On Sunday we looked at the top ten lessons that I thought God had taught us this year.
I think this practice is really important. I think taking time to review and reflect on how God has been faithful is so key to being able to follow God. To follow God deeply, we need to remember where he has led us in the past, so that we might get a glimpse of where he is leading us in the future.
So I’d encourage you to take time today, and review you’re year. What were the special highlights, the memories, the occasions you celebrated? And as you reflect on those things remember what happened around those times. How was God active? What was he teaching you? When was he faithful? When did you wish he was more present? What was challenging? What gave you hope?
I think reflecting and remembering is part of following. So do that today. And if you’re interested here are some of the questions we walked away with on Sunday to help us reflect and remember.
- How has your trust in Jesus grown or struggled this year? How come?
- How faithful have you been to Jesus this year? What do you need to do to be faithful to Jesus? How faithful has he been to you?
- Have you experienced the presence and fullness of Jesus this year at all? When, where, and how?
- Have you left God’s side and moved away from him at all this year? If so are you willing to go back to God and let him accept you?
- Is God in control and directing your life – or are you?
- Did God have your attention this year? Does he have your attention now?
- What new thing did God get started in you this year?
- Who have you shared your story with this past year? Who are you called to share your story with in the next few weeks?
- Have you been a person of grace? How can you show God’s grace?
- What direction does God have for you – for this upcoming year?
Big Idea: We need to reflect and remember how God has been active in our lives.
10 Big Questions to Explore:
- 1. How has your trust in Jesus grown or struggled this year? How come?
- 2. How faithful have you been to Jesus this year? What do you need to do to be faithful to Jesus? How faithful has he been to you?
- 3. Have you experienced the presence and fullness of Jesus this year at all? When, where, and how?
- 4. Have you left God’s side and moved away from him at all this year? If so are you willing to go back to God and let him accept you?
- 5. Is God in control and directing your life – or are you?
- 6. Did God have your attention this year? Does he have your attention now?
- 7. What new thing did God get started in you this year?
- 8. Who have you shared your story with this past year? Who are you called to share your story with in the next few weeks?
- 9. Have you been a person of grace? How can you show God’s grace?
- 10. What direction does God have for you – for this upcoming year?
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?
What are some of the biggest things God’s taught you this year? Spend some time working through those questions – and then take time to share your thoughts with a spouse, friend, or small group. We learn best together, so take some time and review and share with others.
Discussion Questions for Young Families: Why not take some time and ask your kids – what did you learn this year? Let them give you all the answers they can come up with. Ask them what some of their favorite memories were from this year. And then be sure to ask them about what they learned about God. Spend time reflecting and reviewing together and also plan for this year. Ask them what would they like to do – and they why not try to make it happen?
Challenge for this Week: Review and Reflect
Every year, around this time of the year, there is this cultural phenomenon that pops up all over the place. It’s the Top 10 list. There are the top 10 books, movies, songs, and even newsworthy events of 2013.
The point is that people look back and review the highlights. Right not DJ’s, pop culture pundits, and movie buffs are all reviewing the year for the best moments. And I’m not against this in anyway, I actually think it’s a practice that Christians should pick up.
The truth is that God is so very active in our lives, but the practice of living pushes us past remembering and reflecting on those moments and moving onto the next thing. So I think we as Christians don’t need to be making top ten lists of movies or things like that. Instead I think we should be making the top ten lists surrounding God.
What about taking time and reviewing your year and God’s active participation in it? What if you made a list titled:
The Top 10 times God showed up in my life this past year
The Top 10 Ways God’s Proven His faithfulness
The Top 10 Reasons I have to be thankful to God
The Top 10 Things I’ve Learned from God this year
This is actually a very spiritual practice. Reviewing, reflecting, and remembering is part of following Jesus. Its actually how we grow closer and deeper by becoming aware and remembering how God has been active in our lives. So I want to give you a challenge – why not make a top 10 list this year? But why not have it centred on God?
The first failure was how I noticed Hudson had to get my attention often when I was at home. I was at home, but not “at home” really. But this isn’t the example of God. We never have to grab God’s attention, convince him to look our way, or ask for his time. We always have it, and isn’t that a wonderful feeling? Knowing that when you turn to him he is already fully there invested and listening? What if we took that practice into our relationships? That’s one failure, and one example of a place where I think we can all grow and change our relationships.
The second was with ownership of reactions. Whenever my boys do something wrong and I get that feeling of anger, punishment, or judgement welling up within me. I know that I have work to do inwardly. My boys can’t make me yell, can’t make me mad, can’t make me act ungraciously or without gentleness. I need to own those initial gut reactions. Or put another way, anything that comes out of me, is because of me. That’s how Jesus puts it in Matthew 7 that trees bear fruit from what’s within. That means my boys, your boss, your spouse can’t make you act meanly. That’s our personal responsibility to own. So what I realized is that before I can ever help guide my boys in the right direction, I need to ask Jesus’ advice, focus on my own stuff, get it right and then help my boys. Jesus uses the example of getting rid of the plank in our eye before trying to get out anyone else’s speck. What he’s saying is own and deal with your stuff, your junk, your less-than-Jesus-like reactions, then deal with others. So I learned I need to start with me before I can be really in the right space to help my boys.
The last failure I’ve learned from is lacking affirmation in my boys. It’s not that I don’t affirm the great things in my boys, I do, but not enough. As I read the gospels and the New Testament, Paul, Jesus, and other writers are consistently and constantly affirming who we are in Christ. They say we’re new creations, holy, pure, loved, chosen, desired, adopted, and fully connected to Christ. They are constantly reminding us who we are. And I need to do that with my boys. I need to constantly be reminding them of who they are, so that they know how to live. I need to tell them that they are good, loved, smart, fun, and beautiful so that they will begin to believe it about themselves, and live up to it. In essence, I need to affirm in them who they already are, and who they are becoming.
We ended with simply recognizing how powerful, if we just learned from these three failures, how our lives could impact others. What if in our significant relationships we show deep attention? What if we always deal with our stuff before ever helping others with their stuff? What if people realized that we are always affirming who they are and who they are becoming? How might those actions change your marriage, your children, your family, friends, and neighbors? I think it would change them a lot. If when people looked at you they see someone who gives full attention, who gives deep affirmation, and always seeks to live more Jesus-like. I think living like that is worth striving for, and for me I’m going to. Not only for me, but also for my boys. They deserve a dad like that, so I’m going to do my best to live that out.
Big Idea: Show attention, affirmation, and ownership of reactions in relationships
- Failure #1: A Lack of Attention
- The Prodigal Son had the Father’s attention even when he wasn’t there
- We never need to grab God’s attention; we already have it.
- Failure #2: My Initial Gut Reaction
- Our reactions might be normal, but not Jesus-like.
- What comes out of us is because of us
- Failure # 3: Lack of Affirmation
- I affirm who he is becoming
- Have you been giving people your full attention?
- In trying we will be improving.
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What was new? What failures have you learned most from? What would you add to Andrew’s examples? Which of the failures do you think you struggle with most? Where is God calling you to grow? How can you show some signicant relationships your attention, affirmation, and personal ownership of your reactions?
Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk about your kids about today’s sermon. Be sure to start off by telling them the ways you know you have messed up and failed. Ask them for their forgiveness and how you will be trying to do better. Take a moment and model vulnerability, confession, and trust.
Challenge for this Week: Pay attention, Affirm, And Own your Reactions
On Sunday we explored a key to all our relationships: responsibility. The truth is that if we want to have deep relationships, if we want to have solid friendships, if we want to have healthy roots in our families, we need to learn to be responsible. Irresponsibility kills roots and kills relationships.
My guess is that in your family and friends the people who bug you the most are in some way irresponsible. They aren’t owning and being accountable for their own stuff. Because the reality is, that whenever someone is irresponsible, someone else has to pick up the slack. So on Sunday we explored this theme of irresponsibility and looked at the first family in Adam and Eve.
What we discovered is that irresponsibility is really easy to see in someone else, but really hard to see in ourselves. So we asked ourselves, “Are we being responsible in our relationships?” Through the story of Adam and Eve we discovered some signs of irresponsibility. The first is blame. Whenever we start blaming, we are trying to shift responsibility. Adam blames Eve for eating the fruit, Eve blames the serpent, and people have been blaming ever since. But if we want healthy relationships we need to stop blaming and start owning our issues. The second sign of irresponsibility is when people start hiding. Whenever you start hiding conversations, maybe your spending, or where you are spending your time there is a responsibility problem. Adam and Eve, right after they eat the fruit, hide so that they don’t need to take responsibility. We need though to stand up and stop hiding and start owning our mistakes, failures, and become accountable. The last sign of irresponsibility was if we are creating new rules. Rules are created to curb irresponsibility, although they never really work. After Adam and Eve’s failure the story of the Bible is really a story of creation of many new rules to curb bad behavior. Finally, with Jesus the rules get thrown out (the Law) and he gives us the task of being responsible (loving God and others). So the point is that if we are needing to create lots of new rules in our families, friendships, or even businesses there is a responsibility problem that needs to be dealt with.
So we ended off asking people to honestly think through this question: “Am I being responsible” Because being responsible in relationships leads to deep roots. And I think that’s what we want. Relationships that last, thrive, and are healthy and whole. But that only happens when we start taking responsibility.
Big Idea: Responsibility leads to deep roots
- Irresponsibility always leads to more rules
- Irresponsibility is easy to see in someone else and hard to see in yourself
- Am I honestly being responsible in my relationships
- When people are responsible rules aren’t needed
- Whenever rules are broken consequences soon follow
- Signs of Irresponsibility in a Relationship
- Creating New Rules
- Rules never create responsibility
- Responsibility leads to deep roots
- Ways to build responsibility:
- Stop hiding and start dealing with things
- Stop blaming and start owning things
- Stop creating new rules and start taking responsibility
Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? Were there any stories or examples Andrew used that you could relate too? As you look in your own life are there any areas where you blame, or hide? Are there things you are being irresponsible with? How can you stand up and start taking responsibility for them?
Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take a moment and talk with your kids about rules and responsibility. Ask them if they’d like to live without rules. Tell them that if they’d like less rules, they need to take more responsibility. Talk to them about how being responsible (doing what is right) builds trust and you need less rules. Use some recent examples either good or bad from your own family life about how to illustrate this. Talk to them about giving them more freedom as they show more responsibility.
Challenge for this Week:
Take responsibility in your relationships
This last week we talked about how God’s Kingdom is like a plant that can grow and spread. You can download the sermon here. We began looking in Matthew 13 how in quick succession Jesus tells three parables of the Kingdom, based on plants growing. I shared how Jesus was teaching and talking to farmers who would know a thing or two about growing thing. If the Kingdom is something that can grow ~ farmers would know that it would take hard work. They didn’t have the luxury of the equipment we had. It would take hard work. It would also take time. Growing and harvesting doesn’t happen in a day. And lastly it would take God’s timing, and provision. God was the one who sent the rain, and caused the growth. So seeing this Kingdom grow will take time, hard work, and God’s involvement but it grow.
But what I didn’t tackle or bring up is how God’s Kingdom also grows in a dangerous way.
Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed in Matthew 13:31. Mustard seeds were in ancient times dangerous and also explosive. They took over, they spread, and couldn’t be controlled. An ancient author Pliny the Elder wrote that mustard “grows wild…and once it has been sown it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it”
I love that picture of the Kingdom. That once it’s sown its scarcely possible to get the place free of it. That it starts to take over, growing, spreading, almost uncontrollable. That if we are spreading this Kingdom of grace and love it spreads, takes root, grows wild, and can’t be contained.
But that also is a bit dangerous. Why? Because this Kingdom of God can’t be controlled by us. It grows, it’s wild, and it is not meant to be contained but to spread. When you start spreading God’s Kingdom you are spreading life, grace, and love that once released can’t be contained.
For me that is a beautiful picture of God’s Kingdom. A Kingdom that grows from small seeds, takes time, hard work, and God’s involement but once it takes root spreads, shakes things up, and is almost impossible to get rid of.
So this week why not spread the seeds of God’s Kingdom? Because wouldn’t a beautiful testimony to you, the church, and Christians be that our communities are so full of God’s kingdom that “it’s scarcely possible to get the place free of it”…
Discussion Questions from This Sunday
- Adult Questions
- How do you “spread the seeds” of the Kingdom?
- Where should you be “scattering the seeds” of God’s Kingdom?
- Who should you be praying for consistently and watching to see if the Kingdom is growing in their life?
- Who in your life is ready and open to growing closer to God? How can you help them?
- Questions for Young Families
- Your kids grow slow just like God’s kingdom. So sit down around the dinner table and ask them how they think they have changed over the past few years, or months. Listen to their ideas. Then take time to bless them – literally. Share how you’ve seen them change, affirm the good things in them, and affirm where they are growing too. Because that’s God’s kingdom.
Weekly Challenge: Spread the seeds of the Kingdom in someone’s life and pray for them daily…