Thursday, August 29, 2013

Reformation: The Outgrowth of Revival

For the next four weeks we are going to be looking at Revival through the filter of reformation. First the reformation of our worldview. Then the reformation of our actions. Then the reformation of our thinking. And finally the reformation of our relationships.

This week’s Bible Study has been about reformation as an outgrowth of revival. In other words, as the church experiences revival, her people are drawn to reform their way of life. Each day the lesson focused on a different time in history and demonstrated how leaders challenged the current worldview with a reformation of thought and action.

Sunday            Old Testament: Prophets
Monday           Early Church: Paul
Tuesday           Christian epochs: Jesus to the 7 Churches
Wednesday      Protestantism: Martin Luther
Thursday         Proclamation: Adventist Movement

What reformation is missing?
When Jesus came, Did He cause reformation?
How did his message and presence intentionally bring reformation?
What reformation did His death bring?
What reformation(s) did His life bring?

Below, label each reformation. What was being challenged?

People Group (church) Leader Reformation Challenge
Israel fleeing Egypt Moses Worship God alone
Israel in Exile Jeremiah Worship God in sincere action
Israel in Waiting Jesus Worship God thru true love
Early Church Paul
The Seven Churches Jesus
Middle ages Church Martin Luther
Modern Church (SDA lens) Ellen G White
Post-Modern Church Jesus

The omission, in our Bible Study Guide, of the greatest reformation ever to sweep the planet is telling. Why do you think this happened?
How often does this happen in our thinking as individuals and as a church?
Have we indoctrinated Jesus?

Christianity has come to focus almost exclusively on Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, yet the gospels spend the majority of their time on Jesus’ life – the world-redefining reformation — between those bookends. We have a firm understanding of why Jesus died but why did He live?

In his 2012 book “How God Became King” NT Wright states:
We have lived for many years now with “Kingdom Christians” and “Cross Christians” in opposite corners of the room, anxious that those on the other side are missing the point, the one group with it’s social-gospel agenda and the other with its saving-souls-for-heaven agenda. The four gospels bring these two viewpoints together into a unity that is much greater than the sum of their parts.” (page 159)
Which side of the room is the Adventist Church typically on?

The gospels wholeheartedly embrace both Kingdom and Cross viewpoints. How might an accurate understanding of Jesus’ life change the way we experience revival as a church?

When you consider Jesus’ life what stands out for you?

What recent attempts have we seen toward reformation (particularly by our youth!) toward the “Kingdom” side of the room?
Why do you think our youth are drawn toward compassion, service and mission?

Why do all four gospel writers spend so much time focusing on the time between Jesus’ baptism and His death?

Will you commit to dedicating the month of September to the reading the gospels?
Let’s read one each week. For next week, read the book of Mark. It ties in nicely to the lesson for the week, so keep studying the lesson with an open heart and mind!

As we focus on reformation for the next three weeks, we will make special effort in our weekly discussion to focus on the life of Jesus so that we might experience the revival and reformation He alone can bring.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Lamb Scroll (from Chapter 5)

James spoke first, “Why did you ask Cain where Abel was?”
Michael raised his eyebrows in surprise, “Because I wanted to know!”
“But you know everything,” James answered. “You didn’t need Cain to tell you.”
“True, but Cain needed to tell me,” Michael answered. “And his answer told me what I needed to know.”
The other two kids were paying close attention.
“Know what?” James fired back.
“I needed Cain to know the meaning of what he had done,” Michael answered. “And so I asked questions to lead him to that understanding.”
“So, you asked Cain questions because you wanted him to know the answers?” Paul interjected.
“Not exactly,” Michael said. “Questions teach the greatest lessons. The answers are often less useful than the questions.”
“Weird,” James said. “So, you wanted Cain to know the questions, not the answers.”
“Yes,” Michael said.
“And now he has something to think about,” Paul said.
“Exactly,” Michael affirmed. “He sees what he did from my perspective now. And I hope it helps him live a better life.”
“Why do you want Cain to have a good life,” Hannah asked. “He’s a murderer!”
“He was created in my image,” Michael said. “I love him so very much.”
Michael’s eyes filled with tears. Hannah felt a compelling urge to comfort him. She walked to Michael and wrapped her arms around his waist, burying her face into his chest. The boys took their cue from Hannah and hugged Michael.
Michael’s arms surrounded the three siblings in a massive embrace.
“You were each created in my image,” he said. “And I love you so much. No matter what you do, I will always love you.”
His embrace tightened around them.
Then he was gone.

For the rest of the story, order a copy today!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Discernment - August 24

Sabbath School - August 24 - Discernment: Safeguard of Revival
A Sabbath School resource from the Victorian Conference of the Adventist Church in Australia

This week, the lesson reflects on the role discernment plays in the process of revival. Discernment can be a difficult idea to comprehend. My current “chapel talk” for schools (I develop a new one every couple months) is entitled “Interuptability” and endeavours to each discernment in a way that will help children become wise decision makers in their interactions with others. 

Read through my talk on Interuptability. Then consider how you would describe discernment to a child. Use stories, they stick! This will help you prepare for your lesson. Feel free to use any of the material from my chapel talk for your Sabbath School discussion.

What is discernment? Tell a story from your life when you exercised poor discernment and one when you exercised wise discernment.

We all have developed discernment skills. This is a big part of leaving childhood and becoming an adult. Sometimes we do what we know we should even though we may feel like doing something else. 

What role does obedience play in Christian discernment?
Too often formalism and fanaticism have gone hand in hand with Adventism. Why? What does this reveal about us as a people?

What role does respect play in Christian discernment?
What role does love play in Christian discernment?

The Greatest Discernment
As a group, Read John 6:25-71
As you are reading, take note of every time discernment is required.
How many “moments of Discernment” are recounted?
Imagine you were among the listeners on that day. 
How would you have responded? 
Which statement would have been the hardest to take on board? 
How would obedience, respect and love played a part in believing or disbelieving what Jesus was saying?
How important is discernment in the life of a Disciple of Jesus?

As a group, memorise 1 John 4:7-8
You can use the memorisation strategy I teach in the “interuptability” talk, if that helps.
How seriously should we take this verse? Why?
How important is love in the eyes of God? Why?
How does discernment help us love like this verse requires?

Is it easier to look back over your day and answer:
Did I keep the commandments today?
Did I love today?

How do these two things (commandment keeping and Love) go together? (Read 1 John 2:3-6)
Which is more important? Why? 

An online video of an Adventist preacher is going around of late. The preacher is very judgmental in his treatment of Adventists who do not think exactly the way he does. Do you live and preach like this?
What has our church done to create ministers and lay people with such judgmental views and abrasive communication skills?

The lesson encourages us to spend one day in studying discernment in the light of being loving lovable Christians and three days on the discernment of fanaticism, formalism, false miracles, false gifts and fruitless living. What does this tell us about our church? What does it tell us about what we think is most important? Does this make you more uncomfortable with this discussion guide or the lesson? Why?

How can we ensure that we are loving to others while also being obedient to Jesus? 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My First Day at Northpoint Church

As I reversed out of my driveway at 6:30am Monday morning, I never would have imagined how much I would experience in the 16 hours before pulling back into my driveway that night. I have been asked to assist Pastor Loren Pratt for the rest of 2013 as he has ridiculous load on his leadership plate. I jumped at the chance to work with Loren as he is a longtime friend and hero of mine.

I arrived at Northpoint at 8am and studied my Sabbath School lesson until meeting Loren at 8:30. Before we even entered the building our first meeting occurred. A lady from the local council showed up to talk to Loren about an ADRA submission for the Men’s Shed which meets at Northpoint in the upstairs woodworking room and at the local council centre for meals. After the meeting, Loren emailed me the submission to complete.
Next Melissa, one of the volunteers, arrived to begin her day of secretarial work. At 9am, I joined Melissa in an interview with a new volunteer driver for the hundreds of food parcels that are delivered by Northpoint volunteers each week. 

After the interview, I wandered around to meet the people who had bustled past during the interview. The building was filling up! In the main church area, the chairs were stacked on one wall and a dozen or so tables were covered with bags and boxes which three people were busily packing with food from the pantry. I introduced myself to Sandra, the volunteer food packing coordinator. 

I walked back to my office to look over the ADRA submission and bumped into Allan, the Men’s Shed coordinator. Yes, he’s a volunteer, too. 

As he left, Melissa returned to my office and told me her story. “I can’t get a job anywhere,” she said. “My medical history scares employers. So, even though I am a good worker, no one will employ me. Loren is different. He let’s me volunteer here and have real responsibility. I get to organise heaps of stuff, interview people and work hard. I love it here.” Melissa went quiet for a moment, her eyes becoming misty. “Last week was my birthday. I don’t know how they knew, I hadn’t told anyone. Well, they knew alright. I came in and the kitchen was decorated, there was a cake and they sang to me. I’ve only been here for seven months, but I’ll tell you this - I’m never leaving.” 
Melissa went on to tell me that she came to church for the first time the previous Saturday. There was a special service that day called Messy Church and she was asked to help. “They needed my help, so I came!” She said. “I loved it. I’m coming back!”

I’d barely turned back to my ADRA submission when Loren popped his head in and said, “Come-on, we gotta go. Time for lunch.” We headed over to the community house where we shared a meal, stories and jokes with the Men’s Shed group. 

An hour later we were back at Northpoint. As I settled into my chair and turned my attention back to the submission, one of the food packing volunteers walked past my door. 
I said, “Hello, come in and tell me your story.” I had no idea!
Setareh (her name means star, in Persian) told me about the past year of her life. She fled Iran with her family due to religious persecution. “My father have a problem,” she said. They were afraid for their lives and fled to Indonesia and paid for four places on a boat to Australia. The man they paid took their money and never came back. After months in Indonesia, Setareh’s father was able to gather enough money for a second payment. This time they made it on a boat. 
The boat broke one day into the trip. It took two days to fix and finally, after four days they arrived, not in Australia, but at Christmas Island. She said they were cramped in dormitory style lodging and she spent nearly four months there fearing the soldiers who randomly took individual people and sent them to Papua New Guinea. She wanted to stay with her family - to make it to Australia together. Next they spent almost 6 months in the Adelaide Camp. “Adelaide Camp is very good” she said. “Much better than Christmas Island.”
“Now, I am free for three month in Melbourne,” Setareh said. “My family all free.”
"And now you're a volunteer helping people in Australia!" I said.
"Yes," Setareh said. "It has always been my dream to help others, no matter who they are or where they are from." 
“How long have you been volunteering here?” I asked. 
“My first day!” she said. 
I laughed, “Me too.” 

At about 4pm, Loren’s head popped in again, “Come-on, we gotta go get food!” We hopped in the car and headed to Secondbite - a distributer of free fruit and vegetables to charities. During the 20 minute drive I told Loren Setareh’s story. Loren said, “This is why I need you Dave, to tell the Northpoint story. There are so many stories.”
“Wait,” I interrupted, “you haven’t heard the best part yet.”
After hearing the story of Setareh’s journey, I asked her if she was Muslim. 
“My mother is Muslim,” she said. “But not my Father, brother and I. We just believe in God.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“God is too big,” Setareh said, “to fit in one sentence.”
I smiled, wondering if God ever feels like each religion is another sentence he has to serve out! But, I knew what she meant.
“You mean one word,” I said. “And G-O-D is only three letters. That’s a very small word for such a big God. Did you know in ancient Hebrew they would not write or say the name of God. They left blanks or put letters to represent the word but they never wrote the real name of God. God is too special - to amazing - to be put into words. Every time humans try to describe God, we fail. He is bigger than we can ever imagine.”
Setareh smiled and said, “I am wanting to talk like this about God, but my English is not good to say such things. God is like you say. God is One, All, Same.” 
Then Setareh opened her hands in front of her, “What is word for this?”
“Book?” I guessed.
“No,” she said, “word for when you are talk to God.”
“Oh!” I said, pressing my palms together, “Pray.”
“Yes, pray! You will pray for me?” Setareh asked.
“I would love to,” I said, “I will pray for you every day.”
She smiled in thanks and then I offered, “I can pray for you now, if you want me to.”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “You would do this for me?”
Tears came to my eyes as I stood, “Yes, Setareh, I would do this for you.”
As I prayed for Setareh, I thought of her open hands—and open heartfor prayer, and my closed hands to symbolise the same thing. I realised, she saw prayer as an act of receiving rather than requesting. Her hands in prayer were ready to receive all that our “One, All, Same” God has to offer.

“So, that’s the rest of the story,” I said, as Loren drove down the freeway. 
Loren had tears in his eyes. “This is your first day, Mate,” Loren laughed. “And God gives you a blessing like that. You better hold on tight!” 

After bringing eight crates of veggies back to Northpoint, I returned to my computer and was joined by the bubbly and creative Stefania - another volunteer with a story! Together we worked on the Northpoint website. 

At 6:45pm, when we finished editing, I went into the kitchen to heat up my dinner. In the kitchen I met another volunteer I had seen working in the secretarial office. She introduced herself as Lian and told me her story as I ate. Loren had told her about my recent health scare and she had been watching me all day. 
“I wasn’t sure if I would talk to you,” she said. “I don’t feel comfortable talking to everyone. But watching you laugh with Stefania and Setareh, I knew I could talk to you.” 
Then she poured out her story. It’s a story that is hers to tell, but suffice it to say, she has gone through a lot and has scary times coming up. The good thing, which she knows well, is that she wont be alone because she is part of a group of people at Northpoint who love her.

After dinner, I headed upstairs for the 7:30 Revelation Seminar. As I entered the room the first few people who were there shouted their names and “I’m from Northpoint.” I realised these were the first “Adventists” I had met all day. The rest were all volunteers called to serve with Loren because Northpoint is the right place for them at such a time as this. One by one, as they rub shoulders with Loren and the other service-centred Christians at Northpoint, they accept Jesus and become one with Him and His church.
By the time we started the Revelation Seminar, the room had filled with recent contacts and longtime seminar junkies. There were about 20 people avidly studying the Word. The meeting was led masterfully by Anthia, an Adventist lady who teaches at a Catholic all-boys secondary school. Where do these Northpoint people come from!?! They like a good challenge!

Once the seminar was finished, I climbed into my car and drove home. As I fell into bed at about 11pm, I was physically tired but spiritually as awake as I’ve ever been.
What a day!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Lamb Scroll (from Chapter 3)

They grasped hands and James started—James always seemed to pray first. “Dear Jesus, we are going to read between the lines again! Please protect us. Amen.”
“Dear Jesus,” Hannah prayed, “please help us not to get stuck. We like it at home, too. Amen.”
“Dear Jesus,” Paul prayed, “we are excited about getting into your Book again. Please lead us as we follow the Lamb! Amen.”
When they opened their eyes, Paul closed the Prophet Kids Bible and opened to the inside of the cover. He took the four scroll cards out of the little cover-pocket. He sorted through them, putting the one with all the writing on it—the serpent scroll—back in the Bible’s cover pocket. The three unused cards, he tucked into the pocket in his shirt. One of them would become their portal from page to page on today’s adventure.
Paul turned to the page with Genesis 4:4 on it. There was the red word—the word that would lead them on another exciting journey through the Bible—lamb.
 “Are you guys ready?” he asked.
“Ready as I’ll ever be!” James said boldly.
“Ready because Jesus is with us,” Hannah said quietly.
Three hands reached toward the red word—lamb—fingers pointing. Three fingers touched the word. Immediately they felt a tugging sensation on their bodies as the page began to pulse and swirl. The page took on the look of a spiral, spinning toward the middle of the page. The room around them began to disappear as they we drawn into the page.
They landed between the lines—on a large, unending expanse of white.
But, having been here before, the three children knew exactly what to do next.
For the rest of the story, order a copy today!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sabbath School - August 17 - Unity: The Bond of Revival

A Sabbath School resource from the Victorian Conference of the Adventist Church in Australia

What role does unity play in church life? 

What role does uniformity play in church life?
What is the difference between unity and uniformity?
What happens when we confuse unity and uniformity?

Read Acts 4:32 
This verse describe the disciples as having “one heart and one soul.” What would your church look like if the leaders could be described in this way?

Read John 17, taking turns around the circle.
What verse stands out for you? Why?
Why is Jesus so passionate about “oneness”?
Which is a better description of the Trinity: Unity or Uniformity? Why?

How is Jesus prayer for “oneness” in John 17 a prayer for unity? 
What results when we interpret it as a prayer for uniformity? 

Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-18. 
How does this passage help us understand the importance of every member of the church? What are we to expect from each?
What would happen to the effectiveness of the church if we expected the same thing from every church member?

Read 1 Peter 2:4-5. 
How does this illustrate the importance of each of us? Are any two members of the church alike? Is this a good thing? How can we make the most of this?

Which is easier to police: Unity or uniformity? Why?
What rules do we establish and enforce to maintain uniformity?
What rules are necessary to be a church of unity? 
What is the primary difference?

Read Acts 6:1-7
There are two problems mentioned in this passage. One is a problem noticed by leadership. One is a problem noticed by the membership. What are the two problems? 
What problems have come up recently in your church? 
Have they been problems of leadership or laity? How would the answer implemented in this passage assist in your situation? 

Read Acts 1:8
What one word defined the early church disciples? (witnesses)
How does this one word describe your church members?
What is the primary message your members give to your community?
What was the “one message” of the early church? (Acts 5:42) 
What was the result of focusing on this message? (Acts 9:31)
How did this message and mission maintain unity?

Read Matthew 28:16-20
What is the primary purpose of this passage?
How does this create unity and long term purpose?
What are the primary tasks assigned by Jesus?
How is your church fulfilling these roles?

Read Revelation 14:6-12
What is the primary purpose of this passage?
How does this create unity and long term purpose?
What are the primary tasks assigned by Jesus?
How is your church fulfilling these roles?

How is unity helpful in accomplishing the roles and responsibilities of these two passages?

How is diversity important in maintaining forward momentum?

What needs to happen next to continue a lifestyle of revival in your church? Pray about it now!

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Serpent Scroll (from Chapter 20)

“Where’s the woman?” Hannah asked.
They all spun in a circle looking for the woman. She was gone. The water was gone too. But the dragon was still there—a few hundred yards in front of the children. The huge red beast was sitting back on its haunches studying the desert. It too was looking for the woman. In frustrated anger one of the dragon’s heads bit another. Then that head took a bite back. Soon the dragon was engaged in all out war on itself, necks intertwining, razor sharp teeth snapping.
“He looks angry,” Paul said.
“He looks like a flaming red fool!” James laughed. “He’s biting himself!”
“I think he’s loosing his mind,” Paul said in agreement.
Finally the dragon stilled and looked in their direction.
“Is he looking at us?” Hannah asked with a tremble in her voice.
“No,” Paul said, “He can’t see us.”
One of the dragon’s heads twisted sideways, like a dog listening to some faint noise in the distance.
“Why is he doing that?” Hannah asked. “Do you think he can hear us?”
Another of the dragon’s heads began craning in their direction.
“No,” James said taking a step forward and shouting at the dragon in a teasing voice, “He’s just a big red dragon who can’t catch anything!”
The dragon lifted its bulk off the ground and took a couple unsure steps in their direction. All seven heads were now scanning the ground as if they were sure there was something in the desert dust not far away.
“I really think he can hear us!” Hannah began to cry.
The dragon began running toward them, it’s huge claws throwing clouds of sand to the left and right. 
“We’ve got to get out of here!” James said. “Quick Paul, what does the scroll card say now?”
The dragon was running full speed directly toward the children. It knew! Somehow it knew they were there.
Paul tugged the card out of his pocket and shouted, “It says, ‘END’ on the bottom of the card! Quick put your fingers on the card!”

For the rest of the story, order a copy today!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

In His Image - Article

Ever wanted to be a Samson? Rippling muscles, long flowing hair, powerful persuasion tactics (killing a few thousand men with the jawbone of an ass is no small feat!)

Or perhaps being an Esther is more your style. Gorgeous, brave, picked in a line up by the most powerful man in the land. (Did you know she spent a year being bathed in oil, perfumes and cosmetics before the big day?)

Whatever the case, guess what? Samson had serious pride issues and Esther was afraid of rejection. Sure, they would have been on the cover of Sport’s Illustrated, Rolling Stone, and The Edge. But, all celebrities – no matter how great they look – have human hearts and frail spirits. Just like us.

Samson trusted his strength to make up for his character deficits. Don’t. It doesn’t work. Whenever he lost his temper he blew a gasket. Once he ripped a lion apart. Another time he tied foxes tails together and burned his enemies fields. There was also the time he ripped the city gates from the ground and carried them to the top of the nearest hill. Or the time he killed 30 men to steal their clothes in order to pay a debt he owed. You never read of Samson walking quietly into a café and ordering a Latte. He didn’t do ‘civilized.’ His pride led him to misery. Eyes gouged out, head shaved, pushing a mill wheel round and round and round. Why? Because he trusted his strength. He had muscles on his muscles, but his character was paper thin. And it was character in the end that really mattered. It always is.

You can’t put a photo of character on the front of a glamour magazine. You can’t write an article with 10 steps to the perfect character. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a decision. And another one. And another one. For years and years – as many as you live – every decision you make. When your beauty has faded, your character has just begun. Paul said, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

There are a lot of things we think of when we ponder Heaven. Streets of gold. The tree of life, sea of glass, a river coming from the throne of God. Sitting at Jesus feet. But, of all that will be in Heaven, there is only one thing that you will have brought with you. The rest will already be there. That one thing is your character.

Every angle the media comes from leads us to the conclusion that looks are everything. But your character begins where skin deep ends. Do you want to be truly beautiful? Start with your heart. Do you want true strength? Develop a Christlike character. Look at Jesus. Every day. The more you do, the more you will become like Him. And when you get to Heaven, He’s going to give you a new body. But your character will continue from where you left off before his second coming! So, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) Let us explore His perfect character. We are, after all, made in His image.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Jesus Comes to Sabbath School - A Parable

Free eBook

Imagine you are one of the disciples of Jesus. This should take little to no imagination, because all Christians are His disciples! But, stretch your imagination a little further and imagine you are one of the twelve, sitting at His feet daily for the three years of His earthly ministry. 

Now imagine the rest of the disciples are your Sabbath School class members. In your mind’s eye, look around the circle of people you study with each Sabbath. 

As you scan the circle, you recognise each face and then, between two Sabbath School classmates, you see Jesus — the same Jesus who “had tact to meet the prejudiced minds, and surprise them with illustrations that won their attention. Through the imagination He reached the heart” (Desire of Ages, 254).

Jesus says, “I will be leaving you soon. It is my hope that you will fully remember and represent me when I am gone.”

“Leaving us?” you say, “But we still have so much to learn!”

“Yes,” Jesus says. “And yet, you have each come so far.” His eyes scan the circle, “Remember the day I found you?”

Heads nod around the group. 

“I was lost in sin,” a disciple says.

“As were we all,” you say.

“All have sinned,” Jesus says, “and all will be forgiven once they think to ask.”

“We have repented,” a disciple says.

“And we have been forgiven!” says another.

“And yet one thing I still have against you,” Jesus says.

“What one thing?” you say.

“The one thing I have yet to forgive you,” Jesus says. “The one thing you have yet to confess.”

“I was a liar,” one disciple says. “Many of us were. But I have confessed that.”

“As have you all,” Jesus said. “And you have been forgiven.”

“I hated my Father, and let it be known,” another disciple says.

“Confessed, long ago,” Jesus says. “And forgiven.”

“What sin is it that remains?” you ask.

“Yes, what is it?” the group says.

“You know what it is,” Jesus says. “But you dare not speak it.”

The group goes silent. 

You discretely make eye contact with Jesus, furrowing your brow, silently asking if it is that thing which He knows because you have told Him in private confession. He shakes His head ever so slightly. 

Jesus looks around the group making eye contact with each disciple and in turn gently shaking his head from side to side. “I have forgiven you for all this,” He says.

“Then what?” the group asks.

“If you truly believed,” Jesus says, “you would know.”

“I believe,” you cry, “help my unbelief!”

The other disciples grunt their agreement. 

“Repentance is a gift,” Jesus says. “When you truly know what to repent of, and are forgiven for it, you can begin to bear God’s image with clarity and love.”

“Is that the answer?” you ask.

“Hmm?” Jesus says.

“We need to love others?” You say.

“We have failed to love!” another disciple says.

“I love some people deeply,” you say.

“But not every person,” another disciple says, slowly. “If we are to love them all, why are many so unlovely?” 

Jesus’ smile quivers, pain fills his eyes.

You see Jesus’ suffering and begin to understand. “How do you do it?” you ask, almost in a whisper.

“Do what?” Jesus asks.

“Love all,” you say. 

“I look to my Father,” Jesus says. “He is Love.”

“Show us the Father,” a disciple says, “So we can see His Love.”

“If you have seen me,” Jesus says, “You have seen the Father.”

The disciples look from one to another. 

“This is a hard teaching,” you say. 

“Yes!” the group agrees.

“Look to me,” Jesus says. “Fix your eyes on me. I have mine fixed on the Father. I show you the fullness of His character in my Love.”

One of the disciples begins to cry. Then to sob. “I’m sorry Jesus,” he says, “I’m not worthy of such love.” 

Jesus leaves His chair and kneels in front of the weeping disciple, resting His hands on the disciple’s convulsing shoulders. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks. 

“You know everything,” the disciple sobs. “and that means you already know that I love you more than life itself.”

“Then feed my sheep,” Jesus whispers. 

Jesus returns to His chair. Your eyes scan the group and you see tears flowing down many faces. 

“Lord,” you say, “we all love you! You are the author and the finisher of each of us — of our hearts, our faith our very lives.”

“Yes! Yes!” Jesus claps his hands and then rubs them together in excitement. “You are so close! What do you see when you look to me? Close your eyes and imagine the scene. What do you see when you see me as the author of your faith?” He pauses for a moment. “What do you see when you see me as the finisher of your faith?” He pauses again. “Where are you in each of those moments in time?”

You close your eyes and imagine Jesus creating you. You imagine Him shaping you. You imagine Him finishing you. 

“Watching you”, you say. “I see you forming me, shaping me.” 

Jesus smiles. “When an artist prepares to author something new which he intends to finish, what must he have in mind?”

“A goal,” a disciple says.

“A template,” says another.

“What is God’s goal in the authoring and finishing of you?” Jesus pauses before adding, “What template does He use?”

“Himself?” you say.

“Yes,” Jesus says, rubbing his hands together again. “God began a good work in you with Himself in mind. You were authored in His image. It is His goal to finish you in His likeness. Not physically, but spiritually.” 

“You mean, we are to be like you,” you say. “Because you came from God.”

“Yes,” Jesus says. “I am the express image of God. I have come to show you how to have life to the full. My life is to be your example. I bear my Father’s image in fullness. You bear it as if looking through a dark glass. But, as I and the Father are one, my prayer is that you will be one with me!”

“But, we have so far to go,” a disciple says.

“Yes,” Jesus says.

“And so much to let go,” another disciple adds.

“Yes,” Jesus says.

“Jesus, I want to be like you,” you say. “But I am ashamed.”

Jesus slides forward off His chair, onto His knees. He folds His hands in front of his face, looking at you, wide-eyed, clearly anticipating your next words.

You continue, barely able to speak aloud, “I have so poorly bore the image of God in which I was created.” 

Tears fill Jesus’ eyes. He sits back, resting on his ankles. A tear trickles slowly down His cheek. Everyone watches it, transfixed, until it disappears into his beard. Jesus gently says, “What do you do when you are ashamed and sorry for something?”

“I repent,” you say, as you also slip off your chair onto your knees.

“I also repent,” each group member says in turn, sliding to their knees.

“And I confess my need for your grace,” you say.

The rest of the group murmurs their agreement.

Jesus straightens up tall on His knees and holds his hands out to the disciples on his left and right saying, “Join hands, let us pray.” The group joins hands until they are one.

“O righteous Father,” Jesus prays, “the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them” (John 17:25, 26).

“Today I bring my disciples to you in prayer,” Jesus says, “So they might confess that which we hold against them.”

Jesus goes quiet, waiting.

One bold disciple speaks into the silence, “I am sorry, Father, for always seeking the highest position. You always put those you love before yourself and therefore I have misrepresented you in my selfishness. I confess my marring of your image in this way.”

There is murmured agreement of confession by others who have seen the same selfishness in themselves.

“I too have tarnished your image, Father,” another disciple says. “I have hoarded my wealth. I don’t have much, but what I do have, I hide away so that it will not be grabbed at by needy hands, mouths and hearts. I am sorry.”

Sobs flow as one from the circle. Many heads nod in agreed contrition. 

“I confess my failure to be your living image on earth,” you say. “I am selfish with my time. Help me to be like your Son, always willing to be interrupted by the least of these, for the sake of your Kingdom.”

One by one, confessions of selfishness and repentance of smudged image-bearing come from the mouths of each member of your Sabbath School class. There is healing in repentance, a unity of heart in this circle of brokenness before God.

“Father,” Jesus concludes, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17: 20, 21). 

One by one, eyes open around the circle. Jesus releases the hands of His neighbours and presses his palms together, “I pray of you,” Jesus says, “my image-bearers, never let self rule your hearts again. It is, indeed, the enemy’s greatest weapon. Hold on to the oneness we have as Father, Son and Holy Spirit as He lives in you.” Jesus smiles. “Bless you. Bless you all. Your sins are forgiven.”

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,...