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Religion & Spirituality
Christianity

Grace Church Indiana

Updated 10 days ago

Religion & Spirituality
Christianity
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Grace Church is one church in three locations located across central Indiana.

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Grace Church is one church in three locations located across central Indiana.

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21 Ratings
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Phenomenal Messages

By Curtis Honeycutt - Sep 18 2015
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I have listened to weekend messages at Grace for over 10 years now. I can unequivocally say Grace's messages have changed my life. Grace covers super practical spiritual issues ranging from serving the poor and marginalized to sharing your faith with others. I can't recommend this podcast enough, whether or not you attend Grace Church.

iTunes Ratings

21 Ratings
Average Ratings
20
0
0
0
1

Phenomenal Messages

By Curtis Honeycutt - Sep 18 2015
Read more
I have listened to weekend messages at Grace for over 10 years now. I can unequivocally say Grace's messages have changed my life. Grace covers super practical spiritual issues ranging from serving the poor and marginalized to sharing your faith with others. I can't recommend this podcast enough, whether or not you attend Grace Church.
Cover image of Grace Church Indiana

Grace Church Indiana

Latest release on Jan 12, 2020

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Grace Church is one church in three locations located across central Indiana.

Rank #1: Where Your Destiny Meets the Broken Places

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Truth #1: The world is broken.

  • Romans 8:22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

  • 6 Broken Places: Separation, Isolation, Pain, Hatred, Decay, and Injustice.


Truth #2: Every human has a calling.

  • Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

  • Every human being is created with God-ordained good works for us to do. A calling that arises out of our gifts and abilities, personality, life experiences, and passions.


When you step into your destiny and begin to heal the world you will experience a deep satisfaction, a new level of joy and a breathtaking sense of purpose.

6 Evidences of the Kingdom of God:

  1. Reconciliation with God. Where the Kingdom of God is evident, you'll find human beings who have repented, been forgiven, and adopted as children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

  2. Loving community and relationships. Where the Kingdom of God is evident, you'll find people, once alone and isolated, now discovering relationship, mercy, and love in community with others.

  3. Healing of minds, bodies, and spirits. Where the Kingdom of God is evident you'll discover physical, psychological, and relational wellness being restored and pain being healed.

  4. Peace. Where the Kingdom of God is evident, you'll notice people from diverse ethnicities, nations, and people groups living and loving in community. And you'll experience the end of hatred, racism, discrimination, bigotry, prejudice, and intolerance.

  5. Creation care' A restored and beautiful physical planet. Where the Kingdom of God is evident, you'll observe the planet itself being cared for, the decay of God's "very good" world halted.

  6. Justice. Where the Kingdom of God is evident, you'll rejoice over seeing vast systems of human poverty, misery, and brokenness coming to an end.


You have a Why to Live For...now, it's up to you to discover it.

Do you see people struggling in situations that just shouldn't be, that make you say "This is not right!" Do you want to try to change the circumstance? If so, you might be a CHAMPION, fighting against INJUSTICE.

Does your heart break over the sight of our precious creation wasting away, and do you want to restore and protect the world God has given us? If so, you might be a STEWARD, preserving our creation from DECAY.

Do you feel outrage over the division and animosity that keeps us from understanding and embracing one another, and do want to stand up for those who don't have a voice? If so, you might be an ACTIVIST, seeking to combat HATRED.

Do you see others suffering physically, mentally, or spiritually and want to look for ways to remedy their agony? If so, you might be a HEALER, easing the world's PAIN.

Do you gravitate toward those who seem alone and lonely, who seem to have no one in their corner and who are afraid and friendless? If so, you might be a NURTURER, bringing love and hope to those in ISOLATION.

Do you feel driven to reach out to those who may have lost their way and need to know God and become his child? If so, you might be an AMBASSADOR, leading people out of SEPARATION.

When you step into your destiny and begin to heal the world, you will experience a deep satisfaction, a new level of joy and a breathtaking sense of purpose.

The time has come for you now to discover your why to live for.

Mar 03 2019

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Rank #2: You Have a Good Father

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May God sustain you and keep you resilient my friends; don't let your dismay overwhelm you, remember that Jesus was born for you, and may that give your comfort and joy!

That is this church's prayer for you, personally this month.

  • To you who know dismay.

  • To you who are not strong.

  • To you who are lonely.

  • To you who are in pain.

This sermon focuses on John 1:10-12 "He came into the very world he created, but the world didn't recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God."

God calls us his children. When He adopts you, you have:

  1. A future home/eternal life.

  2. A miraculous internal presence, a spiritual guide and supernatural consoler.

  3. His blessings to let you know you are loved, valued and His child.

Dec 09 2018

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Rank #3: The Epistles

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The Epistles are "occasioned" texts meaning they were written to clear up confusion, deal with controversy, share encouragement and offer clarity. They were written by 5 men: Paul, James, Jude, Petter, John (and, fun fact, one unkown author) to individuals and churches. This sermon focuses on one in particular, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. When you read it, think of how it can apply to you!

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. 19 As the Scriptures say, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent." 20 So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world's brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. 21 Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. 22 It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 23 So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it's all nonsense. 24 But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. 26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world's eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, "If you want to boast, boast only about the LORD."1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Jul 08 2018

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Rank #4: Stewards of Decay & Activists Against Hatred

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Stewards:

  • Stewards feel joy and wonder in God's creation.

  • Stewards feel sadness and frustration at the decay of the creation.

  • Stewards believe that God himself shares their frustration and sadness.

  • Stewards are passionate about their calling.

  • Stewards believe that God owns it all.

  • Stewards believe that the physical creation points to God...but it is not God.

  • Stewards believe that God has commissioned them to steward the creation.

  • Stewards urge followers of Jesus to resist the allure of wastefulness and overconsumption by making personal lifestyle choices that express humility, forbearance, self-restraint, and frugality.

  • God calls Stewards to confess and repent of attitudes which devalue creation, and which twist or ignore biblical revelation to support our misuse of it.

  • Stewards urge individual Christians and churches to be centers of creationcare and renewal, both delighting in creation as God's gift, and enjoying it as God's provision.

  • Stewards commit to work toward responsible public policies which embody the principles of biblical stewardship of creation.

Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! Genesis 1:31

The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. Psalm 24:1

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities, his eternal power, and divine nature. Romans 1:20

Activists:

  • Activists get angry.

  • Activists can be idealists.

  • Activists love diversity.

  • Activists believe every human being bears the image of God.

  • Activists believe the Kingdom of God is to be defined by peace.

  • Activists believe that the Kingdom of God is diverse by nature.

  • Activists believe that hate is antithetical to the Kingdom of God.

  • Activists love conversation.

  • Activists tend to stir things up and take up the plight of others.

  • Activists strive to live in and with a diverse community.

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore. Isaiah 2:4

In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Colossians 3:11

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 1 John 2:9

Mar 17 2019

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Rank #5: Revelation

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Over the last 11 weeks we have looked at seven of the genres or different types of literature found in the Bible... genres such as the Bible's Historical writings, its prophetic writings, and the Gospels to name three. And today we come to our final genre of Biblical literature and I don't believe we could be ending our series with a more complicated, difficult, controversial or opinion-creating genre than what we are looking at today. Today's genre is called Apocalyptic Literature. This is a type of writing that is only found in 2 of the books of the Bible; the second half of the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel is apocalyptic and then there is one, big apocalyptic book right at the end of the Bible... the Book of the Revelation, a book that probably causes more controversy and confusion than any other book in the Bible. This sermon looks at Revelations 21:1-7. It is here, in Revelation that all of God's desires for his world and all our desires for our lives are tied together. Yes, we are a people who can feel downtrodden. Yes, we can tire of the difficulties of life. Yes, we can easily be misunderstood and seen as outsiders and yet the reality is that our king is on the thrown... he has been on the throne since the beginning of time and he will be on the throne for eternity.

Aug 12 2018

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Rank #6: A Merciful Community

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The American Dream: Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The facts and the feelings, the myths and the aspirations have crashed together in America today to create an intense class suspicion and sometimes class hatred.

1 My dear brothers and sisters,[a] how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? 2 For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting[b] dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. 3 If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, "You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor" - well, 4 doesn't this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? 5 Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn't God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren't they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonor the poor! Isn't it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? 7 Aren't they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name[c] you bear? 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: "Love your neighbor as yourself."[d] 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. 10 For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God's laws. 11 For the same God who said, "You must not commit adultery," also said, "You must not murder."[e] So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. 12 So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. 13 There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you. James 2:1-13

World Behind the Text:

  • Vast disparity btw rich and poor.

  • For about 100 years Rome, through exorbitant taxation had turned land owners into peasants.

  • Resentment toward land owners (the wealthy) ran high and vice versa.

  • There was some rioting and violence from peasants over grain shortages.

  • This violence and uprising came from peasants which led to the world history altering war of 66-70 btw Jews and Rome, and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.



World of the Text:

  • James - Jesus' bro and leader of Jerusalem church.

  • Most of the church were peasants although some were higher educated and wealthy. (We'll talk about the economic diversity of the church more in a minute)

  • Likely the early part of James letter-regarding trials, faith and endurance-;were about economic instability.

  • The early church was a mix of rich and poor and everything in between.



All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Acts 4:32, 34-35

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
James 1:1-4

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4;

The church needs you!

God does not condemn wealth:

The blessing of the LORD brings wealth. Proverbs 10:22

Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth. Deuteronomy 8:18

Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. Proverbs 22:2

Bottom line - If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.

It is our unity in love which helps the kingdom grow, but it is our diversity of gifts and life experiences which makes us strong.

Grace is going to be a community of differents. Because a community of differents sharing their unique physical and spiritual resources, their gifts and life experiences are simply the best representatives of the Kingdom of God. God may your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

May 12 2019

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Rank #7: A Community Where Everyone Is Welcome

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It's important to talk about a community where everyone is welcome. Why?

  1. We live in lonely times.

  2. Jesus gave us a clear mandate to be a community of love.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus

Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. Jesus

Becoming a welcoming community of love will not be easy. Right off the bat the first churches founded within decades of Jesus mandate of love struggled and had to be reimagined.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you. Galatians 3:26-29

The point is clear: Stop discriminating, stop excluding, stop tribalism, stop segregation.

The community of Christ is one in which all are welcome.

In Jesus' church everyone belongs!

My friend, you who are lonely...isolated, lost, messed up, questioning, without faith and without hope.

Welcome home. You are loved here.

Feb 03 2019

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Rank #8: Reputation & Identity

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In February of 2009 social media gave birth to one of its most powerful, influential tools.

o Since Facebook introduced the "Like" button, it has been used more than 1.13 trillion times (Twitter beat the like button by a few years with its favorite button)

o That little like button has an almost direct link into our brains.

o When your post gets more likes than normal you get a little rush? There is a reason for that. Dopamine.

o For every thumbs up or heart we get a little psychological high through a shot of dopamine. The more likes the more shots. The more shots we have, the more shots we want. And we're in a loop.

o Scientists used to think dopamine was responsible for pleasure in the brain, but we now know that rather than create pleasure it makes us seek it.

The social media "like"triggers a reward cycle. The more you get it, the more you want it.

A recent study confirmed the same brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are also switched on when we see large numbers of likes.

The "like" or "favorite"phenomena reveals just the hold that social media has on our self-image, our self-esteem, our self-worth. Here's what a couple of survey respondents said:

"Likes are always an indicator of social standing, at my age. As someone who gets anxious and occasionally struggles with self-esteem, the amount of Likes on my posts can be both hugely uplifting or depressing."

"There was a time I uploaded a selfie three times and deleted each one. I thought my hair looked amazing, but the Instagram world clearly didn't agree."

Social media has a mystically powerful influence on our lives. It can slot us in the social standing pecking order.

And it can also breed deep envy.

Northeastern University conducted their own survey about social media envy. Here are some of the reactions from respondents:

"The last time I felt envious on social media was when I saw one of my best friend's posts about her weight loss transformation, I was happy for her, but also jealous because I want to be happy with my body in the same way she was."

"The thing that made me envious was my friend who bought a car. He kept taking pictures of it and putting it on Instagram. It was getting out of hand for me, so I commented "dude stop" and he blocked me shortly after, as if I did something wrong."

That NE Univ research indicated that 2/3 of us regularly experience social media envy.

Social media envy shadows our online lives. It's so pervasive that there is now a thriving academic literature on the connection between social media usage, envy, and depression.

Psychopathological Processes Involved in Social Comparison, Depression, and Envy on Facebook

Exploring the moderating roles of neuroticism, Facebook social comparison and envy

Wow, sounds like serious stuff. From a New York Times article just this past week:

Social media increases the surface area of our vulnerability, extending the range of people we can envy and the ways in which we can envy them. When it isn't homing in on our deepest, most painful hurts, social media envy can inflict a thousand shallow cuts.

Those 1000 emotional paper cuts can have devastating consequences on our self-esteem.

o create anxiety, stress, loneliness, and increased likelihood of depression

o cause problems with friendships and romantic relationships

o seriously impair academic and job performance

o lead to increased vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse

Losing self-esteem or self-worth can send us into a downward emotional spiral that not only make us less productive but activates self-destructive behavior.

So what do we do...burn it all to the ground? No. Social media is here to stay. But we MUST present an alternative narrative to our fragile identities.

That narrative...the real story of you is laid out brilliantly and beautifully in the Word of God. May I paint a better picture of you?

Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous, how well I know it. Psalm 139:14

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

This is who you are! No you don't have her body. No you didn't have his vacation. No you didn't get very many likes on your last post. But you are the best of the best...redeemed, loved, beautiful and called to a unique destiny.

I hope that helps some, but I'd like to equip you further how to reprogram your self-worth while llving in our digital world.

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

o Growing up I interpreted that as my physical body.

o drinking, dancing, be sexually moral, don't smoke, don't have long hai and don't listen to rock and roll...external behavior.

And there is something to be said about offering our physical lives to God but watch what happens if I modify Verse 1 it just a bit:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your self-image to God because of all he has done for you. Let your self-worth be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

Wow, that is poignant isn't it? Imagine taking how you feel about your body, how you feel about your success...how you feel about your happiness...how you feel about your image...and handing it to God to manage.

o Here God take me as I am, as you made me.

o I give you my ego. It is no longer mine to create. My ego is yours.

o I sacrifice to you my self-esteem...I accept myself as I am and as you see me.

o I will worship you by liking myself. The one you call a masterpiece.

o I lay down my pride. I lay down my self-worth.

And the catalyst that prompts us to do such a thing is in Vs 1 - "all he has done for you."

o His creation of you, his love for you, His redemption of your soul, His calling on your life.

o As an act of worship I say thank you for who I am and I give back to you all the negative stereotypes the world and I have created of myself.

o And in giving back ourselves we implicitly accept ourselves.

This giving of our self-worth to God is as worshipful as a prayer. It is a worshipful as a praise song. It is a worshipful as a tithe.

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world,

o Don't conform to the age. Don't play the social media games.

o Stop posing and crafting the perfect shot ...if you want to share your life, do it without added gloss.

o Use likes and comments to bless not to reciprocate or get someone to like you.

o Think twice before you tweet, post on FB or upload your something. Think about the potential impact.

o Remember that every post and like can get into someone else's brain.

We are not of this world. Live on mission. There are enough of us who follow Jesus that we could transform the digital community.

Vs2. but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Social media takes time. And every minute on social media has a profound impact on your brain.

Why not, at least, give equal time to God? We'll address this is a few weeks...

o Give equal time to God, look at your screen time and balance it with God time.

o Fill your brain with the right stuff.

o Do a personal bible journey on self-esteem.

o Post important scripture within eyesight.

o Get a group of friends to share ICNU comments with each other.

o Be a self-worth warrior for others!

And do not ever forget this: Your identity is in Christ; not in likes

Now I want to end our time giving God the space to work on your self-worth.

o Meditate on this question Who am I?

o And perhaps right now would be the chance to hand your self-worth back to God as an act of worship.

Nov 10 2019

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Rank #9: Water From The Rock

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For the last few weeks, we've been looking at four stories of the Israelites traveling through the wilderness.

And what we've seen is that these stories have been passed down from generation to generation not just because they recount some historical tale, but because they speak to larger truths about living in the wilderness of a broken world - the wilderness we all experience.

Loneliness, pain, confusion, hopelessness, injustice... Like the Israelites, life out here is hard, and it is all too easy to believe that God has abandoned us in the midst of it. But has he?

So far the Israelites complained about bitter water; God made the water sweet. The Israelites complained about having no food; God gave them manna and quail.

And now, the Israelites won't just have bitter water, they'll have NO water. So let's see if their attitudes are any better this time around...

Exodus 17:1-4
At the Lord's command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. So once more the people complained against Moses. "Give us water to drink!" they demanded. "Quiet!" Moses replied. "Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?" But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. "Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?" Then Moses cried out to the Lord, "What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!" Ok, so the people haven't exactly turned an emotional corner. Look at some of the details in this story.

Verse 2. "Give us water to drink!" This isn't a request. It's a demand. A few verses later they're ready to throw stones at Moses. They're furious!

As Tim talked about last week, they seem to have completely forgotten the incredible acts of deliverance God has done for them again and again and again. All they can see is their present circumstances.

And this rage is starting to warp their theology. Look at the end of verse 3. "Why did you bring us out of Egypt?"

This is a direct callback to last week's story. In Chapter 16, when Moses is explaining to the people about the miraculous heaven bread they're about to receive, he says

Exodus 16:6, 8
"By evening you will realize it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt... your complaints are against the Lord, not against us."

And yet here they are again, blaming Moses for everything and essentially kicking Yahweh to the curb.

How often do we do the exact same thing in our wilderness? How often do we face some kind of obstacle and our first reaction is to forget the bigger picture?

We lose sight of the fact that God has come through for us so many times in the past. We lose sight of the fact that there is a Promised Land ahead.

Our worldview gets warped.

And suddenly we find ourselves longing for the "good ol' days." You know, the good ol' days when we were slaves in Egypt working under brutal conditions and having our firstborn sons murdered...

Our perspective gets twisted.

This is why I'm grateful our spiritual ancestors passed down stories like these. To teach us how to survive in the wilderness. Because we are just like them.

What's about to happen next - for them and for us - is all about reorienting our worldview back to the truth: that God has not abandoned us in the wilderness.

WATER FROM THE ROCK
Exodus 17:5-7
The Lord said to Moses, "Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink." So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.

Moses named the place Massah (which means "test") and Meribah (which means "arguing") because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, "Is the Lord here with us or not?"

I find it so interesting that Moses names the place "test and arguing" (Massah and Maribah), rather than "miracle rock water" or "thirst-quench boulder." Nope. From that point on, this spot was called "test and arguing."

I think that fits in with the bigger point of this story: the consequences of a warped worldview.

Even though God has consistently proven himself to be the provider, the healer, the deliverer... the people lose faith the moment they don't see any solution ahead of them.

"There are nothing but rocks here! We're going to die of thirst."

It's interesting how God chooses to reorient their perspective. Take a look at verse 5. "Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile..."

We'll talk about this a lot more next week, but the staff of Moses acts in these stories as a symbol of faith in God's power. Just like with the tree in week 1, the staff is an object lesson.

Having Moses use it to bring water out of the rock is a brilliant callback to the crossing of the Red Sea.

With this staff in Moses' hands, God made water into dry land. With that same staff, God makes dry land into flowing water.

In both cases, God does the impossible and provides a path forward where there used to be none. He reorients their worldview to remind them that he never left them alone.

God even says in verse 6, "I will stand before you on the rock." So was that the pillar of cloud or fire they'd been following? Was it the mysterious "angel of the Lord" that shows up a few times in the story? We don't know.

All we know is that God stood with them as he brought water out of the dry ground.

MY STORY

Have you ever needed your worldview reoriented? I have.

When I was in my mid 20's, I hit rock bottom. I dropped out of Bible school, lived depressed and addicted to video games in my parents' basement. My passion for ministry was dead, and I had no idea how to move forward.

But then God parted the sea for me. Out of nowhere I ended up on this wild journey living in Kenya for a year which totally changed my life.

God delivered me from a terrible situation and gave me a new hope and purpose. I went back to school and graduated, I did a year-long internship with the Outreach ministry here at Grace, and it seemed like I was finally on track to find my purpose.

Until every door slammed in my face. I could not find a job. I applied to churches, to non-profits... nobody would hire me. Put simply, I ran out of water.

And of course, my worldview got warped. I remember getting so frustrated with God. "Why would you take me through all of that, re-ignite my passion for ministry, and then just drop me on my face like this?" "Why did you bring me out of Egypt? Just to die of thirst?"
Guess what God said to me in response? Nothing. I didn't hear a thing. I just went on applying for jobs and getting rejected. It really felt like God had abandoned me.

But then, right in the middle of my despair, my parents had an Indian social reformer named Sunil over to their house for dinner. He ran a ministry in India called Truthseekers.

At one point in the evening Sunil pointed at me across the room and said, "Barry, you need to come to India for three months! Don't worry about food or shelter. We'll take care of you. Just come."

I thought for a moment and realized, "Well, I don't have anything else going on." I scraped together enough money for a plane ticket and made my way to New Delhi.

I spent the next three months hanging out with Truthseekers, visiting communities of outcast gypsy children, praying with eunuchs, participating in anti-discrimination rallies, taking 22-hour train rides by myself, eating all kinds of very... let's say, interesting food...

It was there the vision for my non-profit, World Next Door, was born. God led me to become a photojournalist for his kingdom, and I spent the next 6 and a half years traveling all over the world telling stories of what he was doing.

It was that experience which led to me preach my first sermon here at Grace. And now, 11 years after the seeming dead end of my ministry career, I'm about to become Grace's next senior pastor.

When I was in that season of life, getting rejection letter after rejection letter, I thought God had abandoned me. My worldview was warped.

What I realize now is that he was standing on the rock in front of me all along. There was no water, so he broke open the dry ground to give me a drink. My path forward wasn't just some job, it was a ministry that didn't even exist yet.

And this is what I want you to hear today from Exodus 17.

Sometimes God makes bitter water sweet. Sometimes he brings bread out of thin air. And sometimes he makes water where there is none. In all these cases,

God can transform our wilderness.

It rarely happens on our timeline. And it almost never looks the way we expect. But if our worldview is aligned correctly we can trust God to see us through the wilderness we are facing.

And ultimately, we know God will transform all the wilderness. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God brought water out of the rock. He brought life out of death.

And he is sprouting up New Creation in the wasteland of our broken world. In the wasteland of your broken life.

The prophet Isaiah saw it coming.

Isaiah 35:1-2, 5-7
Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!... And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.

The Holy Spirit is breathing life into our world. And he wants to breathe life into yours.

I wish I could say he will snap his fingers and bring your wilderness to an end. He may not. As long as this world remains broken, your wilderness may endure.

But I do know this. Whether it is a sip of cool water from a bitter pond or a gushing spring from a rock, God will sustain you in this wilderness. Align your worldview to the truth: He is with you.

Trust him. Trust in his love.

God is faithful to see us through our wilderness and he will one day transform it all.

Oct 20 2019

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Rank #10: Psalm 46: When I Am Afraid

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Top 5 American fears:

  1. 74.5% fear that corrupt government officials are going to ruin our lives by ruining our country.

  2. Our health care system will get so messed up that people either won't be able to get the health care they need or that the high cost of medical bills will ruin their lives.

  3. Air pollution, global warming, species extinction and a lack of good water will throw the world into chaos.

  4. 50% of all Americans are fearful that they won't have enough money for the future.

  5. Someone they love will die or get seriously ill.


Fear is everywhere...it is constant and for many it's unending.

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude
4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
6 The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God's voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
7 The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel[b] is our fortress. Interlude
8 Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world."
11 The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

Psalm 46 is truly unique among all the psalms and the reason is right in the first words...the stuff before verse 1. It reads: "For the choir; a song of the descendants of Korah. To be sung by the soprano voices." The descendants of Korah were a well-known, musical Jewish family. They had a long history of leading the musical worship at the temple. Psalm 46 is in the middle of 9 Korah-family psalms. This Psalm is unique in that it is the only psalm of all 150 psalms that says it is to be sung by soprano voices...or as the note at the bottom of the page in my NLT Bible says, "according to Alamoth." Alamoth means: a young, unmarried, virgin girl who is right at the prime marrying age...and the prime marrying age for girls at this time was 11-12. So, this psalm was written specifically to be sung by a choir of 11 or 12-year-old girls. Girls of this age, in that time, were not normally allowed out in public. Some have said these would have been boys, not girls, but the Hebrew is clearly feminine!

I.m sure that you all know that at 11:00 am every Friday morning the weather alert siren sounds all throughout central Indiana. And no one pays any attention to it. But if that siren sounds at 11:00 pm on a Wednesday night, everyone takes notice.

Putting this message in the mouths of, literally, the last people in all of Israel that anyone would have expected to see or hear doing anything at the temple, eleven-year-old girls, would have been like hearing an 11:00 pm siren on a Wednesday night! Their voices were a siren saying, "Take notice! We have something important to tell you and you need to pay attention!"
The two primary fears of the ancient, Jewish world:

  1. A natural disaster. These would have come unexpectedly. They had no warning systems and people lived in the fear of nature turning on them.

  2. An invasion by an evil nation. This, too, would have come on unexpectedly. This was a real fear in the ancient world. Even if the invaders' ultimate intentions had to do with another nation they would run over any other people that happened to be in their way.


God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. Hearing the unexpected voices of young girls singing this line forced the question, "Do I really believe that God is always ready to help me in times of trouble?" The next line lets us know that the choir girls believed this was true! So, we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! The Hebrew word that is translated "interlude" in the NLT is "Selah" (Say-la) and it is a word that told the music director to "place an instrumental pause here to give the people an opportunity to think about what was just sung."

And then we get to the second great fear: an invasion by a hostile army. The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God's voice thunders, and the earth melts! Young girls are reminding us that our God is far more powerful than any invading nation. God can simply speak, and everything will melt! The word translated "melts" here, comes from the Hebrew word "moog"and it means "to be helplessly disorganized."

7 The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. "No, we shouldn't live in the fear of being invaded by evil forces, because, "The Lord of heavens armies is here among us!" Now, this phrase "Heaven's Armies" comes from one Hebrew word "tsavah," a word that almost always means "a gathered army" and it is usually translated with the word. Think of the angels gathered to tell the shepherds that Jesus was born: the heavenly hosts. We see these hosts in 2 Kings when Elisha's servant needs encouragement. God gave this young man the ability to see the angels gathered to defend him and his comment is, "There are more who are with us than against us!" This is clearly a part of the Biblical story: God has an army ready to defend us.

"God is our fortress." The Hebrew word "misgav,"; gives us fortress. It literally means "a place on a high cliff; an inaccessible spot of security and safety."

Verses 8-9 call on the Jewish people to remember how God has acted in the past to end chaotic times...let';s read these verses. 8 Come, see the glorious works of the Lord: See how he brings destruction upon the world. 9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire. These times are: the flood, Sodom, the crossing of the Red sea, the confusion of the enemies who have come to attack Israel. Most times God uses his own natural forces to accomplish these "works." It is a sign that he can use something people fear for his own purposes!

10 Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. "Be still" comes from the Hebrew word, "raphah." It means to sink down, to relax, to drop your hands from working or to let something drop out of your hands; it can mean to abandon a task or stop working at something. I'm sure you get the picture. The voice of God, which in the moment, remember sounds like the voices of young girls singing, is telling us that whatever it is that we fear, He is God, the nations will honor Him (that takes care of one great fear), and His entire creation will honor Him (that takes care of the other great fear). So, be still, relax and know that I am with you and I will take care of you!

And then the psalm ends with a repeat of its chorus, chorus that once again reminds us that we are surrounded by God's army and that he is our place of safety!

The question is what do we do? Well, first, let's start by stating the facts from Psalm 46: 1) God created the earth. He is in charge of it and that means he is in charge of everyone and everything in his world. That is a fact we can hold on to. 2) God is present, and he also has an army of angels, a heavenly host, surrounding us. We see this as a reality far too many times in the Bible for God to be fooling us about this. And now that we have the facts, here are some practical things you can do to face your fears: first, make two lists: one of your fears, and one of the times that God has overcome your fears.

Commit to doing what you know you can and should do related to facing your fears.

Every Friday at 11:00 in the morning, if you hear that siren, no matter what your fears might be in that moment, let that siren be the sound that reminds you that you can "be still", let that siren remind you that your God is present with you and his army is surrounding you...let that siren be the unexpected voice that gives you the courage to say, "Bring it on. I will not be afraid because my God is my fortress."

Jul 14 2019

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Rank #11: Psalm 8: Awe of God

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We're going to be exploring the book of Psalms and what it can teach us about engaging with the raw, honest emotions of our faith. The book of Psalms is a collection of songs and poems written over hundreds of years of Israel's history. Each one played a role in Israelite religion.

The Psalms can:

  • Invite us to lament the brokenness of our world if we're usually happy being blissfully ignorant.

  • Encourage us to find joy and comfort when we're wallowing in sorrow.

  • Teach us to marvel at mystery when we're usually just logical and rational.

  • Show us how to acknowledge our shame when we're used to just covering it over.


The Psalms are Jewish meditation literature. First of all, they're Jewish. The Psalms are rooted in the worldview of ancient Judaism, and they are chock-full of references to ideas and imagery from the rest of the Old Testament. Second, the Psalms are meditation literature. Meditation in Jewish tradition was a way of dwelling on an idea or image, rolling it around in your mind and heart, and acknowledging that the Holy Spirit is breathing through it and speaking to you in fresh ways. Finally, the Psalms are literature. They're poetry. They use imagery and repetition and language to evoke emotions in us. Feelings. The Psalms are a book for the heart, not for the head.

Psalm 8
1 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
2 You have taught children and infants
to tell of your strength,[b]
silencing your enemies
and all who oppose you.
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers
the moon and the stars you set in place
4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?[c]
5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God[d]
and crowned them[e] with glory and honor.
6 You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority
7 the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.
9 Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!


That is the beauty of the Psalms. Of Jewish meditation literature. It awakens our faith, it engages our emotions, and it leads us to pray in a new way.

Jun 02 2019

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Rank #12: God Providing In A Time of Need

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This is the second week of our 'Into the Wilderness' series, our look at the time the Israelite nation traveled through what the Bible calls 'The Wilderness' (Midbar). This wilderness was a hostile land that the Jews had to journey through to get from Egypt, where they had been in slavery, to the land God had promised to give them. And as you picture 'wilderness,' don't think 'desert.' Wilderness wasn't a sandy wasteland. Wilderness was rocky, rough, scrubby land... a land where you couldn't grow crops, but sheep and goats could generally find enough to eat to get by. Still, it wasn't a hospitable place, to be sure. Last week Barry talked about a time in the wilderness when the Israelites had difficulty finding fresh water. This week the issue will be finding food in this unforgiving landscape... finding enough food, by the way, for what many scholars believe may have been over a million people. Today's story is found in Exodus 16... and it's a pretty well-known story. It's the story of God sending the Jewish people manna. Let's turn to Exodus 16 (page ****) and look at this story together. (Welcome everyone and tell them to fasten your seatbelts!) 'Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim (A-leem) and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt.' Elim was an oasis. It was a place of fresh water and shade... the Israelites had stopped there to rest and catch their breath after their escape from Egypt. But the time had come for moving on from this oasis and heading toward the Promised Land, so off everyone went... straight into the Wilderness of Sin. And don't be confused by the name sin. 'Sin' here has nothing to do with what we think of when we hear that word. Plus, did you notice that it had only been a month, 4 weeks, since the nation had crossed the Red Sea and into freedom? Let's read verse 2 and 3. There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. 3 "If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt," they moaned. "There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death." The NLT translation of the Hebrew word (Loon) that gives us 'complained' here is a bit soft. The actual word means to be obstinate... it is a word with a core of rebellion in it. And since they were being obstinate, they did what complaining, rebellious people generally do... they began to exaggerate the difficulty of their circumstances. First off, they weren't really without food. They had huge herds of sheep, goats and cattle.... They had plenty of milk and yogurt and they even had meat if they really wanted it. But they were thinking back to the good old days of slavery in Egypt when they had 'pots filled with meat' and so much bread that they could stuff themselves... which is exactly what the Hebrew says here. And their big complaint was that Moses and Aaron's had ulterior motives; the people were saying that Moses and Aaron had led them out into the wilderness to starve them to death. We aren't told how Moses and Aaron heard about this exaggerated complaining, but we ARE told that God knew all about it and he responded in verse 4. Then the Lord said to Moses, "Look, I'm going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. Now, the first word from God in our house Bibles is 'Look.' But a better translation of the Hebrew word Hinneh would be 'Behold!' or 'Take Note!' This word is used many times in the Old Testament, and it is always a signal that something is coming that you better pay attention to! And what needed attention here was that God was going to silence that multitude of complainers by literally 'raining down bread from the heavens.' What God meant by this exactly, we won't find out for a bit, but it's clear that God had heard enough, He was going to put an end to this complaining and, in the process, let everyone know who was in charge! Now, what we get over the course of the next few verses is Moses and Aaron telling the entire Israelite community what God said he was going to do, what the rules were going to be for gathering up this 'bread from heaven,' and then letting the people know that their complaint wasn't really with Moses and Aaron, it was with God. And then we read this in verse 10. 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud.' Can I just say, this moment makes me scratch my head because anytime you read 'the glory of the Lord' anywhere in these passages about the Israelite's time in the wilderness, we are talking about the literal... the actual, physical presence of God... God literally showing himself during the daytime in a cloud that was unmistakably filled with His power; and at night, God showing himself to everyone as a cloud of fire. What this verse tells us is that all of these complaining people could see God, literally see God, in the distance! And they are complaining... And then look at what happens starting in verse 13. That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. Okay, there is their meat! And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. 14 When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. 15 The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. "What is it?" (Man-nah) they asked each other. They had no idea what it was. And Moses told them, "It is the food the Lord has given you to eat. These are the Lord's instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent." What happens next is that some Israelites obeyed the instructions for gathering this 'manna,' while others didn't... which, to be honest, is always the case with people... some listen and obey and others think, 'Hey, those rules can't be for me.' But no matter what the people did with regards to how much they picked up each morning, look at what verses 17 and 18 say. So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. 18 But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed. So, what it looks like is that there was also some added miraculous multiplying of food going on... everyone ended up with exactly what they needed no matter how much they had gathered. I'm thinking that everything about this story seems amazing... First, God's patience with this rebellious lot seems amazing... second, the food that comes out the heavens seems amazing... and third, the way the food divided itself out perfectly among 1 million people seems amazing. Yet, there is one more detail that makes this moment all-the-more remarkable. Verse 31 tells us this: The Israelites called the food manna. It was white like coriander seed, and it tasted like honey wafers. Honey was one of the only sweeteners in the ancient world. Sugar wasn't known in this part of the world yet, and almost all other forms of sweeteners came from insect secretions. Plus, there wasn't anything like bee-keeping yet either, so if you wanted honey you had to find a bee hive and deal with wild bees. Needless-to-say, anything with honey was a luxury... and the manna that God rained down on the Jews tasted like one of life's great luxuries! How like God!
I honestly don't know what God could have done that would have better told the Israelites that he was going to care for them as they traveled through this time in the wilderness. Quail and manna... he was giving them their daily bread! But I want to go back to verse 2 and 3 of this chapter... the 'everyone complaining' verses. Picture with me a large gathering of the Jewish people... a big crowd... and in the middle of the crowd a man is standing on a large rock, a ringleader of sorts, and he is calling out something like, 'These two men, Moses and his brother Aaron, look at what they've got us into! Here we are out in this 'wilderness' with nothing to eat and it won't be long until we all starve to death! Those two are saying that that God over there in that cloud told them to bring us out here! Why on earth would we believe them and that God? What has that God ever done for us?' And the people yell out, 'Yes! Yes! What has he ever done for us!' And then, for just a second, everything gets quiets and from somewhere in the back of the crowd a voice calls out, 'Well, he did make that bitter water drinkable last week.' And the man on the rock say, 'Ok... yes, he did give us drinkable water last week, but what else has he ever done for us? And another voice says, 'He parted the Red sea for us, and we crossed over on dry land last month.' And then another voice calls out of the crowd, 'And he drowned the Egyptian army.' And the man on the rock says, 'Ok, he gave us water and he parted the Red Sea and he destroyed the Egyptian army. But what else has he ever done for us?' And then another voice says, He spared us from all of the plagues that he brought on the Egyptians. That was pretty amazing!' And another voice says, 'He helped us prosper and grow as a people in Egypt even though the Egyptians were doing everything they could to hold us down.' And another voice adds, 'He caused the Egyptians to give us all of their wealth as we left Egypt and now we all have heaps of gold and silver and such' And I can see the ringleader going, 'Ok, He gave us clean water and he split the Red Sea and he destroyed the Egyptian army and he saved us from all of the terrible plagues and he helped us prosper even though we were slaves and he enriched us as we left Egypt... but what else has he ever done for us... it's clear that he brought us out here because he wants us to starve to death. It would have been better if he'd killed us back in Egypt. At least we would have died with full stomachs! Why did we ever trust this God?' And everyone gets all worked up and shouts out, 'Yes, Yes! Why would we trust him! Let's go back to Egypt!'
Now, I know this sounds ridiculous, but we must never forget that this complaining... this obstinance was only a month after these same people saw God part the Red Sea! If there was ever a people that had reason to trust that 1) God was with them and 2) that God was going to keep his promise to lead them into the Promised Land and 3) God was not going to leave them in the wilderness to starve to death, it was this crowd. But it seems they had very short memories; their faith only lasted until they started missing those 'big pots of meat.' Something else that is telling to me is that no one in this story is that no one ever stopped and asked God, the one in the cloud right over there, to help them when they started wondering about food. No prayers... no nothing... just complaining. Nothing happens other than God hears the whining and he acts. Now, we know that subsequent generations of Jews have looked back on this event... this sending of manna... as one of God's greatest miracles... a great miracle of care and provision. But I can't help but feel that these people missed a huge opportunity to see God's care in a completely different light. Can you imagine how differently this story would read if rather than complaining that they'd rather be back under slavery in Egypt than out in this wilderness, they'd gathered up, thanked God for all that he'd done for them to bring them to this place of freedom, a difficult place for sure, but still a place where God was present, and then said, 'We trust you even though things seem pretty grim right now. We are asking to once again see your hand of deliverance.' I am confident that had they done this, that that very evening quail would still have come and blanketed the encampment and the next morning manna would have covered the ground... but what a different tone this entire story would have had.
And boy, does this speak to me. We often speak of being in the wilderness as a picture of being uncertain and unsure of what is happening; or the wilderness is the feeling that things are out of kilter or that we feel alone and hopeless. Your wilderness may be a place where your soul feels lost and without direction. Your wilderness may be a place where you fear that all that you've worked so hard to accomplish is being taken away. Your wilderness may be a place where there seems to be no hope for a solution to an overwhelming situation... and when you are in this place your heart wants to cry out, but often you aren't sure you have the words. I know this because I know what it is to be in a wilderness. I know what it is to long for God to do something miraculous... to long for God to cover the ground of my life with exactly what I need to get through this rocky, unforgiving time. What this story has told me is that my memory is far too short... Yes, I may find myself in a place of despondence or confusion or even despair, but this story tells me two things that are still as true today as they were when God first rained manna onto the earth. First, God is still present. Often times, I wish he'd make himself as clear as he did with these Israelites, but his Glory, the awesome glory of the Lord is still within my soul's vision. The promise is that he will never leave us and that he will never forsake us, and it is a promise I know he is keeping. And secondly, probably the best thing that I can do if I am all worked up and worried about tomorrow is to stop and think honestly about my yesterdays. I am only where I am today, even if it is currently in a wilderness, because God has been moving in my life through the years to bring me to this place... a place where I can put my trust in the one who has done so much for me... so much that I have so quickly forgotten. My wife is a good one for me on this. When I am complaining... when I am obstinate and thinking that God has it out for me, and that he isn't interested in helping me find a way out of this wilderness, she is the one who says, 'But he did this for us and we should be thankful... and he did this for us and we should be thankful... and he did this for us and we should be thankful... and she reminds me of the times that he eventually blanketed us with his goodness in some way... and that should make me both thankful and trusting that he will do it again as I pass through today's wilderness.
If you read the rest of this chapter you will find that it ends with God telling Moses and Aaron to first, gather up a jar of manna and second, put that manna in a safe place. God wanted them to do this so that future generations could literally see the bread that God had sent down from heaven to provide for his people while they were in the wilderness. God wanted future generations to see it and be thankful for what God had done for them by feeding their ancestors in the wilderness. What we also know from history is that the concept of 'bread coming down from heaven' became a very important symbol to the Jewish people... it became one of the primary ways that Jews spoke generally about God's provision and his unwavering love for his people. When something good would happen, they would often say something like, 'That is a blessing like manna from heaven.' And so, I am not surprised at all that when Jesus was beginning his ministry and people were unsure about him... unsure if he'd really come from God or not, they tried to press him into doing something as amazing as sending manna from heaven. In John 6 some pretty cocky people said this to Jesus. "Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, 'Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.' Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, Moses didn't give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "Sir," they said, "give us that bread every day." Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.' We know that these cocky people had no idea what Jesus was talking about. But we certainly do... we know that Jesus was saying that he, Jesus himself, is our spiritual bread... manna that came down from heaven, the food that can nourish our souls... Jesus is the one that can sustain us as we travel through the wildernesses of life. There is one hugely practical application for me in this story and it is this: the best way for me to hold on in faith and keep from complaining that God has abandoned me when I find myself in life's wilderness is to recount how God has been with me in the past and do my best to be thankful... thankful for Jesus and thankful for the times he has clearly moved into my life and led me through the times of wilderness. This isn't always easy in the moment, but what I have learned is that being thankful for the past encourages trust in the future. Truth is, I don't want to live my life complaining... oh, I know that sometimes it feels good to grouse about things, but deep down what I really want is to live a life of gratitude... I am just thankful that I have someone in my life who is always ready to point out what I am so quickly forgetting... ready to point out that God has provided in the past... He is present and he is still providing, no matter what the circumstances might look like in the moment.
But I know that it can be difficult to be thankful when things seem to be coming apart at the seams all around you. So, here is what I am going to do. I am going to pray for those of you who are in some sort of wilderness right now... I am going to pray for three things... first, that God will lead you out of this time of wilderness... that you will be delivered from this overwhelming time of life. Second, I am going to pray that as you wait for this deliverance you will clearly see that while even in this wilderness, God is present and that he is providing the kind of manna, the bread of heaven that you need to get through this day. And third, I am going to pray that the Holy Spirit calls to mind the times in the past when God has delivered you out of past wilderness wanderings...that the Holy Spirit will infuse your life with thanksgiving... thanksgiving that will give you the courage to move ahead in the knowledge that God has not left you or forsaken you. Pray.
We are now going to take communion together. Communion is a sacred time when followers of Jesus remember all that Jesus has done for us. We eat bread and we drink grape juice to remember and celebrate Jesus sacrificing his life for us... a sacrifice that he was willing to make because he knew that in giving his body and blood, he would make a relationship with God possible for everyone. (Call for the servers) I don't think that it is any coincidence that an early name of the celebration was the Eucharist... Eucharist is a word that comes straight from the Greek word eucharisteo, a word that simply means thanksgiving. Communion is a thanksgiving meal. My thought is that as we partake of the elements together, this would be a great time to start thinking about all of the times that God has been there for us in the past as a way to help build our confidence that God is with us in today's wilderness and that he will provide a way through this wilderness. The Bread today is a sweet bread... we are using this bread to remind us of manna... something that tasted like honey. And so, we invite anyone who is a follower of Jesus to share in this thanksgiving meal today as we remember the one who is our bread of life... the one who makes it possible for our souls to be full to overflowing.

Oct 13 2019

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Rank #13: Unity In Diversity

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As the church, We are called to live as citizens of heaven to bring healing to this broken place.

So what does that healing look like? How do you walk the Path of Self-Giving Love when the "other" you encounter is from a different ethnicity than you?

Ephesians 4:1-16
4 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. 7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ. 8 That is why the Scriptures say, "When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people." [b] 9 Notice that it says "he ascended." This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.[c] 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself. 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Because we are meant to be one as the Church - unified in the Holy Spirit - we must live like it. It is our unity in love which helps the kingdom grow, but it is our diversity of gifts which makes us strong.

If we want the Church to be strong and mature in this broken world, to be "healthy and growing and full of love," as Paul says, the full diversity of gifts in the body must each work together.

Revelation 7:9
After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar, "Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!"

Grace will become an ethnically diverse community. Not to check some box of tokenism. Not to pat ourselves on the back. But to experience the strength and maturity that comes from all the gifts of the Spirit working together for the healing of this world.

It is our unity in love which helps the kingdom grow, but it is our diversity of gifts which makes us strong.

Grace Church: loving, diverse, and unified. One in the Holy Spirit and stronger than we could have ever imagined.

This is possible. And we will do this together.

May 05 2019

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Rank #14: Sabbath/Sacred Time

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A few years ago I came across a game on my phone all about starting businesses. First it's selling lemonade until you've made enough money to sell newspapers and then you work your way up until you're running banks and oil companies.

It was fun. Pointless. A harmless way to kill a few minutes when I was waiting for my coffee to brew or whatever.

The problem, though, was that the game was linked to real-world time. When you put the game down for an hour and came back to it, an hour's worth of lemonade had sold.

A couple of taps later and you've multiplied the amount you're making per hour, which of course incentivizes you to come back as often as possible.

On top of that, the game gives you all sorts of milestones and achievements to shoot for and constantly gives you new twists and upgrades every time you're about to lose interest. "Oh, I can start businesses on the moon now!"

It didn't take long for me to become hopelessly addicted.

It's embarrassing to admit, but I played the game when I lay in bed at night, and it became the first thing I did in the morning. "Hey! Six or seven more hours of sales!"

I even started checking into the game several times throughout the day.

Eventually I realized what was happening and saw the countless hours being spent for literally no reason, and I deleted the game off my phone.

What started out as a simple diversion had become an addiction. The game was telling me how to live my life and I was obeying.

How many of you have experienced something like that in the past few years? It may not be games, but social media? Netflix? Online shopping? YouTube?

How many of you have given in to that urge for just one more click, one more episode, one more purchase, one more video... and watched as your self-control (not to mention your time and money and energy) has slowly slipped away?

It happens to all of us. Not because we're all weak, but because our technology is designed for it to happen.

What do we do when the technology meant to help us master our lives instead begins to master us?

That is what we're going to talk about today.
We're in the third week of our series, "The Good Life: Technology," looking at five biblical principles for a healthy life in the digital world.

In the first week of the series, we talked about the fact that as followers of Jesus, our job is not to abandon technology, but to transform it. To move into it as light bringers. We are not of the world, but we are sent into it.

The principle there was this: Principle 1: You are on a mission. Last week, we talked about how easily our self-worth and identity can be wrapped up in what happens to us online and how quickly we lose sight of our identity as beloved children of God.

So the second principle we introduced is: Principle 2: Your identity is in Christ, not in likes.

Next week we're going to talk all about what we choose to let influence use. Principle 4: Garbage in, garbage out. And the last week we'll talk about re-learning the art of authentic relationships. Principle 5: Face to face is best.

But today we've got to talk about how easily our technology wraps us in chains and how we can start to break free of them.

ADDICTIONS

Now, the game I mentioned was intentionally designed to keep me on it as much as possible. It was a finely crafted addiction machine.

And we'd all say, "Well, of course! They want you to spend money on in-app purchases. You can boost things and speed things up and get the ultra platinum master pack for just $49.99!"

So sure. Video games are made to be addictive. But I would argue that almost every one of the technologies we so rely on today does the exact same thing.

News flash. Facebook is not interested in connecting you with people.

They are interested in making money. And they do that by getting as many relevant advertisements in front of your eyeballs as possible. And they do that by keeping you on the platform and pulling on your emotional strings.

For example, whenever you update your profile picture, it gets featured in your friends' feeds. Why? Because Facebook knows that when you change your profile pic, for a moment you're especially vulnerable and longing for social approval.

So they give you the likes you're looking for, you feel like you have value and worth, so you come back again looking for more. It feeds the addiction cycle.

YouTube works hard to predict what kinds of videos you would want to watch. Every second you spend on the app - watching, liking, commenting, sharing, even ending a video early - is all being fed into an algorithm which can further tailor content to draw you deeper in.

"Why yes, I do want to watch a video about chicken composting techniques for permaculture."

YouTube knows you. So now, when you pull to refresh your recommended content, it's just like a slot machine. The reward center of your brain goes crazy in anticipation that you might just find the next awesome video you've been waiting for. It's like a drug.

It sounds dystopian, but the machines are learning you. Social media, ride sharing apps, Netflix, Google Maps, your credit card...

Unless you're Ron Swanson and don't use technology at all, there are tens of thousands of data points on you that all these companies use to wrap chains around you and make sure their platform is as addictive as possible.

All of this from technology that was meant to make our lives better.

"How proud we often are of the multitude of instruments we have succeeded in inventing, of the abundance of commodities we have been able to produce. Yet our victories have come to resemble defeats. In spite of our triumphs, we have fallen victims to the work of our hands; it is as if the forces we had conquered have conquered us." -Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

The truth is, we are enslaved to our technology, just like the rest of our world.

And yet, as we've been saying throughout this series, we as followers of Jesus are called to be distinct from the world around us. Different. We are sent into this world to transform it. To bring light.

How can we do that if we're also trapped in the darkness?

SABBATH

We have to find a way to break free, even as we continue to use the technology which is just a part of our world now. And it just so happens, I believe there's a biblical principle all about how: the sabbath.

Now, on the very first page of the Bible we are introduced to the idea that God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day, he rested - he stopped creating. Or in Hebrew, shabbat (where we get our English word sabbath).

The Bible goes on to explain that this seventh day of rest - this sabbath day - is something the Israelites were expected to observe every single week. To stop from their work and spend 24 hours resting.

It was so important that it's actually one of the Ten Commandments. Don't murder, don't steal, observe the sabbath day...

Now, we'll talk a lot more about the sabbath in February, when we have a whole series about the law and the 10 commandments. But for now, I want to just focus in on one aspect of the sabbath I think is really relevant to our discussion about technology. One principle that we can apply.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
"Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

Now, in Hebrew, the word "sabbath" literally means "to stop" or "to cease." There are other words to describe resting as in reclining or relaxing. But the word sabbath means bringing something to a stop.

But what, exactly, were the Israelites supposed to stop?

Well, look at verse 15. "Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt... that is why the Lord... commanded you to rest." The Israelites were to stop their work because in Egypt work was all they knew.

In Egypt, constant, ceaseless work was the norm. The Israelites were ground to dust for the sake of profit. They worked 24/7 making bricks for Pharaoh - pursuing his interests. Day after day after day after day... and they had no choice in the matter.

As they became their own, free nation, the Israelites were meant to be different. They weren't supposed to throw themselves into non-stop labor, to be constantly working for survival or profit. And neither were those who were working for them - humans or animals.

Israel was going to be a place where the people of God would trust in his provision, not their own. And the sabbath was a constant reminder of that.

Once a week, for 24 hours, the Israelites "sabbathed" - they stopped - they put down their plows. Rather than pursuing profit or gain, the people gathered together, rested, and were free.

Free from the drive to survive. Free from self-sufficiency. And free from the temptation to oppress others for selfish gain.

Isaiah 58:6, 13
This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people... Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don't follow your own desires.

Sabbath and human freedom go hand in hand. Put simply, sabbath stopped the grind of survival - the grind of greed - and reminded the people they were free.

TECHNOLOGY

So, what does this have to do with technology?

Well, as I said before, we are in many ways slaves to our devices.

Click this. Buy this. Keep watching, keep watching, keep watching. Hey, it's been about 45 seconds. What if something new just happened on Twitter? Oh! Someone just liked my picture. Did my phone just buzz?

Tell me I'm exaggerating. We're living in a technological Egypt. We're being worked to the bone. And for what? For someone else's profit.

Even though we are new creations in Christ, supposedly free from the powers of this world, we're letting ourselves be enslaved because, "well, it's not technically sinning, right?". Listen to how the Apostle Paul responds:

1 Corinthians 6:12
You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is good for you. And even though "I am allowed to do anything," I must not become a slave to anything.

Like the Israelites, we need to learn how to sabbath. How to stop the hamster wheel and remind ourselves that we are free people.

Which is why the third principle for this series is so important to remember:

Principle 3: Sabbath breaks chains

Sabbath was a constant reminder to the Israelites that they had been freed from slavery in Egypt. It can be the same for us, as well.

PRACTICAL STEPS

Let me give you some ideas about what this could look like, practically.

First, there are some really smart, simple things you can do take back a bit of control. Pseudo-sabbaths.

You can turn on Do Not Disturb at work or school, so the only times you look at your phone are when you choose to, not when your phone wants you to.

You can disable notifications about everything except what's most important. Do you really need to know the exact moment that someone likes your tweet?

And you can put a complete ban on things that you know you can't overcome. I no longer allow myself to even download games which use real-world time.

Those are all really great things to consider, but a full sabbath is different.

Sabbath is sacred time. It's time set apart. Intentionally. It's not just using a bit more moderation. It's a full and complete stop of something for a time - a time in which our technological masters can have no say because we're not working for them.

When we do that - when we fully disconnect from something, we start to see just how much control it has over us. How much we're dependent on it.

We become aware, so when we do reconnect (again, we're not trying to burn this all to the ground) hopefully our perspective has changed. We see things differently and hopefully we have a bit more control.

So how would we do this?

Well, maybe it's a tech sabbath hour once a day. Maybe it's at dinner time, when nobody in your family can use devices. What would happen to your dinner conversations if it was a sacred time - if nobody could pull out their phone?

Or maybe you take a tech sabbath during one of your daily routines. Making breakfast, driving to work...

It could be an extended sabbatical from a specific technology or social media account. I've had friends who have logged off of Instagram for a month and they've found tremendous freedom in that.

Or maybe, a bit like the original sabbath, it's a day-long, 24-hour break from technology. A full day to stop and be free.

Which, in fact, is what we're inviting you to do.

Next Saturday, November 23, our whole church is going to practice this together. We're calling it the "No Screen Saturday Challenge."

It's a chance for us all - kids to adults - to sabbath - to stop for a whole day, regain control, and see what the experience teaches us.

Now, of course, there are going to need to be a few exceptions. Some of you have to use a screen for your job. Or you have a medical emergency in the family. That's ok.

But if at all possible, I'm challenging you to go the whole day without using any screens.

It's going to take some preparation. The day before the sabbath, the Israelites had to make sure they'd done all their harvesting, that they'd finished their travel, that they'd prepared everything, so they could fully rest an entire day.

You may have to prepare as well. Print off some maps. I've got to finalize my sermon a day early. Tell friends and family you won't be reachable.

Plan out your activities, too! One person told me the other day he had no idea what he'd even do on a Saturday without any screens. No Netflix? No video games? You've got to think ahead. Don't just be miserable.

It'll be a challenge. But think about what the experience could do for you:

A whole day of rest from the buzzing and dinging and noise. Hours of uninterrupted face-to-face interaction with your friends and family.

A day to examine your heart, to see what you miss the most and to acknowledge just how addicted you've become.

This will be a day to breathe free air again. To reorient your priorities. Just like the sabbath was always meant to do.

The No Screen Saturday Challenge. November 23. It's crazy. I know. I encourage us all to give it our best shot.

Because if we do, perhaps when we re-enter this technological world, it'll be a bit easier for us to do it as light-bringers, not as slaves.

Right now, as our service continues, we're going to stop and practice a mini sabbath rest. We're going to take a few minutes at each one of our campuses and just be silent. Sacred time. A little taste of freedom from the noise.

Remember: Sabbath breaks chains.

Whether it's a moment or a day or a month, stopping like this can remind you that you are free.

Nov 17 2019

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Rank #15: Psalm 116: Gratitude

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The Psalms teach us how to bring our true emotions to God in prayer. Because they cover such a vast range of emotional landscapes, the Psalms help to awaken our faith and deepen our pursuit of God.

Psalm 116
1 I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
2 Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
3 Death wrapped its ropes around me;
the terrors of the grave[a] overtook me.
I saw only trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the Lord:
"Please, Lord, save me!"
5 How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!
6 The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.
7 Let my soul be at rest again,
for the Lord has been good to me.
8 He has saved me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
9 And so I walk in the Lord' presence
as I live here on earth!
10 I believed in you, so I said,
"I am deeply troubled, Lord.";
11 In my anxiety I cried out to you,
"These people are all liars!"
12 What can I offer the Lord
for all he has done for me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the Lord's name for saving me.
14 I will keep my promises to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.
15 The Lord cares deeply
when his loved ones die.
16 O Lord, I am your servant;
yes, I am your servant, born into your household;
you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people
19 in the house of the Lord
in the heart of Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Reflecting again on the mercy God has shown him, the goodness of God.
He:

  • Is good to me

  • Protects me

  • Saves me

  • Keeps my eyes from tears & my feet from stumbling


This is a prayer of thanksgiving, but it is also a testimony of thanksgiving. It is a looking back with gratitude on your personal deliverance and then a promise to proclaim that gratitude to your spiritual community and to a world that needs hope.

All throughout Psalm 116, David looks back at what God has done. He finds hope and gratitude in the truth of what God has already delivered him from. Looking back builds your faith and builds the faith of those around you.

Choosing gratitude means you will live palms up in the midst of your pain, you will be ready for what He has to offer, and you trust in what He is offering because you've seen it offered before and you know He is with you.;

Gratitude in the midst of pain and hardship can be our greatest testimony and can lead right into goodness.

Your testimony may be the scaffolding that someone else needs to hold them up. Your gratitude testimony may be exactly what the world needs to see and hear.

Jun 23 2019

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Rank #16: The Gospels: Part 1

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We want to help you discover or re-discover the passion and the joy of reading the Bible.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four books are biographies...which are a form of narrative or story. They tell the story of Jesus and His Kingdom. This sermon unpacks the world behind the text, the world of the text and the world in front of the text of Mark.

Jun 17 2018

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Rank #17: Freedom From Sin

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Romans 8:1-4
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

God's heart for humanity from the very beginning is that we would live in a world of love and harmony and peace - where our actions towards one another - and even to the creation itself - would reflect God's goodness and creativity and justice. Sin is when we choose to rebel against God's intentions for this world. Sin is selfish.

Romans 8:12-14
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

You do not have the willpower, the strength, or the intelligence to break free from the power of sin on your own. Sin is a hungry beast crouching at your door, and it is far too clever for you. You must rely on the Holy Spirit.
Let the Spirit show you where you need freedom.

Romans 8:15
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him "Abba, Father."

You have the Spirit of God living in you, and he is a good, good father. Ask him to lead you. Ask him to help you.

Jan 06 2019

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Rank #18: Stewardship

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Week1

Sep 08 2019

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Rank #19: Old Testament History

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The purpose of this series is to help you discover or re-discover the passion and the joy of reading the Bible. We looked at the world behind, of and in front of the text for 2 Kings 6:1-7. God is using this story to remind everyone... everyone... not just Kings and generals, but everyone... that He is paying close attention to the details of our lives... even the 'losing an axe head' sort of details. It is so easy to fall under the false impression that I am not worthy... I am not important enough... I am not making enough of a wake in the world to be worthy of God's intimate care. And this story tells us that this couldn't be further from the truth. This story says that in the midst of a world where huge forces are constantly pushing things back and forth, God still sees you, your struggles... your lost axe heads. And He not only sees you, He understands your situation and He cares and if we're paying close attention we'll soon see that He is doing unimaginable things to let us know He loves us. That is why this story is included in a Biblical history book: it tells is the truth about God!

Jun 24 2018

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Rank #20: Who Is God?

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The church exists to introduce you and your family to God...lead you to a lifetime of belonging with others...show you where you can make a difference as you serve the Kingdom of God in healing the world...and ultimately usher you into your hard wired calling and destiny for which you were made. This sermon will answer the question: Who is God?

1. God is the hope giver.
I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called. -Ephesians 1:16-19

2. God is the power giver.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 1:19-20

3. God is the life giver.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. -Ephesians 2:4-5

4. God is the love giver.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. -Ephesians 2:18-19

The church is the hope of the world and the hope for your best life because the church answers the question - Who is God?

Aug 11 2019

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Uncommon Love

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Loneliness and isolation seem to be gripping the world these days. It seems as if it's becoming somewhat of an epidemic. People seem scared or anxious to engage with others. Many seem to be secluded themselves, some by choice, many by circumstance.

How do we find relief from this? In order to help figure this out we are going to look at the book of John. Turn to John 15:9-17.

9 "I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father's commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn't confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

This is near the end of Jesus' life. He is with his disciples and where this passage falls is in the midst of a conversation that begins toward the end of John 13, when Judas Iscariot has just left the room and Jesus realizes the betrayal is near. When the door shuts it's like there is an urgency and excitement in the room. The time is short and there is much he wants/needs to tell the 11 that are left. Throughout chapters 14 thru 16 Jesus is explaining to them the fact that he is going away and that they cannot follow him just yet. He is showing them what it all means for their future life, their own sorrow and joy and mission in the world. This is right before his arrest in the garden. And the passage we are looking at today is right in the middle of this whole scene.
At this point, the disciples do not understand that Jesus will soon die for his friends. After the resurrection, they will finally understand the significance of these words. Jesus' love will require him to go to the cross for his friends. His commandment to love each other as he has loved us (v. 12) also requires serious sacrifice. The love of which Jesus speaks is more than a feeling, it is love in action, love that pays the price.

The cure for loneliness and isolation is LOVE!
Jesus is saying 2 things here:

  1. Remain in my love.

  2. And love each other.

And those are the 2 points that will bring you relief.

Look around, who needs you, who needs your companionship, who needs you to be their friend, who needs you to be their family, who needs you to show up, with no expectations, but to just love them and bring them into relationship
Can you make this new year one where you:
  1. Look - for those around you who might need you

  2. Listen - when the spirit says to move into their lives

  3. Engage - with them even if it's hard or messy

  4. Invite - them into your world, your family, your friend group, your group

  5. Support/Encourage - them to keep moving out into the world

Make this the year of relief from loneliness and isolation, that those that are lonely can move out into the world armed with the deep, unconditional, bold love of Jesus, the most important relationship any human being can have. A year where we as the community of Christ will move into the lives of the isolated and lonely with the deep, unconditional, bold love of Jesus. There is no reason that someone that is engaged in the church or engaged with a community of Christ followers or engaged with even a single Christ follower should ever be lonely. We should make sure that never happens.

Jan 12 2020

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Mary & Joseph

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So last week we began this sermon series - revealed and Dave started by talking about going to a movie - so I decided if he can start by talking about a movie - then I can too. Now I'm going to admit that if you have been around me the past couple of weeks you have probably already heard me mention this particular movie. I've actually been fairly annoying about it. And those of you that are sick of me talking about it - (my daughters for one) I ask for forgiveness in advance. But how many of you have seen Frozen 2? Anyone? N Indy? Fishers? If you haven't, I would highly recommend it. I mean highly recommend. It is this beautiful mix of story and unbelievable animation - and strong characters - especially female characters - and music - powerful music with a powerful message. And mixing story with music is maybe one of my favorite things. Just a great movie. But for me it was more than that - Frozen 2 was transcendent. I had a deep emotional and spiritual connection to this movie. You see I believe all beautiful art - every great story has a spiritual component to it. Jesus is in the middle of all of it even if that isn't maybe what the creator of the art originally intended. And this movie had this beautiful spiritual theme thru out its entirety. When I saw it, I knew that I was going to preach on Mary - the mother of Jesus. So, I began to see the movie thru her life and her experience and then I started to see it thru my life and my experience and then thru your life and your experience. And I realized this movie that Disney created was focused on our spiritual journey. It was no longer a story about Elsa and Anna but a story about Mary - this simple ordinary girl - and a story about you and me - really just simple ordinary people. And then I just cried. And cried. And cried. And I have been driving around in my car and listening to the songs and crying ever since. Sorry if you've seen me around town crying in my car - it's just the way I roll.

But that's what a great story can do - right? It transports us to another time and place - it allows us to escape - to get lost for a few moments in the characters and the dialogue and the plot and the twists and turns. And then if it's a truly truly great story - we start to see ourselves in it and it teaches us something and sometimes even changes us...

And that is exactly what we are hoping can happen for you in these weeks leading up to Christmas. That you will get lost in the most remarkable story ever told - that you will transported thru these characters and the way God intersects with them - and learn thru this story how God intersects with us - you and me - a true beautiful story that many of you have heard over and over. A story with an unbelievable plot - full of twists and turns - with intrigue, mystery, hope, pain, joy, anguish, expectation, scorn - it has everything a great story should have. A story that began over 2000 years ago but is continuing today. A story that you can be a part of. A story that you can play a role in. A story of God's revelation - the revealing of his ultimate saving plan for humanity - a plan where He used ordinary people to do the extraordinary. Ordinary people - just like you and me.

We will look at ordinary people like the shepherds and the magi and Mary and Joseph - and of course baby Jesus himself. And how God reveals himself and His rescue plan for the world to these normal human beings. We began last week by looking at Zechariah and Elizabeth - an ordinary older couple (senior citizens to be exact) who after praying their entire lives for a child are finally granted their wish in the last years of their lives. A baby - a son to be exact - and not just any son but the man that will pave the way for the ministry of Jesus - the last prophet.

God uses this ordinary older couple to give birth to the final prophet. (aside if you are one of our elders in this congregation and you think your time has passed that you have nothing to offer - you could not be more wrong - we need you - the kingdom needs you).

Today we move on to another character in this phenomenal story - really the woman at the center of this story - the herione - and her name is Mary. The simple young ordinary girl that would be one of the most important characters in this beautiful tale.

And the story continues in Luke 1:26-38

There is an account of Mary and the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, but it focuses more on Joseph - and while Joseph definitely factors into this story - our focus is going to be on Mary. We're going to look at the account from Luke where the angel visits Mary.

Fun fact: If you want to read more about Joseph's story, go to Matthew 1:18-25

Let's pick up this amazing story in verse 26 of Luke 1

Luke 1:26-38 New Living Translation (NLT)

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, Remember Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist - just 6 months earlier in this story an angel visits her husband Zechariah and she is given the miracle of having a child after years of infertility - and people are already shocked that this old gal is having a baby and then a short 6 months later can you imagine the scandal when the 14 year old virgin shows up pregnant? These 2 encounters with the angel are closely related and connected... God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,

Already this encounter is very similar to the encounter Zechariah had - same angel but when the angel appeared to Zechariah, Gabriel found him in the temple - with Mary, Gabriel travels to her - he goes from the temple - a significant holy place - to Nazareth - an insignificant, despised unclean village - setting the tone immediately for what kind of king Jesus will be - one that goes to the hard places - one that uplifts the meek - one that uplifts those that the world deems unworthy

27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. And here she is - Mary - the one God has chosen to bring the savior into the world - his redemptive plan for humanity will be birthed in and thru her. Mary is from Nazareth. That was no place. No place important to anyone. Later when Jesus is a man people are still making fun of him for being from Nazareth. She was probably 13 or 14. That is right in between the ages of my 2 youngest girls. Mary is called a virgin. And the word here means exactly what we know virgin means. Mary had never had sex. The idea that she would have had relations with Joseph is really somewhat preposterous. He was most likely older, possibly a widower, and he would have made an arrangement with her father... the engagement only gave him the right to speak to her, something no Jewish man would ever have done. 1st Century Jewish men did not speak to unrelated females, especially young women. If he had been with her it would have been a great scandal and Joseph would have had to make a number of amends with Mary's father over his having ruined Mary's father's 'property - Mary was considered her father's property. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, "Greetings,[a] favored woman! The Lord is with you![b]" 29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.

Let's stop here for a second - are you kidding me with this? Mary is a young, insignificant girl from no place. No one ever thought about 13 or 14-year-old girls as 'favored women.' Truth is everyone then thought that a 14 year-old-girl who wasn't yet married had something wrong with her. Here is this young girl - not important - no one notices her - and now Gabriel is in her house (I assume) telling her she is a favored woman? And the Lord is with her? I think of every young girl I know - several in my own house - I think of myself at that age - and at 13 and 14 the last thing you think is that you are favored by anyone - it is an awkward time of figuring out who you are - stuck between a little girl and a woman - I wonder if they know that, like Mary, they are favored by God too. (One of my missions in life is to make sure that they do.) That is Mary - sitting there and then an angel - as Dave said "God intersecting with the earth" - Gabriel is there with her - and everything he is saying makes no sense to her - it's says she was confused and disturbed...

Fun fact: When I was 13 years old - I had braces and a short, permed, ugly haircut. I was totally obnoxious and certainly did not feel like I was favored by God. And this greeting confuses Mary, so the angel has to say what angels always say,' - verse 30

"Don't be afraid, Mary," the angel told her, "for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel[c] forever; his Kingdom will never end!"

He reiterates that she has found favor with God - just in case she was still doubting - then similar to Zechariah he shares all the amazing things this child will do - he shares the plan - she will have a son and name him Jesus - which means Yahweh saves. The angel is telling her God's plan for her but more than that - God's rescue plan for the broken, fallen world.

Hallelujah chorus

34 Mary asked the angel, "But how can this happen? I am a virgin." 35 The angel replied, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What's more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.[d]" And the angel then told her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...' This language is very similar to the way the Book of Genesis describes the creation of the world... to overshadow means to hover over... and the angel was saying, 'God did some amazing things when he created the world and now, he is doing something amazing in you Mary... he is creating Jesus! The same spirit that made light out of darkness is putting light in you.

He is creating the savior of the world in you.

And then - it's like - if you want proof that crazy things can happen - guess what Elizabeth is pregnant?

Mary might have been the least-likely candidate for the mother God binds Himself to humanity through, He does it so that there can be no mistake that His hand is directing it. He makes the impossible possible -- conception within a barren Elizabeth and a Virgin Mary. The circumstances are miraculous - only God could make this happen.

He would use those in the low places, the poor and invisible, to bring about his new world order. The world turned upside down - a glimpse into what kind of King Jesus would be.

And after all this craziness - what does Mary say?

38 Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true." And then the angel left her. She says yes. This young sweet simple girl - this girl that the world holds in no esteem. A virgin - says yes. And more. Hold on to that - we'll come back to that in a bit.

After this encounter with the Gabriel - Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Gabriel had told Mary that the proof that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit was that her elderly relative Elizabeth was also now pregnant. So, what it looks like is that Mary went to see if this was so! Verses 39-45 depict that encounter for us. Mary sees that Elizabeth is truly with child - and John leaps in Elizabeth's womb at the arrival of Mary and Jesus - leaping for joy. And then Elizabeth affirms what the angel had told Mary - telling Mary she is blessed and all that will happen to her will be a blessing. And after all of this - Gabriel - and Elizabeth - and John - Mary responds in a deep way - she says more than just yes in verses 46-55 She actually sings a song of praise:

Luke 1:46-55 New Living Translation (NLT) 46 Mary responded, "Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. 47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! 48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. 50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. 51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. 52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. 54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. 55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever."

First, she praises God for what is happening to her... she says, 'God took notice of me!' and she means in a good way! Then she says that he has done great things for her and for his people. Most people would have disagreed with her about this being a good thing for her, by the way. And she finishes her song with a bunch of statements that list out all the good that God has done in the past and, interestingly, this list sounds almost exactly like what Jesus was going to do when he grew up... things like scatter proud people... and lift up humble people... and feed the hungry and put haughty, rich people in their places. That's powerful stuff. Luke was so impressed with this song that he included the lyrics in the first chapter of his book.

Fun Fact: Tim Ayers who has 50,000 pages of notes on everything in the Bible - including Mary - says he has always wondered if Mary sang this song to Luke years later when he came and interviewed her for his book? We don't know. But Luke thought the song was very important.

Mary says yes - she's says more than yes - she is grateful to be a part of this plan - of this story. And she will take on all that God is asking of her. Mary was young in a world that honored age. She was a girl in a world ruled by men. She was poor in society that believed that wealth meant that God was pleased with you. If you were poor people thought that you or someone in your family must have done something really wrong to deserve being poor. Mary was unmarried in a world where women only had one purpose in life: to be married, again, usually by the time they are 13, and have children... and now she is to be pregnant without a husband and that would haunt her the rest of her life. In fact, when Jesus was in his 30's people were still talking about his questionable birth. It would follow her and Joseph (let's not forget how he comes alongside her and marries her and raises Jesus) - it would follow them the rest of their lives. Not to mention raising the savior of the world - which sounds really cool - but it was a difficult life - full of scorn and shame - and ultimately watching the child you raised die a horrible death on a cross. Yes, she was chosen - she was called to an amazing task - but it was not an easy life she was saying yes to.

It is a remarkable story, and this is just the beginning. There is more to come with the shepherds and wise men. But what does this story have to do with us? Here is 2019?

I believe this story has everything to do with you.

First of all - God chooses very ordinary people to reveal his story to and thru - an elderly pastor and his wife and a young virgin girl. God uses ordinary people - like Mary and Elizabeth - ordinary people to do extraordinary tasks.

And this story that began over 2000 years ago - isn't over yet - the story of God continues today - with us.

Like Mary, we all have the opportunity to play a role in the most remarkable story ever told - we just have to say yes. God revealed himself to Mary thru Gabriel and Elizabeth and even John in Elizabeth's womb. And that same God wants to reveal himself to you today - right now. He is speaking to you right now - in this moment - today - here and at N Indy and at Fishers - He is calling you into His story. Mary had every reason to say no - He was asking so much more of her than he is asking of us - so why are so many of us sitting on the sidelines - refusing to put ourselves in the story.

If a 90-year-old couple and a 13/14-year-old girl are gratefully playing a role in God's redemption of humanity - what are we - you and I - waiting for?

We are all writing our own stories everyday, but they truly are meaningless stories unless they are intricately intertwined with the story of God. We are missing out. We're pushing thru life - struggling and grappling - looking for happiness - whatever that is - and He is offering us transformation. Transformation thru Him and thru the destiny he has placed on our lives.

Let's take it back to Frozen 2 - and I promise I won't give anything away - but very early on in the movie you discover there is a voice calling to Elsa - and if you hear that voice as the Holy Spirit - it will change the whole scope of the movie for you. You could take every song in the movie and make them Mary's words, or your words and the songs will take on a whole new perspective. Frozen 2 could be Mary's story - could be your story Just as in the movie. There is a voice calling you - God revealing himself to you. Listen - what is he saying to you? What is he revealing to you? Some of you in this room are ready to make a huge leap of faith - you know that God is calling you to something big - bigger than you imagined - you need to move into the unknown. But some of you - you just need to say yes to the next right thing. And some of you need to become part of the story - to insert yourself into the narrative - surrender to Jesus - say yes to the baby in the manger - Some of you are aching to be part of this story - this remarkable beautiful story of hope and joy and comfort and peace and mercy and forgiveness - a story that gives you direction and purpose and calling - a story that when you decide to enter it - when you decide to accept your role - to play your part - a part that God designed just for you - it will radically change you.

I've been waiting my whole life for someone to write a part specifically designed for me - and then I realized about in my early 20's - that God had written the part for me on the day I was born. And the same is true for you. And when you accept that role and you choose to play that part - this story will change your life. God's rescue story for the world - his rescue story for you. It is the most important story you can take a part in. It is the greatest role you will ever accept. Like Mary, we all have the opportunity to play a role in the most remarkable story ever told - we just have to say yes. What's your answer? Will you say yes today? Yes to surrender? Yes to what he is calling you to? Yes to your unique part of the story? Will this Christmas be a fresh new start for you? A Christmas you will never ever forget. It can be. You just have to leap into the unknown - accept the adventure God has for you. Like Mary - allow Jesus to be born in you. You just have to say yes.

Dec 15 2019

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Zechariah & Elizabeth

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Penny and I went to a movie Friday night. I wanted to go to the Mr. Rogers movie but Penny vetoed that. She said we're going to a movie that won't make us cry. I said OK, and she was right, it was a fun escape of a movie.

Every now and then I need an escape. A way to rise above or step out of the pace or stress of life. That might be through a movie out with Penny. A party with friends. Or a retreat on my own. And sometimes it's by getting lost in a story. One that transports me to another place or another time.

One of those stories, for me, is the Lord of the Rings. I've lost track of how many times I've read it. It always carries me away into that great story and allows me to walk with its characters. It always inspires me and captivates me.

Well, that feeling of being transported to another time and another place is exactly what we hope will happen over the next four weeks. Through another remarkable story. A true story that you've heard so many times.

A story with intrigue and pain. A story with joy and hope. A narrative full of miracles and stars and animals and angels and ordinary people and a baby getting caught up in a cosmic mystery.

This entire story is the weaving together of the ordinary and the extraordinary, The common place and the bizarre. The normal and the peculiar.

This month we want you to be dazzled by the supernatural. We want you to be awed by the power and love of God. But we also want you to be comforted by this remarkable true tale.

That in the midst of your complicated life to be reminded that God works in ordinary people to do extraordinary things. People just like you.

We'll look at the very ordinary Zechariah and Elizabeth, the shepherds and the magi, Mary and Joseph, and, of course, baby Jesus himself. We hope that you will see that just as God revealed himself and his plan to these dear ordinary people, he does so today in and through you. So relax, grab a Bible and settle in and let's read it. THE most remarkable story in all of time.

Luke 1 page 849

There are two versions of this story. A brief version as told by Matthew in his gospel and a longer more detailed version complied by an investigative reporter named Luke, written to a man named Theophilus.

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus,4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God's eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord's commandments and regulations.7They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
The story begins with two ordinary senior citizens.

  • Sweet old pastor and his wife from the hill country south of Jerusalem. From what we piece together:

    • Old = in today's understanding think in their 90s

    • A couple with a painful life story, a cloud over their lives.

      • Childlessness =

        • a stigma that came with whispers

        • God doesn't like them

        • Some secret sin going on there

        • What a shame

    • Lifetime of faithfulness and service to God

      • He could have divorced and remarried but he didn't

      • Righteous in the eyes of God and careful to obey

    • They prayed unceasingly for God's intervention

Ordinary person, what is your stigma? What is your private pain? Your shame? What is the cloud? What have you been praying for for so long?

  • Perhaps you too are poised for God's intervention

8One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week.9As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.

  • This was a rare moment of duty.

    • Once/twice year to come to Jerusalem

    • AND by a roll of the dice chosen to enter into the holy place.

11While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him.
Suddenly the mystery, the wonder and weirdness begins - This is the first of many odd, supernatural events in this whole story.

  • An angel, not just any angel but one of only two mentioned by name in Bible - Gabriel and Michael - cf Vs 19

    • Angel = spiritual beings bodiless by nature that take on the form of humans to interact with us.

    • Real thing? Absolutely. Which still happens by the way.

    • When angels appear it is heaven intersecting earth. 19 Then the angel said, "I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God."

So, This was a miracle. A terrifying one. Zechariah was overwhelmed!

13 But the angel said,";Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.

  • What prayer? The one he had been praying for ever, I want a son.

  • John - "Yahweh is gracious" was a sign of the prayer being answered

    • Not just gracious to these two dear people but gracious to the world.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the story let me explain something about this child John. You would think that the story of the birth of Jesus would begin with Jesus not some random baby named John. But this baby is and was crucial to the story of the birth of Christ.
You';ll see why as we continue...;
14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,15for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly."
So, baby John will be extraordinary and peculiar - every phrase Gabriel utters about little John paints an incredible picture:

  • Great in the eyes of the Lord

  • Never touch wine - Set apart in his lifestyle we learn more later about his eccentricities

  • Powerful influence on his nation - a prophet - moral influencer - a leader who calls out the best in people not their worst.

  • He would be a bridge over 400 years of anticipation

    • The last prophet before the Messiah

      • OT - prophets (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Micah) calling for a king and a kingdom

    • John is the last prophet

One last thing I want to point out:
Luke 1:15 He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.

  • Under the influence of God as a fetus!

  • Possessed by God as a yet to be born tiny human being.

Watch for this theme again in a few minutes.
18 Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I be sure this will happen? I'm an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years." ;

  • Zechariah,being an ordinary and normal person is skeptical - do you blame him?

  • We like Zechariah are uncomfortable with the mysterious are we not?

Could it be that we are unwilling to accept the possibility of God's intervention?
19 Then the angel said, "I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!" 20 But now, since you didn't believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time."

  • The angel makes Zechariah mute but possibly deaf

  • Was this a punishment? Sure feels like it, and maybe just a part of the whole mystery.

It sure made me wonder about my own lack of faith in the miraculous. And God's reaction to me.
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long.22 When he finally did come out, he couldn't speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
23 When Zechariah';s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 "How kind the Lord is!" she exclaimed. "He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.";
It's at this point that the Jesus part of the story begins, we'll look at this next week. But jump down to verse 39, after Gabriel appears to Mary.
A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary's greeting, Elizabeth';s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, "God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said."
Little baby John was filled with the Holy Spirit and now Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit!
At the mere sound of Mary's voice baby John jumps in the womb and Elizabeth breaks out in prophetic words ! (how did she know that Mary was to be the mother of our lord?)
This is heaven intersecting earth, God filling an ordinary person and doing something extraordinary!
Skip down to verse 57 and let me summarize the rest of the story.

  • Elizabeth gives birth to John.

  • Zechariah is given his hearing and speech back.

  • Everybody in their town is in awe.

And there is a postscript in Vs 67 67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: (which became a song)
68 "Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.

78 Because of God's tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace."
What a story, and it is only the beginning! What do we take from it?
This is how God works.

  • From babies to seniors God intersects earth.

  • Any human being is capable of being overwhelmed by God.

God takes ordinary people, fills them with his Spirit and does remarkable things through them.
He will do that with you.
Are you open to it? Are you ready for it? To be filled with the Holy Spirit?
May I pray that for you right now?

Dec 08 2019

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Face to Face Is Best

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Principle 5: Face to face is best

We need to work hard to create physical face to face connections with people.

Three benefits of meeting face to face:

1. Eating together - Something happens when we break bread together! Jesus did it all the time! o "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" Mark 2:16
o When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them - fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. "Bring some of the fish you've just caught," Jesus said. "Now come and have some breakfast!" John 21:9
2. Touch - There is power in physical touch o Washing feet
o Children in his arms
o Touching lepers
3. The presence of Jesus o Where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20
Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25
o The phrase "our meeting together" is the same the one Jesus used "gather"
When the people of Jesus are in physical proximity to one another...watch out for Jesus. He is right there. And when Jesus is in the room all kinds of things can happen!
4 Ways to Be Face to Face: 1. Go out of your way to spend time together.
2. Join a Rooted group (https://gracechurch.us/rooted)
3. Pray together
4. Come to church every weekend rather than watching online
So there it is, the good life awaits us in the digital world. But approach technology with caution and purpose and balance and do it together...face to face.

Dec 01 2019

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Setting Your Mind on Things Above

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Several months ago I was watching a YouTube clip of a Twitch stream of Ninja playing Fortnite. (If that's not a 2019 statement, nothing is!)

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, there is a very popular video game out right now called Fortnite. And also right now there is this whole trend of gamers streaming so others can watch them play.

Well, I was watching a clip of one of these streamers, Ninja, who, at the time, had 14 million followers. It's estimated that in 2018 Ninja made $10 million from his gaming-related activities. So he's kind of a big deal.

What was so fascinating to me was that, as he was playing, he would interact with his followers. They'd make a donation, ask a question, and he'd answer it as he ran around the game.

I quickly realized that many of the people asking questions were middle school students. And most of their questions had to do with relationships.

"Ninja, what do I do about this girl I like?" "Ninja, this guy stole my girlfriend and I'm just so mad I want to punch him."

And then Ninja would give his advice. One time, literally with no sense of irony, he said, "you've got to deal with your emotions but you can't ever resort to violence"

As I watched, a dawning realization came over me: these guys were listening to him. These 14 million followers were hanging on every word.

Now, nothing he was saying was particularly bad or wrong, necessarily. Probably the worst thing he was doing was convincing a generation of young people that they had a future in professional gaming.

But when all was said and done I realized that this 28 year old man was shaping the worldview of middle school students and framing their understanding of morality because he was good at video games.

Ninja is an influencer. One of countless influences which are shaping our lives.

And I know some of you scoff at that and think, "I'd never let someone like that influence my life."

Well, you may think that. But I would argue that in this technological age every one of us is under more influence than we could ever possibly know.

SERIES RECAP

This is the fourth week of our series, "The Good Life: Technology." Looking at five biblical principles for a healthy life in the digital age. A quick recap to bring you up to speed:

In the first week we emphasized the fact that our job is not to abandon technology, but to transform it. To bring light into the darkness in the name of Jesus. We're not of the world, but we are sent into it. In other words,

Principle 1: You are on a mission.

In week 2, we talked about how important it is to remember where your identity comes from in a social-media driven world.

Principle 2: Your identity is in Christ, not in likes.

Last week, I introduced the idea of "sabbath" - taking sacred time to stop from the addictive cycles of our technology and remember that we are free. The principle there was:

Principle 3: Sabbath breaks chains.

As a part of that, we introduced the "No Screen Saturday Challenge." One whole day "resting" from our devices to see what we would learn.

Next week we're going to talk about re-connecting with real life people.

Principle 5: Face-to-face is best.

As a reminder, we're going to a Parent's Technology Forum on December 3 at our Fishers campus. You can find info (and a bunch of other resources) at gracechuch.us/thegoodlife

So there's more good stuff to come. But today we're going to talk about influence.

INFLUENCE
The truth is, every one of us is being constantly affected by a never-ending stream of influence.

Some of it is obvious:

o Pundits on news channels spreading their political theories
o Social media influencers talking about favorite brands
o Marketing and Advertisements
All of that is coming at us every day, but so is a lot of much more subtle influence.

o The moral code hinted at by our favorite music lyrics
o The philosophical underpinnings of the YouTubers we follow
o The worldview of our favorite podcast hosts
These things trickle into our subconscious and shape our view of the world.

In this technological age, who we are and how we live is shaped by this barrage of influences. Frankly, it's unavoidable. Unless you live in a remote, off-grid cabin with no connection to the outside world, this is a part of your life.

So let me start with this:

The problem is not that we are being influenced. The problem is that far too few of us think about who or what we are letting influence us. We're just along for the ride.

And this is a problem because we are called to be distinct from the darkness around us.

If we are meant to be light-bringers in this world, I believe we need to be far more intentional about what we are choosing to let influence our worldview.

I wonder if the Bible has anything to say about that? Let's find out.

Colossians is a letter written by Paul to the church in the smallish city of Colossae in Anatolia (what is today western Turkey).

He's writing because Christians in Colossae were under the influence of some pretty weird religious ideas. What I'd call syncretistic mysticism.

Basically they were taking elements of Judaism, sprinkling in some Jesus, but then also worshipping elemental spirits and adopting these extreme rules and customs which had nothing to do with following Jesus and brought division into the church.

Paul wants to help them break free from these corrupting influences.

Colossians 3:1-11
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don't be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

In his letters, Paul loves contrasting two realities. Old and new. Light and dark. Life and death. In verse 2, he contrasts the "things of heaven" (literally, "things above") and "things of earth."

Now, I want to make something clear.

Heaven, in Paul's mind, was not just some ethereal place full of harps and angels. Heaven is the place where God dwells - where his rule and reign is total: love, peace, joy, life, harmony, wholeness...

And in Paul's mind, heaven is not some place we zip off to when we die. Heaven is coming to transform the earth - the kingdom of God is coming. It's already begun through Jesus. The New Creation is on its way.

That's what we're meant to think about. Things of heaven. Why? Verse 3. Because "you died to this [earthly] life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God." Your real life is a part of heaven, a part of the kingdom. Not just as a future hope, but as a present reality.

The moment you give your life to Christ you become a citizen of heaven. You are now a participant in the coming of the New Creation, and as Paul says elsewhere, God is now shaping you to be

Romans 8:29 "conformed to the image of his Son"

Which means that when you follow Jesus, your life is supposed to look more and more like his.

Under Christ's influence, you are meant to become a light-bringer in this world.

Which is why Paul has such strong words for those who say they follow Jesus but spend their time thinking about - setting their sights on & being influenced by - the things of earth.

And what are those things? Well, Paul essentially lumps them into two big categories. Sins of Desire and Sins of Disunity.

In verse 5, he describes sins of desire, which corrupt our hearts:

Sins of Desire

o Sexual immorality
o Impurity
o Lust
o Evil Desires
o Greed

In verse 8, he describes sins of disunity, which corrupt the church:

Sins of Disunity

o Anger
o Rage
o Malicious behavior
o Slander
o Dirty language
o Lying
These are the kinds of things which keep a community from thriving.

But here's what I don't want you to miss. These aren't just things which break some list of God rules. They are actions and thoughts which directly undermine the New Creation.

Think about it. In the New Creation - in heaven - in God's kingdom - every human has dignity and value. What does lust do? It turns humans into objects. It strips away their dignity.

In the New Creation there is no need because everyone gives of themselves with love and generosity. There is abundance. But greed undermines all of that. Greed says "this is mine and I want more."

In the New Creation peace and harmony are universal. But anger, rage, and slander rip apart communities.

So when Paul says we must "think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth," this isn't just a trite, moralistic suggestion to try and ponder the afterlife more often.

This is a desperate reminder that if we are in Christ we are a part of the new creation - we are citizens of God's kingdom right now - and our lives should look like it!

INTENTIONALITY

Our world looks very different from ancient Colossae - fewer temple prostitutes and syncretistic angel cults for one thing. But we are constantly flooded by influences which are no less "earthly" than what the Colossians were experiencing.

And thanks to technological advances, we have access to more of it than ever before.

o Extreme, bigoted views now shared on a global platform.
o Pornography at our fingertips.
o Pride, greed, lust, violence, slander, and rage not just present, but elevated and celebrated in our culture.
o Syncretistic worldviews which mix and muddle Christian faith with other stuff.
o And on top of it all: countless ways to hide our darkness and pretend that nothing is wrong.

Sins of desire, sins of disunity. And all of them drawing us away from the New Creation life we are meant to experience and resemble.

That is the world we are allowing to just flow right on in and influence us day after day after day.

So what do we do about it? Well, first I believe we have to understand, as Paul did:

Principle 4: Garbage in, garbage out

This was originally a computer science term. Essentially, you could have the best software program in the world, but if you feed it garbage inputs, it's going to spit out garbage results.

We're really no different. When we flood our minds with the things of this earth, guess what will come out in the way you live? Things of this earth! Shocker! Garbage in, garbage out. Now look. I am not here to be moralistic and tell you what you should or shouldn't be watching. Or reading. Or listening to.

But I am going to agree with Paul here and say that if you want to be healthy in this digital world, if you want your life to look like Jesus, then you'd better pay attention to what's influencing you!

Look back at Colossians 3 one more time. Look at the words Paul uses here.

o Set your sights on
o Think about
o Put on
o Be renewed
o Put to death
o Get rid of
o Strip off
These are action words. They're not passive. These are things which require intentionality and purpose. They don't just happen.

If we want to "think about the things of heaven," then we need to start by thinking about what we're thinking about!

We so often let influences flood our minds without ever giving it a second thought. I'm asking you to stop and consider what is influencing you!

Remember: Garbage in, garbage out. So how do you know if it's garbage? Well, here's one way you can do that: a tool you can use.

You can chart your influences.

We've got two axes. On the x axis, we've got things of earth on this side and things of heaven on this side. (Remember, heaven here does not mean naked angel babies. It means how much does this influence reflect the values of the kingdom of God?)

On the y axis we've got "influential" up here and "insignificant" down here. How much does this influence shape you?

What I'm encouraging you to do is to map your influences onto this chart. Go through your podcasts. The last 10 movies you've watched. Think through the Twitter accounts you follow most closely. And put them on here.

For example. One of my favorite YouTube channels is the Bible Project. They have incredible videos which bring scripture to life for me and shape my worldview. It's influential. For me, they're here.

On the other hand, I'm also subscribed to FailArmy, which is completely earthly, but also doesn't have much sway over me. It's insignificant. I don't have much of an urge to jump off of things because I watch it.

If I were to map all of my YouTube subscriptions onto here, what would my chart look like? What would yours?

When I watched the video of Ninja playing Fortnite and talking about relationships, that was probably down here for me. I'm not shaped by Twitch streamers. But if I was a middle school kid? Ninja might be up here because I'd worship the ground he walked on.

Give it a try. If reading political rants on Facebook fills you with rage, you'd probably put that here. Not only because it makes you angry, but because it makes it more likely that you'll post angry things yourself. Garbage in, garbage out.

What about dating apps you use? The angry pundits on your news channel. The HBO miniseries you love. Your music. Think about what you're thinking about.

This is also valuable for the spiritual influences in your life.

For example, having K-Love on in the background, or posting a Bible verse in your kitchen, or going to church once every couple months... Those may be things of heaven. But they don't really influence you that much.

Compare that with being discipled by an older believer. Walking with them through life and having them mentor and teach you. That's a heavenly influence.

So is studying Scripture in community and serving in the Care Center and going through Rooted and being at Church every week, rain or shine.

Ok, so you get the idea. Everyone's chart is going to look different. Things influence us in different ways.

So what should our chart look like? Should everything be clustered over here? Well yeah, if we were monks living in a vacuum. Space monks.

The reality is we are living in a broken world. We are going to be influenced by stuff all over this chart.

Now, if everything in your upper right box is empty, that's a problem. Or if every aspect of your faith in Jesus is just down here, that's no good. If this box is overflowing with influences, something needs to change.

But I'm not calling us to legalism. I'm not saying "burn all your secular CDs." I'm calling us to movement. Reducing the amount of garbage we're consuming lowering the influence of unhealthy things and pursuing a life of transformation.

Moving into, as the Bible calls it, sanctification - becoming more and more set apart. Becoming different. Christ-like. Even as we remain in this broken, technological world.

As Paul says in verse 10, let's "be renewed as we learn to know our Creator and become like him."

What does your chart look like? What do you want it to look like?

Technology may be here to stay, but it doesn't have to tell us who we are.

Nov 24 2019

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Sabbath/Sacred Time

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A few years ago I came across a game on my phone all about starting businesses. First it's selling lemonade until you've made enough money to sell newspapers and then you work your way up until you're running banks and oil companies.

It was fun. Pointless. A harmless way to kill a few minutes when I was waiting for my coffee to brew or whatever.

The problem, though, was that the game was linked to real-world time. When you put the game down for an hour and came back to it, an hour's worth of lemonade had sold.

A couple of taps later and you've multiplied the amount you're making per hour, which of course incentivizes you to come back as often as possible.

On top of that, the game gives you all sorts of milestones and achievements to shoot for and constantly gives you new twists and upgrades every time you're about to lose interest. "Oh, I can start businesses on the moon now!"

It didn't take long for me to become hopelessly addicted.

It's embarrassing to admit, but I played the game when I lay in bed at night, and it became the first thing I did in the morning. "Hey! Six or seven more hours of sales!"

I even started checking into the game several times throughout the day.

Eventually I realized what was happening and saw the countless hours being spent for literally no reason, and I deleted the game off my phone.

What started out as a simple diversion had become an addiction. The game was telling me how to live my life and I was obeying.

How many of you have experienced something like that in the past few years? It may not be games, but social media? Netflix? Online shopping? YouTube?

How many of you have given in to that urge for just one more click, one more episode, one more purchase, one more video... and watched as your self-control (not to mention your time and money and energy) has slowly slipped away?

It happens to all of us. Not because we're all weak, but because our technology is designed for it to happen.

What do we do when the technology meant to help us master our lives instead begins to master us?

That is what we're going to talk about today.
We're in the third week of our series, "The Good Life: Technology," looking at five biblical principles for a healthy life in the digital world.

In the first week of the series, we talked about the fact that as followers of Jesus, our job is not to abandon technology, but to transform it. To move into it as light bringers. We are not of the world, but we are sent into it.

The principle there was this: Principle 1: You are on a mission. Last week, we talked about how easily our self-worth and identity can be wrapped up in what happens to us online and how quickly we lose sight of our identity as beloved children of God.

So the second principle we introduced is: Principle 2: Your identity is in Christ, not in likes.

Next week we're going to talk all about what we choose to let influence use. Principle 4: Garbage in, garbage out. And the last week we'll talk about re-learning the art of authentic relationships. Principle 5: Face to face is best.

But today we've got to talk about how easily our technology wraps us in chains and how we can start to break free of them.

ADDICTIONS

Now, the game I mentioned was intentionally designed to keep me on it as much as possible. It was a finely crafted addiction machine.

And we'd all say, "Well, of course! They want you to spend money on in-app purchases. You can boost things and speed things up and get the ultra platinum master pack for just $49.99!"

So sure. Video games are made to be addictive. But I would argue that almost every one of the technologies we so rely on today does the exact same thing.

News flash. Facebook is not interested in connecting you with people.

They are interested in making money. And they do that by getting as many relevant advertisements in front of your eyeballs as possible. And they do that by keeping you on the platform and pulling on your emotional strings.

For example, whenever you update your profile picture, it gets featured in your friends' feeds. Why? Because Facebook knows that when you change your profile pic, for a moment you're especially vulnerable and longing for social approval.

So they give you the likes you're looking for, you feel like you have value and worth, so you come back again looking for more. It feeds the addiction cycle.

YouTube works hard to predict what kinds of videos you would want to watch. Every second you spend on the app - watching, liking, commenting, sharing, even ending a video early - is all being fed into an algorithm which can further tailor content to draw you deeper in.

"Why yes, I do want to watch a video about chicken composting techniques for permaculture."

YouTube knows you. So now, when you pull to refresh your recommended content, it's just like a slot machine. The reward center of your brain goes crazy in anticipation that you might just find the next awesome video you've been waiting for. It's like a drug.

It sounds dystopian, but the machines are learning you. Social media, ride sharing apps, Netflix, Google Maps, your credit card...

Unless you're Ron Swanson and don't use technology at all, there are tens of thousands of data points on you that all these companies use to wrap chains around you and make sure their platform is as addictive as possible.

All of this from technology that was meant to make our lives better.

"How proud we often are of the multitude of instruments we have succeeded in inventing, of the abundance of commodities we have been able to produce. Yet our victories have come to resemble defeats. In spite of our triumphs, we have fallen victims to the work of our hands; it is as if the forces we had conquered have conquered us." -Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath

The truth is, we are enslaved to our technology, just like the rest of our world.

And yet, as we've been saying throughout this series, we as followers of Jesus are called to be distinct from the world around us. Different. We are sent into this world to transform it. To bring light.

How can we do that if we're also trapped in the darkness?

SABBATH

We have to find a way to break free, even as we continue to use the technology which is just a part of our world now. And it just so happens, I believe there's a biblical principle all about how: the sabbath.

Now, on the very first page of the Bible we are introduced to the idea that God created the world in six days, and on the seventh day, he rested - he stopped creating. Or in Hebrew, shabbat (where we get our English word sabbath).

The Bible goes on to explain that this seventh day of rest - this sabbath day - is something the Israelites were expected to observe every single week. To stop from their work and spend 24 hours resting.

It was so important that it's actually one of the Ten Commandments. Don't murder, don't steal, observe the sabbath day...

Now, we'll talk a lot more about the sabbath in February, when we have a whole series about the law and the 10 commandments. But for now, I want to just focus in on one aspect of the sabbath I think is really relevant to our discussion about technology. One principle that we can apply.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
"Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

Now, in Hebrew, the word "sabbath" literally means "to stop" or "to cease." There are other words to describe resting as in reclining or relaxing. But the word sabbath means bringing something to a stop.

But what, exactly, were the Israelites supposed to stop?

Well, look at verse 15. "Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt... that is why the Lord... commanded you to rest." The Israelites were to stop their work because in Egypt work was all they knew.

In Egypt, constant, ceaseless work was the norm. The Israelites were ground to dust for the sake of profit. They worked 24/7 making bricks for Pharaoh - pursuing his interests. Day after day after day after day... and they had no choice in the matter.

As they became their own, free nation, the Israelites were meant to be different. They weren't supposed to throw themselves into non-stop labor, to be constantly working for survival or profit. And neither were those who were working for them - humans or animals.

Israel was going to be a place where the people of God would trust in his provision, not their own. And the sabbath was a constant reminder of that.

Once a week, for 24 hours, the Israelites "sabbathed" - they stopped - they put down their plows. Rather than pursuing profit or gain, the people gathered together, rested, and were free.

Free from the drive to survive. Free from self-sufficiency. And free from the temptation to oppress others for selfish gain.

Isaiah 58:6, 13
This is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people... Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don't follow your own desires.

Sabbath and human freedom go hand in hand. Put simply, sabbath stopped the grind of survival - the grind of greed - and reminded the people they were free.

TECHNOLOGY

So, what does this have to do with technology?

Well, as I said before, we are in many ways slaves to our devices.

Click this. Buy this. Keep watching, keep watching, keep watching. Hey, it's been about 45 seconds. What if something new just happened on Twitter? Oh! Someone just liked my picture. Did my phone just buzz?

Tell me I'm exaggerating. We're living in a technological Egypt. We're being worked to the bone. And for what? For someone else's profit.

Even though we are new creations in Christ, supposedly free from the powers of this world, we're letting ourselves be enslaved because, "well, it's not technically sinning, right?". Listen to how the Apostle Paul responds:

1 Corinthians 6:12
You say, "I am allowed to do anything"--but not everything is good for you. And even though "I am allowed to do anything," I must not become a slave to anything.

Like the Israelites, we need to learn how to sabbath. How to stop the hamster wheel and remind ourselves that we are free people.

Which is why the third principle for this series is so important to remember:

Principle 3: Sabbath breaks chains

Sabbath was a constant reminder to the Israelites that they had been freed from slavery in Egypt. It can be the same for us, as well.

PRACTICAL STEPS

Let me give you some ideas about what this could look like, practically.

First, there are some really smart, simple things you can do take back a bit of control. Pseudo-sabbaths.

You can turn on Do Not Disturb at work or school, so the only times you look at your phone are when you choose to, not when your phone wants you to.

You can disable notifications about everything except what's most important. Do you really need to know the exact moment that someone likes your tweet?

And you can put a complete ban on things that you know you can't overcome. I no longer allow myself to even download games which use real-world time.

Those are all really great things to consider, but a full sabbath is different.

Sabbath is sacred time. It's time set apart. Intentionally. It's not just using a bit more moderation. It's a full and complete stop of something for a time - a time in which our technological masters can have no say because we're not working for them.

When we do that - when we fully disconnect from something, we start to see just how much control it has over us. How much we're dependent on it.

We become aware, so when we do reconnect (again, we're not trying to burn this all to the ground) hopefully our perspective has changed. We see things differently and hopefully we have a bit more control.

So how would we do this?

Well, maybe it's a tech sabbath hour once a day. Maybe it's at dinner time, when nobody in your family can use devices. What would happen to your dinner conversations if it was a sacred time - if nobody could pull out their phone?

Or maybe you take a tech sabbath during one of your daily routines. Making breakfast, driving to work...

It could be an extended sabbatical from a specific technology or social media account. I've had friends who have logged off of Instagram for a month and they've found tremendous freedom in that.

Or maybe, a bit like the original sabbath, it's a day-long, 24-hour break from technology. A full day to stop and be free.

Which, in fact, is what we're inviting you to do.

Next Saturday, November 23, our whole church is going to practice this together. We're calling it the "No Screen Saturday Challenge."

It's a chance for us all - kids to adults - to sabbath - to stop for a whole day, regain control, and see what the experience teaches us.

Now, of course, there are going to need to be a few exceptions. Some of you have to use a screen for your job. Or you have a medical emergency in the family. That's ok.

But if at all possible, I'm challenging you to go the whole day without using any screens.

It's going to take some preparation. The day before the sabbath, the Israelites had to make sure they'd done all their harvesting, that they'd finished their travel, that they'd prepared everything, so they could fully rest an entire day.

You may have to prepare as well. Print off some maps. I've got to finalize my sermon a day early. Tell friends and family you won't be reachable.

Plan out your activities, too! One person told me the other day he had no idea what he'd even do on a Saturday without any screens. No Netflix? No video games? You've got to think ahead. Don't just be miserable.

It'll be a challenge. But think about what the experience could do for you:

A whole day of rest from the buzzing and dinging and noise. Hours of uninterrupted face-to-face interaction with your friends and family.

A day to examine your heart, to see what you miss the most and to acknowledge just how addicted you've become.

This will be a day to breathe free air again. To reorient your priorities. Just like the sabbath was always meant to do.

The No Screen Saturday Challenge. November 23. It's crazy. I know. I encourage us all to give it our best shot.

Because if we do, perhaps when we re-enter this technological world, it'll be a bit easier for us to do it as light-bringers, not as slaves.

Right now, as our service continues, we're going to stop and practice a mini sabbath rest. We're going to take a few minutes at each one of our campuses and just be silent. Sacred time. A little taste of freedom from the noise.

Remember: Sabbath breaks chains.

Whether it's a moment or a day or a month, stopping like this can remind you that you are free.

Nov 17 2019

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Reputation & Identity

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In February of 2009 social media gave birth to one of its most powerful, influential tools.

o Since Facebook introduced the "Like" button, it has been used more than 1.13 trillion times (Twitter beat the like button by a few years with its favorite button)

o That little like button has an almost direct link into our brains.

o When your post gets more likes than normal you get a little rush? There is a reason for that. Dopamine.

o For every thumbs up or heart we get a little psychological high through a shot of dopamine. The more likes the more shots. The more shots we have, the more shots we want. And we're in a loop.

o Scientists used to think dopamine was responsible for pleasure in the brain, but we now know that rather than create pleasure it makes us seek it.

The social media "like"triggers a reward cycle. The more you get it, the more you want it.

A recent study confirmed the same brain circuits that are activated by eating chocolate and winning money are also switched on when we see large numbers of likes.

The "like" or "favorite"phenomena reveals just the hold that social media has on our self-image, our self-esteem, our self-worth. Here's what a couple of survey respondents said:

"Likes are always an indicator of social standing, at my age. As someone who gets anxious and occasionally struggles with self-esteem, the amount of Likes on my posts can be both hugely uplifting or depressing."

"There was a time I uploaded a selfie three times and deleted each one. I thought my hair looked amazing, but the Instagram world clearly didn't agree."

Social media has a mystically powerful influence on our lives. It can slot us in the social standing pecking order.

And it can also breed deep envy.

Northeastern University conducted their own survey about social media envy. Here are some of the reactions from respondents:

"The last time I felt envious on social media was when I saw one of my best friend's posts about her weight loss transformation, I was happy for her, but also jealous because I want to be happy with my body in the same way she was."

"The thing that made me envious was my friend who bought a car. He kept taking pictures of it and putting it on Instagram. It was getting out of hand for me, so I commented "dude stop" and he blocked me shortly after, as if I did something wrong."

That NE Univ research indicated that 2/3 of us regularly experience social media envy.

Social media envy shadows our online lives. It's so pervasive that there is now a thriving academic literature on the connection between social media usage, envy, and depression.

Psychopathological Processes Involved in Social Comparison, Depression, and Envy on Facebook

Exploring the moderating roles of neuroticism, Facebook social comparison and envy

Wow, sounds like serious stuff. From a New York Times article just this past week:

Social media increases the surface area of our vulnerability, extending the range of people we can envy and the ways in which we can envy them. When it isn't homing in on our deepest, most painful hurts, social media envy can inflict a thousand shallow cuts.

Those 1000 emotional paper cuts can have devastating consequences on our self-esteem.

o create anxiety, stress, loneliness, and increased likelihood of depression

o cause problems with friendships and romantic relationships

o seriously impair academic and job performance

o lead to increased vulnerability to drug and alcohol abuse

Losing self-esteem or self-worth can send us into a downward emotional spiral that not only make us less productive but activates self-destructive behavior.

So what do we do...burn it all to the ground? No. Social media is here to stay. But we MUST present an alternative narrative to our fragile identities.

That narrative...the real story of you is laid out brilliantly and beautifully in the Word of God. May I paint a better picture of you?

Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous, how well I know it. Psalm 139:14

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

This is who you are! No you don't have her body. No you didn't have his vacation. No you didn't get very many likes on your last post. But you are the best of the best...redeemed, loved, beautiful and called to a unique destiny.

I hope that helps some, but I'd like to equip you further how to reprogram your self-worth while llving in our digital world.

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

o Growing up I interpreted that as my physical body.

o drinking, dancing, be sexually moral, don't smoke, don't have long hai and don't listen to rock and roll...external behavior.

And there is something to be said about offering our physical lives to God but watch what happens if I modify Verse 1 it just a bit:

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your self-image to God because of all he has done for you. Let your self-worth be a living and holy sacrifice, the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

Wow, that is poignant isn't it? Imagine taking how you feel about your body, how you feel about your success...how you feel about your happiness...how you feel about your image...and handing it to God to manage.

o Here God take me as I am, as you made me.

o I give you my ego. It is no longer mine to create. My ego is yours.

o I sacrifice to you my self-esteem...I accept myself as I am and as you see me.

o I will worship you by liking myself. The one you call a masterpiece.

o I lay down my pride. I lay down my self-worth.

And the catalyst that prompts us to do such a thing is in Vs 1 - "all he has done for you."

o His creation of you, his love for you, His redemption of your soul, His calling on your life.

o As an act of worship I say thank you for who I am and I give back to you all the negative stereotypes the world and I have created of myself.

o And in giving back ourselves we implicitly accept ourselves.

This giving of our self-worth to God is as worshipful as a prayer. It is a worshipful as a praise song. It is a worshipful as a tithe.

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world,

o Don't conform to the age. Don't play the social media games.

o Stop posing and crafting the perfect shot ...if you want to share your life, do it without added gloss.

o Use likes and comments to bless not to reciprocate or get someone to like you.

o Think twice before you tweet, post on FB or upload your something. Think about the potential impact.

o Remember that every post and like can get into someone else's brain.

We are not of this world. Live on mission. There are enough of us who follow Jesus that we could transform the digital community.

Vs2. but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Social media takes time. And every minute on social media has a profound impact on your brain.

Why not, at least, give equal time to God? We'll address this is a few weeks...

o Give equal time to God, look at your screen time and balance it with God time.

o Fill your brain with the right stuff.

o Do a personal bible journey on self-esteem.

o Post important scripture within eyesight.

o Get a group of friends to share ICNU comments with each other.

o Be a self-worth warrior for others!

And do not ever forget this: Your identity is in Christ; not in likes

Now I want to end our time giving God the space to work on your self-worth.

o Meditate on this question Who am I?

o And perhaps right now would be the chance to hand your self-worth back to God as an act of worship.

Nov 10 2019

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Technology: Into the World, Not Of it

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I need your help! When I say "what's up, ____" can you cheer?
I'm making a video for my YouTube Channel.
We're kicking off a new series today. The Good Life: Technology. I figured starting this sermon with a GoPro selfie sounded just about right.
I'm going to say something so obvious it's almost obnoxious: We live in a digital world.
And I would know, because I am an "elder millennial." Mid 30's, I'm at the upper limit of my generation. People my age have a pretty unique perspective on technology.

Case in point: I remember walking across the room to change the channel on the TV. I have used a rotary phone in my life. And I have heard a record played in a non-nostalgic way.

But as a millennial, technology today looks almost nothing like it did when I was a kid.

o Today, high school freshmen have no memories of a world without iPhones.

o Half of all children in the United States have a smartphone by age 11.

o The average American now spends nearly half of their waking hours staring into a screen.

o Humanity is watching 100,000 years worth of YouTube every day.
Things have changed. Almost every one of us is now a cyborg.
You know, cyborgs? Part human, part machine?
On or in our bodies we've got medical devices and FitBits and AirPods, you name it.
But beyond that, we store our memory in the cloud (our calendar, photos, notes, reminders... How many phone numbers do you remember?).

Our sense of direction lives an app (if you had to drive to a specific address in Dallas, Texas right now without a phone, how many of you think you could manage it?)
And craziest of all, the dopamine neurotransmitters in our brains activate every time our phone buzzes. We're neurologically linked with our devices.
Part human, part machine. We're cyborgs, whether we like it or not.
We live in a digital world. And for the next five weeks, we're going to talk about how to burn it all to the ground.
Just kidding. In fact, just the opposite. I believe that as Christ-followers in 2019, we have a responsibility to engage our technological world. To enter into it, to transform it, to bring healing and light and life in the name of Jesus.
But we will never be able to do that if our use of technology looks no different than the culture around us. As followers of Jesus, we are called to be different and we have to be healthy.
So in this series, we are going to introduce 5 biblical principles for how to live a healthy life in the digital world.
JOHN 17
Now, at this point you may be thinking, "Wait. Biblical principles? Wasn't the height of technology when this book was written the plow?"
No. We're not looking in Scripture for information about specific technology.
Instead, we're exploring principles about how to engage our world as believers - these principles were relevant back then, they're relevant now, and they'll be relevant when we all have self-driving hovercrafts.


What we're about to read is a part of Jesus' prayer for his disciples right before he goes to the cross. He's talking to his Father here in prayer.
John 17:13-21

"Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I'm not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one--as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
What I want to focus in on here is verse 16. "They do not belong to the world."
Now, in the gospel of John, the word "world" shows up a lot. 78 times, in fact. In Greek it's the word
kosmos - world/universe/humanity
In John, it generally seems to mean all people. The world is walking in darkness, the world is full of sin and selfishness and chaos.
And so, when Jesus says that his followers "do not belong to the world," he means we are meant to stand apart from the darkness around us. We're meant to be distinct.
The literal Greek here says that we are not "of the world." Maybe you've heard the phrase "in the world, not of the world." This is where that comes from.
When I was growing up, I heard that phrase a lot. In the world, not of the world. And it always meant the same thing:
We should avoid hanging out with non-Christians, we shouldn't watch R rated movies, and we should really only listen to contemporary Christian music. (This is why DC Talk and Audio Adrenaline were the soundtrack of my middle school years)
Gotta hang tight, don't get corrupted, try not to sin too much, then you get to die and go to heaven. In the world, not of it.
What I didn't realize is that that's not what this passage is saying at all.
Yes, Christ-followers are meant to be distinct. In verse 17 Jesus prays that his disciples would be made holy by the truth. Holiness means being set apart.
But this doesn't mean withdrawing from the world around us. Just the opposite. Look at verse 18. "Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world."

We had the phrase wrong this whole time. It's not "in the world, not of it." It's "into the world, not of it."
There's intentionality here. Mission. We're not just living "in" this dark world, we're being sent into it. Just as Jesus was.
But how was Jesus sent into the world?
Well, the answer is earlier in the book, in one of the Bible's most famous verses, John 3:16, and in one of the Bible's most neglected verses, John 3:17.
John 3:16-17

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
Out of incredible love, God sent Jesus into this dark world not to condemn it, but to save it. To transform it.
This is what it means to be holy - set apart - while being sent into the darkness of our world.
Not feeding into the sinful chaos but standing against it. Fighting against the world's brokenness, and in the process, bringing salvation and life.
Or, as John often describes it, bringing light. Jesus said it this way:
John 8:12
I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.
So in the gospel of John, yes, the kosmos - the world - is dark. There's corruption and chaos and sin and death. But Jesus has been sent into it as the light. And so have we. "Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world."
Because we have the Holy Spirit within us, we can bring healing in the name of Jesus, we can create loving community in the midst of hatred, we can end isolation and injustice and decay. That's what we do.

We are light-bringers. We don't just avoid the darkness. We transform it.
Put simply, we have been sent. We are on a mission.

TECHNOLOGY
Ok, so how does this relate to technology?
Well, as I said before, we are cyborgs. Technology is just a part of our lives now. (I'm on this stage and there are people sitting right in front of me who are watching me on the screen. Hey guys!).
We don't even think about it. Technology is how we communicate. It's how we shop. It's how we remember things.
The problem is that there is a very dark side to all this technology, isn't there? The world may be full of shiny, digital wonders, but it's still a place of deep darkness.
Online bullying, hate-filled social media rants, addictions, the glorification of violence, pornography, exploitation, out of control consumerism...
I could show you 10 apps on my phone right now that have been carefully designed to manipulate me to do things I wouldn't do on my own. It's really dark if you think about it.
Jesus said his followers "do not belong to the world." So if technology can be so dark, maybe we should just abandon it.
"We're just going to hang out over here by ourselves, the world. You guys can keep your Facebooks and your Googles and your Geocities.com."
But remember the second half of what Jesus is praying in John 17. We are not of this world, but we are sent into it. Technology can be dark, but we are light bringers. And even if we walked away, the rest of our world sure wouldn't.
God loves this dark world and wants to transform it - to save it. And we are his instruments to do that.
Which is why I don't think we need to abandon technology at all. As Christ followers, we need to move into it. To bring light. To heal.
God did not abandon our world to darkness, and neither should we.
So, here is the first (and probably most important) biblical principle for living a healthy life in the digital world - to remember this:
Principle 1: You are on a mission.
You're not of this world, but you are sent into it.
PRACTICAL
Alright, so what does this mean, practically?
Well, first of all, if we are light bringers, then we'd better be positive we are set apart from the darkness. If we're not withdrawing from technology, then we'd better be healthy when we use it.
This is what we're going to talk about over the next few weeks.
Next week, we'll talk about our need to think long and hard about who is defining our identity.
The week after that, we'll talk about breaking free from the chains of addictive behavior the Internet has designed to wrap around us.
The week after that we'll talk about being very intentional about who we're letting influence us and what we're filling our minds with.
And then in the last week of the series we'll talk about re-learning how to have face to face relationships.
It's going to be a great series. And we've got some awesome stuff available for you. If you go to gracechurch.us/thegoodlife we've got resources, videos, app suggestions, etc.
We're also having a Parents Technology Forum at our Fishers campus on December 3.
And we're going to do something together as a church on Saturday, November 23. We're going to have a No Screen Saturday Challenge. All of us - kids to adults - are going to try spending the whole day without using any screens. More info on that soon.
ON A MISSION
So we're going to talk about living healthy lives in a digital world. All of that is great.
But today, we have to talk about the most fundamental truth of them all: that we are on a mission in this digital world.
And so here's what I want to do to make all of this really practical for you. I want to introduce an exercise you can do to think clearly about anything technological in your life. A question you ask yourself to evaluate where your heart is.
You ready? Here's the question:
Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I _____?



And then you fill that blank in with whatever you're thinking about.

o Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I use Twitter?

o Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I watch this show on Netflix?

o Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I have my email notifications turned on all the time?
What this does is force you to think intentionally about how and why you're using technology. Not just whether you've set healthy limits, but why you're even using it in the first place.
Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I ____? Another question you can ask is "How am I bringing the light of Jesus into this?"
Here's why I like these types of questions.
Sometimes the answers will be neutral. "I use Google Maps because it helps me get around." There's nothing spiritual about it.
Sometimes you'll have a hard time answering the question. "Since I'm a follower of Jesus, why am I watching this movie?... Uh, well, I don't know that a follower of Jesus would watch this movie... Uh oh."
Or "I'm watching this movie so I can relate to my co-workers and share my faith with them... Uh... but I don't ever talk to them."
You see what I mean? It exposes our motivations.
But where this question gets really cool is when we start to see possibilities. New ideas for ways to spread light and life into the world.
For example. Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I use Instagram?
As an person living in 2019 America, you might just say, if you're being honest, "I use Instagram because I want people to like me, or I need validation..."
Ah, but as a Christ-follower, your validation is in your identity as a child of God. In theory, that should free you up to use Instagram for a different reason.

Imagine if you were to answer the question this way: Since I am a Christ-follower, I use Instagram to help my friends understand they are loved.
If that was your purpose, you mission, with Instagram, how much would that change how you use it?
You could post about other people on your feed and talk about how awesome they are, just to encourage them.
You could go beyond just commenting nice things ("omg gorgeous") and actually direct message them to tell them how much you appreciate them. "Hey, I wanted you to know, I think you're awesome, and you're really brave for taking that new job."
You could scroll through your feed and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone who needs prayer, and then pray for them. And then let them know you're praying for them.
Would that be weird? Would that be different? Yes! But John 17: we are not of this world.
Since I am a Christ follower, why do I use Instagram? These are just ideas, but you get what I'm saying, right?
I'm not saying we need to talk more about being followers of Jesus. I'm not saying we need to post more pictures of our morning devotions.
I'm saying we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the way we use technology. Remember: You are on a mission. A mission to bring the light of Christ into this world.
When we start thinking this way about technology and social media, it is the first step in changing our focus from ourselves to the needs of a broken world.
Since I am a Christ-follower, why do I _____?
This week, I encourage you to ask yourself this question a lot. Ask it about the apps on your phone, ask it about the things you watch, ask it about Facebook and Uber and your car and TikTok and your phone and Amazon...
You are on a mission. Jesus prayed, "Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world." He was praying about you and me.

Because remember, we're not of this world. Which makes us the perfect people to transform it.

Nov 03 2019

Play

Lifting Moses' Hands | Israel Defeats the Amalekites

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This is the final week of our series, Into the Wilderness.

We've been following the Israelites as they've struggled through water shortages, food shortages, and lots and lots of grumbling and complaining. Every time they face a new crisis, though, God comes through for them.

And as we've talked about, these stories are in our Bibles for a reason. Each one has been handed down from generation to generation to help us all understand what life is like living in the wilderness - in our case, the wilderness of a broken world.

Every one of us faces wilderness in our lives - depression, broken relationships, losing a job, illness, grief - and these stories speak to that.

In every one, the big idea is the same: God has not abandoned you in the wilderness. You can trust him to see you through.
He did it back then and he'll do it now.

So, Exodus 17. God gave the Israelites water from a rock. But then, in verse 8, out of nowhere, the people are attacked.

Exodus 17:8-9 While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, "Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand."

Ok. When you're reading through Exodus, this story kind of comes out of nowhere. Who in the world are the warriors of Amalek? Why are they attacking the Israelites? They're in the wilderness and all of a sudden they're at war?

What we have here is something the Hebrew Bible does a lot.

In the Old Testament, storytelling looks a lot different than it does today. In our culture, when you tell a story, you want to put in as much detail as you possibly can - how did things look? How did things sound and smell? What were characters thinking and feeling?

In the Hebrew Bible, though, narrative is far simpler. The authors rarely, if ever, give us the details we're longing for. "And so Adam and Eve lived in the Garden. And then the serpent came to them and said..."

"Wait. There's a serpent? It can talk? Can all the animals talk? How did Eve feel about this talking snake? Give me details!!!"

But that's not how the Bible works. It's Jewish meditation literature, remember, and the sparse details in the story force us to stop and ponder, to pray and meditate.

Because 9 times out of 10, the simple words we read are intentionally designed to point to profoundly deep truths. And they come alive when you've been reading and meditating on other parts of the Bible as well.

For the ancient Israelite readers, who read and studied these words day and night, the Amalekites showing up out of nowhere would have made a lot of sense.

We read in Genesis that Amalek (the father of the Amalekties) was the grandson of Esau. Esau was the brother of Jacob, also known as Israel (the father of the twelve tribes of Israel). And in that story, there's tension between Jacob and Esau about who is the chosen son.

So the Amalekites were essentially distant cousins of these Israelites wandering in the wilderness (and there is a bit of family resentment there).

In the next chapter, we meet some other distant cousins - the Midianites. Midian was one of the other sons of Abraham. And, at least in Exodus, the Midianites are pretty helpful to Israel.

So you've got these three lines all coming down from the same family. The Israelites, the Midianites, and the Amalekites. What matters in this story, is how they respond to the promises of God.

Back in Genesis 28, God tells Jacob (a.k.a. Israel, the great uncle of Amalek and the half-nephew of Midian),

Genesis 28:14-15 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth!... And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. What's more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land."

So. There is a promised land for the Israelites. God will protect them and bring them back to it. That's what's happening in Exodus.

The promise goes on, though: all the families of the earth will be blessed through them. Which means God was going to bless the Amalekites and Midianites because of Israel.

How do the different families respond to this promise in this story? Well, the Midianites bless Israel and help them out. The Amalekites go to war. They don't want the Israelites on their land, so they try to snuff them out.

And according to Deuteronomy 25, they didn't just attack the Israelite army. They pounced when Israel was exhausted and weary, and hunted down the old and weak stragglers first. Ruthless.

So, if you're an ancient Jewish reader of this story, and you've meditated on the Bible for years, this account, with its sparse words and lack of detail actually comes alive with layers of meaning.

The Amalekites weren't just wandering mercenaries. They were a nation seeking to stand in the way of the promises of God.

This story is not just about a random battle. This story is about whether God will keep his promises when the world wants anything but...

And remember, these stories have been passed down from generation to generation on purpose. Although they are about historical events, they also describe the realities of the wilderness of our broken world.

God has made promises to you. He will see you through this wilderness. He will bring you to the Promised Land - the New Creation. Life. Harmony. Provision. Joy. Peace. That's what lies ahead. That's what's been promised through Jesus.

What happens when those promises are threatened by forces beyond your control? What happens when the Amalekites show up and try to snuff you out? Let's keep reading.

THE STAFF OF GOD

Exodus 17:10-19 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses' arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.

After the victory, the LORD instructed Moses, "Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven." Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means "the LORD is my banner"). He said, "They have raised their fist against the LORD's throne, so now the LORD will be at war with Amalek generation after generation."

I find this to be one of most powerful and evocative moments in this whole wilderness storyline. The imagery is incredible.

Moses, holding up his staff until sunset while his friends support his arms.

Now, again. The story keeps the details pretty sparse. Was Moses praying? Who is Hur? How many people were fighting?

Again, the story doesn't tell us much. But what it does show us is laden with meaning.

For example, the staff. Throughout the entire Exodus story, Moses' staff represents trust in God's power and provision.
  • With this staff in Moses' hands, God sends the plagues on the Egyptians.
  • With this staff in Moses' hands, God parts the Red Sea.
  • With this staff in Moses' hands, God brings water out of the rock.
There's nothing magical about the staff. Moses is not Gandalf.

It was just a piece of wood Moses used when he was a shepherd. Something for Moses to lean on while waiting for his sheep to finish their lunch. But now, when Moses uses this staff, it's a symbolic act which loudly proclaims, "I trust you, God!"

Or, as it says in verse 15, Yahweh Nissi. "The Lord is my Banner."

In ancient warfare, flags and banners flying over an army told everyone who you were fighting for.

"Oh look! It's the army of so-and-so!" "I fight for this king."

When the Amalekites attacked the Israelites, this piece of wood - this shepherd's staff - became a banner on the hillside, and the message was clear: this army belongs to the Lord and HE is our strength.

Yet again, God works in object lessons. When the staff is raised - when the people trust in God to deliver them - they have success in battle. When the staff (the banner) is lowered - if the people try to rely on their own strength - they start to lose.

Our spiritual ancestors passed this story down to us to teach us something:

When we are in the wilderness, trusting in God's strength - raising his banner - is the only way we can make it through. We're not strong enough, we're not smart enough, we're not clever enough - to overcome the brokenness of our world on our own.

When we are in the wilderness we must trust in God to see us through.

But... What do we do when our strength starts to fade? What do we do when our trust starts to waver? When our arms get a little shaky?

It's in those moments we must remember that we do not face this wilderness alone. Yes, God is with us, but so is our community.

Look again at verse 12. Aaron and Hur "stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset." Symbolically, they helped Moses trust God when couldn't on his own.

This is why no Christ-follower is an island. We need one another. We need community. Because on your own, yes. Your trust can start to waver.

When you've been battling that disease for years, it's hard to keep trusting, isn't it?

When you're depressed, again, that staff feels awfully heavy.

When you have people constantly undermining you, how long can you really hold out hope?

Your trust can falter in the wilderness. But in those moments - in the church? In the body of Christ? - your spiritual family can trust with you.

Because you are not in this wilderness alone.

And I want to demonstrate that right now.

I'm going to ask you to be brave and do something that might feel a little awkward. But at all three of our campuses: if you're in an intense wilderness right now and feel alone, would you stand?

Stand if you feel thirsty or hungry in the wilderness you're facing. Stand if you feel you're being attacked when you're at your weakest. Stand if you feel something is fighting against the promises of God in your life.

I want to pray over you. I want to pray for God's deliverance. For God's provision.

Ok. Stay standing. Now here's the part I need you to trust me: I want you to know you are not alone. If you are near one of these standing people, would you please stand with them?

Those of you in that wilderness, like Moses please lift your arms as I pray - lift your banner - this is an act of trust that God will see you through. And if you are willing, let the people around you hold your arms up while I pray.

If you'd prefer not to have people touch you, you can put your palms up in front of you and the people around you will simply stand with you. In fact, I'd like the whole church to stand.

As I pray, I want this to be a physical reminder that you are not alone. God is with you, and so are we.

If you're in the wilderness lift up your arms. "The Lord is my Banner"
Friends, please don't leave this service today without receiving further prayer if you need it. You don't have to go through this wilderness alone. The Lord is our banner. And we are with you!

Oct 27 2019

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Water From The Rock

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For the last few weeks, we've been looking at four stories of the Israelites traveling through the wilderness.

And what we've seen is that these stories have been passed down from generation to generation not just because they recount some historical tale, but because they speak to larger truths about living in the wilderness of a broken world - the wilderness we all experience.

Loneliness, pain, confusion, hopelessness, injustice... Like the Israelites, life out here is hard, and it is all too easy to believe that God has abandoned us in the midst of it. But has he?

So far the Israelites complained about bitter water; God made the water sweet. The Israelites complained about having no food; God gave them manna and quail.

And now, the Israelites won't just have bitter water, they'll have NO water. So let's see if their attitudes are any better this time around...

Exodus 17:1-4
At the Lord's command, the whole community of Israel left the wilderness of Sin and moved from place to place. Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. So once more the people complained against Moses. "Give us water to drink!" they demanded. "Quiet!" Moses replied. "Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?" But tormented by thirst, they continued to argue with Moses. "Why did you bring us out of Egypt? Are you trying to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst?" Then Moses cried out to the Lord, "What should I do with these people? They are ready to stone me!" Ok, so the people haven't exactly turned an emotional corner. Look at some of the details in this story.

Verse 2. "Give us water to drink!" This isn't a request. It's a demand. A few verses later they're ready to throw stones at Moses. They're furious!

As Tim talked about last week, they seem to have completely forgotten the incredible acts of deliverance God has done for them again and again and again. All they can see is their present circumstances.

And this rage is starting to warp their theology. Look at the end of verse 3. "Why did you bring us out of Egypt?"

This is a direct callback to last week's story. In Chapter 16, when Moses is explaining to the people about the miraculous heaven bread they're about to receive, he says

Exodus 16:6, 8
"By evening you will realize it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt... your complaints are against the Lord, not against us."

And yet here they are again, blaming Moses for everything and essentially kicking Yahweh to the curb.

How often do we do the exact same thing in our wilderness? How often do we face some kind of obstacle and our first reaction is to forget the bigger picture?

We lose sight of the fact that God has come through for us so many times in the past. We lose sight of the fact that there is a Promised Land ahead.

Our worldview gets warped.

And suddenly we find ourselves longing for the "good ol' days." You know, the good ol' days when we were slaves in Egypt working under brutal conditions and having our firstborn sons murdered...

Our perspective gets twisted.

This is why I'm grateful our spiritual ancestors passed down stories like these. To teach us how to survive in the wilderness. Because we are just like them.

What's about to happen next - for them and for us - is all about reorienting our worldview back to the truth: that God has not abandoned us in the wilderness.

WATER FROM THE ROCK
Exodus 17:5-7
The Lord said to Moses, "Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you. I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink." So Moses struck the rock as he was told, and water gushed out as the elders looked on.

Moses named the place Massah (which means "test") and Meribah (which means "arguing") because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, "Is the Lord here with us or not?"

I find it so interesting that Moses names the place "test and arguing" (Massah and Maribah), rather than "miracle rock water" or "thirst-quench boulder." Nope. From that point on, this spot was called "test and arguing."

I think that fits in with the bigger point of this story: the consequences of a warped worldview.

Even though God has consistently proven himself to be the provider, the healer, the deliverer... the people lose faith the moment they don't see any solution ahead of them.

"There are nothing but rocks here! We're going to die of thirst."

It's interesting how God chooses to reorient their perspective. Take a look at verse 5. "Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile..."

We'll talk about this a lot more next week, but the staff of Moses acts in these stories as a symbol of faith in God's power. Just like with the tree in week 1, the staff is an object lesson.

Having Moses use it to bring water out of the rock is a brilliant callback to the crossing of the Red Sea.

With this staff in Moses' hands, God made water into dry land. With that same staff, God makes dry land into flowing water.

In both cases, God does the impossible and provides a path forward where there used to be none. He reorients their worldview to remind them that he never left them alone.

God even says in verse 6, "I will stand before you on the rock." So was that the pillar of cloud or fire they'd been following? Was it the mysterious "angel of the Lord" that shows up a few times in the story? We don't know.

All we know is that God stood with them as he brought water out of the dry ground.

MY STORY

Have you ever needed your worldview reoriented? I have.

When I was in my mid 20's, I hit rock bottom. I dropped out of Bible school, lived depressed and addicted to video games in my parents' basement. My passion for ministry was dead, and I had no idea how to move forward.

But then God parted the sea for me. Out of nowhere I ended up on this wild journey living in Kenya for a year which totally changed my life.

God delivered me from a terrible situation and gave me a new hope and purpose. I went back to school and graduated, I did a year-long internship with the Outreach ministry here at Grace, and it seemed like I was finally on track to find my purpose.

Until every door slammed in my face. I could not find a job. I applied to churches, to non-profits... nobody would hire me. Put simply, I ran out of water.

And of course, my worldview got warped. I remember getting so frustrated with God. "Why would you take me through all of that, re-ignite my passion for ministry, and then just drop me on my face like this?" "Why did you bring me out of Egypt? Just to die of thirst?"
Guess what God said to me in response? Nothing. I didn't hear a thing. I just went on applying for jobs and getting rejected. It really felt like God had abandoned me.

But then, right in the middle of my despair, my parents had an Indian social reformer named Sunil over to their house for dinner. He ran a ministry in India called Truthseekers.

At one point in the evening Sunil pointed at me across the room and said, "Barry, you need to come to India for three months! Don't worry about food or shelter. We'll take care of you. Just come."

I thought for a moment and realized, "Well, I don't have anything else going on." I scraped together enough money for a plane ticket and made my way to New Delhi.

I spent the next three months hanging out with Truthseekers, visiting communities of outcast gypsy children, praying with eunuchs, participating in anti-discrimination rallies, taking 22-hour train rides by myself, eating all kinds of very... let's say, interesting food...

It was there the vision for my non-profit, World Next Door, was born. God led me to become a photojournalist for his kingdom, and I spent the next 6 and a half years traveling all over the world telling stories of what he was doing.

It was that experience which led to me preach my first sermon here at Grace. And now, 11 years after the seeming dead end of my ministry career, I'm about to become Grace's next senior pastor.

When I was in that season of life, getting rejection letter after rejection letter, I thought God had abandoned me. My worldview was warped.

What I realize now is that he was standing on the rock in front of me all along. There was no water, so he broke open the dry ground to give me a drink. My path forward wasn't just some job, it was a ministry that didn't even exist yet.

And this is what I want you to hear today from Exodus 17.

Sometimes God makes bitter water sweet. Sometimes he brings bread out of thin air. And sometimes he makes water where there is none. In all these cases,

God can transform our wilderness.

It rarely happens on our timeline. And it almost never looks the way we expect. But if our worldview is aligned correctly we can trust God to see us through the wilderness we are facing.

And ultimately, we know God will transform all the wilderness. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God brought water out of the rock. He brought life out of death.

And he is sprouting up New Creation in the wasteland of our broken world. In the wasteland of your broken life.

The prophet Isaiah saw it coming.

Isaiah 35:1-2, 5-7
Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy!... And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land.

The Holy Spirit is breathing life into our world. And he wants to breathe life into yours.

I wish I could say he will snap his fingers and bring your wilderness to an end. He may not. As long as this world remains broken, your wilderness may endure.

But I do know this. Whether it is a sip of cool water from a bitter pond or a gushing spring from a rock, God will sustain you in this wilderness. Align your worldview to the truth: He is with you.

Trust him. Trust in his love.

God is faithful to see us through our wilderness and he will one day transform it all.

Oct 20 2019

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God Providing In A Time of Need

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This is the second week of our 'Into the Wilderness' series, our look at the time the Israelite nation traveled through what the Bible calls 'The Wilderness' (Midbar). This wilderness was a hostile land that the Jews had to journey through to get from Egypt, where they had been in slavery, to the land God had promised to give them. And as you picture 'wilderness,' don't think 'desert.' Wilderness wasn't a sandy wasteland. Wilderness was rocky, rough, scrubby land... a land where you couldn't grow crops, but sheep and goats could generally find enough to eat to get by. Still, it wasn't a hospitable place, to be sure. Last week Barry talked about a time in the wilderness when the Israelites had difficulty finding fresh water. This week the issue will be finding food in this unforgiving landscape... finding enough food, by the way, for what many scholars believe may have been over a million people. Today's story is found in Exodus 16... and it's a pretty well-known story. It's the story of God sending the Jewish people manna. Let's turn to Exodus 16 (page ****) and look at this story together. (Welcome everyone and tell them to fasten your seatbelts!) 'Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim (A-leem) and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt.' Elim was an oasis. It was a place of fresh water and shade... the Israelites had stopped there to rest and catch their breath after their escape from Egypt. But the time had come for moving on from this oasis and heading toward the Promised Land, so off everyone went... straight into the Wilderness of Sin. And don't be confused by the name sin. 'Sin' here has nothing to do with what we think of when we hear that word. Plus, did you notice that it had only been a month, 4 weeks, since the nation had crossed the Red Sea and into freedom? Let's read verse 2 and 3. There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. 3 "If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt," they moaned. "There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death." The NLT translation of the Hebrew word (Loon) that gives us 'complained' here is a bit soft. The actual word means to be obstinate... it is a word with a core of rebellion in it. And since they were being obstinate, they did what complaining, rebellious people generally do... they began to exaggerate the difficulty of their circumstances. First off, they weren't really without food. They had huge herds of sheep, goats and cattle.... They had plenty of milk and yogurt and they even had meat if they really wanted it. But they were thinking back to the good old days of slavery in Egypt when they had 'pots filled with meat' and so much bread that they could stuff themselves... which is exactly what the Hebrew says here. And their big complaint was that Moses and Aaron's had ulterior motives; the people were saying that Moses and Aaron had led them out into the wilderness to starve them to death. We aren't told how Moses and Aaron heard about this exaggerated complaining, but we ARE told that God knew all about it and he responded in verse 4. Then the Lord said to Moses, "Look, I'm going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. Now, the first word from God in our house Bibles is 'Look.' But a better translation of the Hebrew word Hinneh would be 'Behold!' or 'Take Note!' This word is used many times in the Old Testament, and it is always a signal that something is coming that you better pay attention to! And what needed attention here was that God was going to silence that multitude of complainers by literally 'raining down bread from the heavens.' What God meant by this exactly, we won't find out for a bit, but it's clear that God had heard enough, He was going to put an end to this complaining and, in the process, let everyone know who was in charge! Now, what we get over the course of the next few verses is Moses and Aaron telling the entire Israelite community what God said he was going to do, what the rules were going to be for gathering up this 'bread from heaven,' and then letting the people know that their complaint wasn't really with Moses and Aaron, it was with God. And then we read this in verse 10. 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud.' Can I just say, this moment makes me scratch my head because anytime you read 'the glory of the Lord' anywhere in these passages about the Israelite's time in the wilderness, we are talking about the literal... the actual, physical presence of God... God literally showing himself during the daytime in a cloud that was unmistakably filled with His power; and at night, God showing himself to everyone as a cloud of fire. What this verse tells us is that all of these complaining people could see God, literally see God, in the distance! And they are complaining... And then look at what happens starting in verse 13. That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. Okay, there is their meat! And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. 14 When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. 15 The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. "What is it?" (Man-nah) they asked each other. They had no idea what it was. And Moses told them, "It is the food the Lord has given you to eat. These are the Lord's instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent." What happens next is that some Israelites obeyed the instructions for gathering this 'manna,' while others didn't... which, to be honest, is always the case with people... some listen and obey and others think, 'Hey, those rules can't be for me.' But no matter what the people did with regards to how much they picked up each morning, look at what verses 17 and 18 say. So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. 18 But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed. So, what it looks like is that there was also some added miraculous multiplying of food going on... everyone ended up with exactly what they needed no matter how much they had gathered. I'm thinking that everything about this story seems amazing... First, God's patience with this rebellious lot seems amazing... second, the food that comes out the heavens seems amazing... and third, the way the food divided itself out perfectly among 1 million people seems amazing. Yet, there is one more detail that makes this moment all-the-more remarkable. Verse 31 tells us this: The Israelites called the food manna. It was white like coriander seed, and it tasted like honey wafers. Honey was one of the only sweeteners in the ancient world. Sugar wasn't known in this part of the world yet, and almost all other forms of sweeteners came from insect secretions. Plus, there wasn't anything like bee-keeping yet either, so if you wanted honey you had to find a bee hive and deal with wild bees. Needless-to-say, anything with honey was a luxury... and the manna that God rained down on the Jews tasted like one of life's great luxuries! How like God!
I honestly don't know what God could have done that would have better told the Israelites that he was going to care for them as they traveled through this time in the wilderness. Quail and manna... he was giving them their daily bread! But I want to go back to verse 2 and 3 of this chapter... the 'everyone complaining' verses. Picture with me a large gathering of the Jewish people... a big crowd... and in the middle of the crowd a man is standing on a large rock, a ringleader of sorts, and he is calling out something like, 'These two men, Moses and his brother Aaron, look at what they've got us into! Here we are out in this 'wilderness' with nothing to eat and it won't be long until we all starve to death! Those two are saying that that God over there in that cloud told them to bring us out here! Why on earth would we believe them and that God? What has that God ever done for us?' And the people yell out, 'Yes! Yes! What has he ever done for us!' And then, for just a second, everything gets quiets and from somewhere in the back of the crowd a voice calls out, 'Well, he did make that bitter water drinkable last week.' And the man on the rock say, 'Ok... yes, he did give us drinkable water last week, but what else has he ever done for us? And another voice says, 'He parted the Red sea for us, and we crossed over on dry land last month.' And then another voice calls out of the crowd, 'And he drowned the Egyptian army.' And the man on the rock says, 'Ok, he gave us water and he parted the Red Sea and he destroyed the Egyptian army. But what else has he ever done for us?' And then another voice says, He spared us from all of the plagues that he brought on the Egyptians. That was pretty amazing!' And another voice says, 'He helped us prosper and grow as a people in Egypt even though the Egyptians were doing everything they could to hold us down.' And another voice adds, 'He caused the Egyptians to give us all of their wealth as we left Egypt and now we all have heaps of gold and silver and such' And I can see the ringleader going, 'Ok, He gave us clean water and he split the Red Sea and he destroyed the Egyptian army and he saved us from all of the terrible plagues and he helped us prosper even though we were slaves and he enriched us as we left Egypt... but what else has he ever done for us... it's clear that he brought us out here because he wants us to starve to death. It would have been better if he'd killed us back in Egypt. At least we would have died with full stomachs! Why did we ever trust this God?' And everyone gets all worked up and shouts out, 'Yes, Yes! Why would we trust him! Let's go back to Egypt!'
Now, I know this sounds ridiculous, but we must never forget that this complaining... this obstinance was only a month after these same people saw God part the Red Sea! If there was ever a people that had reason to trust that 1) God was with them and 2) that God was going to keep his promise to lead them into the Promised Land and 3) God was not going to leave them in the wilderness to starve to death, it was this crowd. But it seems they had very short memories; their faith only lasted until they started missing those 'big pots of meat.' Something else that is telling to me is that no one in this story is that no one ever stopped and asked God, the one in the cloud right over there, to help them when they started wondering about food. No prayers... no nothing... just complaining. Nothing happens other than God hears the whining and he acts. Now, we know that subsequent generations of Jews have looked back on this event... this sending of manna... as one of God's greatest miracles... a great miracle of care and provision. But I can't help but feel that these people missed a huge opportunity to see God's care in a completely different light. Can you imagine how differently this story would read if rather than complaining that they'd rather be back under slavery in Egypt than out in this wilderness, they'd gathered up, thanked God for all that he'd done for them to bring them to this place of freedom, a difficult place for sure, but still a place where God was present, and then said, 'We trust you even though things seem pretty grim right now. We are asking to once again see your hand of deliverance.' I am confident that had they done this, that that very evening quail would still have come and blanketed the encampment and the next morning manna would have covered the ground... but what a different tone this entire story would have had.
And boy, does this speak to me. We often speak of being in the wilderness as a picture of being uncertain and unsure of what is happening; or the wilderness is the feeling that things are out of kilter or that we feel alone and hopeless. Your wilderness may be a place where your soul feels lost and without direction. Your wilderness may be a place where you fear that all that you've worked so hard to accomplish is being taken away. Your wilderness may be a place where there seems to be no hope for a solution to an overwhelming situation... and when you are in this place your heart wants to cry out, but often you aren't sure you have the words. I know this because I know what it is to be in a wilderness. I know what it is to long for God to do something miraculous... to long for God to cover the ground of my life with exactly what I need to get through this rocky, unforgiving time. What this story has told me is that my memory is far too short... Yes, I may find myself in a place of despondence or confusion or even despair, but this story tells me two things that are still as true today as they were when God first rained manna onto the earth. First, God is still present. Often times, I wish he'd make himself as clear as he did with these Israelites, but his Glory, the awesome glory of the Lord is still within my soul's vision. The promise is that he will never leave us and that he will never forsake us, and it is a promise I know he is keeping. And secondly, probably the best thing that I can do if I am all worked up and worried about tomorrow is to stop and think honestly about my yesterdays. I am only where I am today, even if it is currently in a wilderness, because God has been moving in my life through the years to bring me to this place... a place where I can put my trust in the one who has done so much for me... so much that I have so quickly forgotten. My wife is a good one for me on this. When I am complaining... when I am obstinate and thinking that God has it out for me, and that he isn't interested in helping me find a way out of this wilderness, she is the one who says, 'But he did this for us and we should be thankful... and he did this for us and we should be thankful... and he did this for us and we should be thankful... and she reminds me of the times that he eventually blanketed us with his goodness in some way... and that should make me both thankful and trusting that he will do it again as I pass through today's wilderness.
If you read the rest of this chapter you will find that it ends with God telling Moses and Aaron to first, gather up a jar of manna and second, put that manna in a safe place. God wanted them to do this so that future generations could literally see the bread that God had sent down from heaven to provide for his people while they were in the wilderness. God wanted future generations to see it and be thankful for what God had done for them by feeding their ancestors in the wilderness. What we also know from history is that the concept of 'bread coming down from heaven' became a very important symbol to the Jewish people... it became one of the primary ways that Jews spoke generally about God's provision and his unwavering love for his people. When something good would happen, they would often say something like, 'That is a blessing like manna from heaven.' And so, I am not surprised at all that when Jesus was beginning his ministry and people were unsure about him... unsure if he'd really come from God or not, they tried to press him into doing something as amazing as sending manna from heaven. In John 6 some pretty cocky people said this to Jesus. "Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, 'Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.' Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, Moses didn't give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. 33 The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." "Sir," they said, "give us that bread every day." Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again.' We know that these cocky people had no idea what Jesus was talking about. But we certainly do... we know that Jesus was saying that he, Jesus himself, is our spiritual bread... manna that came down from heaven, the food that can nourish our souls... Jesus is the one that can sustain us as we travel through the wildernesses of life. There is one hugely practical application for me in this story and it is this: the best way for me to hold on in faith and keep from complaining that God has abandoned me when I find myself in life's wilderness is to recount how God has been with me in the past and do my best to be thankful... thankful for Jesus and thankful for the times he has clearly moved into my life and led me through the times of wilderness. This isn't always easy in the moment, but what I have learned is that being thankful for the past encourages trust in the future. Truth is, I don't want to live my life complaining... oh, I know that sometimes it feels good to grouse about things, but deep down what I really want is to live a life of gratitude... I am just thankful that I have someone in my life who is always ready to point out what I am so quickly forgetting... ready to point out that God has provided in the past... He is present and he is still providing, no matter what the circumstances might look like in the moment.
But I know that it can be difficult to be thankful when things seem to be coming apart at the seams all around you. So, here is what I am going to do. I am going to pray for those of you who are in some sort of wilderness right now... I am going to pray for three things... first, that God will lead you out of this time of wilderness... that you will be delivered from this overwhelming time of life. Second, I am going to pray that as you wait for this deliverance you will clearly see that while even in this wilderness, God is present and that he is providing the kind of manna, the bread of heaven that you need to get through this day. And third, I am going to pray that the Holy Spirit calls to mind the times in the past when God has delivered you out of past wilderness wanderings...that the Holy Spirit will infuse your life with thanksgiving... thanksgiving that will give you the courage to move ahead in the knowledge that God has not left you or forsaken you. Pray.
We are now going to take communion together. Communion is a sacred time when followers of Jesus remember all that Jesus has done for us. We eat bread and we drink grape juice to remember and celebrate Jesus sacrificing his life for us... a sacrifice that he was willing to make because he knew that in giving his body and blood, he would make a relationship with God possible for everyone. (Call for the servers) I don't think that it is any coincidence that an early name of the celebration was the Eucharist... Eucharist is a word that comes straight from the Greek word eucharisteo, a word that simply means thanksgiving. Communion is a thanksgiving meal. My thought is that as we partake of the elements together, this would be a great time to start thinking about all of the times that God has been there for us in the past as a way to help build our confidence that God is with us in today's wilderness and that he will provide a way through this wilderness. The Bread today is a sweet bread... we are using this bread to remind us of manna... something that tasted like honey. And so, we invite anyone who is a follower of Jesus to share in this thanksgiving meal today as we remember the one who is our bread of life... the one who makes it possible for our souls to be full to overflowing.

Oct 13 2019

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Bitter Water

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When I was 26, someone cut me with a machete in the jungles of Panama. That person was me. It was a self-inflicted wound because I was a complete moron.

It was pretty much my first time ever in something resembling a wilderness. I was with an aid group hiking to a remote mountain village, so we were surrounded by nature, many hours away from the closest hospital.

I had recently bought a cheap machete and I was very proud of that machete because it was like I had a sword. And even though I technically didn't need it, I was happily slashing away at any branch or leaf which was in my path.

At one point we had to cross a stream, and like a doofus I kept my machete out. As I was crossing with my heavy pack I slipped on a loose rock and started going down. The whole time I was falling I thought, "Is this how I die? Stabbed to death by my own machete?"

I tried to keep the blade as far away from me as possible but when I hit the stream, my hand bounced back and I sliced open my arm a little bit.

I was fine, but I needed to put a Band-Aid on, so I set my pack down on the bank, right onto a nest of fire ants, which I had to knock off my pack as my group left me further and further behind. A few moments later, as I tried to catch up with the group, I had to jog straight uphill through a field of something called razor grass.

I was a wet, sweaty, bloody mess.

It was then I realized I probably needed to take the wilderness a bit more seriously...
I mean, I got lucky, but if something really bad had happened? It would have taken a really long time to get medical care. The truth is, being in the wilderness is no joke.

Being in the wilderness tests you. It pushes your limits. And in many cases, it reveals who you really are.

For the next four weeks, we're going to talk all about being in the wilderness. Of course, as you're going to see, we're not just talking about the physical wilderness.

We're talking about the wilderness of our lives. How we choose to respond when we find ourselves miles away from safety or comfort or easy answers.

When we're facing hardship, pain, unexpected loss...the wilderness.

How do we respond when we're just not sure we're going to make it?

SERIES INTRO
To explore that, we're going to look at a group of people in the Bible who were in just that situation. We are going to pick up right where we left off last September in our series,"Freedom," all about the Israelites' exodus from Egypt.

If you remember, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God sent Moses to set them free and bring them to the land promised to their ancestors. The Promised Land. Pharaoh wouldn't let them go, so God sent plagues (frogs, boils, gnats, etc.) to pressure Pharaoh to relent.

*By the way, one of those plagues was turning the water of the Nile to blood, making it undrinkable and toxic...File that away for today's passage.*

Eventually, the Israelites leave Egypt, cross through the Red Sea in a miraculous intervention by God, and come out the other side free people. And that's where we'll pick up the story today. The Israelites leave the Red Sea and head into the wilderness.

For the next few weeks we're going to look at what happened between the Red Sea and Mount Sinai, where God gives them the law: Israel's first experience traveling through the wilderness alone and having to trust in God to protect them and keep them alive.

But these are more than just stories. There's a reason these accounts are in our Bible.

You see, the Israelites don't do a great job of trusting God in these stories. They struggle, they grumble, they complain... (they cross streams with open machetes). They're just not super great at this. And it seems like every time God comes through for them, they turn right around and forget all about it one second later.

"Are we there yet, Moses? "Stop it! So help me, I will turn this camel around."

Which raises an interesting question. The book of Exodus is a story the Israelites wanted to pass on to future generations, right? They wanted everyone who came after them to understand what they experienced in the wilderness.

If that's the case, then why would they depict themselves as such doofuses? Why not smooth over some of the more embarrassing parts?

Well, I don't believe the Israelites were trying to pat themselves on the back. I don't think they had any interest in showing themselves at their best.

No. The Israelites wanted their descendants to understand what it's really like following Yahweh - following God - in the wilderness. Because they knew there was a lot more wilderness ahead.

The wilderness of a broken world.

BITTER WATER
Let's dive in and I'll show you what I mean. Grab a Bible and turn to Exodus 15.

Exodus 15:22-25a
Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means "bitter").

Then the people complained and turned against Moses. "What are we going to drink?" they demanded. So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

At the beginning of this story, it says "Moses led the people...away from the Red Sea." The Hebrew word there is

na?sa?: to set out, to break camp

This is the first step away from relative safety and into the wilderness.

As we'll see in verse 27, at the end of this story they make it to a nice, comfortable oasis - springs of water, palm trees, the whole deal...And they camp there. The Hebrew word for that is h?a?na?h.

h?a?na?h: to set up camp

So they na?sa? - they break camp - heading into the wilderness, and they h?a?na?h - they make camp at their destination.

What we have here is a pattern. Most of the stories we'll look at this month start with the Israelites na?sa? - breaking camp, entering some kind of wilderness - and then h?a?na?h - making camp at the end. na?sa? - wilderness - h?a?na?h

Here';s why this is important. There are layers to this pattern of breaking camp and making camp.

Yes, it shows up in each individual story, but it also shows up in the bigger story. The Israelites na?sa? from the Red Sea and h?a?na?h at Mount Sinai, where they meet with God and he gives them the law.

But even bigger than that. In Exodus, the Israelites na?sa? from Egypt itself, and in the book of Numbers, they h?a?na?h at the edge of the Promised Land. They make camp in the land flowing with milk and honey.

But it gets even bigger. In Genesis, when Adam and Eve are banished from the garden of Eden, they stick around the area (Eden was a region, not just a garden), but then it says their son Cain goes east, into the land of Nod; literally the land of "wandering." He enters the wilderness.

The same thing happens after the flood. It says humans na?sa? from Noah's ark and head to the east where they try to build the tower of Babel and then are scattered all over the world.
In both cases, humanity writ large leaves relative safety and begins to wander. They na?sa?, but in this grand storyline, there is no h?a?na?h at the end. At least in the Old Testament humanity is lost in the wilderness, trying to get back to Eden.

I believe the Hebrew Bible is painting the picture that the whole experience of humanity, living in this broken world, is - in a sense - a kind of wilderness. And that wilderness has not yet found its end.

So when we see stories like this - with the Israelites grumbling and thirsty in the wasteland - we have to remember that this is not just some historical tale.

No. This is a story passed down to us from our spiritual ancestors and written in a very particular way to show us what it means to trust Yahweh in the wilderness.

To trust Yahweh in a broken world. When the Promised Land seems impossibly far away. When Eden seems like little more than a dream.

Ok. That was a long rabbit trail. But I hope that helps explain where we're coming from in this series. These stories are about the Israelites. But they're also about us. And I think they have a lot to teach us.

Alright, so let's talk about what happens to the Israelites in this patch of wilderness. Verse 23. They've gone three days without finding water, and then all of a sudden, here it is! An oasis! Water!

But the water is really bitter and they can't drink it at all. Keep in mind, this isn't just water for them to drink. It's water for their cattle, water they need for cooking...

It's really rough, so of course they complain. And then, verse 25: Moses cries out to God and he shows him a piece of wood. He throws that in the water and all of a sudden it's good to drink.

Yahweh has saved the people.

DECREE
But then the story says something kind of interesting. Take a look at the second part of verse 25.

Exodus 15:25b-27
It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him. He said, "If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you."

After leaving Marah, the Israelites traveled on to the oasis of Elim, where they found twelve springs and seventy palm trees. They camped there beside the water.

Ok what's this whole decree and standard all about? God's testing their faithfulness? And if they don't obey God's going to send plagues on them like the Egyptians? It's kind of weird, right?

Actually there's a lot of debate and confusion around this passage because of that. But I think it actually makes a lot of sense when you understand that this story is tapping into bigger patterns in the Bible. Just like na?sa? and h?a?na?h.

First of all, in verse 26, it says "I will not make you suffer...the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you." Remember, in Egypt God turned the water into bitter, undrinkable blood. And what do we have here? Bitter, undrinkable water.

The point isn't that God forced the bitter water on them to test them, but that he made it pure. He's the God who heals.

The test is in how they experience this healing. Look at what it says. Listen carefully to his voice, do what is right, obey his commands, and keep his decrees... In other words, trust that God knows what's best, and the healing will follow.

But what was there to obey here? How did the Israelites keep his decrees?

Well again, this story is working on many levels. Look back at verse 25. It says"The Lord showed [Moses] a piece of wood." Literally, "a tree."

The word choices here are kind of weird. There are other Hebrew words for "show," but this one is also the word for "teach." It's the root of the word Torah - teachings (a.k.a. The first five books of the Bible - the story of God teaching the Israelites how to live).

So the verse is essentially saying God taught Moses a tree.

But get this: in the Hebrew Bible, guess what else represents God's Torah - his teachings? A tree!

The tree of life in the Garden of Eden - in the Bible it becomes a symbol for wisdom and obedience to God.

Proverbs 3:18
Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her.

Wisdom and Torah and obedience and life are all layered on top of one another in the Bible. The poetry of God's work is spectacular and the biblical writers are geniuses for capturing it. It's what makes the Bible so amazing.

So in verse 25 God's not just showing Moses some random branch that happens to make bitter water sweet. He's teaching him Torah. Moses throwing that wood in the water represents obedience to God's commands.

In this small story, I believe God is not just saving thirsty people. He's providing an object lesson for them to remember for generations. He's laying out the ground rules for how to survive in the wilderness.

"Let me teach you," God says. "If you obey what I think is best for you - If you have wisdom and trust in my teachings, I will see you through. Because I am the Lord who heals you."

This story is the first of several we're going to look at which all point to the same big idea:

If we want to make it through the wilderness, we must trust God's wisdom, not our own.

When we face bitter water, God will show us the tree. He will teach us wisdom if we're willing to listen. We have to trust him enough to throw that wood in the water.

Over the next few weeks we're going to see that idea put to the test.

  • We're going to see the Israelites learn to trust in God's provision.

  • We'll see them learn to trust in God's timing.

  • And we'll see them learn to trust that God will fight their battles.

YOUR WILDERNESS
The people of God who passed these stories down to us wanted us to learn from them.

So my hope and prayer for this series is that this would not just be some nerdy deep dive into ancient stories, but an invitation for us to renew our trust in God especially if we're getting thirsty and our water is bitter.

So to prepare our hearts for what God will teach us this month, let me ask you this...What kind of wilderness are you facing right now? What's causing your throat to be parched?

  • Are you battling overwhelming anxiety or depression?

  • Are you desperately lonely?

  • Perhaps you're facing disease or cancer or pain.

  • Have you made terrible mistakes? Let down your family and friends?

  • Are you being controlled by an addiction?

  • Are you facing a broken relationship?

  • Or maybe it's not something like that. Maybe you're just at a loss facing a huge life decision.

  • Or you're stuck in a dead-end career but you have no idea what else to pursue.

  • Or maybe you feel like God has called you to take a step of faith but now he's nowhere to be found.

I want you to take a moment and reflect on whatever wilderness you're facing right now.

As I mentioned before, the Bible paints the picture of humanity setting out - na?sa? - into the wilderness of this broken world. And we're still in that wilderness.

Now we know that because of Jesus we will eventually make camp - we'll h?a?na?h - in an oasis of life. The New Creation. Where the wilderness of this world's brokenness will come to an end forever.

And we know that right now, through the Holy Spirit, we can taste the sweet, life-giving water of God's provision. But just like the Israelites, that fresh water comes through trust.

By trusting God to show us - to teach us - the tree of life. To teach us wisdom. That's what this book is all about.

How easy it is for us to forget that. How easy it is for us to try and survive the wilderness by our own ingenuity. To flail our machetes around like we have any idea what we're doing.

Our path through the wilderness is not strength; it's trust.

You may have no idea how you're going to make it through this. But I want you to hear this today. You are not alone. Here's what God says about your wilderness:

Isaiah 43:19
I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Our God is a God who brings life in the wilderness. And he will see you through. Do you trust him?

Oct 06 2019

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Contentment/Debt

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Many of us are kind of a mess when it comes to our financial situation. And our unhealthy money habits are causing tremendous stress and tension, which then causes unhealth in all areas of our lives, emotional, relational and even physical. We live in a greedy culture, and it is extremely difficult not to fall into that trap. And greed doesn't know socioeconomic status, it doesn't matter how much you have or own, how rich or poor you are, greed is a state of the heart.

Greed and debt are just the outward expression of a deeper heart issue...contentment. The underlying, core issue is we are not living in contentment.

  • Are you satisfied with how much you make right now, at this moment?

  • Are you satisfied with what you have: your home, your car/s, your clothes, your shoes - your food?

  • Are you satisfied with what you do? For fun: vacations, if you get to take one, do you like where you go, how you get there, how long you stay?

  • Do you see what other people make, have or do and wish you were in their place?

  • Do you believe if you just made this much more money or had this much more stuff or could do this many more things then you would truly be content?

  • Do you believe that enough will ever be enough?

  • Can you picture a time when you will be truly satisfied with your life just as it is, nothing more?


Your heart needs to change not your circumstances. Contentment is not a feeling, it is an attitude of the heart, a mindset, a disposition. And how does that happen? Two words: faith and trust. You must have faith that God is enough and trust that He will provide what you need.

Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." Hebrews 13:5

If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. Job 36:11

Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. 1 Timothy 6:6-8

Sep 15 2019

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Stewardship

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Week1

Sep 08 2019

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How Do I Make A Difference?

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The church exists to introduce you and your family to God, lead you to a lifetime of belonging with others, show you where you can make a difference as you serve the Kingdom of God in healing the world, and ultimately usher you into your hard wired calling and destiny for which you were made.

God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ, everything in heaven and on earth. Ephesians 1:9-10

You get joy making a difference in the world.

However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say,"When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people"; Notice that it says "he ascended." This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself. Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:7-13

  • Are you an apostle? Apostles are way blazers, riskers, spiritual entrepreneurs, you start things and take people with you.

  • Are you a prophet? Prophets are truth-tellers, lie exposers, you hear things from God and are not afraid to pass it along.

  • Are you an evangelist? Evangelists are gifted in leading people to surrender their lives to Jesus, usually personable and a good listener, direct and persuasive./p>

  • Are you a pastor? Shepherds are there for people in their pain and brokenness, you show up when you sense a need, quick to hug, quick to pray.

  • Are you a teacher? Teachers are not necessarily classroom teachers: they are mentors. Explainers - making the complex simple, they dispense wisdom.


Jesus gives gifts. We use our gifts. The world is changed.

If you want to experience real joy, then use your gifts to make a difference in the world!

Aug 25 2019

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Where Do I Belong?

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Ephesians 1:1
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

Adoption = To formally and legally declare that someone who is not one's own child is henceforth to be treated and cared for as one's own child,

And Paul chose that term to imply God's passionate resolve to make you his child!

Now, watch this, if I indeed belong to God my father...and you indeed belong to God your father...what does that say about my relationship to you?

  • We are brothers and sisters for all eternity!

  • We are the adopted ones.

  • We belong to one another as much as we belong to God.

The Church is your community:
  • The church exists to bring the adopteds together.

  • The church is the biggest blended family in human history.

  • The church says - this is where you belong!

You belong in a family of humility, gentleness, and patience, where we make allowance for each other's faults. You belong in a united family of peace and hope. You belong in a family where you won't be lonely anymore.

Aug 18 2019

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Who Is God?

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The church exists to introduce you and your family to God...lead you to a lifetime of belonging with others...show you where you can make a difference as you serve the Kingdom of God in healing the world...and ultimately usher you into your hard wired calling and destiny for which you were made. This sermon will answer the question: Who is God?

1. God is the hope giver.
I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called. -Ephesians 1:16-19

2. God is the power giver.
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God's power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. -Ephesians 1:19-20

3. God is the life giver.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. -Ephesians 2:4-5

4. God is the love giver.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. -Ephesians 2:18-19

The church is the hope of the world and the hope for your best life because the church answers the question - Who is God?

Aug 11 2019

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Psalms 1 & 150

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All summer we've talked all about the extreme range of human emotions found in the psalms: from the heights of joy and the depths of despair. Hopefully, it's been a moving and thought-provoking series for you.

Psalm 1
Oh, the joys of those who do not
follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 150
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram's horn;
praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Today, as we bring the series to a close, we're going to do something a little different. Instead of diving deep into one specific psalm, we're going to take a step back and considerthe book of psalms as a whole. Let's take a few moments and think about what falls between Psalms 1 and 150. It's what we've been talking about throughout this whole series.

  • Psalms of Orientation - psalms which describe the order and goodness of Creation, the presence of a loving God, his righteousness and justice experienced in the world.

  • Psalms of Disorientation - psalms which lament that perfect world being broken. These are the heart-wrenching psalms which wrestle with the disarray and chaos of sin and violence and death all around us. As we've seen, sometimes they're brutally honest - even shockingly raw.

  • Psalms of New Orientation - these are psalms of gratitude and praise which spring out of the surprising new life found in a God who saves. God comes through for the psalm writers in their disorientation, and they respond with joy and delight and praise.

The story of the Psalms is the story of our world - God's beautiful design, the brokenness of sin and death, and the redemption of it all through New Creation.

Look at how the unfailing love of God - his hesed - has played out again and again through brokenness, through pain, through loss, through grief, through loneliness, through confusion, through doubt.

Aug 04 2019

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Psalm 25: When I Need Direction

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  • Are you facing an important business decision?

  • Are you facing a choice about your job or career or retirement?

  • Is the direction you need about an education choice?

  • Are you having to decide on a big expenditure?

  • Maybe you are facing a decision about your health. Unsure what to do about an illness.

  • Or maybe your indecision is a relational one.

  • Or maybe you just are facing an uncertain future.


It feels lonely and insecure at the crossroads of a decision, doesn' it? Let's talk about that today. And figure out how to seek God at the crossroads. How to pray when you need clarity for your next steps.

O LORD, I give my life to you. 2 I trust in you, my God! Do not let me be disgraced, or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat. No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others. 4 Show me the right path, O LORD; point out the road for me to follow. 5 Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All-day long I put my hope in you. 6 Remember, O LORD, your compassion and unfailing love, which you have shown from long ages past. 7 Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth. Remember me in the light of your unfailing love, for you are merciful, O LORD. 8 The LORD is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. 9 He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. 10 The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands. 11 For the honor of your name, O LORD, forgive my many, many sins. 12 Who are those who fear the LORD? He will show them the path they should choose. 13 They will live in prosperity, and their children will inherit the land. 14 The LORD is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant. 15 My eyes are always on the LORD, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies. 16 Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. 17 My problems go from bad to worse. Oh, save me from them all! 18 Feel my pain and see my trouble. Forgive all my sins. 19 See how many enemies I have and how viciously they hate me! 20 Protect me! Rescue my life from them! Do not let me be disgraced, for in you I take refuge. 21 May integrity and honesty protect me, for I put my hope in you. 22 O God, ransom Israel from all its troubles. Psalm 25:1-22

David wrote this Psalm when he needed direction from God.

Confidence Factors:

  • The character of God. There were things that David knew in his gut about God that led him to believe he would receive direction. Distinctive qualities of God's nature. In this psalm he reviews them.

  • His own posture before God. And at the same time, he knew that he himself had to adjust his posture before God if he had any hope of hearing from God.

Character of God

  • Compassionate, merciful, unfailing love

  • Good

  • Does what is right

  • A faithful friend

Our Posture Before God

  • Surrender

  • Truth-seeking

  • Humility

  • Perseverance

  • Integrity

  • Respect

Jul 28 2019

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Psalm 46: When I Am Afraid

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Top 5 American fears:

  1. 74.5% fear that corrupt government officials are going to ruin our lives by ruining our country.

  2. Our health care system will get so messed up that people either won't be able to get the health care they need or that the high cost of medical bills will ruin their lives.

  3. Air pollution, global warming, species extinction and a lack of good water will throw the world into chaos.

  4. 50% of all Americans are fearful that they won't have enough money for the future.

  5. Someone they love will die or get seriously ill.


Fear is everywhere...it is constant and for many it's unending.

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
3 Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Interlude
4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
6 The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God's voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
7 The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel[b] is our fortress. Interlude
8 Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
10 "Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world."
11 The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress. Interlude

Psalm 46 is truly unique among all the psalms and the reason is right in the first words...the stuff before verse 1. It reads: "For the choir; a song of the descendants of Korah. To be sung by the soprano voices." The descendants of Korah were a well-known, musical Jewish family. They had a long history of leading the musical worship at the temple. Psalm 46 is in the middle of 9 Korah-family psalms. This Psalm is unique in that it is the only psalm of all 150 psalms that says it is to be sung by soprano voices...or as the note at the bottom of the page in my NLT Bible says, "according to Alamoth." Alamoth means: a young, unmarried, virgin girl who is right at the prime marrying age...and the prime marrying age for girls at this time was 11-12. So, this psalm was written specifically to be sung by a choir of 11 or 12-year-old girls. Girls of this age, in that time, were not normally allowed out in public. Some have said these would have been boys, not girls, but the Hebrew is clearly feminine!

I.m sure that you all know that at 11:00 am every Friday morning the weather alert siren sounds all throughout central Indiana. And no one pays any attention to it. But if that siren sounds at 11:00 pm on a Wednesday night, everyone takes notice.

Putting this message in the mouths of, literally, the last people in all of Israel that anyone would have expected to see or hear doing anything at the temple, eleven-year-old girls, would have been like hearing an 11:00 pm siren on a Wednesday night! Their voices were a siren saying, "Take notice! We have something important to tell you and you need to pay attention!"
The two primary fears of the ancient, Jewish world:

  1. A natural disaster. These would have come unexpectedly. They had no warning systems and people lived in the fear of nature turning on them.

  2. An invasion by an evil nation. This, too, would have come on unexpectedly. This was a real fear in the ancient world. Even if the invaders' ultimate intentions had to do with another nation they would run over any other people that happened to be in their way.


God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. Hearing the unexpected voices of young girls singing this line forced the question, "Do I really believe that God is always ready to help me in times of trouble?" The next line lets us know that the choir girls believed this was true! So, we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! The Hebrew word that is translated "interlude" in the NLT is "Selah" (Say-la) and it is a word that told the music director to "place an instrumental pause here to give the people an opportunity to think about what was just sung."

And then we get to the second great fear: an invasion by a hostile army. The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God's voice thunders, and the earth melts! Young girls are reminding us that our God is far more powerful than any invading nation. God can simply speak, and everything will melt! The word translated "melts" here, comes from the Hebrew word "moog"and it means "to be helplessly disorganized."

7 The Lord of Heaven's Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress. "No, we shouldn't live in the fear of being invaded by evil forces, because, "The Lord of heavens armies is here among us!" Now, this phrase "Heaven's Armies" comes from one Hebrew word "tsavah," a word that almost always means "a gathered army" and it is usually translated with the word. Think of the angels gathered to tell the shepherds that Jesus was born: the heavenly hosts. We see these hosts in 2 Kings when Elisha's servant needs encouragement. God gave this young man the ability to see the angels gathered to defend him and his comment is, "There are more who are with us than against us!" This is clearly a part of the Biblical story: God has an army ready to defend us.

"God is our fortress." The Hebrew word "misgav,"; gives us fortress. It literally means "a place on a high cliff; an inaccessible spot of security and safety."

Verses 8-9 call on the Jewish people to remember how God has acted in the past to end chaotic times...let';s read these verses. 8 Come, see the glorious works of the Lord: See how he brings destruction upon the world. 9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire. These times are: the flood, Sodom, the crossing of the Red sea, the confusion of the enemies who have come to attack Israel. Most times God uses his own natural forces to accomplish these "works." It is a sign that he can use something people fear for his own purposes!

10 Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world. "Be still" comes from the Hebrew word, "raphah." It means to sink down, to relax, to drop your hands from working or to let something drop out of your hands; it can mean to abandon a task or stop working at something. I'm sure you get the picture. The voice of God, which in the moment, remember sounds like the voices of young girls singing, is telling us that whatever it is that we fear, He is God, the nations will honor Him (that takes care of one great fear), and His entire creation will honor Him (that takes care of the other great fear). So, be still, relax and know that I am with you and I will take care of you!

And then the psalm ends with a repeat of its chorus, chorus that once again reminds us that we are surrounded by God's army and that he is our place of safety!

The question is what do we do? Well, first, let's start by stating the facts from Psalm 46: 1) God created the earth. He is in charge of it and that means he is in charge of everyone and everything in his world. That is a fact we can hold on to. 2) God is present, and he also has an army of angels, a heavenly host, surrounding us. We see this as a reality far too many times in the Bible for God to be fooling us about this. And now that we have the facts, here are some practical things you can do to face your fears: first, make two lists: one of your fears, and one of the times that God has overcome your fears.

Commit to doing what you know you can and should do related to facing your fears.

Every Friday at 11:00 in the morning, if you hear that siren, no matter what your fears might be in that moment, let that siren be the sound that reminds you that you can "be still", let that siren remind you that your God is present with you and his army is surrounding you...let that siren be the unexpected voice that gives you the courage to say, "Bring it on. I will not be afraid because my God is my fortress."

Jul 14 2019

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Phenomenal Messages

By Curtis Honeycutt - Sep 18 2015
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I have listened to weekend messages at Grace for over 10 years now. I can unequivocally say Grace's messages have changed my life. Grace covers super practical spiritual issues ranging from serving the poor and marginalized to sharing your faith with others. I can't recommend this podcast enough, whether or not you attend Grace Church.