disconnected or lonely, consider getting involved as we relaunch community groups in October.

 

God and the gift of friendship, with him and with others, are the medicine to our bouts of loneliness.  Fight to push towards God and believe and act on what is true. If you are His, you are never alone.

The Community of Jesus

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
— Proverbs 18:1

By: Brad Rogers

As a pastor, I have noticed that whenever people become isolated, trouble usually follows.  In my own life, some of my greatest times of growth have come when others were courageously, thoughtfully and gracefully willing to show me where the reality of my life did not line up with the life Jesus called me to live.  As much as I would like to avoid such conversations, God has used them to help me become more like Jesus.  Sometimes though, I just to hide from others and do my own thing, pursue my own desires.  When I do, I am prone to think that I am only hurting myself.  In this short article, Tim Challies shows how that is just not the case.  As you read it, I invite you to think about your involvement in the community of Christ as it relates to your own growth as well as the growth of others.

Read the article here

Walking Faithfully with Jesus Through 50 Years of Pain and Suffering

By: Brad Rogers

The idea of living a fruitful and pleasing life before the Lord in the midst of debilitating suffering is not something most of us in our success-driven culture think is possible much less desirable.   I have never met Joni Erickson Tada, but she is a hero to me because she has walked with the Lord for over 50 years through trials so severe, they are almost unimaginable.  Yet, her faith and walk with the Lord are a vibrant testimony to His goodness.  Whenever I read anything she writes or says, I find I have a better grip on reality, and I find myself desiring to know Jesus the way that she does – just without the pain.  Her theology is rich and practical. If you don’t know of Joni or have never read any of her writing, this interview (published last year in Christianity Today on the 50th anniversary of her diving accident that left her quadriplegic for life) is a great place to start.  If you do know of her and have read much of her writing, I am sure you will be glad to hear from her again.  Read the article here