The Relationship Between the Gospel and Trust

trust11

Trust.

It’s a pretty big thing. In fact, if you think about it, all relationships are built on it. It’s something that takes years to build, and moments to lose. It’s something that is the difference from a relationship being healthy, to horrible. It is something we often take for granted, but is the grounding for almost everything.

Trust.

I’m writing a little bit about trust because I think this is one thing we as Christians need to develop most. We need to develop trust. Let’s just be honest: the culture around us doesn’t trust us as the church. Stats show it. Anecdotal evidence shows it. And I think this is something we know deep down. But here is the beautiful thing: it’s something that can be changed. We can rebuild trust in our families, friendships, and communities. And if I can be so strong – this is something we need to do. We need to invest in rebuilding trust and connections with our culture and our communities.

I was talking with someone about why today “gospel presentations” often don’t seem to work. My answer was a lack of trust and relationship. Formal presentations without the basis of trust and relationship simply don’t carry much impact. It’s not that the gospel doesn’t have weight and impact on its own. The point is that the gospel is inherently relational. So when we share the gospel without relationships, it loses impact because its lost something important: trust.

So all of this is simply to say one thing. Trust matters. It matters if we want to follow Jesus fully. It matters if we want to leave an impact on our communities. It matters if we want to be faithful to the gospel and to Jesus. It matters more than we think.

But that’s the difficulty with trust, it’s so easy to take it for granted. But if we want to see lives changed, it can’t be something we take for granted, it’s something we need to cultivate.

What are the Strategies of the Enemy?

854352_49670242On Sunday we are going to be looking at something really important: the strategies of the enemy. Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 2:11, “Do not be unaware of the Devil’s schemes”. But I think if we are honest most of us are pretty unaware of the Devil’s schemes.

If we were asked to explain what Paul means; if we were asked to share what the schemes were; if we were asked to share how to stand strongly against them, I think many of us would struggle with some clear answers.

That’s what I hope to change on Sunday.

Regardless of your belief in supernatural evil or Satan, the truth is we have all experienced the reality of Satan. What I mean by that is that we each have at some point probably come under an attack of fear, temptation, accusation, depression, confusion, or worry. We each have probably experienced darkness in some shape or form in our lives. And on Sunday I want to reveal how those things happen, so that we might be recognize them, and most importantly overcome them.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday. Discovering the tactics and strategies of the enemy so that we might live freer, deeper, and wholer lives.

And to discover the answer to this question of what the schemes of the enemy are we are going to be exploring the first passage where he shows up visibly and prominently. We are going to explore Genesis 3. So this is the passage we will be reading on Sunday. Why not take a look at it and see if you can discern from it: what are the tactics of the enemy? Because the first step to overcoming them is learning to recognize them.

Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. “Really”, he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil. The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it too. At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.”

Just Share Your Story ~ Its that Simple

445240_46957018On Sunday we looked at a unique text in Mark 5. Here Jesus heals a man possessed by a demon. What is interesting is that after being changed by Jesus and transformed the man wants to follow Jesus. This is all pretty straightforward I would think. If Jesus transforms you completely, deciding to follow him isn’t a stretch. But Jesus does something unique. He says no. He actually refuses to let the man come with him. And instead he says, “Go home to your family, and friends, and share the mercy God has shown you”

In essence, Jesus says simply go home and share your story. Share you story with those around you. Let them know about how you’ve been changed. Simply share the mercy God has shown you with others.

And in this one little verse I think we get a huge insight into how to share the love of Jesus Christ with others. We don’t need to force it into conversations, we don’t need to go door-to-door; we can simply share our story with our friends, family and neighbors. We can with humility, and grace share how God is changing our lives. We can say how God has freed us from fear, given us hope, supported us in difficulty, given us a purpose etc. We can simply share the wonderful things God is doing in our lives.

This is simple, easy, and sensitive to others. If you have a true friendship with others who aren’t following Jesus, they should care about how your life is changing. And if Jesus is the cause of that change then we should feel free to share it. The focus isn’t on changing others, but sharing the change within ourselves.

And the amazing thing is the story in Mark 5 actually testifies to how remarkably powerful this can be. As Jesus leaves the man the townspeople hate Jesus. They are completely against Jesus and want nothing to do with him. But Jesus leaves behind one man and his story with these people. We read that the man goes home to the region of the 10 Towns. A few chapters later Jesus shows up in the same region again. But this time the response from the people is completely different. One man and his story has changed the region from being against Jesus to being interested in Jesus. Mark records that with the women and children there, 10,000 people (approx.) show up to see Jesus. This is the power of sharing your story. People can become interested in Jesus and actually seek him out.

So on Sunday we left everyone with one challenge. Share your story. It’s that simple and see what God might do.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Share Your Story

Take Aways…

  • Jesus is already active in our relationships
  • If our life isn’t changing lives we’re missing something
  • Details matter even minor ones
  • Jesus saw the man
  • Go home and share your story
  • Sharing your story, changes lives
  • More than skin, and bone, muscle and tendon – you are made of stories. Michael Gungor
  • We don’t need more sermons, conferences, or Bible studies we need more of Jesus and a willingness to share him.
  • Our stories have to be real, honest, and focused on Jesus

Discussion Questions for Adults: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

Have you ever struggled to share Jesus with others before? What made you uncomfortable or struggle?

Whose story has impacted and influenced you to follow Jesus? How did you hear about it, or how was it shared with you?

What mercy has Jesus shown you throughout the years? Share a few stories about how Jesus has changed you.

Who are you friends with that God might be leading you to share your story with them? Take time and pray that God gives you an opportunity to share your story with them.

Discussion Questions for Young Families: If its true that sharing our stories change lives, why not take time and share your personal story with your kids. Be honest, be truthful, and take time to bring them along the journey with you.

Challenge This Week: Share your story with someone this week

 

“I’m Just Getting Started…”

SpraySo on Sunday I talked about one main question: when does life peak? This is a pretty relevant question to me because I hit a big milestone on Saturday: I turned 30. So I wanted to explore what is the Biblical view of growing older? And we did that through looking at, of course, Joshua Slocum, Johnny Cash, and Isaiah 44.

We looked at how Isaiah 44 tells us unequivocally that God is about doing a new thing. We read this “But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? “ God is about doing a fresh thing. God is about creating new life, new creation, and new transformation. The word new in Hebrew is “Hadash”. It means a new thing, a fresh thing. Its root means to renew or repair something, bringing out a freshness and a newness to something that wasn’t previously there. This isn’t the “cult of the new” culture. This isn’t “newer is always better”. This is God promising that the best is always in front of us. That he is always in the business of taking our lives and using them to bring new depth, new life, new meaning to the world around us.

The answer then to our question “when do we peak” is never. In God’s Kingdom our usefulness never expires. Our ability to contribute to the world is never over. If we follow the God above we never ever peak, but are in a constant search to pay attention to the new thing God is doing and join him there. We talked about how Joshua Slocum at 50+ fought off pirates, and sailed the world alone. We talked about how Johnny Cash at 70+ covered a song by Nine Inch Nails and brought such depth and beauty to it that he made it new. Because age never defines our ability to contribute to life. Our willingness to see and respond to the God who is doing a new thing is the crucial point. So we landed asking ourselves – do we believe that the best is before us? Do we believe in the God who does a new thing? Do we believe in the God whose future is full for us? Because God is clear, “I’m doing a new thing…it’s already started”.

So how do you follow God into the newness he has to bring through you? Well, first start to pray to God to use you, because it is only through God that we discover new life. God is the originator and creator of life, so it starts there. Then start to pay attention to what God is doing around you. God says it has already begun, it is before us, around us, and before us. So open you up your eyes and see what God is doing. Pay attention to the moments full of hope, promise, and life. Pay attention to the ideas, dreams, and crazy thoughts that capture your spirit and soul. That could be the new thing God is calling you to. It could be to start a business, to fix that relationship, to launch a new chapter of your life.

So that’s where we went on Sunday believing that God is never done with any of us. Believing that God wants to do a new thing in and through all of us, if we’d pray, pay attention, and follow. So as a new 30 year old I ended with this thought that I believe is true for all of us: I’m just getting started. And I think this is true for us in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, or even 80+. So I’m just getting started because I follow the God of new life, and who does new things. What about you?

Sermon Notes

Big Idea God wants to do a new thing in and through us

Take Aways…

  • We are all getting older
  • When does life peak?
  • Our culture says, “Newer is always better”
  • God’s newness, isn’t about new packaging, but new creation
  • Our temptation is to believe the best is behind us
  • “Forget all that…”
  • God’s best is always to come
  • God is in the business of transforming old things, into brand new things.
  • I am just getting started.
  • God is the one who wants to do a new thing in us
  • We don’t need to force it to happen, we need to see it and follow it.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new?

When do you feel “you’ve peaked?” Do you feel that the best days are before you or behind you? What makes you feel this way? What type of “new thing” might God want to do in your life? How can you start to pay attention to what God is doing? Are you ready to follow God into the newness he has for you? How can you get started?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk with you kids a bit about getting old. Ask them, “How “old” is “old”? At what age are you old?” Then talk to them about not matter how old or young they are, God wants to use them. Ask them how God might want to use them right now (reach out to friends, feed the hungry, adopt-a-sponsor child etc)? And then follow through with how God is leading them.

Challenge for this Week: Let God do a new thing in and through you

 

Turning 30….

249086_10152854027280643_1779388097_nSo tomorrow is a milestone for me. I will officially no longer be a cool twenty-something. Some of my friends would probably debate if I was ever a cool twenty-something, but that’s besides the point, because tomorrow I turn 30.

I will be officially old tomorrow. 30 was always the magical number in my mind when I was growing up when someone was “old” or an “adult” or should be able to grow a beard (which I still cannot do). 30 was a big number and a big milestone.

And that’s what is before me tomorrow.

Lots of people dread turning 30. Lots of people hate the idea of it. Personally it doesn’t bother me that much, although while I write this I’m 29, I might feel different tomorrow. But I have a great wife, two great kids, a fantastic job that I love, a church I care for deeply, and a God who is invested in my life. So things are good, but it is still a big milestone.

So since I only turn 30 once, and since I turn 30 on a Saturday, I figured why not preach on getting old on Sunday. So that’s what we are looking at, the biblical wisdom of getting old. Because on Sunday I will be officially old, or at least older.

And I think that this matters for all of us, because we are all getting older. The truth is at some point in our lives we will all listen to the “oldies” station on the radio (or whatever comes after the radio and Songza). My brother currently only listens to music pretty much from the 90’s even though he’s younger than me. Culture and life moves past us all, at different speeds but it does happen.

The question then that I want to really explore on Sunday, is when do we peak in life? When is most of life behind us? And what does the Bible have to say about getting older? We know what culture says, “Newer is always better” and getting old is bad. But what about God, how does he view aging, and when we stop being able to contribute?

So join us on Sunday to explore what God’s view on life and growing older is. And if you think of me tomorrow, pray that I can grow a beard tomorrow, because I’ve always wanted that by 30.

The Bushes are Burning All Around Us

1359634_44238885On Sunday we explored Moses’ encounter with the burning bush and God. The honest truth is if we are in a difficult, dry, or desert place the only way we ever leave that place is through God’s leading.

The difficulty is that when we are in a desert place God often seems so distant. We are often calling out for God but can’t seem to find him. Through this story we realized a few ways that God seems to work when we are in a desert place.

The first is that he places something in our regular, everyday life, that while intriguing isn’t interrupting of our life. For Moses there was a burning bush placed in his path. This certainly was intriguing but wasn’t interrupting in his life. It’s easy to come up with plausible  explanations for a bush on fire in the desert. So rather than interrupting Moses’ life God seeks to lure Moses’ attention towards him.

To be honest we’d love God to interrupt our daily lives and lead us to his Promised Land. The trouble is that doesn’t seem to be how God seems to work in the Bible. God seems to wait, to lure, to linger, and hope that we follow. But God does not coerce, he does not seem to demand, or to force us to follow. So Moses notices the bush, and then he must spend a long time watching the bush, because how long would it take you to realize a bush isn’t burning up? A long time. So his interest grows, and so does his attention. So we read in Exodus 3:4 “When the Lord saw that he had caught Moses’ attention, God called to him from the bush”. Isn’t that true? That once God has our attention he speaks, he calls, and he promises. This is how our God works. He works in partnership with our attention, willingness, and participation.

So the question is if you are in a desert place and want to leave how much attention does God have? Because there is a possibility that we’ve been walking past burning bushes – holy nudges, and luring by God – and missing him. So the question is how can you this week give God your attention and awareness?

That’s the question we pursued on Sunday, believing that once God has our attention he speaks and leads. To leave the desert God needs our attention to lead us. So this week I think the challenge is this: give God your attention, in everyway possible. Be open to his leading, his speaking, and trust that when he has your attention he will speak. Because God doesn’t leave us in the desert, he walks us through it. But to be led, we have to first be willing to hear.

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Give God your Attention

Take Aways…

  • Many of us know what it is like to be in the desert: a dry, deserted, and difficult place
  • How do you leave a desert place?
  • When we are lost and hurting we need God to speak
  • The ground doesn’t change Moses’ perception and awareness of the ground changes
  • Sometimes God doesn’t change the world around us, he changes us to see a changed world
  • When we are wasting away in the desert we God’s promises of new life and a new future
  • The only thing that gets us out of the desert and difficult times, is God’s voice and his leading.
  • How long does it take a bush to burn up?
  • God placed something intriguing in the path of his everyday life, to call him to an extraordinary life.
  • God speaks when he has our attention
  • To leave the desert means giving God your full attention.
  • How much attention did God have this week?
  • If we want to leave the desert or difficult places it starts with us giving God our attention in our everyday spaces.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? Has God ever spoke to you through a burning bush like encounter? Do you think its possible you’ve ever missed God’s attempts to get your attention? Have you ever been in the desert before or even now? What was it like or is like? How might God be trying to get your attention today? How might you give him you awareness and attention this week?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk about your kids about today’s sermon. Talk to them about how just like how you kids often won’t really talk with us as parents, until you have our full attention, share that God is similar. Sometimes he doesn’t interrupt us until we give him our attention

Challenge for this Week: Give God your attention this week

Tumblr, Technology, and The Bible

1227226_54704001I’m not going to lie, this Sunday we are covering a lot. And by a lot I mean a lot. We are going to be exploring the Bible’s view on technology. We’ll be looking at Facebook, Pinterest, Tumbler, Gene Patenting, and the crazy amount of consumer debt the average Canadian has (over $27,000 if you want to know). The irony is that I’m writing this blog post about technology on my laptop, will probably post this post through my phone, and link it to my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

So this Sunday won’t be a rant against technology because who am I to rant against it? Instead what it will be, will be a deep exploration of how the Bible teaches us that technology shapes our lives in healthy and unhealthy ways. We are going to be seeing what the Bible says about Twitter, the Internet, and TV. We are going to seeing how the Bible points out that it can, unless healthily understood, separate us from each other and God’s calling.

And to do this we are going to be looking at one of the most world-changing pieces of technology ever invented talked about in the Bible. The problem is that most of us don’t see it as technology. So that’s what’s coming up on Sunday.

But before we get there a little heads up. We’ll be playing a little game, and giving away some technology prizes. And we’ll be asking for what you think is the best technological innovation. So before we get there: what is your favorite technological innovation? Is it Candy Crush, the electric toothbrush, your PVR, your Roomba Vaccum cleaner? Let us know and come Sunday we’ll put it all together with how it shapes your life and mine.

The Life of Theological Debate

663092_26111643I have a confession: I love theology. My wife has a confession probably as well, she would say I have an obsession with theology. I read way too many books, listen to podcasts, and half of my suitcase on our vacations is filled with books and highlighters to read while on a beach.

So that is the context for the next thought I have. While I love theology, I’m not a huge fan of theological debate in church. It is not that I’m intimidated by conflict, by discussion, or by contrasting viewpoints. The reason I’m not a big fan of debate is that debate often devolves into something so un-Jesusy (I know, not a theological word for someone who reads so many books).

The point is that when people start talking about Jesus, they for some reason, stop looking and sounding like Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with discussion around theology. I love it, need it, and actually search it out. What I’m not a fan of is people using theology as a springboard to prove their own intellectual prowess, certainty, or general “rightness”. What this means is that when people enter into a theological debate they are generally not interested in learning or growing, but being right and proving the other person wrong. The point becomes about winning rather than growing. And this is where, for me, I tend to exit the conversation. I love discussing, being challenged, and growing; I just don’t find that debates help with that. Jesus tends to ask questions, debates give up only clear cut answers. Debates are about shutting off the conversation by being right, rather than opening up a conversation by admitting our humility. So while I’m not scared of theological debate, I’m much more interested in growing in theological depth. I just haven’t found the two often connected.

Perhaps you’ve had a different experience than me, and that’d be great. But either way I have a challenge for you. The next time you find yourself in a theological debate, ask yourself this question: am I trying to be right, or help people grow?

Because the answer to that one question can change the whole thing…

A Flood, a Story, and the History of Noah

Unidentified_artists_-_Stories_of_Noah_-_Noah_and_the_Ark_-_WGA16281So on Sunday we explored the story of Noah. And while in today’s day and age people love to debate if it really happened, back then no one debated whether or not a flood happened. What they debated was what the flood meant.

So we compared and contrasted the Story of the Great Deluge from the Epic of Gilgamesh, a contemporary cultural story to Noah, with the Biblical account found in Genesis 6. Through comparing these stories we were able to discover three key areas that the Biblical narrative was countering the dominant cultural story of the day.

From the opening scene we saw in how the Epic of Gilgamesh the gods were fickle, cantankerous, capricious, and angry. This is in stark contrast to the Biblical account where God in the Bible has his heart broken over the wickedness of the people. Both stories agree that the people were wicked and had made a covenant with death. But the different lies in the reaction of the gods and God. The God of the Bible had a depth of care and mercy, the gods of Gilgamesh were small and angry. So the first lesson was shaping our view of God as someone with depth, love, and mercy.

The second lesson was found in the differences of the main characters. Noah was consistently portrayed as someone who simply followed God’s leading. He was obedient, he was faithful, and he followed. Whereas in the Epic of Gilgamesh Utnapishtim was portrayed as someone who took fate into his own hand, and survived because of his skill rather than surrender to God. This is a huge difference, that as Christians we are called not to make it through the disasters around us through relying on our skill but on our surrender to God.

The last difference was seen in the rewards given to the main characters. Utnapishtim received eternal life because of his works, and was taken from the world. Noah received a blessing from God but was then sent back into the world. The rewards differed, in that Noah wasn’t removed from the earth but sent back into the world as God’s representative.

So we saw how the Biblical account demonstrates a God who cares, the need for us to surrender, and a God not interested in removing us from the world but using us to change the world. So we landed on one practical take away. Utnapishtim trusted his own skill and ability to get him through the difficult waters. Noah surrendered and trusted in God. So we asked ourselves, when difficulty comes do we try to go it alone or go with God? Do we rest, pause, and ask God what he would have us do or rely on our own strength and skill? We left with the challenge to be like Noah this week. Don’t trust ourselves but the guidance of God, asking God what would you have me do? And then, like Noah, following with deep trust.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Two ways through life ~ Force and Trust

Take Aways…

  • The story of Noah challenges the dominant story of the day
  • Sin pushes toward its self-chosen future: death – R. R. Reno
  • God has a heart that can break
  • Noah makes it through because he relies and surrenders himself to God
  • Noah’s name means rest
  • Noah is sent back inot the world as a representative of God
  •  Don’t rely on your own skill or strength, rely on God

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? Have you ever thought about God’s heart breaking before? How should that shape your picture of God? What is your natural reaction to difficulty to rely on yourself or God? How often do you ask God to direct you during the day? How often should you ask him to direct you?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk about your kids about today’s sermon. Talk to them about how God’s heart is like ours – that it can break. Talk about how the best way to get through life is to trust God because he has our best interests at heart. Teach them to ask God to direct them in decisions they need to make.

Challenge for this Week: Ask God to direct you

Pocket Jesus

Untitled-1For a long time people thought of “evangelism” as bringing Jesus with them to people who needed Jesus. It was almost as if we have Jesus in our back pocket and our goal was to bring him out in conversation with people. The goal was to bring Jesus into conversations, relationships, or places where he currently wasn’t. We were “storming the gates the hell”, “bringing salvation to the heathens”, or “taking the world for Jesus”. Perhaps you’ve heard or even used a phrase like that.

If you notice something though, the focus of every one of those statements is on our activity and not Jesus’. We bring Jesus, we make converts, and we storm the gates of hell all in the name of “evangelism”. I call this type of evangelism “pocket Jesus evangelism”  because it’s based on us carrying Jesus with us and sharing him however and wherever we can.

And while the idea of sharing Jesus with others is beautiful and absolutely necessary, the idea that we bring Jesus to places he isn’t leads to ugly evangelism. Perhaps you have seen or even experienced this yourself where well-meaning people seem more intent on forcing Jesus than sharing Jesus. Where conversations seem forced, unnatural, aggressive, and somehow off repel people from Jesus rather than draw them in. The reason this type of evangelism can so easily become ugly is because it’s built on a shaky foundation and faulty theology.

The faulty bit of theology is pretty clear when you think about it: you don’t bring Jesus anywhere, because he’s already everywhere.

Here is the point, as Christians Jesus absolutely does reside within us, but Jesus is not limited to us. To limit the world changing, life transforming, and Kingdom expanding work of the Father, Son, and Spirit to the work of Christians and the church is not only bad theology but just plain wrong. God is the primary actor in changing the world, we simply get to partner with him in what he is already doing. The world is being changed by the Father’s initiative, the Son’s sacrifice, and the power of the Spirit and we get to join in what God is doing.

The point is this, we, as Christians, do not take Jesus to a God-absent world. God is already active in the world and we get to join him in what he is doing. The very first act of Jesus Christ was to move into the neighborhood, and he’s been doing it ever since (John 1). If Jesus moved into an obscure, poverty riddled, Jewish family in the first century I’m pretty sure he’s already active on your street.

So then does evangelism still matter? Absolutely! The only difference is the focus shifts. Rather than forcing Jesus into conversations I watch for how he is active in conversations and follow his lead. Rather than trying to push Jesus into a relationship I see how he is guiding that relationship and listen to his direction.

The point is that no longer am I trying to “convert” anyone. What I am doing is joining in the work of Jesus who is already active in seeking and saving the whole world. I’m trusting that the Father, Son, and Spirit are the ones who save and “convert” people, I just want to do my part.

So my question is where do you see Jesus active in your friendships? Is someone open to forgiveness more than usual? Is Jesus directing you to spend more time with someone who seems to be growing? Who can you show love to, that is receptive or needing of grace?

The point is simple: I’m no longer taking Jesus with me asking him to join me in what I’m doing; I’m looking for what he is already doing and seeking to partner with him there.