Mental Health Sundays: What Can We Do as a Community?

On Sunday we were very blessed to have a few experts and professionals in the mental health field come and share with our church on a panel.

We believed it was important to hear from professionals in this area, who have given their lives to healing, caring, and supporting others. Receiving professional help is something that in the evangelical church receives some stigma in some circles but it is absolutely crucial.

So we are grateful to the panel for their discussion, which you can hear on our podcast.

We ended our time together with three simple challenges: welcome and include, pray, and continue the conversation.

First, as a next step we talked about welcoming and including others with mental health challenges. That this is something we can all practically do in any church you attend. We can create safe spaces for people to journey together, and to include those who often feel excluded by the church.

John Vanier and John Swinton write this,

If the church has anything to offer to people with mental illness (and indeed to anyone else), it is the provision of a space where they can truly feel that they belong.

And I believe that is so true, and absolutely needed.

Kathryn Green McCreight writes,

From a theological perspective, the most dangerous thing about mental illness is that it can lock us in ourselves, convincing us that we are indeed our own, and completely on our own, isolated in our distress.

This is why as churches, as communities of believers, as followers of Jesus we must welcome and include people who are struggling.

The second thing we reminded one another to do was to pray. That praying for others, and letting them know you are praying for them is a tangible reminder of our care and support. In some situations as we journey with people we are not always sure of everything we can do, but one thing we can always do is pray and remind them of that.

Miriam a woman who struggles with mental health writes this:

When you don’t know what to do or say, the one thing you can do is pray and let the person you are praying for know you are. It is a true expression of compassion and Christian love

And lastly, we reminded one another to continue the conversation. That this is the just the beginning and one thing we can do is to continue to learn and listen. We can learn more about mental health, and listen directly from those who are struggling. We can ask how we can help, and take action.

And through these three steps we can start to make a difference and changing the world, by changing someone’s world. As we remember to welcome and include, pray, and continue the conversation.

Why Friends Matter More than Family

friendship-1309415-639x852On Sunday we are looking at a really important topic but one that’s sidelined in our world: friendship.

I know right away the word sounds a little…well my little pony with rainbows and stuff. It sounds kind of weak, or something you’d hear on a children’s show talking about the “power of friendship”.

And while I have those initial reactions and resonances I also know that they are untrue. There is power in friendship. In fact, it’s probably the one thing in our culture that we need to regain more than anything else. We have so many connections, but not that many deep friendships. We know lots of people, and know how to network, but not how to cultivate decade long journeying with others. And this is something I want to address on Sunday.

  • Why are relationships and friendships so important?
  • What makes them unique?
  • How do we invest in them?
  • And why do we need them?

And to do that we are going to look at Solomon who says some pretty shocking things about friendships. That friendship will determine the quality of your life and the direction, more than finances, or even your family. That friendships are more important than family and are closer than family. That having good friendships is the key to a good life.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday.  I hope you can join us, to learn about the “power of friendship” even though I know that sounds lame, but it is anything but that.

Envisioning Your Future Self

back-to-the-future-part-2-1409979-1279x852I read this recently by author, and podcaster Lewis Howes:

You become what you envision yourself being.

And in all honesty I think that’s really true. I’m not really big into the “positive self thinking” kind of movement. But there is a deep truth in that quote. That if you envision yourself as failing, as having nothing to contribute to the world, as lacking in value and worth to others it ends up being the “lens” you see yourself and the world through. It ends up conditioning and determining some of your actions and behavior, and you end up sometimes becoming what you envision.

This is nothing new or revolutionary, this is something social psychology and even psychiatry have known for a long time. That the “tapes” we play in our minds, contribute heavily to our actions and who we become. And we could discuss that, but I’d rather discuss something more revolutionary. Not who you envision yourself becoming, but who the Bible says you are.

Lewis Howes wants you to focus on “who you want to be”. The Bible wants you to focus in on who you already are. And I think that one little shift makes all the difference. Lewis, rightfully, wants you to focus on becoming a positive and healthy person. The Bible has a different perspective, to tell you who you are so that you can live into that reality. 

The Bible and the Spirit of God doesn’t want to tell you, “Envision becoming this way”. The Bible and the Spirit of God tell you that fundamentally at a core level, this is who you are – now live into that reality. The Bible doesn’t want you to dream of being holy, pure, loved, or new. The Bible states unequivocally as follower of Jesus, that you are holy, pure, loved, and a new creation.

The Bible is less concerned with trying to get you to envision who you can become, than for you to believe who you are. Because once you know who you are, you can live out of that reality. The Bible isn’t trying to get you believe that you can be holy, pure, and new – through positive thinking – but to believe that you are holy, pure, and new through Jesus Christ.

And this small difference can make all the difference.

Because I can tell you – if you follow Jesus – you are pure, holy, loved, and new. And while you might not always live out of that centre, it’s your true centre. And the beauty is this then – this reality isn’t beyond any one of us because it is true of all of us.

So then no matter how much you might struggle with it, to live it, to truly know it – it’s still true and today you can live it.

So all I’m wanting to say is that Lewis Howes is right, “You become what you envision yourself being” I just want to make sure what we envision ourselves being is what the Bible says – holy, pure, and loved (Colossians 3:10-15)

Christmas at the Movies: Charlie Brown and Gathering and Gratefulness

Title_frame_from_A_Charlie_Brown_ChristmasOn Sunday we began by watching a clip of Charlie Brown’s Christmas. This is where Linus tells Charlie brown what Christmas is about. And I think for every Christian there isn’t a real disagreement that Christmas is about Jesus. But how this plays out in our lives there is a lot of diversity, and I think some wasted energy.

So on Sunday I wanted to clearly explain what I think Christmas being about Jesus means. And to do this we thought about what the actual first Christmas was like.

Most likely the first Christmas was full of some anxiety, some stress, mess, and transcendent joy. This is because every birth I’ve been at part of it had some anxiety, stress, mess, and transcendent joy. As a Dad I was quite terrified by everything with the birth of our first son, and this is at a hospital with loads of medical professionals. I couldn’t imagine what Joseph must have been feeling, and the stress to not harm the Son of God as a baby.

But what I’ve also known is that amidst the worry, stress, and excitement there comes a moment of transcendent joy when you hold the newborn baby in your arms. And what has happened in every instance after this, in our world, is that family and friends come over, bring food, and gifts and we celebrate the gift of new life.

And as I was reading the Christmas story, something new hit me. I always thought of how the shepherds and Magi showing up are displays of God’s glory and power. Now though, I see them maybe more of displays of the humanity that God tenderly cares for.

Mary and Joseph were alone without anyone to share the birth with, and God sends shepherds to rejoice with, and Magi to worship and give gifts. And it struck me: the very first thing Jesus did was gather people together to express gratefulness and gratitude at the gift of life.

Before Jesus did any healings, miracles, teaching, or dying and rising again – his very first act is to bring people together to celebrate and be grateful. Because of Jesus’ birth Mary, Joseph, Magi, and Shepherds are drawn together to celebrate and be grateful for the gift of life in their hands.

This is what happened on the very first Christmas, and I think it needs to ground what we believe Christmas is about. Christmas is about gathering together to be grateful for the gifts of life God has given us. When we say Christmas is about Jesus, that’s true. But I wish we would understand how part of what the truth is, is to actually do is to cause us to gather with family and friends with grateful hearts and celebration.

Christmas, if it is about anything, is certainly not about boycotting, arguing, or debating. Christmas is about gathering and celebrating. Christmas is about sharing in the gift of life that is given to us. Christmas is about gathering and being grateful.

So that was the main point on Sunday; Christmas is about gathering and begin grateful. And then we closed with actually practicing this. We gathered for a Christmas meal and shared things we were grateful for. And I think that’s a good practice to do this Christmas.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaChristmas is a time to gather and be grateful.

Teaching Points:

  • Christmas is about Jesus.
  • What is central to Christmas?
  • We have a sanitized picture of the birth of Jesus
  • God sends people to celebrate and appreciate the new birth
  • Jesus’ birth directly caused people to gather, be grateful, and celebrate
  • Jesus gathered together diverse people, to appreciate the gifts given to them
  • The story isn’t just about what happened back then but what should happen today.
  • We should gather friends and family together, and practice being grateful for the gifts God has given us.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What was funny? What can you be grateful for this Christmas? How has God given you life, strength, hope, or something tangible in the past year? Who can you share your gratefulness with?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Today it’s simple – ask your kids what they are most grateful for in life. But beforehand help them to learn the right example by sharing what you appreciate and are grateful for about them.

Challenge for the Week: Gather with people and be grateful

The Meaning of Christmas

christmas-bulbs-1258956-639x750On Sunday we are looking at what the meaning of Christmas is. And while I think at first glance that seems pretty clear – it’s about Jesus. I’m not so sure we know how that actually applies to what we live, and what we do.

Lots of Christians around Christmas debate how the meaning of Christmas is Jesus. For some this means fighting consumerism, for others it means being able to say “Merry Christmas”, not “Happy Holidays”, or there are lots of other debates going on.

So while every Christian would agree, that Christmas is about Jesus, what that practically and actually means is quite different depending on what Christian you talk with.

So that’s what I want to clear up on Sunday. I want to clear up what Christmas being about Jesus really means practically for our lives. What we should positively be doing if that statement is true. And it’s something simple, it’s something practical, and like the best simple and practical things – it’s absolutely transformational.

Christmas at the Movies: Home Alone and Hilarity

home-alone-boyGUEST POST: Pastoral Intern Carter Whyte

This week we began our “Christmas at the Movies” series – using classic Christmas movies to help shed new light on Jesus’ coming to earth. The enjoyable viewing of Home Alone served two purposes for this first message in the series: it taught us about our forgetfulness, and it forced us to put the message into action by having fun.

Just like Kevin’s parents forgot him at home when they went away for Christmas, oftentimes Christians forget something very important when we enter this holiday season: Joy!

We read in Luke 2 that when an angel announced Jesus’ birth to nearby shepherds, the angel proclaimed, “I bring you good news that will be great joy to all people.”

How often do we celebrate because of Jesus? 

Sometimes Christians become fun-suckers, boring, and somber. We may try to rationalize these attitudes by saying that being serious and focused are important because we have a mission to complete and our days are numbered. But think: If the good news is supposed to bring joy into our lives, can we possibly spread the message of this good news without bringing joy along?

We know that joy is good! Laughter refreshes us! Doing fun things relieves us of the worries we have been carrying around! None of us want to go to work every day when there is absolutely nothing pleasurable about it.

There is a time for sorrow, and mourning, and self-reflection. But there is also a time for joy, and shouting, and self-expression! And Christmas is that kind of time!

Christian maturity should lead to more joy, as a result of a deeper connection with the Spirit that produces joy, and the Jesus that brings joy to the world! So let’s be mature this Christmas and let our lives be filled with joy because of Jesus.

  • With still a few weeks until Christmas, why not consider adding in some extra celebrations with your family and the people around you?
  • Invite people from work over to have a fondue dinner!
  • Do something new and exciting with your spouse!
  • Add something new to a traditional Christmas dinner – invite your family into a sing-along, or invite somebody new along! (Or write a poem!)
  • Join in with your kids when they are silly, or build a gingerbread house with them this Sunday for the competition in Plattsville!

Don’t forget to have joy and spread joy to others this Christmas!

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Don’t forget to bring joy with you this Christmas. 

Teaching Points:

  • Sometimes it’s easy to forget the most important things
  • “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people”
  • God is about Joy, and the instigator of Joy
  • You don’t win points by being more conservative than God
  • Don’t forget to have fun this Christmas.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What was funny? When have you forgotten something important? What brings you joy at Christmas? How can you spread joy? How can you have fun? What can you do today to bring joy to your family?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Ask your kids what is most fun thing to do at Christmas. Then go do it.

Challenge for the Week: To go have fun!

Leadership Like the Dawn

dawn-2-1504573-1280x960I stumbled across this verse and it just jumped out. Listen to it deeply especially if you are a leader of any kind. Because here is a beautiful description of what power, authority, and leadership should be. It’s poetry but that’s why it’s so inspiring:

When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light. (2 Sam 23:3-4)

I think that’s just a beautiful picture of leadership rightly exercised. That when leadership is done rightly it’s like “he dawns on them like morning light”. That when leaders are full of justice and fear of God, their leadership isn’t heavy and burdensome. It’s soft, it’s light, it’s full of future and promise like an early morning. And just as the dawn creeps up pushing away darkness, this is what it’s like when someone rules justly and in the fear of God.

When I think about my leadership if someone were to describe it like that to me, I would be honored. That’s what I hope for, that my leadership would be like the breaking of the dawn. My guess is if you are a leader you hope that too.

So what can you do today to start to live into that vision of leadership? Because it’s worth chasing after, just like the dawn chases after the night.

The Good and Bad Kind of Authority of a Leader

??????????Leadership is authority. There is no other way around that fact. But in today’s culture we don’t like authority. We don’t’ like being told what to do. We don’t like following authority or obeying authority. We like to become self-made people by each of us rebelling against the same authority (there is irony in that).

But I want to talk about the authority of a leader. Because I still believe that leadership is authority, but the type of authority really matters. Because there are different kinds of authority. There is authority that is based in power, and authority that’s based in gift (people choosing to follow and give you permission to lead).

And this distinction between the kinds of authority is so necessary. And the trouble is that most leaders haven’t consciously decided which type of authority they will rely on. The authority based in power (you have to do what I say) or the authority based in permission (you listen because you choose to).

In my role I’ve decided to never use coercive authority based in power. I could, lots of pastors do, especially when things get sticky and messy. They might say, “I am God’s anointed”, or “I’m the leader”, or even worse “I speak for God”. And the same temptation is for all leaders. That when things get tough, when stress rises, when there is crisis people reach to use power rather than authority based in grace that is given.

Parker Palmer gets at the difference when he writes this,

“The authority such a leader needs is not the same as power. Power comes to anyone who controls the tools of coercion, which ranges from grades to guns. But authority comes only to those who are granted it by others.”

So my question for you is this: what kind of leadership are you using? Is it based in power, or authority, based in grace and gift from others? Do people follow you because they “have to” or because “they want to”. And you might think that in the end the results are the same – as long as the job gets done. But it’s not – why people follow or listen to you is just as important as the outcome it produces.

So in your leadership with your authority is it power based – or people based? Because that small difference makes all the difference.

The Book that Almost Wasn’t: Devils, Distance, and Drawing Close ~ James 4

hand-of-god-1383050-1280x960On Sunday we looked at another pretty challenging teaching of James, but also one filled with hope and promise.

James writes this, ““So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you”. (James 4:7-8)

James is sharing that the heart you respond to God with, is how he will respond to you. That if you are open to God, seeking God, humbling yourself to God – he will draw you close. But if you are pushing him away, fighting him, and rejecting him – God honours our freedom but still seeks to care and have compassion for us.

So James reminds us to check our hearts, to see if they are pushing God away, or opening up to him. 

James also reminds us that if we resist the devil he will flee from us. And as I’ve said before, even if you don’t believe in the devil, you’ve experienced him. In the Bible the devil is the source of accusation, fear, and someone who actively seeks to separate ourselves from God. The truth is we have all felt accusation, and fear which separates us from God.

James wants to remind us that this doesn’t need to be so. That if we just were to resist the accusation, the guilt, the fear, the separation, the devil would flee and we would move closer to God. That if we would but draw close to God, he will draw close to us and the devil must flee as we move closer to God.

We ended up with a pretty clear main idea, that we need to repent and rely on God. 

God promises to be there with us, to push away the devil, accusation, guilt, and fear but we need to repent and rely on him. As long as we are going our own way, as long as we assert our independence, as long as we pretend we don’t need him – he can’t help us. He can’t help us when we are resisting and pushing him away.

So on Sunday to make this real, we did something I don’t often do. We did an altar call. We invited people to simply come forward who wanted to physically say to God ~ I need you in some area. And that was it.

But sometimes we need to do something tangible to connect with God. And the truth is we are all broken and need God, so we can all use with doing something tangible. 

So if you are in the place where you need God today – do something tangible. Maybe kneel, maybe write out your needs, maybe ask someone to pray. But do something, because God’s promise is that if you move closer to him, he’ll move closer to you.

 

 

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to repent and rely on God.

Teaching Points:

  • “God gives what he demands” – Augustine
  • God will respond with the heart you have for him.
  • One of the primary roles of Satan is to separate God and people.
  • Draw close to God and he will draw close to you.
  • How often do we try to go it alone and hide our flaws?
  • We live with a lack of light, because we refuse to rely on him.
  • We need to repent and rely on God.

Adult Discussion Questions:

“The reason we struggle isn’t because we can’t overcome our failures, but because we are too proud to ask God to move.”  What do you think of this statement? Have you experienced the truth of these promises: that God WILL come near as we come to Him in true humility, and that Satan WILL flee from us as we resist him? What do you need to repent of? Confess? Get clean from? Admit? (Remember, this is how James says we come closer to God – it is crucial in our relationship with Him) About what things are you too proud to admit the truth? (Our pretending prevents God from working) How can you practically turn from these things and rely on God, beginning today?

 

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Have you ever needed help with something, but you didn’t want to admit that you couldn’t do it alone? How can we come to God today, letting Him be the one that helps us through our weaknesses and failures?

Challenge for the Week: To repent and rely on God…today.

Love is a dream that enables us both to be our Best

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I read this other day by Joan Chittister as I’m working through one of her books. She writes this,

“Love is not a model that makes two people the same person. Love is the dream that enables both of us to be our own best person – together”

And I wish every single couple I’ve ever done a marriage for, or will do a marriage would sit and think about that.

So often in our world today love is seen as making the same, rather than cherishing differences. We love to make people into carbon copies of ourselves, to find compromises where we become almost indecipherable, where we try to find ourselves in other people, and this is well…it’s not love.

Not love in the way that the Bible talks about it. Love is what binds people together and holds them together, but it doesn’t make them the same. Just go read 1 Corinthians 13 – the well known “love chapter”. This chapter is all about how to love and hold people together, but it’s people who are different. This chapter is set right in the middle of a discussion about how to hold together people with different gifts, ideas, and opinions? Paul’s answer is love can do that. Not love that reduces people to common denominators. Not love that erases all differences. Not love that makes carbon copies. But love that enables both people to be their best.

Love, when it is truly love, doesn’t erase differences; it finds a way to hold onto those differences in harmony. Love actually loves people as they are, without tyring to make them into something else. We have a different word for people who try to change others into their version of perfection. We call that coercion, we call that conquest, we call that wrong when we’ve done that throughout history (see the Crusades, “settling” of the new world, or lots of other examples).

The point is that love doesn’t seek to squish and squash someone into a mold of sameness. Love is a dream that enables people to both be their best. And that’s something worth striving for.

So in your closest relationships today – is there a way that you can help them to reach their dreams? Is there a way that you can both move towards your best? Does it start with a conversation saying – I want you to find the best and be part of that? Does it start with a surprise or a gift? It certainly starts with some effort, so why not give that a shot.