The Gift of Limits

1395612_80122675Today I want to explore a little bit about what God gives in Genesis 1 and 2 to Adam and Eve. The first few chapters of Genesis are crucial for theology as we see the foundation for humanity, without the mark of sin. And what is interesting is that God gives Adam and Eve two things: responsibility and limitations. And let me say this, both are gifts.

God gives Adam and Eve responsibility, to be “fruitful and multiply” and steward the earth (Genesis 1:28). We are familiar with this part of the story; that they are given responsibilities and a task. And we understand this for our own lives. That God gives us gifts, abilities, and responsibilities that go along with those gifts. We are called to steward not only the earth, but our responsibilities well – and to increase the flourishing of life around us.

Yet God also does something very interesting. He sets limits. He gives Adam and Eve the garden to tend to, but sets very precise limits about its location and its boundaries (Genesis 2:10). And I think this is really something that we miss. God gives limits because limits are a blessing. We cannot be responsible for everything. We cannot do everything we want to. Responsibility reminds us of our calling to others, and limits reminds us of our need for others.

We cannot accomplish the calling of God upon our lives without both of these things, limits and boundaries, in equal play in our lives. If we live without limits we burn ourselves out, tend to use people, and forget we need others. If we live without responsibility we become a burden to others, self-centered, and destructive. We need to use our responsibility, but acknowledge our limits. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I can’t do more”. God gave limits to Adam and Eve in the garden before there was sin. Limits then are not a result of the fall, but a gift of God to remind us we need each other. I can’t do it all, and neither can you. We need one another.

So I think this is worth thinking about. To reflect on what responsibilities has God given you? And what limitations has he also given you? Who can you lean on when you come to your limits, and how might they help you to see a greater flourishing of life around you?

The point is this, limits aren’t a bad thing, they may be one of the biggest blessings God has given us if we would but acknowledge them.

Beatitudes, Blessing, and The Best Sermon Ever

1336079_98421028On Sunday we looked at the most beautiful sermon ever given…and of course it was given by Jesus. We looked at the Beatitudes found in Matthew. These are beautiful promises, pronouncements, and announcements that blessing is being given by God. That in God’s Kingdom blessing flows. The beautiful thing about the Beatitudes are that they aren’t extra to-dos. The Beatitudes aren’t telling us what more we need to do to be blessed. The Beatitudes are telling us that God is about blessing, and he is giving it free of charge. Are you poor in spirit – burn out and broken? Blessing is for you. Are you mourning – experiencing loss and hurt? Blessing is for you. Are you trying to show mercy in chaos? Blessing is for you. This is the radical nature of the Beatitudes and of our God. That he gives blessing regardless of whether we deserve it, can earn it, or even appreciate it. God is about blessing and life.

And so on Sunday we really tried to rest in this reality. To help to do this we read and listened to the Beatitudes. We simply sat and asked God to speak to us through his promises in the Beatitudes. To help with this I read a targum (an expanded and interpretation added version) of Matthew 5:3-10. I simply invited the church to ask God to speak to them through it. And I’m going to invite you to do the same. Why not sit, read, and ask God to speak to you through it. And of course, my hope is that you  might experience some of the blessing God wants to give.

God blesses those who realize their need for him, Because with less of you there is more room for God.  When you’re are at the end of your rope, and your strength is failing, that’s when he shows up in a furious torrent of love and strength. When you’re lost and wandering in the desert, His love will chase and capture your heart leading you to his rest, presence, and purpose

God blesses those who mourn, who weep, who have lost, and feel broken. He will not let you break, he will not let your heart run empty of hope. When your heart is broken, healing is on the way – hope on the horizon. When your spirit is lost and low, God sends his Holy Spirit that mends the tears and wipes away the tears.

God blesses those who are gentle and lowly. When you’re simply content with just who  you are – no more, no less, the world belongs to you – because you belong to God. Those who place trust in God – and not others, will know great peace and victory over all things, and all evil.

God blesses those who are hungry and thirsty for Justice. Who see the world as God sees it. For you will know righteous living flowing from you like a river, changing the tide of history. When you desire justice – You will be filled. When righteousness is your hunger, God will fill your soul – and loose the Spirit in your life.

God blesses those who are merciful because mercy will be abundantly theirs. When kindness becomes a habit, God’s presence becomes a never-ending reality. When you find yourself full of caring, you will find yourself cared for by the lover of your soul.

God blesses those who have a pure heart, for they will see God. For those who know Jesus, God’s presence is never far away but always right before your eyes ready to be seen.

God blesses those who work for peace, who stand up for reconciliation in the midst of chaos. You are invited into God’s family. Your peace and grace-filled actions mark you as God’s and God’s alone – You are his firstborn.

God blesses those who are persecuted, because the kingdom is yours – here today. When you are slandered, taken to town, and thrown to the dogs because of your love of Jesus, know that you do not stand alone – Jesus stands with you and stands up for you. When you are hurt -and you respond in grace, then the kingdom is fully alive in your life – bursting out sending light to dark places.

Planting Life

On Sunday we looked at how people like Jesus but don’t really like the church. We looked at how our posture (way of relating, interacting, and responding) to the world needs to be the same as Jesus’.

We first looked at how our posture isn’t called to be one of judgment. Jesus is clear he came to seek and save the lost, not condemn the world (John 3:16-17). So a posture of judgment isn’t to be a primary posture towards those around us. We also looked at the posture of separation, where we remove ourselves from the world. And while we are certainly called to live lives of difference, we are not called to live lives of isolation. We are called to engage the world, and to be sent into the world. And lastly, we looked at a posture of accommodation, where we no longer seem to have any distinctives at all.

We discussed how all of these postures don’t seem to the one that Jesus had. That we are not called to judge, ignore, or simply accept the world around us. We are actually called to bless the world. We went back to Genesis 12 and discovered that the first covenant with God and his people is to be a blessing. Our posture, stance, and response to those around us must be blessing. This is our calling,

1424138_35614585

we a

s Christians should be known for how we bless others. This is what I hope our church is known for. Not what we stand against, for our separation, or accommodation but for our continuous acts of blessing.

We ended by explaining what blessing means. How, in Hebrew, it literally means to give life. I think this is an easier thing for us to practically understand and practice. We, as Christians, are to give life to those around us in simple, and real ways. This means shoveling driveways, inviting people over, and caring for others in simple and intentional ways. Christians should be people whom others want to be around because of how life-giving we are.

So that was our call and challenge this week: to go give life to those around us. And I think if we get this posture right, we might just also change people’s perceptions of the church as we adopt the posture of Jesus Christ.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea Our posture is to be life Giving

Take Aways…

  • If people are drawn to Jesus, they should be drawn to the church
  • Posture actually conveys more than our words ever do
  • A posture of judgment rarely communicates the heart of Christianity
  • We are called to be different to live lives of difference
  • God is going to use a people, not a program to change the world
  • We will not change the world through our judgment, through our separation, or through or simple accommodation we will change it through our blessing.
  • Barak (Blessing) : means to give life
  • We make our friends; we makes our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor. G.K. Chesterton
  • Our posture is to be life giving.
  • What can I do that would be life-giving for those around me.

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?

How has someone blessing you changed you? What is your posture to those who are around you? Would you say its one of judgment, separation, accommodation, or blessing? How come? How can you give life to those around you? What about you neighbor, co-worker, or friends?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment to talk to your kids about how we are to be blessing. Tell them we are to help others feel happy and full of joy, and life. Ask them if they have any ideas how they can do that for their friends. Then go about and do it!

Challenge for this Week: Be a blessing to those around you

Glocal: Getting involved Locally and Globally

This past week I was in Germany for International Board meetings for cbm Canada (www.cbmcanada.org). This is an organization that is absolutely fully committed to breaking the cycle of poverty and disability. They practice deep transparency, inclusion, and fantastic work. I heard stories of people being changed through medical interventions. I heard stories of people receiving sight, of being included where they were ostracized before, of lives and communities being changed through their work. And what I realized was something really beautiful: it’s not just their work, but also my work.

This is something that is powerful about the day and age we live in. My life no longer can just have a local impact, but a global impact. We can spread the Kingdom of God not only here, but also all over the world. The impact and influence of our lives are not confined to our neighborhood, or even nation. Our actions can change our communities here, and in Kuala Lumpur. The point is simple, if we follow Jesus our lives should change people locally and globally. Our lives should change others locally and globally through our service, our advocacy, and our giving.

And so this week as I heard stories, I realized I was a part of those stories.

So my question to you is simple: what stories are you involved in? What stories is your life contributing to? Is your life changing lives not only here but also all over the world? Because we have an amazing gift, and a responsibility to partner with God’s Kingdom change everywhere.

So my challenge to you is this: get involved locally and globally.

If you aren’t consistently and regularly ensuring that your resources, time, and finances are changing lives globally, then I think this is something worth changing. In fact, I know it’s worth changing, because you will be investing in changing lives. So adopt a sponsor child, challenge your friends to join with you, and choose to regularly give. Obviously I’m biased as to what organization you should be involved with, but I’d rather you give anywhere than nowhere. So spend some time, research, and get involved. Because the way you live, can and should change the way others live across the world. This is both our calling and our privilege, and it’s a beautiful thing to be apart of.

Changing the World Locally and Globally

I really believe we are all called to change the world. I believe that often begins by changing the world of those around us. This is a part of our calling as Christians – to be making a difference.

And when I talk about these things I always put it in this language: being locally grounded, and globally focused. Jesus says we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, and we are to reach out and love them. There is then this great discussion on who is our neighbour, found in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus essentially ends up teaching that our neighbour is someone that is within our reach to help.

There are many next-door neighbors who need help in all sorts of ways: babysitting, cutting the lawn, a friend, meals, or support. The point is that if we can be part of making their lives better, we should be. That’s the locally grounded piece. But if our focus is purely on those around us but we miss the fact that we can be blessing to the world, I think we’ve also missed the point. God has blessed us in Canada, North America, and Europe I believe we are blessed to bless others.

So for me I consistently ask this question: which neighbor can I bless locally? which neighbor can I bless globally?

I think these are good questions to think about, and even greater questions to take action on. And if today you are wondering who you might be able to bless locally? Here’s a good way to get started, sit on your front porch, pray, and watch. Be open to God leading you, and pay attention and I’m sure you’ll find a way to start to bless and give. And if you’re looking for a way to bless globally, well there are many amazing organizations. For me though I’m really invovled in cbm Canada that does amazing work focusing on breaking the cycle of poverty and disability. And if you’re interested in what they do you can check them out in the video below.

The point is that as Christians we need to be involved with both our global, and local neighbours. We need to know names, and faces. We need to be making a difference because as John 1 puts it, when Jesus moved into the neighborhood he changed everything.

Thoughts on the Church after Coldplay

Last night I went to see a concert with my wife, mom, and my brother in law and sister in law. The concert was pretty amazing. Here’s a clip.

It got me to thinking though. In the midst of all those people I was easily caught up in the whole thing, I wanted to dance, I wanted to shout, wave my hands (which had cool blinking lights on a wrist band you see in the video), and sing along.

And the concert was amazing but it also reminded me that gathering as God’s church matters.

I know it’s odd that a Coldplay concert makes me think of church, but this is the life of a pastor. Everything makes you think of God’s people and sharing grace.

What I thought about was this: gathering together, whether with thousands, or two or three, matters. When we as God’s people, his church, gather together for a common purpose, whether to worship, to serve, or then to go out and bless the world, something special happens. In Hebrews we are told to not give up gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). Because it is together in the presence of one another that transformation can happen, we can get swept into something greater than ourselves, we are reminded that we are in this together.

An old proverb says this, “The individual Christian, is no Christian.” You can’t follow Christ alone; it’s no solo journey. This is what that concert reminded me of. That gathering together for a common purpose matters. So who are you gathering with to worship God? Are you being intentional about joining something bigger than yourself? Who are you partnering with to reach your neighborhood?

We aren’t meant to do it alone. So gather with some friends this week to serve, to celebrate, dance, reach your neighbours, give grace.

And in case you are wondering – yes those bracelets are amazing…and no, unfortunately we won’t have them on Sunday 😉

What to do with Betrayal…

On Sunday we briefly talked about what to do when we are betrayed, through following the example of Jesus. Jesus, as he is being nailed to the cross says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. From this we realized three things. First, was that hurt people end up hurting people. We also talked about how Jesus doesn’t see his betrayers as enemies, but as broken people needing forgiveness. And lastly, that Jesus takes his betrayal to God, praying to the Father for their forgiveness.

The main point we ended on was that if we want to deal with our betrayal in the way of Jesus, we need to be like him. We need to take our betrayal to God. To give up our desire for justice our way, and give it over to him.

By this I don’t mean that we don’t create good boundaries, that we forget what happened, or that things go back to the way they were. Broken trust creates consequences. What I am saying is that the personal hurt that happens to us needs to be dealt with in a Jesus-like way. And the way Jesus deals with his betrayal and hurt isn’t to see those who betrayed him as enemies; but instead to see them as broken people needing forgiveness. Jesus also chooses to forgive, and pray for their forgiveness. In essence, he takes his betrayal and he leaves it with God.

I believe this is what we are called to do.

The problem is I often don’t want to. I want to hold on to my betrayal, bitterness, and judgement. I don’t want to give it up. My hurt starts to feel normal, justified, and right. And sometimes it is so hard to give over those deep betrayals. We feel we need to hold onto them and to fight for justice. I’m not saying those feelings aren’t right. What I am saying is that I have stronger feelings when I look at Jesus. When I see him, I want to be like him more than I want to hold onto my hurt. I want to be like him more than I want to hold onto being right, or my version of justice.

So I’ve decided to give up my hurts, betrayals, and give them over to God. I am in no way saying it’s easy; I’m just saying it’s Jesus-like. And that’s enough for me. What about you?

Birthday’s, Blessings, and Books

I always found the stories in the Bible of the father’s blessing their sons a little weird. Just read in Genesis and you see it all the time. I pictured this weird ceremony where they would kneel or something and have these words spoken over them. I didn’t get it.

Then I had a son.

Yesterday was Hudson’s birthday. He’s two. He’s almost a man now. And I bought him one of the coolest kids books ever called stuck.

The book is great about things getting stuck in a tree. On the inside though I wrote a long note to Hudson, that I read to him now and I hope he’ll read later too. I wrote about how heis so fun and wonderful. I wrote about why I love him, what good things I see inside him. I wrote where I see him going. I spoke into his life words of trust and promise. And at the end I promised that no matter what happens, and no matter what gets “stuck”, I’d be there.

So I talked about his past, present, future and where I’ll be in all of it.

When I was done writing it – I knew what I would then do. Whether he gets it or not, we’re making a blanket fort. We’re crawling in it. We’re getting his Thomas the train engine flash light and cuddling up close together. And I am reading / speaking this blessing over him, because that’s what it is. It’s a blessing just like in the Old Testament where father’s would speak over their sons, shaping them, building into them, and creating hope. And maybe the Old Testament fathers didn’t say they’re blessing under blanket forts. For me though, the point is not where or when you bless someone but the actual act of taking time to speak blessing and life into someone.

So here’s my challenge to you. Bless someone else. Mother’s bless daughters. Father’s bless sons. Friends bless each other. Make it a habit and make it meaningful. Because for today more than any other day, I get why it matters. Because there is something powerful in sharing where someone is at, what you see in them, and where you see them going.

So why not share something meaningful with someone. Share why they matter, share who they are, and share blessing…

Where I Saw Jesus This Week…

Yesterday driving home I was thinking about how much I didn’t want to shovel the driveway.

Normally I enjoy it. But I wasn’t in the right mood. I wanted to go get Hudson so we could play, and hang out before I had to go out later that evening. So I was really almost dreading shovelling the driveway.

And then I get there and get ready to pull in – and someone has already done it!

A neighbor, a friend, or someone else shovelled my driveway and made my day. I haven’t found out who yet, but for me they were a lot a like Jesus. Blessing me when I wasn’t expecting it…changing my mood and attitude when I needed it…giving me more time with my family…and showing love and caring in a practical and real way.

So that’s where I saw Jesus this week…what about you where did you find him?

To Bless ~ To Give Life

This past Sunday we talked about how we are called to bless people.

The main idea was that blessing in Genesis 12 in the Old Testament was tied to giving life. I think this is a much better way to understand it for our lives today. The word bless seems to be one we only use when someone sneezes. “Blessing” can be hard to picture, and even harder to practice.

But “giving life” isn’t hard to picture or practice. Whatever makes someone else’s life full, deeper, meets a need, relieves a concern, frees a worry, or generates love is giving life.

This can be simply listening, fixing a roof, baking cookies, having neighbors in to your house. The possibilities of how to “give life” are endless. This as a church needs to be our calling. God in Genesis 12 has promised to bless us – or give us life and we are then called to bless others or give them life.

  • Imagine what would happen, and how disciples would be made, if giving life to others becomes a major part of our identity and action?
  • What if your house and home was known as a place of life in and for the community?
  • What if in your workplace you were recognized as the person who gives joy, love, and meaning to others?
  • What if your church was known as a place where those in need could find life in practical and real ways?

Doesn’t that sound like God’s Kingdom? It does to me.

So this week go out and start to bless people. To literally give them life. Be generous, be spontaneous, and give life in the context of relationship and share with me here how its going and what’s happened. Because when you share stories of blessing, you are also spreading blessing…

Discussion Questions from this Week Sermon

  • Adult Questions
  • Who in your life can you bless or “give life” too?
  • What needs do your neighbors have, or co-workers?
  • Who has blessed you in the past few weeks? Why not thank them.
  • Questions for Young Families
  • Talk to your children about how you are called to be a blessing to others and to serve. Ask them if they have any ideas who or how they could bless people. Maybe make cookies with them for your neighbors, or a card. Involve them in a giving life to others.