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Micah 6:6-8 1
 6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

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2009 Mission Trip Participants – Columbus, MS

Background 2

These verses seem to contain the substance of Balak’s consultation with Balaam how to obtain the favor of Israel’s God. Deep conviction of guilt and wrath will put men upon careful inquiries after peace and pardon, and then there begins to be some ground for hope of them. In order to God’s being pleased with us, our care must be for an interest in the atonement of Christ, and that the sin by which we displease him may be taken away. What will be a satisfaction to God’s justice? In whose name must we come, as we have nothing to plead as our own? In what righteousness shall we appear before him? The proposals betray ignorance, though they show zeal. They offer that which is very rich and costly. Those who are fully convinced of sin, and of their misery and danger by reason of it, would give all the world, if they had it, for peace and pardon. Yet they do not offer a right. The sacrifices had value from their reference to Christ; it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. And all proposals of peace, except those according to the gospel, are absurd. They could not answer the demands of Divine justice, nor satisfy the wrong done to the honor of God by sin, nor would they serve at all in place of holiness of the heart and reformation of the life. Men will part with anything rather than their sins; but they part with nothing so as to be accepted of God, unless they do part with their sins. Moral duties are commanded because they are good for man. In keeping God’s commandments there is a great reward, as well as after keeping them. God has not only made it known, but made it plain. The good which God requires of us is, not the paying a price for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, but love to himself; and what is there unreasonable, or hard, in this? Every thought within us must be brought down, to be brought into obedience to God, if we would walk comfortably with him. We must do this as penitent sinners, in dependence on the Redeemer and his atonement. Blessed be the Lord that he is ever ready to give his grace to the humble, waiting penitent.

Biblical Truths

These verses from Micah were the mainstay of the Mission Trip to Columbus Mississippi. There were two principal themes:

  • The Serenity Prayer and the movie, the Wizard of Oz. Here is how this verse tied in.
    GOD, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Another way to describe serenity is to call it peace. Peace of mind yes, but let’s think peace of “the heart.” Our hearts can love, hate, race with joy, beat rapidly in fear. Yes, the heart, your heart knows the frustration of trying to change something that you cannot change. What we have here is the perfect example of HEART. In modern day terms, we are told by the TINMAN that it is foolish to beat your head against the wall, spit into the wind, or to try to change the unchangeable. The TINMAN knew that with his new perfect HEART, he was still created to be a TINMAN; he would remain a TINMAN. He could never stand in the rain but this never diminished his ability to help Dorothy find her way home.
  • Courage to change the things I can. We all love the LION – Our stately king of the jungle who was afraid of his own shadow or was it tail. Yet, the LION stepped up in time and showed bravery that he did not know he had. The LION knew when to stand up, when to be counted and when to save the day. Without courage, you cannot be a Christian. It is a “jungle out there.” What kind of courage will prepare you for the future? Well, no human in history had more courage than Christ!
  • and the Wisdom to know the difference. What we have here is the perfect example of Godly wisdom. In modern day terms, we are told by the SCARECROW that it is not who you are that is important. It is not what you are made of that will make a difference. It is your knowledge and discernment that will be remembered as the true measure of a person. The SCARECROW knew that with his perfect wisdom, he was still stuffed with straw, still had raggedy clothes and had a complexion like “burlap.” But he became the most famous scarecrow in history, knowing when and where to apply those skills of his newly acquired wisdom for the betterment of the others in his group.
    Do you know who wrote the Serenity Prayer? It was a theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr – born in Wright City, Mo., on June 21, 1892, the son of an immigrant German Evangelical and Reformed minister. After receiving his Master of Arts degree from Yale in 1915, he left the academic world to take his first and only pastorate – a small mission church in Detroit, where he remained until 1928. In Beyond Tragedy (1937), a series of essays that originally had been sermons, Niebuhr reasserted his life-long belief, the centrality of human sinfulness, which he used in explaining and understanding the human predicament and offered Christ’s crucifixion as the most profound means of transcending that human condition.

So how is it that we can pull together The Wizard of Oz and Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer?

  1. We cannot change the human heart. It is perversely sinful. It is the “human condition” that Niebuhr spoke about so often. But Christ can give us a new heart. Only Christ can change our “human condition.”
  2. We waste our courage if it is expelled on defending the myths of the world. What is bravery if you lose your soul? But if you have the courage to stand for Christ, you can gain everything.

And what about wisdom? Is all of Solomon’s wisdom, the wisest man to ever live, equivalent to one person’s trust and belief in Christ? Do you have the courage to trust and believe in Christ? The wisdom that Christ brings with salvation is eternal and perfect. Will you believe in Christ when others mock you? When money and success stand in front of you, will your heart remember what Christ did for you?

His health seriously impaired by a stroke in 1952, Niebuhr was forced to limit his activities. He died in Stockbridge, Mass., on June 1, 1971. He was one of the major spokesmen for Protestant theology in the 20th century. I want you to take his gift of the serenity prayer with you from this trip and I want you to take one more gift with you. This one is from Christ Himself, from your Savior.

Here is Niebuhr’s entire Serenity Prayer:

GOD, grant me the Serenity
to accept the things
I cannot change,
Courage to change the
things I can,
and the Wisdom
to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as the
pathway to peace.

Taking, as He did, this
sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.

Trusting that He will make
all things right if I
surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy
in this life, and supremely
happy with Him forever in
the next.

Now Micah asks the million dollar question, “God, what do you want of me?” And God answers:

  • To act justly – that is courage to do what is right (the Lion)
  • To love mercy – to have a heart for those in need (the Tin Man)
  • To walk humbly with your Lord – that is the ultimate wisdom one can posses (the Scarecrow)

Items for Discussion

  • How did the theme help you see the message in Micah?
  • In what way is this similar to using parables to teach with?

 

John 1:2-6
2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy. 5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth.

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2009 Mission Trip Cross built of personalized nails, signed by participants

Background 3

The author of this letter was the apostle John. He also wrote 1 John and 2 John. He called himself ‘the elder’ when he wrote to his friend Gaius. John had written a letter to the church where Diotrephes was a leader. In that letter, John had told the church about some men who were coming to teach. He wanted the church to help them. But the church had not received the letter. Perhaps Diotrephes had kept or destroyed that letter. Diotrephes would not help the teachers. He also did not allow other church members to help them. Gaius was a friend of John. In the past, Gaius had been kind to the travellers who came to teach. They stayed in his home while they taught in his town. Afterwards they told their own churches how good Gaius had been.

John now wrote to ask Gaius to continue this good work. He told Gaius that this is right. We should help Christian teachers who come to us. As we help them, we are workers with them. And we join in with their good work. But the behaviour of Diotrephes was bad. Then John told Gaius that Demetrius was a good man. Perhaps Demetrius brought this letter to Gaius. Demetrius might also be one of the teachers that John sent to that place.

Biblical Truths

Verse 2: John prayed to God for his dear friend. John wanted all things to go well for Gaius. He wanted the best for his friend. He prayed that Gaius would have good health. This does not mean that Gaius was sick. It was a normal greeting to wish good health. Gaius was a good Christian man. His inner life was healthy. He was alive with God in his spirit. Gaius knew and loved the Lord. And Gaius lived daily with God. John prayed that Gaius would also be healthy in his body.

Verse 3: There were Christians who travelled to the churches to teach. John may have sent these Christians on their journeys. They may even have stayed in Gaius’s house. When they returned to John they told him about Gaius. What these Christians said made John happy. They told him what he already knew about Gaius. But to hear their report gave John much joy. These Christians told John that Gaius was loyal to the truth of the gospel. He lived in the truth. His life showed that he believed the Lord Jesus Christ. Gaius was living as a real Christian should live.

Verse 4: In fact, Gaius was not John’s child. But John described Gaius as if Gaius was John’s own child. Maybe John led Gaius to believe in the Lord Jesus. Nothing gave John more pleasure than when his children were living in the truth. To live in the truth is more than to agree with it. It means to allow the truth to affect every part of the life. The truth is that Jesus Christ is Lord. To live in that truth is to live as God wants us to live. As an elder, John cared for many Christians. He saw himself as a father to them. They seemed to him like his children. Many of these people became Christians because of John’s work.

Verse 5: My dear friend, you are so loyal in the work that you do for other Christians. You help them even if they are strangers to you.

Verse 6: Some of these have spoken about your love in the church. You will do well if, as God’s servant, you provide for them. And you should give them all that they need for their journey.

Items for Discussion

  • In the closing services each mission trip attendee was given a nail to make their mark on and then lay it at the foot of a cross. What significance does this have for you?
  • The nails appeared in the cross as a symbol of Christ’s work for us – Why is this symbolism so effective for learning what our faith is about?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do you bring this modern day parable alive in the church every day?
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