“Jesus Fights Bad Guys Daddy”

IMG_6616The other day I saw Asher drawing intently. He was just really going at it and was so excited. And he said “Look Daddy, look at what I drawed”. I asked him what it was and he said, “It’s Jesus! He’s ALIVE Daddy! He’s Alive!!”

I thought that it was really very cool that he knew that Jesus was alive. I felt like…well that I was a good dad and even better pastor. And then I asked him what was happening on the other part of the page and he said, “Daddy those are the bad guys, Jesus is getting them.”

“Oh” I said, “Jesus is fighting and getting all the bad guys?” And he looks at me seriously and says, “Yep daddy, Jesus is getting the bad guys.”

I thought to myself that maybe I wasn’t as great a dad/pastor as I thought. Because Asher is all boy and is always turning things into weapons (like tape measures) and batarangs (like hangers). He’s always dancing around being a ninja, a knight, or an angry bird. He loves to wrestle, and I thought this was all just influencing his thoughts about Jesus.

Until of course I realized that Asher is right: Jesus does fight the bad guys.

Sometimes when we think of Jesus we just think he is all “nice, meek, and mild”. We hear that Jesus is love (which is true) but then think Jesus is passive (not true). We imagine Jesus just being a really nice person who lets us do whatever we want, smiling all the time. But that’s not really the picture that the Bible paints of Jesus. Yes Jesus is love incarnate, but love isn’t passive. Love actively stands against injustice, love actively stands up for the hurting, love doesn’t let the status quo reign. The cross is the supreme self revelation of God – revealing God to be self-sacrificial love. But the cross is also the place where Jesus does fight the bad guys of sin, death, darkness, injustice, and evil.

So while I don’t want to read too much into a 3 year old’s drawing of spots, and red marker – I think Asher is on to something. Jesus is love, but Jesus is also a protector. Jesus is also a savior from evil and injustice. Jesus does fight the bad guys, not in the way we would with violence and retribution, but he does fight the bad guys none-the-less.

Of course Asher probably wasn’t thinking about how Jesus fights the bad guys with non-retributive love and self-sacrifice when he drew his picture…but either way he is on the right path.

On that day Asher reminding  me about an important part of who Jesus is: getting the bad guys. So today if you are struggling in a tough part, Asher would want to remind you that Jesus is with you, standing up for you, and standing against the dark. I think that’s a good reminder.

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

Three Powerful Words: It is Finished

There are three really powerful words when put together. And no it’s not “I love you”, although those are powerful words too.

The three words I’m thinking of are these: “It is finished.”

Those are really wonderful and powerful words to be able to say. Sometimes it feels good  just to say them after remodeling or renovating your house. Sometimes it feels good to say them after a hard day at work, saying “it is finished”.  Sometimes it is really powerful to say them after a huge project, or event.

it-is-finishedBut these words are really more powerful and meaningful when they are shared about soul level stuff.

  • Like when you can finally look back at a brutally dark period of your life and finally say, “It is finished”.
  • When you can look at a hurtful person, and finally because of forgiveness say, “it is finished”.
  • When you can look at some of your addictions (drugs, drinking, pornography, power, importance whatever) and be free from them and say, “It is finished”.

When you can look back on hurtful periods, sinful things, or difficult things and finally say “It is finished”, those are some of the most powerful three words to utter.

And come Sunday we are going to look at how you can say them in your life, over the things that hold you trapped. But first we are going to look at who said those three words first, what they mean, and how they can change your life.

“It is finished” – Jesus (John 19:30)

Seven Last Words of Jesus: “Father Into Your Hands…” Lenten Reflection

sevenlastwords-7On Sunday we looked at this saying of Jesus on the cross: “Father into your hands I commend my Spirit”.

There is a lot to be said about this statement, but we just focused on a few details. First, that this is a prayer that quotes Psalm 31:1. This is important because on the cross it was virtually impossible near the end to speak. You died of asphyxiation so speaking was not only difficult, but excruciating. So Jesus, for his last words, prays the first line of this Psalm. And here is the rest of the verse:

I entrust my spirit into your hands. Rescue me, Lord for you are a faithful God. Psalm 35:1

When we take Jesus’ words in light of the rest of the verse we see that Jesus’ prayer is both a prayer of trust, and rescue.

The second thing we noticed was that while the translation of the word, “spirit” is correct in English, it is lacking. When we hear “spirit” we think of soul or the opposite of “body” or the material world. But the word in both Greek and Hebrew has earthy roots. Jesus here is not praying to hand over his “soul” but his entire being. This is why Eugene Peterson’ in his translation, translates this verse as, “I’ve put my life in your hands”. And this gets at the heart of what is happening. Jesus is trusting the Father, not just with his soul, but his entire life.

And what is so remarkable about this, is that Jesus at the end of his life turns to faith. We sometimes cheapen this moment by thinking, “Well Jesus…was Jesus he knew he would be resurrected”. But we are saying that on this side of history. Jesus hasn’t lived it yet, and so while he has faith the Father will rescue him, it simply put hasn’t happened yet. So Jesus is starting into death, darkness, and the weight of sin knowing he is about to be abandoned but in his last moments he doesn’t give up on faith, he gives in to faith. He says “Father I trust you even now”, you are all I can hold onto.

What is beautiful is that because Jesus prayed this prayer so can we. We will never know what Jesus experienced, nor will we ever go through the depth of what he experienced. But because of Jesus, even when we are at our worst, in our deepest struggle, because his spirit lives and moves within us – we can pray this prayer like him. When we come up against darkness that doesn’t quit, death that steals our life, we can choose to trust in God. To say, “Father I trust you with my life” which is where we ended on Sunday.

It was a prayer of unquestioning trust…Uncalculating trust. A no-questions-asked readiness to leave everything in the hands of the Father. Eugene Peterson

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: That if Jesus prayed this prayer, so can we.

Teaching Points:

  • Challenge for Lent: 1) Pray Weekly Prayers of Repentance, 2) Pray Daily Corporate Prayers 2 Chronicles 7:14, 3) Fast Something for Lent
  • There is cosmic significance to what is happening.
  • I entrust my spirit into your hands. Rescue me, Lord for you are a faithful God. Psalm 35:1
  • Jesus’ prayer is both a prayer of trust, and rescue.
  • That if Jesus prayed this prayer, so can we.
  • It was a prayer of unquestioning trust…Uncalculating trust. A no-questions-asked readiness to leave everything in the hands of the Father. 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? Have you practiced Lent before? What can you fast or give up this year? Is there any difficulty you are facing right now? What is it? Can you name it? Can you trust God in the midst of it? What might that look like? Can you pray the prayer Jesus prayed?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Read the story today with your kids. Talk to them about how Jesus, in the most difficult moment, trusted in his Father. Remind them they can always trust in God.

Challenge for the Week: Pray, “Father I trust you with my life”

Why 4 Year Old’s Are the Best Theologians

I think I might be raising a theologian, or maybe better put Hudson is teaching me to be a better theologian. Hudson shared this with me about his grandpa who died, but whom he desperately wants to see.

“Daddy you know Grandpa is coming back because he loved God, just like Jesus who loved God died and came back”.

Yep that about covers it, that’s Easter, resurrection, and good theology all wrapped up in one simple sentence. Sometimes the young are the smartest.

“God helps me get to the North Pole” : Theology from a 4 year Old

IMG_4512Today I’d like to share the work of my 4 year old.

Now I’m not sharing his work because he is an amazing artist, or because I want to sell his work or anything (although you’re welcome to buy it).

I share it because of something he had written at the bottom of the page.

God helps, “Get to the North Pole”

Now at first glance that is a very silly thing to say. It seems just like the type of thing a 4 year old would say. Except that this is actually a very deep theological statement, it’s just said in “Hudsonese”.

The past few weeks Hudson keeps talking about his grandpa, my dad, who died when he was just a few months old. He keeps talking about how he misses grandpa and wants to see him. So he asked where grandpa is, and I told him “Grandpa is in heaven”.

And because he’s 4 he had lots of follow up questions, “Is heaven far? Can we drive there and see Grandpa? Is it farther than Caleb’s house? Why can’t we see grandpa?”

And lastly, “How do we get there?”

We talked about this and the point he got was that God, because his love is so strong, can take us to heaven. And that heaven is far away, like the North Pole.

So when Hudson says God can help us get to the North Pole, it’s a comment on the power of God. That God is able to get us places we couldn’t get on our own. That the love of God is strong enough to draw us to heaven, and to bring heaven here. That God’s loving power is enough to do amazing things: like get us to heaven, bring reconciliation, cause resurrection, bring healing, bring hope, bring transformation, and of course, get us to the North Pole. 

While you might not see the phrase, “God helps me get to the North Pole” in any theology textbooks, it’s still a true statement. And may that statement give you hope today, just like it gives Hudson hope. That God’s love, power, and strength can change lives – and apparently get you to the North Pole.

Families aren’t born, but built.

10378542_10154825254920643_1753291384688482808_nIn the past two weeks, in my family we’ve had two deaths, and two funerals in a week. I lost my grandma, and my wife lost her grandfather.

I use that language in a specific way of “lost” in a specific sense. We, of course, haven’t actually “lost” them, as if we don’t know where they are. Both of them are with Jesus without a shadow of doubt. But their being with Jesus is a “loss” for us because we love and miss them.

And as I think about them both I’ve come to realize something important that they both lived out. Both my grandma, and Krista’s grandfather lived in a way that was unique. They both realized that family isn’t something you are born into, family is something you build.

Think about that for a moment, because it’s true, but it’s something we forget.

Families aren’t born, but built.

And both my grandma and Krista’s grandfather got this. They invested in their families, they welcomed new people into the family, and toiled at building a family that lasts and matters. And as I look upon their legacy, I’m reminded that they have a legacy because they built into their families. They didn’t just talk about love, or take family for granted, they invested in it, fostered in it, and created it. And I think this matters.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about my own life in relation to this. Am I building my family, or taking it for granted? Am I investing in my relationships, or coasting? Because building a family takes effort, it takes time, and it will last beyond a life-time if you do it well.

There are many things that push and pull for our attention: deadlines, obligations, and expectations. But what I’ve been reminded of these past few weeks is that what really matters is building family and friendships. Deadlines, work, and obligations will come and go, but family and friendships can last for lifetimes if we build them well.

So my challenge to all of you is simple: build family and friendships well. Because as grandpa always said, “listen to the wisdom of those older”. And some of the wisdom I’ve learned from both my grandma, and Krista’s grandpa is that family is built, not something you are just born into.

How Hudson Reminded me of What Resurrection Means and Why It Matters

30026_10150185277700328_2981872_nYesterday was the anniversary of my dad’s death. I say death, and not passing, because death sounds like a harsher word. And it is a harsher word; it speaks the hurt that happens because of it.

Since I was feeling quite down, I thought the best thing would be to talk to my sons about why I was feeling sad. I didn’t want them to think it was about them, and thought I could share a bit about their grandfather with them.

So Hudson sat with me and I told him that I was feeling sad because my dad, his grandpa, died on this day a few years ago.

Hudson didn’t know quite what to make of that. So he tentatively asked, “He…died.” I said yes he did. He said, “Like this”, and proceeded to make a face with eyes closed and tongue stuck out. I said yes like that, and thought maybe having this conversation was a bad idea.

The next 10 sentences we shared together I doubt I’ll ever forget. They sound made up, but they were true and unforced and untouched. I believe God can speak to us through anyone, and I think he chose to speak to me through my son. And this is what he told me, and why I think sometimes 4 year old are closer to God than anyone.

He said, “It’s okay dad to be sad, but just for a little while. I miss grandpa too. He loved me, and loved to scoot me around and he loved you. Grandpa told me I was special. I miss him too. So you can be sad because he died but just for a little while.”

I asked him why just for a little while. And this is what he said, “Because daddy, Jesus died too right? (I said yes he did). But Jesus is here now. He’s alive. He told me so, and so did you. So grandpa is with Jesus now. He died and is living just like him. He’s here too, and he loves us daddy. So its okay to miss him, but it just for a little while because he’ll be back again right…just like Jesus”

And I said the only thing I could think of, “Of course you’re right Hudson”

Hudson then gave me a big hug, and said “I love you daddy, and I love grandpa too” And then because he is also a four-year old he asked if we could play trucks tomorrow, and if Jesus had wings, which we then talked about.

I write all this because sometimes in the hard times, you just need to be reminded of what is true. And sometimes that takes a 4-year old who remembers what you teach him, so he can remind you of what matters.

A Reminder I’d Rather Not Have…The Anniversary of My Dad’s Death

My dad died 4 years ago today. This is a day that I mark in my life but I wish this is a day that would never have happened. It reminds me and brings me back to a very difficult time in my life.

This is a day that comes around once a year that reminds me of something I know each and everyday – that someone is missing.

Someone is missing at my son’s soccer games. Someone is missing after I preach a good sermon to talk it through with. Someone is missing to give me advice and counsel when I desperately need it. Someone is missing in my life.

Some days its felt more than others, but its always felt. And today is one of those days.

So what do you do on days like today? Where things are hard, loss seems so present, and hurt so close by?

Well here is my answer – but I promise you it’s not a good one, or really one you’d expect a pastor to say. But it is an honest answer. You give in for a day. You give in for a day.

I know people say be strong, say get through it, say don’t ever give up. I know people say that, but sometimes I just think people are wrong or maybe others are just stronger than me. But I know when days like today come around once a year, the answer isn’t to try to tough it out, the answer isn’t to try to forget the hurt, the answer isn’t to busy yourself past it, but to enter into it.

So that’s what I’m doing today. I’m giving in for a day.

There is a line in a song I love by Florence and the Machine that says this, “I’m not giving up, I’m just giving in” And that’s how I feel today. I’m not giving up. Tomorrow I will get up and go to work. Tomorrow I will wake up and cook breakfast for my boys like I do every day. Tomorrow I will check emails, read Facebook, and check soccer scores. Tomorrow I will get back to my regular rhythm of life. But that’s tomorrow, today I won’t. Today I’ll give in, and remember that the rhythm of my life has forever been changed because someone is missing. So I will give in, I will be sad, I will sit, I will think, I will pray, and then decide I don’t want to pray, and I’ll talk about my dad. And I’ll repeat those actions a hundred times today.

You might disagree that this is healthy. That’s fine, do whatever is healthy for you. Tough it out if you can. But I know I’ve just never been that tough. So today “I’m not giving up. I’m just giving in.” And if you’ve ever been through loss, difficulty, or death it’s okay to give in for a day.

Resurrection Changes Everything

revelations-706719-m

Sunday was Easter. The biggest day of the year for Christians. Because on this day 2000 years ago all of life was changed. On this day 2000 years ago death was beaten. On this day 2000 years ago darkness was beaten. On this day 2000 years ago sin was beaten.

In short, Jesus won and life overcame the darkness. 

And this is radical, momentous, and something I can’t even put into words. Yet the significance of this day is something that seems to get overshadowed by bunnies, Easter eggs, and a familiarity with this death-shattering day. Our familiarity with Easter causes it to lose some of its power.

So on Sunday I talked about resurrection. Because Paul makes a radical and life-changing statement: “that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you”

Do you understand how utterly life-altering that one statement is?

The power that broke death…is in you.

The power that trampled evil…is in you.

The power that conquered all darkness, sin, difficulty, and disease…is in you.

Paul’s point is that resurrection isn’t just something that happened 2000 years ago, resurrection is something that is happening now. The same power that raised Jesus, that resurrected him, is in you.

So on Sunday we asked the radical question: what does God want to resurrect in us? Because Easter isn’t just that some guy was raised from the dead. Easter is about the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, was raised from the dead and  now that power dwells in us.

Jonathon Martin writes this,

Resurrection changes everything. If that man could get back up, anybody could get up. If hope died and came back to life, then hope can rise again for the whole world. If even God can die but come back to life, then anyone can come back to life.

That was our main point on Sunday: resurrection changes everything.

Resurrection changes everything. We live in a world strangled by the language and reality of death. We see dreams die, relationships fracture, hopes crushed, and lives defeated. Yet resurrection says – new life is possible, new hope is possible, a new reality is not only possible but here. Because resurrection changes everything.

So on Sunday we asked one simple but life changing question: what do you want to resurrect in our lives Jesus? If resurrection isn’t something that just happened, but can happen today – what does that look like in our lives?

And while I don’t know what that might specifically look like  in your life I know some things about it. Areas in your life where death reigns, where darkness covers hope, where defeat directs your life, where fear rules, where sin shames – do not need to stay that way. Resurrection happened and resurrection is happening.

So today if yesterday just slipped by like any other day, why go one more day without resurrection in your life? Go to Jesus, he is alive, he is risen, and he has resurrection power he wants to give to you. Why not go to him and see what he might do in your life? Because 2000 years ago life burst from a death-filled ground, and it changes everything…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea:Resurrection changes everything…

Take Aways…

+  Resurrection means that new life can begin, even out of death.

+  Jesus, what do you want to resurrect today?

+  Entropy is a law of nature in which everything slowly goes into disorder.

+  Another important point is that Jesus’ death was a political death. If you ask one of the crucial theological questions – why was Jesus killed? – the answer isn’t “Because God want us to love one another.” Why in the world would anyone kill Jesus for that? That’s stupid. Its not even interesting. Why did Jesus get killed? Because he challenged the powers that be – Stanley Hauerwas

+  Fear’s a powerful thing / It can turn your heart black, that you can trust / It’ll take your God-filled soul / And fill it with devil’s and dust. – Bruce Springsteen

+  “What we have then in the apostolic circle, is a group of disillusioned, frightened, guilty, mournful, semi-traitors” – James Allison

+  “Resurrection changes everything. If that man could get back up, anybody could get up. If hope died and came back to life, then hope can rise again for the whole world. If even God can die but come back to life, then anyone can come back to life. Jonathon Martin

+  Resurrection changes everything…

+  Death can do its worst, and Jesus will do his thing

+  What is it you need resurrected in your life? And are you ready to receive it today?

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? In what ways is your life under the “shadow of death”? Can you relate to the disciples feeling full of fear? Talk about the quote from Jonathon Martin. How does resurrection change everything? How has resurrection changed your life? How might God want to change your life today? What do you need Jesus’ resurrection power to touch in your life today?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to you kids about what Easter is. Share with them that Easter means that when things seem darkest and most difficult – Jesus can show up and change everything. Talk to them about how fear holds us back, but God wants to take away our fear. Ask them if there is anything in their life they need Jesus to help them with – and then believe and pray about it. Jesus resurrection power isn’t just for adults, its for everyone. 

Challenge for this Week: Live in Jesus’ resurrection power