Tuesday, August 29, 2006

E4 is Here!!!

Essential Element: Emphasising Evangelism

E4 is here, and I hope you are excited. I know I am EXTREMELY excited about what God is going to do through your guys this year.

Do you realize that when Christie and I first moved here H2O had students from one school, and one school only (BHS) and now, 5 1/2 years later, God has expanded the influence of H2O Student Ministries to at least 8 schools!!! (Bluestone High & Middle, Park View High & Middle, Randolph Henry, Crossroads Christian, Centerville Christian, and Halifax Christian)

Do you know what that means??? That means that the reach of H2O to share the gospel goes clear across Mecklenburg County and even into three neighboring counties. YOU can have an incredible influence this year and start a revival in this area, your Jerusalem & Judea, for Christ!

E4 will provide opportunities for you to bring friends to a place where they can see Christians having a good time and where they can hear the TRUTH about Jesus. I know there are a lot of events planned, and I know that you can't go to all of them, but commit now to being a part of AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE over the next four months, praying EVERYDAY that God will use E4 to start a revival among the students of Virginia.

Are your ready? E4 Needs YOU and your beautiful feet!

Romans 10:13-15
For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? And how will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pimp My Glory

Wednesday Night Bible Study Recap
August 16, 2006
2 Corinthians 3:6-18

A New Law by Derek Webb

Remember the song we were talking about during our Old Covenant/New Covenant discussion of 2 Corinthians 3 last week? Here it is!

Remember the veil that the law puts over people's eyes to miss the point of freedom in the spirit...here's a great song and video to depict that.

Many of us have traded the blindfold of sin for the blindfold of living in the obsolete glory of the Law. We have missed the whole joy of salvation: living in and trusting the Spirit to guide us into truth and righteousness through life.

Many Christians still live under the Law because it's "easier". Notice all the "don't teach me..." lines (about moderation and liberty, about politics, about freedom, about truth and beauty...etc.) See, when we live in the freedom of the spirit, there is more studying to do to see what it truly means to be like Christ. That's part of the idea behind sanctification and becoming more like Christ! If it were just about living up to a list, then we may have the wrong idea that we can take our salvation into our own hands!

Is living in the Spirit easy? In a sense, no, because it takes diligent study, the use of our intellect, humility and repentance. All of this goes agianst our tendency toward apathy and our follow the crowd, make it easy for me, instant gratification mindset.

Here's a recap of the Truths we learned from 2 Corinthians 3:6-18:

Truth 1: God wants us to know that we're sinful. (v6)
The job of the Law is to show us our utter inability to follow it. This shows us that salvation has to come from oursdie of ourselves. God wants us to know that we are sinful so that we will seek him out.

Truth 2: The Ministry of the Letter leaves us borken and hopeless because it's glory fades. (v6-7)
Because the Law shows us our sinfulness, it leaves us broken and hopeless becuase we know we could never fulfill the law perfectly. Thankfully, God has provided a way for redemption, first through the sacrifice of animals, and finall through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. Through him, and only through him, we then find hope in the Spirit.

Truth 3: The Ministry of the Spirit gives us hope and peace because it's glory abounds. (v8-9)
Why does the Ministry of the Spirit abound? Because it's saving power does not depend on us AT ALL! It's all God's work in us. The law depends on our actions. It kills because we break it. The Spirit saves because God works through it.

Truth 4: Whatever glory the Letter did have is now gone. (v10-11)
When Jesus came he fulfilled the law. Is the law still importan? Sure, because it still reveals our sinfulness and shows us the sorts of actions that please God. However, the heart of worship behind our actions is more important. Daily worshiping in Spirit and Truth, seeking to follow Jesus, pleases God in a way that simply following the Law never can. Jesus fulfilled the Law. He made it complete. He is perfect, so we can trust Him for salvation.

Truth 5: The hope of the Spirit makes our speech bold. (v12-13)
The hope of the Spirit is something worth talking about...because it actually involves HOPE! That is why we should be bold in speaking it...it's worth being bold about!

Truth 6: If we focus on the Law we miss the real glory. (v14-16)
This is like someone being amazed by the light of the moon, never having seen the true source of the light, the sun! How amazed would he be to see the glory of the sun that outshines the "glory" of the moon by millions! Focus on the source of the light, not just the reflection.

Truth 7: The Spirit molds us into the image of the glory of Christ. (v17-18)
Where the Law only convicts, in the case of sin, the Spirit not only convicts but teaches and molds us into the image of Christ. Live in the Spirit and when you feel conviction, humbly repent and make the life changes that He is urging you to make. This is the essence of sanctification, becoming more like Christ.

Do not be afraid.
To take a step of faith unlike anyone in your family (or maybe even church) has ever taken.

Do not be afraid.
To use your God-given intellect to study His word and learn straight from the source what it means to have the mind of Christ.

Do not be afraid.
To trust the Spirit to save you, not your obedience to a set of rules (of which you could NEVER live up to anyway!)

Do not be afraid.
To have your long-held beliefs challenged or confirmed by the Word of God.

Do not be afraid.
To look into the true light and glory instead of still focusing on just the fading reflection.

Do not be afraid.
To trust the Spirit to give you the courage and words to share the freedom and hope of Christ to a world dying while trying to follow the Law.

Do not be afraid.
To trade in the comfort of familiarity in following "rules" for the freedom and peace that life in the Spirit affords.

Remember, it takes diligent study, the use of our intellect, humility and repentance to live in the Spirit. Get in the word, get around other believers that are living in the Spirit, and get in a church that is teaching freedom in Christ.

Enjoy the video...look for more soon!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The O.T. Part XII-Wrestling with a Name Change

Sunday Night Bible Study Recap
August 13, 2006
Genesis 32:22-32

A chain of interlocked fingers. Thumbs strethced high waiting for the familiar words:

"One, two, three, four, I declare thumb war."
(If your curious about the rules and other methods of massive multiplayer thumb wrestling, check this out: http://www.monochrom.at/daumen/netzwerk-eng.htm)

A roar goes up from the crowd as Heather Barden and Tyler Smart wrestle with all they have for the H2O 2006 Thumb Wrestling Championship.

"One, Two, Three!" And the winner is...Heather!

Why thumb wrestling? Well, because doing things WWE style would have been too dangerous and would have given the guys an unfair advantage.

Even after just a few minutes of thumb wrestling, most students were a little weary in the wrist and fingers. Imagine wrestling, full-body, olympic greco-roman, little brother getting pounced by big brother, leggo by eggo style all night long!

Oh yeah...and you'd be wrestling with God.

As we looked at the story of Jacob's wrestling match, let's remember a little about where Jacob is in his life right now:

He's just left his father in law with the threat of "if you come back this way, be ready for a fight".

He's just learned that his brother (from whom he took the birthright and blessing 20 years before) is coming to meet him with 400 men.

He's just sent pretty much everything he has to his brother as a present to try to appease him (even though he knows that God is with him and has protected him in the past-Jacob trusts his treasure more than he trusts God-see previous post)

And now he sends his wife and kids across the river and is left alone.

And WHAM! He get's jumped!

Now, Jacob isn't one to back away from a fight, so he starts wrestling with this man who has just jumped him. He wrestles with him until daybreak. He's fighting for his life here.

We know from hearing this story before that Jacob isn't wrestling with just any man here. He's, in fact, wrestling with God. (Scholars would call this the pre-incarnate person of Jesus or a Christophony...that just means it's God in the flesh before he was born in a manger in Bethlehem. There are quite a few times when God shows up like this in the O.T.-to Abraham, to Joshua, and others).

So, let me ask you this question: Have any of you ever wrestled with God over something? Jacob is definitely in a physical brawl with God right here. We may have never been in a fist fight with God, but most, if not all of us, have wrestled with God's spirit over a decision, a lifestyle, a thought, a challenging life direction, or a specific sin that keeps creeping up.

The purpose of the wrestling match is the same: God's spirit is wrestling with our desires for the purpose of heart and life change. When we are not at rest in God, becuase of sin, we will wrestle with God.

Verse 25 makes it obvious that, in this case, Jacob is in a physical brawl with God. God touches Jacob's hip and dislocates it! He just touched it! He could have taken Jacob's life at any moment, but he didn't, he just crippled him.

Jacob had wrestled with God for so long, his will was so set against the heart and life change that God wanted to make in him, that it cost him his ability to walk without a limp.

So what are you saying Ryan? Are you saying that our resistance of God's spirit could bring pysical consequences in my life? ABSOLUTELY! God wants us to wrestle with the sin that's in our lives, but he also wants us to put aside that sin and follow after Him. When we are unwilling to put aside that sin and follow his Spirit, we will face consequences with the hope that those consquences will produce the same reaction that Jacob had.

Jacob finally recognized who he was wrestling with. He wasn't wrestling with someone who wanted to take his life. He was wrestling with someone who wanted to give him abundant life!

Why do we so often wrestle with God over the changes that he wants to make in our lives? Is it because we like our life and think that God can't do any better? Is it selfishness? Is it pride? God doesn't want to take your life, he wants to give you a better life. He wants us to be obedient so that we can experience every blessing that he has made ready for us to receive. Jacob finally recognizes this, and asks for that blessing.

V27-28 tell us that Jacob had prevailed. Does this mean that he defeated God? NO! It means that he had defeated himself for the sake of following God. We only win when we put aside our selfish desires and cry "uncle" to the will of God. When our spirit gives in to God's Spirit, only then have we prevailed.

V30 gives us a warning. Jacob recognized that he had wrestled with God, and even though he was now limping, his life has been preserved. But what about next time? What if he gets into another wrestling match with God and does not want to give in? Will God preserve his life again?

What about you? What are you wrestling with God over? How long have you been wrestling? How much longer will you wrestle and risk facing the consequences that our sin brings on our lives? How much longer will God be patient with you and your sin before he takes your hip...or your life?

Here are some God Themes from this passage:
v25-Power/Permisiveness (not in a negative sense)-His love is not forced

Here are some Practical Applications to our Everyday Life:
1. It is important to get alone to spend time with God.
2. Look for and get rid of things in your life that distract you from the voice of God.
3. Learn from others.
4. If you continue to wrestle and give in to your desires, at some point it will result in consequences, and it may cost you your life!

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Please Appease Me

Sunday Night Recap
The O.T. Part XI
Genesis 32:1-21

Ode to the Pea (or Is it Really an Ode to Broccoli?)
By Ryan Russell

Peas are green
Peas are round
Peas can be sweet
Peas can be brown
When I eat a pea
I like it to be warm
Cleaned of all juice
and next to some corn.

Black-eyed peas taste ok
Though they must have lost the fight
You can find them in a can
Or in concert Saturday night.

One pea, two peas, three peas, four
Sometimes Athan eats them off the floor.

Ok,that's enough pea poetry.
They're just not that important to me.
Yes, sometimes I'll eat them
And sometimes I'll mix them
With chicken and rice and then I will heat them.
But my love for the pea is not for better or worse
And certainly not enough to keep writing this verse.

Their roundness and greeness and moundness and beanness
Will not let me ingnore their seamlessness and meanness.
When needing some goodness of vegetable foodness
The pea I will continue to eat less and less.

Peas were my favorite, peas were the best
But now I give favor to all of the rest

But broccoli. Mmmmm broccoli.
Steamed and smothered in cheese.
If I must choose between peas and these.
You can be sure I'll say "no more peas please."

No, this week's Bible Study was not about peas, although Christie did a great job of playing her part in the planned pea eating contest. (Congrats Courtney on winning the "impromptu" contest). See, even though this week's bible study was not about peas, it was about the word "appease". That's what we in Youth Ministry like to call a play on words (I'm pretty sure a few other people use that phrase too...) and what I hope will become a visual reminder of the truth taught Sunday night. (From now on anytime you see a pea you will think of how Jacob tried to appease his brother, Esau, and how we sometimes treat God the same way...as someone who can easily be appeased with just a few gifts, of which he already owns!)

So, let's look at this passage and see what we can learn from what Jacob did wrong in Genesis 32:
(You'll have to get your own Bible to read along because I am not going to type out the whole passage here!)

V1: Jacob sees that God is with Him-this should give him comfort in going to meet his brother, because it is what saved him from the wrath of Laban in Chapter 31. God had already physically protected him from someone that wanted to kill him, why should he fear Esau?

V2-5: Here we see Jacob trying the play the "like me because of all the stuff I have" instead of telling Esau "hey bro, God is with me, so let's talk." Jacob shows trust in his stuff over trusting in God.

V6-8: Now Jacob tries to get smart and protect his stuff because he is scared of what Esau and his 400 men might do to him.

V9-12: This prayer, read without seeing Jacob's actions surrounding the prayer, could be seen as a very trusting in God sort of prayer. He is remembering and "trusting" God to fulfill his promises. But his attitude actually (as shown by his actions in the next 7 verses) is one of "Oh God, you promised me this and now you have brought me to die...don't forget God, you promised to make ME a great nation." Jacob has a selfish attitude. He does not want to see God's promises fulfilled for the sake of God's Kingdom, but for the sake of saving his own butt.

V13-19: So, what was that action that showed Jacob was not fully trusting God? He fully trusts his stuff to appease Esau. He sends all these gifts to Esau basically saying "here, have my stuff and don't kill me."

V20: Jacob did all this to appease Esau. There is the key word for this passage.

Jacob was not willing to take responsibility for his actions. In fact, we see that in v21 when he sent all that stuff to Esau he stayed back at the camp, not even going to seek forgiveness from his brother.

When we just try to appease people by giving them stuff instead of admitting that we were wrong, we are taking a very prideful and selfish approach to our relationships.

We need to get beyond appeasement and truly seek forgiveness in our relationships with people and our relationship with God.

When we just try to appease God for our sin against him, then we are treating him like an idol who needs to be sacrificed to.

When we try to appease God by giving more offering or going on a mission trip, but we never agree with him that sin in our life is truly sin, he says that he detests our efforts. (check out Psalm 51 and Isaiah 64:6).

Stop trying to appease God for your sin. You can't do it. Just confess your sin (agree with God that it is sin) and seek forgiveness from him.

Just like Jacob's attitude toward Esau should have been one of brokeness and seeking forgiveness instead of trying to make up for what he had done, our attitude should be one of brokeness before God, seeking forgiveness.

That, and only that, will please him.

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Element '06

There is a BIG event coming up at the start of the school year and we need YOUR HELP to get the word out. Here's what's going on...

Sept. 23, 2006

Encounter Ministries and the surrounding churches of Southside VA are having a Youth Rally on Sept. 23, 2006. Anybody and Everybody is invited. Come out for a night of music from the local Water's Edge Community Church praise band "W.E.P.T", SixChasingSeven, and Exodus, along with a speaker and great food.
For Directions...
contact me
cell # 434-917-5791
home # 434-374-5608

Well, most of you have heard WEPT before (we'll be doing a lot of our original stuff) but you probably haven't heard SixChasingSeven.

But they are incredible (with a little bit of a Dave Matthews/Big Daddy Weave feel)!!! Check out their web-site www.sixchasingseven.com to hear some of their stuff.

Exodus is a band from Liberty that has a great sound playing and singing your favorite praise songs.

We'll have fliers and handouts for you to invite all of your friends. This will be a major event for our Yet to Be Named 2006 Evangelism Focus (which you'll be hearing more about in the coming weeks). It will only go well if YOU make it go well!!! (No Pressure!)

I promise...you don't want to miss this...a great concert in your own backyard and a great opportunity for your friends to hear the gospel!

Could there be anything better?

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

I Gotta Get Mine

Sunday Night Recap
Sunday July 30, 2006
The O.T. Part 10

Have you ever seen someone pulling taffy? It's a pretty intriguing (I have NO idea if I spelled that correctly) process of stretching something to it's absolute limit. Out of all the times I have watched taffy being pulled I have never seen it break. I'm sure, though, that sometimes that long strand of yummy gooiness separates and forms two separate pieces never to be perfectly rejoined again.

In this weeks story from Genesis 30:25-31:55 we see Jacob and Laban's relationship being stretched to the breaking point. This strain on the relationship was precipitated by deception, selfishness, pride and this attitude:


Have you ever had that attitude within a relationship? That attitude will no doubt lead to separation. A selfish and prideful attitude in relationships will stretch relationships and often lead to a break.

In Jacob and Labans relationship we see an ABSOLUTE break, kind of like the line that is drawn in the back seat of cars and vans all across the country between feuding siblings. The difference is that Jacob and Labans relationship stretched so far that it broke, irreconcilablly (I'm not even sure this is a word!)

If we have an attitude of "I have a right to get what's mine" we will never live in a Romans 12 attitude of relationships which tells us to "not think more highly of ourselves than we should." We own nothing and nothing is owed to us. What we think we need to get as "ours" in fact is God's to begin with...not ours!

Watch your relationships. If you see your relationships stretching out like taffy, it may eventually lead to a break caused by selfishness and pride.

Even more importantly, this same separation can happen in our relationship to God. We can hold back from him, blame him for our actions, and live pridefully in "our" faith. In that we cause separation, division and distance in our relationship to God.

And if our relationship to God is strained, you can be sure your relationships with the people around you will be strained!