Fall 2013 Bible Memorization Challenge

ESV Coffee Bible

The fall semester at The Ohio State University is about to begin.  The on-campus church group, Oasis Christian Community (associated with Grandview Christian Assembly) will be issuing a Bible memorization challenge.  The challenge will have two levels and will be based on two of the fall semester sermon series.

The first level, for those who are new to the idea or hesitant about their memorization skills will be to memorize all of Matthew 5 (48 verses; 3 verses a week) before Christmas break.

The second level, for those wanting a bit more of a challenge, will be to memorize all of Matthew 5 & 6 (82 verses; 5-6 verses a week) before Christmas break.

The rewards for those who successfully complete the challenge(s), besides the spiritual benefits that translate into one’s daily life from verse memorization, have yet to be determined; but will be worth the energy.

Good Deed Organizer

The Good Deed Organizer, an excellent short film by Kirk Dapo, was used by Oasis Christian Community this morning in the sermon “Working Savior: Jesus in the Gospel of Mark – The Standard.”  The short film is a parody of our efforts to earn eternal life by our good deeds instead of receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior through faith.

The Good, the Bad, and the Gospel

During the first Oasis Christian Community sermon, Immediately,” of the “Working Savior: Jesus in the Gospel of Mark” series, the article The Shared Fate of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-il was referenced.  The key points of the article can be summed up with the sentences:

The death of these two political leaders—Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-il—highlights the fact that men can live radically different existences but share the same eternal fate… There is no sinner so depraved—not even Kim Jong-il—that our merciful God cannot save him. And there is no human so righteous—not even Vaclav Havel—whose good works can gain him entrance into heaven. By his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace—not by our works. The deaths of these men should serve as a reminder of our need to spread the message that heaven is not the final destination for good men and women, but rather the home for those who have been bought by the blood of Christ… if Christianity equals good works, then Christianity is not necessary.

The article in its entirety is displayed below:

The Shared Fate of Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-il
Joe Carter (December 19, 2011)

One was a playwright, a creator of absurdist fiction, while the other was a filmmaker, a producer of an absurd film about a socialist Godzilla. One coined the term “Post-Totalitarianism” to describe the modern social and political order that enabled people to “live within a lie”; the other, the last of the true totalitarians, lived completely within a lie of his own creation. One became the leader of his country and a famed defender of human rights. The other also became the leader of his country and gained infamy as an oppressor and destroyer of human lives. The death of these two political leaders—Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-il—highlights the fact that men can live radically different existences but share the same eternal fate.

The history books, judging by the standards of men, will record that Havel was a noble hero and Kim a wretched villain. They will be remembered on earth for the legacies they left behind. But both men now stand before the supreme magistrate who will measure them against the only truly righteous standard: Jesus Christ.

By his actions Kim Jong-il showed disdain for Christ. His regime routinely beat, imprisoned, tortured, and murdered followers of Jesus and punished the families of those suspected of being Christian. In contrast, Havel expressed an affinity for the “Christian sentiment.” Yet, like Kim, he appears to have ultimately rejected Christ as his savior.

In 1990 Havel told The Christian Century, “I accept the Gospel of Jesus as a challenge to go my own way.” A few years earlier, in his book, Disturbing the Peace, he made a similar remark in which he “officially disclaimed” the rumors about his conversion:

I certainly have not become a practicing Catholic: I don’t go to church regularly. . . I took part in secret masses in prison, but I didn’t take communion. . . . Perhaps I understand my Protestant and Catholic friends better today—I’m certainly in greater touch with them, which may be why some people think I have converted. But genuine conversion, as I understand it, would mean replacing an uncertain “something” with a completely unambiguous personal god, and fully, inwardly, to accept Christ as the Son of God, along with everything that that entails, including the liturgy, and I have not taken that step.

Perhaps in the decade since he wrote those words, Havel came to know Christ as his savior. In the coming days his friends and family may share with the world a joyous tale of his conversion. Such hope, however, should not keep us from telling the truth to those who wonder about the fate of everyone who lives, both heroes and villains.

There is no sinner so depraved—not even Kim Jong-il—that our merciful God cannot save him. And there is no human so righteous—not even Vaclav Havel—whose good works can gain him entrance into heaven. By his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace—not by our works. The deaths of these men should serve as a reminder of our need to spread the message that heaven is not the final destination for good men and women, but rather the home for those who have been bought by the blood of Christ.

Still Grateful

To be sure, we can still be profoundly grateful for Havel’s accomplishments on earth. In fact, only eternal justice can secure the standards by which we measure Havel a hero and Kim a villain. Havel used the common grace provided by his Creator to do much good (though not ultimate good). Provided with life, conscience, and imagination, Havel used his gifts to help others imagine a life free of persecution and tyranny. In contrast, Kim used the gifts of common grace to enslave and oppress those he was called to protect.

Reflecting on their lives in the light of common grace will lead us to a greater appreciation of Havel’s kindness and a deeper abhorrence of Kim’s cruelty. But it should also stir within us a longing to share the fullness of the gospel. As John Calvin wrote,

the gifts of God also, which they continually enjoy, shall increase their condemnation; for an account of them all will be required: and it will then be found, that it will be justly imputed to them as an extreme wickedness, that they had been made worse through God’s bounty, by which they ought surely to have been improved. Let us then take heed, lest by unlawful use of blessings we lay up for ourselves this cursed treasure.

We should honor Havel because of the God who made him and sustained him. We should praise his accomplishments and his courage. But most of all we should be charitable toward his memory by speaking the truth. His good works could not save him any more than they can save you and me. Havel needed, as he understood, to “accept Christ as the Son of God, along with everything that that entails.” Everything, indeed: if Christianity equals good works, then Christianity is not necessary.

A Poem for All Single People

Passion.  Grief.  Self-deception.  Conviction.  Illumination.  Pointed humor.  Repentance.  Creativity. Conviction.  Dedication.  True love.  Godly love.  The poem I’ll Wait for You by Janette…ikz contains it all.  It is a poem that I strongly suggest all singles to listen to… all singles being everyone who is not married.  In fact, all who are married should give it a listen as it gives great insight into the struggles of a single person and helpful counsel for you to utilize when with singles.

I know the struggles of being single.  I know the struggles from being in a relationship but living sexually pure.  Having a view of purity that is not self-focused but rather focused on the glory of God and with deep love for my future spouse reduced the weight of living under a condemning law.  It freed me to have a servant’s heart in regards to my sexuality.  The focus of purity also kept my view of sex beautiful as the Bible intends for sex to be viewed in the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.  Having this mindset did not reduce my passion and lust, but it made it more manageable because I was living unto the expressed will of God (1 Thessalonians 4:3.  For more on this listen to The Will of God from Oasis Christian Community).  In the end, by the grace of God, I maintained my sexual purity and entered my marriage as a virgin.  Now, I enjoy the purity of sex within the marriage covenant with my lovely wife.

Knowing the struggles against the pressures of society, peer pressure, and internal lust in regards to sexuality causes me to have great compassion on those who are single.  It can seem much easier to give in to the pressures, yet do so with the self-deceiving excuses of “this will keep the person around”, “this will show my love”, “it is no big deal”, “they will change”, “we are married in our hearts”, “it is ok as long as we are in love”, “it is only sex”, “if it hurts anyone, it will only be me”, “we’re going to get married anyways”, “it would be against my biological desires as God made me not to”, and on, and on, and on.  In the end, all of the self-deception comes down to, “I don’t trust God in this area of my life.  When it comes to sex, I am my own god”. Ironically, claiming to be your own god means you are actually a slave to sin.  A slave deluded into thinking that you are a in control.

It is one thing for a non-Christian to live under the slavery of their sex drive and act upon their sexual impulses without much reservation, and even a form of celebration when engaging in sex outside of marriage.  They are simply living out their passions under the illusion of freedom that sin sometimes provides.

For Christians it is another story.  It is a sad story.  My heart aches and I have compassion and understanding for those Christians who have given into their lust, but have a repentant heart and then strive through the power of Christ to live sexually celibate until marriage.  It is those who boldly profess faith in Christ yet unrepentantly and even cavalierly live sexually active lives that baffle, enrage, and sadden me all at the same time. Yes, we are all sinners who sin, even if redeemed sinners.  But part of being a Christian is permitting the inward speaking of the Holy Spirit and the outward speaking of the Scriptures to change us inwardly and outwardly (in our living) into the image of Christ.  For a person claiming to believe in Jesus to knowingly live contrary to God’s expressed will for our lives without repentance is stupefying.

All singles, especially Christian singles, heed the words of I’ll Wait for You.  Let the Word of God penetrate your heart and become your food, supply, and strength as you wrestle with the passions and desires of the flesh.  Remember that the God who created the universe, who created you, who died upon a cross for you out of love, has your best in mind.  A young lady named Rashell Kimball has lived her life this way and with great insight said, “I’d rather do it right than do it right away” (check out a blog post based on that quote).  Wise and godly words for all of us to heed.

Praying Psalm 100

This morning at Oasis Christian Community’s church service we discussed the Power of Praying the Word – Group Prayer.  At the end of the sermon we put the theory into practice by praying over Psalm 100 in groups of four or five.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.


Big Questions

“If you could ask God any one question and you knew that you would get an answer, what would you ask?”

These are the Big Questions of life.  They tend to revolve around origin, meaning, purpose, morality, and destiny.  Other times the questions deal with suffering, the nature of God, and salvation.

In order to get an idea of what the undergraduate students of The Ohio State University would ask God, Oasis Christian Community student Grant Smucker and I went around campus with a video camera.  Grant did some video editing and is created a series of “teaser trailers” for an upcoming spring quarter sermon series that will address some of the students’ big questions.  To help with getting the top four big questions, we have commissioned the Oasis students to survey their friends, roommates, classmates, family, and other people on campus for their “big questions”.

Two teaser trailers have been posted on the Oasis website, but check out the website each week for more video posts.

The Will of God & Sex

“The will of God”.  “Sex”.  Two very popular topics.  Two topics that are not often put together into one sentence.  Yet, the Bible links the two together in one powerful verse in 1 Thessalonians 4:3: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality”.

In the Oasis Christian Community sermon “The Will of God“, Corey Fronk and Seth Evans explore God’s view of sex and sexuality in light of the will of God in 1 Thessalonians.  Sex is presented as neither a dirty bad thing nor as the god that our culture tends to celebrate.  Rather, lived out in accordance to God’s will in the Bible, sex is a beautiful, desirable, and good thing.  With this in view, the sermon speaks of ways that we can learn to “control our own body in holiness and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:4).

The audio can be listened to and downloaded directly from the above link, or by going to 1 Thessalonians series on the audio page of the Oasis website (where you can also get the power point).