Looking Back, to Look Forward

remember-1-1152856-1600x1600So on Sunday we looked back at some of the different lessons God has really taught us in the past 4+ years here. Because I believe that what God teaches us in the past is what often prepares us for our future. The trouble is that we are so forgetful. We forget what God has taught us, we forget the lesson, and we move on.

So we wanted to halt that memory loss by remembering 4 key lessons God has taught us as a church over the past number of years.

The first was to focus on your great work. I believe that God has something that each of us are to do that is lasting and impactful. For some this great work is launching a business, writing a book, starting a ministry, or being a great dad, being an amazing wife, being the best grandmother possible. Each of us are graced for different things, the point is not to give up on what God has given us. We remembered an amazing story of Nehemiah where when a good opportunity comes along he says, “No I am doing a great work I cannot come down”. This is what we need to do, focus on the great work God has for us.

We also remembered that our lives leave a legacy that can shape generations. We looked at Jacob and Esau and how one decision by Esau changed and shaped Jospeh so that when he was in the same situation as Esau he knew how to act. And lives were changed and generations were saved. We can have the same impact if we choose our choices intentionally, if we do the hard stuff of living like Jesus.

We then looked at something hard but necessary to do: forgiveness. The truth is that forgiveness as a Christian isn’t optional – it’s kinda part of the job description. But it’s really hard to do, but that’s why it’s so life changing. So we remembered and reflected on how forgiveness, while hard to give, is necessary and challenges ourselves to give forgiveness to someone.

And last but not least, we looked at the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat. And we reflected on a main point we had worked through earlier this year. That when difficult and darkness come that we need to always remember who is in our boat. God is always with us, and we can’t let the storms steal our focus from him.

So that’s what we learned on Sunday. The main point was really don’t forget what God has taught you. And we challenge each of us with a simple challenge: to put one of these lessons into practice. Because the way we ensure we don’t forget what God teaches us, is to live it out. Things we practice and use, we remember and don’t forget.

So we closed with a challenge. To put one of these four lessons into practice: to focus on your great work, to ensure you leave a legacy, practice forgiveness, and never forget Jesus is in your boat. Because it’s when you start to live differently that lives are changed.

 

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaDon’t forget what God has taught you

Teaching Points:

  • What God prepares in us in the past, is what enables us for his future
  • If we want to find where God is leading us, it begins by remembering what he has done within us.
  • I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. – Nehemiah
  • The choices you make today can be the thing that determines someone’s life years from now.
  • Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is a choice to end the cycle of revenge and leave justice in the hands of God. Brian Zahnd
  • Always remember who is in your boat.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What sermons do you remember most? What lessons has God taught you that have been significant in your lifetime? Is there one of those lessons that Andrew shared that resonates? What can you do to take a next step? Who can help you with that?

Challenge for the Week: Put one of these lessons into practice.

Sermons From the Vault

safe-1240163-1280x1920Okay so here is a good question to think about:

What are the top few lessons God has taught you in the past 5 years?

Take a moment and think about it. Because I believe that often what God teaches us in the past, is what is preparing us for his future. But the truth is this: we are quick to forget the lessons we learn. I know this is true of me, and I’m sure it’s probably true for you as well. That we learn something important, or really impactful but a few months go by and we forget or stop living that important truth out.

So here is what we want to do on Sunday. We are going to be looking back in our past for some of the key lessons God has taught us, so we can look forward into the future God has for us.

But before Sunday comes why not spend some time and think and pray about what God has taught you? Because remembering the lessons God teaches isn’t a waste of time, it’s how we grow.

Blindness and Learning to See – When you Think You Can See

Oblinds-1436458-1279x1646n Sunday we are continuing in our series “The 7 Woes” for Lent. We are looking at the condemnations that Jesus makes to the religious leaders of his day, and asking what he would say to us. I know it’s not easy, but necessary.

On Sunday we are going to look at this “woe”:

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!  “Blind guides! What sorrow awaits you! For you say that it means nothing to swear ‘by God’s Temple,’ but that it is binding to swear ‘by the gold in the Temple.’  Blind fools! Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred?  And you say that to swear ‘by the altar’ is not binding, but to swear ‘by the gifts on the altar’ is binding.  How blind! For which is more important—the gift on the altar or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  When you swear ‘by the altar,’ you are swearing by it and by everything on it. And when you swear ‘by the Temple,’ you are swearing by it and by God, who lives in it. And when you swear ‘by heaven,’ you are swearing by the throne of God and by God, who sits on the throne.

We are going to be looking, in essence, at how we can be blind to what God is doing, and how we aren’t actually following God. This is a pretty big topic and a pretty hard topic because here is the truth: the Pharisees thought they were following God but they were in God’s way. And the same thing can happen to us. We can think we are following God with righteousness, holiness, and dedication only to have Jesus say we are blind and a blind guide.

So to prepare for this Sunday here is what I think we should all do – we should pray and ask God to reveal himself to us. We should ask him to reveal the ways in which we are blind. Because the truth is if we are moving in the wrong direction, we need to know The trouble is we need to hear God first. So my challenge before we even get to Sunday is just this: to listen to the Spirit. That’s the first step to learning to see.

The Power of Failure in Leadership

remington-typewriter-1423223-1279x1807This will sound almost well…un-North American. But life isn’t about winning. I know that seems funny, but it’s also something we all know deep down. We all know people who seem so content, and uninterested in joining in the rat race around us and competing for life. They just seem to have…life.

And that’s what I’m interested in. Interested in finding life apart from winning.

Because here is the thing, there is always a loser when someone else is a winner. And this makes it sound like I just want to give out participation ribbons to everyone and pretend that everything is equal and everyone should get a trophy. And that’s not it at all.

I believe that there is deep value in working hard, in striving and reaching for the best. I believe pushing yourself matters deeply. But what I also know is that this world is unfair, and there are people who are working hard, striving, and losing because the deck is stacked against them. So what I am saying is that life cannot be tied directly to winning; it needs to be tied to something greater. It needs to be tied of course to Jesus, to pursuing growth.

And here is the crazy thing, for you to grow you need to fail.

I know that sounds pessimistic but it’s true. There is nothing you grow at without some learning and failing along the way. There is nothing you came out of the womb totally competent and excellent at. This is the trouble with tying life to winning. It makes life static and boring because there is no growth.

Joan Chittister puts it this way,

“We need failure to learn that we don’t need to win to justify the reason for our existence. Wining is part of life, yes, but human beings can live healthy, happy lives without it. We are not born to win; we are born to grow, to develop, to become the best of ourselves – and to enjoy life…No life is not about winning. It is about trying, about participating, about striving, about becoming the best we can be, not by the best by someone else’s measure.”

And I just believe that is true. We are not born to win, but to grow. And that’s part about what following Jesus is all about. It’s about being “re-born” to learn to continue to grow in a way that requires failing, faltering steps, and striving for his Kingdom and his best.

So I write this all to say, that if you’ve been failing lately – that might just be okay. Don’t give up because life isn’t about the winning, but the trying.

Failing in Leadership, and Why Its Necessary

1133804_47640439If you listen to truly gifted leaders you will almost always hear some paradoxical: they will talk about their failures. 

They will talk about the tough times, and what they learned deeply. The leaders we most respect and follow when they talk about leadership are more likely to point to their failures than their successes.

And of course there are the arrogant leaders, who talk about how they are God’s amazing gift to the world.

But the truly gifted leaders I respect, have a humility, that comes from failure. 

I say that this is paradoxical because we think of the best leaders as the ones who don’t fail, who press forward, and chart their own path. But I think this is the myth of leadership that we create in our minds. True leaders have failed, and more importantly, have learned from their failure.

The beauty of this is that if you have failed it doesn’t exclude you from being a leader. The question then is what can you learn from your failings and falternigs? What has failing, hurting, or going through that tough time given you to offer the world? Because some of our most profound offerings to the world don’t come out of our success but our struggles.

So if you are leading, struggling, and maybe even failing – be encouraged because you might just be on the path to better leadership as long as you keep learning, and keep pressing forward.

Delivering Movies and Doing It Right

10562975_10154540150185643_1634620271199633372_nMy kids aren’t perfect…by any means. Just come spend a day with us, and you’ll see. Actually, just come spend an hour and you’ll probably see that. We’re not perfect parents by any means. We love our kids, and do our best – but sometimes it doesn’t seem to work. Asher and Hudson fight, Asher refuses to eat and screams, Hudson refuses to share and throws his toys, or like any parents the kids have a meltdown in a grocery store.

I have a theory that if our kids are going to meltdown and lose it…there is always someone else around to see it.

But all that aside, sometimes my boys get it right. And when they do it absolutely makes all the timeouts, all the talks, all the time spent with them just so worth it.

The other day our neighbor was sick, like really sick with a fever so he couldn’t play with Hudson. So we went back home, and Hudson disappeared for 30-45 minutes. He was quiet up in his room…too quiet. This is normally when we’d go and and discover that he painted his room, or he painted his brother or something.

But instead, what we discovered was he was making cards, getting his favorite toys together, and his favorite movies into a bag. And he came and said that all of this was for his neighbor friend. I asked him why he did this and he said, “Because Daddy, when people are sick we help them. That’s what you said right? Did I do it right daddy?”

And of course your heart breaks a little bit with happiness, and you say “Of course you did it right – let’s go give it to him”

So I write all this to say one thing. No ones perfect, and there are moments when we fail and screw up as parents. But there are also beautiful moments where they grow, get it, and so surprise you that it just makes it all worth it.

The Leadership Principle of “I Don’t Know”

??????????John Cotton Dana once said, “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn.”

I would agree with that, and also say, “Who dares to lead must never cease to learn”. Because the truth is that leading, and teaching require learning at their core. Leadership is nothing you are “born with”, it’s something you are taught. Knowledge is something you gain as you learn. So both teaching and leading flow out of a posture of learning.

  • The person who refuses to learn, refuses to grow.
  • The person who refuses to learn, refuses to improve.
  • The person who refuses to learn, stops moving forward and will soon move backward.

I think that’s all pretty straightforward, but here is the leadership or learning principle that flows from this that is hard. To be a good leader and a good teacher requires learning. This also means it requires saying, “I don’t know”. And this is what is hard for teachers and leaders.

They are used to being looked up to as the person with answers, with direction, with knowledge and skill. It is hard when you are in that position to say “I don’t know”. But being able to say, “I don’t know” is the fundamental posture of a learner. It is required to learn, to admit you need to learn. So here is the paradox or difficulty: to be a good leader means being a learner, which means admitting you don’t know things.

And this is hard, because we have somehow built up the expectation that our leaders and teachers would “know everything”. That if they were to admit that they don’t know we see them as an example of weakness rather than strength. But saying “I don’t know” isn’t a weakness; it’s a requirement to be a good leader and teacher. It requires self-awareness to know what you know, and know what you don’t. It requires courage to admit the limits of who you are. It requires humility to continue to look to others as well for direction, support, and growth.

The point is that if we want to be good leaders and teachers, it means being a great learner. And that means we need to get good at saying, “I don’t know”.

What is the Wise Thing To Do?

So on Sunday we pursued one question that I think will change your life. It will lead you into becoming a wise person. The question is this: what is the wise thing to do?

And at first glance it’s such a simple question that it doesn’t even seem that helpful. But if you think back to your greatest regret, failure, or mess up – I bet if you had asked that question, and followed through with it – things would be different.

So that’s what we looked at on Sunday; one simple question and 4 different responses to it. In Proverbs there are 4 types of people mentioned and each type of person has a different response to this question.

The first type of person Proverbs says are “simple”. These are people who do not know enough yet to ask this question. They are the young, naïve, and innocent people. These are our kids, and others who don’t have enough maturity or experience yet to ask this question – what is the wise thing to do.

The next type of person is a foolish person. This is someone who knows enough to ask the question, and knows the answer but doesn’t care enough to follow it. If you ask a fool what the wise thing to do is, they can often tell you. But they don’t care to follow it. This is because as Proverbs says Doing wrong is fun for a fool. Proverbs 10:23. So they know that dropping out of school, going to that party, not showing up for work isn’t wise. They just don’t care enough to change. That’s what Proverbs calls the foolish person.

The next person is the mocker. Proverbs descirbes them as someone who has given up on the question. They don’t care about being wise, they care about being in control and cutting people down. They want to be the best in the room, but rather than focusing on being wise to gain respect, they focus on being critical to lower others around. They know what is wise, they just don’t care about the question, or those who follow it.

And then the last type of person is a wise person. This is someone who knows the question, what is the wise thing to do, unlike the simple person. This is someone who cares about the question, unlike the foolish person. This is someone who hasn’t given up on the question, unlike the mocking person. The wise person is someone who asks the question, and follows through on it.

They ask, “What is the wise thing to do?” And then they do it.

That was our challenge this week. To ask that question each and everyday, and also to make it personal. To say in light of my stage in life, my finances, my future, my past, who I am etc. What is the wise thing to do? Because what is wise for you and for me might be different because we are different. So we challenged everyone to ask that question and to make it personal.

Here is the beauty of the question, what is the wise thing to do. Even if you come to a situation where it is so complex and difficulty you are unsure what is  the wise thing to do – the question still works. Just ask, “What is the wise thing to do, when you don’t know the wise thing to do”.  The answer is pretty simple – go to God, go to others that are wiser, and move slowly.

So this one question I believe can prevent so much regret, start to heal relationships, and set our lives in the right direction. And all we need to do is ask it, and follow it.

 

Sermon Notes

Big Idea What is the wise thing to do?
Take Aways…
  • Being wise is about knowing how to apply knowledge
  • Being smart does not equate to being wise
  • What is the wise thing to do?
  • Four types of people: Simple, Fool, Mocker, and Wise
  • Simple people don’t know enough to ask the question
  • Fools know enough to ask the question, but don’t care enough to follow it.
  • The words of the godly encourage many, but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. Proverbs 10:21
  • A foolish person didn’t care enough to think.
  • Eventually being foolish isn’t fun
  • The mocker has given up on the question.
  • Ask this question, “What is the wise thing to do”, and follow it through
  • Is it wise for me to do?
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?

Have you ever in life been, the “simple person”, “foolish person”, or “mocking person”? How do you think asking the question, might help? What major decisions are before you right now, or major issues or situations? What would be the wise thing to do? Who can help you to do the wise thing?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families Talk to your kids about today’s topic. Teach them the question – “What is the wise thing to do” and explain it to them using some examples. Maybe as an example, eating a few treats is great, eating all of them isn’t wise as you’ll get sick. Get into the habit too of asking them the question when they come to you for advice.
Challenge for this Week Ask the question: what is the wise thing to do, and follow through.

Looking Back and Looking Forward: Where Has God been active?

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?

 

And come Sunday we are doing the same thing. We are going to be looking at the top 10 things God has taught us this year. But why wait for Sunday, why not do it today?1407094_25104674

My Failures as a Father

733823_10152715963490643_1800426956_nOn Sunday for Father’s Day we looked at my failures as a Father. We looked at three major ones I’ve had in: attention, ownership of reactions, and affirmation.

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.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Show attention, affirmation, and ownership of reactions in relationships

Take Aways…

  • 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