Monday, September 29, 2014

The One Thing You Can't Live Without - BZRK Part 2

BZRK: Finding Peace in a CraZy World – Part 2a
September 28, 2014  ·  Chris Goins
Extended Message Notes


Discouragement is the anesthetic the devil uses on a person just before he reaches in and carves out his heart.” —Howard Hendricks

DISCOURAGEMENT is DEADLY… HOPE is essential…

One researcher said that HOPE is like OXYGEN. Human beings can’t live without it [1]  Some of the saddest words ever spoken are the words:  “There is NO HOPE!”

In an excellent book titled, Keeping Hope Alive, Lewis Smedes described the importance of HOPE like this, “Keep hoping, you keep living. Stop hoping, you die. Inside.” —Lewis Smedes [2]

HOPE is indispensable.  It is vital. In fact, Lewis Smedes goes on to write, “HOPE can get sick and die. Sometimes HOPE is murdered with shocking quickness when the one thing on which we set our deepest hope is blown out of our lives… Other times HOPE dies slowly, sliced away in bits and pieces of disappointment; one thing after another that we had HOPED for whittled away…” [3]


"When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God." —Charles L Allen quoted by Ray Johnston


BACKGROUND ON 1 PETER: If anyone understood the way a devastating crisis or the way relentless pressure, stress, suffering, pain, discouragement, and disappointment can SUFFOCATE the life out of HOPE, a guy named PETER understood it…

Peter knew what it felt like to have his HOPES completely destroyed and devastated by the GREATEST CRISIS he ever witnessed. The HOPE he had built his life on was crucifiedburied and laid in a tomb! On FridayHOPE died!  But three days later, on Easter SundayHOPE CAME BACK TO LIFE!

Throughout his life Peter battled to keep hope alive. He was threatenedbeaten and put in jail on several occasions. He personally witnessed some of his friends actually die because of their faith in Jesus. He watched as the first century church, he had helped to found in Jerusalem, was scattered due to a wave of persecution leveled by the religious authorities. But through it all, somehow his HOPE not only survived, it actually THRIVED!

Peter knew how important HOPE is to our survival. So about 30 years after Jesus had been crucified and raised again, Peter wrote to a group of Christians that he really loved, but whose HOPE was on the ropes.

Peter wrote the book of 1 Peter to a group of Christians who were stressed outpressuredanxious and afraid.

Some of them were being persecuted for their faith… Most of these Christians were Jewish. And the persecution they faced often came from fellow Jews who didn’t necessarily “like” what they viewed as an aberration of Judaism. So, they would often physically abuse and terrorize these new Christians.

Sometimes, they would use their influence to force these new Christians out of their hometowns. Leaving them desolate and homeless. Other times, they would attempt to manipulate and turn the Roman authorities against them.

But if you really want to discourage somebody… If you really want to “carve out their heart,” to use the words of Howard Hendricks. Just create chaos and tension in their family.

In first century culture, the HEAD of the HOUSEHOLD had absolute AUTHORITY over the members of his household according to Roman law. So, unless the head of the household became a Christian; the wifekids and servants who became Christians could face serious repercussions.

They could be physically beaten, and if they were BEATEN, no court of law would intervene. They could be divorced or sent away. Again, leaving them desolate and homeless

This was happening… Stuff like this was actually taking place. Some of the Christians in the first century church were being abused or mistreated by people in authority (2:18). Some of them had marriages that were more than just a little bit challenging (3:1, 6). Many of these new Christians had no place to turn but the church.

Furthermore, somehow Peter knew that a wave of PERSECUTION unlike anything they had ever seen was about to be released! In a few years, a Roman Emperor named NERO would unleash unspeakable EVIL on Christians. They would eventually be hunted down and murdered throughout the empire. Their bodies would even be used as human torches to light Nero’s gardens.

Peter knew that if the HOPE of these new Christians was struggling now, it will really take a hit then… So wrote the book we call 1 Peter because he wanted to encourage Christians to remain HOPEFUL when everything around them seemed HOPELESS The book gives us SIX THINGS TO REMEMBER if we’re going to KEEP HOPE ALIVE during times like this…


Keeping HOPE Alive —
SIX Things To REMEMBER:

1.   You are more LOVED than you can imagine.

1 Peter 1:1-2b, This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in… God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

QUESTION: Have you ever felt like you don’t belong?

The group of people Peter was writing to felt like “foreigners.” Some translations use the word “exiles.” Others use the word “aliens.” Think of the phrase used in our culture, “ILLEGAL ALIENS.”

Sometimes their “exile” was more than a metaphor, sometimes it was reality. They had lost their homes, their family, their future, everything… That kind of LOSS can start to wear on you.

Peter reminds this group of Christians and he reminds us: “Guys… Regardless of the LOSS you experience earth side, you are God’s CHOSEN PEOPLE… God KNEW you and CHOSE you…”


I love the way The Message reads:

1 Peter 1:1-2 (MSG), I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgottenGod the Father has his eye on each of you

GET THIS: Regardless of what occurs in this life, you are never, ever, ever out of the heart and mind of God…


When Jeremiah’s entire world had been turned upside, he realized that HOPE was still a possibility when he wrote this in Lamentations 3:21. 

Lamentations 3:21-22 (NLT), I still dare to hope when I remember this: 22 The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.


2.   You have HOPE that is alive!

Our English word for HOPE isn’t always clear… We HOPE our team will win the big game. We HOPE for good weather.  We HOPE the lima bean casserole your Aunt Christine made will be eatable. But that’s not biblical HOPE.

When we use the word “HOPE” whatever we’re “hoping” for has an element of UNCERTAINTY attached to it.  We’re UNCERTAIN we’ll win the big game.  We’re UNCERTAIN about the weather. And we’re really UNCERTAIN about Aunt Christine’s lima bean casserole.

Our word for “HOPE” always has some level of UNCERTAINTY attached to it , but not the BIBLE word for HOPE.

HOPE DEFINED:
In the Bible, HOPE is a CONFIDENT EXPECTATION and DESIRE for something GOOD in the FUTURE that is based on something SOLID

BIBLICAL HOPE not only desires something good in the future, it actually EXPECTS it to happen. In fact, it not only expects it to happen, it is CONFIDENT that it will happen

Check out what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3.

1 Peter 1:3 (NIV), Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a LIVING HOPE through the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ from the dead…

“living hope” is a hope that has LIFE in it, and can give LIFE to you!  A LIVING HOPE is just like a LIVING THING, it GROWS and becomes stronger and more resilient with every passing day! 


IMPORTANT: This is critically important. Our HOPE isn’t in a book! Our HOPE isn’t in an organization! Our HOPE isn’t in political power and alliances! Our HOPE isn’t in our military might! Our HOPE is in a PERSON who actually lived…

He lived the perfect life we could never live! He died a sacrificial death for OUR SINS and in OUR PLACE… He was actually, literally crucified… He was actually, literally buried and three days later, He was actually, literally RAISED AGAIN TO LIFE! Our HOPE is in JESUS!


POSSIBLE OBJECTION:
Some people doubt the validity of the resurrection!

It’s important to remember this simple principle: People will die for what they believe to be true, though it may actually be false.  They will not die for what they know is a lie.  Peter was in a position to KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS

Yet Peter went to his death, personally convinced that Jesus was alive… The resurrection ROCKED HIS WORLD!  Immediately on the heels of the resurrection, the same guy who was such a wimp only days before, stood boldly in front of a crowd of thousands proclaiming the resurrection in the same city where Jesus had been executed!

According to tradition, Peter preached the gospel for the rest of life.  Later in life he went to Rome to supervise the missionary efforts of the early church…  He was eventually martyred in Rome by the Emperor Nero

Secular historians say that before being crucified, he was forced to watch the crucifixion of his own WIFE.  As he watched her being led away to her death, historians say that Peter called her by name and said, “Remember the Lord.”

When it was Peter’s turn to die, he pleaded with his executioners to be crucified upside down because he said he wasn’t worthy to die like Jesus died.  Peter was CONVINCED that Jesus had been RAISED FROM THE DEAD!


In 1 Peter, Peter wrote to a group of people who were just thirty years removed from the events of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Some of them may have actually witnessed the crucifixion and heard first-hand, eye witness reports of the resurrection

So in 1 Peter, Peter reminds them: “Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have a LIVING HOPE!" In other words, our HOPE doesn’t get weaker during times like this, it gets STRONGER! 


INTERESTING FACT: It’s interesting that in the New Testament, the word “hope” only occurs one time before the resurrection of Jesus.  After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the word “hope” occurs approximately EIGHTY-FOUR TIMES


Illustration:
Martin Luther was the father of the Great Reformation.  But Luther often struggled with severe depression.  When it hit, it was very difficult for Luther to pull out of his funk. His wife, Katherine found creative ways to help Luther keep HOPE alive.

On one occasion she dressed up like a grieving WIDOW in BLACK mourning attire… When Luther returned home, she came to the door dressed in black“Are you going to a funeral?” he asked. “No,” she replied, “but since you act as though God is dead, I wanted to join you in the mourning.” Luther quickly recovered[4]

That’s exactly what Peter is reminding these new Christians of! He’s reminding them that God isn’t dead!  Jesus is very much alive, and because of that, we have a LIVING HOPE!


3.   You have a FUTURE that is OUT OF THIS WORLD!

1 Peter 1:4, …we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay

Peter wants these believers to understand that HOPE has its roots in eternity.  He wants these believers to look past the problems their having right now and realize that the resurrection of Jesus is not only a guarantee of God's POWER and PRESENCE in this life — in this moment; but it's also their guarantee of a BETTER LIFE that is yet to come.  The resurrection of Jesus is our guarantee that one day we will experience life the way God designed it to be!


Illustration:
Malcolm Muggeridge was one of the greatest Christian statesmen to live in the last century.  His writings have had a profound influence on several people.  Muggeridge came to Christ late in life.  But after coming to Christ, he had the same passion for Christ that he had previously had for the world. 

Muggeridge was nearing death.  It became apparent that he would die.  Just before his death this is what he said:  “The worst news somebody could give me is that they’ve found some kind of medication that would let me live for another fifteen years.  I’ve lived long enough.  I’ve seen all the hell I want to see.  I’m ready now to see Him whose beauty is unparalleled and unmatched! 

Muggeridge understood that we  have a FUTURE that is out of this world!


4.   You are PROTECTED by God’s POWER!


1 Peter 1:5, through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation…


5.   You are going to GET THROUGH THIS!

1 Peter 1:6-7, So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

1 Peter 1:7 (MSG), Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.

Regardless of what this world throws at you, there are some things that you can bank on There are some things you can know

We can know we are loved
We can know we are forgiven
We can know we are on God’s side
We can know that every circumstance is working together for our ultimate good
We can know that we will live even if we die
We can know that we will spend eternity in Heaven… And as beautiful and as great as earth can be, it doesn’t compare to heaven
We can know that Heaven will be more incredible than anything our mind can imagine
We can know that we have God’s Spirit inside of us guiding us and empowering us
We can know that our God is sovereign and He has determined to bring us through many trials! 


6.   Your HOPE isn’t in a book or a theory. It’s in the PERSON who defeated DEATH! Stay focused on JESUS!

QUESTION: How is it possible to KEEP HOPE ALIVE in a world that is bent on destroying it? How is it possible to REJOICE in the middle of suffering?

QUESTION: How did Jesus handle the cross? Did Jesus grin and say, “Well, I’m going to the cross, but it's okay… I feel really good about it?”

Absolutely not! He experienced pain! He experienced anguish! The ANGUISH was so incredible that He actually broke into a bloody sweat as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  But the book of Hebrews gives us insight as to how Jesus faced the cross! 

Hebrews 12:2, We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

QUESTION: What was "the joy set before him?"

Isaiah 53:11 answers the question. 

Isaiah 53:11 (NLT), When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.

GET THIS: YOUR REDEMPTION WAS THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM! YOUR FREEDOM WAS HIS JOY! 

QUESTION: How can we keep our hope alive during chaotic and challenging times? 

1 Peter 1:8-9, You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.

IMPORTANT: HE IS THE JOY SET BEFORE US!  Just as Jesus focused on our REDEMPTION, we focus on HIM and all that He has accomplished! As we grow a deep love for Jesus, joy and rejoicing will become possible even during the most difficult of circumstance. 




[1] The Psychology of Hope, By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., quoting Dr. Shane Lopez and Making Hope Happen, http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/03/21/the-psychology-of-hope/
[2] Lewis Smedes, Keeping Hope Alive, page 6.
[3] Lewis Smedes, Keeping Hope Alive, page 7.
[4] Driscoll, Mark (2012-01-03). Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (p. 23). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

a2 Church Is Moving!

On Monday, June 3, 2013 a2 Church closed on 14+ acres of property at 10 Greenhill Parkway, Birmingham, AL 35242 (on Hwy 280 just behind Superior Grill)!

We will move from our current location in Vestavia City Center to the new location in mid-July. In the mean time, we’ll continue to meet every Sunday at 9:45 at our current location in Vestavia City Center. (Please check the website regularly for updates on our move and how you can help!) 

We are so excited about the future!

According to David Olsen in his book, “The American Church in Crisis” only 16.4 of the population in Shelby County attends church on a regular basis, and only 14% attend an “evangelical” church. Wow! This means that Shelby County is the most unchurched county in Alabama, and with our upcoming move God will have strategically placed us in it!

a2′s new church campus will give us a strategic mission sending center to not only reach Shelby County, but the five-county region that makes up the greater Metro Birmingham area!

Get this, according to the experts there are at least 646,557 who are not involved in a local church in Shelby and Jefferson counties alone! According to Andy Stanley, people in the deep South regularly over estimate their actual church attendance. That means there could as many as 700,000 people in this two county region who need a church – and more importantly, who desperately need Jesus!

a2 Church believes it’s all about Jesus, only about Jesus and always about Jesus!  During this transition we want to continue to keep the “main thing” the “main thing.” The church has never been about the building, but about God working in and through those He has “called out of darkness into this marvelous light.”  

We’re excited about the new building! But more importantly, we’re excited about the opportunity it gives us to continue to lift the name of Jesus sky high over the greater Metro Birmingham area!

Here we go!


Friday, April 26, 2013

The Best Three Months Ever! An Important Message To a2 Church!


Hey a2 Church! 

I'm more excited about God's activity at a2 Church than I've EVER been before! Wow! The ground is literally moving beneath our feet! God is doing what only God can do! And He has given us a shot to be His hands and feet in making a difference! Here are the bullets: 

       This week we've had some potential breakthroughs on the property! Keep praying! God is at work! (Eph 3:20-21)! More Sunday! 

       This Sunday, April 28 gets REAL in a "truth dressed up in blue-jeans and tennis-shoes" kind-of-way with the msg "Breaking Away From The Herd." Don't miss it! BTW, the band is going to kill it with a brand new song you don't want to miss... Bring a friend! 

       The Leadership Summit next Wednesday, May 1 @ 6 pm could be one of the most important meetings in a2's history! Be there! 

       Another opportunity to follow Jesus in water baptism hits next Sunday, May 5. If you've not signed up, sign up! Email us today at info@a2church.org

       Mother's Day will ROCK at a2c! A photo opp for all ladies and their families. Eye-popping and mouth watering refreshments! Great music. Important msg. Invite your friends and fam to join you! a2 is the place to be on Sunday, May 12 at 9:45 am. 

       Make plans to be a part of UNITE: a2 Team Members Volunteer and Appreciation Day at Oak Mtn State Park - 12 noon. More info this Sunday. 

       Our last Sunday in our current worship space is scheduled for Sunday, July 28. Let's make the next 3 months our best three months ever at 600 Montgomery Hwy! 

There's more... More... More... And one of the biggest things we can do is PRAY! PRAY! PRAY

"Pray that the Master's Word will simply take off and race through the country to a groundswell of response..." (2 Thessalonians 3:1 MSG) 

See you Sunday at 9:45 am! 

Chris Goins 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Prototype and Letter To A Ravaged Bride by Jonathan Martin

Just finished reading Jonathan Martin's book, Prototype.  Wow!  

The first three chapters (Identity, Beloved and Obscurity) were beautiful and so important for me... For a few days after reading them I found myself going back to them over and over again to re-read Jonathan's thoughts... The rest of the book was excellent, as well, but Jonathan's "boy on the bike" story owned me...  Thanks Jonathan for allowing God to use you to speak to me in a very personal way.  

Jonathan is a gifted writer and a great storyteller. I highly recommend his book.  

The book ends with en epilogue titled, "Letter to a Ravaged Bride."  Once again, as happened a few times during the reading of this book, I found myself weeping and repenting... Jonathan's letter to the church is prophetic, poetic, artistic, beautiful and heart-breaking... Again, wow!!!

Evidently, Jonathan had posed his "Letter To A Ravaged Bride" over on his blog in October 2010.  I copied it, edited it as it appears in the book and have included it below. Read it at your own risk... Read it thoughtfully, prayerfully... Let God break your heart for His church...   

Pick up Prototype and as you read it, ask God to help you to become the YOU He had in mind when He spoke you into existence.  


To the ravaged bride (somewhere in America),

I could pretend that I don’t love you anymore. I could yell and scream and break things. I could walk out dramatically like you and I are on a movie set, and say something pious as I slam the door. I could manufacture looks of disgust, or better yet I could turn my eyes away. But you know me too well, don’t you? You know that even when I’m petty or enraged, even when I lash out at you with self-righteousness indignation (is there any other kind?)—you always have my heart. Even when you are in tatters, your gown ripped and your make-up smeared, a clownish parody of what you once were—you are still beautiful.

So I write you less as a scorned lover, and more as a heartsick old fool, wearing my displaced affections like medals. And I want to talk to you with the detached wisdom of a professor or the elegant rhythm of a poet, but I always end up stammering when I’m close to you. Why bother to go through the machinations of fury and distance when you see through me every time? You see me wearing my rage and my confidence like a silly fake mustache, a failed disguise for my broken heart.

So I’m writing you today, honestly trying to avoid bravado and forced swagger, knowing that we are in this together — I am in you and you are in me. I want to write you off, I want to cut you down to size. I want to tell you that you cannot be the bride Christ came to save, to tell you that you missed Him already and that He’s moved on to a more authentic love. But I know that you are still the bride, and I know He hasn’t moved on from you. So I’m stuck here, chained to the radiator, loving you under part compulsion and part real tenderness.

You’re still seductively pretty. But for the life of me I can’t figure out what’s happened to you, to your charm and courage and grace under pressure. There’s a mad and hopelessly wonderful jungle around your house, full of danger and opportunity. Why are you trying to burn it down? You used to know that when the people around you were at their angriest and everybody was looking for someone to stone—you would just go walking through them with no weapon but your own fragrant perfume. You didn’t just charm, you disarmed—you could walk through a room and make it go silent save for the clang of swords dropping to the ground. You brought tenderness into the war zone and wine to the party. What happened to you to make you start acting like them—screaming and demanding and posturing?

You still look the same from a distance, but up close I know something is badly wrong.. Something is different this time around. I'm not sure I know who you are. Whenever I’m at denominational meetings, and we are trying to find somebody to blame for our sinking ship…I don’t just see the individuals. I see you in all of your collective horror. I’ve seen your outrage at political rallies, festivities that talk about “values“ without words like “kingdom” or “cross.” I heard your protests when “they” started infringing on our territory (Muslims and Mexicans and lions and tigers and bears, oh my), and you felt like you needed to stand up to them instead of laying down your life for them. I noticed when your rhetoric went from “good news” to yet another kind of paranoid propaganda.

Let’s not be coy here, honey. We’ve lived together for too long, and we know each others secrets and habits and fears. We share ideas and we share clothes, we drink from the same cup. But didn’t you think anybody would notice that your knuckles started getting bloodier than your palms? That the blood on your hands was theirs and not yours?

It’s not that I don’t think you’ve still got answers to give. It’s not that the world outside needs you any less. But right now the chemo seems more toxic than the cancer, baby. We came here to this place to lay down our lives, but the corpses in the back yard are more from our swords than from our crosses.

Do you think me na├»ve? You think I don’t know there is an enemy to fight? On the contrary, my love, I’ve seen the monsters under the bed. I know that there is a force of evil in the world that is greater than the sum of its parts. I know we’ve got dragons to slay. It’s just that they don’t scare me.

In the words of Bob Dylan, "Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late." So I’ll risk more honesty than can be afforded on an average Sunday: I know the world is a volatile, dangerous place. There is a part of me, cold and scientific, that expects the world to blow itself up. It’s not prophecy; it’s pure arithmetic. We are endlessly creative in finding new ways to conquer and destroy. The more people learn to manipulate chemicals and machines, the worse our chances get.

But if I’m honest, that doesn’t really scare me either. If more war breaks out tomorrow and the rockets red glare becomes nuclear and dirty bombs are bursting in air, and half the creation is maimed—I still believe that the creative power of divine love would rise from the ashes. God already died. Terrorism is not nearly so frightening as blood and water gushing from the side of the Creator, and even that terror of terrors was swept up in resurrection life. I am not afraid of the horrible things human beings might do to me or do to one another.

But I am afraid of you—still a mighty power in the universe, still the world’s great hope. You are still the Church. Nobody has the power to create or destroy quite like you. Sometimes we have seen the world around us exploding, and when we do, we groan with the creation for the restoration that is to come. But what if you go up in flames? What if the salt loses its saltiness? What if you, a once chaste and patient virgin, take the oil from your own lamp, and throw it on someone else’s face—and strike the match? The apostle said that the weapons of your warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God. But you’ve been firing them in the dense fog, you don’t who or what you are aiming at. You’ve been flailing punches instead of turning the other cheek.

God help us, you’ve been beating your plowshares into swords.

You know I’m no cynic—I’ve loved you too long for that. This is love animated by grief. I still believe in you despite all of your vices. You can still dazzle me. You can still dazzle the world, bride of God. But things are feeling as insane in here as they are out there, honey. And I don’t know what else to do except to remind you of the time you were lovely.

Jonathan