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.

Anger, Murder, and Following Jesus

1391171_98402089On Sunday we looked at the teaching of Jesus where he calls his Kingdom followers to root anger out of their hearts. This is where Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said that murder is wrong, but I tell you anger is also wrong”.

And as we explored this topic we realized why anger is so destructive. It is destructive because anger stops reconciliation. Anger fuels grudges, bitterness, and a prison of our own making. The point is that as followers of God it is not enough to simply refrain from committing homicide, while harbouring seething rage in our hearts. To do that is to miss the point.

Christians are to be a different community, called to live differently than those around us. But how can we live differently if we harbor anger, let it direct our actions, drag others into courts, refuse to reconcile, and hold onto our own self-righteous anger. And yes, all anger is self-righteous in a way. Because anger arises when our will is opposed, blocked, or stopped. We get angry because we don’t get what we want. The point isn’t that anger is wrong in and of itself. Anger simply points to the fact that something we want (which may be very good) is being stopped. The point is that if we harbor anger in our hearts, no longer is anger alerting us to a situation, it starts to direct our actions and attention.

The point is we cannot be the church God calls us to be, if inside of us our hearts are brimming with anger and resentment. We need to learn to deal with it, to root it out, and to not harbor anger against another.

Stanley Hauerwas writes: “Jesus’ life makes possible our reconciliation with the Father and with one another. That reconciliation creates a community of reconciliation, a  community of peace. So we should not be surprised that Jesus admonishes us not to harbor our anger at our brothers and sisters, but rather we are to seek reconciliation with them. He does not say that we are not to be angry, but rather that we are not to come to the alter of sacrifice unreconciled to one with whom we are angry.”

The point is that if we are following Jesus, we are following someone who practices reconciliation, and then so must we. We cannot hold onto our anger, to stoke our rage, or to let contempt take hold of our hearts. We need to be people who root it out, and pursue reconciliation. This was the main point on Sunday – root out anger, and pursue reconciliation.

We left ourselves with this challenge on Sunday to rid ourselves of anger, and work at reconciliation. We want to take this teaching of Jesus seriously. To examine the places where anger has taken root, to ask Jesus whom do we need to pursue reconciliation with, and how can we live as people of peace in the world. This is indeed a practical everyday challenge, but one that could truly change how we live and how we are seen in the world.

I want to close with a rather lengthy but a very poignant quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer who summarizes the idea and makes it personal:

Anger is always an attack on [another’s] life, for it refuses to let him live and aims at his destruction…Every idle word which we think so little of betrays our lack of respect for our neighbor, and shows that we place ourselves on a pinnacle above him and value our own lives higher than his. The angry word is a blow struck at our brother, a stab at his heart: it seeks to hit, to hurt and to destroy.

So long as we refuse to love and serve our brother and make him an object of contempt and let him harbor a grudge against me or the congregation, our worship and sacrifice will be unacceptable to God…Let us therefore, as a church, examine ourselves ….There is only one way of following Jesus and of worshipping God, and that is to be reconciled

Sermon Notes: 

Big Idea: Root out anger and pursue reconciliation

Take Aways…

  • What if we actually did what Jesus said?
  • “The only proper response to this word which Jesus brings with him from eternity is simply to do it” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • “The whole sermon is not about how to be better individual Christians, it is a picture of the way the church is to look” Stanley Hauerwas, Will Willimon
  • Now the point is that we can follow the rules and still entirely miss the point of the rules
  • The root of murder is anger, and anger is murderous in principle. One has not conformed to the better righteousness of the kingdom simply by refraining from homicide. D.A. Carson
  • Anger stops reconciliation
  • This teaching is about overcoming the anger, that leads to murder, and learning to be people who reconcile
  • We cannot be the church God calls us to be, if inside of us our hearts are brimming with anger and resentment
  • Jesus followers are not to insult each other. Reconciliation must be a first priority in the family of God’s people, or else the worshipping community will be no different from the world at large where festering pride and resentment lead people to drag each other into court and throw each others into prison – Dallas Willard
  • Root out anger and pursue reconciliation
  • Rid yourself of anger, and work at reconciliation

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?

Would you say you ever struggle with anger? Had you ever thought of anger in this way before? How has anger stopped you from reconciling before? Whom do you need to reconcile with this week? How might you go about trying? Who can help you and support you as you pursue reconciliation?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about anger, and how about in God’s kingdom it isn’t to be there. Ask someone being angry has ever hurt their feelings. Ask if when they were angry they ever hurt someone’s feelings. Ask them if there is anyone they need to reconcile

Challenge for this Week Rid yourself of anger, and work at reconciliation

What If We Just Did What Jesus Said?

walking-away-1418812-mOn Sunday we are really exploring a radical question. What if we just followed Jesus in what he said?

We are beginning to explore his teaching on the Sermon of the Mount and will be seeking to actually practice it. Because here is what I believe: the teachings of Jesus aren’t primarily to be debated, to be forgotten, reworked, or skipped over. They are to be practiced.

Our guiding quote for this whole series is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Commenting on the sermon of the mount, with his usual succinctness and challenge he says:

“The only proper response to this word which Jesus brings with him from eternity is simply to do it”

And I think he is right. What if we just did what Jesus said? Dream with me a moment how might your life be different? How might your family’s life be different? How might your community be different? How might this world be different if we all got serious about following what Jesus said?

That’s why I’m excited for Sunday because I think it will start something in our lives so meaningful.

So before we get there why not take a moment and simply sit and read over Matthew 5 a few times. See what stands out, see what Jesus asks you to do, and then don’t forget to put it into practice.

Following

Learning to Actually Live Like Jesus

On Sunday we are looking at probably one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. We are going to be looking at  Philippians 2:5-11. This is called the Christ Hymn by scholars, and here is why this passage is so important.  This passage is important because it sets out with absolute clarity who Jesus Christ is.jesus-on-cross-4-1364043-m

And this matters because if we don’t know who Jesus is, we don’t know how to live, and we can end up not looking or living at all like Jesus. And maybe you’ve seen this in your own life; people who seem to know a lot about God, but don’t seem to actually live anything like him.

This is what we want to really dive deeply into on Sunday. Who is this Jesus we follow? How do we live like him? And how do we change the world with him? Because make no mistake, we, as Christians, are called to change the world. The problem is that we do it in the way of the world, rather than the way of Jesus. And as we’ll see on Sunday the way of Jesus is all about vulnerability, obedience and humility. The way of Jesus is about getting rid of power, position, and privilege and emptying ourselves. So come Sunday we hope to come away with two clear things. First, who Jesus is, and secondly, how we are to live.

So before we get there why not spend sometime with the passage below and wrestle with it. Ask who does this passage reveal Jesus to be? And how is it then calling us to live?

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Emptying Yourself and Not Controlling the Outcomes

863912_92856468So on Sunday I was preaching in St. Catharines on Emptying Yourself. The main idea was that Jesus emptied himself, and so we are also called to empty ourselves on those around us. The idea was to see people not as interruptions but opporutnties to empty ourselves, giving away grace, hope, and life.
And so after the service I went out for lunch with two of the pastors from the church. And as I’m leaving the downtown area a man looks at me sitting on a bench near my car and says, “Sir, do you have any change, I have a handicap and would love a coffee”?
I looked in my dash and there was a $2 (which I thought was God’s provision ~ because I never ever seem to have cash). I gave him the toonie and went to get back in my car. But my sermon kept echoing around in my mind, and I wondered – “Is this emptying myself?” So I talked with the man a bit more, and he asked if I was a Christian. I said I was, and I saw that my bank was directly behind where we were talking. So I quick walked in, grabbed some more cash, and gave it to the man.
This is normally in the story where God moves in and changes lives, where people accept Jesus, and where we feel like we did a wonderful thing. Expect that didn’t happen at all. Instead the interaction with the man turned sour. He got quite angry at me for not getting out more money. And so as I gave him the money he turned and stomped off leaving me feeling a bit confused, unsure, and unsettled. I wondered to myself, “God what did I do wrong?”
But I think that’s sometimes the wrong perspective isn’t it. We focus on the outcomes, rather than the obedience. We focus on the change we create, rather than leaving that up to God, and simply following in his footsteps. These were my thoughts as I walked back to my car.
I thought maybe there is something I can learn from this…
And as I’m thinking this through, a lady drives up next to me and rolls down her window and gets my attention. She says to me, “I just saw what you did, and you are far too nice. I never would have been able to do that.” She said “I hope that he uses the money for the right things, and not drugs.” I said to her, “I hope so too, but as a Christian my calling is to give, and not judge how the gift is used”. She said she’d never thought of that before and thanked me for what I did and drove off.
As I reflect on this whole little experience I believe I learned one key thing. Focus on following Jesus, and leaving the rest up to him. Maybe I was to give the money to help the man, to help this lady, or even for me to learn something. And maybe God is using this experience to change all three of us.
The point is I think we should focus on following more than anything else. Don’t worry about the outcomes, and whether the action or gift worked or failed. Focus on being faithful and following as best you can. That’s what I learned and what I want to keep learning and most of all keep practicing.