Page 1

Contents Introduction.......................................................................................................2

SegmentS on: the LeaSt of theSe episode 1

the overlooked............................................................. 4

episode 2

the Sick ........................................................................ 6

episode 3

the Prisoner................................................................. 8

episode 4

the Poor ..................................................................... 10

episode 5

the homosexual......................................................... 12

episode 6

the Silent Sufferer ..................................................... 14

feature

the misfits .................................................................. 16

episode 7

the elderly ................................................................. 18

episode 8

the addicted............................................................... 20

episode 9

the minority................................................................ 22

episode 10

the Persecuted .......................................................... 24

episode 11

the Single................................................................... 26

episode 12

the Stranger .............................................................. 28

episode 13

Jesus .......................................................................... 30

Daily Bible Readings .................................................................................... 32 faIth Café eDItoRS: Kristi Cain, Laura Derico

WRIteR: Chris maxwell

DVD VIDeo PRoDuCeRS: Charles Powell, michelle Wheeler

faith Café is a registered trademark of LifeSprings Resources and is used with permission. Licensed adaptation Copyright © 2008 Standard Publishing. all rights reserved. Published by Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, ohio. Printed in uSa. Scripture, unless otherwise indicated, taken from the hoLY BIBLe, neW InteRnatIonaL VeRSIon®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. used by permission of Zondervan. all rights reserved. Scriptures marked the message essage taken from the message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. used by permission of navPress Publishing group. When passages are paraphrased by the editor for the sake of clarity, they are consistent with a commitment to the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Bible. Bible reading plan on page 32 Copyright © Standard Publishing. Cover photo © Les Stone/Sygma/Corbis. Interior photos from Dreamstime.com: p. 2 © Zoom-zoom, p. 4 © Ciprian Catusanu, p. 6 © Douglas mcLaughlin, p. 8 © Popa Sorin, p. 10 © Luckynick, p. 12 © tamas, p. 14 © absolut_photos, p. 16 © Luba V nel, p. 17 © marianne Venegoni, 18 © udo Weber, p. 20 © Ctacik, p. 22 © anke Van Wyk, p. 24 © Irina Paraskevova, p. 26 © galyna andrushko, p. 28 © elena elisseeva, p. 30 © Roxana gonzález, p. 32 © Boguslaw Kupisinski; from BigStockPhoto.com: p. 3 © Dirk Paessler. all Web site addresses were accurate at the time of printing. any corrections can be sent to Standard Publishing, www.standardpub.com.

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Introduction

A

bout a year ago I met a woman who later became a mentor to me. She called herself a “born-again Christian,” and although this term is often tossed around lightly, I came to know her as one of the most sincere believers I had ever met. Her passion for Christ was overwhelming, convincing me that she was in my life to inspire a deeper faith. By providing both emotional and spiritual support, she helped me through many trials I was experiencing. Without a doubt, she was sent by God. After a few months, this woman also began opening up to me about regrets from what she called her “other life.” On one occasion she cried as she shared the hardships of her past and the negative paths she had chosen. Tears came to my eyes when I began listening to the pain in her voice. I felt sadness and compassion for her, but at the same time, I felt honored that she would trust me with such personal information. Many believers would condemn her for her mistakes; but after listening to her story, I felt no such urge. Like everyone else, I have made bad decisions. Maybe the consequences of 2

my choices have not been as severe as hers, but they still leave me with no right to reject others. In our walk with God, we will inevitably encounter people who believe and live differently than we do. Our choice, however, lies in how we react to these individuals and their lifestyles. How can we prevent ourselves from condemning and hating such people? To help answer that question, these episodes of Faith Café focus on a variety of individuals who may be different from us, and explore how we can lovingly welcome them into our lives. These segments help us flesh out experiences of individuals who are poor, sick, and imprisoned, people who are often harshly judged or completely forgotten by the church. Rather than just reading through these episodes, we encourage you to take the time to examine them and reflect on the voices and faces in your lives. Who are you forgetting? Who are the least of these on your street?

enteR In our gatherings we do not want you just to sit back and listen. Faith Café invites you to enter into an environment where it is safe to ask for and seek answers. Phrases lure your mind toward deeper paths; quotes dare you to stare into your real self; questions give you a chance to talk to yourself and your friends about what is relevant in your lives.

faIth Café

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I n t ro d u c t i o n     3

DRINK

WALK

This segment highlights portions of Scripture to help you gain a better understanding of truth, while friends beside you voice their own reflections about how the biblical story inspires them to believe in new ways. Your soul can be refreshed by drinking in the living water of God’s Word.

As we examine society’s trends and scrutinize Christianity’s core beliefs, we choose not to leave it there. We offer suggestions to walk out with the truth you’ve explored and straightforward strategies for declaring doctrine daily to those around you. Actions such as writing letters, serving meals, or visiting hospitals will allow you to take your faith and share the delight with desperate people. Every session includes an invitation to experience the truth you’re studying on a regular basis. Spiritual disciplines such as intercession, silence, worship, study, and journaling help move you toward transformation. Your heavenly Father can guide and change you as you evaluate your habits and lifestyle.

SAVOR You will savor the stories of the struggles, musings, and triumphs of imperfect people like us who are journeying into a deeper relationship with Jesus. You will get a taste of ancient reality as it touches our fast-paced culture. And these bites of life will help to guide, challenge, and focus you.

EXPERIENCE Faith Café also offers statistics to investigate, books to read, video clips to watch, Web sites to peruse, and thoughts to ponder. The discussions of our society today will provoke groups to enter and experience lessons together. You’ll create community and in doing so, learn more about yourself.

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You are invited to taste and see, to drink and be refreshed. By reflecting and exploring, by examining and investigating, by meditating and applying, you just might discover a way to know God more and to get closer to the person he created you to be. We have no doubt you’ll be glad you decided to sit, sip, and talk about life at Faith Café.

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EPISODE 1

the LeaSt of theSe

The Overlooked ENTER Businesses target audiences. Marketers pursue specific populations with commercials, campaigns, promo clips, and television shows. Sometimes on purpose, but often without knowing it, churches do the same. So do individual Christians. Church leaders try to attract certain tribes: the elderly, the twenty-somethings, the young families, the traditionalists, the seekers, the urban, the suburban. Think about you, your church, your family, and your group. Look around. What kind of person do you attract? Who would feel welcome? Who wouldn’t? think about the last time you really felt welcome in a group of people: n Who or what made you feel that way? n When have you felt unwelcome? Why? n think of a person who might not feel welcome with you, your family, or your friends. What can you do to change that? are you willing? Why or why not?

Consider it “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.” —mother teresa

DRINK “Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have 4

faIth Café

not noticed?” Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? —Isaiah 58:3-7 For centuries fasting has been performed in many religions as an act of purifying the body or of showing sorrow for wrong actions. When we think of fasting, we generally only think about giving up food. But in this passage from the prophet Isaiah we see God calling for his people to give up more than just food—he calls for a sacrifice of time, of comfort, of convenience, and of self. When was the last time you fasted from any of these?

SAVOR I sat in the back, in the pew’s last seat next to the wall. Slowly men and women filled seats open to the public. The deceased lady’s family would soon walk in to find their places; we would stand as they sat in seats reserved for them, set aside with a dark cloth.


S e a s o n tw o e p i s o d e 1 Formal suits. Casual outfits. Human beings from various backgrounds and in various sizes displayed various moods. There was diversity in ages, beliefs, and careers; mixtures of hopes, hurts, and histories. People came for many different reasons to remember the life of one lady. I glanced at her phone number, which I had saved in my pocket PC. I wasn’t ready to hit delete. Soon, friends sat beside me. We smiled, spoke a few words, and stood to welcome the son, the two daughters, and the rest of the family of a lady who no longer lived. While we listened to songs and a sermon, I thought it sad that many of us rarely see such a mix of people unless it is at a ball game, a wedding, a restaurant, or—as in this case—a funeral. Why can’t we meet more often? Why do interests, jobs, schedules, and lifestyles keep us apart? Why can’t churches and spiritual gatherings be as inclusive as funeral homes and stadiums?

EXPERIENCE “Everyone in my church gave me advice about how to raise my son, but a lot of the time they seemed to be reminding me that I have no husband—and besides, most of them were not following their own advice. It made it hard to care what they said. They were not practicing what they preached.” —Victoria, 24, from unChristian

Look into it n n

n

n

n

D. a. Carson, telling the truth Dan Kimball, they Like Jesus but not the Church David Kinnaman and gabe Lyons, unChristian: What a new generation Really thinks about Christianity and Why It matters www.agts.edu/resources/subject_ index/churches.html w w w. d a n k i m b a l l . c o m / v i n t a g e _ faith/2005/09/misperceptions_.html

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WALK Many Christians realize that after years of being in church, they know few people outside of church, and if they do, it’s only due to circumstances such as work or school. Although people need strong relationships with others who share their faith, no one needs to create more “us” and “them” camps. How can we share the story of Jesus if we don’t know anyone who hasn’t heard it? Lots of people may reject church, but they will talk about spiritual matters with a friend. “We will win the world when we realize that fellow fellowship, not evangelism, must be our primary emphasis. When we demonstrate the Big Miracle of Love, it won’t be necessary for us to go out—they will come in.” —Jess Moody Widen your sphere of relationships by trying one of the following suggestions: n Become an active member of the Pta at your child’s school or the homeowners’ association Board in your neighborhood. n Join a community sports league or coach for a youth team. n Volunteer with a non-Christian service organization. n take a part-time job at a local coffeehouse. n tutor people studying english as a second language or teach adult students in a literacy program.

This week’s spiritual discipline is study: as it is with any education, the goal of studying should not be about acceptance, good grades, and nods of approval. If we invest personal time to read, research, study, memorize, and keep notes of key points, the lessons can be embedded deeply in our lives and improve our relationship with Christ. See study as a spiritual discipline. Study daily for growth, rather than out of obligation or desire to gain knowledge for showing off to others. through the discipline of study, give god the opportunity to influence your worldview and your behavior.

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