All Enter Life Sessions

Awesome things we totally didn’t expect

This is Session 3 in Series 4 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 4 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

Can you think of a time when you were in a tight or awkward situation and really needed some help? Did anyone come to your rescue? By the time Jesus was old enough to begin his public ministry people’s expectations of what God had promised were pretty high. They had been waiting for a really long time. I think most were hoping for a mighty warrior like David who would drive out all the foreign armies and let them live peacefully again in their own country. Isaiah had done nothing to reduce their expectations when he spoke this promise from God long before:

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known … and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Isaiah 64:1-3

Part of Mark’s job was to show people that what God had given them in Jesus was actually far more awesome (and I really mean AWESOME) than they could have expected in their wildest dreams. Mark writes four stories that give a glimpse of the kind of guy Jesus really was, here they are:

Mark 4:35-41, 5:1-20, 5:21-34, 5:35-43

As you read these, keep in your mind that phrase ‘awesome things we did not expect’. Notice how amazed, confused and even frightened people are when they see Jesus in action. Mark is trying to show them two things about this guy Jesus:

  • Who we was
  • What life would be like when Jesus is in charge

Take the story about Jesus speaking to the wind and the waves, telling them what to do. Only one person had ever done that before:

  • In Genesis 1:9-10 – God shoves the water to one side to create dry land
  • In Exodus 14:21-22 – God creates splits the water of the Red Sea to create a pathway for Moses and his people to pass through
  • Joshua 3: 9-17 – God stops the river Jordan to again create a dry crossing

And now here’s Jesus saying to the wild water: ‘Quiet! Be still!’ No wonder the disciples were scared out of their boots: ‘who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!’ (Mark 4:41) Jesus wasn’t just some guy who could do cool things. He was unlike any other human being who ever lived. Fully human but also fully God. In the next three stories Jesus demonstrates pretty awesome God-like qualities too: the ability to dominate evil spirits; the power to heal; and the ability to bring people back to life. But Jesus is doing something else too. He’s showing people what life is going to be like when he is fully in charge of things. Revelation 21:1-5 tells of what life is going to be like in God’s new Kingdom:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Jesus is beginning to show people what that looks like. The woman who had been bleeding for year, the guy controlled by demons and the little girl who died – all experienced Jesus’ kind of life in a radically new way. The people who looked on had to keep picking their jaws up off the ground. They had never seen anything like this before. Amazing things they never expected. Somewhere Isaiah was quietly smiling to himself.

Your story
What are the most obvious signs of the kingdom of darkness in the places you spend the week? Pick one of these stories and spend some time imagining yourself in the place of the person who’s at the center of the story. Try and enter the story in your imagination as much as you can. What’s the strongest thing you might be feeling before and then after Jesus does his thing? Hold on to that afterwards-feeling.

If Jesus’ Kingdom is about experiencing the rule of God … does this help you understand God’s Kingdom better? Which one of the ‘before’ parts of these stories fits most closely with your life right now?

  • Feeling swamped and terrified by things that are out of your control that threaten to sink you
  • Struggling with the effects of evil or just plain bad stuff around you, not even knowing who to turn to
  • Feeling that somehow you are not good enough for other people or for God – you’re ‘unclean’ like the woman – and you can’t seem to shake it. All you can do is reach out and try to touch the hem of Jesus’ coat.
  • There’s weeping and mourning around you, or in your life – maybe related to something or someone you’ve lost. There doesn’t seem to be much hope for the future.

Some of the people in these stories had great faith that Jesus could rescue them, others had hardly any faith, one person didn’t even know Jesus existed … Jesus can work with even the tiny little bit of faith we can scrape together and do mighty things in your life – or in the lives of your friends.

Is there anything about the faith you have in Jesus that needs to change?

What are some specific things you can do to grow a more dependent kind of faith?

How does what you’ve encountered today help you pray: ‘Lord, let your Kingdom come in my life’?

 

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What if God was one of us?

 

This is Session 2 in Series 4 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 4 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


Gabriel She struck the angel Gabriel as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child, but he’d been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it. He told her what the child was to be named, and who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her. ‘You mustn’t be afraid, Mary,’ he said. As he said it, he only hoped she wouldn’t notice that beneath the great, golden wings he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of creation hung now on the answer of a girl.

Frederick Buechner, Peculiar Treasures. Read the story in Luke 1:26-35 here

 

The Story so Far… Ever since that mind-blowing experience on Mount Sinai with Moses, God had been trying to keep his rebellious people more or less on track. He drew as straight as he could with the crooked and fragile lines of their lives. God sent a long line of prophets to announce a new punishment or a new blessing depending on how faithful to God his people had been. And then things just kind of petered out … God stopped speaking. For Four. Hundred. Years. (that’s quite a long time)

The religious authorities got nervous. People began asking questions: What was going on? What about the promised return home? Has God finally come to his senses and given up on us? What was happening with the Relationship Rescue plan our ancestors were so excited about? Were all those prophecies about someone who would save everyone wrong?

And then one day, quietly, some strange things began to happen. Rumours of angels began to circulate. A few people who remembered the Old Story started to pay attention. But looking back afterwards no-one – no-one – could admit that had the slightest idea of what God was about to do. Human beings had been very good at demonstrating how bad they were at keeping their side of the relationship agreement with God. Now God was going to solve that puzzle by becoming human himself. A holy human being who would finally be able to faithfully obey what God asked. Thing is: if you’re God, then becoming a human is quite messy, and a bit limiting:

  • The One who formed the stars became an embryo growing inside a young woman’s womb.
  • God stepped out of a timeless eternity and became captive to time – measured by his heartbeats
  • Stepping back a bit from the beauty and joy of an intimate relationship with God in heaven, Jesus had to learn what it felt like to be lonely and hungry, how to endure pain.

The technical word for what Jesus went through was incarnation. The root of that word is that same as the word carnivore. Jesus – who had been there with God since before the beginning, was about to become a piece of meat – well, more or less. John wrote what is probably the best description of what Jesus did.

The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. The Word was God, in readiness for God from day one. Everything was created through him;nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.

 The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

 No one has ever seen God, not so much as a glimpse. This one-of-a-kind God-Expression, who exists at the very heart of the Father, has made him plain as day.

John 1: 1-18. Read the whole text here

That was the mission – to show us what the invisible God was like, to bring grace into the world, to finally do something about sin and evil.

One of Us
A singer called Joan Osborne once wrote a song called One of Us that went:

If God had a name what would it be? And would you call it to his face? If you were faced with Him in all His glory What would you ask if you had just one question? …What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us Just a stranger on the bus Tryin’ to make his way home?

Jesus was God becoming one of us. The writer of Hebrews says that because Jesus did that God knows first-hand what it is like to be human with a body; to be hungry and tired, to be tempted, to suffer, even to die.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15

Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted, he knows what pain – emotional and physical – feels like, he knows what it is like to live in a fragile body in a broken world. There is no other god who can make this kind of claim.

The Most Crazy Thing This massive act of submission by Jesus might make a bit more sense if it was for just a little while. The Gospels say Jesus was about 33 years old when he died. I guess in the context of eternity that’s not a very long time. The amazing truth, really, is that when Jesus got himself a meaty body and became a man – it was forever. Jesus will always be human – fully human and fully God. There was no expiry date on Jesus’ decision to become like one of us.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body Philippians 3:20-21

Your Story and God’s Story

What difference does it make to know that Jesus was also a teenager once – with bad skin, unpredictable hormones and crazy dreams for the future?

Jesus knows what life is like at your age. How could that change the way you talk to him now?

One of the most significant parts of the story is when Mary said to (the trembling?) Gabriel: ‘Ok, I’m willing to do this.’ How willing are you to say the same thing in response to the things that God is forming inside you?

The best response to finding out something this amazing about God is to worship. If that’s something you’re willing to do, how could you do that now?

 

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A New Kind of Holiness

 

This is Session 4 in Series 4 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 4 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

 

Who are the outsiders in the places you spend time during the week: the people who never get invited to parties, the ones who are always the butt of the joke? Who are the people whose lives are so ‘bad’ that you might not want anything to do with them?

Back in Bible times, a lot of the religious leaders were very aware that the Covenant – God’s Relationship Rescue Plan – was not being kept by many people. There just wasn’t a whole lot of faithfulness to God around, let alone holiness… These leaders became obsessed with trying to stay faithful to the Covenant – and particularly the Law that God had given them through Moses. They were so obsessed with this that they wrote a whole lot of extra laws. And when I say ‘a lot’ I mean like 613 extra ones

It’s a huge and tragic irony that in the end they completely missed the point of what God was trying to do. They were keeping the Law as well as they could but they didn’t care much for other people. God didn’t like that. After all, it was people and relationships that God was trying to rescue.

Inside or Out? Back in those days everyone knew who was inside or outside the holy group. The Pharisees made sure they were ‘inside’ but there were a whole lot of people left stranded on the outside. Enter Jesus, the Holy One, God in the flesh, full of righteousness and grace.

Guess which group he wanted to hang out with?

Capture5

Check out the story Mark tells in Mark 2v13-17. In those days a ‘sinner’ was someone who was considered an outsider because of their failure to observe the Law in the microscopic detail the Pharisees wanted. They were outsiders To go to someone’s house and share a meal with them was an intimate and trusting thing to do. You fully associated yourself with the person whose meals you ate. While he was at the tax collectors house Jesus invited other ’sinful’ people to join them. While the religious leaders watched in speechless horror, Jesus enjoys the party – eating and drinking with every kind of dirty, ‘sinful’ person he could find… Spend a few moments entering the scene at the party in your imagination:

  • What can you imagine Jesus is thinking and feeling as he hangs out with these people?
  • Imagine you are Levi – a tax-collector despised by just about everybody but now entertaining this famous Rabbi in your own house. What are you feeling?
  • What does this story reveal about the kinds of people God cares about? Who, if any, might be excluded from this?

So, what is true holiness? That’s the issue at the heart of this story. The teachers of the Law were obsessed with holiness. It was the only way Israel would ever be redeemed. Jesus was passionate about holiness too—and yet his actions seemed so offensive to those Pharisees … The heart of holiness as Jesus demonstrates it is not about keeping the Covenant Law but about ‘keeping people’. It’s about getting our hearts right and working to be in right relationship with God and people The best way to describe ‘righteousness’ is right-relatedness. We are right with God when our relationships are right – with God, with others, with creation, with ourselves … Jesus’ love for Levi and his friends and his desire to bring them into his kingdom far outweighed any concerns he might have had about being associated with ‘law-breakers’.

In John 1:18 we read this: ‘No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.’ If we see Jesus acting like that then we know that’s what God is passionate about too.

Seeing your story in the Story
Hebrews 12:2 says Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith – that is he begins, shapes and fully maps out everything the Christian life is about. With that in mind, what does Mark’s story show us about what an authentic Jesus-following life looks like? Think back to the outsiders you know about —the people no-one else wants to hang out with or even be associated with. What would it look like for you to do the kinds of things Jesus did with those kinds of people? What would motivate you to even want to try? When Jesus – the God-Man – arrived on the planet he blew a lot of people’s minds about who God was and what God wanted from us. I think Jesus still does that today.

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The Lucky Ones

We may have our own ideas about who the lucky ones are in this world. The people other people want to be: the rich, beautiful, famous and super-talented maybe? Jesus paints a picture of what the people are like who rock in his world. It’s very different. It’s beautiful. It’s what we’ll become like if we keep hanging out with him.

The Post

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A whole bunch of people have trekked from all over to see the amazing things Jesus is doing and to hear the almost unbelievable things he’s talking about. Jesus gets them all together and tells them something that will rock their worlds – and ours … He describes the people who ‘win’ in his world. It’s like he puts up some Roll of Honour boards but the categories are completely different to anything you’ll see in your school hall. It’s not a list that would make sense in the normal world. But Jesus calls these people ‘blessed’. That word blessed means something like ‘happy’ or ‘in sync with the way things really are’. Or …

you’re the ones who rock in my world!

Are these people the rich or the super-talented – the ones with millions of followers on their YouTube channel? Or maybe the super-holy, you know, the perfect people who never seem to do anything wrong? Well , they could be … but so could you and me and people who look pretty average on the outside.

In this session we look at four of the things Jesus describes (we don’t have space in this series to get to them all). You’ll find that at the end of these notes.

Here are some thoughts on the things Jesus describes in general:

1. When Jesus lists the various characteristics he’s not talking about different kinds of people who maybe have that one things going for them. Jesus is talking about ONE person who has ALL of those things growing in them. Wow …
2. The things Jesus describes don’t come naturally to any of us (in our sinful state). The only way these things can become part of who we are is if they grow in us – just like the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5v 22-23). If we hang out with Jesus and do what he said right at the beginning: believe that God’s Kingdom is near and repent – change our way of thinking and acting, we’ll begin to see these things more in our lives.
3. The third thing follows on from the second – we can’t make ourselves become more like the people Jesus describes here. We have to let God work in us.

In the Beatitudes Jesus talks about eight characteristics of people who rock in His world. Here are some thoughts on four of them

Blessed are the poor in spirit….
Have you ever felt that, as much as you want to, you are hopelessly unable to live the kind of life that would actually have a chance of pleasing God? Ever felt that no matter how hard you try you suck at being a good Christian? Yes? Well congratulations! You rock in Jesus’ world! Cos that’s what being poor in spirit is about.

‘You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.’ (The Message)

The funny thing is – the more people grow close to God, the more they realise how sinful and desperately in need of God’s mercy and grace they are. They become ‘poorer in spirit’ – and that’s the place God can begin to work in them. People who reckon they’re doing pretty well and have things nicely sorted with God … yeah not so much. But the broken-hearted and those who realise they are absolutely dependent on God’s mercy and grace. You’re the winner … the Kingdom of heaven belongs to people like you.

Blessed are those who mourn …
Ok, so mourning isn’t something we usually want to spend a lot of time doing. But here’s what happens as Jesus draws us into his way of life: we begin to see what real Life could be like, our eyes start to focus on an amazing new vision of what happens when things go the way God wants them to. And then, when we see the world as it is now – our broken, messed up world, and our broken, messed-up lives – we get upset that things are so wrong. We feel sad, or even angry. We don’t like it and we want to do something about it.

That’s mourning. Jesus said people who mourn like that rock in his world, they are the lucky ones – because they will be comforted. The word ‘comforted’ actually means ‘filled with strength’ (from the Latin cum (with) forte (strength) ). The Holy Spirit comes alongside you and fills you with strength so that you can hang in there while we wait for God to make all things new. Pretty awesome hey?

Blessed are the meek …
This would be an awkward one if the word ‘meek’ here meant someone who’s a bit like Dobby from Harry Potter – you, know … weak and submissive, always being trampled on like a doormat. It’s not like that at all … There are only two people in the Bible who are described as ‘meek’: Moses and Jesus. If you know their stories you’ll know they are as un-Dobby like as it’s possible to be. In the Bible people who are ‘meek’ are those who have learned not to rely on their own strength and abilities but rather to lean on God and trust God to help them.

Psalm 37 describes perfectly what a ‘meek’ person is like:

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

The ‘meek’ are invincible because they have learned to trust and rely on the One who truly is invincible. People who are ‘meek’ don’t rely on fighting and pushing other people around to get what they want because they know God has good things in store for them. ‘Meek’ people don’t retaliate or become obsessed with getting even because they know God will take care of that. The ‘meek’ are like an eagle that sits on a branch high up, expectant and waiting for the right moment to launch itself and go soaring in the thermals, carried along on God’s strength. Jesus promises that that those who become ‘meek’ and learn to rely on Jesus will inherit the earth because Jesus himself will inherit the earth. You get to share in Jesus’ inheritance – which is pretty much everything God owns, which is pretty much everything …

Blessed are the pure in heart …
Of all the characteristics of the people who rock in Jesus’ Kingdom this one – being pure in heart – is probably the one most likely to undo us. Who is pure in heart? Anyone who takes an honest look inside themselves – into their hearts – will have to admit that there’s a lot of ‘impure’ stuff going on, right? Even Paul the Apostle, after many years of doing amazing things for God said this about himself: ‘

‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst.’ (1 Timothy 1v16)

A key thing to remember is that in this passage Jesus isn’t talking about different kinds of people who each have one of these qualities. Jesus is talking about someone who has ALL of these things going for them. So someone who is ‘pure in heart’ is also someone who is ‘poor in spirit’, they mourn because of the mess they see in their lives, they rely on God and not themselves, they hunger for right-relatedness. The ‘pure in heart’ know that they are not perfect. In Psalm 24 David asks this:

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.

Purity of heart, in this Psalm, is about loyalty to God, it’s about being single-minded in one’s pursuit of God, not trusting anything or anyone else as much as they trust God. A guy called John Stott said that the ‘pure in heart’ are those who are transparent before God, they can’t hide anything from God. The pure in heart know they can be too easily tricked into thinking that they’re doing just fine, so they open up their hearts for God to see.

We all tend to hide our dark things away from the light. We become pure in heart when we allow the integrity and transparency of life in God’s Kingdom to invade our lives. We grow in purity of heart when we simply want Jesus to be around more in our lives – no matter how aware we are of our sin or how badly we might thing we’re doing. The pure in heart are the ones who pray this prayer from Psalm 139 v24:

‘Search me and know my heart Jesus, see if there’s anything wrong in me and show me the way to live a life that brings me true Life’

The pure in heart pray this prayer too from Psalm 51:

‘Create in me a pure heart God! And renew a right spirit in me’

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So that was a brief look at four of the characteristics that Jesus says people in his Kingdom will see growing in their lives. It’s important to remember that no-one is naturally good at ANY of these things! So what do we have to do to get onto this list? Work harder at being poor in spirit or upset at what we see around us? No! We simply need to let the Holy Spirit continue to shape us on the inside.

‘Repent and believe the good news!’ Jesus said. That’s still the invitation. Stop trusting and chasing after ways of living that keep God to the sidelines. Believe that Jesus is near, listen to what he says and then go do it … Jesus’ promise is that soon we’ll find ourselves being blessed in surprising ways and that we’ll start to become the people who really are the winners in his Kingdom.

Leaders Toolkit

In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Read our leaders guide to explore how to get the most out of these four parts.

1. Rewind

What’s your story?

 

Who are the people other people want to be?

Does your school have those honour boards on display somewhere? You know, the ones with the names of students who’ve done really well at sport or academics or whatever? If it does, what categories are on those boards? What does that say about the things your school thinks are important?

Do you fit into those categories or are you good at something your school doesn’t celebrate so much?

And outside of school, who are the lucky ones – the people you’d love to trade places with? Who are the people who seem to succeed and win at everything? What makes them special? How do you compare against them?

From The Wordspace

theWordSpace_cropped
Get your group to re-read one or more of the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them on the website.) It might work well do this in groups and get them to report back after a few minutes
o Do any of the posts spark any comments or questions?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend or keep for themselves, which one would it be?

2. Refresh

What’s God’s Story?

Read Matthew 5v1-12

And the post in The Post tab.

Get your group to engage with these four Beatitudes …

There’s a lot to think about in each of the beatitudes, let alone 4 – or all 8! You may want to decide to focus on one, or break the group into smaller groups with each group focusing on one Beatitude and reporting back.

Here are some questions you may want to work with:

o  Can you think of a movie character, or someone in real life (not Jesus!) who is most like this characteristic?
o  How would someone who’s like this be likely to be misunderstood by people who don’t believe in Jesus? What names would they be called?
o  Is there some way this person would be admired or attractive to people?
o  Can you think of a time or story in the gospels where Jesus is like this Beatitude?

3. Replay

Your Story and God’s Story

So you’ve encountered a bit of what God’s life is about – how does that fit with the way things are in your life – your story – right now?

Some questions to help you replay your story …

o  Did any of the four characteristics we looked at in this session make you feel excited in some way – like, ‘yes that’s me!’? Any make you feel like you’ve got a long way to go to get like that?

o    Would you prefer it if these were things you could try and get right directly or is it better that it’s about hanging out with Jesus and letting them just happen?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus

Does reading the things Jesus celebrates in people change the way you think of him in any way? Is there anything there that would inspire you to worship him?

4. Remix

Your Story Re-imagined

What practical action, response, thought do you want to take into the week?

Repent …

Have you encountered something today that makes you want to say to God: ‘wow, I’ve totally got that wrong in my life, sorry! Help me see how to think or act differently from now on’ ?

A little while after saying these things in Matthew 5 Jesus also said this:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Growing into the kind of person who rocks in Jesus’ world is about depending less on yourself and more on God. It’s about letting Jesus change you from the inside.

Some questions to help you remix your story …

o  What can you do to ‘come towards and get away with Jesus’ this week?

o  What would you like to ask Jesus to do for you or to grow in you?

From the WordSpace

Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

Download a PDF version here

Does your school have those honour boards on the walls of your assembly hall? You know, the ones with the names of students who’ve done really well at sport or academics or whatever?

What do those boards say about who rocks in the eyes of your school?

In Matthew 5v1-11 Jesus posts his own honour board for the people who rock in his world. It’s a surprising list packed with those who crave good relationships; who aren’t full of themselves; who weep when they see the world’s hurt – and a bunch more.

Would you like to have your name there? It begins with asking Jesus to mould you into that kind of person. He’ll do it.

#GodsVisionforYou
#andrewv

 

I’m someone who wants to make Jesus proud. I just wish I was better at it.

Most times in my Christian journey I try to do things the RIGHT way (usually through my own strength.) Then when I fail I always get disappointed in my lack of ability.

The great thing about Jesus is that He is proud of us and loves us whether we get it right or wrong. And the closer we draw to Jesus the more we’ll find ourselves getting things right.

God is way more interested in moulding you than in what you can give to Him. So let’s rest more in His love and a bit less in our ability.

Sound good?

Read Romans 8v37-38

#GodsVisionforYou
#faithworks
#keegan

 

Did you enjoy the World Cup? I’m a big footie fan, and it was the best World Cup I can remember. My favourite moment was Van Persie’s amazing diving header against Spain. For 4 weeks those players rocked our world.

People who rock God’s world are not always the superstars in the spotlights. I love seeing people bring calm where there are arguments or conflicts. That stuff lasts forever – so much longer than a goal or a game or a career.

I love sport, but I want to become more like those calm-creating peacemakers and rock in God’s world – forever. How about you?

#GodsVisionforYou
#vicardave

 

‘Never laugh at live dragons, Bilbo you fool!’ (Gandalf)

There’s some good advice in case you meet a dragon today. I love how in the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies it’s hobbits that get to be the heroes of the story. They live in holes in the ground. They’re small. They have to be rescued all the time. Hobbits don’t usually think very much of themselves – which makes them perfect for carrying Rings and other adventures.

I think Jesus would call hobbits ‘poor in spirit’. He’d say ‘you’re blessed!’

Do you feel like you’re nobody really special? You might be just the person Jesus loves to bless – and use for big things.

Just remember about the dragons …

#GodsVisionforYou
#theStoryinMovies
#andrewv

 

Wow, God, you say some crazy things sometimes! Happy are those who mourn? Happy are those who are meek? Happy are those who are pure in heart? Clearly your thinking is different to mine.

But I do want to be happy. And I do believe that you know better than I do what will make me truly happy.

Jesus, you know what it is like to be truly human and that your Holy Spirit is working in me to be the best version of myself that I can be.

‘Teach me your ways, God, teach me your paths.’ Psalm 25v4

#GodsVisionforYou
#fridayfeedback
#roblloyd

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GivenGain

A Messenger Likely to Get Shot – Isaiah’s Story

How we live matters. We can have the best worship services with all the lights and great music but the worship God really wants are lives of obedience, love for others and care for the victims of injustice. If we wander off that path God will do anything it takes to get our attention again and restore us to that full and abundant life he wants for us.

This is Session 4 in Series 3 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 3 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

 

It may be pretty hard to see how ancient text like what we have in the book of Isaiah could possibly be relevant for us today. I mean, have you tried actually reading the whole book – or just a chapter? These prophets were cranky! Their favourite phrase seems to be ‘Woe to you …’ and there’s all kinds of doom and gloom.

And yet … in these books a picture emerges of how messed up life can be, and how determined God is to not let us get lost in that. If you think that ignoring or disobeying God isn’t a big deal then reading the prophets will grab your attention. If you think God is a merciless, vengeful tyrant always breaking things then these passages will show just how loving and tender God can be. These passages are raw with emotion, brutally honest and heartbreakingly tender. If you think God doesn’t have feminine, mother-like qualities you need to read Isaiah …

In this session we’re going to dip into just one chapter of Isaiah’s book. You should balance this one with other passages like chapters 9. 55, 58 and 65.

In the Old Story, God decides to begin restoring the damage caused by human rebellion by creating covenants.

Think of the prophets as the Covenant Enforcers. Their job was to keep reminding the people about the Covenants and the laws and what would happen if they obeyed and disobeyed. In a nutshell the Covenants were basically this:

God says: I promise to be your God. I will bless you and everyone through you, and you get enjoy the things you were made to deeply desire. You, just need to let me be God – that means being holy and faithful to me – not worshiping anything else.

Seems simple enough right? So how did that go in those old days? Turns out …

cantlook

Not very well.

Please+don't+shoot+the+messenger

Around 740 BC Isaiah gets called into action. Things have been going pretty badly. People have been worshiping other things, and when people DO worship God their services have become a bit routine. They’ve got all the bells and whistles and smoke but their hearts are someplace else … God doesn’t like that. What Isaiah writes in the first chapter of his book is beautiful, harsh, shocking, sad, hopeful … Check it out

Let’s dig into the passage a bit:

Verses 1-4: The ancient, great command – the one that captured everything God wanted from his people was this:
Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got! (Deuteronomy 6:5 The Message)

But look what’s happened: In Isaiah 1v1-4 God tells it like it is. It’s not pretty.

My people have walked out on me, their God, turned their backs on The Holy One of Israel, walked off and never looked back.

verses 5-9: in the next section Isaiah explains why life is not going very well. Whether it’s their physical bodies or their whole country – things are pretty messed up: people are sick and broken – just like God said would happen.

‘From the bottom of your feet to the top of your head, nothing’s working right.’.

Is that a decent description of how things can still be today?

tumblr_m8i1o8qzxj1qiaqpmo1_500  tumblr_m8ystlN1Gy1qiaqpmo1_500

verses 10-17: Now things get pretty hectic. People are praying, fasting, burning incense and offering costly sacrifices to God – all the things good God-people should do right? But God says he hates it all. What? God hates people worshiping him? Yes – if the songs they sing in church aren’t backed up by what they do outside of church…

I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening.”

Ok, so what is the worship God really loves?

  • Actually stopping doing the stuff you know is wrong
  • Pursuing the things you know are right
  • Making a noise when unjust things go down
  • Encouraging people who’ve been stepped on
  • Standing up for people who are weak

verses 18-26 This part is a great summary of what the whole book of Isaiah is about: The people have rejected God so God honours their choice and lets them experience life with God. It’s ugly. There’s so much bad stuff going on in Israel that God decides to shake them out of their slackness. The people are forced to pay attention to God when God hoofs them out of their towns and dumps them for a while in other places – like Babylon and Assyria.

A bit of hardship is often a sure way to get people to pay attention to God again. Israel ends up spending many years in exile. It’s a tough time. People like Daniel and Esther and have to figure out life with God in a hostile place. But, God promises to use their suffering to draw his people back to him and to make them more holy – if they repent and learn to worship God with their whole lives. One day God will bring his people back and make things right again (read Isaiah 40 for one of the best passages about this.

Finding your life in the Story
So how is the story about a tribe from long ago relevant to us? A lot of water has passed under the bridge since 740BC. Well actually, we are actually quite a lot like those poor Israelites – living in a world that is in many ways, far from ‘home’ for us. It’s a bit like being in exile. Things aren’t the way they are supposed to be – and life can be hard and painful.

And here’s where there’s genuinely GOOD news for us:

1) We can live faithful and holy lives when everyone around us is doing messed-up and crazy stuff. Just like Daniel and Esther and Isaiah (and a bunch of other heroes from the Old Testament) we are free to live lives that are aligned with God’s ways. Just like those people, we’ll probably need to be brave and risk being mocked. We’ll need to trust that God knows what he’s doing. Just like those people we have the God who never changes with us in every situation we face.

2) God can use hard times to get our attention. Do you find that the better things are going the more you tend to forget about God? Sometimes God allows us to suffer and go through tough times in order to teach us things we wouldn’t learn otherwise. There are lots of worship songs out there about being refined and made holy. Being refined is a hot, uncomfortable and painful process! The bad stuff is literally burned away – ouch! But the result is a whole new level of purity. If you’re going through a tough time maybe stop and see what God might be saying through it to you.

3) How we live our lives really matters. Worshiping God in cool Christian events has no meaning if we don’t align our hearts with the things on God’s heart in our lives each day and then try to live that out. Isaiah 58 is a beautiful description of what that looks like.

Life can be tough, and often we are our own worst enemies when we wander off in crooked directions away from God’s will through our pride or just plain stubbornness. Sometimes God needs to discipline us in order to get our attention again and bring us back to where God wants us.

The good news is that God disciplines us because he loves us. He keeps drawing us back to the straight line of enjoying life with him.

In the end the choice is ours. How much will we embrace God’s training of us so we can truly live?

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind

How do you or your friends explain what’s happening when things go badly in life? Is it bad karma from somewhere? Just bad luck? Or is God somehow involved?

Can you think of a moment when you were really worshiping God? What did that look like? What things helped it happen?

theWordSpace_cropped

Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh

Read the post in The Story tab.

replay

Some questions to help you replay your story 

o Did what you encountered sound more like good news or bad news to you? Any idea why?

o Was there anything in this Story or in the passage in Isaiah that was particularly meaningful for you? Did any parts describe your experience of life, or of Christian worship?

o What feelings or emotions did you experience while hearing that part of the Story?

o Are there people in your life who sometimes tell you the truth about your life? How well do you tend to listen to them?

remix

What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Some questions to help you remix your story …

o Could you spend some time this week ‘listening to your life’ – reflecting on the things you do and listening to what God might be saying to you? Maybe that will mean talking to someone who knows God and who you trust – and hearing what they say.

o What could you do to express a life of worship for God through being obedient in something or caring for someone?

From the WordSpace

Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

A Whore-Wife and Crazy Kid Names – Hosea’s Story

It’s easy to judge a prostitute for their unfaithfulness. The message of Hosea is that God probably quite often sees us as people who abandon him and prostitute ourselves to the next best exciting thing that comes our way. The good news is that God will do whatever it takes to woo you back.

This is Session 1 in Series 3 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 3 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

Hosea probably had one of the toughest jobs of all the prophets in the Old Testament. That’s actually saying quite a lot because some of the things the prophets had to do were pretty intense – like lying in poo or walking around naked (those stories in Ezekiel 4 and Isaiah 20).

The main job of a prophet back then was to be a kind of Covenant-enforcer. They had to tell the people if they were doing well or not so well in keeping the Covenant that would restore their relationship with God. Sometimes they used words to do that. Other times… well God needed to take things to the next level to get peoples’ attention. With Hosea God seems to go completely overboard… Read the story in Hosea chapter 1.

Find a whore and marry her. Make this whore the mother of your children. And here’s why: This whole country has become a whorehouse, unfaithful to me, God.”

Is that crazy or what?? The Bible says a lot about how bad adultery and unfaithfulness is. And here’s God telling Hosea to go marry a prostitute!

And then, as soon as everyone sees the newlywed couple together: holy, God-guy Hosea and um … rather embarrassing prostitute Gomer, God says this:

you all are like Gomer to me’

BOOM!

That came from God?

It gets worse.

The couple soon start a family, but God tells Hosea what to name his kids:

Name this one No-Mercy. I’m fed up with Israel. I’ve run out of mercy.”
Name [your son] Nobody. You’ve become nobodies to me, and I, God, am a nobody to you.”

Every time someone would call Hosea’s kids it would be a reminder from God that they had really messed up this Covenant thing.

I wonder how many friends those poor kids had?

After Gomer has had three children she wanders off and falls in love with another guy. There’s a messy, embarrassing and painful separation. Hosea doesn’t know what to do … until, in Chapter 3, God says:

‘Hosea, go get back together again’
‘God. Are. You. Serious?’
‘Yes. Go do it.’
‘Ok.’ “Start all over: Love your wife again, your wife who’s in bed with her latest boyfriend, your cheating wife. Love her the way I, God, love the Israelite people, even as they flirt and party with every god that takes their fancy.”

Have you ever really liked someone who didn’t like you back? Or maybe a best friend suddenly didn’t want to be friends anymore? Can you remember, or imagine, what that feels like? Can you imagine what Hosea felt like watching his wife messing around with other guys?

Can you imagine what God felt like watching the tribe he loved and wanted to protect turn to other things for their comfort and security?

In the end God shows his people some tough love. God lets them have what they want. If they are so keen to live without God then God lets them experience what life can be like that way …

The people of Israel are going to live a long time
stripped of security and protection,
without religion and comfort,
godless and prayerless.
But in time they’ll come back, these Israelites,
come back looking for their God and their David-King.
They’ll come back chastened to reverence
before God and his good gifts, ready for the End of the story of his love.
Hosea 3v4-5

It’s tough love because God is pretty sure his people will realise how empty life is without God – but only after suffering for a while.

God will bring his people back from their crooked path to his straight line. Again. Why? Because God just can’t give up on these stubborn, faithless, clueless people he loves madly.

Hosea Chapter 11 is one of the most beautiful and heart-aching passages in the Bible.

My people are hell-bent on leaving me.
They pray to god Baal for help.
He doesn’t lift a finger to help them.
But how can I give up on you, Ephraim?
How can I turn you loose, Israel?
How can I leave you to be ruined like Admah,
devastated like luckless Zeboim?
I can’t bear to even think such thoughts.
My insides churn in protest.
And so I’m not going to act on my anger.
I’m not going to destroy Ephraim.
And why? Because I am God and not a human.
I’m The Holy One and I’m here—in your very midst.

Have you ever wondered how God views you? Do you think it’s sometimes like the way Hosea viewed his wife – someone who he loves dearly and deeply but who is so often unfaithful and so easily tempted by other things?

The message of Hosea is that God probably quite often sees us as people who abandon him and prostitute ourselves to the next best exciting thing that comes our way. The good news is that God loves and cares for us so deeply that he will keep enticing us back into a relationship with him. God will do whatever it takes to woo you back.

It doesn’t say in the book how things end between Hosea and his whore-wife Gomer. I hope Gomer learned to become faithful and that they enjoyed a happier marriage. I hope they changed the names of their kids…I hope they were able to overcome the pain and brokenness of a relationship wrecked by unfaithfulness.

The stories of each of our lives are still being written but there’s a larger story in which a holy groom on a cross suffers all the pain and brokenness of sin and evil so that his bride’s unfaithfulness can be forgiven and their relationship restored. Check this out in Revelation 19v1-8.

Here’s the last paragraph in Hosea

If you want to live well,
make sure you understand all of this.
If you know what’s good for you,
you’ll learn this inside and out.
God’s paths get you where you want to go.
Right-living people walk them easily;
wrong-living people are always tripping and stumbling.

If you find you’re doing more tripping and stumbling in your life than you would like, here’s an invitation to think about what walking along God’s paths might be like instead. It begins with a relationship with God – no matter how unfaithful we’ve been

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind

o What’s more important to you: loyalty or honesty?
o Have you ever been let down or even betrayed by a friend? Has a friend stuck with you through some tough times or had your back when people turned on you? What did that feel like?
o Are you the kind of person who is loyal and faithful to someone (or something) no matter what, or do you tend to be distracted by other things that come your way? How does that work out in your relationship with God?

theWordSpace_cropped

Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh

Read the post in The Story tab.

replay

Some questions to help you replay your story 

o Did you have any particular feelings or thoughts towards Hosea or Gomer when you heard this story?
o In what ways could that story translate into your life?
o God plays quite a big role in this story – what aspects of God’s character stuck out for you?

Redraw Your Picture of Jesus

The idea of Jesus having the same kind of relationship to us as a husband has to his wife is a strong theme throughout the Bible. Does seeing how Hosea loves and treats his wife Gomer help you redraw your idea of what Jesus is like in any way? What characteristics are the most appealing to you?

remix

What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Have you encountered something in Hosea’s story that makes you want to say to God: ‘sho, I’ve been pretty unfaithful and easily distracted in my relationship with you. I’m sorry! Help me figure out how to deal with the things that I keep chasing after that draw me away from you.’?

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o Are you in a place where you’ve abandoned a friendship or some other relationship because you’ve been a bit like Gomer and chased after something or someone else? Has someone done that to you? How could you begin to restore that relationship this week?
o Do you need to press the reset button on your relationship with God and start over? How could you do that this week?

 

From the WordSpace

Here are four posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

What would you do if you were caught doing something to hurt someone you loved a lot? Would you hide because you felt bad, or try and beg for forgiveness?

Often when we realise we’ve sinned against God we go into hiding until we think God might have forgotten! Hosea’s encouragement is this, ‘Come, let us return to the Lord!’ (Hosea 6v1)

Coming back to God when we’ve let him down can be hard, but it’s also the most healing thing we can do. Do you need to return to God and tell him about some stuff?

Check out Hosea 6 here – http://bit.ly/1lUEsAH
#fridayfeedback
#andrewv

Have you ever been cheated on? It really hurts deep down right? You feel betrayed, angry, sad…

In the Old Testament God tells Hosea to marry a woman who was known for sleeping around (Hosea 1v2). God knew Gomer would cheat on Hosea sooner or later and that it would hurt – but God wanted to show the Israelites that their sin was wrecking their relationship with God too.

When we choose to love other things in our lives more than God it’s kinda like we’re cheating on God too. What does it tell you about how much God loves you that he always stays faithful to you, no matter how unfaithful you’ve been?

Read Hosea 1 here: http://bit.ly/1i4GlLQ
#GodsViewofYou
#Hosea
#roblloyd

If you were to imagine God as a person who’s standing nearby, would you want to move towards him or away from him?

In the book of Hosea God says his people are like a wife who has had an affair. Even though they have cheated on him, God still wants them to come back to him and be faithful to him again (Hosea 2v16)

Do we go looking for love elsewhere because we see God as angry or scary? What if we really saw God as someone who loves us like crazy – no matter how unfaithful we’ve been? Would you want to move closer?

Read Hosea 2 here: http://bit.ly/1i4FT09

#KnowingGod
#Hosea
#roblloyd

Do you know the feeling when you really like someone who doesn’t like you back? Or when a best friend betrays you? I think God was feeling that way when he told the prophet Hosea to marry the local prostitute Gomer. They quickly broke up. Really awkward.

Then God said to his people: ‘You are all like Gomer to me’

Yoh

Could God say that about us? Do we put our trust in anything exciting that comes our way? Here’s how God responds. He tells Hosea: ‘start all over: Love your wife again your cheating wife. Love her the way I, God, love my people’ (Hosea 3v1, The Message)

Faithful God! Unfaithful me. Have mercy Jesus!

Read Hosea 1 here: http://bit.ly/14yaDdp
#andrewv

Faith for Faithless Times – Daniel and Friends

It’s tough living as a Christian when the people around you think you’re crazy or deluded or defiant. So many opportunities to compromise your beliefs come your way. Daniel and friends show us what living faithfully in faithless times can look like. Keeping God in focus can change everything.

This is Session 2 in Series 3 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 3 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


Have you found it tough to be a faithful Jesus-follower when it seems everyone around you isn’t really interested, or believes something completely different? How do you tend to respond when the things your friends do don’t really honour God? Daniel and his friends lived in tough times for people who loved God. There’s some good stuff in Daniel’s story that might encourage you …

Here’s some background info to get you started: It’s around 600 BC. With a few exceptions, Israel has pretty much ignored God’s relationship rescue plan – the Covenants – and is about to suffer the consequences. In Isaiah 3 God had warned the people that some bad stuff might happen if they continued to ignore their side of God’s Covenant. Unfortunately, Isaiah’s warnings echoed around among deaf ears and no-one paid much attention.

So God upped the stakes a little and begins to follow through on what God said would happen in Deuteronomy 28: If you reject the Covenant, things are going to go badly for you. The Babylonian empire, ruled by Nebuchadnezzar has just invaded Israel, ransacked the Temple, and dragged off a whole lot of people to be servants and slaves back home. A young guy called Daniel was one of them … Daniel’s story was first written to encourage people who were living in tough times. I think the story has got lots to say to us today too – plus it’s just a really cool story, the kind you couldn’t make up.

We’re going to dip into three scenes that take place years apart and which reveal some great stuff about living faithfully in faithless times.

Scene 1 takes place in Daniel 1v1-21. The new life has actually started out pretty well. A little bit too well for Daniel who has a few problems with the rich and lavish food and wine he’s being made to consume. Daniel manages to convince the guy in charge to give him just vegetables and water for ten days. Despite the risk of losing his head the official puts all the good food back on the top shelf and hands out just the veg.

The veggie diet does wonders and soon that’s the new standard menu. God is impressed with these young guys and gives them some special gifts to help them thrive in other ways too.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Here are two things that impress me in this story:

Even though God had caused the official in charge to be kind to Daniel, the guy was still too scared to give Daniel what he wanted. It took some crafty scheming by Daniel – and a brave guard too – to go ahead with the plan. Daniel doesn’t take the ‘sit back and let God do everything’ approach, but neither does he do everything himself. Seems like a well-balanced approach to me…

I also love how God responds to Daniel’s act of faith; it’s as if God says to himself ‘now here’s a young person I can trust with some bigger stuff…’ I wonder if God sometimes waits to see how we handle the small things we have now before trusting us with bigger things.

The second scene takes place in Daniel 3. King Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t the most stable of kings. One day he’s raving about Daniel’s God: ‘your God is the God of gods and the Lord of Kings!’ (2:47) and then he’s getting everyone to worship a colossal gold statue-god he got someone to make. That presented a problem for Daniel’s friends …

Despite the dire warnings of being fried alive, Daniel’s friends refuse to do what everyone else is doing and bow down to this man-made statue. Can you imagine the peer pressure when everyone else is face-down in the dirt and they’re just standing there? Pretty soon they’re in the burning pit but miraculously emerge unscathed. They even get a surprise visit by a mysterious person in the middle of the inferno.

Here’s the part that’s worth the price of admission for me: how crazy is the reply that the three friends give to the king in verse 16-18??

King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’

These guys have rock solid faith that God is able to save them from anything the king throws at them but … if God chooses not to save them for some reason it doesn’t matter. They are so committed to God they would rather die than worship someone or something else – as lots of faithful Christians have been prepared to do in all the years since, and continue to choose to do today.

In the end, God comes through in a spectacular way, Nebuchadnezzar flip-flops back onto the ‘God is awesome’ side and the three guys get a hectic promotion.

The third scene is the famous one where Daniel survives a night with hungry lions (Daniel 6). It all started when jealous officials convince a very convincible king to ban praying to anyone other than him. Darius’ lack of judgement puts Daniel in a tricky spot but, instead of taking a month-long prayer break Daniel keeps on going, every day, just like always.

Here are three things I admire about Daniels prayer life when I read verse 10:

1.  Prayer was Daniel’s first response to this new crisis in his life.
2.  Praying regularly (three times a day) was an old habit. Daniel didn’t pray any harder when heard the bad news, he just kept on as before.
3.  Daniel’s prayers were mostly about saying ‘thank-you!’ to God.

Any lessons there for you?

God comes through for Daniel in another amazing way and he leaves the den with some new lion friends instead of being lion poop. Will God always save us from harm like Daniel? Um, no. Faith in God doesn’t guarantee our safety from lions, or robbers or stuff that might harm us. There are many faithful Christians who have also literally been thrown before lions for their faith … and they have been eaten.

Sometimes we are going to genuinely suffer for our faith, and sometimes God will miraculously save us from trouble. Sometimes we need to say, like those three guys in scene 2: ‘I know God can … but even if he doesn’t …’

Here’s the thing I really love about Daniel’s story: did you notice how the narrator in each of the scenes shows us how God is always in control? God is always there in the story: causing the official to show ‘favour and sympathy’ to Daniel (1:9), giving Daniel special knowledge and wisdom to rule wisely and even interpret dreams (1:17), sending an angel to be with the three guys in their fiery furnace ordeal (3:24-25) and to wire closed the lions’ mouths in the den with Daniel.

We live in a world of broken relationships. The very thing God intended to be perfect has been wrecked by sin. Sin touches all of our lives – some in more obvious ways than others. That makes living faithfully in these times really hard sometimes, but … God draws straight with the crooked lines of our lives. Even when people do stupid and hurtful things to us, or we make dumb decisions and suffer the consequences, God never leaves us and never gives up control. That’s why Paul can say in Romans 8v28 that, no-matter what happens to us God can work all things for the ultimate good of those who love him.

Isn’t that some pretty good news for faithless times?

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind

If you imagine the level of faith and belief in God in the places you live in as a kind of climate, what are the conditions like – dry and dusty desert; tropical rainforest; something in between?

What challenges or obstacles from the people around them do people who want to live faithfully as Christians have to deal with? What about other faiths?

How do you tend to respond when the things your friends do don’t really honour God?

theWordSpace_cropped

Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh

Read the post in The Story tab.

replay

Some questions to help you replay your story
o  Which of the three scenes we looked at in this session seemed most relevant to your situation?

o  The first story could be called: ‘Keeping things simple and small to help focus on God’ Are there things you need to stop taking in for a while so you can connect with God better? It might not be rich food but what about other things you can do without for, say, ten days?

o  Hopefully you won’t ever have to deal with someone threatening to braai you alive … but sometimes having faith in and being loyal to Jesus means saying ‘no’ to things that other people try and make us do. Are there things you need to choose to not devote yourself to or be part of?

o  In the third story, Daniel had every chance to use his great power to set up some nice stuff for himself – but he didn’t. What if someone tried to find something in your life they could accuse you about: how ‘trustworthy, neither corrupt nor negligent’ (Daniel 6v4) in the things you’re responsible for would they find you?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Daniel and his friends frequently faced temptation to compromise their belief so they could avoid the threat of suffering and death. Jesus faced that too – he knew the path he was on was heading straight to an agonising crucifixion. He was pretty seriously tempted to give it all up and stay safe. Yet Jesus refused to back down – even when his prayers to God to save him were answered by: ‘No.’ or when the devil or the soldiers offered to make things easier for him.

Check out what’s in Hebrews 12v1-3.

o  How does thinking about Jesus in this way help you re-draw your picture of what Jesus is like?

remix

What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Have you encountered something in Daniel’s story that makes you want to change something in your life? Maybe something about staying true to what you believe when things get tough that makes you want to say to God:

wow, I’ve been too easily influenced by the people around me and maybe stopped doing some of the God-honouring things I used to do. Sorry! Help me stay faithful to you in these faithless times.’

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o Is there something you can give up for the next few days that might help you focus on God a bit more – or express your commitment to God? Can you find someone to do that with?

o  Are there things in your life that you ‘bow down’ to – things you allow to rule your life or things you trust in more than God? What would it take to turn away from doing that?

o  Are you facing persecution of some kind for your faith right now -or is someone you know? How could you draw strength and courage from God and those around you this week?

From the WordSpace


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

What crime do you think would justify a death sentence? Murder? Rape? Child abuse? Apostasy? A-pos-WHAT?!

Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, 27, was condemned to death by hanging on May 15 this year for apostasy: for becoming a follower of Jesus! Given the choice to abandon Jesus or face a death sentence, she refused to deny her faith. Yesterday, prayers for her protection were answered and the Sudanese government announced they would release her (http://bbc.in/1nDNwwt).

Check out some other brave youngsters in Daniel 3 (http://bit.ly/1odRk3D). What do you need to say NO or YES to as an act of loving Jesus?

# MariamYahiaIbrahimIshag
#GodsStoryNow
#hein

The Dark Knight Rises was the best Batman movie (IMHO). At first, like the Bond of Skyfall, Bruce Wayne battles his ageing body and is easily beaten.

Things begin to turn around when Bruce is thrown into a deep prison. For months all Bruce can do is recover and train. When he (spoiler alert!) finally escapes he’s unstoppable.

The Bible is full of people – David, Daniel, Jonah, Paul, Jesus – who had to suffer in tough places before they could do what God called them to.

Are you stuck in a tough place? Maybe you simply need to let God work in you where you are – before you go out and become unstoppable too.

Read about Jesus’ experience in Matthew 4v1-11 here: http://bit.ly/1c4kTS1

#theStoryinMovies
#andrewv

 

Would you turn down a great opportunity for no other reason than you felt it just wasn’t right? In the first chapter of Daniel’s story, Daniel trades his 5-star meal for some veg and water because he felt it would corrupt him. Does this mean we all need to become vegetarians? Thankfully not!

There is another story where Jesus tells Peter what will become of him one day (it wasn’t good news), and Peter responds by looking at John and asking, “What about him?” Jesus’ response was basically, “It’s none of your business. You must follow me.” Sometimes God asks us to do things that go beyond what he might ask of someone else. Are you willing to say “yes” to God no matter what he asks?

John 21.18-23 here…

#daniel
#roblloyd

 

Galaxies by Owl City is a song about the fear, exhilaration, joy and lostness of space travel. Could be about finding your way through school and exams too. Listen here: http://bit.ly/1JBEbQ0

‘Dear God, I was terribly lost
When the galaxies crossed
And the sun went dark.
But dear God, You’re the only North Star
I would follow this far.’

‘Oh telescope,
Keep an eye on my only hope,
Lest I blink and get swept off the narrow road,
Hercules, you’ve got nothing to say to me,
‘Cause you’re not the blinding light that I need.
For He is the saving grace of the galaxies.’

If you feel like you’re being swept off the narrow road, how about letting God’s grace and rock-solid faithfulness be the blinding light you look towards?

Read Psalm 25 here: http://bit.ly/1vgHZ2p

#yourSoundtrack
#andrewv

How are you feeling as you get ready for today? Are you thinking of the things you’re struggling with: conflicts you’re caught in, the test you haven’t really studied for, the habits you’re definitely going to avoid today? Or are you focusing on something better?

Someone once said we tend to move towards the things our eyes are focused on. Is that true for you? What if you fixed your eyes on what is unseen, the hope to which Jesus has called you, the fearfully and wonderfully made person you are, and on Jesus himself who is God’s great YES to us?

Great verse on that in Ephesians 1v18: http://bit.ly/17oWMw0

#faithworks
#andrewv
Sara Bareilles’ song ‘Brave’ is so good we can’s seem to post about it enough!

The story the Bible tells of what’s going on in human history shows us people needing to be brave and stand up for what they believe (like these guys in Daniel 3:16-18 http://bit.ly/1E0S2NZ ). There are also stories about people getting scared and chickening out.

We’re part of that big story too. What tough things are you facing this week?

Imagine the Spirit living inside you singing these words from Sara’s song to you today:

And since your history of silence won’t do you any good / Did you think it would.
Let My words be anything but empty / Why don’t you show them the Truth
Say what you need to say and let My words flow out honestly.
I want to see you be brave
(original version here: http://bit.ly/1E0RUxL )

#YourSoundTrack
#doctER

Men Behaving Badly – David and Sons

David’s story shows us that God doesn’t push the rewind button so that our mistakes get undone. God gives us grace as he moulds and shapes us into the people he desires us to be. And that happens most powerfully when God blesses the broken stuff in our lives and uses that stuff to nudge us down the painful path of maturity

This is Session 1 in Series 3 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 3 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

Have you ever messed up or hurt someone in such a way that it took a long time to heal the damage – or maybe what got broken isn’t going to be easy to fix at all? Maybe someone did something to hurt you. You might have asked for and received forgiveness or been able to forgive someone but the scars remain.

Sin wrecks things. Sometimes the traces and after-effects of our bad choices are hard to remove. But God draws straight anyway and by grace makes us stronger in the broken places. David’s story is a bit like that. Let’s check it out.

David gets a lot of airtime in the Bible. His story begins in 1 Samuel 16 and continues through to the end of 2 Samuel and into 1 Kings. He also gets a whole chunk of 1 Chronicles (chapters 11-29) all to himself. That’s about 59 chapters of very expensive paper space. Here are some highlights:

  • David is anointed by Samuel on God’s instructions. God likes what he sees in the young shepherd-boy’s heart
  • David single-handedly knocks off a big hairy giant called Goliath using the tools and skills he mastered in the lonely hills looking after sheep – and a whole lot of faith in the God he’d learned to trust.
  • David learned what it took to be patient and respectful in refusing to kill his arch rival Saul
  • God chooses David to be the one to receive a special covenant blessing. In a time when having a long line of descendants was a really big thing God promises David that the Saviour that Israel was waiting for would come from his family. It didn’t get much better than that.

 

David was the king that Israel loved and would celebrate forever. He lived large and showed everyone what a covenant-keeping life could actually look like – well, nearly.

But David and his sons were human like the rest of us. Like the rest of us they had deep desires for significance and intimacy and identity. And like all of us they sometimes went digging for satisfaction of those desires in broken places – with horrible results…

If you have time read 2 Samuel 11-18 (if not then try 11-13, 15 and 18). Here’s an executive summary of some of the highs and lows:

One day David spies Bathsheba – the wife of Uriah – bathing provocatively on her roof. David lures Bathsheba in and they get together – if you know what I mean. Bathsheba gets pregnant; Uriah won’t provide a convenient cover by sleeping with his wife while there’s a war on.

David gets Uriah knocked off in battle and all is well – until Nathan points out to David what he’s done. Slow down and read that part in 2 Samuel 12v1-14

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”  Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”’

You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

The rest of the story shows how that painful prophecy plays out in David’s family.

The lust and sex continue when Amnon sees just how drop-dead gorgeous his half-sister is. He hatches a rather bizarre plan to get her alone in his bedroom and then rapes her.

I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.

Amnon then falls very much out of love with Tamar. Absalom, Tamar’s real brother, hatches a plan to kill Amnon – which he does a few years later.

When King David heard all this, he was furious. Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar’

Absalom flees from David but after a while returns to Jerusalem, but David refuses to see his son for over four years. Absalom woos the whole nation, setting himself up as the wise and in-touch guy that David is apparently not. A rebellion grows in a nearby city and David is forced to act.

David acts by running away from Jerusalem and the hunt is on. David gives orders to crush the rebellion but to not harm his son:

Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.’

Absalom is killed in a spectacularly bizarre way in chapter 18v9 (a warning to long-haired horse riders everywhere). David is distraught at the loss of his rebel, son-killing son, and is left to pick up the pieces. This must be one of the saddest moments in the Old Testament:

‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!’

One of the pieces that gets picked up is the child David has with Bathsheba – Solomon – who becomes a mighty and wise king. Oh, and a king who is eventually seduced by money, sex and power. And so it continues …

What a story …

One thing that impresses me about David is his fatherly love for his sons – no matter what they did to wreck his kingdom, and his life. Even when David’s bitter enemy dies all David can think to say is: ‘if only I had died instead of him.’ Wow.

And like so many of those stories in the Old Testament you’ve got to be asking ‘where is God in all this?’ It’s like God is a lead character in the plot, but mostly a silent one; intervening through various people where necessary but also allowing things to play out. That God is sovereign and ultimately in charge is the message of the whole Bible but boy are there crooked lines and really messed up sections where you’re wondering: ‘is this for real?’

It seems to me that God responds in one of two ways to the choices people make. Where people sin and chase desires in broken ways God says: ‘see, here are the consequences of your actions.’ When people respond to God in repentance God says: ‘here’s my forgiveness and grace to transform the things that got broken.’

It doesn’t seem to me that God ever pushes the rewind button so that our mistakes get undone (that Falling Plates video  you may have seen is good but it gets it wrong on this point – the broken plates of our lives don’t get magically unbroken in reverse when we turn to God). God gives us grace as he moulds and shapes us into the people he desires us to be.

And that happens most powerfully when God blesses the broken stuff in our lives – and instead of unbreaking it –uses that stuff to nudge us down the painful path of maturity.

Ernest Hemingway was right: ‘The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.’

Jars of Clay really nail his idea in their song Faith Enough.

Should the world rely on faith tonight?’

Yes. For any of us creatures who are so easily tempted to head down crooked paths – it’s our only hope.

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind

Can you think of an event or two in your life where you’re like: ‘wow, I ‘d really like to go back and do that over’?

What did the after effects of that moment look like for you?

Would you say those times are more like obstacles to your personal growth or could they be things that make you stronger?

theWordSpace_cropped

Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh

Read the post in The Story tab.

replay

Some questions to help you replay your story 

o  David, Amnon and Absalom all make some pretty bad decisions in this wild ride of a story. What would you say are some of the deep desires that drive their choices? Can you identify with any of those desires?

o  What would you want to say to these guys if you could speak into the story? What might they want to say to you if they got to see what’s going on in your life?

o  Do you agree with the idea that the broken things in our lives could become the places we are made strong? Any idea what that might look like for you?

o  How do think God might be drawing straight with the crooked lines of your life? Does the fact that God is able go do that give you hope?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus

David is in many ways a kind of prototype for Jesus – an immensely powerful king chosen and anointed by God, the focal point of a covenant God makes with his people, and a guy who’s madly in love with people and with God. For the most part the nation of Israel loved and worshipped David like no other king they ever had.

o  How does seeing Jesus as a perfect kind of David help you re-draw your idea of who Jesus is and what he is like?

remix

What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …

When David is confronted by Nathan the prophet he is immediately ‘cut to the heart’ with regret at what he had done.

David wrote Psalm 51 in response. Is there anything in that Psalm that speaks for you?

Some questions to help you remix your story …

o Are there any broken things in your life that you need to bring to God so that they can be blessed and healed? What would it take to do that this week?

o Does it feel like you have wandered off down a path that’s not really where God is leading you? What would it take to change direction and do or think things differently?

From the WordSpace

Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

Jars of Clay are one of my favourite bands. Here are some lyrics from one of their best songs (I think!):

‘The storm is wild enough for sailing / The bridge is weak enough to cross / This body frail enough for fighting / I’m home enough to know I’m lost’ (Faith Enough)

I love these words cos they remind me that when things in my life are wild, weak and frail God gets to show his strength in me. The chorus ends with the question: ‘should the world rely on faith tonight?’ Yes! Even if our faith in God is small…

Are there wild or weak things you need to rely on faith to overcome today?

Listen to the song here: http://bit.ly/9AqXxt
Read Matthew 5v3-10 here: http://bit.ly/YgYtmX
#yoursoundtrack
#andrewv

 

Lord sometimes I wish I was invincible, that the song would be true: ‘I am TITANIUM!’ Instead I’m often exhausted and hurt by life: by the expectations of others, disappointments, pressures, challenges, complications…

Help me to sing like David: ‘God, the one and only I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I hope for comes from him, so why not? He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life. My help and glory are in God granite-strength and safe-harbor-God So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.’ Psalm 62v5-8 (The Message)

#Fridayfeedback
#lifeofdavid
#hein

‘Sticks and stones only break your bones, but words can tear your heart out’ (Steve Turner). That’s true right?

David has some hectic words spoken to him before he takes on Goliath,: ‘your heart is evil, ‘you’re only a boy’, ‘I’ll give your flesh to the birds’ (1 Samuel 17v28-44)

I love how David shakes off those word-bombs and keeps going. His secret? Maybe he’d learned to just BE who he was. David’s relationship with God helped him be comfortable in his own skin. That released David to DO amazing things – no matter what opposed him.

Are you amped to DO things for God? Do you need to learn to just BE a God-loved person first?

Read what Paul said about this in Ephesians 2v8-10 here: http://bit.ly/1gpUIbd

#lifeofDavid
#Faithworks
#andrewv

Imagine your school decided to have a good-looks competition for everyone. Are people suddenly gymming and crash-dieting? Who wins?

David became Israel’s most loved king ever. God worked out his plans through David more than almost everyone else in the Bible. But David would not have won a beauty contest.

God didn’t care about David’s looks, but God really liked what he saw in his heart (check out 1 Samuel 16v1-13 http://bit.ly/19IPiWJ ) David wasn’t perfect but he was learning to trust and worship God – even as a kid.

How’s your heart – your inner life? Do you need to pray David’s prayer: ‘God, create a clean heart in me!’?

Read Psalm 51v10 here: http://bit.ly/17W8GhQ

#Godsviewofyou
#lifeofDavid
#andrewv

Do you ever sing songs to yourself when things get really tough? Way back in 1971 a guy called Gavin Bryars came across a homeless man in London singing these lyrics:

‘Jesus’ blood never failed me yet / Never failed me yet / Jesus’ blood never failed me yet / There’s one thing I know / For he loves me so.’

He was repeating them over and over to himself. Bryars recorded and looped it into a powerful 74-minute track. So simple but it’s the heart of our faith! Jesus’ blood is the unfailing sign of God’s unfailing love for us.

Are things or people failing you? How about singing that homeless guy’s song a few times over to yourself this week?

Listen to Jars of Clay’s cover here:http://bit.ly/1qtIVZD

#yourSoundtrack
#andrewv

The Plan for When Laws Get Broken

Not keeping God’s Law is serious. Sin is messy and the cost of sin is huge – like something-dies-huge. God gave us a way to escape being the unfortunate thing that died, something pure and innocent –a lamb that takes away the sin of the world.

This is Session 6 in Series 2 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 2 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story


If you’ve been tracking with us in this series you’ll know that we’ve said the biggest consequence of sin is broken relationship – both with God and with other people. God made covenants with people as a way to rescue those relationships and the Law was there to show people what they needed to do to keep their side of the Covenant. Just like any other covenant of the day there were blessings for keeping the agreement and a list of ‘curses’ for not keeping it.

You could call it an inspired guess or probably more like divine knowledge, but one way or the other God was pretty sure that people in general weren’t going to be the best covenant keepers. That episode with the snake and the apple was a bit of a give-away…

Not keeping the law was serious – probably a lot more serious than we like to think. Sin is messy and the cost of sin is huge – like something-dies-huge. Back then, for those times, God gives people a way to escape being the unfortunate thing that died:

‘…the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life…’ (Leviticus 19v11-12)

Atonement is a multi-layered concept but it may be helpful to think of it as at-one-ment. Atonement was bringing people back to being one, or right, with God and each other after sin had done its destructive thing.

So God provides a way to to deal with the consequences of not keeping the Law. He does that by introducing animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. They were a costly, gory, painful solution to and visual reminder of the effect of sin, both on the guilty and the innocent. The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament tells us that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ (Hebrews 9v22).

Skip forward a thousand years or so and we come across a scene in John chapter 1 where we get our first glimpse of Jesus. John the Baptist recognises him and says:

‘Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ (John 1v29).

If you were listening back then and knew your Scriptures you would be gob smacked at what John had just said, especially that he seemed to be referring to a person, that guy over there…

Lambs played a big role in the culture of Israel and the story of God’s relationship rescue plan. There were six ways lambs were symbolic for the people back then:

1) A lamb was a symbol of power and conquest in Jewish thought.

2) In Isaiah 53v7 there’s a lamb that is led to the slaughter for our healing

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter’

3) In Exodus 12v13 blood from the Passover lamb will protect the family inside that house from death

‘The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.’

4) In Leviticus 16v 21-22 a goat (ok, almost a lamb…) became a ‘scapegoat’ that would carry off the sins of the people.

‘He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.’

5) In Leviticus 4v32 – a spotless, perfect lamb was sacrificed on an altar to take away the sins of the people – its blood was able to cover over everything the people had done wrong.

6) In Genesis 22 God provides a lamb for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son Isaac. The lamb is killed in Isaac’s place and allows Isaac to live

There’s a seventh lamb we haven’t seen yet. In Revelation 5 it’s a lamb that takes center stage:

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped

When John the Baptist sees Jesus this is what he’s really saying: Look! Here’s a ‘lamb’ who will one day conquer and destroy evil; who will be killed to bring healing to us; whose blood will keep us safe from death; who will carry off our sins and deal with them permanently; who will be become the one that dies for sin instead of us. And yes, this is the person who will one day be worshipped by every creature in heaven and earth.

Wow.

zurbaran-agnus-dei-lamb-of-god-madrid-1339x800

This painting that Francisco de Zurbaran painted of a sacrificial lamb is helpful in some ways, but can also demonstrate the safe, comfortable ways we can slip into when it comes to thinking about the sin in our life. The Old Testament rituals of sacrifice were brutal reminders of the ugly, messy cost of sin.

dsc07320

“Oergh! TAKE IT AWAY! I don’t want to look at that!” Exactly. That is the point. When we confront the reality of sin, we are reminded how completely destructive and hurtful it is.

The Lamb who was slain has made a way to deal with the horror of sin. Jesus is our one source of hope that we will be ‘at one’ with God, each other and ourselves again and set free from the curse of sin in our lives.

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
What comes to mind when you hear the word, ‘sin’?

If there was a continuum of sin that ranged from ‘My sin makes me feel so bad, I feel guilty all the time’ all the way to ‘I rarely think about my sin at all. It’s not a big deal’, where do you think you would be on there?

And do you have any idea at all why Jesus had to “die on the cross for my sin?” Do you ever feel like that relates to you personally at all?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab.

replay
Some questions to help you replay your story …

o  Was there one thing stood out for you most from what you heard in this session?

o   If you identified yourself as either too hard or too soft on sin, was there anything in today’s session that helped you move to a more balanced view of it?

o  Are there any parts that seem like really good news? Anything that’s hard to believe?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
How does thinking about the way Jesus fulfilled all those ways a lamb (or goat) help you re-imagine what Jesus is like?

Read that passage from Revelation 5 again. Does that inspire you to join in with everyone else worshipping Jesus?

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Have you encountered something about the impact of sin that makes you want to say to God: ‘wow, I’ve kind of not been dealing with the sin in my life the way I probably should be … Help me see it for what it is and rely more on your mercy and grace….

Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o  James 5.16 says, ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.’ Often speaking out your sins and failings can help beat the power they have over you. Is there someone you can think of who you trust enough to do this with?

o  Knowing the badness of our sin is so important because it helps us to appreciate the goodness of His gift. If we get stuck on either the badness of our sin [too much guilt] or the goodness of His gift [no realisation of seriousness of sin] then we will have an unbalanced relationship with God? How might you need to change the way you view the sin in your life?

o  How do you think the understanding of ‘being ‘at one’ or right with God’ will affect the way you view yourself and the way you live life from day to day?

From the WordSpace


Here are six posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

#1
Wrath. Now there’s a scary word – especially if it’s God we’re talking about… Uncontrolled fury, random acts of anger and destruction. That’s not what God is supposed to be like right?

What if we imagined God’s ‘wrath’ as a controlled, steady, relentless opposition towards everything that’s unjust or evil? Might make a bit more sense? What if God saw US as unjust and evil and deserving of his wrath? Very scary thought!

What if Jesus knew that he would face God’s wrath for all of us – instead of us – for three hours on the cross? That was so scary Jesus begged God to not let that happen (Mark 14v35-36).

It did.

On the cross Jesus experienced and saved us from God’s wrath. It’s done, finished. Scary? Amazing?

Read Romans 3v21-26 http://goo.gl/Tl6qBq

#andrewv

#2
Can we become too familiar with your cross, Jesus? After all, we wear crosses around our necks; they hang on the side of church buildings and they’re printed on the front of our bibles? There’s nothing comfortable about what you did on the cross, Jesus. Shame, humiliation, nakedness, rejection, abandonment, agony, separation.

Help me to experience these things too: shame at my sin that hung you on your cross; humility at the love you showed; safe and accepted as I bare myself to you; rejecting the temptations the world throws at me; and separation, being completely set aside for you. Help me to embrace the ‘discomfort’ of knowing you!

#easter
#hein

#3
Remember. Remember how the Son of God was beaten; Remember how through the Whips & Chains, Blood & Pain, He thought of Nothing less but the love he had for Us. Remember that He was Pierced by our Rebellion, & Crushed by our Sins.

Please remember, That the Lord laid on Him, the Sins of us All, & He carried that cross upon his shoulders. With Bleeding flesh, & broken bones, He was unjustly condemned & Led away & All for OUR Salvation. All for Our Forgiveness, All for our Rebellious Hearts.

Could there EVER be a love Greater than this?

Inspired by Isaiah 53 ( http://bit.ly/16QSwTf )

#teens2teens
#easterinyourwords
Robyn Sturgess

 

#4
People talk about forgiving and forgetting, but I find it really hard sometimes, maybe even impossible. Is that bad? ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’ (Psalm 103vs12 – read it here: http://bit.ly/1eQnPon)

If we believe that God knows everything, then how is it possible that He forgets our sins? Does He develop some kind of spiritual amnesia? I don’t believe so. In fact I think it is so much more powerful if God, remembering my sins, chooses not to hold them against me.

When God looks at me, He now sees Jesus and the sacrifice He made on the cross and treats me as if I have never committed any of those sins. When I ask for forgiveness, I can rest assured that it is freely given.

What would it take to really believe that?

#forgive
#brettfish

#5
A long time ago in a galaxy (not that) far, far away … The ancient ways forgotten, the universe is gripped by evil with a deceiver on the throne.
A prophecy of hope …
A young man, born of a virgin, destined to restore the cosmic order.
A faithful mentor who prepares him for the struggles he’ll face growing into his long-prophesied destiny.
His temptation to the Dark Side and duel with an evil opponent in the desert.
The Spirit who guides and empowers Him.
The Father who is pleased with His Son.
is ultimate sacrifice that brings restoration and frees the oppressed
No, this is not the story of Anakin Skywalker, it’s about Jesus Christ. Experience it NOW in a Bible near you!

#God’sStoryNow
#hein

#6
Every Easter, we remember it as a time when Jesus died on the cross. The cross was an instrument of torture created for the enemies for Rome. It was designed to cause suffering.

Do you ever think how strange it is that Christians use the symbol of the cross as a piece of art and jewellery? If Jesus had stood in front of a firing squad, would we all wear golden guns? And what if the electric chair had been around?

While it may seem crazy when we think about it that way, it may help to switch focus from what the cross did to Jesus to what it did to us. Our sin. Our death sentence. And yet Jesus takes our place. He performs the role of scapegoat, the one who bears the sins of the entire nation, or in our case, world.

Then suddenly the cross takes on a whole different meaning because now it is a reminder of the gift of Love that God demonstrated by sending Jesus for us. A memorial to His death so to speak.

And so when we look at the cross, we try not so much to remember the suffering it caused for Jesus, but the freedom from suffering that it won for each of us who chooses to follow Him.

Read an account of his death and final words here – http://bit.ly/1mb3vO2

#Easter
#Lent
#Brettfish

The Law – How to Keep a Covenant

The Law in the Old Testament had just one purpose – to forge a holy, God-worshiping, Covenant-keeping community. It turned out to be impossible to keep. We need to be wise about how to keep the laws that still apply to us and how to rely on God’s presence and grace to shape us into right-relationship people.

This is Session 5 in Series 2 of the Enter Life Curriculum. [Series 2 HomeEnter Life Home]

The Story

Seriously – what’s up with all the laws in the Old Testament? The ones about loving God with all your heart, and not murdering people are one thing but what about those laws in Leviticus 18 and 19 about not being able to cut the hair at the sides of your head or trimming your beard?? Or the one some people like to quote about homosexuality being ‘detestable to God’?

And if not all of them apply today but some do, then how do we tell which is which? And how are we supposed to live by the ones that do apply? Didn’t Jesus say he had come, not to abolish the law but to fulfil it? Why then does Paul say we don’t live under the law but under grace – and that living by the Law is basically a rejection of what Jesus did?

We’ve tackled the ‘which laws apply and which don’t’ question in a separate article (things just got too long for one post!) In this article we’ll explore a few key things about the Law – what God’s intention for the Law was, and how it relates to us today.

God’s grand plan for the law was to help people be the holy Covenant-keeping people God called them to be. The basic deal of the Covenants was God saying: ‘I’ll be your God and do everything an all-powerful, loving God can do for you. As for you, you need to let me be God, and be holy people’. Being holy meant being faithful to, loving, obeying and worshiping God more than anything else.

In the middle of a pretty hectic list of laws and punishments in Leviticus, we find this verse. It’s God’s heart behind everything he was saying:

You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own’ (Leviticus 20v26)

The laws in the Old Testament had just one purpose – to forge a holy, God-worshiping, Covenant-keeping community out of some pretty unholy raw material.

The laws in the first part of the Bible (see for example Exodus 20-23) generally have two parts. There’s a statement of the rule or principle. For example in Exodus 20v13 we get: ‘You shall not murder’. And then there are details about how that rule actually works. So in Exodus 21v12 there’s a bit more detail about not murdering someone, because, you know, life is complicated:

He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee. If, however, a man acts presumptuously toward his neighbour, so as to kill him craftily, you are to take him even from my altar, that he may die.’

In many cases we’re talking about laws that set out the bare minimum for acceptable behaviour in very imperfect situations. The laws God gave often didn’t describe God’s ideal for human life, they were about making the best of some rough times. Like this one for example:

If a man sleeps with a female slave who is promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment’ (Leviticus 19v20).

(The punishments prescribed, like stoning for example, also don’t align with God’s ideal way to deal with law-breakers but were also accommodated to the times as a way to make the best out of very imperfect situations.)

Other parts of the Law, like the great commandment that Jesus restated in Matthew 22v 35-40 are the most complete (but not very specific) expression of holy living.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

Frederick Buechner has a great take on the different kinds of law:

There are basically two kinds of law: (l) law as the way things ought to be, and (2) law as the way things are. An example of the first is “No Trespassing.” An example of the second is the law of gravity.

God’s law has traditionally been spelled out in terms of category no. 1, a compendium of dos and don’ts. These dos and don’ts are the work of moralists and, when obeyed, serve the useful purpose of keeping us from each other’s throats. They can’t make us human, but they can help keep us honest.

God’s law in itself, however, comes under category no. 2 and is the work of God. It has been stated in seven words: “Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Like it or not, that’s how it is. If you don’t believe it, you can always put it to the test just the way if you don’t believe the law of gravity, you can always step out a tenth-story window.

The ultimate problem with the Law
Ultimately, the Law was impossible for people to keep. We just can’t be holy by our own efforts at rule-keeping. Paul realised that the Law actually became a curse for us since all it did was to show us how unholy we were. That wasn’t the Law’s fault, it was ours. Here’s how Paul explains it in Galatians 3 and Romans 7 (The Message translation):

… those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.’ Galatians 3v10

At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead. Sin took advantage of those commands and deceived me; it used the commands to kill me. But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good. Romans 7v 9-12

All that to say – we really need rescuing from the impact that sin has on our lives! The Law-keeping way to become holy and right with God is out of our reach – we need some divine help … Here’s Paul again in Galatians 3v13-14:

‘But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.’

Jesus is the human representative who’s now keeping the Covenant agreement with God – and so anyone who believes in Jesus gets to experience not the curse from trying to be good by keeping the Law but the blessings that come from being united with a Covenant-keeper (more on that in Series 4).

So how are we supposed to live by the Law today?
Jesus made it clear in Matthew 5-7 that the Law is still very much part of God’s plan to shape us into holy people. Here are four thoughts on just what to do with that …

1. Not all the laws in the Old Testament apply to us today. Some were given in order to keep the nation of Israel holy back then, others were part of the sacrificial system that’s been replaced by Jesus. Other laws were there to separate Jews and Gentiles until the time came for them to be integrated (we’ve explored this more in the extra post). The New Testament is also clear that we do not have to live according to these laws – in fact we will be sinning if we try! See Galatians 5v1-5 for a good example.

2. Those that do apply mostly provide basic limits within which we are to live. Do not steal, lie, nurture anger towards someone etc. The problem with those kinds of laws is that they are not very good at telling us the kinds of specific things we should do. The fifth Commandment says to honour your parents but it doesn’t offer any specific instructions on how to do that. You can’t command anyone exactly how to live a parent-honouring or say, a sibling-loving life, right?

Thou shalt give thy brother a hug every second Saturday…’.

We need more than limits to know how to live well.

3. The great commandment to love God, love others, love ourselves is, well, the great commandment. It defines the great playing field on which all the things we need to do must happen i.e. everything we do must be compatible with loving God, loving others, loving ourselves. St Augustine once said: ‘Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.’

At a general level we can ask ourselves, ‘is what I’m doing or wanting to do in line with loving God, others, myself?’ If it is, then ‘do what you please…’

4. The thing that does shape and enable us to recognise and do specific things well is the presence of God. Paul tells us that we are not ‘under’ law but under grace. Grace is a lot more than just getting what you don’t deserve. Grace is about God’s power for us to become the people we are meant to be and do the things we are meant to do. Jesus’ covenant-keeping provides a way for God’s grace to be poured out on us – and for God to send the Holy Spirit who comes to live inside people who believe. The results (or fruit) of Spirit-filled, grace-shaped lives are the good ways of living that real, eternal life is all about: patience, kindness, joy, self-control – and knowing how to honour parents and being nice to little brothers …

Long ago, Jeremiah spoke about God’s great desire for what the law and God’s inner presence would do for anyone who chooses to love and obey God:

But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,’ says the Lord. ‘I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbours, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,’ says the Lord. ‘And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins. Jeremiah 31v 33-34

Isn’t that an awesome vision?!

redperson

Leaders Toolkit


In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.

Click on the time bomb to see how you could run this session in 15 minutes, 30 minutes or longer.
timebomb

Download a PDF version of this session here

Rewind
Have you been asked an awkward question about those old laws in the Bible or do you have one yourself? What kind of answer did you come up with?

Find and read the Ten Commandments again. How closely do you think they need to be obeyed? Would you say you’ve been doing things more or less in line with what they say the past few weeks? Which ones do you struggle more to keep?

theWordSpace_cropped
Get the conversation started …

Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)

o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?

o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?

o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?

Refresh
Read the post in The Story tab.

replay
Some questions to help you replay your story …

o  Did what you encountered in this session resolve any questions you had about the Law? Did it raise any new ones for you?

o  “Whoever does not love abides in death” Do you agree with Buechner that that’s a good summary of God’s law?

o  Imagine you had more of God’s grace and presence that was helping you become more Jesus-like in the way you think and act. What differences would you notice?

Re – draw your picture of Jesus
Jesus often shocked the religious rulers of the day by seeming to care far more about people than about strictly keeping laws such as not healing or fasting on the Sabbath. For Jesus the law was about restoring right relationship with God and people and not earning holiness points. That meant he’d heal a guy’s hand on the Sabbath in defiance of the leaders but also that he took the law about murder to the next level by equating murder with hating someone.

o  How does thinking about that change or challenge the way you view Jesus?

remix
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?

Re-pent …
Have you encountered something in this session, maybe a specific thing you’ve thought or done, or a more general way of thinking that makes you want to say to God:

wow, I’ve kind of been getting that wrong in my life – sorry! Fill me with your presence and grace to help me really change on the inside and get over this thing. 

Some questions to help you remix your story …
o  Is there anything you’re doing that needs to change so that it can fit with ‘love God, love others, love yourself’? What would be the first step to take in changing this?

o  What could you do this week to invite God to be present and receive more of God’s grace?

From the WordSpace


Here are five posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:

#1
What is God’s law really about? Here’s a great view by a guy called Frederick Buechner.

God’s law is often seen as a list of dos and don’ts. ‘These dos and don’ts … serve the useful purpose of keeping us from each other’s throats. They can’t make us human, but they can help keep us honest.’

Actually though, God’s law is more a statement of the way things are. ‘It has been stated in seven words: ‘Whoever does not love abides in death’ (1 John 3v14).’

‘Like it or not, that’s how it is. If you don’t believe it, you can always put it to the test just the way if you don’t believe the law of gravity, you can always step out a tenth-story window.’

Time to practice love a bit more this week?

#faithworks
#GodsLaw
#andrewv

#2
‘Young people, I am writing you, because you are strong. God’s message is firm in your hearts, and you have defeated the evil one.’ (1 John 2v14)

Wow, what a vote of confidence from Jesus himself, speaking to you through John! You are strong, in the prime of your life. Use your strength to serve God and learn to run with him now. Give the Word lots of space to grip your heart and know that overcoming is part of your identity.

What would it look like to work out God’s word about you today?

Read 1 John 2 here: http://goo.gl/bUeBk

#GodsViewofYou
#1john
#wendyb

#3
Where are you now God, where are you now? Do you ever think of me? Why am I surrounded by temptation and bad stuff?

Faith is hard sometimes. Here’s help:

‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.’ James 4v6-8

Grace is God’s power for us to know God and live well. Quit living as if you know everything – you don’t! Ask God for grace and invite God to be present. See what happens 🙂
Read James 4 here: http://goo.gl/ZduSP

#faithworks
#andrewv

#4
How can I be a Christian and know what to do about my friends who are into getting drunk or hooking up with each other? That’s a huge question! In Colossians 4v5-6, Paul gives four ways to begin to respond:

Ask God for wisdom to know your limits and weakness to temptation; find ways to love and care for your friends wherever you go; don’t judge your friends in what you say but let your words and actions show what God is growing in you.

Wisdom, love, grace, flavour. Ask God to give you more of those and help you show your friends what real life is really about.

Read Colossians 4v5-6 here: http://bit.ly/118fZe4

#wisewords
#colossians
#andrewv

#5
Near the end of Jesus’ agonising time on the cross he said three words: ‘It is finished.’ (John 19v30) What was finished? Everything that needed to be done to make our relationship with God right again.

Do you believe that? A guy called Darrell Johnson said that we can either believe Jesus did that relationship-rescue work for us or we can spend the rest of our lives trying to get it done ourselves. Are you trying hard to earn a good relationship with God by doing all the right things, or feeling despair cos you can’t get it right?

Here’s good news. Jesus did it already. It is finished.

Read John 19 here: http://bit.ly/1iwbliy
and Ephesians 1 here: http://bit.ly/1dLNnvu

#easter
#andrewv