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 want to talk a little bit about evangelism and apologetics. And, I want to take a bit of a different slant than normal.
Normally, we think of apologetics as seeking to convince someone of the reality of God. And, in many ways, this form of apologetics has a huge number of benefits and is really effective, especially in our modern world. It also has some drawbacks, but it is still an important area of thought in Christianity.
If we are honest, though, many of us would love to convince people of the reality of God, and their need of God, but we just don’t feel comfortable having those conversations. Maybe we feel like we’re not “smart enough,” don’t know the lines of reasoning or it’s just not our personality.
So, when it comes to apologetics and evangelism, many of us feel like that’s something for the “professionals” – the pastors, the theologians or Ravi Zacharias.
But today, I want to encourage you, because you can be part of sharing God to others, whether or not you know any apologetic argument at all. Because, in today’s postmodern world, you don’t need to talk about God. Rather, you can actually introduce people to God.
Tony Kriz puts it this way: “For the most part, we talk about God… Most people speak as if God is just an ideology: a set of concepts, arguments, guidelines and categories. God is presented as something that people need to be convinced of, as opposed to someone they can be introduced to.”
And, here is the beautiful thing: God is a person. So, if you know God, you can introduce people to Him. You can share about what He is like in your life. You can share about the difference He has made in your life. You don’t need to know every philosophical or rational argument about God. You can simply share the God you know.
My point with this short little post isn’t that apologetics or good reasoning isn’t needed. It is, and it’s incredibly valuable, deep and rich. It gives us confidence for our beliefs. And, it helps immensely with our questions and doubts.
But, my main point is that you don’t need to know every argument for God to start to share Him with people. God isn’t just a concept to know, but a person to share. And, you can do this if you know Him.
So, my challenge is to share the God you know –the God who is changing your life, the God who is active, the God who is real. Share what He is doing in your life and then, as more questions come up, that’s fine. Because, there are lots of great resources for why we believe what we believe.
But, don’t be intimidated by the idea that you need to know everything to start sharing. Because, if you know God personally, you can introduce Him to others. Right here, right now.
If you are a young parent (or have been one), you might know this experience… Your child has a bad dream and crawls into your bed, and you get no sleep because the amount of kicking they do in their sleep is, well, unreal. We’ve had that experience with Hudson and now, as he’s grown older, we’re having it with Asher.
A few nights ago, Asher ran into our room and said, “I scared.” And, he climbed into our bed to snuggle, which usually means we let him fall asleep and then one of us gets so tired with the lack of sleep (whoever he is kneeing in the back!), we get out of bed and take him back to bed.
But, on this night, something different happened. We prayed with him about how Jesus takes away his fear, and Asher looked at us and said, “I not going be scared” and ran off to his room. By the time we got to his room to tuck him in, he was already under the covers and asleep.
It got me to thinking, what if I acted like that? What if when fear grips my heart and mind, I decide to trust so deeply in Jesus that I move forward saying, “I not going be scared.”
Because Jesus is clear that perfect love casts out fear. That fear comes from the enemy. That fear is not part of His plan for us. In fact, fear cuts down the future that God has for us.
So, I write this all as an encouragement and a challenge. The next time fear grips you, pray about it and maybe try to be a little like Asher. Say, “I not going be scared” and move forward into what Jesus has for you.
Because no matter what our fears are – monsters in the dark, bad dreams, debt, difficulty, divorce, death – Jesus’ love is greater than all our fears. So, we can trust in Him. And, these days, I’m trying to be a little more like Asher when I get scared by saying that because of Jesus, “I not going be scared.”
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?
On 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.
On Sunday we started our series looking at each of the gospels and why they are written the way they are. Because each gospel is wrote with a different purpose, context, and audience – and we need all 4. Life is complex and we cannot reduce the gospels down to “one story”. Instead, we have one story told from four perspectives and we need all 4.
So on Sunday we looked at the gospel of Matthew.
We learned that it was most likely written to Jewish Christians. We can tell this by how Matthew never explains Jewish customs (like Mark), grounds Jesus’ ministry with echoes to Moses and Abraham (unlike Luke who grounds it in Adam), and focuses in on Jewish questions of how to live.
From this we learned though why this might be so important in that day and age. We learned how the temple was destroyed in AD 70 and how Jospehus writes that millions were killed, and “Most of the victims were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever they were caught. Round the Altar the heaps of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom”.
And while that is certainly brutal, here is why it matters. The Jewish world was utterly rocked by the destruction of the temple. The Jewish way of life as was known was over, and they faced tremendous change, uncertainty, and confusion. And it’s into this milieu that Matthew writes. Matthew writes to a group of Jewish Christians whose way of life has been so utterly compromised that they can’t see the way forward.
So Matthew writes about moving through change and confusion.
While we looked at some high level themes, we really landed on the story of Peter walking on the water, and how this story would be so helpful to a group of people processing change. Peter, in the midst of darkness, uncertainty, and confusion does something crazy. He steps further into the unknown. He actually moves further away from what little safety and security remained for him and stepped out into the wind and the waves. He places all his faith, and trust in Jesus and with courage steps out.
And I think this is Matthew’s point commented on in various ways throughout the gospel: the way we get through change is courage and trust in Jesus.
That’s how we move through the wind, waves, and sea of chaos and uncertainty. And while the temple being destroyed doesn’t change many of our Western lives, we all have our own temples that we rely on. Whether these temples are faith, jobs, health, or wealth they occasionally crumble and seem to crack. And Matthew’s word for us to trust and have courage in the face of uncertainty. Matthew’s words for us when the world is falling apart to step further out in trust with Jesus and follow with courage. Matthew’s message isn’t to huddle in the boat, trying to keep the thing together, but to step out with trust. And that’s where we ended too. Asking us all to take a step of trust.
Big Idea: Face change with courage and trust.
We have 4 gospels and need all four.
The Gospels tell us how the early church told the story of Jesus in four different contexts – Michael Hardin
Matthew is about how to face and deal with change.
We still have our own “temples” today.
I have no certainty about my future, and you might not either.
A theme of Matthew is to have courage and trust.
Face change with courage and trust.
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? How does knowing some of the context change things? Are you in the midst of facing any change? What excites you, or worries you about it? What might “stepping” out of the boat look like? How can you be sure to remain focused on Jesus?
Challenge for the Week: To ask Jesus to call you out of the boat, and step out with courage and trust.
On Sunday we looked at the different stories we orient our lives around. The truth is life can turn dark quick sometimes. The truth is that life can be difficult: relationships can fail, jobs can be lost, and disaster can happen. And when that happens it becomes so easy and tempting to believe that the universe isn’t a generous place, that God is maybe not good, or that things will keep on getting darker and darker.
And that’s what we wanted to really examine and also challenge: that I don’t believe hurt, fear, or darkness is at the centre of the universe. And to do that we looked at Colossians 1 where we read this:
For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.
And this passage can manage to offend just about everyone. Paul begins reminding us that we are all broken. We are all sinful, and we are all hostile towards God. Whether we recognize it or not, we are broken. But Paul knows this but he doesn’t end there. Paul says that yes we are enemies of God separated by our evil thoughts and actions, but God takes an amazing step.
Paul says God responds to this enmity and hostility by reconciling everything and everyone to him through the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul says that all of creation is redeemed and reconciled to Jesus because of his depth of his obedience in and through the cross. Paul says that we are all included. That we are holy, blameless, and standing before God without a fault.
And this is so life changing, so world altering, it can only be called Good News.
The truth is that at the centre of the universe isn’t random chance, at the centre of the universe isn’t hate, at the centre of the universe isn’t disaster or difficulty.
At the centre of the universe is love.
At the centre of the universe is a God that is for you, not against you. A God that gives up all he has to bridge the gap between us. A God that holds nothing back to welcome you, to include you, to bring you into his family, his love, and his grace. This is the news that has changed the world and it does this by changing people. Its changed me, and billions of others throughout the centuries. And on Sunday I wanted to remind us of a story we so often forget: that love is at the centre of the universe.
Michael Gungor says, “Faith comes from listening to the right stories”
And so often it’s so easy to listen to the wrong or damaging stories: that hurt is around the corner, chance is the arbiter of fate, or that things will get worse and worse. But that is not the story of the gospel, the story of the gospel is that you are holy, blameless, and standing before God. This is the message of hope that we need to hold onto, that needs to shape our lives, and that we can’t drift from.
So Sunday all we sought to do was to remind ourselves of the good news: that love is at the centre of the universe. For those of us who have never heard this, we invited them to accept Jesus and this truth. And for those of us who have heard this, we invited us to never drift from this truth but to welcome and celebrate it. Because it is Good News that goodness is at the centre of the universe.
Big Idea: Love is at the heart of the universe
We all have at certain points the feeling that things aren’t going for us but against us
“Faith comes from listening to the right stories.” – Michael Gungor
God is Jesusy
We are all broken and separated from God
Through Jesus everything is reconciled to God
God is for you not against you
The gospel is that the resurrection changes everything, and every single person.
I don’t care what you or anyone else have done in your life I care what Jesus has done for your life
Love is at the heart of the universe
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you think of the deer story? What would be your “deer story” where things just get worse and worse? Have you ever felt like hurt or difficulty is just around the corner? What “stories” are you trusting? How can believing that love is at the centre of the universe change your life? How can you ensure that you never drift form that good news?
Discussion Questions for Families:
Today talk to them about how easy it is to get scared, to have fear drive us, or to believe that things wont’ get better. But share with them the passage that the heart of the universe is a God who loves us and is for us.
Challenge for the Week: Trust that God is for you not against you.
Hey everyone – somehow this post and podcast was stuck in “draft” form for quite a while. So its from a couple of weeks ago. But if you missed it here is what happened!
Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 6: Prophet Killers, and Rejecting the Truth
On Sunday we continued in our series looking at how Jesus calls the religious elite of his day to follow God his way. And that’s a message we still need.
So on Sunday we looked at his last “woe” where Jesus essentially condemns the religious leaders as being like their ancestors – people who killed the prophets.
Now the prophets in the Old Testament weren’t so much future tellers, as “forth-tellers” ~ telling the truth to people in power. And this is what got them killed, and it will still get you killed today. The prophets stood up to the kings and powerful and called them out for trusting in military power (horses and chariots), for neglecting the poor, and treating the immigrant and foreigner wrongly. The prophets essentially took the reality of their lives and brought it before the powerful and said, “you are obligated to address this” and if you don’t God’s judgment will come upon you.
And Jesus standing in that tradition comes to the Pharisees and does the same thing. He says that by rejecting him and his message of Good News for the poor and hurting, they are rejecting God and being like those who killed the prophets of old. Jesus says that if they continue to reject the poor, forget about mercy, and neglect justice that judgement and even hell itself will be their destiny.
But here is the interesting part – this isn’t what Jesus wants. Jesus in the passage makes it very clear that what he really wants is to gather them together, like a mother hen, to care and protect. But because the Pharisees reject him, and the truth he brings – they also reject his protection. That when we reject Jesus, we are left all alone with the consequences of our sin. And that’s what happens to the Pharisees – they reject Jesus and suffer the consequences of their own sin.
But here is the hopeful part – we don’t need to make the same choice. We can learn from the example of the Pharisees how hard it is to listen to truth from God, how hard it is to value justice, how hard it is to practice love for the lowly, but how absolutely necessary it is.
So on Sunday we ended with this main point: The Pharisees missed the point, but we can listen and hear Jesus.
Jesus didn’t want destruction, difficulty, and judgement to come upon the Pharisees, but it did because of their rejection of him. Because whenever you miss God’s voice difficulty is on the horizon. But whenever you listen hope is on the horizon
So we ended with a challenge: to listen to Jesus. To actually sit and be open to Jesus, and invite him to speak at least daily into our lives. To let him shape us, and bring up some of the areas we need to change. The truth is hard to hear, but if we want to be gathered together, live like Jesus, and experience his care and comfort we cannot reject him and his way of life. And that begins with hearing and listening.
So on Sunday we had one challenge: To once a day for just 5 minutes a day sit, be open to Jesus, and invite Jesus to speak
Because we each have a choice. A choice to listen and to respond, or not. And that choice can make all the difference.
Big Idea: The Pharisees missed the point, but we have a choice, we don’t have to.
Prophets told the truth
Your present reality is dictating your future
Jesus isn’t angry with how they relate to God, but to those around them
God isn’t impressed with religion, and he still isn’t if you ignore the people he sends to direct you and the people you are to care for
When we reject Jesus we are left with the consequences of our sin on our own
the heart of Jesus is still grace
Whenever you miss God’s voice difficulty is on the horizon but whenever you listen hope is on the horizon
The first step to hearing Jesus is opening yourself to Jesus
Invite Jesus to speak to us and change us
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Why do you think that hearing the truth is so hard? What “rises up” or reaction do you have to when someone tries to share with you “the truth”? How have you maybe ignored Jesus in the past like the Pharisees? How can you ensure that you don’t miss or ignore Jesus now?
Challenge for the Week: To once a day for just 5 minutes a day sit, be open to Jesus, and invite Jesus to speak
On Sunday we looked at the fourth woe of Jesus. And in the fourth woe Jesus says this,
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel.
And here Jesus is confronting the religious leaders of his day for not living like God and for not prioritizing or orientating their lives in the way of God. The way they are living isn’t bringing them closer to God, or God closer to the world.
The truth is that if our religious energies go into the “minor” things rather than the “major” things of following God we can become an obstacle to God. And that is actually what Jesus is arguing that they are missing the more major, weightier, and important commandments. Apparently Jesus thinks some laws and commands matter more than others, and he’s right of course.
Jesus pulls an allusion to Micah saying what does God require mercy, justice, and faith. He says essentially what good is tithing your herb garden when you forget about the major things? What good is following the minor rules if you don’t get the major ones right?
And this is a really convicting and challenging teaching because here Jesus wants to change the metric of our holiness. Holiness isn’t about just following the rules, but which ones you actually prioritize and put the most effort into. Following Jesus is about the greatest commandments, mercy, faith, and justice.
So we ended with this main point: Some things matter more than others and we need to orient our lives around those things
The truth is we can be religious and still miss the point like the Pharisees. We need to have our lives orientated around the main things: faith, mercy, and justice like Jesus asks.
So we ended with a simple challenge. To sit and contemplate on this question:
Have I forgotten mercy, justice, or faithfulness?
Because that question matters. It matters to Jesus so it should matter to us.
So that’s what we did on Sunday, but it’s also worth doing right now, because whenever our lives major on the minors we are missing the point.
Big Idea: Some things matter more than others and we need to orient our lives around those things
Their way of living will not bring them closer to God, or God closer to the world
Jesus believes some commands matter more than others.
The things we often measure our holiness and righteousness against aren’t always the things God is measuring.
It is so easy to neglect the most important things while keeping other religious things going.
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Have you practiced Lent before? Why or why not? Is there something you could give up this year for Lent? Have you ever considered that you might be “spiritually blind”? Can you think of other examples of “spiritual blindness”? Why is being spiritually blind so very dangerous? Are there any areas you feel you might be blind to?
Challenge for the Week: God reveal the areas of blindness in me.
On Sunday we are continuing in our series “The 7 Woes” for Lent. We are looking at the condemnations that Jesus makes to the religious leaders of his day, and asking what he would say to us. I know it’s not easy, but necessary.
On Sunday we are going to look at this “woe”:
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are! “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’ Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding. How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred? When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.
We are going to be looking, in essence, at how we can be blind to what God is doing, and how we aren’t actually following God. This is a pretty big topic and a pretty hard topic because here is the truth: the Pharisees thought they were following God but they were in God’s way. And the same thing can happen to us. We can think we are following God with righteousness, holiness, and dedication only to have Jesus say we are blind and a blind guide.
So to prepare for this Sunday here is what I think we should all do – we should pray and ask God to reveal himself to us. We should ask him to reveal the ways in which we are blind. Because the truth is if we are moving in the wrong direction, we need to know The trouble is we need to hear God first. So my challenge before we even get to Sunday is just this: to listen to the Spirit. That’s the first step to learning to see.