Christmas at the Movies: Grief, John Candy, Christmas, and Hospitality

1353137396_5259_Planes-Trains-and-Automobiles1So on Sunday we opened up a bit of a difficult topic, but a needed one: grief at Christmas.

The truth is that for some people who have experienced loss, whose families are in shambles, or who struggle with debt, Christmas is a really difficult time. While others are celebrating they are seeking to hold it together. And it’s not honestly a topic many people even acknowledge. And this makes it even worse for those who are hurting the feel worse than being ignored, they feel non-existent.

But here is the thing: the first Christmas was coupled with grief too. There is the story in Matthew of violence, and killing initiated by Herod. So the very first Christmas also had times of intense joy for some, and times of intense sadness. But we tend to ignore this part of the story. But if we ignore this part of the story, we tend to ignore those around us with that story. If we don’t acknowledge that the first Christmas had difficulty we don’t acknowledge those with difficult in this Christmas.

So we landed on this main point on Sunday. We cannot ignore the hurting during Christmas. We cannot ignore those struggling with loss, hurt, broken relationships, or deep debt and need. when we ignore the darkness of life, we end up ignoring people trapped in it. But nothing could be further from the meaning of Christmas. Jesus entered the world as light, to bring hope to those in the dark. And we need to do the same.

So we challenged people to actually be like Neal in the end of the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Neal notices that Dell has been hiding his hurt. But he doesn’t ignore him, but invites him into his home and his life – carrying his baggage both metaphorically and literally.

The point isn’t that we lessen the joy we find around Christmas if we are doing well. The point is to invite those struggling into our joy at Christmas. So we closed with this challenge. Reach out to someone this week for whom Christmas might be difficult. Because that’s what Christmas is about, going out to those who are in the dark and hurting and bringing light and love. That’s what Jesus did when he entered our world, may we do that and enter the world’s of those around us.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe can’t ignore the hurting during Christmas.

Teaching Points:

  • Christmas isn’t easy for everyone.
  • The Christmas story has both Light, and beauty, and transcendence and also death, difficulty, darkness, and grief.
  • We, as a culture, avoid grief, death, and difficulty.
  • We can’t forget the darkness and hurt in the story.
  • When we ignore the darkness of life, we end up ignoring people trapped in it.
  • We can’t ignore the hurting because Jesus didn’t ignore these people.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? How do we tend to ignore those with struggles in our culture? How can we support those who are struggling? Are there those that you know that you can support? What can you do to “carry their baggage” into your home like Neal?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

This week talk to your kids about supporting others during Christmas. Ask them if there is anyone you, as a family should support? Kids often have greater eyes to see this than we might.

Challenge for the Week: Reach out to someone this week for whom Christmas might be difficult.

Christmas at the Movies: Elf, and No Ordinary Baby

elfposter1[Guest Post Carter Whyte Pastoral Intern]

Last Sunday we learned something crucial about Jesus from Matthew 2:1-12, and in viewing the movie Elf. Buddy the elf was no ordinary guy – he didn’t look like one, act like one, or burp like one. He was truly something special – different than the average church-go-er, for sure! And as we learned on Sunday: In a similar way, Jesus is not just a good man, a great example, or a spiritual friend; He is more than we often treat him to be. Jesus is the eternal and universal King. In Matthew 2:1-12 we see that King Herod and the wise men all treat Jesus like a King: Herod sees him as a threat and tries to kills him; whereas the wise men travelled a far distance in search for Jesus, so that even as a baby they might worship him. A King deserves a king-sized response – a response worthy of a king.

When we forget that Jesus is King, it is hard – if not impossible – to live the Christian life that is modeled for us in the New Testament. The men and women that we read about there speak and live in great confidence and humility: walking into unknown places and threatening situations to share the good news of Jesus, displaying his power, and seeking God’s glory in it all. They lived with great faith and hope because they knew that Jesus was King over all – fully able, fully sovereign, and fully active.

We might not often think of Jesus as being King, but we do often refer to him as “Lord”. We might call him “Lord, Jesus…” in our prayers, or quote verses like Romans 10:9, which says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Though we use the title “Lord” to refer to Jesus, perhaps we forget what that means! And essentially, it means he is King – He owns the place and he makes the rules.

Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” All authority. That’s a lot of authority… in fact, there is nothing left to be distributed between Satan, earthly kings, or us. Jesus has it all.

And this can be the most amazing news we could hear! Jesus has the power to judge, and to forgive. He has the power to create and to destroy; to teach and to correct; to strengthen and to weaken; and he will not be overthrown. We can walk with Jesus into darkness, difficulty and death, and none of these things can separate us from him because he is still and always our King – through death, and eternal life.

In our daily walk, do we have a vision of Jesus that is too small? Or is it king-sized?

Do we tell our neighbours about Jesus the good example? Or boast about knowing and being loved by Jesus the King?

Let’s allow our lives to be impacted by this biblical truth. I think it will dramatically change the way we live our lives and share Jesus with others.

Teaching Points:

  • Why was Herod so afraid of Jesus?
  • Why did the wise men sacrifice so much for Jesus?
    • A: Because Jesus is King!
  • Being King means: He owns the place and he makes the rules
  • Jesus is more than a good man or a great example
  • “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
  • A King deserves a king-sized response
  • Jesus deserves our eager obedience, our complete allegiance, and our costly worship.
  • We can have an incredible life as we serve and trust him because JESUS IS KING.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What are your initial feelings when you hear that Jesus is King today? Do you have any difficulty believing that? How have you experienced his power and Kingship in your life? How do you think you ought to respond to the King with how you live? How do you anticipate this idea – that Jesus is King – affecting your daily journey with him – or the way you share the gospel with others?

Family Discussion Questions:

Share with each other the difficulties and problems that you are facing currently. Remind each other that Jesus is the King – no matter what goes on in our lives. Ask: What hope can we have in our King no matter what the circumstance?

The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Prayer, Healing and Revival – James 5

always-there-1314423-1600x1200On Sunday we opened up a favourite passage of mine in James 5. In James 5:13-18 we read this:

Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

And here James shares with us some incredibly practical advice about prayer, healing, and sickness. James calls us all to pray if we are hurting, or in joy, that prayer should be our response (verse 13). And then he gives some incredibly practical advice – if you are sick you should call in the elders.

The truth is that sickness has a tendency to isolate and to separate and James knows that in sickness we need others. So he says invite the elders in to pray, anoint, and support someone who is sick. This is because in sickness it can be so difficult at times to pray, so he says rely on the prayers of others. Be anointed a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and it was also thought to be medicinal. So pray for healing, and don’t shy away from those in the healing profession and medicine for help as well.

James says bring in supports to care, love, pray, and anoint and to find God willing to heal.

We also looked at the importance of confession, of the phrase the “name of the Lord” and a few others things. But most importantly, we landed not on more teaching about prayer, or about how to pray. We landed on whether or not we trust in prayer.

Because the truth is, if we know all about it, and even if I challenge people to practice it – if we don’t trust in prayer and in God, it won’t make a difference. So I asked us all to consider this question, “Do you trust in prayer and God to use prayer”. In spite of all the questions, the suffering we see, all the legitimate doubts and difficulties – do you trust in prayer?

Because I believe that prayer is worth trusting in. I believe that prayer actually changes the world. I believe that even in spite of the doubts I have at times, like anyone, that prayer matters.

So we ended with a challenge to prayer, and then ended the service with the only way that seemed appropriate. We invited people forward for prayer. And today if you are struggling in any way, I think today is the day to invite people in your life to pray. Because prayer matters, and prayer changes lives.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Pray. Pray. Pray.

Teaching Points:

  • No profound theologian, James’ genius lies in his profound moral earnestness; in his powerfully simple call for repentance for action, and for a consistent Christian lifestyle. Douglass Moo
  • Wherever we are at in life prayer is to be part of our life.
  • Sickness has a way of separating us.
  • Oil was medicinal and a symbol of the Holy Spirit and God’s consecrating.
  • To pray in the name of the Lord is to pray and act as his representative and in his authority.
  • Do you trust in prayer?
  • It is God who is the healer.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What is your view of prayer? When have you seen a prayer answered? What are your questions concerning prayer? Who do you know that needs prayer and support? Who can you confess your sins to? Are you willing to?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Talk to your kids today about the power of prayer. Ask them what they think prayer is? Ask them who they should be praying for – and then spend time in prayer with them.

Challenge for the Week: To trust in the power of prayer.

The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Devils, Distance, and Drawing Close ~ James 4

hand-of-god-1383050-1280x960On Sunday we looked at another pretty challenging teaching of James, but also one filled with hope and promise.

James writes this, ““So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you”. (James 4:7-8)

James is sharing that the heart you respond to God with, is how he will respond to you. That if you are open to God, seeking God, humbling yourself to God – he will draw you close. But if you are pushing him away, fighting him, and rejecting him – God honours our freedom but still seeks to care and have compassion for us.

So James reminds us to check our hearts, to see if they are pushing God away, or opening up to him. 

James also reminds us that if we resist the devil he will flee from us. And as I’ve said before, even if you don’t believe in the devil, you’ve experienced him. In the Bible the devil is the source of accusation, fear, and someone who actively seeks to separate ourselves from God. The truth is we have all felt accusation, and fear which separates us from God.

James wants to remind us that this doesn’t need to be so. That if we just were to resist the accusation, the guilt, the fear, the separation, the devil would flee and we would move closer to God. That if we would but draw close to God, he will draw close to us and the devil must flee as we move closer to God.

We ended up with a pretty clear main idea, that we need to repent and rely on God. 

God promises to be there with us, to push away the devil, accusation, guilt, and fear but we need to repent and rely on him. As long as we are going our own way, as long as we assert our independence, as long as we pretend we don’t need him – he can’t help us. He can’t help us when we are resisting and pushing him away.

So on Sunday to make this real, we did something I don’t often do. We did an altar call. We invited people to simply come forward who wanted to physically say to God ~ I need you in some area. And that was it.

But sometimes we need to do something tangible to connect with God. And the truth is we are all broken and need God, so we can all use with doing something tangible. 

So if you are in the place where you need God today – do something tangible. Maybe kneel, maybe write out your needs, maybe ask someone to pray. But do something, because God’s promise is that if you move closer to him, he’ll move closer to you.

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to repent and rely on God.

Teaching Points:

  • “God gives what he demands” – Augustine
  • God will respond with the heart you have for him.
  • One of the primary roles of Satan is to separate God and people.
  • Draw close to God and he will draw close to you.
  • How often do we try to go it alone and hide our flaws?
  • We live with a lack of light, because we refuse to rely on him.
  • We need to repent and rely on God.

Adult Discussion Questions:

“The reason we struggle isn’t because we can’t overcome our failures, but because we are too proud to ask God to move.”  What do you think of this statement? Have you experienced the truth of these promises: that God WILL come near as we come to Him in true humility, and that Satan WILL flee from us as we resist him? What do you need to repent of? Confess? Get clean from? Admit? (Remember, this is how James says we come closer to God – it is crucial in our relationship with Him) About what things are you too proud to admit the truth? (Our pretending prevents God from working) How can you practically turn from these things and rely on God, beginning today?

 

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Have you ever needed help with something, but you didn’t want to admit that you couldn’t do it alone? How can we come to God today, letting Him be the one that helps us through our weaknesses and failures?

Challenge for the Week: To repent and rely on God…today.

The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Angry Birds, and Angry Words ~ James 3

silence-1225624-639x1314On Sunday we looked at James 3. This is a very famous passage on the power of the tongue. How our words can destroy like fire, or how a little piece of our bodies can control our destiny. James wants us to control our tongues so we can gain control over every other area of our lives. James puts it this way, “We all make mistakes, but those who control their tongues can also control themselves in every other way”. And that’s very true, as we gain self-control in this area of our lives, it spills over into all areas of our lives.

And to help us gain control, James wants us to envision a life without a wasted word. Can you imagine how much better your relationships, your friendships, or your family would be if you never said a word or phrase you regretted. James realizes that learning to control your words will bring a huge benefit to you and to the entire world.

So we landed on a really obvious main idea: Control your tongue. Not a new idea but a necessary and needed idea. All of our lives, careers, and relationships would be better if we could actually learn to control our tongues.

So we spent the majority of our time on some practical ways to gain mastery over this one area that causes so much difficulty.

The first point was to slow or stop our words. So often we speak without thinking, our thoughts simply flow out without any checks or balances. Very rarely have I ever regretted not saying something, often have I regretted saying something. So the first step is to stop or slow our words if we want to control our tongues. The truth is more than likely we can always go back and say things that were left unsaid, but never unsay something that was said. So that was the first step.

The second step was to actually choose our words. So often we don’t’ think through “will this help”, “will this change anything”, “is this the right time to share”. Instead, we respond to our feelings and reactions and rather than choosing our words carefully, regret our words frequently. So the second little step was to choose our words carefully when speaking. We do this in every important interaction in our lives, but forget it in our everyday lives. We choose our words carefully at job interviews, at important meetings, or in presentations – and then forget to choose them carefully with our spouses, friends, and kids. This is what needs to change.

Lastly, we looked at an amazing little video by Pixar called “For the Birds”. This video shows really well the danger of groupthink and how communication is more than words. I reminded us that in groups it is particularly important to be wary of what we say. Because it is so easy to slide into peer pressure and scapegoating others. We also need to be wary that communication is bigger than words, and that we need to watch not only our words but our actions as well.

With all of this we ended with a simple and clear challenge: to review how we spoke once a day. I challenged everyone to put a reminder into their phones to go off once a day for them to review how we are doing with controlling our tongues. As long as we remain unaware we will remain unchanged. So my challenge was this: slow your words, and choose your words. And this will make not only your world better, but the world around you too!

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Control your tongue.

Teaching Points:

  • The sixth sick sheikh’s sixth sheep’s sick – Hardest Tongue Twister
  • We love sharing everything about ourselves but have trouble editing what we say.
  • When you gain self-control in one major area It spills over into every other area of your life.
  • Control your tongue.
  • Rarely have a I regretted something not said.
  • Slow or stop your words before speaking.
  • Choose your words before sharing.
  • Groups can bring out our worst, so be wary.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you like about the movie? When have you regretted saying something? Why do you think it’s hard to control your words? What are some good reasons to actually put effort into this? What relationships might be changed quickly if you really worked at this? Who can help you work at this?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today simply watch your words with your kids. Did you know that kids on average receive 7 words of criticism for each word of affirmation. Flip that today, and focus on affirming, and see how that changes things!

Challenge for the Week: Slow your words, and choose your words.

The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Faith, Lists, and Works ~ James 2

a863e94cb599221a9adad7d2ac087581On Sunday we opened up probably the most famous verse of James in James 2 where he says, “Faith without works is dead”. This is a verse that is deservedly famous, but also does bring up a tension. Because this verse looks almost directly contradictory to some of the teaching of Paul. For example Paul says this:

Ephesians 2:8-9. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works”

Romans 3:27, “Can we boast then that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by works”

Galatians 2:16, “And yet we Jewish Christians know that we become right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ…for no one will ever be saved by obeying the law”.

This tension though is more in perspective than in reality. James is writing to people who are using their faith as an excuse to not do works. Paul is writing to people who are seeking to use their works as reason to be accepted. And the different contexts make all the difference.

James is not arguing that works  must be added to faith, but that genuine faith includes works.

Douglas Moo puts it this way,

The difference between the [teachings of James and Paul] is the context in which these works are done. Paul denies that works can have any value in brining us into a relationship with God; James is insisting that, once that relationships is established, works are essential”.

So works don’t save you, but show that you are saved.  

Or as Calvin puts it, “Paul contends that we are justified apart from the help of works, so James does not allow those who lack good works to be reckoned righteous”.

So we ended with James’ main point: Faith without works is dead. And we challenge people to actually put James’ point into practice.

At the beginning of the service we had everyone write down five needs they see around them. Which is a great practice, and one you should do right now actually.

But at the end of the sermon I called people to look at their lists, and remember faith without works is dead. And that they each had a list of needs they could meet. So I challenged them to meet some needs. Because if faith is about works, it’s time to get to work.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Faith without works is dead.

Teaching Points:

  • Faith leads to change.
  • James is arguing that genuine faith includes works.
  • Works don’t save you, but show that you are saved.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What were some of the needs on your list? Which ones are hardest to meet? Are there people who can help you meet them? Why do you think faith needs works? What happens when faith doesn’t include works?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Talk to your kids about how when we follow Jesus we need to actually “do things”. Ask them the things that Jesus did, and then ask them which things they could do. Take time to do it then together.

Challenge for the Week: Put faith into action and meet a need.

The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Poverty, Widows, and Economics ~ James 1

james-1146986On Sunday we started a brand new series looking at James. We opened up this book by realizing that it is a short, straightforward, and punchy book. James pulls no punches and rattles off challenge after challenge in this book. And it’s a needed book.

Douglas Moo says this about James,

All too easily Scripture becomes a book to be analyzed rather than a message to be obeyed. This message is urgently required. All across the world, people are awakening to biblical Christianity. Third World churches are burgeoning, American ‘evangelicalism continues to attract much attention, and European Christians are seeing renewal and a new evangelistic concern. Yet the personal and social transformation that should accompany such revival are, very often, sadly lacking. Why is this? Surely one of the main reasons is that the simple plea of James – ‘do the word’ – is not being heeded. The bible is being translated, commented on, read, studied, preached and analyzed as never before. But it is questionable whether it is being obeyed to a comparable degree. All this suggests that the message of James is one that we all need to hear – and obey. No profound theologian, James’ genius lies in his profound moral earnestness; in his powerfully simple call for repentance for action, and for a consistent Christian lifestyle.

So we are going to look at one chapter a week, highlighting a key text in that chapter. And while James 1 has lots of great things to look at we focused in on verse 27.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

And this is probably one of the most well known verses in the Bible and in the book of James. But it is also a really challenging verse. James here pushes past what we say we believe, to examine our lives. He pushes past whether or not “you believe” in Jesus and asks, what do your actions say about what you believe. Do you care for the poor? Do you care for the orphans, the widows, the oppressed and vulnerable?

James wants to shift the discussion from beliefs to actions. And this is one that makes us uncomfortable because we can hide behind our beliefs. We can  say we believe the right things, and then not do the right things. James won’t have any of that. So he invites us to examine our lives – are we active in binding ourselves to the poor and oppressed?

But James isn’t done there. He then reminds us not just to actively care for the poor, but to also actively reject systems of oppression. He says, “Don’t let the world corrupt you”. And we hear this and think in terms of morality – like sexual sins or doctrinal deviancy. But that’s not James’ point. James’ point is actually about money, poverty, and economics. James’ point is that we should not let the world corrupt us by joining in a system that exploits the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed.

James is an Old Testament prophet and in many senses what mattered was caring for the oppressed (widows, children, etc). And so James says start doing that, and pull out of systems that do not do that. Who cares if the world says it’s okay to live on the backs of the poor – God says it’s evil.

So James calls us to examine not only our actions, but our economic activities to see if there are areas where we are hurting others. And if we live in the West then for sure our economic activity is hurting others. We know this, that things are cheaper here because someone wasn’t paid fairly elsewhere. There are tons of examples of this all over. And James wants to raise it to our eyes and say this needs to change.

Abraham Joshua Heschel writes this,

The exploitation of the poor is to us a misdemeanor; to God, it is a disaster. Our reaction is disapproval; God’s reaction is something no language can convey.

That’s true. So what do we do with all of this?

Well on Sunday I gave the challenge that we need to bind ourselves to the poor. That means both taking positive action of finding ways to supporting and caring, and also “negative” actions. And by that I mean removing things from our lives that hurt the poor, whether that’s supporting companies profiting from war, buying cheap stuff because it’s easier, or whatever else. We are called to actively support the poor, and actively remove things that hurt the poor.

That’s the call of James – it’s clear, and it’s tough for how to live it out. But it’s something worth trying. And that’s the challenge James is calling us to.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Following Jesus means binding your life to the poor and oppressed.

Teaching Points:

  • James is punchy, straightforward, and needed.
  • The true test of any religious profession is not the outward rituals but real actions demonstrated in real lives.
  • James says what matters isn’t doctrine but deeds.
  • We can hide behind our doctrine and our dogma.
  • We want to talk about our beliefs; James wants to examine our lives.
  • If we are to care for the poor we cannot be part of a system that exploits the poor.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Have you thought about how your actions are your beliefs before? What was most challenging in this sermon for you? Were you aware of how some of our buying habits hurts others? What habits might Jesus be asking you to change?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Take your family to serve widows, orphans, or the poor this week. Pick a date and plan it out. Maybe serve at a soup kitchen, maybe get toys together to give to a shelter, maybe bake cookies for someone who has lost someone. Make it real and practical.

Challenge for the Week: What can you add to your life to bind yourself to the poor, and what can you cut out that oppresses the poor.

3 (Marks): Connecting Daily with Jesus: The Secret and Connecting with Christ

cross-1195511On Sunday we looked at a secret Paul shares. And honestly the best secrets we do want to share. We say “want to know the secret too….baking a cake, losing weight, or any other number of things. Well Paul wants to share the secret to the Christian life – to finding life.

We began with a quote by Metropolitan Anthoy Bloom. He writes this:

You will find stability at the moment when you discover that God is everywhere, that you do not need to seek God elsewhere, that God is here, and if you don’t find God here it is useless to go and search elsewhere because it is not God that is absent from us, it is we who are absent from God…This is important because it is only at the moment you recognize this that you can truly find the fullness of the Kingdom of God in all its richness within you.

The beauty is that you can connect with Jesus right here, as you are. You don’t have to become someone else, or go somewhere else to connect with Jesus.

Paul says “For this is the secret, Christ lives in you”

We are connected to Jesus, we are connected to Christ, Christ lives in you and me. This is absolutely world changing because we are connected and sustained by Christ. This means that no matter where we are at, we can connect with Christ because he lives in us. Christ is not distant, Christ is within.

This led us to the main point for Sunday: Christ lives in you, and you can connect with him. The Christian life revolves around Christ. The Christian life is centred and propelled by Jesus Christ. And you can connect to this Christ because he lives in you.

The question then is are we connecting with Christ? If Christ is connected to us, are we consciously connecting with him? And how this happens will be different for everyone, the point is that it happens.

So we gave the challenge to daily connect with God. Because the secret is that Christ lives in us.

“God does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.” Brother Lawrence

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Christ lives in you, and you can connect with him.

Teaching Points:

  • A self-focused life always leads to a lackluster life.
  • Christ is not distant, Christ is within.
  • Christ lives in you, and you can connect with him.
  • If it is true that Christ lives in us then we should focus on connecting with the Christ within
  • With a little intention everything you do can be brought into the presence of God
  • One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think. Brother Lawrence
  • The secret to the Christian life is to connect with this Christ within

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What is your first impression of “the secret” that Christ lives in you? How often would you say you are aware of Christ living in you? What are the ways that you best connect with Christ? Do you have any daily rhythms of connecting with Christ? What daily rhythms could you maybe start?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today try to start some new rhythms to connecting with Christ – maybe reading the Bible together, praying together, creating art together. Create rhythms to connect with the Christ within.

Challenge for the Week: Daily connect with Christ.

3 (Marks): Connecting Daily with Jesus: Refrigerator Hums, and the Christ of the Cosmos

gods-wrath-1235882On Sunday we looked at one of my favourite passages, Colossians 1:15-21. But before we read the passage we talked a lot about “hums”.

Have you ever noticed how – you don’t actually notice hum’s that are constantly happening around you? In your home you probably never notice your fridge humming away. In your home you might never hear your water softener, or the train outside. The only time you probably notice these sounds are when someone else points it out. That often happens to me, people notice the train that goes by every night. But I will go months without noticing it.

And here is why: because things that happen consistently we become accustomed to and acclimatized to. We don’t even notice them anymore.

And the same things happen, not with just the things around us but, also within us.

Paul shares this beautiful hymn in Colossians 1 and it says that every single thing is connected in Christ. That all of creation is not only made in and through Christ, but is being currently sustained and held together through Christ. We are all connected right now because of the sustaining power of Jesus Christ. Christ is holding the world together, sustaining it, and connecting us all through the power of his Spirit.

The point is that right now as you are, you are connected and being sustained by Jesus Christ. The problem is that we never notice it because it is always happening. There is never not a moment when you are not being sustained by God. There is never not a moment where Christ is not holding all of creation together. It’s so ubiquitous to us that we don’t notice it like the train that goes by every night.

So my whole goal on Sunday, and even in this short post, is to wake us up to something. The fact that we are connected to Christ, and sustained by Christ. Christ is all around you, and part of you. And we love to separate the areas where God moves (our spiritual life) and the places that are normal and not spiritual (regular life). But this is not the Bible, Christ is a part of all of life. Mondays matter just as much as Sundays. Our prayer life matters just as much as our work life to him because he is part of it all.

Christ is part of it all, that’s the main point.

So my challenge was really simple, but hard. My challenge was to pay attention, to wake up, and to watch for Jesus. If Jesus sustains everything and a part of everything, watch for him. Wake up to him. Just like the train can go by without us noticing, pay attention and find him because Christ is all around you, within you, and sustaining you. So why not wake up a bit, pay attention, and find him today.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Christ is part of it all.

Teaching Points:

  • “I could feel reverence humming in me” – Jane Fonda
  • “The whole earthy is full of his glory, but we do not perceive it; it is within our reach but beyond our grasp.” Abraham Joshua Heschel
  • The entire cosmos is in a relationship to one another through Christ
  • Christ in everything, part of everything, and holding everything together
  • “Classical Hebrew has no word for spirituality” because it all spiritual. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
  • Why didn’t Jesus use thirty years of his life to do spiritual things? He did. These were spiritual things. Sleeping, eating, working, talking, washing. It is we who have shrunk the sacred. It is we who have segregated life. Samir Selmanovic
  • All of creation is a deeply personal cosmos, all cohering and interconnected in Jesus. Brian Walsh, Sylvia Keesmaat

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Was this a new passage for you to think through? What “hums” do you not notice in your own home and life? What did you think of the way Jane Fonda expressed her reason for coming to Jesus? Have you ever seen your life as “spiritual” and “non-spiritual”? How can you “pay attention” for Jesus this week?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Ask your kids two questions this week. Ask them to look for Jesus at the beginning of the day, and ask them where they saw him at the end. Develop a rhythm of paying attention.

Challenge for the Week: Pay attention for Christ this week.

3 (Marks): Serving the World: The Bachelor, Roses, and Serving the World

3Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes this,

“The church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren.”

But I think that is the temptation that the church has fallen for. That being big, having brilliant personalities, and preachers, that this is what will save the church. Bonhoeffer disagrees, and so does Jesus. What will save the church is people serving faithfully like Jesus to the world around them.

So to talk about this obviously we needed to talk about the TV show the Bachelor. You might not think that serving has anything to do with the Bachelor, and well you may be right, but here is what we learned on Sunday.

I believe that the TV show “the Bachelor” highlights a lot of our contemporary culture’s values and beliefs. The show has real people saying things that I think give us insight into some of the cultural waters we live in. And one thing you will notice again and again if you ever watch the show is how naturally selfishness comes out. People will say things like, “I just need to explore all my options”, or “I have to follow my heart, and so break yours”. Or even the whole premise of the show isn’t really to find love, it’s not to be rejected leaving without a rose.

So what’s the point? Well it’s pretty simple. Selfishness is deeply rooted in our culture, it is often celebrating in our culture, and it’s actually killing our culture. No world, culture, neighbourhood or friendship can survive the black hole that selfishness creates.

So how do you break selfishness? That’s what we looked at for the rest of Sunday, examining Philippians 2.

In Philippians 2 we read that we must have the same attitude of Jesus. Paul says get rid of selfishness and all its forms. Stop trying to impress people, making yourself out to be great. Focus on humility, don’t just look out for your own interests, look out for others.

And Paul then says, “be like Jesus”. He is seeking to ground this advice of rooting out selfishness in the practice and life of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not seek to grasp his rights, follow his own desires, but instead emptied himself and served others. This is to be our model as Christians. We are to give, to serve, and to empty ourselves.

In essence, Paul says serving others kills selfishness, and moves us in the direction of Christlikeness. Serving others must be at our centre, because it was and is at Jesus’ centre. Our world may be trapped by self-interest but we don’t need to be. We can live differently because of Jesus, we can live like Jesus. We can serve, sacrifice, give, and break selfishness in all its forms. We can love the world, and change the world by serving the world.

The question is, will we?

So we ended with a pretty specific call and challenge. To actually serve at least weekly, intentionally. The truth is that unless we plan how we will serve, life will get busy and make the choice for us. It is far easier to watch the Bachelor than mentor a youth. It is far easier to Facebook than to serve in a soup kitchen. It is far easier to watch a movie than it is to serve your community. But it is not better. So my challenge was simple – find a way to serve at least weekly. Weekly is really the minimum. It is something we should be doing daily with our lives. But weekly is a good start.

So that was the challenge and it’s a challenge I think we need to do for our lives. To be like Jesus, serve, kill selfishness, and love the world.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Serving others is the thing that kills selfishness

Teaching Points:

  • The church does not need brilliant personalities but faithful servants of Jesus and the brethren.  Bonhoeffer
  • Selfishness is killing our culture.
  • We have accepted the belief that following our hearts fully is admirable and courageous.
  • Our culture says “That you are the most important and what you want is the most important. And that your job in life is to gratify your own desires”.  David Foster Wallace
  • Greatness isn’t about yourself it’s about what you give, sacrifice, and how you serve.
  • Serving others is the thing that kills selfishness.
  • If you are truly serving it will be an inconvenience to you.
  • Sometimes serving is hard, but it is never wasted.
  • If you don’t plan how you will serve, you won’t.
  • To change a life, give of some of your life.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Do you think that selfishness is a problem in our world? Where do you see it? Now where do you see it in your own life? How can serving help to break self-interest? When have you served and been changed through it? Where can you start to serve weekly now? Is there a place in your church, community, neighbourhood? When will you start?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Teach your kids about the importance of serving. Choose a place to serve together. Maybe it’s to make cookies for neighbours, to go to a soup kitchen together, to go to the Gleaners, or other places as a family. Find a way to serve and go about it, make it happen, and see how it starts to change you.

Challenge for the Week: To intentionally serve weekly.