I have always believed that the Bible matters and is relevant to all ages. I just didn’t realize how true that was, even for little kids, until the other day when I was driving Asher to school.
As we were driving, Asher said, “Dad, you can have enemies, right? If someone hits you a lot, they are your enemy.”
He then preceded to tell me who his enemy was and what he thought about them. And, he outright asked if it was okay to have enemies. Because, in our technical language, it seems that Asher has a “frenemy.”
Sometimes I wish adults were this honest and open.
So, I told him about Jesus, and how we follow what Jesus asks of us. I told him how Jesus doesn’t deny that there are enemies in this world (people who hurt us, maybe even hit us, or people who aren’t good), but that Jesus says we are called to love our enemies.
I said to Asher, “If you have an enemy, we need to love them too. It’s okay to choose not to play with them. It’s okay to tell the adult in charge if you are being hit. But, we don’t want to hate anyone.”
I write this all because I think Asher’s question is a good one:Is it okay to have an enemy?
Yes, the Bible lives in the reality where there are hurtful, abusive and difficult people in our lives – people that we might call an “enemy.” What the Bible challenges isn’t the existence of evil, but rather our response to it. We are called to love our enemies, and we are called to love them because our God in heaven loves them. And, how we do that is complex, and my point isn’t to wade into all of that today.
Yes, with abusive people, boundaries matter.
Yes, with toxic people, you don’t have to become a doormat.
Yes, with evil, pursuing justice matters.
But, when it comes down to the base level, what I told Asher was, “We can’t let hate into our hearts.” We need to love people, even the ones who are difficult.
So, how might you do that with the difficult people around you?
That’s a question that’s worth thinking about, because after I dropped Asher off that’s what I thought about. My little guy reminded me of Jesus’ calling on our lives to love our enemy. And, it’s a reminder that I needed. And, maybe you need this as well.
“People take time. But in our haste, we size them up or cut them down to what we take to be a more manageable size, labeling people instead of trying to hear, understand or welcome them.”
This statement by David Dark could not be truer. Because, the truth is, people take time. It takes time to get to know them. It takes time to understand them. It takes time to learn about their complexity and their story.
Yet, rather than taking the time, we find it easier to label others. Why? Because it’s faster. Labeling someone short-circuits the distance it takes to get to know them. It allows us to cut them down to a manageable size, and allows us to distance ourselves from them. Labeling allows us get out of the hard work of getting to know someone.
The problem is that labeling people, as a Christian, isn’t our calling. Our calling is to love others. And, to truly love people means pushing past labels and to get to know them.
I know I personally struggle with this. I know that, in my haste, I label people so that I don’t have to listen to people. I might say to myself, “Well they are just a “_____”, or “Of course they would argue that they are “_____”, or “Why listen to that [insert a group of people]?”
And, my point isn’t that labeling isn’t easy – or fast. My point is that it isn’t very Christ-like. Love requires getting to know people. Love requires some time. And, people require some time.
So, I write all this for one reason: the next time you are tempted to label someone, why not take the time to actually get to know them?
You might not feel like it, but I bet, in some area of your life, you are a leader. I bet there are some people with whom or places in which you have influence or impact. I know this is true in my life, and I want to make sure that my leadership is not only healthy and good, but also impactful.
Sometimes, when we think of leadership, we think of principles, strategies and management tips and tricks. But, what I think we should think of is this: trust and relationships.
Stephen Covey writes this, “Trust impacts us 24/7, 365 days a year. It undergirds and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, every business venture, every effort in which we are engaged. It changes the quality of every present moment, and alters the trajectory and outcome of every future moment of our lives – both personally and professionally.”
Trust does alter all of that and trust does matter.
So, today, I write all this to remind you of something that is easy to forget: you are a leader and good leaders focus in on trust. Whether you are trying to lead a three-year-old, a project at school or a team or company, I think it’s easy to focus in on the task (getting the three-year-old to eat, getting an “A” in school or getting better exposure in business) and forget about trust.
But, again, good leaders focus in on trust. So, today, do something that builds trust for those with whom you have influence. Don’t just focus on getting something done; focus on being present for someone. Because great leaders not only lead, they also know that trust undergirds everything.
So Asher broke my phone. Like he dropped it / threw it and cracked the screen…with a case on. I’d have a picture to show you but again – Asher broke my phone.
Now if you’re house is anything like mine when these things happen it is never when you feel filled with patience, lots of time to deal with it, and in a good space. Instead, Eden was crying, and we were trying to get out the door to pick up Hudson from school, so he wouldn’t be wondering where we were. It was then that I asked Asher for the phone that he didn’t want to give me and the throw / drop happened.
I was very frustrated (meaning mad and angry) and I kinda huffed and said now you can’t use dad’s phone or any phone again. And he didn’t say anything but got into the stroller, and crawled into the bottom and fell asleep.
As I was pushing him and his sister towards school God hit me with a thought, “what matters more, a broken screen or a broken heart”. And this is why occasionally I don’t want to hear from God, because when God speaks he can be challenging and convicting. I knew in my heart I was angrier and upset with a broken phone, than making sure I didn’t harm or break Asher’s heart when discussing it with him. I know inwardly I wanted him to really feel how frustrating this was for me. But that’s the problem, I was thinking about me.
So we came back home and I woke him up and got the other kids snacks so we could talk. And as soon as he woke up he gave me a huge hug with little tears and said, “Daddy I so sorry about your phone”. So I hugged him back and said, “It’s okay, it was an accident” because he hadn’t meant to wreck the phone. I talked to him, hugged him, and made sure he felt okay.
And this response only happened because God reminded me that what matters more in life is not things, but people. But so often that gets reversed. So often that gets missed. And we can be so quick to lose perspective, especially with our kids.
Because perspective matters. My hope and prayer is that when Asher grows older he doesn’t remember how mad Dad got when I broke his phone; he’ll remember how well I dealt with it with patience, love, and understanding. Of course that didn’t happen in the moment, but that’s the beautiful thing about life. We get second chances, and can make it right.
So I write all of this to remind us all of one thing: don’t let the little things get in the way of the big things. And in the scheme of life, a phone is a little thing, a relationship is a big thing. So if in anyway you’ve maybe like me missed the point, focused on a thing rather than a person, or overreacted – why not make it right today. Call a friend, tell your spouse your sorry, give your kids a hug and say you love them. Because what I needed that day was a reminder from God, that broken hearts matter more than broken phones and things and maybe you might need the same reminder today.
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 opened up the book of Proverbs to learn about friendships. Friendships are these things that are all around us, that I think we end up taking for granted so often. But this is something that not only do we need to change, that Solomon would argue we must change to have a full life.
So we jumped in looking at various different sayings of Solomon pulling out three key points:
Friendship can matter more than family
Friendship will determine the quality and direction of your life
Friendship based on deep trust is all that matters
So first we looked at how friendship can matter more than family. This is something pretty shocking to say; not only in our day but in Solomon’s day and age. Because in his day and age you had no health insurance, crop insurance, or retirement. Your insurance or safety net was your family. Family was obligated to help in a time of crisis.
And this is actually why Solomon says that friendship can matter even more than family. He writes, “there are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24). Friends can stick closer than family.
And Solomon’s point is that any relationship built on chosen love, rather than obligation will be stronger and better. And this is just true. He’s not saying family doesn’t matter, but that friendship can run deeper than just family relations. Any relationship (family based or not) built on love, and choice will always beat any relationship based on obligation. And this is why we need to invest in our friendships and why they matter because they are formed by love and not by obligation.
Secondly, we learned that friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives. Solomon writes this, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” and this is true. That the people we are close to rub off on us for good or for bad. This is another reason that we need to choose our friends carefully, and invest in them wisely. We choose our friends, but once our friends have been chosen they will choose our destiny. This is why we need to continue to see and raise the importance of the value of our friendships.
And also, but not least, Solomon reminded us that if our friendships are not based on deep trust that they aren’t really friendships. That if someone lies to us and laughs it off, they are worse than a destructive killer (Proverbs 26:18-19). That a true friend will not let us walk into difficulty but will warn us (Proverbs 27:5-6). That true friends provide heartfelt care and counsel, not just what we want to hear.
So on Sunday from these three general themes: friendships matter more than family, friendship determines the quality and direction of our lives and true friends are built on trust; we came to our main theme. Our main idea was simple but needed: We need to choose and invest in good friendships.
We need to choose and invest in good friendships.
If we want to have a strong start we will not regret investing in good friendships, and key relationships. We will never regret strengthening our relationships, and distancing away from difficult ones.
So we gave a challenge to choose and invest in good relationships. To seek out good ones and to cultivate them. No relationship just “starts” and becomes amazing without work and effort. Friendships require cultivation to be forged. So we challenged one another to actually put the effort in. To put the time into the good relationships built on trust, and limit the ones that cause harm. To seek out good friends and invest in them with our lives.
One thing is sure if we want to have a great 2016, a strong start, it won’t happen with poor, nonexistent, or shallow relationships. A great year starts with great friendships, so start investing in them today.
The Chinese have a proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
The best time to invest in friendships was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Big Idea: We need to choose and invest in good friendships
Three challenges: Serve weekly, connect with God daily, journey with 2 others
“Is it wise” is always a better question than “is it wrong”
Friendships are more important than family
Relationships built on love beat relationships built on obligation every time
Friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives
We choose our friends, but once our friends have been chosen they will choose our destiny
True friends are honest and trustworthy friends
We need to choose good friends
We need to invest in good friends
Friendships are not “found” but forged and cultivated
Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself. C.S. Lewis
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. C.S. Lewis
The best time to invest in friendships was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese Proverb
Adult Discussion Questions:
What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you thought about friendship being more important than family before? What do you think of that? How have you seen it be true that friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives? Who are your closest friends? Are they trustworthy and honest? Who should you be investing in? And how can you be better investing in them?
Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families
Talk to your kids about the importance of friendship and how it determines our quality of life. Ask them who their best friends are? And ask them are they wise friends? Do they make good choices? Help them to think through making the best friends.
Challenge for the Week: Choose to invest in friendships this year.
On 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.
I listen to a lot of music. And by a lot I mean I drive my wife nuts with it. But there is one tendency in music that really drives me nuts. It’s the tendency for love songs to all focus on the initial connection, the passion, but in general, not the commitment on the long-term. It seems like most love songs focus on the meeting stage, or the new love stage – not the lifelong committed stage.
And the reason this bugs me is because I think the committed lifelong stage – the we’re in this together no matter what stage – is the most important one. And in some ways it’s the hardest one.
You might disagree especially if you’ve been looking for someone to spend your life with (and you might be right!). But for me in my ministry what I see is sometimes how hard it is for people to keep the love they found in the centre of their lives. As a pastor I so often meet with couples whose relationships have slid, who forget that they got together with that person because they were worth loving, who forget it’s hard work to keep selfishness out of relationships. I just wish more songs would talk about the beauty of lifelong commitment and its realities, and how it’s worth working towards.
And that’s when I came across this song by MuteMath called Light Up. And I really love it. Here is what they sing,
Don’t say enough, we’re not out of love
We just grew up having to find out that
Hearts go astray, sparks slip away
But I have to say, I still light up for you
For you, I still light up for you
Don’t let the tears undo the years
That got us here. We traveled all this way (all this way)
And no matter how we sort it out
Know I’m for sure that you’re the
One for me (the one for me)
I love those lines. They don’t pretend that everything in every relationship is perfect all the time. They don’t pretend that life is always easy. But they also don’t give up on the beauty of finding a future with someone through the ups and downs. That even in the difficulty he sings about still lighting up for his spouse.
And when I think about my future with Krista, that’s what I want. A marriage where we both, no matter what we go through, still light up for the other person not just today but in 50 years.
I love the commitment to the future together no matter what happens, “We traveled all this way (all this way) / And no matter how we sort it out / Know I’m for sure that you’re the / One for me”
So all that’s to say that I think it’s beautiful words and lyrics. And also that I think it’s something worth striving for in any relationship: to never lose the spark, so that whenever your spouse walks in the room you still light up. That’s what a beautiful marriage to me feels like – that whenever your spouse walks in a room – you can say “I still light up for you”. I can say that today with Krista, and I want to be able to say it each and everyday of our lives. That’s what I’m working towards, what about you?