Common Ground 10.21.20

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 ESV

It’s October, and everywhere you look it seems you’ll find witches, ghosts and demons. Must be Halloween, right? Possibly, but it could be that someone just spent a little extra time in the Bible this week.

When it comes to supernatural creeps, the Bible actually has more than you think. There is a pantheon of false Gods, mediums, seers, ghosts, satyrs, and depending on your interpretation, even a night hag. Oh, yeah, and demons. Lots of demons. Baddies galore when you total it all up. That said, there are also lots of angels, so don’t freak out just yet.

The truth is we live in a natural world and a supernatural reality. We can’t see everything, can’t taste it, smell it or hear it most of the time, but there is more to creation than we experience in our normal everyday lives. It is revealing that when we fill in the gaps of what we can’t see with our imagination, the results are almost always negative. Sure, there are good elves and gnomes and such, but the overwhelming majority of what we imagine in the supernatural realm is dark and evil. Why is that? Honestly, the answer doesn’t matter. What matters is that no matter what you run up against (or what your imagination conjures up for you), the truth is that as followers of Jesus we have nothing to fear.

Look, the majority of what we fear in the dark, things like ghosts and ghouls, are simply figments of our imagination. There is literally nothing to fear! At the same time, we’d be fools to write off the supernatural entirely. Satan is real. Demons are real. They’ve been around for a long time, they want nothing so much as to distract you from God and they’re quite adept at what they do. They are capable of all kinds of evil and nothing to be trifled with. That said, neither are the children of God.

Part of surrendering to Jesus Christ as lord of your life is living with the understanding that although we are somewhat stuck in a natural reality for now, we will one day “judge angels.” Demons, in case you were wondering, are nothing more than fallen angels. Oops. The good news that frees you from slavery to sin also guarantees your position in heaven. You were bought with a price–the blood of Jesus–and nothing can take that away. Keep that in mind the next time you get scared. The things that go bump in the night have no hold over the Ones who are saved but grace through faith in Christ. You are the Chosen. You are the one within whom the Holy Spirit resides. You are a child of the King, and if anyone should live in fear, it is the one who would mess with a child of the King.

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Common Ground 10.13.20

Students worship before breaking into small groups to pray for the nation.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV

You’ve probably noticed by now that there is an election coming up. Signs in yards. Commercials everywhere. And you can’t open social media without a reminder to register. Mail-in ballots are all the rage this time, so many people have already voted! Still, it’s a great reminder that we are blessed to live in a nation that allows participatory government. As citizens of the United States, we have obligation to vote. As citizens of heaven, however, we have an obligation to pray. So, this week at the BSU we did just that. We prayed for our nation. And in the weeks ahead we will dedicate a few minutes each Tuesday to continuing those prayers. Want to participate yourself? Here’s a list of what we prayed for…

  • Pray for the Supreme Court, each member by name and the vacant seat.
  • Pray for the President, First Lady, their family and staff.
  • Pray for the Senate, their family and staff. Take a minute to find who specifically represents your state and pray for them by name.
  • Pray for the House of Representative, their family and staff. Take a minute to find out who represents the district in which you live and lift them up by name.
  • Pray for the military, all six branches. (Yes, it’s six now–welcome to the team, Space Force.)
  • Pray for civil service heroes–EMTs, Firemen and Law Enforcement Officers.
  • Pray for teachers. Lift up any you know by name.
  • Pray for the various political parties.
  • Pray for politically homeless Christians.
  • Pray for the election process itself and the aftermath.

We’ll cover more ground in the weeks ahead, but as you pray keep in mind that our goal as followers of Jesus is not to win elections, but to be disciples who make disciples. Pray that in this process and these people, unity, peace, justice and compassion would reign, and that the gospel would go forward. May the people of God make the spirit of God evident to a lost and dying world!

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Common Ground 9.29.20

MSSU Cross Country runner JP Rutledge explains how students can participate in a virtual 5K to support Rapha House, a local ministry aimed at helping victims of sex trafficking.

But let justice flow like water,
and righteousness, like an unfailing stream.

Amos 5:24

Read the book of Amos and one of the standout themes you’ll see over and over again is God’s passion for social justice. He cares about immigrants and orphans, the poor and the oppressed. He cares so much, in fact, that he’s willing to judge entire nations over how those groups are treated. That’s an important piece of trivia to keep in mind as America debates how to respond to allegations of systemic injustice.

In recent years, racism has been the hot topic. Cities have literally burned over it. Homes have been destroyed, businesses have been looted and lives have been lost. Racism is a problem in America, and if you think God doesn’t care about it, you haven’t read the Bible.

Racism isn’t the only issue that God cares about, however. Here’s a few others:

  • Oppressing the poor, for instance, redlining.
  • Sex trafficking and other forms of slavery.
  • Immigration, legal and otherwise.
  • Abortion.
  • Treatment of orphans.
  • The environment (yes, the environment).
  • Women’s rights.

The list could be longer, but you get the point. There are a lot of issues out there regarding which God’s people could better. Maybe it’s time we did something other than post quippy memes on social media. Maybe it’s time to take action, to give and to go. This is an election year. Maybe it’s time to look past the issues and examine the parties themselves. In this, an election year, where do the Democrats and Republicans, the Communists, the Green party, or whoever you’re most interested today line up with regard to biblical values? God’s justice is compatible with His compassion, grace and love. How does your party line up with that?

Many people today cry out loudly with a claim to righteous anger, but that too must be compatible with the character of God. Sarcasm? Flippancy? Name calling? All tactics in common use in the battle for social justice, and all are equally unhelpful and counterproductive. And here are a couple of other useful tips:

  • Complex issues require complex solutions.
  • What took years to break will take years to fix.
  • How we approach the issues is just as important as what we say in debating them.
  • As followers of Jesus, our first loyalty is to the kingdom of heaven, not the republics of men.
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Common Ground 9.22.20

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22 ESV

Forgiveness can be a complex issue. When someone bumps your elbow in the grocery store, you can usually forgive and forget without a moment’s hesitation. By the time you get to the store it is forgotten. Other times things happen that can take years of intense therapy to work through that ensure you will never forget. And just to be clear, there’s every shade in between as well. Dr. Robert Enright, a professor of educational psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote, “Forgiveness is a process that takes time, patience and determination.” Sometimes the process is quick, other times excruciatingly slow, but the Bible is clear that regardless of the offense, forgiveness is expected and for at least three reasons.

First, the followers of Jesus are expected to forgive because we ourselves are forgiven by God. That’s pretty much the entire point of the parable Jesus tells immediately after Peter asks about the math. Not only have we been forgiven, but we have been forgiven for more than we will ever be owed. This is because the greater the offended, the greater the offense. That is to say, if you slap your sibling, for instance, you might get slapped in return or grounded for a day or two. However, if you slap a police officer the consequences will involve handcuffs. Slap the President of the United States and you might want to say good bye to your family first, because you probably won’t be seeing them for awhile. Same simple slap, increasing consequences. Sin is a slap in the face of God. Forgive other people because you have been forgiven so much more.

We also forgive because we are commanded to by God. Luke 6:36 says, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Pretty straightforward. That’s not an ask. That’s an order.

And finally, we forgive because if we don’t we will become bitter and resentful. Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “Be angry and do not sin… and give no opportunity to the devil.” Anger left unchecked turns into resentment which leads to bitterness and hatred. And that’s the opportunity Satan is looking for to entice you into sin. Pretty much the exact opposite of what God wants for us, right?

Jesus doesn’t say forgiveness is easy. He doesn’t say forgive and forget. He just says we need to get it done. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking about your parents’ divorce, or abuse you suffered at the hands of someone who was supposed to be safe. Maybe you were cheated on, lied to or lied about. None of that is okay and Jesus isn’t asking you to pretend that didn’t happen. He’s asking you to work through the hurt to a place where healing is real and you can move on from those moments.

There are natural, sometimes legal, and inescapable consequences to our actions. You can forgive someone and still report them to the police. Still walk away from the relationship. Still change the way you live. Don’t give the devil an opportunity in your life. If forgiveness is something you need to work on, don’t wait, start today.

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Common Ground 9.17.20

Core Team member Josh Alford goes over upcoming events every Tuesday at Common Ground.

In Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus gives us instructions on what to do “if your brother sins…” If your brother sins. Ugh. Serious? IF my brother sins? IF?! Can we just be honest for half sec here and admit that when it comes to sin ‘if’ is always ‘when?’ True for you. True for me. True for all of us. If your brother sins? Jesus always was polite.

The question isn’t really what to do if someone around you sins, but what to do when it happens. And Jesus gives us a blueprint.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed[a] in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Matthew 18:15-20 ESV

The first thing you need to understand about confrontation is that the goal is restoration (Galatians 6:1). Best keep that in mind before you go off running your mouth. Just saying…

The second thing you need to do is consider your actions.

  1. Know what you’re about to confront. What really happened? (Proverbs 18:15, John 7:24)
  2. Know where the boundaries are. Is this really something you should be dealing with? Proverbs 26:17, Ecclesiastes 3:1,8)
  3. Know your real motivation. Why are you doing this? (Proverbs 16:18, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 7:21-23)

Finally, follow a clear course of action.

  1. Avoid confrontation altogether. Let’s face it, sometimes the answer really is to just it go. (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15)
  2. Settle up individually and privately. If you can avoid bringing others into it, that’s always a better choice. (Matthew 18:15)
  3. Group and semi-private. Okay, we’re talking about sin, and sometimes people need escalated accountability, so bring a couple of friends. (Matthew 18:16)
  4. Church and still semi-private. Alright, so, yeah, bringing something before a church is not exactly private. But in the modern age we have ways of making things even more widely known. That doesn’t mean we should though. (Matthew 18:17)
  5. Excommunication. Yup. It’s legit. Someone wants to hang on to sin in their life so hard they just won’t give it up for anything, kick them out of the church! Yeah, yeah, it sounds heartless, but sin is a sign of a broken relationship and the process of dealing with it even at this late stage is still restoration. For an example of this, check out 1 Corinthians 5:1-5.

And a couple of final notes… although these instructions were given to deal with sin in someone’s life, it should be recognized that they’re pretty adaptable to everyday conflict with friends and family. And lastly, for the love of all that’s holy, keep it off the internet. Social media is a valuable tool capable of many things, resolving conflict is not among those things.

Peace out!

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Common Ground 9.9.20

Noah Deyo leads us in worship on Tuesday nights.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure, buried in a field, that a man found and reburied. Then in his joy he goes and sells everything he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one priceless pearl, he went and sold everything he had, and bought it.

Matthew 13:44-46 HCSB

There is heaven and there is hell. No one really likes to think about eternity or what happens when a person dies, but if you believe the Bible, the outcome is binary. Heaven and hell are important! In the parables above, Jesus unloads a lot in a very brief moment. Pastor and theologian John MacArthur point has identified a few of the points we can glean and his was the template for the list below.

  1. The kingdom of heaven is priceless. Unlike modern times when diamonds are considered the ultimate gem, at the time Jesus was talking the ultimate gemological prize was a pearl. Brings new meaning to the “pearly gates,” doesn’t it?
  2. The kingdom of heaven is personal. The men in these parables get after it themselves, they don’t send servants, win it as a prize or inherit the treasure. They get after it themselves. You can’t rely on others for your fortune. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you came from or how privileged you upbringing might have been, you still have to access it yourself.
  3. The kingdom of heaven is the source of true joy. Notice how joyful the first man is. You can almost imagine him skipping on his way to buy that field. Nothing, nothing brings true joy like unlocking the mysteries of eternal life. To know that your future is secure is a beautiful thing, priceless, personal, and joyful.
  4. The kingdom of heaven is invisible and real. Wind is invisible and real. So is love. And so is heaven. You can’t find it on a map or buy it on Amazon.com, but when the wind hits your face or you fall in love, you know it. You don’t doubt it. You don’t rationalize it away. You believe. Having a personal relationship with God will make you believe too.
  5. The kingdom of heaven is accessible. So, one man stumbled on a treasure seemingly by accident. Another was earnestly seeking. Both found the treasure. Heaven is accessible to anyone. The Apostle Paul was persecuting Christians. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading in a chariot. God found them both. The point is that your situation in life is completely irrelevant to you ability to experience heaven. What matters isn’t how you found the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but what you do with it after you find it.
  6. The kingdom of heaven is expensive. The grace of God is free, but it isn’t cheap. You don’t have to do anything, but you do have to give up everything. That doesn’t mean you just go donate all your earthly possessions, but it does mean that all your earthly possessions belong to God, and that includes your free will, your relationships, your pride, your (gulp) patriotism… all of it. His.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that basically this: you aren’t enough, He is. If you want to get to heaven, if you want to see, hear, touch, and yes, even smell and taste the goodness of heaven in the future you need to be ready to surrender your self and all your stuff to Jesus now. It’s real, it’s worth it, no one can do it for you, but you can the offer is there for everyone and that means you too. What’s holding you back?

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Common Ground 9.1.20

“Go therefore and make disciples…” We talked about that last week. We want to be disciples who make disciples. But discipleship can’t begin until evangelism has taken place. Telling other people about Jesus isn’t an optional part of a healthy Christian life, it’s an integral part of it.

“So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭15:3-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

When the Bible talks about sheep, it’s often a metaphor for people and that’s definitely the case here. The obvious point of the story is that everyone has value and God will go to great lengths to pursue them. He is the Good Shepherd. But if we are going to make disciples, we need to stop thinking like sheep.

  • It’s not my gifting
  • I don’t have time
  • It’s someone else’s job
  • I need to work on me first
  • I don’t know what to do
  • I’m too shy (or scared)

The 99 make excuses and discipleship suffers. They flock together in holy huddles, cheering gladly and gratefully for the protection and provision the shepherd offers, but when it comes to evangelism they get very quiet and hope the shepherd will handle it. That’s how sheep think, when they bother to think at all. We need to think like shepherds.

“But David said to Saul, “Your servant was tending his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.””
‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭17:34-37‬ ‭NASB‬‬

David was a shepherd. When he tackled Goliath he used a sling, but Goliath was nothing compared to lions and bears he’d tackled with his bare hands. He had the mentality of a shepherd, willing to do whatever is necessary to care for his flock. He fought wild beasts and enemy champions. All you have to do is invite someone to church. Tell someone what Jesus means to you. Share the story of God’s work in your life. How hard is that?!

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Common Ground 8.25.20

When it comes to discipleship, Moses and Joshua formed one of the most iconic duos in the Bible. From the time he was a youth Moses poured into Joshua, first as an assistant, then as a warrior and finally as the future leader of Israel who was chosen by God. Moses understood discipleship. He learned from his father-in-law and payed forward everything he learned. In turn, Joshua led Israel well. He took the nation across the Jordan river and established them in the Promised Land. When he died he was given one of the most impressive epitaphs in scripture.

“After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.” (Joshua 24:29-31)

Unfortunately, the name of the game is discipleship, and that’s where Joshua failed. At the end of his life he rather famously charged the nation to follow God, and they responded that they would and everything went well for a little while. But discipleship isn’t a large group activity. Moses led Israel, but he only discipled Joshua. Joshua in turn led Israel, and led well, but who did he disciple? For all the good that he did as a leader, his legacy didn’t last long.

“After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.” (Judges 2:10-11)

After Joshua, Israel quickly descended into chaos and sin. What might have happened if Joshua had picked out someone (or maybe a handful of someones) to pour himself deeply into, teaching them to lead the way he had been taught himself? His reign as the leader of Israel was amazing, good enough to warrant his own book in the Bible! But because he didn’t pay forward the lessons he was given at the feet of Moses, his legacy was limited and an entire nation suffered for hundreds of years.

What will your legacy look like? Who is pouring into you? Who are you learning from? The name of the game is discipleship. Be one. Make one. Lead like Joshua, but disciple like Moses.

Quick takes:

  1. Discipleship isn’t optional. Be one. Make one. (Matthew 28:19, 2 Timothy 2:2)
  2. Discipleship always works better when it’s intentional.
  3. Lesson one of discipleship is pay it forward.
  4. The price of not making disciples is multi-generational.
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Common Ground 8.18.20

WELCOME BACK! That was the theme of this week’s Common Ground. It was mostly a time of games and fellowship as we ate and enjoyed the evening.

The focus of the Baptist Student Union is aiding students to learn how to live with Jesus, love like Jesus and help others to do the same. The object is to become disciples who make disciples. We unpacked that a little bit in our message from John 15.

Join us on Friday night for Game Night! We’ll start at 6:30. Social distancing guidelines are posted in the Baptist Student Center and we strongly encourage attendees to follow them.

#mosobsu

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Fall Calendar

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