The Investigators: Learning to see what the Spirit is doing

This summer we’re going to be sharpening our discernment muscles. We’ve felt a specific nudge to lean into discernment and so we’ve developed a fun and exciting plan for our Sunday Gatherings this summer called, “The Investigators: learning to see what the Spirit is doing”. We are going to be bringing kids church downstairs for the summer because this is something that we can all benefit from, no matter our age. Not only will this make our gatherings more family friendly, it will be an opportunity to learn and experience together across all ages.

Rooted in the John 5:19 scripture in which Jesus says he only does what he sees the Father doing, we’re going to be like detectives on a search to see what the Spirit is up to amongst us. On Sundays we’ll be looking at various Jesus stories – you know, the kind of stories in which Jesus did something dramatic, impactful or loving. Each Sunday we’ll be asking:

  1. What did Jesus see his Father doing in this story?
  2. What do we see Jesus doing in this story?
  3. What is the Spirit inviting me to do?

Each week we’re going to make space to hear how we answered the Spirit’s invitation to us over the past week and we’ll hear a short teaching about the story we’re exploring. There will be object lessons, group activities and options to engage in group discussion around tables. It will be a great summer to bring the whole family.

Let’s get good at seeing what the Spirit is up to together!

 

 

 

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

 

What if Jesus was Serious?

What would happen

if we actually lived as if Jesus was serious in his famous Sermon on the Mount? How would our lives change if we actually lived out Jesus’ teachings in those three chapters in Matthew? What kind of impact would the church have if we learned to “go the extra mile”, or “turn the other cheek”, or practice “enemy love” (Matt 5:39, 41, 44)?

The English poet G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) famously said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” Many approach the Sermon on the Mount this way.  They understand it to be a list of ideals that that are impossible to attain. They think the incredibly high standards only serve to remind us how much we suck and need help – a way of God rubbing our noses in the fact that we really don’t measure up.

While we do need grace (lots of it these days!), my hunch is that Jesus was actually serious (besides the hyperbole and humour he clearly used) about his teaching. He intended for his followers to actually give it a go. The crowds who had gathered to listen to him seem to agree. Matthew records that they were amazed because Jesus taught with real authority – quite unlike the religious teachers among them (Matt 7:28-29). Jesus was articulating truth about the Kingdom of Heaven and our role in it as we follow and obey him.

So, what would happen if we took Jesus’ teaching seriously? My guess is that we would have remarkably different lives, we would be a remarkably different church, and we would have a remarkable impact on our neighbourhood(s). My suspicion is that this is exactly what our world needs right now – Jesus followers who actually take Jesus at his word.

This is exactly what our world needs right now.

Over the next year we’re going on a deep dive to discover just what life in the Kingdom of God looks like as Jesus laid out in the Sermon on the Mount. We’re going to gather with the crowds to hear Jesus teach. We’re going to pay special attention to the areas the Holy Spirit is nudging us. We’re going to follow Jesus more closely in our life together as we follow the Spirit’s lead. There will be good stories to tell as a result.

Are you ready?!

 

Getting Ready:

We’ve divided the Sermon on the Mount into four parts (using Charles E Moore’s categories in “Following the Call: Living the Sermon on the Mount Together“):

Part 1 – Kingdom Character. This section is all about the kind of people who are blessed in the Kingdom of God. Known as the Beattitudes, Jesus flips common understandings upside-down.

Part 2 – Kingdom Commands. This section outlines some of Jesus famous re-framing of the law. He attempts here to get to the heart of the matter.

Part 3 – Kingdom Devotion. This section is about three acts of worship: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. It contains the Lord’s Prayer.

Part 4 – Kingdom Priorities. This section is a collection of wisdom and warnings.

1. Read it – a lot.

Matthew chapters 5, 6 & 7. We will be using Matthew as our primary text, but Luke 6 also records what is referred to the “Sermon on the Plain”.

It will be helpful for you to read these passages regularly. Make them part of your regular devotional focus. Meditate on them. Chew them. Marinade. You get the idea.

2. Engage together.

I’d also like to encourage you to engage the scripture together. Whether that is in a weekly House Group, a Triad, or some other setting, this teaching is meant to be corporate. One resource that is particularly helpful and accessible is this book: What if Jesus was Serious?: a visual guide to the teachings of Jesus we love to ignore by Skye Jethani.

 

 

If you’re a House Group Leader, contact the office – we have a copy for you!

 

We begin Feb 2022.

That You May Know: Fall Series

We’re excited to be jumping back into some of John’s writing. This Fall we’re going to be exploring his beautifully written letters – well actually, 1 John isn’t exactly a letter but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. This ancient Johannine Epistle is timely for us today – especially our current climate of tension, confusion, predictions, division, and temptations. John provides some sage advice in a beautiful way which we’re going to explore. We’re praying that we as a community will be formed and re-formed by the Holy Spirit us into the image of Christ which will help us love each other, our neighbours and God more fully.

If you’re in a Home Group or Triad, we encourage you to follow along. We will provide the passage of scripture we’re going to explore each week. Engaging with the specific scripture can be as simple as doing a Lectio Divina exercise together (Download our Lectio Divina resource guide).

To get into the mood, check out this overview video by the good folks at the Bible Project (you can access other Bible Project videos with our Right Now Media account – if you don’t have access, contact Andrew at the office and he’ll set you up).

 

Feature Image credit: Agnieszka Cymbalak on Unsplash

Light + Life: Summer Series

The sun, our galaxy’s star attraction, is amazing. Let’s reflect on this celestial ball of fire for a moment. 

Without the sun, our galaxy would simply cease to sustain life. Take away the sun and the source of all energy, heat and light is instantly removed. Extinguish the sun and a mass extinction would result leaving our green and blue planetary home a cold and and empty mass of rock hurdling through the universe without anchor or orbit. How’s that for comforting thoughts?! 

Clearly the sun is important.

Yet given the sun’s importance to our existence we spend remarkably little time considering our reliance on it. It doesn’t seem to mind, though. It continues to offer light and life to all – daily – without fail – whether or not we pay attention.

Kind of like someone else we know.

There are some remarkable comparisons of the sun to the Son. Perhaps this is why some biblical writers use this play on words so often – John employing it to near excess. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is the light in which there is no darkness. Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Jesus shines brighter (ok – John didn’t say this, but he sure could have!). 

This summer, as we enjoy the summer’s rays, let’s also tune our awareness to the Son.

Something as common as feeling the warmth of the sun on our cheek can be a reminder of God’s closeness. The beautiful colours of the setting sun can inspire gratitude to Jesus. The life-giving nature of the sun can be a window into the life-giving nature of the Son. 

Summer doesn’t have to be a time of distraction when our attention is far from God. We can be reminded of Jesus – our Light and Life – by the many ways the sun impacts our every day, sun-drenched lives this summer. 

Throughout July and August we will be hearing from a variety of our missionaries. They will tell stories of what got them on their path, what has sustained them along the way, and the transformation they’ve witnessed in themselves and others. They will be sharing their stories of Light and Life.

Our hope and prayer is that as we hear these stories of Light and Life we will find courage and be reminded to pause and pay attention to the dramatic effect Jesus has, and desires to have, on all our lives.

Fall Sermon Series: the good news according to JOHN

We’re excited to be delving into John’s gospel – the good news about Jesus as John sees it. This book is beautiful, rich and multi-layered and will be an amazing companion for the Fall and beyond. Get ready to have your own discipleship – in other words your journey towards Christlikeness – get an infusion of life and wonder!

“But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” John 20:31 (NLT)

House Groups are encouraged to follow along in this series and will be provided with study guides with questions for each week.

For now, check out these amazing overviews of John’s book by the Bible Project.

Summer Series: Salt + Light

This summer we’re going to hear from a broad cross-section of people in our community as they explore what it means for them to be salt and light in the places they go. What impact does being a Jesus follower have on their work life? What are the implications of seeking God’s Kingdom in their normal everyday activities? Together we will be encouraged, inspired and challenged to find big and small ways to live out the Jesus way in the places we go and with the people we see on a regular basis.

“You are the salt of the earthYou are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. – Jesus (quoted in Matthew 5:13-16)

Lent 2020 – Having the Mind of Christ

This year throughout the season of Lent (from Ash Wednesday until Good Friday) we will be exploring Philippians 2:1-11. This passage is such a beautiful and poetic description of one of the major themes of Lent: letting go. In our pursuit to follow Jesus (be disciples, work out our salvation, etc) we are to be imitators of Jesus. This means that we are to follow in Christ’s footsteps and, as Paul enjoins, to have the mind of Christ – the same attitude – follow in his footsteps.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Image Credit: Tree Top View Vectors by Vecteezy

Sermon Series

For the next few months we’re going to be exploring what it means to have Emotionally Healthy Relationships (EHR). In the Fall we worked through the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (EHS) both on Sunday mornings and during Wednesday evenings when we hosted the course. This was a great success.

Where the primary focus of the EHS series was on learning to love God well, this series on Emotionally Healthy Relationship will focus on loving others. It’s the second part of the complete package of what Jesus said were the most important things (Mark 12:30-31).

We’ve got a number of great speakers lined up to help us through this material. We’re praying that God will continue to work health into every part of us – both emotional health and spiritual health – which we’ve learned are inseparable. We won’t be doing the EHR course right now, but are looking at good options for the future (as well as doing the EHS course again).

Fingerprints: noticing God’s activity and presence

“…We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

I have a set of pottery mugs I like to use for communion. The mugs are beautifully irregular. You can almost see the finger and thumbprints of the potter as they squeezed these mugs to create indents in their midsection, making them a little more eccentric than normal perfectly symmetrical vessels. They remind me that life is full of imperfections and that we humans are shaped by many forces and circumstances pressing into us and leaving their marks.

Scripture has a beautiful image of God moulding and shaping us like a potter forming lumps of clay. It is a messy image but it’s also a picture of slow, tender and intentional formation – making us into something both beautiful and usable. Invariably, the potter leaves a mark. For those who have eyes to see, the Creator’s fingerprints are all over creation.

This summer we’re going to pause to notice the imprints that God has made in our lives. We’re going to be giving space to hear those golden nugget stories which have God’s fingerprints on them – those moments God was present to us in a special way that resulted in some kind of transformative shaping in us. We’re going to hear various people share their stories of God’s presence and activity in their lives. It will be a season of encouragement through hearing other’s stories, as well as being challenged to notice God’s fingerprints in our own lives!

>>Where do you see God’s fingerprints in your life?

 

Summer 2019:

Fingerprints: personal stories of God’s presence and activity

The Beatitudes – Blessed are you Now!

I’m excited to be embarking on a new mini-series this Spring centring on the Beatitudes. God has been impressing the Sermon on the Mount on me for some time now and I’m excited and curious to begin to explore the beginning of this most famous of Jesus’ sermons. Excited because of what God will stir in us – and curious because I can only guess what the Spirit has in store! Why not follow along in your own personal times of reading and prayer as well as in your House Groups. The Beatitudes are found in Matthew 5.

We will look at the context of the Beatitudes – which are sometimes read as prescriptive rather than descriptive. What I mean by this is that often we read them like Jesus is saying “if you are like this, then one day you’ll be happy (or blessed)”. Kind of like a stick and carrot – just stick through this trouble that you’re in and you’ll be happy once you get through it… or worse… God will bless you more because you’ve suffered more. But this isn’t how they’re meant to be read! They are descriptive – meaning that Jesus is saying blessed are you right now if you’re mourning, or poor in spirit, or seeking peace, etc. It is the Kingdom come right now in the midst of these circumstances we find ourselves in. It is the hope of the Gospel – that the Holy Spirit comes in the middle of our muck and brings fresh perspective, healing and courage to help us keep moving forward. This is not a triumphalistic vague promise of a better time to come, nor is it a blind denial of our actual present circumstances. Rather it is a radical call to follow Jesus. It is a call to trust him with our very lives and follow him in the midst of all that this world can throw at us! It is a call to take Jesus seriously in the here and now and to reorient our lives around his upside-down, inside-out invitation as described in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Image Credit: “The Sermon on the Mount” by Károly Ferenczy

 

Let Me Ask You a Question

Questions have a way of engaging the heart. Doctrinal statements, creeds, arguments and various proclamations don’t produce the kind and quality of engagement that a well placed question can. Jesus certainly knew this and often harnessed the power of the question – there are over 300 recorded in the bible.

This winter we’re exploring a few questions Jesus asked. Our intent is not so much come to Jesus with our own questions but rather to have him interrogate our hearts through his questions. This may sound harsh, but his questions do have a way of cutting through the clutter of our own lives and hearts, of helping us notice what is already there, but we may not be aware of it. His queries help us to be reflective in a way that our society does not typically encourage.

“Our deepest longing is not for answers but for Him. Ultimately we’re happier and more satisfied with mysteries than with any amount of explanation.”

Jesus’ questions also encourage relationship. He doesn’t just tell us what to believe – he invites us, through his questions, to enter into a dialogue with him – to engage relationally and not just simply seek him for the right answers. Mike Mason says, “Our deepest longing is not for answers but for Him. Ultimately we’re happier and more satisfied with mysteries than with any amount of explanation.” (Champagne for the Soul: Rediscovering God’s Gift of Joy, 171) This is what we’re after – meeting Jesus in his questions!

You can catch up here if you’ve missed any of the sermons so far.

Note: this series is based on the book “Let Me Ask You a Question: Conversations With Jesus” by Matthew Croasmun.

 

Cultivate: tending lives that produce good fruit

One of my family’s favourite outings is to pack all six of us into the van and head down to Corydon Ave. We all eagerly race into Nucci’s gelati for a tasty frozen treat – we run because usually it’s raining when we all go – a weird quirk of this particular family tradition. Walking into that little shop and seeing the array of vivid colours lined up side by side fills my heart with love and my tastebuds with anticipation. All those amazing flavours beckoning to be tasted (favourites include Pistachio, Mullberry, and Tartufo Bianco). One delicious frozen treat, many mouth-watering flavours.

When Paul speaks of the work of the spirit in our lives the language he uses is that of fruit. He famously lists what he calls the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. It’s not a complete list of the Spirit’s work in our lives (scholars agree) – how could the work of God be summed up in a simple list?! However, he is clear that all these various fruit are rooted in one kind of fruit… kind of like a whole bunch of delicious flavours of gelati but it’s all one type of desert. Many flavours – one fruit. The Passion Translation says it like this:

“But the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions: joy that overflows, peace that subdues, patience that endures, kindness in action, a life full of virtue, faith that prevails, gentleness of heart, and strength of spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

This summer we’re going to be exploring these and other “flavours” of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Good fruit grows on healthy plants. While the good fruit our lives produce is ultimately a work of the Spirit we can either partner with or work against the Spirit’s work in our lives. How do we “remain in the vine” to use Jesus’ phrase (John 15)? What do these various fruit actually look like on the ground in the dirt of our actual lives? How do we cultivate good soil in which to grow?

We’re going to explore these and other questions as we look at some of the fruit Paul names. We’re going to explore how they are all really many flavours of the one real fruit of the spirit which is love itself. You could say we’re gong to look at nine flavours of love this summer. When we root ourselves deeply into God – that is, when we grow into his very character, we begin to produce beautiful fruit.

To whet your appetite, here are some of the themes we will be exploring:

  • Cultivating patience in an age of hurry.
  • Cultivating love in a world of indifference.
  • Cultivating joy in happyland.
  • Cultivating peace in a time of disruption
  • Cultivating self-control in an age of greed.
  • Cultivating gentleness in an aggressive city.
  • Cultivating faithfulness in a rootless society.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

“Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” Matt 7:20

These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” James 1:15

The Holy Spirit and the Road to Pentecost (Spring Series)

Jesus’ resurrection was and is just the beginning. After Easter comes Pentecost, but those forty days is a journey. For Jesus’ disciples the time between the upper rooms was confusing, exhilarating, surprising and empowering. You remember both upper rooms, right? In one they gathered to hear Jesus talk about his betrayal and death. In the other they experienced something so mind boggling that Luke, who records the whole incident, can only say the “blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house” and something that “seemed like tongues of fire came and rested on each of them” (Acts 2)! Whoah…

This Spring, we’re going to explore the person and work of the Holy Spirit on the road to this remarkable day called Pentecost. Far from leaving our Hot Buttons behind, we’re going to explore what gifts God has for us, how we may be empowered and encouraged to live our lives between the upper rooms, so to speak.

Each Sunday there will be supplemental material to the sermon which you can take home for personal use or group study. Make sure you collect them all – One per household.