Sermons From the Vault

safe-1240163-1280x1920Okay so here is a good question to think about:

What are the top few lessons God has taught you in the past 5 years?

Take a moment and think about it. Because I believe that often what God teaches us in the past, is what is preparing us for his future. But the truth is this: we are quick to forget the lessons we learn. I know this is true of me, and I’m sure it’s probably true for you as well. That we learn something important, or really impactful but a few months go by and we forget or stop living that important truth out.

So here is what we want to do on Sunday. We are going to be looking back in our past for some of the key lessons God has taught us, so we can look forward into the future God has for us.

But before Sunday comes why not spend some time and think and pray about what God has taught you? Because remembering the lessons God teaches isn’t a waste of time, it’s how we grow.

Red Letters of the Bible

1366751_91583540On Sunday we looked at this statement from the “Sevenfold Way of Following Jesus” – I am learning the teachings of Jesus.

This is such an important part of following Jesus. Because how are we to follow Jesus if we don’t know what he taught, or how he lived? Learning the teachings of Jesus are absolutely crucial to follow Jesus well.

We cannot follow Jesus well if we are unsure, confused, or misinformed about what he taught and how he lived.

And I would also add this: that Whenever we, as Jesus followers, have neglected his teachings, disaster has happened. The Crusades, hate, persecution, and most certainly a lack of love.

So I believe we need to focus back in on the teachings of Jesus. Yet this can also be difficult, because while we tell people to read the Bible we don’t often teach them how.

So on Sunday I gave you three simple tips to read the Bible, that helps to find more out of it. The first is to pay attention not for information, but revelation. God is fully revealed in Jesus. So as you read the teachings of Jesus, what does this reveal about God? For example, holiness in Jesus is revealed not as separation, but incarnation. Very different things.

The second hint is to look for things to practice. Jesus himself says: “Whoever hears my words and puts them into practice is like a Wiseman” (Matt 7.24). So watch for things to put into practice that day. Rather than reading a chapter, read till God reveals something you need to practice that day. It shifts the point from information, to practice and it’s a good shift to happen.

And lastly, I shared how we should read, watching for how we can grow in “loving God” and “loving others”. Jesus when he summarizes the teaching of the Old Testament says, it all comes down to loving God and loving others. That’s the point. So when I read I watch for that: how does this help me love others and God better, deeper, and wholer. St. Augustine once wrote:

“So anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine Scriptures or any part of them but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them”

And I think that’s true. So I watch for what the text reveals about God, reveals about what I’m to practice, and reveals about how I’m to love God better. This helps me to focus in on it, and to better learn the teachings of Jesus. Because I know that the more I learn the teachings of Jesus the clearer God becomes, and the more my life reflects Jesus. So I gave this challenge: read the gospels everyday this week. That’s a probably good challenge for all of us for a week…or probably for a lifetime.

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: I am learning the teachings of Jesus

Teaching Points:

  • We do not drift into discipleship.
  • We cannot follow Jesus well if we are unsure, confused, or misinformed about what he taught and how he lived
  • Whenever we, as Jesus followers, have neglected his teachings of disaster has happened
  • Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9
  • Focus not on gaining information but revelation
  • Holiness is not separation from messiness
  • Rather than reading the Bible for information, read it for action
  • How does this help me to love God, or love others better?
  • We need to learn the teachings of Jesus
  • If we want to keep our identity, if we want a text to live by that keeps us in the company of God’s people, keeps us conversant with who he is and the way he works, we simply must eat this book…The blunt reality is that for all our sophistication, learning, and self-study we don’t know enough to run our lives. Eugene Peterson

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? What have been some of your struggles with reading the Bible? How might looking for things to practice help you in learning the teachings of Jesus? Why would you say learning the teachings of Jesus is important? Which teachings of Jesus stand out to you most?

Discussion Question for Families:

This week rather than asking questions, tell stories. Find a story of Jesus to tell each day and do that as a family, and let them ask questions and discover who Jesus is.

Challenge for the Week: This week everyday read some of the teachings of Jesus

Loving Enemies and Following Jesus

1336079_98421028So on Sunday we looked at a really difficult but defining teaching of Jesus: love your enemies. This is a defining teaching of Jesus because it should define us as his followers. As Jesus himself says, everyone in the world loves those who love them. That’s normal, that natural, and that’s easy. Christians are called to be different than those around us, but the way we love not just our neighbors but our enemies.

This is Jesus’ teaching. Love your enemies.

And he grounds this teaching in something so important for us. He grounds this teaching in his revelation of who the Father is. He says we are to love our enemies in Matthew 5:45 because this makes us true children of our Father. That just as the Father loves those who oppose him, how he sends rain and sunshine on the good and evil, and how he has particularity for grace ~ so should we as Christians. The point is that if God is about grace, forgiveness, and love of enemies, we too need to be as Christians. The truth is this: there is no room for hate in the Kingdom because there is no room for hate in God.

And we need to get this straight because our view of God shapes our behaviors. If we believe God is hateful, we become hateful. If we believe God is loving, we become loving. So Jesus grounds our behavior in our belief of a loving God.

We ended with the challenge to actually love our enemies. We recognized the ridiculousness of this. That it might not change our enemies, it won’t protect us from hurt, and it won’t be easy. It is though the way of the Kingdom. Bonhoeffer says this: “Jesus does not promise that when we bless our enemies and do good to them they will not despitefully use and persecute us. They certainly will. But not even that can  hurt or overcome us, so long as we pray for them.” Our love, prayer, and good deeds regardless of the change in our enemy needs to be our behavior. Bonhoeffer continues, “The will of God is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them. Am I asked how this love is to behave? Jesus gives the answer: bless, do good, and pray for your enemies without reserve and without respect of persons”.

And that’s how we ended the challenge from Jesus: pray for enemies, do good to enemies, and bless your enemies. Let’s just see what might happen in our world and our lives if we take Jesus’ teaching seriously.

What might happen if we actually lived it out?

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Love your enemies

Take Aways…

  • What if we actually did what Jesus said?
  • God is not a God of hate
  • If we are not clear on who God is we will not be clear on how to live.
  • If you have a false idea of God, the more religious you are the worse it is for you – it were better for you to be an atheist. William of Canterbury
  • You become the god, you follow.
  • Praying for an enemy and loving him will prove mutually reinforcing. The more love, the more prayer; the more prayer the more love. D.A. Carson
  • Love your enemies
  • Our enemies are not “people in general” but “personal people” we know and interact with.
  • Loving your enemies won’t make your life easier, better, or less problematic ~ it will make your life like Jesus’
  • Jesus was not crucified for saying or doing what made sense to everyone. Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas
  • The Christian principle ‘love your enemy is good … there is nothing to be said against it except that it is too difficult for most of us to practice sincerely. Bertrand Russell
  • Through the medium of prayer we go to the our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God. We are doing vicariously for them what they cannot for themselves. Every insult they utter only serves to bind us more closely to God and them. Bonhoeffer
  • Love your enemies.

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 did you find hardest about this teaching? What did you find compelling? Who right now is an enemy God might be calling you to love? How can you pray for them? How might you do good towards them? How can you bless them? Who can help support you in this and encourage you in loving your enemies? Whom can you support in their effort to love their enemies? How can you help them?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about today’s teaching. Talk to them about how there can be no hate in God’s kingdom. Ask them who they have as an enemy right now. Ask them if they’d like to pray for them and pray for them together.

Challenge for this Week: Love your enemies: do good, pray, and bless them.

 

 

Keeping the Rules can Keep You From God

On Sunday we are going to be looking at a super well-known teaching of Jesus but not some of its well-known implications. The teaching is the teaching of the Prodigal Son. So many people are familiar with this amazing story and teaching. But what most people, especially Christians, aren’t familiar with is some of the startling teaching that’s within it.

The startling teaching is this: that keeping all the rules can actually keep you from God.

That’s right, that following all the rules, obeying all of God’s commandments, can actually, in some circumstances, distance you from God. The reality is that not only does the prodigal son need forgiveness and acceptance by the Father in the story; but so too does the older righteous brother. Both sons in the story are lost and on1209888_22374533 Sunday we’ll discover how the one son is lost by breaking the rules, and the other is lost by keeping them.

This is a hugely important topic for us to reflect on, because it is easy to see how we create distance between God and us when we break the rules. It is really difficult for us to see how we create distance between God and us by how we follow the rules.

So on Sunday that’s where we’re going. And I know initially this idea, that keeping the rules can keep you from God might seem startling or even shocking – but it is true. Simply look at the Gospels and see that the people who kept the rules the best, (the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law) were often furthest from Jesus.

So the question is: how can keeping the rules get in the way of following God?

It’s worth thinking about and reflecting on before Sunday. Because if there is any distance between us and God, either by following or breaking the rules, we want to acknowledge it and close it.

Because one thing is clear in the parable of the prodigal son: it’s best to be inside the party with the Father.

Teaching My Son to Pray…

A few nights ago I had a really special moment with my son Hudson. I always pray over him every night before he goes to bed. In fact after I pray he often says, “again daddy”. And of course I pray again. What could be better for a parent?

Well I found “better” a few nights ago. As I was leaving his room he called out and said, “Wait Daddy”. So I came back and said “What’s up buddy?” He looked up at me and said, “Daddy I want to pray”. I was so happy and excited so I said, “of course you can pray. Why don’t you pray right now.” He looked down though and was kinda sad and said, “But I not know how…

And so I got the amazing privilege to teach my son how to pray because he wants to know how to pray. I told him how we pray to Jesus who is our friend. I told him how Jesus cares about all we care about and how he prays about those things. I told him how when we pray we give thanks for things too. And so he gave his first nighttime prayer a shot. Here is what he prayed,

“Dear Jesus, I pray for mommy and daddy, and thank you…them. I pray to not pee the bed. Amen”

Pretty great first nighttime prayer right?

But here is the point for us. Why is Hudson asking to learn to pray? Because he sees me do it every day with him. Because this is an action that has been modeled for him. This is why Jesus says, wise is the person who hears my words, and puts them into practice. This is why our faith is not about believing just the right things, but living a certain way. Because our practices show our beliefs. And so I got the amazing privilege of teaching my son to pray, because prayer has been a part of his life now for a while.

So the point is this: that if we want to pass along our faith, we need to start to practice it consistently. Because our friends, family, and neighbors notice. They see when you pray, when you bless someone, when you forgive and reach out. And as you do these things consistently they too might be like Hudson, saying, “Will you teach me” And trust me, there is nothing more beautiful than being able to teach your son how to connect with God.

So this week make sure you practice what you believe. Make sure you act and live out your faith with those around you. Who knows, maybe God will use your example and model to influence and change others. Because that’s what happened with me and Hudson.

Oh…and by the way…Jesus answered both our prayers that night and our little boy didn’t pee the bed…