KINGDOM DREAMERS: A STUDY OF THE LIFE OF JOSEPH – TONY THOMAS [FEBRUARY '14]

Tony

At only seventeen, Joseph had two dreams that suggested he was destined for greatness. Shortly after, however, Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, and later, he was even thrown into prison. Despite finding himself in circumstances so contrary to his dreams, Joseph remained faithful to God, and ultimately, he was exalted to Pharaoh’s second in command.

Tony Thomas is into full time ministry and is based in Champaign, IL. He has spoken at OFNITE before and we are privileged to have him lead this session. In his message, Tony reviews the character of Joseph and leads a discussion around the following:
- What are kingdom dreams?
- The refining of our character and dreams through trials
- God’s providence and our responsibilities in fulfilling dreams
- The advancement of the kingdom through the fulfillment of dream

TONY DELIVERING THE MESSAGE

DRAW ME CLOSE – OFNITE WORSHIP TEAM

His Grace is Sufficient – Roshan James [Aug '13]

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Roshan James is a member of CSI Elmhurst and has been an OFNITE attendee from its inception. She lost her sister to leukemia in 1999 and more recently in 2010 lost her father to brain cancer. She shared her testimony with us on how these life changing experiences have bolstered her faith in Christ.

Below is a song perforrmed by the worship team from August..

Sharing Christ – Praveena Noby [June '13]

Praveena

Praveena Noby is an active member of the CSI Elmhurst Church and delivered a 2 part message titled “Sharing Christ” and OFNITE (May and June). While we were not able to record the first part in May, below is the second part of the series from June.

Passion Week – Previn Verghese

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Previn Verghese is one of the CSI Elmhurst youth members and he delivered a message on the significance of Passion Week and the history behind it. Below is the video of the message and some of the worship songs.

Previn delivering the message

Some of the songs performed by the worship team

HAPPINESS – PETER KANETIS [OFNITE 02/22/13]

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Peter Kanetis is someone that is very active amongst the CSI youth of Chicago. He currently teaches philosophy and religious studies at both College of DuPage and Triton College. He also leads the OFNITE book study on Mere Christianity (C.S Lewis).  We were extremely grateful for the leadership and mentoring he provides. This week he delivered a message on Happiness, the world view and Christian view of what constitutes happiness. We would encourage each and every one to listen to his if you were not present for the session.

Peter Delivering The Message On Happiness

Some Of The Songs From The Worship Session

DEFINING MOMENTS [OFNITE 01/17/2013]

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Happy 2013 everyone! We had our first OFNITE of the year on Jan 17th. Our very own Blesson Thomas delivered a message on Defining Moments. God gave us the free will to make our own decisions; we have the power to become whoever we want.  Blesson’s message challenges us on how we make our decisions,  goes over biblical examples of good and bad decision making and then concludes withwhat the bible equips us with in the decision making process.

Blesson Delivering the Message – “Defining Moments”

Some Snippets from the Group Discussion

Worship Session

Salvation – Total Depravity and Regeneration, Justification, Sanctification [OFNITE - 10/26/12]

Tony Thomas was kind enough to deliver the message at the OF Nite held on 10/26/12. The topic was Salvation. A transcript of his messsage can be downloaded here. The powerpoint presentation from the service can be downloaded here. Below you will find links to his message and the songs performed by the worship team.

Tony Thomas Delivering The Message on Salvation

Worship Team Performing Lord I Need You (Chris Tomlin)

Worship Team Performing Mighty To Save (Hillsong United)

Understanding Leadership And The Leadership Qualities of Jesus Christ [09/28/12]

For those of you who attended the second OF Nite, hope you had a wonderful time. For those of you who missed it, below you’ll find recordings of the message and songs from the session. We hope this inspires you to attend the next session! Do keep this initiative in your prayers.

SHELBY DELIVERING THE MESSAGE (Powerpoint presentation of Shelby’s message can be downloaded here)

http://www.youtu.be/VbbsLTyTucE

EVERLASTING GOD (Chris Tomlin) performed by the Worship Team

OH GREAT LOVE OF GOD (David Crowder) performed by the Worship Team

HE LEADETH ME (Joseph Gilmore/William Bradbury) performed by the Worship Team

The Book of Jonah [September 7, 2012]

Below is Vinith’s message from the first OF nite. The powerpoint presentation from the session can be found here

[Jonah’s Prayer, Jonah 2:2-10]

The prayer which you have just heard did not originate from [Reader’s] mouth, but actually belonged to the well-known prophet, Jonah.  Although the entire book of Jonah is only 4 chapters comprised of 48 verses, the name alone is enough to fill our minds with the vivid imagery of stories we heard as a child.

Before we revisit the details of the story, I am going to read Jonah, Chapter 3, aloud.

[Jonah 3:1-10]

After reading this chapter, I find it odd that Jonah is not hailed as the most effective Biblical prophet. We are given only one sentence of Jonah’s proclamation, “Forty more days and Ninevah will be overthrown,” yet we discover that every Ninevite, from the lowliest all the way to royalty put on sackcloth and believed God.

Think back to Moses, and the sheer number of miracles he performed to penetrate Pharaoh’s hardened heart. Locusts, darkness, famine, not even the death of his firstborn Son, were sufficient to convince Pharaoh to believe in the God of Moses.

Now I am not trying to suggest that Jonah converted an entire nation with just one sentence, but I ask each of you to consider why the words of his message were omitted while 66 chapters of Isaiah’s warning to the Israelites were included in the Bible. It would be very useful to know exactly what Jonah said, so that we, too, could be equipped with the words capable of eliminating the wickedness present in this world and even in our own hearts.

I believe that there is, in fact, a reason why Jonah’s message was not included. Jonah’s message, itself, was not unique. His reluctance to obey God, however, was unique.

Right now, I’m sure a few of you recall reading that Jonah wasn’t the only reluctant prophet. To name just a couple, Jeremiah believed that he was too young and Moses believed that he was a poor speaker. In that sense, you are correct- Jonah was not the only reluctant prophet. Jonah’s REASONS for reluctance, however, are what I would like to focus on.

Here is Jonah’s reaction immediately after the seemingly miraculous conversion of the Ninevites.

[Jonah 4:1-3]

The reason for Jonah’s reluctance sounds awfully similar to hatred. He wants Ninevah to perish rather than to repent and be spared. But before we jump to judgments about Jonah, we must attempt to understand what would compel Jonah to feel so strongly against the Ninevites. The Ninevites were a cruel people known for their violence and terror. After destroying an enemy city, the Ninevites would decapitate the intelligentsia and build a pyramid made of their victims’ skulls. Suddenly, we realize that our own feelings toward the Ninevites would likely have mirrored Jonah’s.

It was this passion, fueled by anger, which made Jonah infamous.

The Lord said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Ninevah the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.”

As requested, Jonah rose, but boarded a ship in the opposite direction of Ninevah. While asleep during the voyage, the Lord hurled a giant storm that threatened the integrity of ship. Each sailor cried to his respective God to no avail. After casting lots (similar to rolling die but interpreted as the will of God), the sailors concluded that Jonah caused the storm. They woke Jonah and asked him for a solution.  His response was nothing short of legendary, “Pick me up and throw me overboard.” Faced with no other option, the desperate sailors acquiesce, the sea is calmed, and together they praise the God of Jonah.  It is now when Jonah is swallowed by a giant fish sent by God, and while inside the fish’s stomach, utters the prayer which [Reader] read earlier.

Although the story on its own is entertaining, it is important to remember that the Bible does not merely narrate. Each story has an underlying meaning, and in most cases, multiple meanings. For today, I would like to focus on what the book of Jonah reveals about the flawed character of man, the perfect character of God, and together, we will explore the connection between Jonah and the modern Church.

As presented by Ravi Zacharias, in “A Fish Out of Water,” the book of Jonah reveals 3 shortcomings which apply not only to Jonah, but to each one of us at one point or another. Jonah was (1) out of touch with his surroundings, (2) concerned only with his own comfort or agenda and, most importantly, (3) he was out of touch with the implications of his message.

I will present the first two shortcomings together as I believe they are inextricably linked. Jonah was oblivious to the storm around him because he was focused solely on his own self interests. Jonah was concerned only with avoiding Ninevah. It is tempting to equate Jonah’s slumber with ‘doing nothing.’ However, it is important to note that once God calls you to do something, it is impossible to simply stand still. You either accept the call or deny the call. You are just as disobedient whether you ignore the call or do the opposite. Thus, any action other than accepting the call will result in a departure from God.

The third and greatest flaw of Jonah was that he was out of touch with the implications of his message. He was very much in touch with God’s message, itself, but unwilling to accept the consequences. To illustrate, I would like to share the following true story:

Charles Peace, a notorious burglar and murderer, was led by the prison chaplain to his execution. On this death-walk, the chaplain routinely and sleepily recited Bible verses. Ultimately, the unmoved nature of the preacher was too much for Charles to handle.

“Sir,” said Charles, “if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!”

This story should remind each one of us how often our actions do not emulate our beliefs. Jonah should have celebrated the repentance of the Ninevites.

Despite the downfalls of man, the story of Jonah gives us comfort in the perfect Character of God. I would like to focus specifically on two characteristics that stood out to me. This is by no means a comprehensive list.

First off, God does not share in our prideful nature. CS Lewis writes the following on coming to God as a last resort, when quite frankly, there is no other choice.

“If God were proud He would hardly have us on such terms: but He is not proud. He stoops to conquer; He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is nothing better now to be had.”

This should be a humbling thought for all of us. How often are we offended when someone asks us for help only after he or she has exhausted every other available option?

God had mercy on the sailors even though they only cried out to Him after each one of their own gods failed. In the same way, although the Ninevites lived a life rife with wickedness, God relented from the calamity he had declared, once he saw that they had turned from their evil ways.

The final chapter of Jonah uncovers the next characteristic – that God is justice.

I’m sure that most of us are familiar with the statue of Lady Justice that adorns most courthouses. For those who are unfamiliar, imagine a blindfolded woman with a balancing scale in one hand and a double-edged sword in the other. Without diving too far into mythology, the blindfold represents objectivity, the scale weighs evidence- support against opposition, and the sword symbolizes the reason/justice that may be wielded for or against any party.

Our God is much the same way with a minor exception.

Our God is objective. Our God has the authority to apply justice, which will be known to each of us on the Day of Judgment.

What’s the difference? For that we look at the last verse of the book of Jonah.

[Jonah 4:10]

In this verse, God posts a question which reveals that Jonah’s concern for a plant that he did not cause to grow pales in comparison to the concern God has for the people and animals of Ninevah which He, Himself created.

What does this mean for us?

The scale, which balances the support and opposition for our salvation, is in a sense, rigged- it is always tipped in our favor. God wants us to accept him- we are his greatest creation. However, we should not assume that because we are his creation, salvation is guaranteed. As we have seen through Jonah, our imperfect character will inevitably take us away from God.

Luckily, the book of Jonah also reminds us that our God is a God of second chances. He did not let a disobedient Jonah drown in the deep. God saved him – granting a second chance to not only Jonah, but all of the Ninevites.

In the case of Jonah, it took 3 days in the stomach of giant fish to accept God’s calling. For those of us here, let us make a change in our lives, today, and run towards God lest the same fate befall us.

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