1 John, 2 John, 3 John.
The Gifts of the Spirit are without a doubt the absolute most divisive subject WITHIN THE CHURCH over the last 100 or so years.
Nothing has been more divisive, because it has an enormous target on its back. When the Church is functioning in these gifts in the proper order and with love as the centerpiece, as Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14, it becomes an unstoppable force for change in our world.
But its something that we absolutely have to do everything that we possibly can to get right, so that our gifts truly would point people to Jesus, and not push them away from Him.
Frank Macchia "Groans Too Deep for Words"
Galatians 6:9 is the verse of the year for 2018 - "Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" - and with where we find ourselves as a church in this season, I don't think that there is a better verse in the entire Bible for us.
May this verse carry our church as we work to close the gaps that are still open, finish the projects that we have started, and move forward on the dreams that God has given us for our community!
Enjoy this three part series!
if you have no gauge on what is important, then you have no way to measure whether or not you are on the right track.
That is what Core Values do…
they keep us disciplined… they keep us on mission… they give us something the bounce whatever it is we are doing, off of, and see… IS THIS FURTHERING THE MISSION OF MY LIFE?
I know for us, in this city, as transient as it is, and just because of the heart of the city… it can sometimes be difficult to determine “God… are we on the right path?” but this gives us a clear guide…
So we ask questions like:
are we living and growing more and more generous? Are we working together more than we used to? Are we getting more courageous with every new step we take?or are we getting more timid and less bold with each step we take? are we holding closer to our wallets because we feel like things are too tight for us to help anyone else…
Are we living our lives outside of ourselves? Are we reading the word of God more, praying more, and growing in our worship and adoration for Jesus? Or have those things become afterthoughts to our busy lives?
Unless you build the foundation of your life on PURPOSE, you very well may find yourself working and working and working but never feeling like you have gotten anywhere.
Character means that We live publicly like we do in private. We write the Word of God on our hearts, practice generosity, and prioritize integrity.
Commission means that we are a sending church. We honor the past, while we work for the future. And we always believe that everyone’s brightest days are ahead of them.
connection is living a life of constant community with God.
He is our supplier, who is as close to us as the air that we breathe.
conversation means that we bind and we loose together, we learn together, we serve together, and we grow together.
We welcome each other’s perspectives, and we depend on each other’s accountability.
collaboration is all of us working together to create something better than any of us could create on our own.
Contribution understands that everybody has a role, and there is room for us here. We know that the gifts we are given matter to the body of Christ, and we so seek to discover where we each fit.
We honor the contributions of others, knowing that God perfectly crafted each one of us, and only together are we truly the church.
Compassion sees the world through the eyes of others, and it is stirred to action by what it sees. It can not sit by while injustice is done around it.
communion is a common union of broken people, who are made whole by the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We are united by our differences, and there is a seat for everyone at the table.
Courage goes to the places that nobody else wants to go, and works to create places that everybody wants to be. Courage loves the one who nobody else wants to love…
if you have no gauge on what is important, then you have no way to measure whether or not you are on the right track. That is what Core Values do… they keep us disciplined… they keep us on mission… they give us something the bounce whatever it is we are doing, off of, and see… IS THIS FURTHERING THE MISSION?
In putting together this Core Values series, and shaping a lot of the direction for where we see our church going, the following books were either directly used and were mentioned or quoted during the series.
In putting together this Core Values series, and shaping a lot of the direction for where we see our church going, the following books were instrumental in the shaping of the values.
A series based on the book of Ephesians.
This 14 week series was given between April 23, 2017 and July 23, 2017
we have an identity problem in our world.
and we have it in our churches.
and so often, when someone comes into this place, or wants to talk to a Christian and confess their “sins” to them, or whatever… what we tend to do is immediately focus on that thing… that “sin” and we try and work people through behavior modification thinking that “if they can just change the way that they ACT, then their lives will change…”
but the root of so many problems can not be weeded out by changing your behavior… because who you are is always there, whether you mask it or not. The real issue is people don’t know who they are!
Even Christians! They don’t know who they are… they don’t know what they are worth!
Its an identity issue.
We find our worth in the things that we tangibly accomplish or don’t accomplish on this earth. Take me for example… and today I can share this as a “testimony” but many of you have heard me say it as I was walking through it as well… We wanted to get that house.
and I was riding high when we raised the money… I was feeling like the king of the world, like “we are going to DO SOMETHING!”
but then when deal after deal fell through, seriously, I got so down on myself that I was a little depressed. I felt like a liar… I questioned the vision that God gave us… and I felt a bit like a worthless pastor at times…
now that we have it, I think because of that, I can honestly say that God is working, and having the house or NOT having the house does not define who I am…
When I sin… when I screw up… I feel worthless. I feel incompetent to be a pastor at this church… not always… but sometimes… because what I am doing is, I am putting my worth in what I DO. and when things seem like they are not working… I do the same thing… I let myself take the blame…
But what Ephesians says, is that my identity is not found in houses, churches, messages, music, art, and even Godly behavior. It is found in Jesus.
and no book of the bible is more clear about this, than Ephesians.
A few weeks ago, our blessed city went to the ungodly temperature of -3 degrees out.
It was bitter. Absolutely awful.
Our current bedroom is one of the rooms in our house that we have NOT renovated yet, and so it is not insulated and we don’t
have a very good heating system set up in that room yet, so it got down to about 45 degrees at night during
that week inside the room, which was really really cold....
I woke up that morning, just freezing, and went fill my hario water kettle with water so I could make a cup of coffee and begin to warm myself up, and I turned on the cold water in the kitchen, and nothing came out.
I waited. and waited. and nothing.
I turned on the hot water, and I could tell it was struggling but that water did come on... so it was not hard to diagnose that the cold water line to the kitchen has frozen.
Nothing was coming out.
So I text Ben Allen and asked him for some advice... and he gave me several wise words... obviously, the hope... the goal in that moment, is to figure out how to get the pipe to thaw before the water expands and the pipe bursts.
He asked some questions about the way that we had the pipes insulated, and their location in our crawl space under the house...
He explained that the way you prevent the pipes from freezing, beyond taking the proper steps to insulate and protect them, is you have water running through them. Running water prevents freezing. But obviously, at that point, the water was already frozen inside, we had to warm the pipe up.
The first idea was, get a space heater and just blow hot air on it until it thaws, and then make sure to insulate it properly.
But when we went outside to go down there, we realized that we had, in the summer, taken the little door off of the crawl space to get into it, and we never put anything back in its place. So the absolutely frigid cold air was under there... NOTHING stopped the outside air from coming in, the pipe was as good as OUTSIDE... in -3 degrees...
of course it would freeze. So Jake helped me make a new door and we put this huge piece of insulation on the door, and we closed off the crawl space. Then we got a little heater for Dawn and I’s room that was 45 degrees before then, and we heated that back up to about 68...
so now the whole house was a good temperature, the floors weren’t as cold because the crawl space was finally closed off, and we were able to sleep without being miserably cold, and we woke up the next morning, and went to turn on the cold water, and it kind of gave this weird sound like it was working hard but was clogged or something, then all the sudden the facet spit out this wonderful brown colored water for about 10 seconds, and then the water cleared up, and it works just fine now.
Nothing had burst! We were so grateful.
But in that particular circumstance, we never even went fully down into the crawl space and blew hot air on the pipe. All we did was adjusted the atmosphere around the pipe. We changed a few small things, and in doing so we fixed a problem that could have been much worse.
and life is like that.
Sometimes there are areas in our lives, that we just need to change, if we are going to be who we are supposed to be. There are certain places in life that you will not be able to go if you aren’t willing to make the necessary adjustments to get there.
and please, hear my heart on this, because you know me... I believe with all of my heart that God can use anyone. He can use anyone to do anything. He spoke through a donkey in Numbers 22 (verse 30)
In the Genealogy of Jesus listed in Matthew chapter 1, we find out that God used one of the most screwed up family lines in history to be the ones who usher in the Christ.
In that family line include Judah and Tamar, which is one of the most screwed up stories you will find anywhere both about gross sexual sin, manipulation, and the thing that the bible describes as the worst thing in their story... utter injustice, as Judah refused to do his required duty of taking care of Tamar, who was the widow to his sons.
In that Genealogy is Rahab, who we know was a prostitute.
One of the most peculiar lines in Matthew chapter 1 talks about King David, it says that David was the Father of Solomon, by the wife of Uriah. So Matthew even goes out of his way to focus on how screwed up that situation is, by not even naming Bathsheba but instead focusing on the fact that through something sinful... through David sleeping with someone else’s wife... continued the family line of Jesus.
Abraham was a liar and a coward. Isaac was a liar and a coward who followed in His Father’s footsteps, did not learn from the mistakes of his father, but instead made the same mistakes.
On and on it goes... and on and on God continued to use those people to play a role in the greatest story that will ever be told for all of human history.
God can use anybody. No matter where you find yourself today. God will meet you there... right where you are. And he can use you to do something great, even as you are right now, even when maybe you even think... “I am not as I should be.”
I believe that the gospel of grace is the most powerful, life changing gift on the planet. But I also know that as a church, and as people who want to see God move radically in this place... we can’t just stay the same after grace gets ahold of us.
Ultimately something has to happen in you, if your life is ever going to move beyond this place where you always feel like God is fixing you and reconciling you and bringing you back all the time... to a place where you can just stand in health and say God, I am not perfect, I never will be... BUT I AM NOT GOING BACK TO WHAT I USED TO BE.
God will use anyone who is wiling to be used, and He can even use bad situations to lead to things that fulfill his purpose, like he did with King David. He did a series of bad things, that in many ways got progressively worse, and in the end Uriah, Bathsheba’s first husband was killed at David’s hand, and Bathsheba ended up losing the baby that was birthed out of that affair...
and God still used that relationship to later birth Solomon, who would carry on the family line that Jesus would eventually be born into.
And God continued to use David in amazing ways for his purposes.
but there had to come a time when something changed in David, that actually took shape in his heart and took form in the way that he lived his life, so that he could actually be used by God every day... through everything that He did... not just the things that God had to save him from and redeem him for the mistakes that he made.
There had to come a time in David’s life when he uttered these words:
“Create in me a CLEAN HEART, oh God, and renew a steadfast Spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
and he was later known as what?
A man after God’s own heart, who did all that he was commanded to do.
Something changed in him.. he was a flawed man who became so in tune with what God wanted him to do, that he did it all.
we have to change if we are going to be the change.
And there are things in our lives that just cause us to stay the same, year after year, time after time.
For some people it is obvious sins that we keep coming back to.
But for others it is subtle sins that we keep coming back to... and sometimes it is things that, in and of themselves aren’t even sinful, and yet we give them such a hold over our lives that they derail what God is trying to do in us and it becomes sinful.
So for this series, we are going to cover some of those areas.
These are not the only things... but these are some of the things that really work against people and really stop people from being who they are supposed to be and doing what they are supposed to do in life.
A bit of background…
Jonah was a racist.
That is clear as day. The guy hated the Ninevites.
Just about everyone from Israel hated the Ninevites. Which, by the way, when I was writing this, my computer kept auto correcting “Ninevites” to “nineties” - so it almost accidentally said “everyone from Israel hated the nineties.” -
How could anyone hate the 90’s?
Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. In what we today know as Iraq. And this was during a time in history, when the Assyrians were constantly attacking Israel. The book of Isaiah, Chronicles, and 2 Kings (15 & 18) records multiple accounts of the Assyrians coming in, attacking, taking over, deporting people, taking what they want from whoever they wanted. So for this prophet from Israel, writing this story to other Israelites… the readers would have instantly agreed with Jonah “of course you should go the other direction. Those people are evil. We are at war with them. They have destroyed us, and walked over us and we don't WANT anything good to happen to them!”
Has that ever happened to you?
Has anybody ever hurt you so bad, that as far as you are concerned, you don’t even want them to change. You just want them to pay.
to be punished?
God was literally telling Jonah to go into the heart of the city of his biggest enemies.
So God called Jonah to Nineveh. and instead, Jonah gets on a boat, heading toward Tarshish.
Now… Nothing about this was an accident. As you will read in the extreme amount of details that we get in the first three verses of the book… Jonah started off in Joppa. So again, Jonah was from Israel. God calls him to this great city, Nineveh. A city Northeast of Joppa about 500 miles. A city that he did not need to get on a boat to get to. and instead, he goes to the port, and he jumps on a ship, heading for the place that is the farthest in the other direction that he could possibly go.
2000 miles away at the bottom part of what we now know to be Spain. It was a paradise. It would be like God calling me to Detroit, and instead I go to Maui. I have been there… and trust me, I wondered… God, are you sure you aren’t call me here? Jonah knew, God was calling him to the city. Instead of going where he was called, he set sail not only to the place that was the farthest possible place he knew of from Nineveh, but it also was a place where he could be lazy and passive and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation rather than be active in reconciling God’s GREATEST creation, people, back to God.
a verse-by-verse look at the sermon on the mount.
(the beatitudes were looked at individually in a separate series, included at the bottom of the page.)
This sermon series began on April 10, 2016 and concluded on August 21, 2016.
I saw something recently on Facebook, that a friend of mine posted, and it made me wonder, “does my life look like Jesus? Am I shining the light of Jesus everywhere I go? And made me seek Jesus’ face in prayer because man, I want to raise my family in a way that ushers in the Kingdom of heaven. I want my home to be a haven for my children as much as anyone else who enters it… that they look to our family and they see Jesus. I want to be an example like so many others have set for me.
There is a family I grew up with. A great family. Several members of this family are very close friends of Dawn and I. In the first two days that we were gone on our vacation, their grandmother passed away. She lived in Lansing so all of their family who live all over the country now, from Wisconsin to Philadelphia, all regrouped here in Michigan… for a funeral. and one of them posted a picture of her grandfather… the man who had just lost his wife, and he is sitting around a table surrounded by all of his children. And he is kind of smiling in this picture, and moving his arms in a way that it is obvious he is teaching his adult children, even in that moment. And all of their heads are facing him and their eyes are locked on him.
and I couldn’t help but wonder as I starred at this picture… “What is he teaching them in that moment?” that would cause them to look with such anticipation for what he was sharing, in the midst of such a brokenness and void that they all had to of been feeling…
and then I wondered, how did he and his wife manage to raise that many kids up in such a way that they still hung on every word that he says?
When everything about our world is despair and pain and disappointment how did this family turn out ok?
How is it that some people can rejoice even when they mourn?
How is it that in the middle of loss, people can come together and somehow, in some amazing way, they can do something collectively that just feels like Jesus. Thats just this beautiful reflection of what he is like.
Like he is there. and everything that is supposed to be wrong, is going to turn out ok.
its almost as if they have learned a secret. and I am not sure if I have learned it myself yet or not, but if I had to guess as to what it is, it would be this.
That Jesus lives in the broken places of our hearts.
That he came to call the sinner… the broken one.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor… but those who are sick.”
But what if the secret is just realizing, “We are all sick.”
Some of us just don’t know it yet.
The sermon on the mount is the most famous sermon ever given, by the greatest teacher who ever lived (who also happens to be God)
It is an amazing announcement of a new Kingdom that is invading our current reality, and it is TOTALLY UPSIDE DOWN. It handles with amazing clarity some of the deepest and hardest situations we could possibly face in life, and is full of more hope than you could possibly imagine.
During our series "Red Letter City" we gave a single message about the Beatitudes, and then during our midweek EQUIP Bible Study on Thursday evenings we went through in detail each Beatitude individually. Those teachings (below) were not filmed, so you can listen to the sermon and follow along with the slides on the video.
During this in-depth study, we pulled from dozens of resources and commentaries and teachings...
countless hours of prayer, research, conversations and wrestling with the text has lead us to draw the map out the series the way that we did. Below are some of the books that have been extremely helpful in preparing it.