Wednesday, September 30, 2009

NTC Day 10: Matt. 19-20, Acts 28

Today there are only three chapters. Your chance to catch up! I know it was for me. :)

Acts 28:26-27

"Go to this people and say, 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them'."

This is not the first time that we have heard these words. Jesus himself quotes this passage from Isaiah in response to his disciples’ question as to why He spoke to the people in parables. Yet we seem to see the extent of the peoples' calloused hearts, their closed ears and eyes. For Jesus spoke in parables and the Jews did not understand and rejected him. Yet Paul comes and speaks in plain language and clear words, and he too is rejected. This seems to drive home the point that Jesus made that it has been given to some to believe, yet not to others.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

NTC Day 9: Matt. 17-18, Acts 25-27

Acts 26:18

I find this such a fascinating verse because we hear, from Jesus’ own mouth, what happens in a person’s conversion. We find five things that I pray we can all say has taken place in our lives. It can be said for every believer that they have:

1. Had their eyes opened
2. Been turned from darkness to light
3. Been turned from the power of Satan to God
4. Received forgiveness of sins
5. Received a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ

Consider this week how these things look in your life. Consider how you can model these characteristics more in your life. And above all thank God for the work he has done in your life.

Monday, September 28, 2009

NTC Day 8: Matt. 15-16, Acts 22-24

Acts 22

Don't miss all the personal drama here! Let me break it down for you.

Dramatis Personae:

Saul/Paul - A converted Jewish Christian and former Christian persecutor
Ananias - A Christian highly respected by the Jews in Damascus
Angry Jewish Mob - Saul/Paul's ex-buddies

Paul is addressing a group of Jews from Jerusalem. More than likely there are some in the group that even knew Paul way back in his "Saul-ish" days. Those would be the days back when he was persecuting the Christians. He mentions Gamaliel, the high priest, and the Council can testify to his former life and his past "fervency" for the Jewish faith.Yet here he is now, facing the same sort of mob that he stood in approval of back during the stoning of Stephen.

Not only that, but he includes in his testimony the account Ananias, a Christian from Damascus. So the message that Ananias delivered to Paul (v.14-16) was probably a very emotionally charged message for Ananias to give to a very recent persecutor of the church.

So, in essence, Paul is relaying a message from an enemy who became a brother, to brothers who had become enemies.

And this can somtimes be our story as well. While we are called to "live at peace with all men as far as it depends on you", this is not always possible. You should decide today whom you will please, man or God. Decide whether you will risk offending the sensibilities of our culture, or offending the Ruler of the Universe. I know, it seems an easy decision the way I put it. But it never is when it comes right down to it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

NTC Day 7: Matt. 13-14, Acts 19-21

I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. - Acts 20:24

We live like our lives like they have ultimate meaning. We are the center. We are the hero. It’s all about us. In reality, however, we are all just role players in God’s story. All our time on the earth amounts to nothing more than a two second appearance in God's story.

It’s like an “actor” I knew. When he said he had a part in the movie Catch Me If You Can, I said, “I’ll have to go check that out and see how you did.” His response illustrates our lives. He said, “Well . . . I’ll have to watch it with you so you don’t miss me. I was a taxi cab driver.” He appeared in one scene, in the background, completely unnoticed by the majority of people who watched the movie. Why? Because the movie was about Leonardo DiCaprio - not the taxi driver in the background of the airport scene.

If my actor friend had taken his role and tried to make it about himself, he would have been foolish. He could have spent hours fixing his makeup, trying on clothes, and standing in front of the mirror rehearsing the look he was going to use as the taxi flashed past. If the point was to make himself look great, it was wasted because nobody really notices.

Our lives are the same way. We work hard and try to make the most of them, but if the point is to make a big deal out of ourselves, we’re pretty foolish.

Our lives aren’t meaningless though. As a part of God’s story, they are indispensable. Imagine a movie with no crowds. What would Gladiator be like with no one in the Coliseum to cheer on Maximus? What if no one was there to dance on the Titanic with Jack and Rose? Our role is to spend our lives making Jesus the hero of God’s story. We don’t waste our life by focusing on him. Instead, we maximize it.

What are you doing with your two second appearance?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

NTC Day 6: Matt. 11-12, Acts 16-18

Matthew 12:34-35

You can’t live the life God desires unless you prepare for it. One necessary ingredient in this training is reading the Bible. We embarked on this Challenge because you must have the Word of God in your heart and mind to change your behavior.

Your heart is like a bucket. It gets filled to overflowing and whatever you put in is what comes out. You have the choice of what goes into your bucket. In the same way, you have a choice about what comes out based on what goes in. When you pour in God’s Word, then godly things overflow in your life.

We see this in the ordinary events of life, but also in the stressful, difficult situations. Think about it this way – every day, we carry our “bucket” around. When difficult things happen, it’s like we get bumped. When we get bumped, our bucket sloshes. Guess what spills? Whatever you put into the bucket. Sometimes we wonder why we react to people and situations the way we do. All we have to do is look at what we’ve put in the bucket.

I hope that the NTC is helping you fill your bucket with Jesus, so that when you are bumped, Jesus is what overflows.

Friday, September 25, 2009

NTC Day 5: Matt. 9-10, Acts 13-15

Acts 15:10-11

Do vs. Done.

Everything in life pushes us to “do” something. Religion is no different. Every religious system out there pushes us to do something to make ourselves better. It gets really tiring – not to mention that it doesn’t work.

Here’s where Christianity is different. It’s not about the things that you’ve got to do; it’s what Jesus has done in your place. It’s not about work or effort; it’s about faith and trust.

Jesus fulfilled the law in your place (Matt. 5:17) and now offers His life to you – both for today and forever. Through faith in Jesus, His sinless life and all that He has done for you is credited to your account. Your sins are forgiven and you stand before God as one who has completely fulfilled His perfect Law. Everything you have to do has already been done.

That’s grace and it’s the good news of the Gospel.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NTC Day 4: Matt. 7-8, Acts 10-12

What do you expect God to do? We often read God’s promises and think wistfully “wouldn’t that be awesome?” Sigh. Then get up and carry on with life as usual.

Cornelius blows my mind. God tells him to send for Peter. Uh, ok. That’s it? No details, guarantees or promises? Nope. So he sends for Peter.

Look at all the “coincidences” God has to arrange to make this happen. An angel comes to Cornelius. Peter has a vision just as Cornelius’ servants show up. Peter decides to follow. The whole process takes 5 days.

When they show up at Cornelius’ house, what do they find? Cornelius is waiting . . . but he’s not alone. He’s invited everyone he knows and they are all sitting there, waiting on Peter.

We have no idea what God already has in motion around us. While we wait for evidence, God is waiting on us to get moving. What are you expecting God to do?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

NTC Day 3: Matt. 5-6, Acts 7-9

Think about some of the things you’ve read about baptism this week:

Jesus set the example for us and was baptized to start His ministry.
(Matthew 3:16)

Baptism is an expected response after you decide to turn from sin and follow Jesus. When asked what to do in response to the good news about Jesus, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized . . . ” (Acts 2:38) 3,000 were baptized that day (v. 41).

Baptism takes place after you believe in Jesus and ask Him to forgive you. Notice these three examples: It says of the Samaritans, “when they believed . . . they were baptized.” (Acts 8:12) Belief then baptism. Simon “believed and was baptized.” (Acts 8:13) Belief then baptism. The Ethiopian heard about Jesus and his immediate response was “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” (Acts 8:36) Belief then baptism.

If you believe in Jesus and want to follow Him, your first step of obedience is to be baptized. Instead of putting baptism off, the real question should be, “Why shouldn’t I be baptized.” Do you believe in Jesus? Have you asked Him to forgive your sins? Then you should be baptized in response to that decision. The sequence in the Bible is always – they believed and then they were baptized.

We have reserved the Holiday Inn Express indoor pool for Sunday, September 27 at 12:00. Immediately after church, we will pack things up and head to the Holiday Inn to baptize anyone who has turned to Jesus and wants to follow Him.

Please reply to this and let me know if you are interested. If you have more questions, reply and I have a more complete explanation that I can email you.

There’s water. Why shouldn’t you be baptized?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NTC Day 2: Matt. 3-4, Acts 4-6

Acts 4:13

We tend to put limitations on ourselves. We think we can accomplish certain things, but others are certainly beyond us. These limitations are usually artificial. We are like an adult elephant restrained by a rope and wooden stake. When he was small, he tried to pull the stake up and couldn’t. Now he sees the stake and just assumes he’s trapped. Although he now has the strength to pull up a tree, he is limited by his mental framework and past experiences.

Some of you face the same situation. Maybe early on, you were told what you could and could not do. Some were voted “most likely to succeed” but the rest of us were given varied odds at success or failure.

God doesn’t grade on the same scale that we do. He chose men who had already been rejected by the “experts” to lead his mission. He didn’t go to the halls of religious learning; he went to the fishermen. I don’t know about you, but I’ve watched “The Deadliest Catch” and this gives me hope☺.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, what you’ve done (or haven’t), or what you’ve got to offer - God can use you. In the hands of God, the ignorant fishermen teach the highly trained religious minds. The important factor is not the power of the man, but the power of the God he serves.

Monday, September 21, 2009

NTC Day 1: Matt. 1-2, Acts 1-3

Acts 2:42-47


That’s not the normal pronoun we use when thinking about the Christian life or church. We think “I” - but God made us for community, not isolation.

Notice how we’ve changed our focus on some of the essentials that the first church focused on – the apostle’s teaching (they wrote it down and now it’s the New Testament), communion, prayer, and going to church. We tend to think about these in an isolated way though – I read my Bible, I took communion, I pray, I go to church (if they do it the way I like it).

The Bible doesn’t present it in this individual, isolated manner. In fact, one essential that is often overlooked is the other people - they are an essential ingredient. We cannot effectively follow Jesus alone. In fact, all personal identity fades into the idea of one – the new family that God is building. They devoted themselves . . . the apostles’ teaching . . . fellowship . . . together . . . their number . . . everything is about what God is doing in this group of people.

As we embark on this journey through the New Testament together, I want to encourage you to begin with this idea in mind. You won’t make it if you try and tackle it alone. Join with others. They need you. You need them. Make plans to join us on Sundays to worship together. Join a Community Group.

You can do this . . . but you need help. God has brought us together so that we can help one another.