Welcome to Lent

Well this Sunday we are launching a new series for Lent. Lent has started and it’s an absolutely necessary Christian practice. And come Sunday we will be exploring what Lent is, why it’s needed, and also how it can change your life. Lent isn’t an easy time, but it is a necessary time.

So throughout Lent we are going to be looking at the “7 Woes of Jesus”. This is where Jesus condemns the religious, moral, and spiritual elite of his day and shares with them how they are missing the point. The point for us is that if the religious, moral, and spiritual elite can miss the point – so can we as Christians. So we want to explore how we might be missing the point in our lives, and getting them back on track.

Lent is a time of reflections, repentance, and rededication and we want to do that through asking the Spirit to speak to us, challenge us, and convict us. So I know it’s not a fun time, but a necessary time.

Oh and since its Valentines Day, we’ll talk a little bit about love too 🙂 I know a bit disjointed but we’ll work it all together. Mostly because my lovely wife said “You need to talk about love on Valentines day” and since I love her, that’s what we’ll do too 🙂

7 Woes

Strong Start: Family, Future, and Marbles

marbles-1421822-1279x1699[GUEST POST: Andrew Epp ~ Family Pastor]

On Sunday we continued in our series on starting 2016 strong, and specifically in the area of our families. During the sermon we journeyed with a family via video and watched their baby grow up and eventually move out, showing us that there are different phases in life and we need to make sure we don’t miss them.

If you missed it you can find the video’s and the presentation here:

Here are the 5 questions we looked into on Sunday:

  • How am I connecting my child to a wider circle of influence?
  • Who do I want my child to become?
  • How am I fighting for the heart of my child?
  • How has spiritual development been part of our family rhythm this week?
  • Is my relationship with God, growing, authentic and personal?

Here are some of the main points that we discussed on Sunday:

Parenting priorities

  • What matters more than anything is that my kids have an authentic relationship with God.
  • My wife and I are not the only adult influences my children need.
  • My children need to know that I will never stop fighting for a right relationship with them.
  • My relationship with God and with my wife affects my children more than I realize.
  • Just being together can never substitute for interacting together in a meaningful way.

No one has more potential to influence your child than you.

  • You are the primary influence in the life of your child.
  • Teachers, pastors and coaches will never have as much potential to influence a child’s character, self-esteem, perspectives, or faith as a parent does.
  • That teacher pastor or coach will have influence that is temporary, your influence as a parent will be permanent.
  • Your relationship gives you the potential to influence in ways that others cannot.

You are not the only influence your children need.

  • tap into other influences that also have the potential to impact your children’s future.
  • You can leave your children alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them proactively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.

Two combined influences will make a greater impact than just two influences.

If they work together they can potentially make a greater impact than if they work alone.  

The 5 questions at the beginning of the page are focused around 5 values come from the book Parenting beyond your capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Value 1) Parenting Values Widen the Circle

  • Invite others to invest in your children, so that your sons and daughters have other voices that help shape and determine the direction of their lives.
  • The time will come when your child needs another trusted adult who would give them a safe place to wrestle with difficult issues.
  • The church has huge potential to provide community for children. Research tell us that teens who had at least one adult from church make a significant time investment in their lives were more likely to keep attending church and that the more adults the better.
  • This community gives them a sense of belonging and significance.
  • It allows mentors to DO ministry with the child and serve with them.
  • Widen this circle as early as possible before children need them so that they will be there when they need them.

Key Question: How am I connecting my child to a wider circle of influence?

Value 2) Imagine the End

  • Focus your energy and effort on the issues that matter most and will make a lasting impact.
  • It is more important to leave a legacy of faith rather than an inheritance of wealth.
  • Moses said everything I have said and everything I will say hinges on one essential truth: our God is God. Everything is really about Him.
  • A child’s relationship with God is more important than their relationship with parents. That they would pursue a relationship with God as their highest priority.

Key Question: What do I want my child to become?

Value 3) Fight for the Heart

  • Create a culture of unconditional love in your home to fuel the emotional and moral health of your children.
  • Sometimes it is easy to win an argument and force the right behaviour, but lose the heart in the process.
  • Don’t fight with your children, fight for
  • One of the greatest gifts parents can give to their children is simply to prove that they can be trusted over the long haul.
  • Key Question: How am I fighting for the heart of my child

Create a Rhythm

  • Tap into the power of quality moments together, and build a sense of purpose through your everyday experiences.
  • Increase the quantity of quality time you spend together.
  • Much of daily life consists of repeated patterns of waking up, eating, going out and going to bed.
  • Deut 6 talks about impressing faith as we sit at home, walk along the road, lie down and get up. Consider the following ideas:
    • Eating meals together is an optimal times to have a focussed discussion. Use a variety of discussion starters, games and activities, before, during or after a meal. Make it natural and fun.
    • Walking or travelling together provides a great opportunity for informal dialogue in a nonthreatening environment.
    • Tucking children into bed can be a great time to have an intimate conversation and listen to the heart of your child.
    • Getting up in the morning provides a blank page for the family to start fresh relationally. Just a few encouraging words carefully spoken or written can give your children a sense of value and instil purpose.

Key Question: How has spiritual development been part of our family rhythm this week?

Value 5) Make It Personal

  • Put yourself first when it comes to personal growth.
  • When it comes to spiritual and character formation, your journey impacts them deeply. If you want it to be in them, it needs to be in you.
  • Let kids see your struggles. They need to see your authenticity and hear your transparency.
  • We are not expert parents before we start, but we learn as we go and we make spiritual growth a priority.
  • Find a community of friends who you to talk to and learn from.
  • Strengthen your relationship with your spouse. Don’t underestimate the importance of a child seeing a mother and a father engaged in friendship and interacting in an affectionate way.
  •  Key Question: Is my relationship with God, growing, authentic and personal?

 

Strong Start: Finances, Generosity, and Why Money Won’t Fix Your Life

Twenties on White

On Sunday we opened up a bit of a difficult or uncomfortable topic: money. Most times churches talk about this, it’s because they want more of it. But on Sunday the point wasn’t that I wanted anything from anyone, I wanted something for everyone. And what I believe we all need, isn’t more money, but a better relationship to money.

The truth is that money will not fix your life, or make it better. And while at first glance that seems well…just not true. Who wouldn’t love more money? The truth is we know that it is true.

  • We all know people who make way less than us, but are much happier than us.
  • We all know people who make way, way, way more than us but whose lives aren’t full of happiness and joy.
  • We all know people who have maybe won the lottery, inheritance or whatever, only to see that money…vanish.

The truth is that while our culture tells us that money will fix our problems, the Bible teaches that our relationship to money is the problem. Getting a huge raise, or money doesn’t actually automatically generate more generosity, self-control, or self-discipline. And the truth is if we want financial freedom it doesn’t come from having more money, but a better and different relationship with money.

So we looked at this small passage in Acts where Paul’s preaching says this, “You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” And this is so true! Expect for many of us it doesn’t feel…well true. For many of us it honestly feels better to receive a huge bonus, then it does to give and cut our neighbors lawn. But that’s actually not what Paul is talking about or Jesus for that matter. Paul is not talking about individual experiences or moments, but a lifestyle.

A better way to translate that passage for our context would be this: a generous life is wholer, better, and happier than a stingy life.

And that’s true.

When was the last time you met a truly generous jerk?

When was the last time you met a really happy, fully alive, stingy person?

It just doesn’t happen.

Jesus is right; a generous life is better than a stingy life. The trouble is that generosity is not random, it is strategic and a discipline. And disciplines are hard to create and generate.

So we ended the sermon with a few steps to starting to create the discipline to be generous so that we might find new freedom. The three steps were pretty simple and straightforward: make a budget, choose a % to give, and track your money.

Generosity doesn’t start with randomness but with a plan. So make a budget to examine your life and where you are spending and where you should be spending. Then choose a % to give. The main problem with generosity is that it is not habitual, so giving a % is key. Start anywhere but keep increasing it as you grow. And lastly, track your money. What you don’t manage soon becomes a disaster. So manage your money.

These are three simple steps, and there is so much we could get into but they will give the basis for a strong start this year. And to go deeper we are having a financial course here at the church, and if you’d like to be part of it just email the church office here for details.

So we ended with a challenge: put effort into our finances. Because no one has ever regretted putting effort into it and becoming a more generous person.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: A generous life is happier, fuller, and better, than a stingy life

Teaching Points:

  • The key to financial freedom is not having more money.
  • Having more money will not fix your financial life.
  • Money will not solve all our problems.
  • The problem isn’t money or the lack of it; the problem is us
  • It’s better to give than to receive.
  • A life orientated around giving and generosity is the way to live.
  • Generous people don’t give when they have enough; generous people orient their lives so they will always have enough to give.
  • Having more money doesn’t give us more self-control.
  • A generous life is happier, and better than a stingy life.
  • Generosity is a discipline.
  • Make a budget, choose a % to give, and track your money.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you think about Andrew’s statement “The key to financial freedom is not having more money “? How does that relate to your life? Would you say your life is orientated around generosity? How can you maybe start to take some of those steps? Do you have a budget? Who can help you to create one? Can you start or increase your % of giving? How can we support you in this?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Today rather than talking about generosity, start to teach it. Start to encourage your kids to give money away. If you do an allowance, ask them to give a %. Start to teach generosity from the beginning.

Challenge for the Week: Put effort into your financial life to become generous.

The Resurrection Doesn’t eliminate Suffering

barbwire-1315925I’ve been preparing for a series on Mental Health that’s coming up. And I came across this one line from a book called Darkness is My Only Companion, by Kathryn Greene-McCreight.

It just so resonated with me, and it’s something to sit and ponder because there is power in its simplicity.

Suffering is not eliminated by the resurrection but transformed by it.

Amen.

Why Friends Matter More than Family

friendship-1309415-639x852On Sunday we are looking at a really important topic but one that’s sidelined in our world: friendship.

I know right away the word sounds a little…well my little pony with rainbows and stuff. It sounds kind of weak, or something you’d hear on a children’s show talking about the “power of friendship”.

And while I have those initial reactions and resonances I also know that they are untrue. There is power in friendship. In fact, it’s probably the one thing in our culture that we need to regain more than anything else. We have so many connections, but not that many deep friendships. We know lots of people, and know how to network, but not how to cultivate decade long journeying with others. And this is something I want to address on Sunday.

  • Why are relationships and friendships so important?
  • What makes them unique?
  • How do we invest in them?
  • And why do we need them?

And to do that we are going to look at Solomon who says some pretty shocking things about friendships. That friendship will determine the quality of your life and the direction, more than finances, or even your family. That friendships are more important than family and are closer than family. That having good friendships is the key to a good life.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday.  I hope you can join us, to learn about the “power of friendship” even though I know that sounds lame, but it is anything but that.

Strong Start: Always Remember Who is In Your Boat

jesusboat_1200x800

On Sunday we began a brand new series looking at how to have a strong start this year. We looked at a very well known story of Jesus and the disciples crossing the sea, and coming up of a fierce storm. In this story Jesus is sleeping and the disciples wake him, and he calms the storm.

And there is so much packed in this little short narrative. Things like how Jesus sometimes leads us out into the unknown, how storms can come upon us quickly, how we can forget about God in struggles.

But on Sunday I wanted to land on one main point: Always remember who is in your boat.

The truth is that as we look forward into our futures we have no idea what they may hold. There may be already storms on the horizon, or it might look calm and peaceful. But we never know what might come upon us. And this isn’t something to bemoan or pretend isn’t true. We shouldn’t just count on positive thinking to get us through life. We should count on God, and that no matter what happens God was in the boat with the disciples and this makes all the difference.

Imagine if you could be assured God would be with you, no matter what you faced? Wouldn’t that make a difference, wouldn’t that change everything? Wouldn’t that give you hope?

And I think that’s something we need to take from this story, that God is with us through it all. God is able to calm the storms that come upon us, he is able to guide us through them. But we do need to rely on him. The disciples go to Jesus in the story and we need to as well.

So on Sunday we lingered just on that one idea: always remember who is in your boat.

We closed by looking at this wonderful piece of art by John Hendrix, and took home his piece of art as a reminder for us that no matter where life takes us – always remember who is in your boat.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea“Always remember who is in your boat”

Teaching Points:

  • Crossing the sea is an image of transformation
  • Denying fear is useless
  • We shouldn’t have more faith in the storms around us than our saviour
  • “Always remember who is in your boat”
  • We are never alone

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? When you look forward in this year what do you see? Is it dark, hopeful, unsure? What do you hope to get out of this year? How can remembering God is with you help? How can you make sure you remember God is with you?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Today it’s simple – share the story with your kids. Show them the artwork and have them create their own.

Challenge for the Week: “Always remember who is in your boat”

Envisioning Your Future Self

back-to-the-future-part-2-1409979-1279x852I read this recently by author, and podcaster Lewis Howes:

You become what you envision yourself being.

And in all honesty I think that’s really true. I’m not really big into the “positive self thinking” kind of movement. But there is a deep truth in that quote. That if you envision yourself as failing, as having nothing to contribute to the world, as lacking in value and worth to others it ends up being the “lens” you see yourself and the world through. It ends up conditioning and determining some of your actions and behavior, and you end up sometimes becoming what you envision.

This is nothing new or revolutionary, this is something social psychology and even psychiatry have known for a long time. That the “tapes” we play in our minds, contribute heavily to our actions and who we become. And we could discuss that, but I’d rather discuss something more revolutionary. Not who you envision yourself becoming, but who the Bible says you are.

Lewis Howes wants you to focus on “who you want to be”. The Bible wants you to focus in on who you already are. And I think that one little shift makes all the difference. Lewis, rightfully, wants you to focus on becoming a positive and healthy person. The Bible has a different perspective, to tell you who you are so that you can live into that reality. 

The Bible and the Spirit of God doesn’t want to tell you, “Envision becoming this way”. The Bible and the Spirit of God tell you that fundamentally at a core level, this is who you are – now live into that reality. The Bible doesn’t want you to dream of being holy, pure, loved, or new. The Bible states unequivocally as follower of Jesus, that you are holy, pure, loved, and a new creation.

The Bible is less concerned with trying to get you to envision who you can become, than for you to believe who you are. Because once you know who you are, you can live out of that reality. The Bible isn’t trying to get you believe that you can be holy, pure, and new – through positive thinking – but to believe that you are holy, pure, and new through Jesus Christ.

And this small difference can make all the difference.

Because I can tell you – if you follow Jesus – you are pure, holy, loved, and new. And while you might not always live out of that centre, it’s your true centre. And the beauty is this then – this reality isn’t beyond any one of us because it is true of all of us.

So then no matter how much you might struggle with it, to live it, to truly know it – it’s still true and today you can live it.

So all I’m wanting to say is that Lewis Howes is right, “You become what you envision yourself being” I just want to make sure what we envision ourselves being is what the Bible says – holy, pure, and loved (Colossians 3:10-15)

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.

Leadership Like the Dawn

dawn-2-1504573-1280x960I 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.

The Good and Bad Kind of Authority of a Leader

??????????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.