What Are You Going Through?

I just read this and thought it was beautiful, and wanted to share it:

“The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him, “What are you going through?” Simone Weil

Beautiful right?

Three Words to Change Your Life ~ That aren’t “I Love You”

6a012876cf8591970c01543608ca6b970c-800wiOn Sunday, for Easter, we explored Jesus first words he says after his resurrection. For the past 6 week’s we’ve looked at what Jesus said before he died. Now we wanted to look at what he says when he lives.

The key thing to notice first off is that words have power. They can both heal, or tear down. They can give life, or create death. Words have a power, a weight, an energy to them. And Jesus’ words especially have a power to them.

So the disciples are sitting in fear. They are filled with fear and worry and anxiety. Shame is covering their hearts, and guilt is seeping through their souls. They are hiding in a room and Jesus shows up. And before we jump to Jesus words, we need to first recognize one clear thing: for the disciples Jesus showing up would not seem like a good thing.

And at first that statement might seem funny – you might have even re-read it – but its true.

We know that Jesus comes with grace, and forgiveness – but the disciples didn’t. Remember at this point they are God-betrayers, God-abandoners,  and God-deserters. That’s who they are. They are not in the “good and righteous God followers” column or category. And they would have grown up in a world that talked about the “Day of the Lord” (the coming of God) as a good day for the righteous but an awful terrible day for sinners, gentiles, and the unrighteous. The Old Testament says if you are sinner, a gentile, or unrighteous that when God shows up it’s a day to be feared, it’s a dark day full of vengeance and punishment.

So when Jesus shows up we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that for the disciples this was instantly good. They were filled with fear, and shame and most likely didn’t think of themselves as “righteous and good”. They would be wondering if Jesus is here to settle accounts, to bring rightly deserved punishment, to bring vengeance and sentence.

And its into this highly charged, tense filled silence – where the disciples worst fears are playing with their imaginations – where shame is leading their souls further from God – that Jesus speaks some of the most beautiful words ever: peace be with you.

Peace be with you. Peace be with you. Peace to your sins. Peace to your shame. Peace to your betrayal. Peace to your disappointment. Peace to your fear.

Jesus shows up and gives out radical peace and forgiveness to a group of men who didn’t deserve it. Jesus first words are about peace, not  judgment. This is a beautiful radical thing that we need to get. Jesus here is not just saying a short hello, or a salutation – Jesus is revealing the heart of God as about peace. Jesus is giving the trajectory of his kingdom that it will be about peace and not punishment and vengeance. God’s heart is about peace.

This is a radically freeing three words. Because then God isn’t to be feared, God is to be embraced.

Some of us believe that when Jesus shows up it will be to punish us for sins. But that’s not what this passage reveals. Jesus wants to free us from sin, not to punish us for sin. He has already taken all the punishment. And he wants to free us by offering us his peace.

So that’s where we landed on Sunday – with the Prince of Peace saying – Peace be with you. We closed with inviting everyone to simply picture Jesus saying to each of them – peace be with you. Peace to your fears, peace to your shame, peace to your guilt, peace to your brokenness, peace to your imperfection…peace…peace…peace

And that’s a good way to end, and to begin – with the peace Jesus wants to give us all.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Peace be with you 

Teaching Points:

  • Words are powerful things
  • Shame is the heart disease of every era. People are dying from it – some quickly, others slowly. Shame deceptively but convincingly leads us to believe that we deserve to be shackled to it for the rest of our lives. We believe we don’t deserve to be free of shame. Silence always leads to more pain and guilt and shame festering inside. Pete Wilson
  • The disciples are not sure Jesus showing up is a good thing.
  • Jesus is saving the world, and creating the world in this moment through peace.
  • God at his heart is about peace
  • God is not someone to be feared, God is someone to be embraced
  • Jesus wants to free us from sin, not to punish us for sin
  • Fear and shame have no part of God’s Kingdom.
  • Peace rules in God’s Kingdom.
  • Resurrection means that sin is ended
  • Resurrection means that evil is ended
  • Resurrection means that shame is ended
  • Peace be with you, because I am with you – Jesus.

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? Have you ever thought about how the disciples would have been feeling? Do you think they might have been fearful of Jesus? Have you ever been fearful of God? Why are Jesus words “peace be with you” meaningful for you? Who should you share Jesus words with? Who needs to hear them?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Why not actually practice this passage today with your kids. Ask them if they have any worry, any fear, any shame or guilt or hurt. Talk to them, and then talk to them about Jesus gives us peace. Share his words with them, and have them repeat them with you. Share the peace of Jesus with your kids – that’s a good way to start.

Challenge for the Week: Hear Jesus say, “Peace be with you”

When Fear Comes Calling in the Middle of the Night ~ Fear As the Opposite of Faith

Spooky old photoEarlier this week I was listening to a song that had a line that really caught my attention. It was this:

“In the middle of the night, when fear comes calling / Singin’ it all dies, awfully scared, alone / I’m looking into your eyes and feel your calm / Pretty thing that catches me so strong when I fall”

This lyric just put words, and emotions to something I know I feel deep down: that fear steals life. 

Isn’t that true? Fear steals life, it steals life while it’s happening proclaiming in the middle of the night that all dies, awful, and alone. Fear plays to our worst parts of ourselves, and calls them true. That’s why I really believe fear is the opposite of faith.

Whereas fear tells us that the worst is true, faith tells us that the best is yet to come. Fear tells us that life is over, faith tells us that life can begin again. Fear plays to death, faith plays to life.

The Apostle John after arguing that God is love, says that perfect love casts out fear. Or that God’s perfect presence banishes fear. In God’s presence, captivated by faith, fear is flushed away.

And while that song isn’t singing about God, for me those lines are true in relation to God. That when fear comes in the middle of the night, calling, luring, and lying to me, I look into the eyes of Jesus and feel his calm; his gaze catches me so strongly when I fall and reminds me of one thing: That in his love there is no need for fear.

Loving Your Neighbours and Why No One Can Tell You How

583245_74851881No expert can tell you how to best love your neighbour…Only the Spirit can guide you into faithful presence, which is the love of Christ. Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens, and Dwight Friesen

I think that this quote is just so – challenging and true. We know as Christians we are called to move out into our neighbourhoods, and love our neighbours. If we aren’t loving our neighbours well, we aren’t following Jesus well. That’s just true.

But the difficulty is in how to do this. We often at least in Christian circles, look to experts to tell us this. And if you don’t believe me, just look at how popular conferences and seminars on “How to Be Missional” are. They are everywhere (and I’ve led some…).

The point though is that no expert can adequately tell you how to love your neighbour. And to love our neighbours well, we don’t need more experts, we need a change in focus. We need to focus on Jesus and his Spirit.

It is only Jesus that can truly lead us into loving our neighbours well. It is only through listening to his Spirit that we can discern the right ways and the right times to show love in practical action. In all honesty what we probably need is less experts in our lives, and more dependence on Jesus. This isn’t a knock against practitioners, experts, and people who are inspiring us to live like Jesus. But that’s just the point, they can only inspire us to live like Jesus. It is only Jesus Christ himself who can direct us to live like him, who can transform us into his likeness.

So loving our neighbours is crucially important. And experts and practitioners are important too. But what is most important is learning to listen and follow Jesus and his Spirit well – because that’s the true first step in learning to love our neighbours well.

The Dynamics of Holding the Truth: Gritted Teeth, Judgement, or Love

201764_5120The other day I was reading through Ephesians, and one verse just jumped out at me.

It always seems weird to me how sometimes you’re reading the Bible and a verse just leaps off the page, and you wonder, “Has that always been there”. I don’t know how many times I’ve read Ephesians, but I can tell you that this for sure isn’t the first time. But here is the verse that just caught my attention:

“Instead, we will hold to the truth in love” Ephesians 4:15

And that verse just sounded so beautiful to me. Because isn’t that what we should be doing? Isn’t that what our world needs? For us as Christians to hold to the truth in love?

Because I don’t think we, as Christians, are so good at holding truth in love. We’ve got the hold the truth in self-righteousness down pat. We really know how to hold the truth in judgment over someone. We know how to hold truth in anger and aggressive verse quoting. But do we really know how to hold the truth in love?

I just think that this is something so worth striving for. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if when people talked about you or I they said, “They sure know what they believe, but they are so gracious with their beliefs” or “Even though we disagree, their love shines through.”

For me that verse just so clearly gave me a goal – for love to permeate all of my interactions. That I might hold the truth in love, share the truth in love, and live the truth in love.

I’m sure I must have read that verse before, but for today it just seemed brand-new, and needed more than ever.

What about you? What do you think of it?

Bye Bye Fear

Because God loves us, we don’t have to be afraid. Because God loves us, we are free to love others-even our enemies. And after all, once you take fear off the table, how many enemies do you really have? Brian Zahnd

So deep and so true.

Why not re-read it a few times and ask Jesus to help you take fear off the table.

Because being free of fear makes you free to love.

Where the Wild Things Run

480535_14231113The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it has established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild. G.K. Chesterton

I love this quote by Chesterton, who was brilliant in many ways. Because so often we think of Christianity as a staid, rigid, and giant institution opposed to change, creativity, and wildness. But I think Chesterton is right, Jesus did not come to just bring rule and order but to let some good things run wild.

Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit being wind that is wild blowing where it will (John 3). Jesus seems intent on letting loose disciples to change the world through love and grace. Jesus seems intent on letting God’s love run wild throughout the world without constraints or restrictions.

So Chesterton is right, Christianity has established rule and order. There is nothing wrong with that, that is good as well. But its chief aim was give room for good things to run wild: God’s love, justice, hope, mercy, and grace.

I think that’s a beautiful thought and something the world needs more of. A little more of God’s love running wild, God’s hope, God’s mercy, and most of all, God’s grace.

Who are those who matter most to us?

I know I’ve often quoted Henri Nouwen in the past few months here on the blog, but the truth is he is worth quoting. So I’d like to do that again with a few questions at the end. He wrote this:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”

I think this is so true. So here are a few questions that for me flow out of that quote:

  • Who means the most to you? Have you told them that lately? Have you shared with them why they matter to you so deeply?
  • When you encounter someone who is hurting, is your first reaction to share words of advice, or share a touch of comfort?
  • Who around you needs help today? How can you share in their pain and give them hope?

Worth reflecting on. Worth acting on.

Beautiful Quote on Love

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I read this in a book a few weeks ago and its really lingered with me:

Love is the great equalizer. One cannot love from a higher position. Love requires personal abandonment, a divesture of the social, economic, political, or hierarchical artifices we think make us somebody of worth. Only love does that, and the loving requires the divestiture, the humility. It descends, never condescends. This is what God is teaching us in Jesus. Phil Needham

Yeah I don’t have anything to add to that, other than that this is true and worth reflecting on. To help try reading Philippians 2:5-11 a few times, I think it will resonate really well with what Phil Needham wrote.

What is the Father Like?

FarSideGodComputerSmallOn Sunday we looked at who the Father is. Many of us have this idea that like this comic shows that the Father is in heaven ready to smite. That if it weren’t for Jesus, the Father would be angry with us. That the Father’s natural disposition is not being nice like Jesus, but anger, wrath, and punishment. But this is not the picture Jesus paints of his Father

We began exploring how the Father is one who goes looking for the lost, and hurting in Matthew 18:12-14. In this passage Jesus is clear that the Father’s desire isn’t for anyone to be lost. That he notices you, and comes to seek and find you when you wander off. The posture of the Father is one of yearning, inclusion, and finding, not vengeance and “smiting”.

The second passage we looked at is Matthew 7:7-11. In this passage we see a Father who loves to give good gifts. And this matters because so often we have this feeling that God is stingy, uninterested, or that we need to “work harder” (more prayer, fasting, or faith) for God to answer our prayers. But Jesus reveals a Father who is generous, active, and approachable. Jesus reveals a Father in heaven who is filled with abundant generosity not scarcity. And this is a picture we need to get straight and hold onto.

The third passage we looked at was Luke 6:35-36. Here we see something that we often forget. The Father is merciful. Jesus is so clear, and succient reminding us the Father is merciful. The Father is not full of wrath, and anger but full of mercy. Jesus isn’t the nice one, while the Father is the angry one. Jesus reveals who the Father is, and he is clear that he is merciful. So whatever else we do with some of the other complex passages in Scripture we need to be clear on this: the Father is full of mercy.

And finally, the last passage we looked at was the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. This really summarizes all the other passages. That when the son demands his inheritance the Father’s generosity is so deep, he is even willing to give when it hurts and will be taken advantage of. We see also that the Father searches and looks for his son, like a lost sheep. We also see the Father welcome home the son with compassion and love and mercy, not judgment and wrath. We lastly see the Father being full of forgiveness.

So the main point on Sunday was to centre on the picture of the Father as revealed by Jesus. One who is loving, generous, merciful, and forgiving. This is our Father in heaven and this should change how we live.

Dads, we need to be Fathers like the Father in heaven.

Parents we need to parent like the Father in heaven.

Christians we need to live and follow the “house rules” and “house values” of our Father in heaven. We need to be about mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and love as well

So on Sunday we gave the challenge to get closer to the Father, and live like the Father. This is a good reminder to us because we need to get rid of the idea that God is sitting by a computer ready to smite. We need to get centred on the Father that Jesus reveals.

 

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: The Father is loving, generous, merciful, and forgiving

Take Aways…

  • We have a wrong picture of God the Father
  • Our picture of God the Father needs to be based in the revelation of Jesus Christ
  • If our picture of God the Father is off, so will our lives.
  • The Father’s reaction isn’t to smite but to find
  • Heaven is not about scarcity, but abundance, and gift, and generosity
  • The Father is merciful
  • Jesus didn’t die because the Father was angry, Jesus died as an expression of God’s love not anger
  • The Father Jesus reveals is loving, merciful, generous, and forgiving.
  • Next Steps: Go to the Father. Thank our fathers. Live like the Father
  • The greatest tragedy of our lives, is that we forget who we are. Henri Nouwen

Adult / Group 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 picture did you have of the Father in your mind before today’s sermon? Was he generous or stingy? Kind of angry? Forgiving or judgy? What has shaped your image of the Father? What image / passage most resonated with you today? What has changed in your view of the Father after today? What questions do you have? How can you live more like him?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about what God the Father is like. How he is loving, generous, forgiving and merciful. Tell them this is who he is, and who you want to be like. Make a promise to them to try to live like their Father in heaven.

Challenge for this Week: Get close to the Father, and live like the Father