The gods all around us…

945751_89422954Sometimes I think it would be easier to live in Jesus’ day and age than ours.

At first such a statement seems ridiculous. I mean the church was facing persecution, you could be martyred, you would be dealing with famine, poverty, and immense struggle. And this is all true. But at least you’d know the enemy you’re facing.

Here is what I mean. In the time of the early church you knew that following Jesus meant that you couldn’t follow the gods of Zeus, the emperor, or Dionysus. Those gods were explicit, seen, and prominent in culture. In essence, those gods were named.

Yet in our culture our gods are just as powerful, pervasive, but are so much more subtle. We don’t think twice about following Jesus all the while working 60 hours for more money, a better office, or new promotion. We don’t think twice about following Jesus all the while filling ourselves with entertainment based on sex, hate, or anger.

The point is that our gods hide in our culture.

So on Sunday we are going to look at how Jesus calls us to follow him and him alone. We are going to name some of the gods around us that vie for our attention and pull our allegiance from Christ the King.

The question I have for you is this: what gods do you see around you?

It’s easy to name the gods of Greed and Sex. But what other gods are there out there? Because before we can resist and reject them, they need to be named.

So take some time and look at our culture, and see who is asking for your allegiance? What demands your time and attention? What gods are all around us that Jesus might say to us, ‘you can only follow one master’?

That’s where we’re going on Sunday. Maybe not the easiest topic in the world, but being prophetic and imagining a different world has never been easy. But often the hardest things in life are the most worthwhile…

The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the [culture around us] that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought.

Walter Brueggemann– The Prophetic Imagination

Remain Faithful and Win Life

On Sunday we explored the letter written to Smyrna in Revelation 2. There was a lot of difficult news for the church in Smyrna to hear. It heard that there would continue to be testing, persecution, and difficulty. But there was one beautiful verse in the end of the letter that gives hope, not only to them but to us as well…

Jesus says, “Remain faithful, even when facing death, and I will give you the crown of life”

Jesus simply says remain faithful and you will win life. He says hold on and you will win life. This is beautiful because sometimes in difficulty it seems impossible to win. Sometimes in chaos and hurt it seems like life is over. But here Jesus offers us a promise that even in the darkest times, when you are facing death, don’1346127_31038032t give up and you will win life.

This is a great reminder for all of us. Because isn’t this what we need in the dark? A reminder that the dark doesn’t win. A reminder that the dark doesn’t last. A reminder that we don’t have to conquer the darkness…we just need to hold on and we will win life.

This is what we need to hold onto in the middle of tragedy and difficulty. Not that whatever situation we are currently facing isn’t tragic, difficult, or even wrong. But that in the end the dark won’t win, it won’t last, and it won’t linger. In the end life wins. Isn’t that the whole message of Christianity in a nutshell? Death loses, and life wins if we can simply hold on…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Be faithful and win life.

Take Aways… 

  • “Our failure to hear His voice when we want to is due to the fact that we do not in general want to hear it, that we want it only when we think we need it.” Dallas Willard
  • We need to truly be open to hearing the Spirit Speak
  • Jesus didn’t die because he said, “God loves everyone”. Jesus died because he challenged the system.
  • Jesus says, “Remain faithful, even when facing death, and I will give you the crown of life”
  • If you hold on, you will win life.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What did you take away? What has helped you to hold on in a difficult time? Who has helped you to hold on in a difficult time? How can you thank them? If you are having a difficult time how can you reach out to someone? If you aren’t struggling how can you support those around you who are?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Spend sometime talking with your kids about some difficult times you’ve been through as a person. Help them to understand that they will come to difficult times but that Jesus helps us see it through. Give them a model and a story to remember when they go through difficulty.

Challenge for this Week:

Trust that Life Wins

Surviving the Darkness

On Sunday we are exploring a real necessary topic: how do you survive darkness? How do you survive the deep darkness of depression, bankruptcy, health failures, death, or persecution?706719_18781219

On Sunday we are going to be examining the letter written to the church in Smyrna who is going through a deep time of persecution and darkness. Even though Jesus promises that the darkness will continue for a moment, the letter gives deep hope in the midst of the dark. The question we will be exploring is what gives hope in the midst of darkness?

That is a good question to reflect on today. What has given you hope when you’ve gone through tragedy? What has helped shed light when you’re in the darkness of depression? When life seems to crumble, what helped you carry on?

The reason I think it’s so important to reflect on it is because in the darkness we just want to get through it, and we often forget what got us through it. But if we are going to be a community that supports one another we will need to remember what helped us through, so that we can help others.

So what’s helped you move through difficulty? Is there someone you can help today?

Because one thing is for sure. We do not get through difficulty alone. We only get through it together. So who can you support? Or if you are in difficulty who can you reach out to? Because the promise of Scripture and of Jesus is that in the end darkness doesn’t win. Life wins. And that can give us hope no matter where we are at.

And so come Sunday we will explore two little words that Jesus says that gives people facing persecution, death, and darkness new hope and how it can help us. And if you haven’t guessed what they are…it’s simple…life wins…

Duty is Dying Love

1407388_63124442On Sunday we started walking through the book of Revelation. We began with the first letter written to Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. In it Jesus speaks highly about the orthodoxy and the beliefs of the church. Yet he holds one complaint against them, “you don’t love me or each other as you did”.

Love in Ephesus has cooled. Love is slowing, and their hearts are turning harder. While Jesus praises them for their right actions, he isn’t just looking for right actions he wants their heart.

Because the truth is that when love cools in any relationship doing our duty doesn’t last. Duty is depleted love. Duty is drowned love. Duty is dying love. And once the love dies there won’t be enough left to sustain the relationship.

So Jesus says to the church, and to us in any relationship where love is dying – start again! Start again! Go back to the things you did at first. Remember why you started this relationship in the first place. Stop doing things just out of duty, and start doing them out of gratitude, grace, and a desire to care in the relationship.

And as Lent starts on Wednesday I think this is a good time to reflect on our relationship with Jesus. Are there areas that have cooled? Are there areas of duty where love should abound? If so, how can you go back to the beginning and regain love? What actions can you start and what new attitudes can you bring to old actions?

Because one thing is clear: duty isn’t the same as love. And just as we all want deep love in our relationships so does Jesus…

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Go back to the things you did at first…

Take Aways…

  • “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches”
  • We are learning about dying.
  • Its easy for love to slide from a passion, to a duty, to being absent totally.
  • Our connection to Jesus Christ isn’t just based on having right beliefs, but having a right heart.
  • “Our orthodoxy will not save us, our traditions will not save us, our soup kitchens and social programs will not save us; what will save the church is Christ” Joseph Magina
  • Duty is depleted love. Duty is drowned love. Duty is dying love.
  • Go back to the things you did a first
  • “Lord, I don’t love you. I don’t even want to love you. But I do want to want to love you” – Mother Teresa

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: How have you ever experienced the “cooling” of love? What is it that keeps love strong and going? How is your relationship with Jesus? Is it cooling? What are some things you might be able to do to bring life back to the love? Who might be able to help in this?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk about how important it is to put effort into things that matter. Talk about how if your family matters that means putting effort into it too – that if you love someone you show them. Ask them who matters to them and how they can show them love. Help them to carry it out!

Challenge for this Week

Focus on building up your love for Christ

Seven Letters and Seven Sundays

On Sunday we are starting a brand new series for Lent here at the church.

7 Letters

We are going to explore the seven letters of Revelation. Revelation is a book that is complex on the best days, and downright confusing on the worst days. But in this ancient book the Spirit still speaks. In fact, in each of the letters that is wrote there is this phrase, “Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches”

This is very true and worth reflecting on as we come up to the season of Lent next week. What is the Spirit saying to you? What is the Spirit saying to you as a church? Are there ways he is asking you to repent, to change, or to sacrifice?

Why not spend some time today and ask this question: Holy Spirit, what would you say to me?

This is a good way to start anyday…

Finding and Walking with Jesus

We talk often about the fact that we are never alone with God. We talk about how Jesus is always with us. I believe this to be true. But as I’ve often said, the point isn’t just to believe something but to experience it, be changed by it, and live in its reality. So in this case the point isn’t to just believe you aren’t alone but to know it and experience it.

But how do you do this?

How do you discover Jesus walking with you when you feel like your walking alone? How do you find him in the midst of your difficulty when you feel like your facing it on your own?

These are our questions to pursue on Sunday morning. To hopefully together discover how Jesus is walking with you, even if you didn’t realize he was there.

So my question for you today is: When have you discovered that Jesus was with you, when you thought he wasn’t? How did he reveal himself? Was it through a kind friend’s words, phone call, or embrace? Was it through a peace that came upon you? How did he reveal himself and how did you end up noticing him?

Since our faith is about following and walking with Jesus, we had better learn to recognize him in our lives.

So where have you seen Jesus in your life this week?