Saturday, May 25, 2024

Covenant and Community

"Covenant and Community" is a deep exploration of God's unwavering commitment to humanity, showing that His covenant is a promise of love, provision, and protection. It calls for humans to respond by living in love and worship, fostering healthy communities, and remembering the ultimate sacrifice made in the New Covenant through Jesus Christ.


This sermon explores the concept of 'covenant' as it appears in the Bible, highlighting its evolution and its implications for human relationships with God and each other. The word 'covenant' was introduced after sin entered the world as a promise from God to counteract doubt. However, the meaning of 'covenant' in the ancient Near East culture differs from our modern understanding. It was not a contract with responsibilities but a promise from God, the provider and protector, to humanity. The appropriate response to God's covenant was and still is worship.


this sermon explores the various eras of Israel's history, showing how God restated the covenant at each stage, reminding His people of His role as provider and protector, and their role to love Him and each other. These reminders took various forms such as the rainbow after the flood, the circumcision for Abraham's tribe, the Levites and the law for Moses' nation, and the promise to David's Kingdom that the Messiah would come through David's lineage.


However, despite these constant reminders, the people often forgot their covenant with God. This led, ultimately, to God's promise of a New Covenant, as prophesied by Jeremiah, where God would forgive their sins and write His law in their hearts. The New Covenant was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection provided the ultimate reminder of God's covenant in the bread and the wine of the communion meal.


The sermon concludes by emphasizing that the covenant between God and humanity has always been one-sided, with God taking on all the responsibility. God provides, protects, creates, recreates, saves, restores, builds, and rebuilds. In response, humans are called to love Him back and love all that He has made. The covenant is God's promise and our purpose: Love.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Sharing the Gospel in Chains


In my Sabbath School class this morning, I'm telling the story of Acts 16:16-34. Then leading a group reading and discussion on Philippians 1:12-20 to discuss the topic of the week:  "Standing for the Truth."

The conclusion:
With eyes fixed on Jesus,
Life is a string of God-given opportunities 
for the sharing of the Gospel.
Don't complain about what God didn't do. 
Instead, rejoice in what God is going to do!



Thursday, April 18, 2024

Sabbath: The Way And The Day

Sabbath should inform the way you worship just as much as the day you worship! 

Genesis presents it as a day created for rest with God (Gen 2). Exodus reframes it as a day of rest honouring creation (Ex 20). Deuteronomy reframes it as a day of rest due to freedom (Deut 5). Jesus reframes it as a day of rest to be truly human (Mark 2). He says mankind is the master of Sabbath, not the other way around. 

Worshiping on Sabbath is a form of resting but it's not always restful! Sabbath is a day to remember the God who created us, liberated us, and empowered us to connect to our role as stewards of creation and champions of the freedom of others. 

Sabbath was truly made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It serves to remind us to bring rest to our fellow man and the broken earth. It serves to reclaim us as created in God's image. And it remains both a day and a way of being truly human.

Working on Salvation

Many Christians spend a lot of time and energy calling each other out. Paul had a better idea than working out everyone else's salvation... 

"Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world, by holding firm to the word of life." Philippians 2:12-16

Focus on your own journey. 

God is working in you and through you.

Fear and tremble if you must.

But do it without bickering. 

Love others blamelessly.

You are children of God.

Shine like stars. 

Hold firm.

Word.

Life!

God's Socks


Yesterday, as I approached a supermarket, I saw a homeless man wrapped in a blanket accepting donations near the door. I stopped in front of him and said, "Hey mate, is there anything I can get you from inside? Do you need anything?" 

He looked up at me and said, "Could I have a pair of socks? Would that be okay to ask for?" 

"Of course!" I said, "I'll see what they have."

While paying for my groceries and his socks, I had an overwhelming thought - I've learned to identify these as the Holy Spirit speaking to me - "Offer to put the socks on for him." 

I thought, "Weird. I'm not doing that!" 

Outside, I went to the man and said, "They had the best socks ever! Warm work socks. And, it's a three pack. You can put them all on!" 

He laughed and thanked me. As he lowered his blanket to reach out and take the socks, I saw one of his arms was in a sling.

"Would you like me to put them on for you," I asked.

"No, I'm alright," he said.

"You sure?" I said, "Can you do it with your arm in a sling? I'm happy to help."

"Yeah," he said. "I can do it. But, hey, thanks for offering."

"You're welcome, have a nice day."

"You too."


As I drove home, I laughed to myself. God just schooled me in humility. God didn't ask me to put the socks on, just to offer. Sometimes God needs to remind me to be willing to serve so I am ready and willing when the need is there and the work is humble. 


There have been lessons before this one: 

Look - See people. See the needs of others. 

Listen - Talk to people. Ask what they need.

Bless - Serve people. Meet felt needs. They are real.

Sunday, April 07, 2024

Storyteller Needs Audience!


Biblical storytelling is good for my well-being. Like, extremely good! 

I told Bible stories at 8 am every morning at my local Camp Meeting in Victoria, Australia over Easter weekend for family worship. The next Sabbath, I told a Bible story (Other people say "preached a sermon" but that's not my style) at Warrnambool church. Lovely people there!

It's been a decade since I preached weekly as a pastor. I miss it dearly! For the past two weeks, I've been in the best head space I can remember for a very long time. I'm my best self when I'm operating in my giftedness! I thrive when I'm sharing life lessons from the Bible. Before COVID, I was very active in travelling for storytelling in churches, school week-of-prayer programs, and Camp Meeting series to Primary, Juniors, Teens, Youth and even the oldies. I love sharing Bible stories and inspiring others to be passionate about the Bible.

Do you have a Camp Meeting coming up? Week-of-Prayer? Need a speaker who loves Jesus and the Bible? That's me! My preaching schedule is pretty much empty. Not good! Please invite me to bless your crowd. I'm ready to go! 

I'm available to travel. I speak to all ages. I'm open to any age-appropriate Bible-based theme or topic. Let's build something together - something just right for your needs!

If you need a speaker, please consider me. Thanks.


Here's an example. Watch more on the Bible Stories Playlist of my YouTube channel.


Or a storytelling workshop for your church or school leaders or Pathfinders?

Telling your story is your best witness!

Explore the entire Story=Power Storytelling Series on this playlist.


Thursday, April 04, 2024

Love One Another


For the small handful of Adventists who say Christians who worship on Sunday are deceived by the Devil or worshipping "Satan's way", I beg you to prayerfully consider Mark 3. Imagine it is written just for you.

Look how the chapter starts. Look how it finishes. In the context of being God's family, Jesus says when we call what God is doing "Satan's work" we err beyond repair!

"Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 3:28,29)

Visit a Sunday church with some friends who go there. Attend one of their small group Bible studies. Spend a day of worship with them. You'll see what God is doing in their lives. You really will. And your words and deeds toward them will change. 

You will change.

Remarkably. 

I have.

Christians are family not enemies. Brothers and sisters not rivals. We are called to love each other. Jesus says, "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Only Love Remains


In Psalms 5:5 David writes, of God, "You hate all who do wrong." Some Christians take this to mean God hates sinners. 

This shouldn't be taken as God's opinion. David says at the beginning of the chapter: "Listen to my words, Lord" (Psalm 5:1). It is David's view that God hates evildoers. David's words. 

We know from Jesus' ministry that God loves sinners. In Luke 6:27-28 Jesus says: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Jesus' words. 

Jesus showed that God loves everyone. And he called us to do the same because God is Love and we are His disciples! 

When the early church was thriving, Jesus' disciple John wrote in his first love letter, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

Once mankind walks shoulder to shoulder with God in Jesus, the ideas of racism, sexism, wealthism - all forms of human hierarchy - fall away and only love remains.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Restory Church: Interpretive Guides are Intentional Disciple-Makers

More Restory Church Posts
The healthy church is a landscape of spiritual mentorship where disciples recognise their role as disciple-makers. They mentor others as interpretive guides – individuals who lead others through life's decisions and faith transitions while also equipping them with the same skills. In essence, they empower others to become guides themselves, fostering a ripple effect of wisdom and support within the church and wider community. Disciples are disciple-makers.

At the core of this approach lies the art of interpretive guidance. Imagine working at an info booth in a city - handing out maps and helping travellers interpret those maps. Or working in a national park as a trail guide where you serve as both interpreter of the people and their skills and the guide leading them, based on their skill level, to their destination on a route they can both enjoy and accomplish. An interpretive guide is not a scholar but a well-resourced friend. 

Being an interpretive guide in a faith setting is a practice that invites deep reflection, exploration, and understanding. Rather than offering ready-made solutions, Interpretive guides are disciple-makers who facilitate a journey of self-discovery and spiritual growth. They ask thought-provoking questions, listen empathetically, and create a safe space for individuals to wrestle with life's complexities.

Consider the story of Sarah, a young professional grappling with a career dilemma. Unsure of which path to take, she turns to her interpretive guide, Rachel, for guidance. Through a series of reflective conversations, Rachel helps Sarah explore her values, passions, and long-term aspirations. They pray together and delve into the Scriptures, seeking wisdom and discernment. With Rachel's gentle guidance, Sarah gains clarity and confidence to make a decision aligned with her faith and purpose.

Similarly, John finds himself navigating a challenging faith transition. Feeling adrift and uncertain, he seeks support from his disciple-maker, Mark. Through their discussions, Mark encourages John to explore his doubts and questions, providing a safe space for him to voice his struggles. They pray together, and examine theological teachings and scientific research, allowing John to reconcile his faith journey with newfound insights.

The impact of interpretive guides who are also disciple-makers extends beyond individual guidance. They also invest in the development of future leaders, equipping disciples with the skills of Scriptural interpretation and spiritual wisdom. As disciples learn to guide others through life's complexities, they not only deepen their own understanding but also multiply disciples within their church community.

Imagine a network of empowered leaders, each serving as a beacon of guidance and encouragement to those in need. This is the vision of Interpretive guide disciple-makers – a community committed to walking alongside others, offering light in times of darkness and hope in moments of uncertainty.

If you feel called to join this transformative journey, I invite you to embrace the role of being an Interpretive guide disciple-maker. Whether you're a seasoned mentor or a budding disciple, there's a place for you in this movement of empowerment and growth. Ask a leader you respect to mentor you. And, offer the invitation to a new Christian to “Follow me as I follow Christ.”


10 Skills of an Interpretive Guide

Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feelings of others, fostering a deep connection and creating a safe space for exploration.

Active Listening: Being fully present and engaged in the conversation, allowing individuals to express themselves freely and feel heard.

Cultural Competence: Understanding and respecting diverse cultural perspectives, ensuring inclusivity and relevance in interpretive discussions.

Open-mindedness: Maintaining a non-judgmental attitude and being open to various interpretations, allowing for a richer exploration of theological concepts.

Effective Communication: Clearly conveying ideas and concepts, adapting communication styles to meet the diverse needs of those seeking interpretation.

Reflective Practice: Continuously evaluating and improving one's own interpretive skills through self-reflection and learning from experiences.

Balancing Authority and Humility: Striking a balance between sharing knowledge and recognizing the subjective nature of interpretation, promoting a humble approach.

Adaptability: Being flexible in responding to different learning styles, perspectives, and unexpected shifts in the interpretive process.

Facilitation Skills: Guiding group discussions effectively, creating an environment that encourages active participation and respectful dialogue.

Spiritual Wisdom: Drawing from a deep understanding of religious teachings and practices, providing a solid foundation for interpretation within a spiritual context.


Interpretive Guide Coaching Session and Example Questions

Opening Reflection: How would you describe your current understanding or feelings about the topic we're exploring today?

Scriptural Connection: Are there any specific scriptures or teachings that come to mind when considering this aspect of your life or situation?

Personal Relevance: How do you see this aspect aligning with your personal values and beliefs?

Historical Perspective: Can you share any experiences or events from your past that might influence your perspective on this matter?

Community Impact: In what ways do you think your beliefs about this topic affect your relationships within your community or congregation?

Exploring Alternatives: Have you considered different interpretations or approaches to this issue, and if so, what insights have you gained?

Practical Application: How might your understanding of this concept guide your actions and decisions in your daily life?

Open-ended Inquiry: Is there anything else you'd like to share or explore regarding this topic that we haven't touched upon?

Reflective Pause: Take a moment to reflect on our conversation. What thoughts or feelings arise as you consider our discussion?

Future Integration: How can you integrate the insights gained from our conversation into your ongoing spiritual journey and practical living?


Interpretive Guide Life Topics and Example Questions

More Restory Church Posts
Core Values Assessment: What values are most important to you in making this decision? How do they align with your spiritual beliefs?

Prayerful Consideration: Have you taken time to pray about this decision, seeking guidance from God?

Wise Counsel: Have you sought advice from trusted individuals within your faith community or mentors who can provide valuable perspectives?

Scriptural Guidance: Are there scriptures or teachings that directly relate to the decision you are facing? How can they inform your choice?

Past Learning: Reflect on previous life decisions. What lessons have you learned from those experiences that might be relevant to the current decision?

Spiritual Goals Alignment: How does this decision align with your spiritual goals and the broader purpose you believe you are called to?

Inner Peace Indicator: When you think about each option, pay attention to your inner sense of peace or unrest. How does each choice impact your spiritual well-being?

Impact on Others: Consider the potential impact of your decision on your relationships and community. How might it align with your commitment to others?

Long-Term Vision: Envision the long-term consequences of each choice. How do they align with your vision for your life within the framework of your faith?

Trusting the Process: Are you willing to trust in the guidance of your faith and embrace the uncertainty that comes with making decisions in alignment with your spiritual beliefs?

Restory Church: Cultivating a Healthy Narrative - Empowering Lay-Led Church Communities

More Restory Church Posts
Due to financial strain caused by declining attendance, recession, and increased cost of living a crucial shift is needed in the landscape of church leadership and management dynamics. This restructuring must place volunteers, the local laity, at the forefront of faith community building.

While this financial strain may be the impetus for change, it will not serve well as the master story. Bad news grabs eager eyeballs but it doesn’t grow healthy hearts. Stories of hellfire do not generate lasting change. Stories of the Kingdom of God and its eternal reign of love, healing and peace are so effective that Jesus made them His bread and butter - and His Kingdom is still growing! A meta-narrative that connects the local church with the eternal Kingdom is the only story that will do. Jesus is all. 


Cultivating a healthy narrative within a lay-led church community is not just about sharing stories but about educating and empowering individuals to shape their story through intentional engagement. Behavioural change specialists say to change a habit - personal or corporate - only one thing is needed: record keeping. The questions you follow up with story-gathering (statistics/responses) will motivate change. While it may feel like a watched pot never boils, watching behaviour intentionally (record keeping) causes rapid change in groups and individuals. So, let's explore how to foster the creation of a healthy church narrative through the crafting of personal, relational, and communal skills.



1. Personal Skills: Unveiling Authentic Narratives

At the heart of a healthy narrative lies the power of personal connections. Empower individuals to share their life stories, fostering genuine connections within the community. This involves:


Sharing Personal Stories: Encourage individuals to articulate their faith journeys, weaving a tapestry of shared experiences. What has Jesus done for you or in you this week?


Intentionality: Guide members to align their actions with their values, fostering purposeful engagement. How did your faith guide your decisions this week?


Cultural Competency: Equip individuals with the skills to navigate diverse backgrounds with sensitivity and understanding. What idea or reality did you open your heart to outside your comfort zone this week?


Prayer and Discernment: Foster a practice of prayerful discernment, guiding individuals to understand the needs of others and shape thoughtful outreach approaches. How did the Holy Spirit guide you toward loving others this week?



2. Relational Skills: Crafting Meaningful Connections

Effective communication is key to nurturing a healthy narrative within the community. Elevate the relational fabric by:


Effective Communication: Enhance communication skills by inverting in meaningful connections that resonate within the community. Who have you connected to in the wider community this week?


Active Listening: Develop the ability to listen attentively and comprehend the stories and experiences of fellow community members. What did you learn by saying “tell me more” this week?


Invitational Mindset: Cultivate an inviting approach that welcomes others into the folds of the community with warmth and inclusivity. What invitations did you accept this week? What invitations did you give?


Conflict Resolution: Equip individuals with the grace to resolve differences, preserving positive relationships within the community. How did you serve as a mediator this week?



3. Communal Skills: Bridging Gaps for Growth

A healthy narrative thrives when all members actively contribute to the growth and engagement of the church. Foster communal skills by:


Community Needs Assessment: Understand and address specific local needs to lay the foundation for impactful community engagement. What needs have you seen this week?


Inclusive Outreach Strategies: Craft approaches that appeal to a diverse audience, ensuring the community is welcoming to all. What demographic have you seen uniquely served this week? What demographic did you see in need of loving attention?


Active Community Engagement: Beyond traditional church settings, involve members in various activities to strengthen community bonds. What intentional group outside the church (club/craft) have you engaged in this week? 


Digital Outreach Skills: Harness the potential of digital platforms for effective communication and outreach efforts. How have you lifted Christ up online this week? How have you built people up online this week?


Hospitality Training: Create a welcoming atmosphere where newcomers feel embraced and comfortable within the community. How has your involvement in church this week focused on making people feel safe or welcoming new people?



Conclusion:

By focusing our teaching, dialogue and record-keeping on the cultivation of Personal, Relational, and Communal skills, disciple-makers will reshape the church community to hear and tell a healthy narrative about themselves. This intentional approach not only fosters a holistic inreach/outreach community but also strengthens the collective identity and purpose of the lay-led church. Together, these skills weave a narrative of inclusivity, authenticity, and connection. Thus paving the way for a church community that flourishes under the guidance of its empowered and intentional members.

 

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Jesus Journey - Part 7 - Mark 4:21-34


In this 7th episode of the Jesus Journey, the focus being Mark chapter 4:21-34, we build on the exploration of the Parable of the Sower in episode 6. The discussion delves into more parables and teachings of Jesus, aiming to provide insight into the workings of the Kingdom of God.


Key Points:

Parable of the Lamp: Jesus begins with a metaphor about a lamp, emphasizing that nothing hidden will remain so forever. This sets the stage for understanding the purpose of his cryptic teachings.

Parables of Seeds: Jesus follows up with parables about seeds, highlighting the growth of the kingdom of God. The mustard seed analogy underscores how something small can yield significant results.

Interpretation of Parables: The discussion elucidates the deeper meanings behind Jesus' parables, emphasizing the role of the church in illuminating the truths about God in the Bible as revealed through Jesus.

Understanding the Kingdom of God: Through these parables, Jesus reveals the nature of the kingdom of God and the process of spiritual growth. Good soil, representing receptive hearts, yields abundant fruit.

Role of Believers: Believers are likened to lampstands, meant to shine the light of Christ who dwells in them as the church. By staying connected to Jesus and his teachings, we become vessels for spreading the message of salvation.


Conclusion:

The passage underscores the transformative power of Jesus' teachings and the responsibility of believers to share the light of His Word. Through understanding and embracing the Kingdom of God, individuals become agents of spiritual growth and Kingdom growth. The journey of faith involves continual nourishment and cultivation, leading to a deeper connection with Christ and a greater capacity to grow the Kingdom.

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...