3 (Marks): Journeying with Others: The Sacredness of Relationships

11917682_10155866378850328_6558981573589556365_n

We began on Sunday by noticing something that is so obvious but that we forget: that our culture has a way of taking the depth out of our relationships. 

What I mean by this is in our lives it seems like we have many more relationships at a loss of deep ones. We have lots of friends on Twitter, Facebook, or in our office but don’t have a lot of deep ones.

Jen Pollock Michel writes, “Our connections have grown broader, but shallower”. And I think that’s true. We know so many of the shallow details of one another’s lives, but don’t truly know one another.

But relationships are not just peripheral to our lives, they are absolutely central. They are where we experience not only life, but also God.

Andrew Root writes,

“Our relationships are the very field, the very place where God is encountered”

So relationships matter. That’s what we explored and we began with the only place I know to begin – the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. The implications of this are huge. But right off the bat we should notice one thing if God became a person – persons matter. If the person of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, was shaped and formed by relationships, relationships matter deeply!

Our culture teaches us that relationships are to be used. To be used for our own needs, self-interest, entertainment or whatever. What the Bible teaches is that relationships are sacred and to be shared, and are places for us to give.

Pauls says in Philippians 2 that in our relationships we are to have the same attitude as Jesus, who emptied himself for others. This is to how we live as well. We are called to live with the same self-emptying, self-giving love in relationships.

Our world teaches us relationships are to be used; Jesus teaches us they are places of sacred connection meant to be invested in.

So on Sunday we ended with this main point: Relationships are sacred and meant to be shared. So often we use them, are entertained by them, or are forgetful of them. The Christian’s calling is to give, invest, and cultivate them.

So we gave the challenge to actually invest in relationships. To push past the shallow relationships of culture into real life-giving, God-finding, ones. The challenge for this week wasn’t for a week, or a day, or a month. But for a year. I challenged everyone to journey with at least two other people closely for a year. To choose to invest in relationships. To choose to find God in relationships. To choose to see the sacred and give like Jesus in relationships. Because what I know is this, that without relationships life dries up. But with deep relationships life bursts, spills over, and changes everything.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Relationships are sacred and need to be shared

Teaching Points:

  • 3 Marks of Christians: Love God, Love Others, Love the World
  • Our connections have grown broader, but shallower. Jen Pollock Michel
  • Our deep desire is to be known and to be loved.
  • Developing deep friendships isn’t helpful in following Jesus, it’s necessary if you want to follow Jesus.
  • “Our relationships are the very field, the very place where God is encountered” Andrew Root
  • Relationships aren’t a part of life, Relationships are life
  • Relationships aren’t tangential to our existence, we only exist because of relationships
  • Jesus is self-giving, self-emptying, self-sharing love and relationship
  • Many people now don’t have friends for decades, they have them while it,s convenient.
  • Relationships are places where lives are changed
  • Relationships are not shared interests, but shared connections.
  • “Everything changes because you share in her life and she shares in yours; you dwell with her and she with you. It is sheer grace” – Andrew Root

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What relationships have impacted you most? Which relationships do you have now that are closest? Which relationships do you need to invest in more? How have you seen God move in and through the relationships around you? Who can you journey with for the year?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today, rather than talking about relationships with your kids, invest in them. Ask them what they’d like to do, make it something special and build some experiences and memories. Focus on giving in the time, and be like Jesus emptying yourself for your kids.

Challenge for the Week: To pray about 2 people to journey with for the year.

Relationships are a Gift

11902299_10156224974260643_6658475204855145602_n

Sunday is a bit of a special day for me. We will be dedicating our beautiful little girl on her 1st Birthday. And one of the great benefits of being a pastor is that when your child is dedicated you also get to preach.

So what I’ve done with our other kids, is to preach a sermon geared to them.

For my special little girl, I’m going to be talking about relationships.

Because here is the thing – relationships are sacred and special things. But they are also so prevalent and so infected by self-interest that we forget that. We so often use relationships for entertainment, our own needs, or self-interest that we forget the biggest thing about them.

Relationships are a gift – and that’s what I want to explore.

The truth is Eden doesn’t “do” a lot for me in any tangible sense of things. She can’t get me a drink, and I spend a lot of time caring for her needs. But because relationships aren’t about “meeting needs” but spaces where grace happen, she has changed me. Because she is a gift, and all good gifts are life-changing.

So that’s where we are going but before we get there take a moment to think through this important question:

Are there any relationships you’ve been neglecting? 

It happens so easily, and so quickly. And if you’re tempted to skip past that question or are too busy then there are probably relationships that you might have skipped past in your busyness. So think it through and change it because relationships are gifts. Gifts of grace, God, and life.

Science, Relationships, and Spirituality: 5-1 Rule

On Sunday we looked at what’s called the 5-1 Rule. How our brains are wired for negativity, and we need at least 5 positive interactions to cancel out 1 negative interaction. The interesting thing is that’s actually what we see in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

Prior to Paul giving some pretty specific instructions in chapters 4, 5, and 6 (don’t steal, treat your spouse well, etc) Paul affirms the good in the Ephesians first. Paul begins building them up and reminding them who they are, before turning to what they need to do differently.

And that one difference, can make all the difference.

We tend to jump to the negative, but that’s not the example of Paul in Ephesians. Paul starts with the good in people, not the bad. Paul reminds them of who they are before telling them what to do. Paul in essence follows the 5-1 ratio or rule. He certainly addresses concerns, but not before affirming and caring for who they are.

And I think that one little insight can help so many of our relationships.

What if before nagging – we stopped to do some caring? What if before confronting – we did some affirming? What if before judging – we actually did some loving?

I think if we focused on following Paul in this, not only would our lives be different, but our relationships healthier, whole, and better.

Big Idea: Practice the 5-1 Rule

Teaching Notes:

  • Every relationship has expectation gaps
  • Before bringing up the negative, Paul shares the positive.
  • Paul starts with the good in people, not the bad
  • Before Paul tells them what to do, he tells them who they are.
  • Science has taught us what is called “The Brain’s Negativity Bias
  • The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” Rick Hanson
  • affirm the good, before bringing up the bad

Questions for Discussion:

What was funny or new? How did God speak to you through the sermon? Have you ever thought about an idea like the 5-1 rule before? Are you prone to start with good or bad? How can you put this rule into practice this week?

Questions for Young Families:

Rather than talking about the today, show it. Do something for your kids to affirm their goodness.

Challenge for the Week:

Practice the 5-1 Rule.

Science, Relationships, and Spirituality: This is Your Brain in Anger

AngerOn Sunday we took a look at the surprising connections between science, the Bible, and our relationships. We looked specifically at what happens when we get angry or enter into conflict and how while our physical systems are amazingly designed to avoid physical danger, they sometimes increase our emotional danger.

Here’s what we learned. That when we encounter or perceive danger we enter into a flight or fight response. This response does a few things: it short-circuits our higher level thinking and shuts it down, it dumps a bunch of chemicals into our system to fight or flight, and it reacts sometimes instantly.

And now this system is amazing for us to respond to physical threats: like a snake that we jump away from, or a falling rock we instantly respond to. This system though is not as amazing when it comes to social threats such as criticism, emotional hurt, or intense arguments.

Our fight or flight response can “hijack” our higher level thinking in these moments and we can end up either shutting down or becoming very aggressive. We talked about the different physiological responses, but asked a very simple question: how do we overcome this? Because we all have probably been in fights and in that state where we’ve said things we regretted (fight), or not said the things we should have (flight). So what do we do?

Well we looked at three concrete biblical steps, that amazingly correspond to science as well. The first is something we can do to help prevent being “hijacked” by our emotional response, and that this: to let heaven fill your thoughts. The truth is what we fill our minds with leave traces and predispositions. So if your mind is filled with negativity, junk, anger, and rehearsing of hurts, we are actually encouraging those very things. So Paul gives some very practical advice, “Let heaven fill your thoughts”. Focus on the things that are good, healthy, true, and life-giving. Focus on the truth of the gospel, and let that fill our minds more than the normal stress, anger, and hurt we carry.

The second thing we noticed is that when we feel that “fight or flight” response coming on, we can shut it down. Sometimes it builds, and it is possible to actually exercise self-control. We talked about how the Holy Spirit can give us self-control and how to pray for it, and practice it.

And last but not least, we talked about what to do when we’ve had a really in-depth hurtful argument. Solomon gives this really wise advice. He says this: Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back (Proverbs 29:11). And what he means here is not to deny your anger or your hurt, but not to actually vent it all around.

Venting your anger all around doesn’t actually lessen, but encourages it. When we have difficult conversations our tendency is to share and spread it, rather than dealing with it. And when we do that, we get angry and in the flight or fight response…again. So Solomon gives this wise advice: don’t spread it, deal with it. Don’t put it on Facebook, process it. Don’t keep repeating it, own it.

So those are some of the connections we looked at, and ended with a simple challenge: deal with and prevent anger and conflict. Take these steps and try to put them into practice to not only seek to prevent extra anger and conflict, but to deal with it when it happens.

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Our brains and bodies are complex and amazing

Teaching Points:

  • The amygdala perceives and responds to danger around us
  • The amygdala is incredibly fast but it’s actually not all that discerning
  • Two reactions: fight or flight.
  • Hijacking is when our emotional state shuts down our higher reasoning.
  • Let heaven fills your thoughts…
  • Pray for Self-Control and Practice Self-Control
  • Deal with anger, don’t vent it.

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? Which type of response do you most often do – fight or flight? Can you relate to any of the examples shared? Have you ever seen how venting anger can make things worse? When and how? Is there anger that you need to deal with? Who can help you with that?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today use our learning to help with your kids. If they get upset remember it can take a while for them to re-centre. Give them space and encourage them even when things get angry and hard.

Challenge for the Week: Deal with and prevent anger.

Science, Relationships, and Spirituality

Well on Sunday we are launching a new little two-week series called: Science, Relationships, and Spirituality.

What we are going to be looking at are some of the surprising connections between current science, the relationships you have, and the ancient wisdom of the Bible. We will be looking at the neurology of anger, and the brain. We’ll be looking at social psychology and how negativity lingers in relationships, and how you can overcome it. We’ll be looking at all sorts of cool little connections.

So I hope you can join us to learn a little about our world, a lot about relationships, and most of all, what the Bible says on how to improve them.

Anger

“Hudson why are my arms so long?”

Today I want to talk a little bit about a picture my son Hudson drew. Because it’s really meaningful to me, but also revealing of something to me too. Here it is:

11011097_10155314245870328_5885636940752658802_n

He drew this during his quiet time, came and gave it to me, and said, “Daddy that’s a picture of you and me hugging.” Melt your heart type of stuff as a dad.

But it got me thinking – when did we stop doing this?

When did we grow out of doing this?

We so often take the closest relationships to us for granted, rather than cherishing them. That’s what Hudson was doing. He was trying to show me that our relationship matters to him. He was trying to show me that he loves me. He was trying to show me that he thinks about me and appreciates  me. When did we stop doing that for others?

So often our tendency is to neglect or take for granted those closest to us. We don’t send thank you notes to our spouses, but we do to our employees. We don’t send flowers to our parents, but we do to our friends or new potential clients. What I’m saying is that somewhere along the way we maybe have lost something that kids seem to intrinsically know. That relationships are to be appreciated. Appreciated through gifts, cards, thoughts, actions, flowers, and of course, drawings with long arms and hockey stick feet.

So my challenge for all of us is this: to learn from the kids around you and appreciate your closest relationships – and here is the key – make sure they know it. Do something special today for them and appreciate them.

Because sometimes a little thing, like a drawing during quiet time, can just make your day.

Why Relationships Aren’t To Be Used but Cherished, and Why we Do It

801380_47406908Today I want to talk about the thing that is killing the church. And no it’s not bad theology, or that people don’t read their Bibles enough. These are important, but I think the thing that is killing the church is much more subtle. And it’s this: We use people.

We use people, we see people as leverage, and we see people as a means to our ends. Let me unpack that a little bit because it is important, dare I say critical too.

In essence, I think the trouble with the church is that we don’t love people deeply enough. We love who they can be or what they can do for us, but not who they are right now. We love the fact that they can change this light fixture, run this program, or give to this ministry. But do we simply first and foremost love them for who they are, before they contribute or do anything? Do we love them because they are worth loving?

And this is a subtle thing but a really key thing. Because we are called to love people where they are at, and not for what they can do, or even who they can become.

And this issue has even infected and affected our evangelism. Evangelism is literally sharing the good news about Jesus. This is a beautiful thing. But here is what can subtly happen – we make friends with them so they can come to know Jesus, and share Jesus with them. Rather than making friends because we think they are worth loving and caring.

And this happens all the time, and people see it, feel it, and know it. If you are nice to neighbors just so they will come to church, or come to know Jesus that’s just down-right wrong.

Yes I said wrong, and here is why. Because in that situation we are loving and caring for our neighbors just for our own agenda (going to church or accepting Jesus). Is that agenda good? Absolutely I believe deeply in the church and think Jesus is the hope of the world. But, and here is the kicker, it is still an agenda, even though it’s a good one. But love cares for people without an agenda. You don’t love your kids so that they will accept Jesus (but of course you pray they will). You love your kids because they are worth loving – and we need to live that way with everyone. People can know and sense if we love them, or if we love the “future them” they can become. But that’s using people, and not loving people. To love people you need to love who they are – right here and right now. God moves always in the present, and love is grounded in the present.

Andrew Root puts it this way:

Relationships in ministry are so significant not for what they get us but because they become the concrete yet mysterious places where the divine and human come together. Andrew Root

So what if we stop approaching the people in our church, our neighborhoods, or our community for what they can do for us – or for what we think is best for them. What if we love them where they are at, no agendas or strings attached, knowing that in that place Jesus is moving. What if we deeply practice love and just see what Jesus will do in and through that? Do I pray and hope that my friends and neighbors come to know Jesus – absolutely. He’s the biggest change in my life, and the reason I live my life the way I do. But I love my friends and neighbors first for who they are – people worth loving – and not for who they might become or do for me. And that small difference, makes all the difference.

In short, what I’m trying to say is this: relationships are to be cherished, not to be used. And I think this is something the church needs to learn if it is going to thrive. You know if someone loves you or what they can do for you. And that one subtle difference is something; the difference between a life-giving relationship, and a shallow fake relationship. And if the church is about anything it’s about deep relationships with each other, the world, and most of all, God. So let’s learn to love without an agenda.

I’d Rather Have Moments Not Hours or Days

10527813_10154423790180643_4129971613227994834_nI was listening to music the other day, and I heard this one line that really spoke to me. It just stopped me as so true. I’ve listened to this song multiple times, but for the first time I heard it. The line was this:

Give me moments, just give me moments, not hours or days.

And here is what I think that line means and why it matters. Life is not made up of hours or days lived, but moments experienced. Moments and memories give life depth, not just hours and days. And we have many little clichéd sayings that pick up on this theme (i.e. life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by every moment that takes your breath away) The problem with clichés is that they are actually true, but are so true and familiar that they’ve lost their meaning. We forget they are true, we skip over them even though we know they matter.

We all know a deep moment with your spouse, your kid, or with God matters deeply.  But we often settle for hours and days spent in the same space with our spouse, kids, or God rather than moments actually with them.

So here is my challenge for you just today, have a moment today.

– Have a moment with your kids.

– Have a moment with your spouse.

– Have a moment with God

– Have a moment with friends

Why not focus on finding a moment that matters today. Because that line is true, we need moments not just hours or days. Moments that matter and last.

I found this picture from the summer of me and Hudson. That’s a moment I’ll remember for a long time. So why not focus on making some of those memories and  moments today, because in the end that’s what matters and lasts.

Comparison is a Killer

Donor-Management-Software-ComparisonOn Sunday we are going to be exploring a temptation that I think we all face that wrecks and ruins relationships. And it’s this: comparison.

The truth is comparison kills. Comparison kills relationships, friendships, our identity’s, our security, our hope, and our happiness. But rather than rooting out comparison we seek to win at comparison. We try to make sure our kids are just a bit better than those around us; that our careers are just a bit better than our friends; that our marriages, vacations, finances, cars, houses, whatever, are just a bit above those around us – so we feel like we are succeeding. As long as our Facebook, and Instagram feeds are a constant highlight real we feel secure.

On Sunday though we are going to look at where this type of living leads. And it is the common way of living. We want to make sure that we matter by evaluating ourselves in relation to everyone else. We measure our standing against those around us. But this doesn’t get us anywhere. It just makes us frantic, driven, and insecure.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday. But before we get there let me ask you a question that I think will free your life. Is there any area of your life where comparison is driving it forward?

Is comparison and competing driving your work life? Is it driving your parenting? It is driving your spending? Is there any area where comparison is driving your life forward?

I think this is a question worth reflecting on, because wherever comparison is controlling, difficulty isn’t far behind. So are there any areas in your life where comparison rather than contentment is the guiding force?

And if so, come Sunday we’re going to look at a different way to live.

Instant Coffee…Instant Friends?

888721_42041444So a few weeks ago my neighbour showed up late on Sunday night, just to talk and hang out. It was great, a lot of fun, he is a really funny guy. But something stuck out to me after he left.  One year ago this would never have happened. It just wouldn’t. It wasn’t that we didn’t like each other, it just wouldn’t have happened. Some things take time.
The point is this, that as a culture we are obsessed with speed. We want our phones to be LTE or 9G or whatever’s the fastest now. We want instant streaming, short posts, quick updates, and most of our desires responded to instantly. I’m not saying that speed is bad, but there are a few things that don’t respond well to speed. The primary one is relationships. Relationships cannot happen instantly. Accepting a friend on Facebook doesn’t instantly make them a true friend. Friendships grow slowly over time. And it’s only with time that they grow.
The reason I bring this is up is because my neighbour would never have come over a year ago because it takes time to get to know people. And while Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all help friendships grow – the main way they do is through intentional time. So the question I have for us with our friendships is, “Are we giving them time to grow?” Are we investing in the neighbours, community, and co-workers God has placed in our lives? Are we caring for our friends…really? Are we giving them our attention and time?”
The one thing we cannot get more of is time. So I think it’s the one thing that is worth giving to those friends around us. So today who can you give your time to? Who can you invest in? Because to be honest, there isn’t much better than good friends, randomly showing up, and hanging out.