Spirituality

I’m traveling in OH visiting pastors and churches. Sometimes, not often, I eat a meal alone and found myself in that situation this past Saturday evening. I always have something to read with me and the server, probably in her late 20’s,  made note of the copy of Christianity Today which I was flipping through.

When she brought my salad she said, “You must be a spiritual person. I am, too. I’m rediscovering my spiritual side and am becoming a very spiritual person.”

I replied, “That’s great!” Where are you involved in church?”

She was exasperated as she said, “Oh, I don’t go to church. I don’t think being spiritual really has anything to do with organized religion.”

“So, what are you doing to explore your ‘spiritual side?’” I asked.

“I grew up in church and never really understood how people could claim to be Christians on Sunday and then raise hell all the rest of the week! Now I’m studying meditation so I can re-awaken the real spiritual me. I think spirituality is very personal.”

I said, “I agree. Being spiritual is all about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

The server looked at me for a moment and then said, “You’re not one of those Bible thumpers, are you? I don’t like your type! My spirituality is very private and has nothing to do with any God who has a bunch of rules.” And she walked away.

When she brought my meal she wouldn’t even make eye contact and the conversation was obviously over. What a shame. But the whole event made me think. What is it that makes a person spiritual?

Hundreds of books have been written on this topic and I’m reluctant to add anything to the great wisdom that has been shared by people whom I consider spiritual leaders. But I’m convinced that we’ve allowed this issue to become far more complicated than necessary.

Let’s face it, there’s a huge disparity between contemporary spiritualities and the spirituality that is derived exclusively from the Holy Spirit. There is virtually no way to move from Oprah’s so-called practical spirituality to Biblical spirituality.

Solid, Biblical, Christian spirituality always involves repentance – at the beginning, constantly in the middle, in all things. Repentance. It is a deep, soul-searching, humble confession of sin; the turning away from sinful ways, and a new, total dependence on God.

Spirituality is not a feeling or a technique or a system of beliefs, nor is it a quest for the sacred through artistic creativity and mystical experience. It’s not found in one’s own inner voice. It is a personal relationship with Jesus, the Christ. It is in and through Christ that we know both ourselves and God.

Spirituality is not about going to church and following a bunch of rules. My participation in a household of faith and the moral and ethical absolutes I claim flow out of my relationship with God. And so I recognize that I’m spiritual not because of what I do but because of Christ in me.

There are scores of people just like the server I met on Saturday in your community. As a Christ-follower, you have the indescribable privilege of modeling genuine spirituality right where you live. Look for the open conversations and begin the dialog. You can be sure that next time I’m in the area I’ll stop at that restaurant and look for that server.

I really enjoy my job!

I really enjoy my job! I get to visit different churches and talk with pastors and leaders. I admit it, every time I pull up in the parking lot of a church and prepare to get out of the Camry and walk through the doors to chat with the pastor my heart and respiratory rates increase. If you watch me in the parking lot you’ll see me bow my head and pray – mostly to ask God to control my breathing so I’m not out of breath when I walk in!

Why am I excited to visit churches? Because your local church is a source of hope for your whole community. Your church can impact the lives of people who have fallen through the cracks, lost direction and have no where else to turn. Your church has the potential of being “family” to individuals who have never experienced unconditional acceptance.

Being a Biblical Household of Faith is uncomplicated. It takes a few people who are fully committed to Christ, the Word of God, and prayer. Accomplishing this doesn’t take huge budgets or the latest technology. The Household of Faith flows naturally as we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in developing and cultivating meaningful relationships – both with each other and with those who are far from God.

Here are some “talking points” for your consideration as you lead your church in being and becoming a Biblical Household of Faith:

– Jesus describes following Him as “taking up our cross” which obviously includes suffering and pain and hardship. Does our leadership model self-sacrifice, self-discipline and self-control with the same humility as Jesus? Are we even trying?

– We must recognize that we don’t have an exclusive on the Gospel. There are other solid, Biblical churches around with whom you should develop partnerships. These partnerships serve to encourage one another by multiplying outreach. For instance, in the school district where I am part of the ministerial association, the churches partner to help families in need. This past year they spent almost $20,000.00 helping needy families; something no one church could possibly accomplish.

– Look for ideas from multiple sources. It’s so easy to succumb to “tunnel vision” because we have a natural tendency to operate within our own comfort zone. If we expect God to speak to us from His Word we need to prepare our minds and hearts. Music and literature and art help us begin to understand the world in which God has placed us and that expands our understanding of how He is moving and working.

– Seek transformation but remember that God loves people just as they are! No where in the Gospels does Jesus require someone to “clean up their act” before accepting the message of salvation. Maybe we should all post a sign on the church front door: “No Perfect People Allowed.” But that should never become an excuse for failing to confront sin with dump truck loads of grace and love.

– Promote healthy small groups where individuals can find meaningful, deep, personal relationships. Most people come to Christ and make significant decisions about following Him because of the personal relationships they have with those who are living out the Gospel. We need groups where those relationships can grow and flourish.

I hope you recognize this isn’t a formula or a program. These are topics for you as leaders to discuss as you study the Word and pray. God will direct your path as you depend on Him. It is only through Christ that we can be and become healthy, Biblical Households of Faith. The potential of the local church makes my heart beat faster!

Jim

New Life Tragedy

B from OHIO called about the tragedy at New Life Church: I’d like to know if they usually have armed security or if they had weapons only because of what had happened during the night at the YWAM place in Denver. IF a church needs security they shouldn’t carry loaded weapons.

K from MO writes: Loaded weapons in a church? No way! Too risky.

C spoke to me on the phone: Satan is attacking the church in more ways than one. Ushers should have a Taser and know how to use it.

J sent this email: My heart goes out to all those who’s lives were forever changed by what this young man did.  I also want to say my heart goes out to the young man who obviously had a lot of pain and struggle inside.  I do believe that this situation brings us to at least one moral dilemma, if not more.   . . . if a person believes in police protecting them (or any one else) with the use of force outside of the church building, then why on earth would it be wrong for someone to do the same inside the church building.  The argument, I know, is that we should trust God to protect us and I agree but the Scriptures are full of times where God used people to protect others by using force.  Trusting God does not mean we should pass up all physical means of protection while waiting for His supernatural protection.  Now some would say, “I just don’t think we should have guns in church.”  I am not saying we need to all pack a hand gun to church but if there is a threat and there is a gun there, then by all means, save lives with it.

D from OH writes: I keep a loaded shotgun in the pulpit. (Just kidding!) But maybe we ought to consider being armed to protect our selves from these crazies.

D responded by email: Your comments relative to the tragedy at the Colorado Springs church were provocative to say the least.  What would I do?  That probably can’t be answered clearly until one finds himself in that situation.  For myself I have a license to carry a concealed weapon. No one knows when I carry it or needs to know but I have it to help out in just the situation you are discussing.  I am not so much concerned about my own safety as for my wife and family or those around me who may not be able to protect themselves.

F from MN writes: The shootings at both the YWAM house and New Life Church come from the bias toward Christians from the media. If it weren’t for the godless liberal news we wouldn’t have this problem. How much do metal detectors cost? Much more, I think, than most churches could afford. Most people will get a gun inside church if they want to.

M from OH in a phone conversation: This is why God never meant for churches to be so huge. That way everybody knows everybody. These big churches are just asking for trouble because it gets the troublemakers on TV.

Priorities

Lois and I have had the privilege of visiting several different churches recently that are not part of Christian Union. They range in size from 30 to 300 and have a statement of faith that is very comparable to what we are familiar with. Some are in buildings they’ve occupied for generations and some are in very new, modern buildings and others are renting facilities.

One church in particular was planted three years ago in a suburb of a major metropolitan area. When the church began they identified some core values – none of which includes owning a building. They rent space and have now moved to their third location within three years.

Their mission statement says they “. . . exist to allow people to come to know God through Jesus Christ…to guide people in their knowledge, growth and obedience to Him…and to give people an opportunity to use their gifts and talents to bring glory to God through worship and service to Him and others.”

Their Core Values begin with Prayer and include Worship, Missions, Preaching & Teaching, and ministry to Children and Youth. Woven into the fabric of this household of faith is a commitment to families. They state: “The home is the institution ordained by God, even before the church and we strive not to do things to take away from the home and family time together but to keep our calendar as free as possible.”

On Sunday mornings they have two worship services and childcare is offered for both with a full children’s church program during the second service. There are no Sunday School classes and they don’t have a regular Sunday evening service although they do plan special events on Sunday evenings about four times each year. Small groups for Junior High and High School meet at the church but the small groups for adults meet in homes at various times during the week.

This church has four staff members: A senior pastor, a worship pastor, a youth pastor and a Children’s ministry coordinator. All of them are “tent-makers” who have jobs outside the church which have structured hours. At this point the church isn’t providing any insurance or benefits but each staff member is receiving adequate compensation. The 2008 budget for staff salaries is $87,000.00. Each staff member also has a church credit card to use for approved expenses.

This congregation is growing and having an impact in their community. Christ is being lifted up. When I step back and look at what is taking place in this church and others I find some principles that could be applied to any and every church:

1 – Function as a household of faith. In a healthy household the focus is always on the whole not a particular individual or event.

2 – Worship is the chief goal. This is not relegated to singing a few songs, announcements and taking up an offering. The worship of God is something that permeates Christian Education, missions, youth ministry, small groups and Sunday services.

3 – Silence and prayer is a high priority. Every gathering begins with a time of silence in order to help move worshipers from the noise and commotion of busy schedules into an attitude of heart that allows God to speak and lead.

All this combines in such a way that people have an understanding of how the Word and Worship are integrated into every aspect of life for a Christ-follower. We are called to help people have a practical grasp of how the Christian life is worked out at home, at work and on the softball field.

What would happen in the church you are part of if these principles became a priority? I can hear the reactions! But before you dismiss these ideas as impractical or even impossible allow me to point out that these are things individuals can begin to practice. You could choose to make these a priority for yourself.

nKurEdge – December 28, 2007

Its cloudy today but so bright I wore sun glasses to go out and shovel snow. On top of all the snow and ice from the past two weeks we got another six inches between 6 and noon today. The fresh snow makes everything look clean and bright.

But it’s a false clean. I remember what it looked like yesterday: muddy, leaves mixed with ice, trash that blew over from the neighbor, a soda can someone threw from a passing car that’s now stuck in ice – not a pretty sight. The new snow is like a blanket thrown over an otherwise threadbare and stained couch. It looks better but it doesn’t change what’s underneath.

I’ve been watching the news in between shoveling, working on this email, and phone calls – mostly out of interest in the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. The newscasters can’t stay on the depressing assassination all the time and find themselves talking about New Years. They refer to it as, “turning the corner,” or “getting a clean slate,” or even “a chance to start over.” Is that the same as a fresh layer of snow?

Please don’t misunderstand. The New Year is a wonderful time for evaluation, reflection, and making plans for the coming year. Resolutions are not bad and setting goals is helpful. However, lets keep a couple of important truths in mind as we look forward to 2008.

1 – God is the only one who can give us a “clean slate.” 1 John 1:8-10 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” Take advantage of God’s offer through Jesus Christ to remove your sins “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps 103:12). Nothing you could ever do would make God love you less. He is the God of second chances.

2 – Be careful to bathe the process of making plans and setting goals in prayer and truth. Let’s not be guilty of asking God to bless our plans! It takes significant time in the Word and in prayer and lots of silence to listen to Him in order to avoid what happened to David in 2 Samuel 7. But just in case, find a Nathan in your life who will be brave enough to tell you if you’re pursing selfish goals.

We run the risk of allowing a new year and a fresh snowfall to lead us into sentimentality and false security. Instead we must practice the spiritual disciplines in order to be holy.

May I suggest a theme for 2008?

“So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. 16 God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” You call out to God for help and he helps – he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living.  Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God.”  1 Peter 1:13-17 The Message

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2007

Wow! Its hard to believe another year has flown by! Another year filled with the rhythm of work, family and worship. A year in which we have been amazed at God’s generosity in pouring out His grace, mercy and love.

Grandchildren continue to be a wonderful delight. Lois has the privilege of taking care of Joy and Tony’s three boys most days. Kari, who lives close, often brings Sarah over so the cousins can all play together.

One of the best gifts we’ve ever received is that our family likes to be together. Joy and Tony and their boys, Brady, Broc and Brandt live just five miles north of us. Kari and Jeremy and Sarah live almost five miles west, and its just another five miles from their house to where Jim’s Mom, Clarice, is still in her apartment in Fremont. Peter drives down from Des Moines as often as he can and we all sit around a big table and eat and laugh and enjoy life.

Lois helped Kari and Jeremy move to another rental house in August. It’s a much better house and they already see lower utility costs for a larger home. Jeremy is enjoying his work as an electrical engineer at John Deere in Ottumwa and Kari gets to be a stay-at-home mom.

Joy and Tony are expecting their fourth child on March 3. They have chosen not to know the gender so it will be a surprise for everyone! Tony continues as CEO at State Bank of Bussey and Joy really enjoys helping at the bank as much as is reasonable.

Peter changed jobs in June and is now working for Berkley Technology in Des Moines. He is still living in Ankeny and remains very involved at Point of Grace church in Waukee. Yes, he is still single – patiently waiting for God’s direction in that area of life!

Clarice, Jim’s Mom, had a bad fall the end of July. No broken bones but it really irritated her already flaring arthritis – especially in her knees. She is still able to live on her own but now uses a walker. We see her often and bring her to family activities as much as possible.

In June the Christian Churches voted to continue Jim’s position which can best be described as a pastor to the pastors and leaders. This means that Jim travels an average of 12 days a month and spends countless hours on the phone, answering email and writing a weekly e-newsletter. He really enjoys the challenge even though much of what he does is helping pastors and church leaders through tough times. Three times in the past year he has done leadership retreats and those are definitely highlights because they are so positive.

Lois has been able to travel with Jim to the Kansas City area several times, to Colorado Springs and to visit a few of the churches here in Iowa. We took some vacation earlier this month and visited friends in Bloomington which was a real treat and one of the most restful times in recent memory.

Its always good to hear from you – we enjoy your letters, calls and emails! May the blessing of God’s presence invade every facet of your lives.

Jim & Lois Eschenbrenner

Responding to the Power of God

NOTE: This was prepared in 1999 after many people witnessed prayer for a young man at Tri-State Camp. To protect identities that individual is referred to as TYM. For more information please refer to the articles and books listed at the conclusion of this article.

Many of you witnessed the power of God at work in the life of several Campers last week. It was awesome! We praise God and rejoice in His power and authority over evil and sin.

Some of you have arrived home from camp having had a new experience. That of dealing directly with the power of sin in the life of TYM.  It has come to my attention that the term exorcism has been used to describe what took place. I strongly disagree with the use of that term. I am also concerned that this one instance is being blown out of proportion because what we participated in and observed was God, through the Holy Spirit, dealing with the power of sin.

First of all, using the term exorcism produces Hollywood images in our minds and leads us to be further deceived into thinking that we had something to do with the freedom that TYM found in Christ.

Secondly, there is a large amount of evidence – and we were aware of this evidence at camp – that TYM made a genuine profession of Faith, received Christ as his Savior and repented of his sin two years ago at Tri-State. Such individuals are then owned by God and cannot be possessed. However, sin is still at work and can do horrible damage.

Third, and most importantly, the whole vocabulary associated with exorcism generates a sense that there was a battle where victory was in question and that is a trick of Satan! Don’t be deceived! God has power over Satan!

FOCUS ON THE POWER OF GOD
For many years, Believers have discounted Satan?s power underestimating his ability to deceive and harass Christians and even influence their behavior. Today, with renewed emphasis on spiritual warfare, we must also be wary of the opposite error: to overestimate his power. Many well-meaning Christians give Satan more power than is his due.

Because we are talking about an invisible being whose powers are in realms beyond us, we might think it difficult to specify how much power Satan has. Yet looked at in another way, the question can be answered accurately: He has exactly as much power as God lets him have and not one ounce more. He has all the limitations of a creature in the presence of a sovereign creator!

But as long as we live on the earth, we are still on Satan?s turf. He will try to rule our lives by deceiving us into believing that we still belong to him. As aliens in a foreign, hostile world, we need protection from this evil, deceptive, hurtful tyrant. Christ has not only provided protection from and authority over Satan, but He has equipped us with the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, to guide us into all truth and help us discern the evil one?s schemes (John 16:13).

Even though our eternal destiny is secure and the armor of God is readily available, we are still vulnerable to Satan?s accusations, temptations, and deceptions. If we give in to these, we can be influenced by Satan?s wishes (Galatians 5:1). And if we remain under his influence long enough, we can lose control. Yes, believers can be controlled by Satan if they fail to stand against him. Ownership is never at stake, however. We belong to God, and Satan can?t touch our basic identity in Him. But as long as we are living in this body, we can be vulnerable targets to all his fiery darts.

As I understand the Word of God I see three methods that Satan uses to influence and attack people. (And, remember, he will attack those of us who are Christians as quickly as anyone else!)

Possession
Even today demons sometimes inhabit the bodies of the unconverted. We can see in the account of the demon possessed man in Mark 5 some of the characteristics of this phenomenon: isolation, self-hatred, disassociation, bizarre behavior, and fixations. Although believers cannot be inhabited or possessed in this way because they are owned by God, those who have been converted out of occult lifestyles often battle with past demonic influence and behaviors.

Temptation
Even though I doubt Satan can read our thoughts, he or his demons can inject ideas into our minds that we think are our own, enabling him to remain hidden while luring us into sin.

When Ananias and Sapphira choose to lie about the price for which they sold their land, Peter asked, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?” (Acts 5:3). They thought this idea was theirs; they likely were unaware that they were actually cooperating with an idea Satan had planted. If they had not followed this deceptive suggestion, Satan would have been powerless to make them practice this hypocrisy. He cannot control us, but he can seduce us if we let him.

Sexual temptation is common to us all. We are fallen creatures who struggle with sinful lusts and desires. I struggle with sinful lusts and desires.

If we give ourselves to these sins, we give Satan a foothold an opportunity to reclaim ground that once was his. This is particularly true when people have been converted out of sinful lifestyles. The temptation to return to those behavioral patterns is powerful and unrelenting.

Temptation can take as many forms as there are sins that attract us. Satan uses the sins of the flesh, increases their power and deceives us by making them look good and even beneficial. Peter reminds us our adversary the Devil “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).” Behind the lie is the liar; behind the trap is the trapper

Obsession
We’ve all met believers who struggle with terrible thoughts that at times drive them to destructive behavior fits of anger, for example, often erupt with little or no provocation. Paul wrote, “be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity ( Eph. 4:26-27 ). The Greek word for opportunity is topos, which means “foothold.” Simmering anger gives rise to the Devil?s work providing an opportunity for his encroachment.

Obsession is feeling trapped by certain behaviors from which there is no escape. Satan uses these compulsions to communicate a sense of helplessness, a feeling that one must simply give in to those urges.

PRINCIPLES FOR APPLICATION

1. Please don’t search for encounters with evil or even a ministry of “deliverance.”
I very strongly believe that a Biblically functioning church will be equipped to deal with evil and sin as they submit to and obey the Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. What we witnessed and participated in should be as much a part of the church as communion, baptism, and altar calls.

2. Don’t exaggerate the spectacle.
One of the things that really bothered me about the situation with TYM is that too many people were “spectators.” We ought to deal with these things within a close circle and then we should thank God for allowing us to witness His power. Then it is time to go home and enter once again in to the routine and rhythm of work, worship, and family.

3. Avoid solo encounters with evil.
I would really like you to read the paragraph below with “we” inserted for every “I” and with the understanding that you and I should never try to deal with the evil in someone’s life by ourselves. We need to do this within the community of saints. I repeat: Never knowingly approach an evil situation alone.

In Released From Bondage, Neil Anderson says: “In a truth encounter, I deal only with the person, and I do not bypass the person?s mind. In that way people are free to make their own choices. There is never a loss of control as I facilitate the process of helping them assume their own responsibility before God. After all, it isn?t what I say, do or believe that sets people free  –  it?s what they renounce, confess, forsake, whom they forgive and the truth they affirm that sets them free. This ‘truth procedure? requires me to work with the whole person, dealing with body, soul and spint.” (Released from Bondage, p.17)

4. The focus should always be on God’s Power 
In the final analysis, it isn?t what “I” say, do, or renounce even in the encounter, but what “I, in the name and authority of Jesus,” say and do that brings deliverance. Let us also remember that there is no power inherent in truth. All power is in and from God. It is the God of truth who has power to set the captives free.

5. Get Ready – we are to be New Testament churches.
If we are serious about the power of God through the Holy Spirit, we are called to constantly be living on the threshold of God?s new and powerful work. We will not only have to live with change, ambiguity and opposition; we will want to – just as the early church did in Acts. As churches we must be prepared to deal with the evil of sin’s grip on the lives of people. The church was not meant to be a stagnant, tradition-bound institution but a dynamic, Christ-centered household of faith.

The church, the household of faith, is the place for struggling with evil in the lives of people. Evil – especially the evil that becomes imbedded in people’s hearts through habitual patterns of sin – should be dealt with in our churches. And remember, I am not talking about a building but the people who make up a household of faith. To anticipate your question, yes, I believe Tri-State Camp becomes a household of faith when we meet together.

6. The Biblical Community
The church should be neither sectarian nor shallow. It is to be a household of faith under the lordship of Jesus Christ, by the power and love of the Spirit of truth, to the glory of God the Father.

The household of faith is a “loving, serving, joyful congregation that is truly open to the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. This community expresses a quality of openness that reflects maturity, not indifference; it takes biblical integrity seriously, rather than casually, and passionately seeks spiritual vitality rather than cheap emotional hype. We want to tap the true drama of the gospel, which answers our quest for transcendence, the human need for significance and our longing for community. This calls for a tremendous work of spiritual discernment, humility and heartfelt prayer.

Such a biblical community can be seeker-sensitive without being consumer-oriented. It can make the gospel interesting without entertaining, and convicting without condemning. It can be both effective and faithful, serious and joyful, cross-generational and mission-focused. It can redefine felt needs and meet spiritual needs. The household of faith is not a fun center or an escape from boredom, but a place of worship where the spiritual disciplines are modeled, the psalms are prayed and maturity is nurtured. It is a place where peer pressure, self-centeredness, anonymity and affluence are resisted. It is a community marked by the cross and blessed with resurrection hope.” (Doug Webster in Selling Jesus, p.13)

Thanks for your prayerful consideration of this whole subject. It is not my desire to rebuke or even correct but rather to provide a fresh framework so that we gain a more Christ-like perspective on how the church should function. Let’s pray together that God will continue His mighty work in the hearts of campers and staff alike. And may each of us be challenged by the truth that, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome the evil of the world, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Prepared by:
Rev. James Eschenbrenner
“Pastor Jim”

Bibliography
Principalities and Powers, Collection of Articles, Moody Monthly, July-August 1997
Neil T. Anderson, The Bondage Breaker (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 1990, 1993)
Roger Barrier, Listening to the Voice of God (Mpls., Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1998)
Gregory A. Boyd, God At War (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997)
George Mallone, Arming for Spiritual Warfare (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1991)
Eugene H. Peterson, Subversive Spirituality (Grand Rapids, Mich., Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997)
Douglas D. Webster, Selling Jesus (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1992)

ADVENT DEVOTIONS – Introduction

Doug Webster is my friend and mentor and in the late 1980’s I had the privilege of serving as Administrative Pastor at Evangelical Community Church (ECC) in Bloomington, Indiana during his tenure as Senior Pastor. These devotionals were originally prepared for ECC and Doug has graciously allowed me to revise and post them. Doug is now Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.

Jim Eschenbrenner

Copyright © 1989, 1997, 2006

Monday Night

1 John 1:5-7
WALKING IN THE LIGHT

Ask the campers to open their Bibles to 1 John 1
Lead in a short prayer asking God to use His Word in our lives.

1. Describe the most complete darkness you have ever experienced.

2. What do people fear the most about being in the dark?

3. Describe the difference between light and dark?

Light – one can see what is around
Dark – one cannot see what is around

Have the campers follow in their Bibles as you read 1 John 1:5-7

4. When John says, “God is light,” he is not saying God is a light bulb, or that God is simply light. What is he saying?

Nothing is hidden from God
God exposes that which we think is secret
Note: This statement in 1 John 1:5 confirms that God is all-knowing (Omniscient)

5. What does it mean to walk in darkness?

Living without God
Sin, selfishness, anger, bitterness
You might want to refer to Prodigal Son story (Luke 15:11) as an example

6. Describe “walking in the Light?”

You will probably get “being saved” as an answer and although that is correct, it is important that the campers understand what that means. Ephesians 1:3-8 explains that we have been chosen and adopted by God. And Colossians 1:13-14 teaches that we need to be redeemed and forgiven.

7. How can we be certain that we are “walking in the Light?” That we are saved?

(Rom 10:9-10) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. {10} For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Close with prayer that thanks God for His gift of salvation, for His total forgiveness, and for giving us Light. Ask Him for a great week at camp where we will not only have fun but will grow and mature in Christ.

Encouragement to follow Jesus better!