“Jesus Fights Bad Guys Daddy”

IMG_6616The other day I saw Asher drawing intently. He was just really going at it and was so excited. And he said “Look Daddy, look at what I drawed”. I asked him what it was and he said, “It’s Jesus! He’s ALIVE Daddy! He’s Alive!!”

I thought that it was really very cool that he knew that Jesus was alive. I felt like…well that I was a good dad and even better pastor. And then I asked him what was happening on the other part of the page and he said, “Daddy those are the bad guys, Jesus is getting them.”

“Oh” I said, “Jesus is fighting and getting all the bad guys?” And he looks at me seriously and says, “Yep daddy, Jesus is getting the bad guys.”

I thought to myself that maybe I wasn’t as great a dad/pastor as I thought. Because Asher is all boy and is always turning things into weapons (like tape measures) and batarangs (like hangers). He’s always dancing around being a ninja, a knight, or an angry bird. He loves to wrestle, and I thought this was all just influencing his thoughts about Jesus.

Until of course I realized that Asher is right: Jesus does fight the bad guys.

Sometimes when we think of Jesus we just think he is all “nice, meek, and mild”. We hear that Jesus is love (which is true) but then think Jesus is passive (not true). We imagine Jesus just being a really nice person who lets us do whatever we want, smiling all the time. But that’s not really the picture that the Bible paints of Jesus. Yes Jesus is love incarnate, but love isn’t passive. Love actively stands against injustice, love actively stands up for the hurting, love doesn’t let the status quo reign. The cross is the supreme self revelation of God – revealing God to be self-sacrificial love. But the cross is also the place where Jesus does fight the bad guys of sin, death, darkness, injustice, and evil.

So while I don’t want to read too much into a 3 year old’s drawing of spots, and red marker – I think Asher is on to something. Jesus is love, but Jesus is also a protector. Jesus is also a savior from evil and injustice. Jesus does fight the bad guys, not in the way we would with violence and retribution, but he does fight the bad guys none-the-less.

Of course Asher probably wasn’t thinking about how Jesus fights the bad guys with non-retributive love and self-sacrifice when he drew his picture…but either way he is on the right path.

On that day Asher reminding  me about an important part of who Jesus is: getting the bad guys. So today if you are struggling in a tough part, Asher would want to remind you that Jesus is with you, standing up for you, and standing against the dark. I think that’s a good reminder.

A Christian is less about avoiding sin, than actively doing God’s will

1224442_75255610I want to think a little bit about a quote from Bonhoeffer. Its really deep – okay most of what he writes is deep. But this one quote gets me every time. He says this:

Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.

And I think that is so true. The reason that I don’t think that “sheltering” or “Christian Bubble” thinking or practice works is because the focus is off. In those paradigms the focus is to avoid sin, to stay safe, to be cautious, and only to be involved with things that are “approved” (by whomever has the authority). And please hear me clearly, I’m certainly not against avoiding sin or avoiding dangerous or compromising situations. My issue is with the central focus. 

In the “sheltering” or “Christian Bubble” thinking the central focus is actually sin. Sure the focus is avoiding sin, but the focus is still sin. The entire paradigm is driven by fear (don’t fall into sin) negativity (don’t don’t don’t) and staying “safe”. And this is Bonhoeffer’s point. The central activity of being a Christian isn’t what you are again, staying safe, or of fear of the world.

The central mark of being a Christian is courageously following God.

Focusing on following God needs to be the central defining aspect of a Christians life. And yes that entails avoiding sin, and compromising situations but those are secondary to the primary Christian calling: courageously following Christ.

My point is that Bonhoeffer is right. The focus of Christianity isn’t just about avoiding sin, but courageously doing God’s calling. Christianity isn’t best thought of as a retreat, or evacuation from the world, or a refuge from the world; it is best thought of as an adventure in partnering with God to save the world.

Learning to Deal with Anger

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On Sunday we are looking at a topic we’ve looked at before here, but one that needs to be addressed often. We are looking at anger.

And this is a really important topic because as Jesus teaches us anger is like murder (Matthew 5). And what Jesus is trying to get at in that teaching is that anger, just like  murder, can actually kill relationships. Anger can fracture friendships. Anger can wreck families.

And I think we know this and have experienced this before.

But the other side of the coin is this, anger is a feeling we have when our wills get stopped. We get angry when what we want doesn’t happen. In this way then anger is a natural response to the world around us. Paul says in Ephesians 4 in your anger do not sin. Meaning that anger isn’t a sin, our response to anger can determine whether we sin or not.

The point is that if we respond poorly to anger, it will lead to a severing of relationships like Jesus said. If we indulge and cultivate anger it will lead to a fracturing of families like Jesus said.

So on Sunday we want to look at how to deal with anger, how do we respond to anger, and what advice does the Bible give on how to do this. That’s where we are going and I think it’s an important topic. Because if you want to have healthy relationships we need to learn to deal with anger and conflict. So that’s this Sunday and if you want to read ahead – why not start with Ephesians 4. There is some real wisdom in there we’ll be drawing from.

Healthy Pride? Is it Possible?

On Sunday we are looking at the last of our Seven Deadly Sins. We are actually going to be looking at a sin that I think we have a confused relationship with: pride.

In many ways we know that pride is a sin and awful. No one likes to hang out with arrogant jerks. We just don’t. And I’m sure if you’ve lived long enough you’ve seen a relationship, business, or connection wrecked because of pride. Pride has a way of wrecking things, we know this.

But I think in other ways we aren’t quite willing to live without pride. We try to instill pride in our kids. We post accomplishments on facebook with pride. We have pride in our companies, sports teams, or even nations.

The point is that while we don’t like people who have too much pride, we also don’t want to live without it.

So I want to dive into this confusing and complex topic on Sunday. I want to talk about how we can live free from pride, how we can give up on pride, and how we can find something better to replace pride in our lives.

Will Willimon wrote:

“To tell you the truth, I can’t think of much that is wrong with a healthy – within limits – sense of Pride, other than that Jesus was against it.”

I think it’s true. So it’s worth discovering about how to live without it…

Seven Deadly Sins: Envy

envyOn Sunday we looked at the deadly sin of envy. Envy is similar to jealously but they are very different. Jealousy desires what someone else has, envy wants to destroy what someone else has. Jealousy wants other people’s things, envy wants to be the only one with things. A perfect picture is the story of Snow White. In it the queen asks the mirror “Mirror mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all”. And when Snow White is named, the queen must wreck, ruin, and destroy snow white. Just so we’re clear the Queen is still beautiful, but that is not enough for envy. The Queen must be the most beautiful, and destroy anything that threatens that. That’s envy. Envy, when it cannot have what it wants, destroys. That is why it is so dangerous.

The second reason it is so dangerous is that it thrives in community. In fact, you need community for envy to even be a possibility. Will WIllimon said, “Envy works best at close range.” This is true. We are often jealous of people distant from us, and envious of those closest to us. We may be jealous of Katy Perry and her fame, but we generally don’t want to destroy her or see her fail. In contrast to that, we sometimes do want our sister, brother-in-law, or neighbor to fail. This is why it’s so dangerous, because it wrecks community.

So much of the strife in our relationships is because we are envious. We are envioius of our brother who gets preferential treatment, so we want to see them slip up. We are envious of a co-worker who never gets reprimanded, so we hope for them to screw up. But what is at the root of envy? Well many church fathers said this: a lack of trust in God.

We get envious when we believe that God is withholding good from us. That we are being shortchanged by God. In essence, envy thrives when we disbelieve God’s goodness. And since this is so closely tied to envy we ended with a challenge. The challenge was this: for one week keep a journal of God’s goodness to you. If feeling envious is tied to a lack of trust in God’s goodness, then we need to create habits to remind us of the generosity, goodness, and grace of God.

So it’s a simple thing to do but it could be a life changing thing. Because whenever we get centred in the fact that God is good, we can live differently. We no longer need to be tied to envy and hurt, instead we can be set free. And that’s something worth finding.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Envy is a problem

Take Aways…

  • Envy is a subtle sin Jealousy wants things, envy wants to the be the only one who has things.
  • “Envy works best at close range” Will Wiilimon
  • Envy is about close relationships and it’s about enjoying when they fail.
  • While greed is primarily about possessions, envy is about one’s place in the world. Where greed wants the good things that others have, envy wants to be the only one who has good things. Envy delights in spoiling what others have. Michael Mangis
  • Envy leads to destruction every time.
  • At the root of envy is a lack of trust in God.
  • Envy is dissatisfaction with who God has made me to be. It is also suspicious that God is withholding what I deserve and giving it to someone else. Michael Mangis
  • Envy is a problem
  • Love overcomes envy.
  • Get rid of envy by getting closer to God.

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? Had you understood what envy was before today? How has envy wrecked relationships in your life? Is there anyone you tend to feel envious of? How can you grow closer to God this week? What good things has God done for you?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about envy. Talk to them about how sometimes we want what other people have. But be proactive against envy, have them write out reasons why they are thankful to God. Have them make a picture, or share reasons for being thankful to God. The more they are rooted in that, the harder it will be for envy to take root.

Challenge for this Week: Get rid of envy by getting closer to God

Green Eyed Monster ~ Envy

envy_quotes_kelly_swansonOn Sunday we are looking at a really deadly sin. And by deadly I mean that literally. It kills relationships, poisons friendships, and breaks connections. It’s the sin of envy.

The thing with envy is that most of us don’t really know what it is. We think it’s somehow related to jealousy, but if we were to try to explain the difference between jealousy and envy most of us wouldn’t know where to start.

Soren Kiekegaard once called envy a small-town sin. He doesn’t mean it can’t happen in large cities; what he means is that it is something that thrives in community. In fact, you have to have community to even have this sin be a temptation. But it is something that is part of our churches, our families, our offices, and our neighborhoods.

Here is the thing: most of the strife in our relationships stem from envy. It’s true and that’s what we want to look at on Sunday: what envy is, and how we can live free from it.

Hope you can join us. And if you want to be extra prepared watch the movie Toy Story before Sunday, because we’re going to be using it lots. 🙂

Sloth the Sin that Needs No Effort

On Sunday I want to answer this question:

Found at http://azlath.deviantart.com/art/Sloth-a-Sin-273220926
Found at http://azlath.deviantart.com/art/Sloth-a-Sin-273220926

And I think it’s a great question. Because in many ways we’d love to be more “slothful”

  • Who wouldn’t like a day to sleep in?
  • Who wouldn’t like a lazy day inside drinking coffee?
  • Who wouldn’t like a movie marathon every now and then?

The question I think is this – is the sin of sloth anti-rest?

And I don’t think it is. God is not anti-rest. God clearly commands rest, relaxation, and Sabbath. So the question is then, what is the sin of sloth really about? And here is my short answer that we’ll unpack on Sunday. The sin of sloth is a refusal to respond to God. It’s not about conserving or recharging our energy, but refusing to use our energy to join in what God is doing.

So come Sunday we are going to explore this topic, and why it matters. We are going to see how you can be lazy, or busy – and still be stuck in the sin of sloth. We are going to see how the sin of sloth robs you of life, and robs the world of your gifts. So that’s where we are going on Sunday, of course assuming I don’t slothily sleep in.

Gluttony ~ Seven Deadly Sins

856673_20062383So on Sunday we looked at the sensitive topic of gluttony. We started in an odd place, a discussion of math, statistics, and the inverted U curve.

Here is how Malcolm Gladwell discusses what an inverted U curve is:

Inverted-U curves have three parts, and each part follows a different logic. There’s the left side, where doing more or having more makes things better. There’s the flat middle, where doing more doesn’t make much of a difference. And there’s the right side, where doing more or having more makes things worse.

We used this framework to begin to talk about gluttony. Gluttony is really about too much of a good thing that becomes a bad thing. So, for example ,some food is good, a middle amount doesn’t really help or hurt, too much gets unhealthy. But the inverted U works for than just food. It also works for working, stress, and a whole host of things. Working is good for health, but too much work (i.e. being a workaholic) becomes incredibly unhealthy for physically and relationally. A little stress is helpful to stay motivated and in the “flow” – too much becomes an ulcer.

The point of the inverted U is things that are good in small to moderate amounts can have really negative consequences in large amounts. And this is actually the same thing we learn from Solomon, the wisest man on earth. He says this, “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. (Proverbs 25:16)

A little honey is good, it’s sweet, it’s delicious, and it’s good for you. Too much honey will make you vomit. The logic of Solomon is really clear: gluttony is really about too much of a good thing. It’s about a lack of moderation and balance. Most things in life are only good in moderation, overabundance or overconsumption leads to difficulty. This is true in all sorts of things. Work is good, being a workaholic isn’t. Being flexible and saying yes to things is good, being a doormat isn’t. Watching TV is relaxing, watching 16 hours in a row is a rut. Having some “me time” by yourself is great, doing it so much you disconnect from your family is a bad thing. Buying new shoes can be fun, buying 100 pairs and drowning in debt isn’t.

The point is that gluttony isn’t just about how much we eat, but how we live. And there are things in our lives that are a good thing, but that without discipline, quickly become a bad thing.

So on Sunday to make this personal we asked ourselves one question: Is there a good thing that has become a bad thing in our lives? Is there something good that has become too much and become bad?

  • Are we working too much?
  • Are we texting and spending too much time on phones?
  • Are we spending too much?
  • Are we too busy – connecting with people?
  • Are we saying yes to too many things?

And as we asked that question we simply collectively said a one word prayer: help. Help God for me to find balance. Help God for me to find strength. Help God for me to find moderation in this good thing that’s gone a little bad.

So that’s what we learned on Sunday but hopefully it isn’t something that we just learn about – but practice. Because the truth is we feel better when we are in the middle – enjoying a little honey but not so much that we throw it up.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Gluttony is about a lack balance and moderation

Take Aways…

  • Ground Rules #1: Posture of Grace not Guilt
  • God convicts of sin, but he doesn’t shame us for our sin.
  • 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
  • Gluttony believes that if a little is good, a lot will always be better. Michael Mangis
  • Gluttony is too much of a good thing that leads to a bad thing.
  • Is there a good thing that has become a bad thing?
  • God Help me in this…

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 thought of gluttony not just in terms of food? What are maybe some “good things” that have become unhealthy things? How can you start to get some more balance in your life? How can God help you find moderation? Last but not least – can you give it up for Lent? If so who can help to encourage and cheer you on?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families: Today talk to your kids about the sin of gluttony. Why not actually act out the verse? Have the kids taste some honey and how good it is. Ask them what might happen if they were to eat the entire jar of it right now. Share with them how Solomon says they’d throw it all up – and how there is a lot of good things – that too much becomes a bad thing.

Challenge for this Week: Give up on good thing that has become a bad thing

We’re All Gluttons

1400423_72410429On Sunday we are looking at one of the most “personal” of the 7 Deadly Sins – the sin of gluttony. This is a hard one to actually discuss because it’s so tied to personal identity, and image. So I think we often refrain from talking about it because it is such a difficult thing to talk about well. Also, I think it’s easy for people to feel a tremendous amount of guilt when we talk about this topic. So in general we don’t discuss this issue ~ even though it is an issue for us all.

That’s right I said for us all.

Regardless of whether you are skinny or not, eat a lot or not, gluttony is an issue for every single one of us.

So what I want to do is to approach this topic from a different angle on Sunday. What if rather than looking at gluttony through the lens of “food” – what if we look at it from the Biblical perspective of unrestrained desire? What if we look at it from the perspective of overconsumption? What if gluttony isn’t just about eating too much at Thanksgiving – but having too much of anything that leads to difficulty?

This is why I think we all struggle with this sin – in some shape or form. Some of us work too much, others watch TV too much, spend time on our phones too much, spend too much, or worry too much. On Sunday we are going to explore those things that we do simply “too much”, that don’t help us but hurt us. Because that’s actually what the sin of gluttony is about ~ overconsuming a good thing so it becomes a bad thing.

So that’s where we are going – but Lent is about reflection. So why not spend some time and reflect on your life now? Is there anything that is good but has become “too much” in your life? Is there a good thing that you need to cut back on? Work, spending time with friends, shopping, reading – or even as we’ll see on Sunday, praying?

So spend some time reflecting and maybe even changing.

Lent and the Seven Deadly Sins

 

 

 

 

On Sunday we are opening up a brand new series, looking at the Seven Deadly Sins for Lent. Yep that’s right a perfect series to invite your friends to…

 

 

Well actually I do think it will be really important and really helpful and here is why. So often when sin is discussed, especially in church, it’s accompanied with judgment, shame, and guilt. So because of this we don’t talk about it. And instead then we end up coping with sin, struggling with sin, and hiding sin. What if instead of talking about sin in this way – we approached it through grace, life, and freedom? What if rather than hiding and struggling with our sin – we could actually be free from it?

 

That’s the perspective of this series to discover how through Jesus’ transformation we might be freed from some stuff in our lives we’ve been carrying along far too long.

 

What if we approach sin not from a guilt or shame perspective – but from a healing and freedom perspective?

 

I think to be honest this is the only way to deal with this important, but misunderstood topic. In the gospels we see tax collectors, prostitutes, and broken people flocking to Jesus. These are “notorious sinners” as the Pharisees point out. But this was because Jesus didn’t condone sin or condemn those struggling with sin – he freed them from it.

 

What if over the next seven weeks we could have the same experience from Jesus? Where we go to him with our baggage and sin – our pride, envy, greed, and anger and find freedom?

 

That’s the whole point and goal of this series. To, for Lent, do some personal introspection and experience Jesus’ transformation as we come to him.

 

So even though it may sound funny – I’m excited about this series because I’m always excited when people find freedom and transformation from baggage they’ve been holding for years. And that’s what this series is all about, so maybe it is something worth being excited about…

Seven Deadly Sins