Beautiful Quote on Love

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I read this in a book a few weeks ago and its really lingered with me:

Love is the great equalizer. One cannot love from a higher position. Love requires personal abandonment, a divesture of the social, economic, political, or hierarchical artifices we think make us somebody of worth. Only love does that, and the loving requires the divestiture, the humility. It descends, never condescends. This is what God is teaching us in Jesus. Phil Needham

Yeah I don’t have anything to add to that, other than that this is true and worth reflecting on. To help try reading Philippians 2:5-11 a few times, I think it will resonate really well with what Phil Needham wrote.

What is the Father Like?

FarSideGodComputerSmallOn Sunday we looked at who the Father is. Many of us have this idea that like this comic shows that the Father is in heaven ready to smite. That if it weren’t for Jesus, the Father would be angry with us. That the Father’s natural disposition is not being nice like Jesus, but anger, wrath, and punishment. But this is not the picture Jesus paints of his Father

We began exploring how the Father is one who goes looking for the lost, and hurting in Matthew 18:12-14. In this passage Jesus is clear that the Father’s desire isn’t for anyone to be lost. That he notices you, and comes to seek and find you when you wander off. The posture of the Father is one of yearning, inclusion, and finding, not vengeance and “smiting”.

The second passage we looked at is Matthew 7:7-11. In this passage we see a Father who loves to give good gifts. And this matters because so often we have this feeling that God is stingy, uninterested, or that we need to “work harder” (more prayer, fasting, or faith) for God to answer our prayers. But Jesus reveals a Father who is generous, active, and approachable. Jesus reveals a Father in heaven who is filled with abundant generosity not scarcity. And this is a picture we need to get straight and hold onto.

The third passage we looked at was Luke 6:35-36. Here we see something that we often forget. The Father is merciful. Jesus is so clear, and succient reminding us the Father is merciful. The Father is not full of wrath, and anger but full of mercy. Jesus isn’t the nice one, while the Father is the angry one. Jesus reveals who the Father is, and he is clear that he is merciful. So whatever else we do with some of the other complex passages in Scripture we need to be clear on this: the Father is full of mercy.

And finally, the last passage we looked at was the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. This really summarizes all the other passages. That when the son demands his inheritance the Father’s generosity is so deep, he is even willing to give when it hurts and will be taken advantage of. We see also that the Father searches and looks for his son, like a lost sheep. We also see the Father welcome home the son with compassion and love and mercy, not judgment and wrath. We lastly see the Father being full of forgiveness.

So the main point on Sunday was to centre on the picture of the Father as revealed by Jesus. One who is loving, generous, merciful, and forgiving. This is our Father in heaven and this should change how we live.

Dads, we need to be Fathers like the Father in heaven.

Parents we need to parent like the Father in heaven.

Christians we need to live and follow the “house rules” and “house values” of our Father in heaven. We need to be about mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and love as well

So on Sunday we gave the challenge to get closer to the Father, and live like the Father. This is a good reminder to us because we need to get rid of the idea that God is sitting by a computer ready to smite. We need to get centred on the Father that Jesus reveals.

 

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: The Father is loving, generous, merciful, and forgiving

Take Aways…

  • We have a wrong picture of God the Father
  • Our picture of God the Father needs to be based in the revelation of Jesus Christ
  • If our picture of God the Father is off, so will our lives.
  • The Father’s reaction isn’t to smite but to find
  • Heaven is not about scarcity, but abundance, and gift, and generosity
  • The Father is merciful
  • Jesus didn’t die because the Father was angry, Jesus died as an expression of God’s love not anger
  • The Father Jesus reveals is loving, merciful, generous, and forgiving.
  • Next Steps: Go to the Father. Thank our fathers. Live like the Father
  • The greatest tragedy of our lives, is that we forget who we are. Henri Nouwen

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 picture did you have of the Father in your mind before today’s sermon? Was he generous or stingy? Kind of angry? Forgiving or judgy? What has shaped your image of the Father? What image / passage most resonated with you today? What has changed in your view of the Father after today? What questions do you have? How can you live more like him?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about what God the Father is like. How he is loving, generous, forgiving and merciful. Tell them this is who he is, and who you want to be like. Make a promise to them to try to live like their Father in heaven.

Challenge for this Week: Get close to the Father, and live like the Father

We Keep Forgetting Who We Are…

Nouwen

Henri Nouwen, who is generally brilliant in all he writes, once wrote this:

One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are.

And this true.

One of the great tragedies of our lives is that we forget who we are. We forget that we are loved. Because who we all are, according to the Bible, are people who are deeply loved, cherished, and valued by God. We have value, worth and intrinsic significance, not just because of what we do or believe, but because the Creator loves his creation; because the Father loves his children; because the King loves his people; because the Spirit loves his family.

The point is that it is a tragedy whenever we forget who we are, when we forget we are loved. Because when we forget this central truth, our lives can spiral and spin through difficulty, and insecurity. But when we are centred on this truth, that we are loved, our lives can burst forth meaning, courage, and significance.

So I just think that’s something worth reflecting on today. That you are loved. Don’t forget it.

Daddy You’re My Son

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Earlier this week Hudson woke me up from bed because we all slept in (Praise God!). And he said something a bit strange…”Wake up daddy, you’re my son. I love you. Wake up daddy”. And I said to him, “Hey buddy I’m your daddy, you’re my son. I’m not your son.”

And then he explained what he meant to me. Hudson went on to explain how I am his son, because he loves me. Hudson has somehow so associated the word love, and son – that they have become almost interchangeable for him.

And for me this is an amazing thing!

What it means is that I must use the words love and son in such close connection so often that Hudson hasn’t separated them. That for him they are almost synonyms. He believes that to be a son is to be loved, and that when you love someone they are your son.

And it just made me think – what if all our kids new this? I mean, what if they all knew deep down that to be a son or a daughter is to be loved? That being loved is foundational to their identity as a son or daughter? That because they are a son or a daughter they are loved beyond anything else and that – that love is certain and forever? What if the words and actions of our lives so tie together the words sons, daughters, and love that they can’t be separated? I think this is a beautiful goal and it is also a godly goal.

Because if we learn anything from the Gospels we should learn that in God’s Kingdom to be a child of God and to be loved unconditionally are intimately tied together. That being a son or daughter of God is so foundationally tied to being loved completely that they can’t be separated. 1st John 3:1 says this, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” Being a child of God is to be loved by God, and being loved by God is to be included and welcomed into his family. I just think that’s beautiful. And I think anytime we can model that love and inclusion in our own families is important too.

So obviously all of that is to say that I didn’t correct Hudson. So if he runs up to you and says you are his son, it just means he loves you deeply like a dad does a son. And that’s not a bad thing.

Seven Deadly Sins: Lust and Living with Love

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On Sunday we looked at the first of our “deadly sins”, the sin of lust. But before we got there we set up some ground rules. That first, this whole series will be preached from a posture of grace not guilt. God convicts this is true, but God doesn’t send guilt and shame. Conviction says, “I did something bad”. Guilt and shame say, “I am bad”. And that’s a huge difference. Conviction is about change; guilt and shame are about hurt and pain. So that’s ground rule #1.

Ground rule #2 was that this is about personal introspection. So that means sending my sermon online to your mother-in-law to help with her “anger” is not the point. It’s about us looking within, not around for who else needs to hear it.

And lastly, ground rule #3 was that this was about being safe and transformed. That’s the perspective that this is a safe place to talk, and experience God’s transformation. If we can’t acknowledge what we’re struggling with – how will we ever see God’s healing?

Michael Mangis writes:

Every sin confessed is an invitation for God to work miracles though his grace. If I truly grasped this truth, I would stop obsessively working to round up all my sin marbles and keep them under control. Instead, I would go out in search of marbles that are lost or forgotten in the corners of my heart. I might actually become bored with the areas of my life that are tidy and presentable. I would search out new places in me that haven’t seen the full light of God’s transformation. I might even think, It has been a while since God performed a miracle in me. Let me find a forgotten pocket of sin somewhere where I can set God’s power free to turn water into wine and blindness into sight.

And I think that’s true and why we are doing this series. We want to see miracles in people’s lives.

So with that we moved to discussing lust. Lust is such a difficult topic to discuss. The reason for this is because this sin is most deeply tied to our identity and image being made in male and female. So it has the tendency to also be tied most deeply to guilt, shame, and feelings of being unworthy. So we took a look at Jesus’ teaching on it in Matthew 5.

Jesus, in Matthew 5, is really being clear, that yes lust is wrong, but temptation is not. Jesus is not talking about having a fleeting thought, or something pop into your mind that you try to push away. Jesus says that lust is like adultery, when it settles in your heart, when you engage it, and enter into it. His point is that this needs to go.

He even advocates extreme action to rid yourself of lust. He says, “If your eye causes you to lust gouge it out and throw it away”. Now he’s not being literal here because I bet you could lust with your eyes closed if you wanted to. The point is that lust is so damaging it’s worth taking deep action to get rid of it.

That’s where we focused the majority of our time. On how to find transformation from this area. And we began by reminding those who struggle with this something that they probably don’t tell themselves: God is about forgiveness, there is grace, and God is not ashamed of you. This sin more than maybe any other isolates, and creates spirals of shame. This is why we need to talk about it, so God’s transformation can change it. And it is the good and grace of God that leads to change. So we started there by centering ourselves in God’s grace.

We lastly gave two simple practical tips. The first was to make a covenant with your eyes. Jesus says, “Do not look”, realizing that what we see and focus on settles in our hearts. And while Jesus is specifically talking about lust and sex, the Greek word more basically translated means desire. So this means for any wrong desire for power, money, position, whatever – we are not to look and focus on it. Job writes that he made a covenant with his eyes in chapter 31:1. And I think that’s a good place to start. Going to God, praying, and covenanting asking for his help for us to focus on what’s good, pure, and loving.

And with that I think we need to change our gaze. We don’t get rid of lust by focusing on lust. We get rid of lust by focusing on love and putting it into practice. Loving God, loving others, loving even ourselves. The point is that if we want to get rid of lust we need to change our focus to seeking creative ways to love those closest to us. We need to change our focus and put God in the centre. This is how we find transformation.

And that’s where we ended – looking at something that is donea part of our world, but that hopefully isn’t a part of our hearts.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Lust breaks relationship, love fills relationships

Take Aways…

  • Ground Rules #1: Posture of Grace not Guilt
  • God convicts, God doesn’t guilt
  • Ground Rules #2: Personal Introspection
  • Sin leads to unhealthy lives
  • Ground Rules #3: Safe and Transformational
  • Rather than rooting out our sins, we try to keep them under control. Micahel Mangis
  • Sin died at Easter
  • Every sin confessed is an invitation for God to work miracles though his grace. Micahel Mangis
  • Seven Deadly sins are the root, or chief sins that cause the most damage and hurt.
  • Temptation is not a sin
  • Lust is self-centered, and misplaced desire.
  • difference between lust and love is the difference between selfish desire and other-centered desire
  • The gains of lust are trivial compared with the loss it brings.” Bonhoeffer
  • God forgives you and there is grace.
  • Covenant with your eyes (Job 31:1)
  • Overcoming sin isn’t about trying harder, but getting closer to Jesus
  • Commit to love, and changing our focus

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?

Did you have any fear or worry looking at the “seven deadly sins”? How come, or why not? How important is it – to keep those ground rules in our minds when talking about these things? What are some of the dangers of approaching sin from judgement and shame? What might it be like to be freed from sin? Do you think that’s worth chasing after? How come? What did you take away from the lust teaching? How might this help you, or help others?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about lust. This is a big deal for parents, especially as kids grow older. So why not just open up a conversation with them. If they are older they probably have questions, and it’s a good time to talk them through it. Also maybe now is a good time to explain the difference between temptation and sin.

Challenge for this Week: Focus on Doing Loving Actions

Its not about you, Its always Been about God

Here is a quote that really got me thinking today:

The Christian life is not about us; it is about God. Christian spirituality is not a life-project for becoming a better person, it is not about developing a so-called deeper life. We are in on it to be sure. But we are not the subject. Nor are we the action…The great weakness of North American spirituality is that it is all about us: fulfilling our potential, getting in on the blessings of God, expanding our influence, finding our gift, getting a handle on principles by which we can get an edge over the competition. And the more there is of us, the less there is of God. – Eugene Peterson

What do you think about it? Do you think its true? How have you maybe fallen into the trap of religion being about you?

Loving Enemies and Following Jesus

1336079_98421028So on Sunday we looked at a really difficult but defining teaching of Jesus: love your enemies. This is a defining teaching of Jesus because it should define us as his followers. As Jesus himself says, everyone in the world loves those who love them. That’s normal, that natural, and that’s easy. Christians are called to be different than those around us, but the way we love not just our neighbors but our enemies.

This is Jesus’ teaching. Love your enemies.

And he grounds this teaching in something so important for us. He grounds this teaching in his revelation of who the Father is. He says we are to love our enemies in Matthew 5:45 because this makes us true children of our Father. That just as the Father loves those who oppose him, how he sends rain and sunshine on the good and evil, and how he has particularity for grace ~ so should we as Christians. The point is that if God is about grace, forgiveness, and love of enemies, we too need to be as Christians. The truth is this: there is no room for hate in the Kingdom because there is no room for hate in God.

And we need to get this straight because our view of God shapes our behaviors. If we believe God is hateful, we become hateful. If we believe God is loving, we become loving. So Jesus grounds our behavior in our belief of a loving God.

We ended with the challenge to actually love our enemies. We recognized the ridiculousness of this. That it might not change our enemies, it won’t protect us from hurt, and it won’t be easy. It is though the way of the Kingdom. Bonhoeffer says this: “Jesus does not promise that when we bless our enemies and do good to them they will not despitefully use and persecute us. They certainly will. But not even that can  hurt or overcome us, so long as we pray for them.” Our love, prayer, and good deeds regardless of the change in our enemy needs to be our behavior. Bonhoeffer continues, “The will of God is that men should defeat their enemies by loving them. Am I asked how this love is to behave? Jesus gives the answer: bless, do good, and pray for your enemies without reserve and without respect of persons”.

And that’s how we ended the challenge from Jesus: pray for enemies, do good to enemies, and bless your enemies. Let’s just see what might happen in our world and our lives if we take Jesus’ teaching seriously.

What might happen if we actually lived it out?

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Love your enemies

Take Aways…

  • What if we actually did what Jesus said?
  • God is not a God of hate
  • If we are not clear on who God is we will not be clear on how to live.
  • If you have a false idea of God, the more religious you are the worse it is for you – it were better for you to be an atheist. William of Canterbury
  • You become the god, you follow.
  • Praying for an enemy and loving him will prove mutually reinforcing. The more love, the more prayer; the more prayer the more love. D.A. Carson
  • Love your enemies
  • Our enemies are not “people in general” but “personal people” we know and interact with.
  • Loving your enemies won’t make your life easier, better, or less problematic ~ it will make your life like Jesus’
  • Jesus was not crucified for saying or doing what made sense to everyone. Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas
  • The Christian principle ‘love your enemy is good … there is nothing to be said against it except that it is too difficult for most of us to practice sincerely. Bertrand Russell
  • Through the medium of prayer we go to the our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God. We are doing vicariously for them what they cannot for themselves. Every insult they utter only serves to bind us more closely to God and them. Bonhoeffer
  • Love your enemies.

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 did you find hardest about this teaching? What did you find compelling? Who right now is an enemy God might be calling you to love? How can you pray for them? How might you do good towards them? How can you bless them? Who can help support you in this and encourage you in loving your enemies? Whom can you support in their effort to love their enemies? How can you help them?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about today’s teaching. Talk to them about how there can be no hate in God’s kingdom. Ask them who they have as an enemy right now. Ask them if they’d like to pray for them and pray for them together.

Challenge for this Week: Love your enemies: do good, pray, and bless them.

 

 

Jesus’ Simplest and Hardest Teaching…

love enemiesOn Sunday we are looking at one of the simplest and most radical of all the teaching of Jesus. It’s this: Love your enemies.

Bertrand Russell, a Christian man who later became an atheist and deep thinker, once famous said:

“The Christian principle ‘love your enemy is good … there is nothing to be said against it except that it is too difficult for most of us to practice sincerely”.

What I think is interesting is that he doesn’t debate the beauty or rightness of Jesus’ statement. He debates its practicality or the average person’s ability to practice it. And I agree with him wholeheartedly, that this teaching of Jesus is difficult to practice. And it is difficult because it is counter cultural, it requires discipline, and most of  all, it requires inspiration as well.

So on Sunday I want to really explore and dream about how our lives might be different if we actually practiced this teaching of Jesus. As Jesus himself says, “everyone loves who love them back”. What might happen though if we became a community of people who took seriously Jesus’ teaching to love others. How might that shape and change us?

And so we are going to be diving into the world of neuroscience, our view of God, and of course, a few thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

My argument on Sunday will be pretty simple.

  • It’s not that loving enemies is easy: it isn’t.
  • It’s not that loving enemies makes sense: it doesn’t.
  • It’s not that loving enemies will make them be nice to us: it probably won’t.
  • It’s that loving our enemies is the way of Jesus Christ.

Loving our enemies is not easy,  it’s certainly not practical, and it won’t ensure you never get hurt again. Loving your enemies sometimes mean you end up on a cross; sometimes it means being left alone and abandoned, and sometimes it means that the entire world gets changed…

So that’s where we’re going, but why wait to hear it on Sunday. Why not practice it today? Why not try to love those around you today? It won’t be easy or simple, but it will be the way of Jesus. And that should be enough…

“Daddy I’m Not Special Because You Love Me”

1470072_10153676442255643_402969151_nA few days ago I was talking with my three-year old. And sometimes I think three-year olds should be in charge because in their simplicity and understanding they are brilliant. But, of course, if they were in charge we’d probably have to watch more Dora than we’d want to but that’s a side point.

As I was talking with Hudson I told him he is so special and loved by mommy and daddy. And he got mad. Down right angry. And he told me, “No daddy I’m not special because you love me”. And I started to get a little frustrated that it kind of felt like he was rejecting a bit of my care and love for him. So I told him, “No you are special because daddy and mommy love you and will always love you no matter what.” And he said again “No daddy I’m not special beause you love me” And he started stomping his feet.

Just as I was feeling a little inwardly unsure about what to do, Hudson said this. “Daddy I’m special because God loves me, mommy told  me that. God loves me, made me, so I’m special”.

See three year olds can be brilliant – right?

And Hudson is right. That is the foundation for why we are all special, unique, and valued. And I pray to God that he will never ever forget that foundation. I pray that he holds onto that truth for every day of his entire life. I pray that he will never seek to find his validation in love from anyone else, from anything else, or from any other substitute. I pray that he will know he is special, matters, and has value because God loves him.

If you think about how might our lives be different if we would have just held onto that truth?

How might decisions in high school have been different, if we knew with such conviction, like Hudson, that we matter because of God? How might our decisions in our marriage, in our jobs, and in our families be different if we were so secure in God’s love for us?

So on that day Hudson taught me something important. He is special because God loves him, and so am I, and so are you.

The Best Type of Gifts

I think the best gifts are often the most unexpected.
Do you know what I mean?
The small and unexpected things that a friend might give, a family member or something like that? We all expect gifts to show up on our birthday and around Christmas, but some of the best gifts are the ones that come out of the blue because someone was thinking about you.
IMG_3203This week I went over to my mom’s house and I found this from one of my Aunts – a T-shirt for pastors. She had seen this shirt and not only thought of me, but acted on it and bought it for me.
It’s often these type of small but incredibly meaningful gifts that leave an impact. It’s showing up with a coffee for a friend when they least expected it. It’s having a book delivered to their house that you thought they’d enjoy. It’s a T-Shirt about ministers that reminds you of them.
The point is we should be showing our care in creative ways. It doesn’t have to be expensive or large ways; it has to be intentional and thoughtful ways.
And that’s what this shirt means to me – an intentional and thoughtful gift – which are always the best kind.
So why not take a second and think about someone you could surprise with a gift this week. And then actually make it happen, and spread some love and hope.
Of course there is one thing small error with my gift and with this shirt…I can’t hold a tune to save my life 🙂