I have task lists that I love to check off each and every day. And, I often ask Krista, “How was your day?” implicitly asking, “What did you accomplish?” This is part of who I am, and how I’m wired.
But, what I’m also learning is that patience and slowness is a gift.
When I read the Bible, what I notice is how often God doesn’t seem to be speedy. God seems to be okay with taking His time. He doesn’t always seem to do things instantaneously, but rather gives things time to grow and change.
And, this idea of being patient with God – of God working faithfully over decades and generations, and of us being obsessed with speed and yet trusting in the slow work of God – is something that is becoming more and more obvious to me.
We read in Psalm 37:7: “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.” We are called to wait patiently for Him.
Or, we read multiple times in Paul’s writings about how we are called to be patient. (see 1 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:2)
And, I think that we, as a culture and society, have fallen in love with speed and efficiency, when what I think we are called to do is to fall in love with the slow, patient, and true work of God.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writes:
“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time. Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser.”
And, that’s what has been really working on my soul lately – seeking to trust in the slow work of God, and that He who began a good work is faithful to complete it. (see Philippians 1:6)
I think that in today’s day and age there is one really needed and really radical spiritual gift. It’s not seen in a lot of places and it’s certainly undervalued in most places. And, it’s just this…hospitality.
Hospitality is the gift of opening up a space so that others feel safe, loved and valued. Read that sentence again. Because, isn’t that what our world needs? Isn’t that what our family, friends, neighbours and co-workers need? A safe place to feel loved and valued.
The gift of hospitality is used when we really welcome people into our lives without any preconditions or expectations. We simply welcome. And, I think if we want to change lives with Jesus, it begins with learning this gift and this art. Opening up our lives, homes and hearts to others with no expectations other than giving them a place to feel loved and valued.
To do this, though, is really difficult because it first requires us to be centred and whole in our own identities. If not, we try to make people into what we think they should be, rather than loving who they are. And, no one likes being changed.
Henri Nouwen puts it this way: “True hospitality is welcoming the stranger on her own terms. This kind of hospitality can only be offered by those who’ve found the center of their lives in their own hearts.”
So, how do we practice this really radical gift of hospitality? Well, I think the first step is to actually welcome the hospitality that Jesus has for us. Because He welcomes us as we are, and loves us right there and then. So, for some of us, before we take the step of opening up our hearts and homes to others (which we absolutely need to do!), perhaps the step for today is to just remind yourself that you are loved by God exactly as you are. He actually likes you, loves you and wants to be with you.
And, once this starts to shape who you are, you’ll be able to share that love with others. Once you accept that you are accepted by God, you can start accepting and loving others.
Of course, we all have unhealthy areas in our lives that need to change. I’m not saying those don’t exist. I’m saying that people want to be loved firstand that love changes people, not our judgment.
So, today, practice the radical gift of hospitality by welcoming someone in as they are or by allowing Jesus to welcome you as you are. Because that’s what our world needs and what I know I need.
Fear is a subtle and sneaky thing. It steals good things, and turns them into bad things. It takes joy and excitement because of “what could go wrong.” And it happens so easily, and it happened to us a little while ago when we were trying to sell our house, and unsure why it hasn’t been moving.
And then through a series of unforeseen events, our house became sold. Which was great! This is something I had been stressing and worrying over, and it happened. But then rather than being excited, we got worried that we now have only have a little while to find another house.
All of a sudden this good thing, became almost a bad thing. All of a sudden something to celebrate became something to worry about. This is what fear does, but it also does something subtler and even more dangerous. It steals our gratitude towards God. Because all of a sudden rather than thanking God for what he did, we began to ask him about this worry or problem. Rather than appreciating the gift of our house selling, in his timing, we rushed forward to yet another issue for him to fix.
All of a sudden our focus shifted from God’s hand working in our lives, to what else we needed him to do in our lives.
But God is gracious, and good even when we miss the point.
So the next morning I went into my office to do my daily devotions. Still feeling a little apprehensive about everything. Knowing in my mind that God has the details worked out, but wanting to really know that in my heart. And the passage for my daily Scripture reading was, Number 13:31-14:25. A passage all about trusting, and not giving in to fear. A passage all about following where God has called you to go. A passage all about how God will provide, do miraculous things, and surprise you with the blessings he has for you when you trust. And in the margin I had wrote previously, “TAKE GODLY RISKS, Don’t be scared to follow”.
And while some people might just say it’s a coincidence that was the reading for today. Or some people might say I’m just reading into this, or it’s just random chance. All I can say to that is that it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like God was reminding me that he is with us, and has a future for us. It feels like God is reminding me that trusting in him is never wasted. It feels like God is drawing the attention back to him, and deepening my trust in him because that’s what it’s about.
So I share all this to just remind you of a few things. Don’t let fear steal the future God has for you. Don’t let worry shape your mind so much, that you lose trust in God. Don’t let the “what if’s” of life cloud the fact that God is with you, and for you. Don’t let our anxiety, and uncertainty stop us from taking Godly risks. Or as I needed to be reminded myself, “Don’t be scared to follow” in whatever it is that God has for you. Because the Israelites found out that fear just leaves you wandering in the desert, but trust is the thing that moves you forward.
On Sunday we opened up a brand new series exploring the different aspects of who we really are. We looked at the ways in which God has designed our church, and some of our “DNA”. I believe that God creates not only unique people, but unique churches with something unique to offer.
So over the next few weeks we want to explore and reveal some of what makes this church, “us”. And we began by exploring grace.
We looked at a really important parable in Matthew 18. Here Peter essentially asks Jesus how many times we should forgive one another. Peter is asking this question in response to realizing that communities aren’t perfect. No church or group is perfect, we all let one another down and sometimes even hurt one another. Peter asks how are we to deal with that? What are the boundaries on forgiveness? How far does grace extend?
And Jesus tells a story of a man who was given an extreme amount of grace as his debt was removed, but then squeeze out this tiny debt from another fellow servant. In essence the story is one we know well: someone abuses grace. The man though who abused the grace given is eventually thrown into prison and suffers for the rest of his life.
And Jesus ends with this deeply challenging saying, “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
And what we unpacked on Sunday was how, if you refuse to give grace, you can’t be saved by grace. That if you reject the grace that is given, by refusing to give it to others, you can’t be captured by it.
Terrence Malik, in his beautiful film The Tree of Life, puts it this way, “The nuns taught us there are two ways through life … the way of Nature… and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.” And that’s true.
But the reason I love our church so much is that it has chosen the way of grace. Grace is given first. And this is harder than justice or law first, but it’s the only way to truly live. Because Jesus always gives us grace first, he died while we were sinners and didn’t deserve what he gave us.
The point is that for me, I believe a huge value of our church is showing grace first. And that we can’t drift from this. And while it may sound tempting and biblical to stand up for TRUTH, for righteousness, for the law, and for justice (which usually means punishing someone) – it isn’t right. Jesus gives grace first. Grace is what everything proceeds from, and we need to follow that lead. Which is why I love the church.
The truth is the past few years at this church have been very good, but this isn’t because I’m good, it’s because the church is gracious. I shared stories of how the church has given me grace over the years, and why that changed me, and changes lives. And I ended with this main point: Keep choosing grace. Because grace is like a muscle, the more you use it the easier it is to give it. The less you give it, the harder and less likely you will be to give it.
So we ended with a simple challenge: to show someone grace today. To not wait but to show someone grace in an everyday way. To let something go, to give something undeserved, to actually take a step. Because the truth is grace changes lives, and it’s the reason I love this church, and I believe it’s our calling to not just believe but live out.
Big Idea: Keep choosing grace.
If we don’t know who we are we can drift from whom God has made us
Our DNA: Grace, Transformation, Harmony
Grace matters most to me, because I think it matters most to God
There is no perfect community, because all community involves broken people
The really contentious point of grace isn’t receiving it, but giving it
If we reject grace, we can’t be saved by grace.
Grace is the thing that makes relationships work.
When relationships lose grace they become built on law and legalism but that’s not a relationship. That’s a contract
Jesus is a grace-first God.
Grace needs to be a habit, not just a belief
When you stop practicing grace you start to drift from it
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What would you say are some of our core values? How has someone in this church showed you grace? Why do you think grace is so transformational? Why do you think grace is so hard to show? Who might you be called to show grace to today?
I stumbled across this verse and it just jumped out. Listen to it deeply especially if you are a leader of any kind. Because here is a beautiful description of what power, authority, and leadership should be. It’s poetry but that’s why it’s so inspiring:
When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light. (2 Sam 23:3-4)
I think that’s just a beautiful picture of leadership rightly exercised. That when leadership is done rightly it’s like “he dawns on them like morning light”. That when leaders are full of justice and fear of God, their leadership isn’t heavy and burdensome. It’s soft, it’s light, it’s full of future and promise like an early morning. And just as the dawn creeps up pushing away darkness, this is what it’s like when someone rules justly and in the fear of God.
When I think about my leadership if someone were to describe it like that to me, I would be honored. That’s what I hope for, that my leadership would be like the breaking of the dawn. My guess is if you are a leader you hope that too.
So what can you do today to start to live into that vision of leadership? Because it’s worth chasing after, just like the dawn chases after the night.
Leadership is authority. There is no other way around that fact. But in today’s culture we don’t like authority. We don’t’ like being told what to do. We don’t like following authority or obeying authority. We like to become self-made people by each of us rebelling against the same authority (there is irony in that).
But I want to talk about the authority of a leader. Because I still believe that leadership is authority, but the type of authority really matters. Because there are different kinds of authority. There is authority that is based in power, and authority that’s based in gift (people choosing to follow and give you permission to lead).
And this distinction between the kinds of authority is so necessary. And the trouble is that most leaders haven’t consciously decided which type of authority they will rely on. The authority based in power (you have to do what I say) or the authority based in permission (you listen because you choose to).
In my role I’ve decided to never use coercive authority based in power. I could, lots of pastors do, especially when things get sticky and messy. They might say, “I am God’s anointed”, or “I’m the leader”, or even worse “I speak for God”. And the same temptation is for all leaders. That when things get tough, when stress rises, when there is crisis people reach to use power rather than authority based in grace that is given.
Parker Palmer gets at the difference when he writes this,
“The authority such a leader needs is not the same as power. Power comes to anyone who controls the tools of coercion, which ranges from grades to guns. But authority comes only to those who are granted it by others.”
So my question for you is this: what kind of leadership are you using? Is it based in power, or authority, based in grace and gift from others? Do people follow you because they “have to” or because “they want to”. And you might think that in the end the results are the same – as long as the job gets done. But it’s not – why people follow or listen to you is just as important as the outcome it produces.
So in your leadership with your authority is it power based – or people based? Because that small difference makes all the difference.
On 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
Big Idea: Christ lives in you, and you can connect with him.
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.
People are uncomfortable with grace. It’s just true, and I get it because we raise people to react against grace. Because grace, simply put, is not fair.
As I seek to raise my three kids with Krista, one of the things I hear all the time is, “That’s not fair”. We somehow breed or develop in our kids (or at least my kids) this radar for unfairness. That leads to statements like this all the time:
Why did Asher get the bigger cookie?
Hudson’s played with the car too long.
Daddy!!! It’s just not fair!!
And in our household, in many ways, we try to be fair. We talk about being fair, and about sharing all the time. Saying, “Hudson, it’s not fair that you get all the Lego, share with your brother”. Or saying, “Asher, you can’t take all of the books and sit on them, you need to let Hudson have one too”.
But what I think is so interesting is that grace by its very definition doesn’t play according to the rules of fairness. Grace is unfair and it will always be unfair. We see grace and say, “That’s unfair” and it’s true. That’s why grace is so powerful because it gives to us things we don’t deserve, and things that, simply put, aren’t fair.
Francis Spurffod puts it this way:
Something kinder than fairness is, by definition, unfair; and once you take grace seriously it immediately threatens to produce scandalous unfairness in human terms.
It’s true. Grace produces scandalous unfairness in human terms. Which is why it’s so moving, transformative, and divine when truly given. Because in human terms there is nothing fair about grace, about second chances, about 77 chances, about forgiveness, about new starts, about welcoming people who don’t deserve it. There is nothing fair or human about it; grace is divine no doubt about it.
So today why not give a little bit of grace today. Why not be rebellious and rebel against fariness, and spread a little grace divine life today? Why not surprise someone with giving them something they don’t deserve, something that isn’t fair, something that is well…gracious.
Because the only reason that I get to follow Jesus is because God decided to be unfair and give me something I didn’t deserve. The least I can do is to try to follow his example and be a little unfair today, and give someone grace.
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.
Big Idea: Relationships are sacred and need to be shared
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.
Sunday is a bit of a special day for me. We will be dedicating our beautiful little girl on her 1st Birthday. And one of the great benefits of being a pastor is that when your child is dedicated you also get to preach.
So what I’ve done with our other kids, is to preach a sermon geared to them.
For my special little girl, I’m going to be talking about relationships.
Because here is the thing – relationships are sacred and special things. But they are also so prevalent and so infected by self-interest that we forget that. We so often use relationships for entertainment, our own needs, or self-interest that we forget the biggest thing about them.
Relationships are a gift – and that’s what I want to explore.
The truth is Eden doesn’t “do” a lot for me in any tangible sense of things. She can’t get me a drink, and I spend a lot of time caring for her needs. But because relationships aren’t about “meeting needs” but spaces where grace happen, she has changed me. Because she is a gift, and all good gifts are life-changing.
So that’s where we are going but before we get there take a moment to think through this important question:
Are there any relationships you’ve been neglecting?
It happens so easily, and so quickly. And if you’re tempted to skip past that question or are too busy then there are probably relationships that you might have skipped past in your busyness. So think it through and change it because relationships are gifts. Gifts of grace, God, and life.