Rank #1: Where Your Destiny Meets the Broken Places
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Rank #2: You Have a Good Father
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:
A future home/eternal life.
A miraculous internal presence, a spiritual guide and supernatural consoler.
His blessings to let you know you are loved, valued and His child.
Dec 09 2018
Northview Church Weekly Messages
The Love Better Podcasts
Bottom Line Faith
Traders Point Christian Church (Audio)
Willow Creek Community Church Weekend Podcast
The Nothing Is Wasted Podcast
Southeast Christian Church
North Point Community Church
The Shauna Niequist Podcast
The Global Leadership Summit Podcast
Beth Moore's Podcast
The Going Scared Podcast with Jessica Honegger
Rank #3: The Epistles
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
Rank #4: Stewards of Decay & Activists Against Hatred
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 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
Most Popular Podcasts
Rank #5: Revelation
Aug 12 2018
Rank #6: A Merciful Community
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
Rank #7: A Community Where Everyone Is Welcome
It's important to talk about a community where everyone is welcome. Why?
We live in lonely times.
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
Rank #8: Reputation & Identity
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
Rank #9: Water From The Rock
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...
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
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.
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
Rank #10: Psalm 46: When I Am Afraid
Top 5 American fears:
74.5% fear that corrupt government officials are going to ruin our lives by ruining our country.
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.
Air pollution, global warming, species extinction and a lack of good water will throw the world into chaos.
50% of all Americans are fearful that they won't have enough money for the future.
Someone they love will die or get seriously ill.
Fear is everywhere...it is constant and for many it's unending.
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:
A natural disaster. These would have come unexpectedly. They had no warning systems and people lived in the fear of nature turning on them.
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
Rank #11: Psalm 8: Awe of God
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.
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]&#38;#38;#38;nbsp;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
Rank #12: God Providing In A Time of Need
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
Rank #13: Unity In Diversity
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?
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.
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
Rank #14: Sabbath/Sacred Time
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.
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?
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.
"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.
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.
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
Rank #15: Psalm 116: Gratitude
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.
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.
Is good to me
Keeps my eyes from tears &#38; 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
Rank #16: The Gospels: Part 1
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
Rank #17: Freedom From Sin
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.
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.
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
Rank #18: Stewardship
Sep 08 2019
Rank #19: Old Testament History
Jun 24 2018
Rank #20: Who Is God?
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