4 Books: 4 Questions ~ The Gospel of John, Mystics, Mystery, and Connections

mystic-water-1410939On Sunday we opened up the beautiful poetic, mystical, and masterful book of John. John is a beautiful book about deeply connecting and communing with Jesus. John is about fully becoming one with Jesus experiencing his joy and his connection. And John uses all of these metaphors to speak of it: being born again (John 3), having springs of living water (John 4), partaking the bread of life (John 6), connecting to the vine (John 15), being one with the divine life (John 17), and breathing the breathe of the divine (John 20).

John wants to push us past our normal expectations and to remind us that we can fully connect with Jesus.

And one of the phrases John uses is “eternal life”.

When we hear this verse we most often think of the future. We think of something that happens after death. We think of something that will happen out there, not right here and right now.

But in reality that’s not what the word means. Eternal life surely does mean life after death, but it also means life right here right now. Its about expierenicng life that lasts into the future but start right here in the present. And John wants us to accept Jesus so we can experience this life now, that lasts and lingers into the future. John is all about us fully experiencing life abundant right here right now. In fact, Jesus says that in John 10:10.

But because we think eternal life is about the future we miss what we can have in the present. A real life deep and boundary breaking experience with the risen Christ.

Eugene Peterson gets at this point well when he translates John 3:16 as, “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life” Anyone can have a whole and lasting life, now that leads to lasting life in the future but it starts today.

So what was the main point? Well its was simple – you can experience Jesus fully if you submit to him. That was it. Pure and simple. You can connect with Jesus. You can be changed by Jesus. You can have and experience that goes beyond what you think. You can be filled with living water, the bread of life, connected to the vine, breathing the breath of the Spirit. This is a possibility for all of us who want to follow and submit to Jesus.

So we ended not with more theology, because at a point all words break down. And we ended with practice. We ended with a traditional Christian practice for fully experiencing Jesus. We ended with communion, inviting all who want to experience Jesus to come forward. To have the bread of heaven, and the cup of salvation. To experience God in their present that lasts into the future. Because that’s’ what John is about. And may you experience Jesus in your life now, experiencing the life that is whole and lasts into the future. May you know the Spirit within you, and encounter the risen Christ in such a way that you are left changed.

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: You can experience Jesus fully, if you submit to him. 

Teaching Points:

  • John’s about connecting and communing with Jesus
  • Eternal life is popularly understood about the future
  • This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. John 3:16
  • “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God”. St. Irenaeus
  • We cannot shrink the gospel to what we are comfortable with
  • But he himself that justifies also deifies, for by justifying he makes sons of God. ‘For he has given them power to become the sons of God’ If then we have been made sons of god, we have also been made gods. St. Augustine
  • You can experience Jesus fully, if you submit to him.
  • if you submit to Jesus, if you accept him, you can experience him.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you ever thought about the gospels being different before? Are you comfortable with mystical experiences? Why do you think John believes they are so important? How have you connected and experienced Jesus in the past? How might you continue to experience him in the future and stay connected to him?

Challenge for the Week: Experience and connect with Jesus.

4 Books: 4 Questions ~ The Gospel of Luke, Baptisms, and Filling with the Spirit

holy-spirit-1315165On Sunday we heard really two messages: first, testimonies from baptism, and a short message from me. The truth is the baptism stories and personal sharing were the best. They are always the best.

But I also offered a few short thoughts on the book of Luke. We are in the midst of a series looking at the different books of the Bible from a high level and seeing what and who were the writing to and why? Luke is an investigator and a historian looking into the stories of Jesus and compiling them. But the point for Luke isn’t just history, but transformation. Joel Green writes this, “He did not, however, intend to provide just a historical justification of the Christian faith – ‘did it happen?’ – but to encourage faith – ‘what happened, and what does it all mean?’” And that’s what we looked at – what does it all mean?

And I think the point of Luke (and Acts which he also wrote) is really to encourage us to walk in service, sacrifice, and maturity. Luke is a book filled with a practical model for how we are to  follow Jesus. It’s like Luke outlines the first few acts in a play, and then encourages us to finish the play in line with what’s been laid down. And part of what Luke really recognizes is that to step out in service and sacrifice we need the Holy Spirit.

So we took sometime looking at the Baptism of Jesus and the Holy Spirit Baptism in Acts 2. And what we noticed was that the Holy Spirit fills people, and empowers people to share his Good News. That if we want to walk in maturity and service to the world we need to be filled with God’s Spirit that allows us to follow. We need the Spirit to truly serve and sacrifice.

So we ended with this simple main point from Luke: To serve and sacrifice we all need to encounter and experience a fresh filling of the Spirit. We all need the Spirit to continually fill us. So we ended with a time for prayer for being filled with the Spirit, and cheering on baptisms as people were filled deeper with the Spirit than ever before.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaTo serve and sacrifice we all need to encounter and experience a fresh filling of the Spirit,

Teaching Points:

  • What should we do?
  • Luke is about courageously following God, in service and sacrifice
  • The Holy Spirit fills people, and empowers people to share his Good News

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you ever thought about the gospels being different before? What stood our to you from the testimonies? Have you ever experienced the Holy Spirit in a strong way before? Why do you think we need the Spirit to serve the world deeper and fuller? How can you continue to ensure you are filled deeper and deeper with the Spirit?

Challenge for the Week: Be filled with the Spirit and step out and serve.

4 Books: 4 Questions ~ The Book of Mark, Darkness, and Finding Hope

candle-in-dark-1193478-1280x960On Sunday we continued our series looking at the different gospels, why they were written and what are some of the “big themes” we can get from them. And on Sunday we looked at the gospel of Mark and the reality of darkness. Because in many ways if you read the book of Mark what you realize is this: it’s face, it’s punchy, and it’s actually pretty dark.

We normally think of the gospels as all light, and nice – but Mark has a dark undercurrent to it. And I think this is because Mark was writing to a very dark and difficult context.

Many scholars agree that Mark was most likely written to the church in Rome. A church that was going through deep persecution. A church that was suffering and having friends ripped from their arms, dragged into the coliseum to be ripped apart by wild dogs, or lit up as torches for garden parties for the Emperor Nero (Google Tactius to read his account of it). So it’s into this setting that Mark writes and seeks to bring hope.

What I think you’ll notice if you read is that Mark doesn’t shy away from the darkness that is a reality in the life of faith. We actually find Peter saying to Jesus in Mark 8, that since Jesus is the Messiah he will not struggle, experience death, or any seeming defeat. But Jesus turns around and tells Peter that – that view is satanic. Jesus is implicitly teaching that sometimes a necessary part of faith and following him will be to encounter and go through times of difficulty, darkness, and even death. The life of faith doesn’t preserve you from experiencing those things, the life of faith gets you through those things.

So on Sunday we looked at how Mark doesn’t deny the difficulty we face in life, but he also doesn’t ever say that difficulty, death, or darkness get the last word. Mark walks this fine line between accepting the reality of difficulty, but not the ultimacy of difficulty. And this is something that I believe is really helpful for any of us who grow through tough times. That yes we will face darkness, but we can get through it.

That was actually our main point on Sunday: that yes we will encounter darkness, difficulty, and death but we can get through it. That darkness and difficulty even when seemingly invincible and powerful, don’t get the last word. That’s the teaching of Mark. That we need not deny the reality we are facing, but also we don’t need to give into it as all-powerful either.

So on Sunday we moved to applying this to our lives in a few specific ways. If you are in a good place, then our calling is to remember the message of Mark because life has a habit of taking us into difficult places. And if we are in a tough place to follow the example of Jesus in Mark 8 where we name the darkness we are facing, we bring others into it (widen the circle) for support, and hold onto hope in the midst of it. That’s part of what I think the message of Mark is about – hope in the dark.

So we closed with this well known quote from Vaclav Havel that I appreciate and I think Mark would as well:

Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world. Hope is not a prognostication—it’s an orientation of the spirit. Hope is definitely NOT the same as optimism. It’s not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is hope, above all, that gives us strength to live even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now. In the face of this absurdity, life is too precious a thing to permit its devaluation by living pointlessly, emptily, without meaning, without love, and, finally, without hope.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We will encounter darkness, but we can get through it.

Teaching Points:

  • Mark has an urgent message.
  • There is darkness in the life of faith.
  • We will encounter darkness, but we can get through it.
  • Faith isn’t about preserving you from difficulty, darkness, or death; faith is what gets you through it.
  • In the end nothing you go through will be wasted.
  • Life has a habit of becoming difficult when we least expect it, and are least prepared for it.
  • Remember the message of Mark.
  • To name and accept the darkness you’re facing.
  • Jesus widens the circle.
  • Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world – Vaclav Havel

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you ever thought about the gospels being different before? How does knowing some of the context change things? Would you say you are more likely to deny difficulty, or obsess about it? How does knowing that a gospel really acknowledges the difficult parts of life encourage you? Are you in any difficulty right now? What do you need to name? Who can support you? How can you hold onto hope?

Challenge for the Week: Name the darkness, share your struggle with another person, hold onto hope in the midst of it.

4 Books: 4 Questions ~ The Book of Matthew, Change, and Courage

saint-matthew-1147134-1279x1057On Sunday we started our series looking at each of the gospels and why they are written the way they are. Because each gospel is wrote with a different purpose, context, and audience – and we need all 4. Life is complex and we cannot reduce the gospels down to “one story”. Instead, we have one story told from four perspectives and we need all 4.

So on Sunday we looked at the gospel of Matthew.

We learned that it was most likely written to Jewish Christians. We can tell this by how Matthew never explains Jewish customs (like Mark), grounds Jesus’ ministry with echoes to Moses and Abraham (unlike Luke who grounds it in Adam), and focuses in on Jewish questions of how to live.

From this we learned though why this might be so important in that day and age. We learned how the temple was destroyed in AD 70 and how Jospehus writes that millions were killed, and “Most of the victims were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever they were caught. Round the Altar the heaps of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom”.

And while that is certainly brutal, here is why it matters. The Jewish world was utterly rocked by the destruction of the temple. The Jewish way of life as was known was over, and they faced tremendous change, uncertainty, and confusion. And it’s into this milieu that Matthew writes. Matthew writes to a group of Jewish Christians whose way of life has been so utterly compromised that they can’t see the way forward

So Matthew writes about moving through change and confusion.

While we looked at some high level themes, we really landed on the story of Peter walking on the water, and how this story would be so helpful to a group of people processing change. Peter, in the midst of darkness, uncertainty, and confusion does something crazy. He steps further into the unknown. He actually moves further away from what little safety and security remained for him and stepped out into the wind and the waves. He places all his faith, and trust in Jesus and with courage steps out.

And I think this is Matthew’s point commented on in various ways throughout the gospel: the way we get through change is courage and trust in Jesus. 

That’s how we move through the wind, waves, and sea of chaos and uncertainty. And while the temple being destroyed doesn’t change many of our Western lives, we all have our own temples that we rely on. Whether these temples are faith, jobs, health, or wealth they occasionally crumble and seem to crack. And Matthew’s word for us to trust and have courage in the face of uncertainty. Matthew’s words for us when the world is falling apart to step further out in trust with Jesus and follow with courage. Matthew’s message isn’t to huddle in the boat, trying to keep the thing together, but to step out with trust. And that’s where we ended too. Asking us all to take a step of trust.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaFace change with courage and trust.

Teaching Points:

  • We have 4 gospels and need all four.
  • The Gospels tell us how the early church told the story of Jesus in four different contexts – Michael Hardin
  • Matthew is about how to face and deal with change.
  • We still have our own “temples” today.
  • I have no certainty about my future, and you might not either.
  • A theme of Matthew is to have courage and trust.
  • Face change with courage and trust.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you ever thought about the gospels being different before? How does knowing some of the context change things? Are you in the midst of facing any change? What excites you, or worries you about it? What might “stepping” out of the boat look like? How can you be sure to remain focused on Jesus?

Challenge for the Week: To ask Jesus to call you out of the boat, and step out with courage and trust.

Church with a Mission

[Guest Post] Church With A Mission

This Sunday we looked at the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) in relation to our recent celebration of Easter. Easter is amazing news! It gives hope through connecting us to Jesus – the personal, living, eternal Saviour. He is “God with us”. We have new life and a new relationship with God when we trust in Jesus!

God also gives Christians a new mission – another wonderful gift to praise Him for! This mission is to make disciples of all people groups, meaning: love others in a way that you may help them connect to God and walk with Him as you do. It is God’s desire that all people on Earth might know Him, and He has invited us to be part of this huge mission! Thankfully we have a huge Saviour that makes this mission possible!
God has demonstrated his love for us in sending Jesus into the world – that whoever believes in him might live eternally and not be destroyed by death. Our salvation was bought at great cost: Jesus’ own suffering and death! In God’s mind, the opportunity for us to be back with Him, safe and sound, is worth all he can give.
Let us consider how unimaginable God’s love is for us. May the Holy Spirit help us to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18-19). May we take time to worship and thank God today for his love. May it be this incredible love of God that we take to our coworkers, our kids, and our neighbours this week. And may it be this love that motivates all Christians together to make disciples of the entire world, literally.

Easter: The Centre of the Universe

easter-lily-1-1398769-1600x1200On Sunday we looked at the different stories we orient our lives around. The truth is life can turn dark quick sometimes. The truth is that life can be difficult: relationships can fail, jobs can be lost, and disaster can happen. And when that happens it becomes so easy and tempting to believe that the universe isn’t a generous place, that God is maybe not good, or that things will keep on getting darker and darker.

And that’s what we wanted to really examine and also challenge: that I don’t believe hurt, fear, or darkness is at the centre of the universe. And to do that we looked at Colossians 1 where we read this:

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

And this passage can manage to offend just about everyone. Paul begins reminding us that we are all broken. We are all sinful, and we are all hostile towards God. Whether we recognize it or not, we are broken. But Paul knows this but he doesn’t end there. Paul says that yes we are enemies of God separated by our evil thoughts and actions, but God takes an amazing step.

Paul says God responds to this enmity and hostility by reconciling everything and everyone to him through the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul says that all of creation is redeemed and reconciled to Jesus because of his depth of his obedience in and through the cross. Paul says that we are all included. That we are holy, blameless, and standing before God without a fault.

And this is so life changing, so world altering, it can only be called Good News.

The truth is that at the centre of the universe isn’t random chance, at the centre of the universe isn’t hate, at the centre of the universe isn’t disaster or difficulty.

At the centre of the universe is love.

At the centre of the universe is a God that is for you, not against you. A God that gives up all he has to bridge the gap between us. A God that holds nothing back to welcome you, to include you, to bring you into his family, his love, and his grace. This is the news that has changed the world and it does this by changing people. Its changed me, and billions of others throughout the centuries. And on Sunday I wanted to remind us of a story we so often forget: that love is at the centre of the universe.

Michael Gungor says, “Faith comes from listening to the right stories”

And so often it’s so easy to listen to the wrong or damaging stories: that hurt is around the corner, chance is the arbiter of fate, or that things will get worse and worse. But that is not the story of the gospel, the story of the gospel is that you are holy, blameless, and standing before God. This is the message of hope that we need to hold onto, that needs to shape our lives, and that we can’t drift from.

So Sunday all we sought to do was to remind ourselves of the good news: that love is at the centre of the universe. For those of us who have never heard this, we invited them to accept Jesus and this truth. And for those of us who have heard this, we invited us to never drift from this truth but to welcome and celebrate it. Because it is Good News that goodness is at the centre of the universe.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Love is at the heart of the universe

Teaching Points:

  • We all have at certain points the feeling that things aren’t going for us but against us
  •  “Faith comes from listening to the right stories.” – Michael Gungor
  • God is Jesusy
  • We are all broken and separated from God
  • Through Jesus everything is reconciled to God
  • God is for you not against you
  • The gospel is that the resurrection changes everything, and every single person.
  • I don’t care what you or anyone else have done in your life I care what Jesus has done for your life
  • Love is at the heart of the universe

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What did you think of the deer story? What would be your “deer story” where things just get worse and worse? Have you ever felt like hurt or difficulty is just around the corner? What “stories” are you trusting? How can believing that love is at the centre of the universe change your life? How can you ensure that you never drift form that good news?

Discussion Questions for Families:

Today talk to them about how easy it is to get scared, to have fear drive us, or to believe that things wont’ get better. But share with them the passage that the heart of the universe is a God who loves us and is for us.

Challenge for the Week: Trust that God is for you not against you.

Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 6 (RECAP)

Hey everyone – somehow this post and podcast was stuck in “draft” form for quite a while. So its from a couple of weeks ago. But if you missed it here is what happened!

Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 6: Prophet Killers, and Rejecting the Truth

On Sunday we continued in our series looking at how Jesus calls the religious elite of his day to follow God his way. And that’s a message we still need.

So on Sunday we looked at his last “woe” where Jesus essentially condemns the religious leaders as being like their ancestors – people who killed the prophets.

Now the prophets in the Old Testament weren’t so much future tellers, as “forth-tellers” ~ telling the truth to people in power. And this is what got them killed, and it will still get you killed today. The prophets stood up to the kings and powerful and called them out for trusting in military power (horses and chariots), for neglecting the poor, and treating the immigrant and foreigner wrongly. The prophets essentially took the reality of their lives and brought it before the powerful and said, “you are obligated to address this” and if you don’t God’s judgment will come upon you.

And Jesus standing in that tradition comes to the Pharisees and does the same thing. He says that by rejecting him and his message of Good News for the poor and hurting, they are rejecting God and being like those who killed the prophets of old. Jesus says that if they continue to reject the poor, forget about mercy, and neglect justice that judgement and even hell itself will be their destiny.

But here is the interesting part – this isn’t what Jesus wants. Jesus in the passage makes it very clear that what he really wants is to gather them together, like a mother hen, to care and protect. But because the Pharisees reject him, and the truth he brings – they also reject his protection. That when we reject Jesus, we are left all alone with the consequences of our sin. And that’s what happens to the Pharisees – they reject Jesus and suffer the consequences of their own sin.

But here is the hopeful part – we don’t need to make the same choice. We can learn from the example of the Pharisees how hard it is to listen to truth from God, how hard it is to value justice, how hard it is to practice love for the lowly, but how absolutely necessary it is.

So on Sunday we ended with this main point: The Pharisees missed the point, but we can listen and hear Jesus.

Jesus didn’t want destruction, difficulty, and judgement to come upon the Pharisees, but it did because of their rejection of him. Because whenever you miss God’s voice difficulty is on the horizon. But whenever you listen hope is on the horizon

So we ended with a challenge: to listen to Jesus. To actually sit and be open to Jesus, and invite him to speak at least daily into our lives. To let him shape us, and bring up some of the areas we need to change. The truth is hard to hear, but if we want to be gathered together, live like Jesus, and experience his care and comfort we cannot reject him and his way of life. And that begins with hearing and listening.

So on Sunday we had one challenge: To once a day for just 5 minutes a day sit, be open to Jesus, and invite Jesus to speak

Because we each have a choice. A choice to listen and to respond, or not. And that choice can make all the difference.

Sermon Notes: 

Big Idea: The Pharisees missed the point, but we have a choice, we don’t have to.

Teaching Points:

  • Prophets told the truth
  • Your present reality is dictating your future
  • Jesus isn’t angry with how they relate to God, but to those around them
  • God isn’t impressed with religion, and he still isn’t if you ignore the people he sends to direct you and the people you are to care for
  • When we reject Jesus we are left with the consequences of our sin on our own
  • the heart of Jesus is still grace
  • Whenever you miss God’s voice difficulty is on the horizon but whenever you listen hope is on the horizon
  • The first step to hearing Jesus is opening yourself to Jesus
  • Invite Jesus to speak to us and change us

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Why do you think that hearing the truth is so hard? What “rises up” or reaction do you have to when someone tries to share with you “the truth”? How have you maybe ignored Jesus in the past like the Pharisees? How can you ensure that you don’t miss or ignore Jesus now?

Challenge for the Week: To once a day for just 5 minutes a day sit, be open to Jesus, and invite Jesus to speak

Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 5: The Walking Dead, Corpses and Dead Hearts

TWD_PROLOGUE_TITLEOn Sunday we continued in our series realizing one key truth from Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees:

You can be good, you can be moral, you can even be religious and still miss the point

Our morality, and our religiosity is no guarantee that we are actually following the will of God. And this sounds controversial and challenging because it is. The Pharisees were moral, upstanding citizens, incredibly faithful and religious and missed the point. So we then as Christians need to take a hard look at our lives to ensure that we aren’t missing the point.

And we did that on Sunday through looking at one of the “woes” of Jesus. Jesus says this in Matthew 23, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

And while there is lots of contextual stuff going on here, here is the main point Jesus is making. Jesus is saying, you look good on the outside (like a tomb painted white) with all your good actions, but inside you are filled with death, decay, and disease. Jesus hits the Pharisees hard saying that while their outward actions are holy and good, their inner hearts are filled with impurity, hypocrisy, and lawlessness. That they may look good on the outside but inside it’s dark and diseases filled.

So rather than unpacking this theology more, I unpacked the reality of this more. I shared stories of how in my own life recently I’ve taken the right action, with the wrong heart. And how easy it is to be good, religious, and moral but miss the point. How right actions are not a guarantee of a pure heart.

And so we came to this point. We are all broken and need to acknowledge the places, areas, and parts of our hearts where we need Jesus. We cannot ever pretend we have it all so together that we don’t need Jesus. We need him, but we can use our religious activity as excuse to not allow him to challenge us, convict us, and shape us. So on Sunday we landed on this main point: we all need heart surgery. We all need Jesus to come in and cleanse our hearts, to convict us of our lack and brokenness and change us. The one thing we cannot do as Christians is to pretend we are so put together that we are no longer in need of Jesus and his cleansing.

So we closed on Sunday with a simple challenge. To sit and take a courageous moral inventory of the things that God might want to change in our lives. To sit and listen to the Spirit and what he might call out in us. Because while we might be moral and religious it’s no guarantee we aren’t missing the point. And the true point is that if we want to live like Jesus, we had better learn to listen to Jesus.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe all have junk within

Teaching Points:

  • You can be good, you can be moral, you can even be religious and still miss the point
  • Whitewashing was a signal that there was death within
  • People who look like they have it together, but deny their need of a saviour, denying that anything needs to change
  • It is so easy to hide behind religious actions.
  • We all need heart surgery

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? When have you done the right thing, but inside things were off? Why do you think we can do the right things, but still miss the point? Are you willing to do a courageous moral inventory? Who can help you to ensure not only that it happens, but that changes happen.

Discussion Questions for Families:

Today do something tough – model what you want to see in your family. Sit down and share with your kids or family some of the ways that you have failed with them. Maybe times when your heart wasn’t right. And then talk to them about how it’s important that we be honest with ourselves and with God about where we failed, and that’s how God changes us. Model what you want to see – honesty, and courageously owning your own stuff.

Challenge for the Week: Take a courageous moral inventory

Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 4: Cleaning the Dishes and Heart Transformations

clean-1445150So on Sunday we continued our series of Lent looking at the seven woes. And the “woe” we unpacked was this one from Jesus:

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish and then the outside will become clean too.

And here Jesus enters into a debate on the cleaning of cups. And there are lots of cultural things going on here that we unpacked on Sunday but the main point of Jesus really is this: having stuff clean on the outside (our actions, our religious rituals, our following the rules) doesn’t matter if inside we aren’t clean (our hearts, desires, and wants).

Jesus is trying to point out something that is obvious to anyone – you can do the right thing with the wrong motives and it misses the point. That your kids can clean their room not because you want them to, but because they want to to go to a party. Your employee can go above and beyond, not because they care, but because they want the weekend off. Your spouse can be all thoughtful and caring, for you to only realize they got in a fender bender. The point is that the right actions without the right heart is deadly. That what good is it if you do the right thing – but your heart and motives are off? What good is it if you follow all the rules of the Bible – but inside you are seething with greed, excess, and sinful desires? What good is the outside of a cup looking clean, if the inside is full of junk?

Jesus’ desire to move our focus from the outward to the inward and where the work needs to be done. Because here is the truth: all of our hearts are dirty and filled with junk. Everyone has some brokenness, some greed, some hurt, some pride, some agenda, some mixed motives and desires that need to be changed.

And the truth though is that following the rules doesn’t change our hearts. I know this because my kids sometimes follow the rules, but they aren’t doing them happily and their hearts remain unchanged. For our hearts to be changed we need an encounter, and an experiences specifically with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

So on Sunday we unpacked this main idea: that we all need a heart change, a heart transformation, and a heart cleansing.

And so to do this we took communion and took time to connect with Jesus. We took time and created space to ask for a heart cleansing, because that is what we all need. We all need some transformation from hurt to healing, from grime to grace, from hate to hope. And the way this happens isn’t by doubling down on following the rules, but doubling down on an encounter with Jesus. And that’s our challenge for the week: to have an encounter with Jesus that changes us. Because that’s where the magic is of following Jesus, not out of duty and legalism, but out of freedom with a new and changed heart.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe all need a heart change, a heart transformation, and a heart cleansing

Teaching Points:

  • “I think what Jesus is warning us about is that it’s entirely possible to be a religious, dedicated Christian, and yet totally miss the life-giving nature of a life centered squarely on his teachings. Some of us have exchanged Jesus for a Christian religion.” Benjamin Corey
  • The inner life is what matters.
  • Following the rules and the law doesn’t matter unless your heart is changed.
  • A heart change matters more than following the rules.
  • What God wants aren’t people who just follow the rulesGod wants people who have hearts like his.
  • Following the rules doesn’t change your heart.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Have you ever had an experience of someone “following the rules” for the wrong motives? How did it make you feel? Why don’t you think following the rules changes our hearts? How can Jesus change our hearts? How can we ensure that they stay changed?

Discussion Questions for Families:

Use the example I gave from Hudson, or maybe one from your own life to talk about motives. Talk about how we as parents love when our kids do the right thing, but more than that want to see the right heart. Ask them what the difference might be in simple and easy thing like dishes, like cleaning up toys, etc.

Challenge for the Week: Have a heart change

Lent: Seven Woes of Jesus ~ Week 3: Gnats, Mercy, and Cumin

spices-1-1523661-639x950On Sunday we looked at the fourth woe of Jesus. And in the fourth woe Jesus says this,

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel.

And here Jesus is confronting the religious leaders of his day for not living like God and for not prioritizing or orientating their lives in the way of God. The way they are living isn’t bringing them closer to God, or God closer to the world.

The truth is that if our religious energies go into the “minor” things rather than the “major” things of following God we can become an obstacle to God. And that is actually what Jesus is arguing that they are missing the more major, weightier, and important commandments. Apparently Jesus thinks some laws and commands matter more than others, and he’s right of course.

Jesus pulls an allusion to Micah saying what does God require mercy, justice, and faith. He says essentially what good is tithing your herb garden when you forget about the major things? What good is following the minor rules if you don’t get the major ones right?

And this is a really convicting and challenging teaching because here Jesus wants to change the metric of our holiness. Holiness isn’t about just following the rules, but which ones you actually prioritize and put the most effort into. Following Jesus is about the greatest commandments, mercy, faith, and justice.

So we ended with this main point: Some things matter more than others and we need to orient our lives around those things

The truth is we can be religious and still miss the point like the Pharisees. We need to have our lives orientated around the main things: faith, mercy, and justice like Jesus asks.

So we ended with a simple challenge. To sit and contemplate on this question:

Have I forgotten mercy, justice, or faithfulness?

Because that question matters. It matters to Jesus so it should matter to us.

So that’s what we did on Sunday, but it’s also worth doing right now, because whenever our lives major on the minors we are missing the point.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaSome things matter more than others and we need to orient our lives around those things

Teaching Points:

  • Their way of living will not bring them closer to God, or God closer to the world
  • Jesus believes some commands matter more than others.
  • The things we often measure our holiness and righteousness against aren’t always the things God is measuring.
  • It is so easy to neglect the most important things while keeping other religious things going.

 

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Have you practiced Lent before? Why or why not? Is there something you could give up this year for Lent? Have you ever considered that you might be “spiritually blind”? Can you think of other examples of “spiritual blindness”? Why is being spiritually blind so very  dangerous? Are there any areas you feel you might be blind to?

Challenge for the Week: God reveal the areas of blindness in me.