Thursday, December 12, 2013

Live Inspirationally

Here's a sermon by Jason Jaggard (I wish I could link specifically to his sermon, but I don't think I can -- so you'll have to scroll down) about living inspirationally.

http://www.churchinhollywood.com/media.php?pageID=15

Philippians 2:12-18
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
As I read that scripture, what stands out is "...it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Have you ever wanted to do God's will, but just can't seem to get it together? Or feel as if there is some barrier between what you do and what you want to do...who you are and who you want to be?

It's like how Paul puts it in Romans 7:15 - "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." If you read the rest of that passage, Paul goes on to explain the tumultuous conflict inside. After a series of back and forth, he gets to the end with, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Apparently we need God...a lot; just to do what we honestly desire to do. And I'm feeling that right now in life. But that takes trust. Try and get to the bottom of yourself and ask -- do you trust God to handle your life, marriage, children, career, money, business? It's tougher than it seems. But God is faithful and won't leave us.

There's the struggle; but that's part of a life that can only be explained by God (see below). And that's a life worth living.

Here are some notes from the sermon:
  • Scripture is an echo throughout history that says, "God cares."
  • Philippians is a letter to people who are doing okay
    • Sometimes we're not in a high or low spiritually, but just going along
    • This can be the hardest place to hear God's voice
  • "Work out your salvation..."
    • The word "salvation" can have negative connotations these days
    • Salvation is used in different ways
      • God saving (like saving King David from his enemies)
      • God forgiving us (more spiritual sense)
      • God protecting us ("you are my rock and my salvation")
      • In this verse, "salvation" is a process, not a specific event
        • It's a partnership and relationship
  • We are designed to inspire people
    • "Inspire" means to breathe life into
    • Jesus is the most inspirational person to ever live
    • "Working out salvation" means becoming an incredible human being
      • Having more integrity, more compassion, less bitterness, etc.
      • Matthew 5:14a - "You are the light of the world."
  • Culture says that God just wants to take all the fun stuff away from us
    • The truth is that He is the best giver
  • "...with fear and trembling."
    • There is a fear that traps us...
      • A life of fear clips off the highs and the lows into a manageable middle
        • But you miss the highs...
    • This is a different kind of fear
      • This is to go places in your life that require God to exist for you to be successful
  • Working out your salvation with fear and trembling means living a life that cannot exist without God
    • This journey requires a choice
  • God has "plans to prosper you..."
    • In your character
  • There are some things God loves doing for us, but most things He loves doing with us
  • "Grace is more than just the forgiveness of sins; grace is the opportunity to become like Jesus." - Deitrich Bonhoffer
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Defining Moment


Here is a sermon by Marcus "Goodie" Goodlow, at Ecclesia Church:

http://www.churchinhollywood.com/media.php?pageID=15

It's based on 1 Samuel 7:1-10, about the Israelites turning back towards the Lord, but then being attacked by their enemies. They beckon God to show up and save them, and He does!

In the sermon Goodie says, "Courage to sacrifice is the prelude to the phenomenal." What an awesome statement! I've been thinking about courage a lot lately (and have written about it). It's often believed that self-preservation is basic human nature, so just embrace it and get what you want in life. But are these the folks that are truly celebrated in life? No! It's the ones that sacrifice themselves, through life or in death, that receive the highest honor. It's also what Jesus did.

So the next time you're given the opportunity to inconvenience yourself for the good of someone else, take it! Then see what God does! We have been given "every spiritual blessing in Christ," (see below) which means we can expect big things from God!

Notes:
  • Samuel had never visited a place and left it destroyed
  • Samuel never wasted a word
    • 1 Samuel 3:19 - "The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel's words fall to the ground."
  • Are we willing to confront our own compromises?
  • Pride is having an inaccurate view of self
  • Our worst is never so bad that we are beyond God's grace
    • And neither is our best that we don't need God's grace
  • Ephesians 1:3 - " Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."
    • We have been given "every spiritual blessing"
    • What are you compromising in when it comes to God? Where are you settling?
  • Humility means having an accurate view of yourself
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help
    • Or ask people to help - utilizing their gifts
    • We all need a spotter - life can get weighty
  • 1 Samuel 7:10 - "While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites."
    • Every once in a while, God intervenes and something out of the ordinary happens
    • We all need "that day"
    • Courage to sacrifice is the prelude to the phenomenal
      • Time, resources, talents, etc.
      • Being connected to a movement - advancing a cause that is bigger than yours
  • God is in the business of defining moments
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Words We Live By - Matthew 18:20

Here is #5 in the Words We Live by series, a sermon by Joseph Barkley. It seems like I missed the even numbered sermons in this series, so you'll have to check #4 out for yourself.

http://www.churchinhollywood.com/media.php?pageID=15

This sermon is all about church discipline and fighting against legalism. I have to be honest -- legalism seems to happen so naturally in Christianity. I've been there and said some things I shouldn't have, and still do. In the sermon, though, Joseph apologizes to non-Christians for those of us who have expected them to act like Christians. That's key, and I didn't really begin to learn that lesson until I heard this song by Emery:


Why should we expect people to adhere to Christian rules if they are not Christians? Maybe, instead of worrying about enforcing rules for living, we focus on loving people and let God change hearts and behavior, in His time? There's some good notes below.

Here's the scripture:

Matthew 18:15-20 -  “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.
“Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

And some notes (sorry they're in all caps -- I was at work when I listened to this and was doing something with my caps lock on):
  • WRITTEN TO A JEWISH AUDIENCE
  • IN CONTEXT, LOOK AT VERSES BEFORE -- CHURCH DISCIPLINE
    • JESUS IS ONLY TALKING TO THE FAMILY ("BROTHERS")
    • JESUS IS ASKING US TO GO BEYOND CONVENTION, TO CALL EACH OTHER OUT
      • REAL HELP HAPPENS WHEN WE GET REAL WITH EACH OTHER
      • ONE-ON-ONE IS WHERE THIS HAPPENS MOST
      • WHEN PEOPLE AREN'T HONEST, IT CREATES GOSSIP (A TOOL OF THE ENEMY)
    • THIS ISN'T LEGALISM -- WE ARE ALL IMPERFECT ("...SPECK IN YOUR BROTHERS EYE...")
    • THE GOAL IS NOT PERFECTION, IT'S ABOUT DIRECTION
    • "2 OR 3 WITNESSES" - THIS IS AN OLD TESTAMENT THING (DEUTERONOMY 19:15)
      • NOT "FIND PEOPLE WHO AGREE WITH YOU AND GANG UP ON SOMEONE"
    • "TREAT THEM AS A PAGAN OR TAX COLLECTOR"
      • JESUS WAS ACCUSED OF SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME WITH PAGANS AND TAX COLLECTORS
      • THIS IS AN INVITATION TO TAKE THE CONVERSATION TO A DIFFERENT PLACE
        • MAYBE THIS PERSON NEEDS TO START FROM SCRATCH WITH CHRIST
        • JESUS SAYS THAT'S NOT UP TO YOU TO DECIDE ALONE -- IT'S COMMUNITY
    • THIS IS NOT A SYSTEM OF PUNISHMENT, BUT A SYSTEM OF RESTORATION
  • WHAT JESUS SAYS NEXT IS THAT CONVERSATIONS ARE IMPORTANT AND HAVE ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES
  • "WHERE 2 OF 3 GATHER..."
    • IT MEANS "TOWARDS MY NAME"
      • NAMES MEANT THE TOTALITY OF WHO SOMEONE IS
        • WHEN YOU GATHER TOGETHER, LINING YOURSELF UP WITH ALL OF WHO JESUS IS, REST ASSURED THAT GOD IS WORKING THERE
    • THIS ALSO MEANS THAT FROM THE MOMENT YOU ACCEPT HIM, JESUS CAN USE YOU
  • IT'S NOT ABOUT PERFECTION, BUT DIRECTION
    • JESUS IS ASKING US TO ALWAYS CONSIDER WHERE WE'RE HEADING
      • THIS IS HOW WE FIGHT LEGALISM
    • GOD IS NOT TRYING TO MAKE BAD CHRISTIANS INTO GOOD CHRISTIANS
      • IT'S MORE LIKE ALLOWING SUFFOCATING PEOPLE TO BREATHE AGAIN
  • JESUS CAN DO SO MUCH WITH A LIFE THAT IS MOVING TOWARDS HIM
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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Words We Live By - Philippians 4:13

I missed sermon #2...so you're gonna have to go look that one up yourself.

http://churchinhollywood.com/media.php?pageID=15

Sermon #3 in this series is about contentment...which seems to be one of the most difficult things for me to get a handle on. In it, he talks about the lottery campaign "believe in something bigger." These are plastered all over Los Angeles:

http://wonderfest.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/lottery-believe-in-something-bigger-600-13893.jpg

The moment I saw this, I was disgusted. If your "something bigger" in life is winning the lottery, then what kind of hope is that? And will it ever be realized? Probably not. But as I reflect on it, is it so different than most of our "something bigger?" Most of us dream of the day we may have tons of money, and imagine what we would do with that money. It's a fun dream to indulge in, and really that's a lot of what we work for...the day we have more.

Joseph points out that this isn't actually a dream for "something bigger," but rather "something more." We all want more, which is natural. But what if we had enough, right now? How would that change us?

Philippians 4:11b - 13- "...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."

God, give me the strength to have contentment in life. Without Him, I'm not sure it's possible...

Notes:
  • Philippians 4:13 isn't about accomplishing your goals, but about our need to be happy and content.
  • Acts 16 - Tells story of Philippians church plant
  • Two tools when analyzing scripture
    • Context (last week's message)
    • Commonality: bridges the world back then with our world now
      • What is universally true about humans then, that is common to humankind?
  • Paul says he knows the secret to being content in every situation in verse 12
    • Who wouldn't want to know that? That would mean no more fear that our dreams wouldn't be realized, or that we would be haunted by what could have been.
    • Contentment has nothing to do with circumstance.
    • Throughout everything, Paul's first attachment is to Jesus.
      • He is able to detach himself from inadequate saviors (money, health, etc.)
      • He was not even attached to his own life
  • Believe in something bigger, not just more.
  • The thing Paul loved the most could not be taken from him -- that is the secret.
    • Paul didn't want to be in prison, but he wanted Jesus more.
      • He lost his life. You cannot steal from a life that's been lost.
  • Paul doesn't say "I can think all things."
    • Jesus does not give us the strength to just think right thoughts
  • The "all this" is continuing to do God's work
    • Jesus is giving me strength to join whatever He's doing wherever I am
      • God is doing something with you right now.
  • God does not leave us alone in pain. 
    • He doesn't always explain it, but He joins us in it.
  • You are not your future self
    • You can be complete in Jesus Christ, right now.
  • If you are in prosperity, it's easy to make that the new normal.
    • Maybe God wants us to show the world that there is more.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ask, Answer, Act

Here is the first sermon in the "Words We Live By" series, by Joseph Barkley. It's an effort to get the church to actually read the bible and know what it means.

Just after I became a Christian, I was given a little booklet on how to get started strong in your Christian walk. It read that, every time you read the bible, you should ask for the Holy Spirit to show you things through what you're reading. I have to say that this concept and those prayers have helped a lot over the years. The Spirit of God is crucial to understanding the bible, and to neglect this Gift is like trying to dig to China with your bare hands. I'm not saying that everything suddenly makes sense because you prayed, but it makes a lot more sense than if you were trying to read it without God's help.

The sermon is based off of these scriptures:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 - "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

James 1:22-24 - "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like."

Notes:
  • "All scripture is God-breathed..."
    • The ideas of the bible are God's intellectual property
      • God never lies
  • "...useful for rebuking, ..."
    • It's easy to take out what we don't like
    • ALL of it is useful and you can't edit stuff out
    • Not one word is wasted
  • All, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped to do good in this world.
  • 3 ways we can access what God is saying through the bible
    • Ask
      • Ask God to help you learn whatever He has to teach you
      • Ask questions about what you read
    • Answer
      •  Our culture is very comfortable with open-ended questions, but less comfortable with answers, because there is fear of embarrassment or being wrong
    • Act
      • This is where the challenge is the greatest
        • It requires change and discomfort and being different
      • "Don't merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says."

http://churchinhollywood.com/media.php?pageID=15
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Fulfillment at Work

I found this website in a work email, and here is the first talk I listened to, by Simon Sinek about fulfillment in the workplace (a topic I struggle with regularly).

 http://creativemornings.com/talks/simon-sinek/1

I usually post stuff from churches or Christian organizations, and I'm not sure if this guy is a Christian or not, but I love the principles he sets out. Basically, Simon is spreading the message that selfless giving is the way to transform your work life. Check it out and see what you think:


(the talk is actually only about 25 minutes long, the rest is Q&A, where he still says really good stuff)

Notes:
  •  If we knew that our companies would go to great lengths for us, maybe we would do the same for our companies
  • Fulfillment comes from doing something for someone else
    • Requires time and energy
    • Doing good for others inspires others to do good for others
  • Vulnerability and risk: the people you help might not reciprocate
  • You have to have self-confidence before you can help others
    • When we feel confident, we naturally help others
    • Other people (managers, teachers) are responsible for infusing confidence in us by letting us fail, and then helping us get up
  • In the military, soldiers are given medals for sacrificing themselves so others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who sacrifice others so they may gain.
  • Little things we do inspire others to do good things for even more
    • Time and energy, not money
  • Don't just do something for someone else to get something else back
    • Just ask for what you want up front -- builds trust
    • You can't build a relationship with someone if you want something from that person
  • Selfish behavior creates more selfishness around you
    • Giving creates more giving around you
  • The entitlement of generation-Y is because they don't feel like they've accomplished anything
    • Part of this is because we hand out medals just for trying -- there is no struggle
  • With a clear destination, obstacles are easier to overcome
    • Without a destination, obstacles either stop us or send us in a different direction
    • (he gives a good illustration of this)
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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jesus is Alive

Here is the fourth and final sermon in the "Jesus Is ______." series by Judah Smith.


Ephesians 2:1-7
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Genesis 4:1-7
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Notes:
  • Genesis 4:1-7
    • In Genesis, the word sin is used for the first time
  • Sin is an invader, intruder, stranger who comes to rob and steal
    • It was not God's original plan
  • What is sin?
    • Everyone has it.
    • Falling short of God's glory, His standard (Romans 3:23)
    • Missing the mark
      • The mark is set by God
      • The standard exists for us to have maximum fulfillment on earth
  • Is sin real?
    • Look around. It's natural for us to be bad.
  • Is sin really living?
    • We can be breathing but not alive -- just existing
    • "The wages of sin is death." - Romans 6:23
    • Sin is like eating at an awesome restaurant with really good food, but then the bill comes.
      • It may be fun, but it will make you pay.
  • What do we do now?
    • Stop sinning (verse in Genesis above)
      • "Just do well"
      •  The problem is we can only do "well" for a while
        • So what do we do about that?
          • Nothing.
  • "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us..." - Ephesians 2:4
    • God butts in because He is rich in mercy
    • "great love"
      • His love is towards us
      • He loves because He is love; it requires no reciprocation
  • "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ..." - Ephesians 2:4-5a (ESV)
    • "Together" is a key word
      • God wants to know us and for us to know Him
  • The answer to all of this is God, with nothing else.
    • The only thing we can do is accept this love
  • The way you are saved is the same way you continue to walk out your life with God
    • You have to continually receive God's love, and be reminded of this good news
http://thecity.org/message/jesus_is_alive
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Jesus is with you Always.


Here is the third sermon in the "Jesus Is _____." series by Judah Smith.

Usually I write some comment on the sermon, but nothing's hitting me with this one at the moment, so maybe take the time you may otherwise spend reading the nonsense I write, and check out these scriptures!

Matthew 28
 
1 John 4:15 - "If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God."



Notes:
  • Having someone else with you somehow subsides fears
  • We tend to believe that we don't get God's presence if we aren't "good" Christians and go to church, etc.
    • But what does 1 John 4:15 say?
  • A missionary life has struggles
    • It's because we are a target
      • Hunters don't shoot at dead animals; the enemy knows that
    • John 16:33 - “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
      • This is spoken just after Jesus' disciples said they finally believe in Him (it's near the end of his ministry)
        • Jesus says even they will leave Him, but it's okay because He isn't alone, but with God. 
        • Jesus found solace in knowing He was with God.
  • If being in God's presence is more real to you than being in the world, you are unshakable.
  • Hebrews 13:5 - "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'"
    • This verse says that the antidote to worrying about having enough money and stuff in life is God's presence.
    • Hebrews quotes Deuteronomy - "He'll never leave nor forsake you"
      • "Leave" means let you down. "Forsake" means walk away.
  • God's presence isn't only in spiritual environments...He's there ALWAYS.
    • Always is when we tend to need Him most.

http://thecity.org/message/jesus_is_with_you_always
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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jesus is a Friend of Sinners

Here is the second sermon by Judah Smith in the "Jesus Is _____." series. It's based on Luke 19:1-10.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.  He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
There's a great sermon by Ray Vander Laan where he explains what these verses meant to a Jew at that time (I can't find the lecture, but here is a synopsis of it that I found).

There are so many layers to this story and a lot to gleam from it, but the main point that Judah points out is this: when you meet Jesus, your heart changes. It wasn't a principle or religion that restored Zacchaeus, but Jesus. Who else changes hearts like that?




Notes:
  • Sinner is similar to calling him a "dog" - it's very derogatory
  • Society teaches us that, before we can be accepted, we have to "make things right"
  • We try to make our lives right and hide stuff for God - as if He didn't know everything
    • God doesn't need our help for Him to love us
  •  God acts on his own
    • Something we don't do - even in isolation, our acts are often considering the reactions of others (i.e. - tweets)
    • Romans 5:6-8 - "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
      • This is God's nature
  • Zacchaeus is a guy who hurts people
    • He is a Jew cheating Jews out of their money for Rome
    • He is officially rejected from the synagogue and God's blessing
    • Jesus pursues a friendship with him - these are the kinds of people Jesus hangs out with
  • When Zacchaeus repents, he's excited!
    • Jesus doesn't say he needs "Godly sorrow" or to be sad, He accepts him
  • Jesus' friendship with people like this is why Jesus frustrates people socially
  • In the midst of people's disappointments and Zacchaeus' track record, and after one dinner with Jesus, Zacchaeus' heart changes
    • Zacchaeus gives well over what Leviticus required of him in repentance
      • This happened when he met a man, not a principle
        • It's love, not law
        • Giving happens when you meet Jesus and He changes your life dramatically

http://thecity.org/message/jesus_is_the_friend_of_sinners
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jesus is Grace.

Here is the first in the "Jesus is _____" series by Judah Smith of The City Church. It is based on Luke 15, which is three parables Jesus tells in response to the Pharisee's chide that He was eating with sinners.

There is some powerful stuff here about how we should receive our worth and grace from God. Jesus says in Mark 10:15, "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Judah reads this and points out that kids don't try to repay gifts...until they get older. 

I remember being in high school and making a CD for our awesome punk band, Minus the Standard. We printed off a bunch of CD booklets on my parent's printer and then sold the CD's at one of our shows. I then tried to pay my dad back from our proceeds for the ink and paper I used. I remember trying to hand him money, and him refusing, and then my friend's dad saying abruptly, "just keep the money," emphasizing that I was just a kid and this was a gift of sorts. 

I've always been kind of like that -- trying to make things even in life. Judah mentions that, for some reason we always try to pay gifts back as we get older (I guess I hit that point a little early). Of course this carries over into our relationship with God, trying to pay back God's gift of grace with good works. This is futile, but oh so natural.

Check out this sermon -- it's really good:


  •  Fasting is good, but eating is better
  • In those days, a meal was an event, and involved a lot more than it does now
    • So Jesus was spending hours with "bad" people
    • What Jesus says after the Pharisees complain explains why a just and holy God would befriend "sinners"
  • Ephesians 2:8 - "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—"
    • This grace is not of yourself and not of works.
    • The essence of our belief system is "gift"
      • A gift ceases to be a gift when you try to pay it back
      • Christianity has nothing to do with us paying God back for what He's done for us.
  • We all believe worth is earned
  • Jesus speaks their language - sheep, coins
    • Most of us would have been cool losing the 1 sheep
    • The lady trashes her house to find 1 coin
      • Both of these are illogical
      • When it comes to people, God's love is illogical
      • Jesus is showing us our worth -- an illogical worth
    • The third story about the prodigal son is different -- he's not a beast or a coin, but a person with a will
      • The older son is the logical one
      • The prodigal son believes worth is earned
        • The son's speech is never acknowledged -- his attempts to earn worth are ignored
    • All three (representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) search, find and celebrate
      • Jesus says I hang out with bad people because it's who I Am
  • Worth is received, like everything else with God
    • Mark 10:13-16 - disciples rebuke parents because kids aren't worth it to them
      • Jesus says the Kingdom belongs to such as these, and it will be received as they do (like a hug)
        • Kids don't offer to pay back, they just receive gifts...for now.
    • No other belief system on the earth is like this -- it's totally illogical
  • Christianity starts and ends in God's arms
http://thecity.org/message/jesus_is_grace
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Monday, October 14, 2013

Jesus the Jewish Rabbi

I wanted something light today and ended up listening to this really in-depth stuff by Ray Vander Laan...a lot of notes, but it's really good stuff. I really encourage listening to the sermon because the notes below will make a lot more sense.

http://www.followtherabbi.com/uploads/assets/audio/jesusthejewishrabbi.mp3

I'm a huge fan of Ray Vander Laan because he examines the culture of Jesus' day and applies it to our Christian walk. Everything should be taken in context, and when it comes to Jesus, we miss a lot if we don't understand the culture. There is a ton of information here that has taught me so much about what it really means to be a follower of Jesus.

I'm not going to write too much here since there are a lot of notes below. The first part has a lot of numbers and Hebrew words that I almost definitely misspelled, but there is some more practical stuff below. Of course I encourage listening to the whole sermon though, otherwise I wouldn't share it!

NOTES:

Haluk = inner garment, like an undershirt
Talit = outer garment, like a robe
Tzit-tzit = Jews wore these on the edge of the talit, tassels on the corners
Kanaf = corners of your cloak. Also same Hebrew word for "wing"
  • When Jesus said, "if someone asks for your cloak, give him your coat also." (Luke 6:29)
    • Essentially he's saying go naked if you have to
  • They do this because of  Deuteronomy 22:12
  •  Zechariah 8 - tzit-tzit have significance to Messiah
    • 10 men = as many as you need to hold a worship service
    • Also Malachi 4 - "Son of Righteousness will rise and he will have healing in his wing."
  • Each tassel has 8 strings, with 5 knots on them
    • 5 knots = 5 books of Moses - Messiah would follow these
    • 4 spaces between knots = 4 letters of God's holy name 
    • 8 strings + 5 knots = 13, which, if you add up the letters of Ehad (one), emphasizing that God is one
      • In Hebrew back then, words were numbers
      • If you add up the letters of tzit-tzit, it equals 600. 600 + 13 = 613, which is all the laws of Moses, which says the Messiah will keep all of the laws.
  • Woman in Mark 5:21-43
    • grabs his tassel (tzit tzit) because she believed he was the Messiah
    • Jesus heals her
  • Rabbis in Galilee
    • Jewish education in the 1st century
      • Home is center of learning
      • The heart of education is seeing his/ her family in action
      • Wisdom is not what you know, but what you do (to know is to experience)
      • Greek root word from which we derive school is translated "leisure time"
      • Levels of school
        • At age 4-12, first level of education was memorizing Torah & learning math and reading, etc.
        • At 13, if the child knows the books of Moses, he moves to step 2, expanding Torah study to how the prophets and rabbis interpret the Torah
        • At 15, if child was exceptional, he started studying with a rabbi, following him around -- this is when disciples were called. Studying to become what the rabbi is, not just know what he knows.
    • In Jesus' day, a rabbi was a teacher without credentials, who was recognized because of his wisdom or his training
    • There were 2 kinds of rabbis: 
      • Torah teachers/ Teachers of the Law: did not have disciples, could not invent new interpretations but could only teach what was already accepted
      •  Rabbis with smeha: was agreed upon by the community to have exceptional skills, was allowed to present new Torah interpretations, anointed by placing of hands by 3 elders (2 of which had smeha themselves). Could have disciples that followed him.
        • Teaching style = "You've heard it said ______, but I say to you ______."
    • Jesus taught as "one who had authority (which is the English translation of "smeha") and not as a Torah teacher."
      • They were amazed because he acted like a smeha rabbi, but they expected the other kind
    • A rabbi's "yolk" was their interpretation of the Torah, summarized in "the most important commandment."
      • Matthew 11:28-30 - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
      • He may have stolen some talimidim (disciples) when he said that
    • Talmidim (disciples)
      • The mission of a rabbi was to make as many disciples as he could (men who wanted to be like him)
      • Being a talmidim was a tremendous commitment - you left everything (jobs, families, wives & kids [with written permission])
      • A talmud would say, "I sit at rabbi _____'s feet."
        • Jesus is one of two rabbis recorded to have women who "sat at his feet" - Luke 10:39.
      • The rabbi was usually supported by the talmidim's families
      • Talmidim loved their rabbis like a father - they would die for the rabbi
    • Jesus is called rabbi by 6 different types of people
    • We are called to be a disciple-maker like our rabbi was
    • You cannot be a talmidim without making everything in life 2nd place
 I just read through Zechariah 8, and I will say one thing...God loves honesty. That's obvious, but in that passage, there are more than one verse where God says He wants truth and honesty for/from His people. For instance (verses 16-17):
These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.
 How much of that is happening today? Jesus supports it in John 8:44:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
 The enemy is the "father of lies." Conversely, how should we act (John 4:23)?
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
Be that kind of person. Be honest with God, even if you are scared to; and be honest with each other.


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Friday, October 11, 2013

In God We Trust

Here is the fourth and final sermon in the Elephant in the Room series by Chip Judd, at Seacoast Church.



My faith has felt a little dry lately, and I know it's because a lot of what I do (reading the bible, going to church, listening to sermons) is missing the heart involved in the act. As a friend told me, "God is most concerned with your heart." This sermon, though about money, speaks on that a lot. And I think getting back to heart of God starts with faith.

Hebrews 11:6 - "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."

My aunt is changing careers for the 4th or 5th time, and she said she received the direction for where to go by seeking God's face. This was an encouraging word as I feel like I am constantly in transition when it comes to direction in life, but to do this really requires trust that God's plan is something I will love.

We spoke this week in our community group about fears that God may call us to do something we don't want to do, or to be a monk or nun. I can totally relate to this, and have only lately realized that I don't think I totally trust God with my career and my life. I'm afraid that for me to give everything over to God, He may call me to go do something "lowly" when I have always wanted to do something "big." Take that for whatever you want, but even the idea of "big" has been a struggle lately...

So what does scripture say about this?

Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Psalm 37:4 - "Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Do I trust that? Does God actually "reward those who earnestly seek him?" Will He actually give me the "desires of my heart?" That feels selfish though -- am I just seeking God to have a good career? Or maybe, in seeking God, I find what I really wanted all along...Him.

Notes:
  • Generosity is something God wants for you, not from you
  • Matthew 15:21-28
    • Canaanite woman = not a friend of Israel
    • "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
      • Jesus came to Israel, and they rejected him -- this outsider calls him Lord & Messiah
      • Have mercy = don't do to me, and for me, what I deserve
      • She shows great faith - "he marveled at it"
        • Without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6)
  • Apart from faith, we have no power to please God
    • God decided this -- choosing faith as the key to connecting with, and pleasing Him
    • Genesis 15:6 - "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness."
    • Faith is the secret ingredient that turns dry, dead religion into an epic adventure
  • Faith is believing God is Who He said He is, and that He'll do what He said He'll do
    • Actively receiving and pursuing what God has promised
      • The woman didn't wait around - she went after it
  • There is faith that acknowledges the truth, accepts the truth, and goes after the truth
  • Hebrews 11:6 - "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."
    • Anyone who wants to connect with God has to believe two things:
      • That He is there
      • That He responds to what we do
  • God owns everything and He's very, very generous with it
    • Most of the time we think we don't deserve what God has to offer. 
      • We don't, but God is gracious
      • Jesus became what we are, so we can get what He deserves
  • God's desire to bless His people is all over scripture
    • God's preference is to bless
    • "I will bless you so that you can bless others" (OT quote?)
  • Is it God's will for you to have enough?
    • Enough = what comes in and goes out is the same
    • God's will is abundance
  • Rest in God's integrity and His love
    • Numbers 23:19 - "God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?"
    • 1 John 4:16
    • We have separated our self worth from our net worth
      • Only 10% of your enduring life happiness involves your life circumstances
      • External circumstances don't affect us as much as internal circumstances
  • 3 questions to center yourself
    • How do I see God? (distant, close, etc?)
    • How do I see myself? (lazy, an accident, etc?)
    • What do I believe I have to do to please God and get my needs met?
      • Religion is spelled "do"...real Christianity is spelled "done"
        • Rest in God's love
  • Faith is believing what God says and acting on it before you see it
  • Exercise faith for finances, and faithfulness with finances
  • 3 things with money:
    • Ownership
    • Obedience
      • Honor God with first-fruits of what you get
    • Faith

http://www.seacoast.org/resources/the-elephant-in-the-room/v316
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Monday, October 7, 2013

Freedom to Give

Here is the third sermon in the Elephant in the Room series, by Josh Surratt. It's pretty practical financial advice with biblical backing.

I know a lot of people who exist in a state of debt, particularly when it comes to cars. Finance a car, pay it off, finance another one to replace the older car, pay that off...do it again. It's a cycle of constant debt; it's the American way.

There are some pretty gnarly statistics here about debt in the US. I fall into it as well -- buying what I want with money I don't have. Why do we do that? Is it a lack of patience? Is it the desire to keep up with our neighbors?

I understand things like house loans and student loans -- large amounts we could probably never get around. Or could we? I have a friend who was saving up to buy a house with cash, and at the time I chided him for it. "No one does that," I said, probably with a hint of jealousy in my voice.

It's true, no one does that anymore. But as Christians, aren't we called to live life differently? Maybe this is part of it.

At the end of the sermon, Josh says that this obsession with debt is a heart issue. I agree, and would encourage those of us in debt to examine how we got there and figure out ways to change it. Are we serving money, or is money serving us as we serve God?


Notes:
  • Proverbs 22:7 - "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender."
    • We are slaves to our financial situations: cars, houses, student loans, etc.
      • Statistically, the average American owes 4 times more than he/she makes in a year
    • Debt is the normal way of life
      • But we are called to live differently
  • Temptations of Christ-followers when it comes to money
    • We are tempted to serve money
      • Matthew 6:24 - "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
      • Buying things we don't need with money we don't have is serving money
      • If you've held onto money out of security, you're probably serving money
    • We are tempted to love money
      • 1 Timothy 6:10 - "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
        • Money is not evil, it's neutral -- the love of money is when it gets bad
      • It's not about how much you have, but how you hold what you do have, and think about what you don't have.
      •  Your attitude without money won't change when you have more money
        • Statistically, the more you have, the less you give percentage-wise
        • Luke 16:10 - "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
      • Ecclesiastes 5:10 - "Whoever loves money never has enough;
            whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
            This too is meaningless."
        • In the US, it's usually not an income issue, but a lifestyle issue
  • We don't serve money, we serve God
    • Money serves us, as we serve God
      • Money buys us time
      • Money buys us options
        • With options, we can give more spontaneously
  • 3 Steps to financial freedom
    • Stop the bleeding
      • Self-control
    • Act your wage
      • If you don't have the money to buy something you want, you're not allowed to buy it
      • You can't keep up with your parents, who worked 20 years to get where they are at (for a youngster)
      • Sacrifice is the keyword
    • Get a plan and work it
      • You can wander into debt, but not out of it
      • Proverbs 27:23-24, 21:5
      • Discipline is the keyword
      • Budget = telling money what to do, making money serve us
  • It starts with repentence
    • It's a heart issue
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Benfits of Generosity

Here's a sermon by Greg Surratt, second in the Elephant in the Room series. This guy is a great speaker and pretty much always has applicable and engaging things to say.

Giving has always been a discipline for me - 10% of what I make, before taxes (first fruits). Someone told me to do it this way in high school, and so I did. I think this is great, but then I got married, and giving became a conversation rather than my own decision. I married an incredibly generous woman, and so when I came into giving with my disciplined approach, she asked where my heart was. It was something I haven't thought much about, but since then, it has become a major theme in my life.

2 Corinthians 9:7 - "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

Jesus was always concerned about the heart of His listeners, and so that should always be our focus for everything, but especially when it comes to money, which really exposes the state of men's hearts.

Luke 6:43-45 - “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."



Some notes:
  • Trusting God with money can create peace in a place where it shouldn't be peaceful (financial hardships, etc.)
  • Generosity/ giving is the most talked about value in the bible (more than faith, hope & love)
    • Giving is the expression of these three values
  • Seven benefits of generosity:
    • Generosity makes me more like God
      • "God so loved that he gave..."
      • You can give without loving, but you can't love without giving.
      • "Who are we that we could give you anything. It's all yours" - King David to God (that's a paraphrase, but I can't find the exact verse)
        • Anything I have has been given by God
    • Generosity draws me closer to God
      • Matthew 6:21 - "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
      • Hearts follow treasure. 
        • How do you get a heart for God? Where is your treasure?
    • Generosity breaks selfishness in my life
      • The more you have to live for, the less you need to live on.
      • Giving is counter-cultural
      • 1 Timothy 6:17-19 - "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
    • Generosity strengthens my faith
      • 2 Corinthians 9:12 - Giving proves the reality of your faith.
      • Giving out of guilt or pressure won't sustain
      • Some people trust God with their eternal destiny, but not their money
    • Generosity is an investment for eternity
      • How? - 1 Timothy 6:19 - "...it's the only safe investment for eternity..."
    • Generosity blesses me in return
    • Generosity makes me happy
http://www.seacoast.org/resources/the-elephant-in-the-room/v314
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Monday, September 30, 2013

Generosity is a Response

 I love Seacoast church, and the more I've gone there and followed them, the more good things I see. I came across this sermon series about money, The Elephant in the Room. Here's the first sermon in the series by Josh Walters. This one didn't really blow me away, but the rest of the series picks up:


If you get the chance, read those verses on the Zacchaeus link and the Rich Guy links below (they're short). Ray Vander Laan has a really great sermon on Zacchaeus that is somewhere here. Unfortunately, I don't know which one (so you'll have to listen to all of them!), but if you scan my old posts you may find it, should you have the time.

I highlighted a statement below: "when Jesus is Lord, God is your provider." If you really take hold of that, imagine the ramifications...no matter what happens in your life, you'll be okay because God is taking care of you. Jesus tells us this in Matthew 6:25-34. In 1 Kings, the first lesson God teaches Elijah is that He will provide. When that provision goes away, God sends him somewhere else to provide for him, as well as for the family through which he had allocated that provision!

God is a provider. It takes faith and a lot of trust to give your financial life over to God (which is funny, because we so easily trust Him with those parts of life that are eternal), but as we get deeper into following Jesus and knowing God, I think that this is one of the big lessons we have to learn. After all, if God can't provide for our material means, then how can we expect Him to show up in bigger ways, like miracles and changing lives?

It makes sense that this is the first lesson God teaches Elijah before his ministry really kicks in, because otherwise, he may have not had the faith to become such an amazing conduit for God's acts on earth. I doubt that our lives/ ministries are any different.

Notes from the sermon:
  • God is a giver, not a taker
  • Generosity is something God wants for me, not from me
    • When we cling to money as our god, we ultimate rob ourselves of life
  •  2 stories: Zacchaeus, a tax collector, and a rich guy who asked Jesus how to get eternal life and Jesus told him to sell everythinghe had:
    • Two responses
    • Two outcomes = two stories
    • Generosity is a response
      • It exposes the posture of my heart
        •  The rich guy wanted to know the minimum he could do to get life
        • Our readiness or refusal to respond in generosity reveals the condition of our hearts
      • It reveals the size of my God
        •  One asks Jesus to speak into his life, the other gives his life to Jesus
      • It changes the outcome of my story
    • Jesus loved both men
      • Both are invited to relationship
  • When Jesus is Lord, God is your provider
    • Makes it easier to be generous
  • Generosity produces life in us

http://www.seacoast.org/resources/the-elephant-in-the-room

*Some of the stuff I wrote above is derived from a Jamie Winship sermon, which I also cannot locate, but if you scan previous posts, you'll find it.
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Moving In - Deleted

I was working on some notes for the Moving In sermon by Joseph Barkley, and accidentally deleted all of it...oh well, you can listen here:

http://www.churchinhollywood.com/media.php?pageID=15

It's based on Deuteronomy 6:4-12:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
I recently picked up Relient K's Forget and Not Slow Down.


I really like some of the songs on here, and for some reason was really excited about the prospect of telling people this is my favorite Relient K album. I don't like all of the songs though, and so I don't think I could say that with any honesty, much to my dismay. I'm not sure why, but there was this great desire in me to have one thing to hold on to that I could summarize as my favorite Relient K experience. As if I planned on going around all day telling people, "if you want to experience Relient K, this album is enough."

Why are we like that (or is it just me)? Why do we just want "one thing?"

In this sermon, Joseph talks about how we tend to make things our God, praying to God for that next job, spouse, house, healing, etc. We essentially use God to get those things, which is probably what our real god is. Those may be our "one thing."

Read the verse above though -- doesn't that essentially say what Jesus did in Matthew 6:33? - "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." God said love me and I will bring you into the promised land. If we make God our "one thing," we will be taken care of and get the desires of our hearts.

Joseph said in this sermon that loving God with everything doesn't mean that nothing else gets loved, but just that nothing else gets loved the same way God does. That's a good way to put it, and takes away some of the fear in loving God with all your heart, soul and mind...giving Him your all.

As I re-read this, I feel like I'm trying to connect incohesive thoughts, so please forgive me if this doesn't make sense. You should probably just listen to the sermon and take what you want from it.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Technology will be the death of us...

 NOTE: This is an old post, but I have some free time, so I'm catching up.

My cell phone split in half this weekend...





This is the best phone I ever had. It was simple, durable (this isn't the phone that split in half) and had an excellent reggae version of Silent Night as my ringtone. The only downside to this phone was that it didn't have a camera, but that's what cameras are for I guess.

So as I look for a new phone, I find myself wishing I could go back to the simpler days of my little LG pictured above. But these days every phone is "smart," and we are being pushed into buying these smart phones and their expensive data plans. After a year of using my sister's old phone (she's always a step ahead of me with this stuff), I ended up with a Samsung Stratosphere II, and it was actually cheaper to buy a smart phone with all its data than to keep up my old fashioned ways.

I often find myself in this predicament -- how much do I let technology permeate my life? How much of this is useful and how much of it is detrimental? I like being able to look at Google Maps when I get lost in Inglewood or something like that; but I also hate talking to someone whose eyes are glued to his or her phone.

A wise friend who was a teacher told me that he asked his class if they thought the invention of writing was a good thing. Unanimously they agreed. He also agreed, but pointed out that, with the widespread availability of written materials, oral tradition slowly faded away. Now history is no longer passed down through the stories of our fathers, but by teachers and history books. With every advancement in technology, something is inevitably lost. Two steps forward, one step back…

So what have we lost with the internet and smart phones? I’d say the biggest things are social interaction and our memories.

I once was standing behind a group of people that were obviously friends, but in this group of five everyone was on their phones instead of talking to each other. I looked at the phone screen of the guy in front of me, and he wasn’t even looking at anything! Just flicking around between screens on his phone. I wanted to tell them, “Talk to each other! You have four other people right next to you!” But I didn’t. Cell phones fill awkward silence, but as a good friend once told me, “Awkward moments are what makes life interesting.”

Furthermore, we don’t have to stop and ask for directions anymore. We don’t have to buy things at stores anymore. We don’t even have to talk to our friends to keep up on each others lives. The internet and smart phones have replaced all of this.

As for memory – everything is reference based. I once asked a guy who his favorite bands were. He thought for a moment, and then whipped out his phone to see what he had been listening to. His memory of his favorite music was tied to his phone! I kind of freaked him out when I told him to put away his phone and tell me who he liked without it. Maybe I was a bit harsh…

And maybe I’m being a bit harsh now. Is my anti-technology stance distancing me from relating to people? Will I be left behind in the dust of phone books and brick-and-mortar stores as the rest of the world embraces iPads and their digital identities?

This is the great conflict of my life. A slow-moving, old-fashioned guy from the South surrounded by the latest-and-greatest in the entertainment capital of the world. Should I embrace the digital age or hold fast to a simpler life?
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Age and Expectations - Part 2

 As the title suggests, here is the rest of my thoughts on Age and Expectations, established in a prior post and initiated by viewing this video:



So, back to the original point about the video: should we be concerned about where we are in life compared to others? Romans 12:2 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." I wrote a blog post about that verse earlier. God made us to do something. Society didn't make us to do anything, but expects something from us. So who do we please - people or God?

Something about all of this doesn't sit well with me though. Maybe it's important to gauge our life's progress by others - isn't that a standard of maturity? If all my friends have awesome jobs and houses and families, and I'm still living with my parents and delivering pizzas, is that okay? Who's to say...but that hypothetical me is probably not going to get many dates.

I once heard a middle-aged woman who worked in ministry talking about how all her friends had retirement funds and bolstered savings accounts. She then said that her and her husband had measly amounts of both, mostly because they had chosen a different path in life that was less lucrative financially, but more centered on ministry. She asked her husband, "Should we be worried about the fact that we don't have those things?" Ultimately, they landed on "no."

I mention these verses often - Matthew 6:19-34, where, in it, Jesus says:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Later, He continues:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

I've been finding recently that there is a difference between the way Jesus does things, and the way Christian culture does things. The latter is some hybrid of the American Dream mixed with Western Christianity. I often find myself between the two fronts - on one side hearing that God will provide no matter what, so don't spend your time dwelling on where you are going to get money, but invest in the Kingdom of God. The other side says to be a good steward of your money and work hard to provide for your family.

I think the problem is that both are good, and you can invest in people and God's kingdom in both circumstances. And maybe there are degrees of both that should be adopted - I would never say that it is okay to not provide for your family if you are perfectly able to do it. As a good friend once told me, sometimes choices aren't between good and bad, but better and best.

So if you made it this far (I commend you), you can probably see that all of this is a work in progress, with a lot of unanswered questions. But hopefully it has you thinking...
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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Age and Expectations - Part 1

This is a really powerful video:



It really shows the consciousness of our society and what we're most concerned about: being normal, particularly when it comes to milestones we "should have" hit by our age (or with those we may have hit prematurely when it comes to "10-17 and pregnant").

Our society really associates age with milestones, and that's understandable. I often think to my parents who, by my age, had a house and two kids. My dad still works for the same company he did when he was my age and had way more responsibility than I have now. I often compare myself to him and wonder why things are different...

To be fair it was the late-80's/ early-90's and things were much better economically, and the culture varied socially. Plus, Home Improvement was on television, which makes everything better. But you can't help but make those comparisons and tests that, by such-and-such age I need to have experienced such-and-such. And according to this video, the two biggest expectations are relationships/sexuality and career.

I used to feel the same way, as a kid who often struck-out with the ladies in high school. I didn't kiss a girl until I was in college, which I was mortified to admit to anyone prior to it happening. That was weird and I didn't want to be weird - ultimately, it's about being "normal."

I recently read that, in order to change the culture of an organization, you have to make your ideal culture the social norm, so that if people deviate from it, they will be looked down upon by their peers. "The inner conformist is stronger than the inner activist," the article reads. It's not about being a good person, but about being cool. Man, that's so powerful...as a whole, humans just want to fit in more than anything.

Normal is changing though, isn't it? I think my generation is comfortable with a new normal (as the show suggests), but I think that this emerging culture is nothing but a general acceptance that "we aren't where we used to be, and that's okay." Is it? Probably, but there are consequences.

I'm still finding my way career-wise, which may mean I end up doing something more enjoyable than the previous generation, but may not be able to retire when my parents do. I got married later in life, which means kids come later - a trend I see more and more. Kids coming later is more dangerous when it comes to miscarriages and the such, but not always. Again, we may have to work longer in life to support those kids, but if I enjoy my job, that's not so bad, right?

The things that scare me about it are that culture seems to be more selfish. It's a very "me-centric" society we live in, where life is generally about what we can get out of it. What can this relationship do for me? What can my company offer me? How does my church feed me? That's a dangerous road to go down because most people would say those aren't bad things. Self-preservation is the first law of nature, right? But that's not what Jesus says:
  • "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).
  • "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it" (Luke 9:24).
  • "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it" (Luke 17:33).
  • "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:39).
  • "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it" (Matthew 16:25).
  • "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:35).
  • "The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).
(Those quotes are pulled from here.)

This is getting pretty long, so I'm going to make it a two-parter. To be continued...


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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trusting Why God Moves

Here is "Trusting Why God Moves" by Joseph Barkley. It's been a while since I've done one of these Ecclesia sermons, so this one is a bit old. You'll find it a few rows down here:

http://churchinhollywood.com/media.php?pageID=15

This sermon is based off of Exodus 14:31 - 15:18. It is a song that the nation sings after God has drowned their enemies in the Red Sea. Go ahead and read that or the notes won't make much sense.

I love what Joseph says here about the glory of God, and what that means. He says that everyone is hard-wired to have a main-thing in life, and I agree. It seems that we are predisposed towards following or worshiping something in life, no matter what. For me growing up (and maybe now  too) it was bands and skateboarding. My sister obsessed over N' Sync and Harry Potter (teenage girls are really good at obsessing over things). My dad loves cars and motorsports. It's just a tendency in our lives to associate ourselves with something we identify with or feel passionate about.

For many, those things come and go; replaced by new fads or more adult ventures. It's not always destructive to associate yourselves with these things in life, but I think everyone would agree that the total significance of skateboarding, Five Iron Frenzy or Ford Mustangs isn't much in the grand scheme of life. Further more, it all dies with us.

Joseph says here that the most destructive thing a human can do is count on an inadequate god. I don't think I would ever admit that skateboarding was my god, but I sure devoted A LOT of time to it (and still do). Most people probably wouldn't admit that money is their god, or career or family or gardening...but maybe it is? I've seen people with "Music is my Religion" stickers. I love music and attach a great deal of significance to its power to evoke emotion or describe a situation (after all, the bible verse for this sermon is a song). But is music an adequate god?

http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdyqbqGJLG1r33fiwo1_500.jpg

If God really is who He says He is, and can defeat sin and death; and if there is no one like God, then nothing else deserves the seat of authority in our lives. That's a paraphrase from this sermon, but it's true, right? If the God of the bible is who He says He is, then putting our faith in our 401k, Jimi Hendrix or my ability to kickflip is futile. It's okay to enjoy those things, especially in light of God ("Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - James 1:17), but pay attention to who or what carries the most weight in your life, or your path may be a rocky one.
  • The ultimate goal of the movement of God is the glory of God
    • "And God said, 'I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.'” - Exodus 3:12
  •  They sing a song as a nation after they escaped the Egyptians
    • They saw their worst fears lying dead on the shore in broad daylight
    • Movement 1: God has done great things
      • It was no big deal for God (blowing the sea with just the breath of your nostrils)
    • Movement 2: You will do great things
      • There are enemies still to be faced (Moab, Canaan, Edom, Philistia)
    • All of this leads the Israelites to believe that God is unstoppable
      • What fear has become your god?
        • Our God is bigger and can't be stopped
  • Glory is the totality of who someone is, and why that matters
    • Glory means weight, density, heft, significance, influence, importance
      • It forces things out of the way
    • We all have a measure of glory
  • This is a song about God's significance
    • God's name (Yahweh) shows up often
    • God BECOMES our strength and our salvation
    • "Who among the gods is like you, Lord?" - Exodus 15:11
  • Why is it important that God tells the world who He is?
    • Whether we like it or not, we are hard wired to follow a main thing.
    • Something or someone is of ultimate glory, weight, significance in our lives.
      • Who do you serve?
      • The most destructive thing that a human can count on is an inadequate god
    • If God really is who He says He is, and can defeat sin and death; and if there is no one like God, then nothing else deserves the seat of authority in our lives
      • If God is at this place in our lives, he reorients everything else in our lives.
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