4 Books: 4 Questions ~ The Gospel of John, Mystics, Mystery, and Connections

mystic-water-1410939On Sunday we opened up the beautiful poetic, mystical, and masterful book of John. John is a beautiful book about deeply connecting and communing with Jesus. John is about fully becoming one with Jesus experiencing his joy and his connection. And John uses all of these metaphors to speak of it: being born again (John 3), having springs of living water (John 4), partaking the bread of life (John 6), connecting to the vine (John 15), being one with the divine life (John 17), and breathing the breathe of the divine (John 20).

John wants to push us past our normal expectations and to remind us that we can fully connect with Jesus.

And one of the phrases John uses is “eternal life”.

When we hear this verse we most often think of the future. We think of something that happens after death. We think of something that will happen out there, not right here and right now.

But in reality that’s not what the word means. Eternal life surely does mean life after death, but it also means life right here right now. Its about expierenicng life that lasts into the future but start right here in the present. And John wants us to accept Jesus so we can experience this life now, that lasts and lingers into the future. John is all about us fully experiencing life abundant right here right now. In fact, Jesus says that in John 10:10.

But because we think eternal life is about the future we miss what we can have in the present. A real life deep and boundary breaking experience with the risen Christ.

Eugene Peterson gets at this point well when he translates John 3:16 as, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” Anyone can have a whole and lasting life, now that leads to lasting life in the future but it starts today.

So what was the main point? Well its was simple – you can experience Jesus fully if you submit to him. That was it. Pure and simple. You can connect with Jesus. You can be changed by Jesus. You can have and experience that goes beyond what you think. You can be filled with living water, the bread of life, connected to the vine, breathing the breath of the Spirit. This is a possibility for all of us who want to follow and submit to Jesus.

So we ended not with more theology, because at a point all words break down. And we ended with practice. We ended with a traditional Christian practice for fully experiencing Jesus. We ended with communion, inviting all who want to experience Jesus to come forward. To have the bread of heaven, and the cup of salvation. To experience God in their present that lasts into the future. Because that’s’ what John is about. And may you experience Jesus in your life now, experiencing the life that is whole and lasts into the future. May you know the Spirit within you, and encounter the risen Christ in such a way that you are left changed.



Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: You can experience Jesus fully, if you submit to him. 

Teaching Points:

  • John’s about connecting and communing with Jesus
  • Eternal life is popularly understood about the future
  • This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. John 3:16
  • “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God”. St. Irenaeus
  • We cannot shrink the gospel to what we are comfortable with
  • But he himself that justifies also deifies, for by justifying he makes sons of God. ‘For he has given them power to become the sons of God’ If then we have been made sons of god, we have also been made gods. St. Augustine
  • You can experience Jesus fully, if you submit to him.
  • if you submit to Jesus, if you accept him, you can experience him.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you ever thought about the gospels being different before? Are you comfortable with mystical experiences? Why do you think John believes they are so important? How have you connected and experienced Jesus in the past? How might you continue to experience him in the future and stay connected to him?

Challenge for the Week: Experience and connect with Jesus.

Mystics, Wide-Eyed Dreamers, and the Book of John

mystic-1189958On Sunday we are going to be really diving deeply into the book of John. And in many ways I think that this is a book that is really needed for our day and age. In general we as a Christian culture I think are much more comfortable with tame, reasonable, and expected interactions with Jesus. We are less comfortable with things that seem…mystical…mysterious…or beyond us.

But John is all about connecting with Jesus in mystical ways. He is all about breaking the box we put the Spirit in, and saying you can fully connect with Jesus. John uses images of water, vines, new birth, bread, and resurrection to remind us of something that is amazing – you can connect fully with Jesus.

So this is the theme we are going to look at on Sunday. We are really going to explore this topic and maybe push us past our comfort zones a bit. Because John wants to move past what is comforting and normal into something that is life changing and transforming.

So we are going to explore the mystical and deeply personal book of John and how you might connect with Jesus through this book. I hope you can join us.

The Power of Submission

handheld-relationship-1551596-1279x1585I’ve been learning the power of submission and submitting to the right authorities. I know it sounds a little odd. I know it sounds a little unmanly. It sounds a little well – like being a doormat. But here is what I have been learning, that the more I learn to submit in the right relationships, the more those relationships flourish. 

I know that this sounds counter-intuitive. I know that for many people authority is a bad word, because of how abusive, power-hunger, and wrong some authority structures are. I get that, and we should stand against injustice, we should not acquiesce to abusive authority that dehumanizes and demeans people.

Yet I think in our reaction against bad authority, evil authority, abusive authority we have swung to something also unhealthy: a preoccupation with control.

Because sometimes when we resist authority its for the good of someone else. Sometimes when we resist authority its because its abusive and wrong and we are seeking new and life-giving forms of leadership. Sometimes when we resist authority its because it is oppressive and wrong…And sometimes we resist authority because we are selfish and like control.

The idea of submission is not popular because we have romanticized the idea of being authoritative, self-reliant, in control, and autonomous. We don’t like giving anything over to anyone else. We don’t like letting someone else direct us. So we resist authority, we resist submission, and in the end we harm ourselves and our relationships.

The truth is that in some relationships submission isn’t right, because there is no trust there and the authority is abusive and wrong. But the flipside is also true that there are some relationships where submission is necessary for thriving, where trust is deepened with submission, where love can flow better when we give up control and this idea of being self-reliant.

I have discovered this reality that submission can be beautiful in my marriage, my deep and trusted friendships, and most importantly my relationship with God. That when I give myself over to trusting those who look out for my best interest, give up pretending to be self-reliant and secure, and allow myself to submit to those key relationships around me: my life and relationships are better.

I think we resist the idea of submission because we have seen bad authority structures, and bad examples of submission. Yet when we look to Jesus he practiced this all the time. He submitted his will to the will of the Father, he was self-sacrificing, and only moved in harmony with the Spirit and the Father. And I think that this is a beautiful example of what the power of submission can look like.

Submission is not erasing our identities, giving up on all our wants and desires, or being a doormat. Submission is literally putting someone else first. And I know that this is the only way that my marriage thrives, that my friendships thrive, that my relationship with God thrives: when it ceases to be just about me.

The truth is if we don’t learn to submit (appropriately) we will struggle in life. Because no healthy relationship is based on unilateral decisions. Those are called dictatorships, not relationships. And subtly our resistance of submission can infect and affect our deepest relationships with God, with our spouses, and with our friends.

So all I’m trying to say in this post is really one thing: submission does matter and its got a bad name. Submission, much like authority, has been abused and used to abuse others. But submission can also be beautiful like in a marriage when husbands and wives submit to one another (Eph. 5:21), like in friendships (Gal 5:13), or in our relationship to God (Psalm 40:8; James 4:7) on in any healthy relationship.

So all of this is to say one thing: I think there is a power in submission. Not a top-down power, not a “might-is-right” power, but a power that comes from self-sacrificial and submissive love that is beautiful when worked out in harmony and unison. And I’ve learned that – that type of submission – can be a really healthy and healing thing.

I’M ON FIRE!! Now what? Guest Post: Carter Whyte

This past Sunday we talked about what to do in response to when we are thriving in our relationship with God. Oftentimes, we look at the Bible and learn from God what we are to do when we are not doing well, or when things are not going so well. But this past Sunday we took a moment to think:

What were the really exciting moments in my walk with God in 2015? 

            When was I following God well? Thriving with Him?

The Bible has something to say to us when we reflect on these exciting experiences!

We learn from Paul’s example in Philippians 1:3-11, that moments of thriving with God are opportunities to express thanks, encourage, and re-engage.

We express thanks to God, because when we are thriving, He is working! Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit as our Helper, and we need to give God credit for His help in making us more like Jesus.

Paul also shows us that it is important to encourage one another when we are working hard in serving God. Don’t you find that honest encouragement from someone is refreshing and energizing? Paul encourages the Philippians, and we ought to encourage those around us for their hard work. God supplies what’s needed, but we still have to do our part – don’t forget that, and don’t withhold encouragement from others.

Finally, Paul finishes this passage, praying for the Philippians, that God might grant them greater growth in love – a love that is thoughtful, wise, and action-oriented. Let us be express our excitement when we are being faithful! But don’t forget: there is always more room to grow. And as we pray, and pursue further growth in love, we will grow to become more like Jesus than we are now.

As you consider moments in your 2015 when you were thriving with God – and even as you come to experience more exciting moments following Him in the future – how can you implement what the Bible says into your life?

Respond by expressing your excitement as praise to God! Refresh those around you with encouragement for their hard work. And after a short time of thanks and encouragement, get back on the path of growth, towards becoming more like Jesus.

May your exciting times of thriving with God be to you as a pit stop: a time to celebrate, be re-fueled, and drive better now than ever before in your adventure serving God!

Take time to share with someone this week about moments in your 2015 when you were thriving and excited in your walk with Jesus!



Big Idea: Moments when we are thriving with God are opportunities to express thanks to God, encourage each other, and re-engage in pursuing love.

Teaching Points:

–       Think about moments you had following God in 2015 that excited you!

–       What do we do when we feel like we are thriving with God?

–       God started this successful project in your life, and God is the one who will finish this project.

–       We must express thanks to God for how far we have come!

–       Yet, don’t ignore the fact that we had to work hard.

–       God supplies needs – but we still have to work hard.

–       Encourage each other for working hard!

–       There is no reason to keep from someone the refreshment that you could have given them through encouragement.

–       Re-engage in pursuing further growth in love

–       Re-engagement is important, because the day of Christ is coming

–       Our end goal is to be faithful to Christ until the end – our death or his return

–       Our continued pursuit of love really matters, so keep going!

Adult Discussion Questions:

What moments in 2015 were exciting in how you were following God and He was moving? Do you struggle with giving God the glory when you are doing well? What can you remind yourself of to remember that God deserves all the credit? Who in your life can you encourage this week for their faithfulness to God, and how that may have impacted you? What is the best kind of encouragement you like to receive in these times? How can you take time this week to celebrate moments of thriving, and also push forward towards further growth in thoughtful, wise, active love?

Discussion Questions/ Responses for Young Families

Take time this week after one of your meals together, to share with each other a story from your own life of following God and God being faithful. Give specific encouragement to each other for the hard work, and the faithfulness that each of you may have put in to serving God.

Challenge for the Week: Share with someone a story of when you were thriving with God in 2015.

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): Journeying with Others: The Sacredness of Relationships


We began on Sunday by noticing something that is so obvious but that we forget: that our culture has a way of taking the depth out of our relationships. 

What I mean by this is in our lives it seems like we have many more relationships at a loss of deep ones. We have lots of friends on Twitter, Facebook, or in our office but don’t have a lot of deep ones.

Jen Pollock Michel writes, “Our connections have grown broader, but shallower”. And I think that’s true. We know so many of the shallow details of one another’s lives, but don’t truly know one another.

But relationships are not just peripheral to our lives, they are absolutely central. They are where we experience not only life, but also God.

Andrew Root writes,

“Our relationships are the very field, the very place where God is encountered”

So relationships matter. That’s what we explored and we began with the only place I know to begin – the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. The implications of this are huge. But right off the bat we should notice one thing if God became a person – persons matter. If the person of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, was shaped and formed by relationships, relationships matter deeply!

Our culture teaches us that relationships are to be used. To be used for our own needs, self-interest, entertainment or whatever. What the Bible teaches is that relationships are sacred and to be shared, and are places for us to give.

Pauls says in Philippians 2 that in our relationships we are to have the same attitude as Jesus, who emptied himself for others. This is to how we live as well. We are called to live with the same self-emptying, self-giving love in relationships.

Our world teaches us relationships are to be used; Jesus teaches us they are places of sacred connection meant to be invested in.

So on Sunday we ended with this main point: Relationships are sacred and meant to be shared. So often we use them, are entertained by them, or are forgetful of them. The Christian’s calling is to give, invest, and cultivate them.

So we gave the challenge to actually invest in relationships. To push past the shallow relationships of culture into real life-giving, God-finding, ones. The challenge for this week wasn’t for a week, or a day, or a month. But for a year. I challenged everyone to journey with at least two other people closely for a year. To choose to invest in relationships. To choose to find God in relationships. To choose to see the sacred and give like Jesus in relationships. Because what I know is this, that without relationships life dries up. But with deep relationships life bursts, spills over, and changes everything.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Relationships are sacred and need to be shared

Teaching Points:

  • 3 Marks of Christians: Love God, Love Others, Love the World
  • Our connections have grown broader, but shallower. Jen Pollock Michel
  • Our deep desire is to be known and to be loved.
  • Developing deep friendships isn’t helpful in following Jesus, it’s necessary if you want to follow Jesus.
  • “Our relationships are the very field, the very place where God is encountered” Andrew Root
  • Relationships aren’t a part of life, Relationships are life
  • Relationships aren’t tangential to our existence, we only exist because of relationships
  • Jesus is self-giving, self-emptying, self-sharing love and relationship
  • Many people now don’t have friends for decades, they have them while it,s convenient.
  • Relationships are places where lives are changed
  • Relationships are not shared interests, but shared connections.
  • “Everything changes because you share in her life and she shares in yours; you dwell with her and she with you. It is sheer grace” – Andrew Root

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What relationships have impacted you most? Which relationships do you have now that are closest? Which relationships do you need to invest in more? How have you seen God move in and through the relationships around you? Who can you journey with for the year?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today, rather than talking about relationships with your kids, invest in them. Ask them what they’d like to do, make it something special and build some experiences and memories. Focus on giving in the time, and be like Jesus emptying yourself for your kids.

Challenge for the Week: To pray about 2 people to journey with for the year.

Why I Love an Old Fashioned Christmas

1435391_49019940On Sunday we shared a lot about the traditions surrounding Christmas. Or if the word tradition bothers you – think instead of rhythms that surround Christmas. Because traditions are funny things, they are rooted in the past, but they actually preserve the future. That’s what they do.

Traditions are things that grow, that hold faith and family together. And without them family and faith can slip away or fade away.

This is something that I’m beginning to realize more and more. That traditions create memories, they are containers that hold meaning, and draw family together and pass along faith.

So on Sunday I shared some of the traditions that are part of my family.

Watching National Lampoons every year

  • Decorating the tree
  • Going to Christmas Eve services
  • Praying before gifts
  • Reading the Christmas story
  • And many more

The point is that the traditions – or rhythms – ground my family and my faith. They ensure that I remember that something important is happening and someone important is coming.

So we closed Sunday with giving a simple challenge: what is one tradition you want to start this year, and one tradition you want to keep and really invest in.

And I know in one sense all this talk about tradition makes me old fashioned. But that’s okay, because what really matters to me isn’t being cool and new. What really matters is my family growing closer, being pointed towards Jesus, and having memories that last, linger, and shape them.



Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Creating and keeping traditions matter.

Teaching Points:

  • The stories are the point
  • That traditions are often the cradle and the keeper of faith.
  • Creating and keeping traditions matter
  • Traditions hold family and faith together

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What was funny? What are some of the traditions your family kept growing up? What are some of your favourite memories? Why do you think traditions might be important? What are some traditions you keep in your family? What are some you might want to start? How can tradition help to pass along faith, and hold family together?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Talk to your kids about some of your favourite traditions. Then ask them, “What traditions should we have around Christmas?” Why not invite them into the discussion and take up their ideas. Sundaes on Christmas Eve? Why not. Wake up before the sun on Christmas day? Sure. Talk to them and develop some traditions.

Challenge for the Week: What traditions do you want to start, and keep?

Cliched or Not it’s True : We All Need Each Other

1103018_28726094This week at church we are going to look at a clichéd statement that is absolutely true. We are going to look at this statement, “We need each other”.

Unfortunately this is something that is said all over the place. It’s said in companies, in advertising, in banks, in schools, in communities, and it’s applied to almost every situation. I’m not bemoaning that fact but sometimes when something becomes ubiquitous it also becomes meaningless.

Well come Sunday we want to restore some of the depth to that statement, “We need each other”. Because the truth is that statement is incredibly Biblical. There are over 50 references to “one another” statements in the Bible. Statements that direct us to the fact that we need each other, that we need one another, that we cannot get through life alone.

And this is so true, and obvious, but it is something we often fail to actually live out. So often when we are in difficulty and we do need others, it’s the time we shut others out. So often we get so busy that our commitment to “each other” is to pray for them when we happen to think of it; rather than deeply committing to another person and to journey with them.

So that’s what we are looking at on Sunday, the story of Ruth, and the power of journeying with someone.

But before we get there why not spend some time reflecting. Who has journeyed in your life that changed you? Who committed to you and changed you because of that commitment? Why not thank them, and then ask God this radical question that we will explore on Sunday: who should you be committing to?

Parenting in the Modern Age

I was reading about C.S. Lewis and came across this quote from his wife Joy.

She writes this:

“Provoke not your children to wrath” (Eph 6:4) Easily said; but how are we to avoid it? Strife between old and young seems inevitable. Today the world changes fast and inconceivably fast; in pastoral and agricultural times, what a man knew was of use to his son, but in the industrial age Father’s knowledge is out of date before the son is half grown up…Our problem, then, pending the reconstruction of the world, is to reconstruct our own lives so that we give our children as much warmth and attention and time and teaching as the present world will allow…and let us remind the innumerable Americas who don’t seem to know it that begetting and rearing a family are far more real and rewarding than making and spending money.”

All I can say is that this stopped me and made me think. I also think I’m going to stop blogging for today and go and play and be with my boys…