Tribalism

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Tribalism… A lot of times that is what we resort to.  It’s like it’s in our instincts.

We identify with a specific brand: you know, like “I’m the apple guy”, which means no matter whatever device or software Apple Inc. comes out with, you have to like it.  It also means you have to dislike the other guys; the PCs, the Androids.  Why?

The same goes for sports allegiances… I like this team, so I hate this other team.  This means I love to see their fans get all sad and disappointed, it makes my victory taste sweeter.  Why?

And of course, there is religion.  I’m a Christian, therefore I do not want other peoples’ religions to work for them… like it somehow weakens my own. If I meet a guy who has a different religion and seems nice, it bothers me.  He’s supposed to be the unhappy guy who’s a jerk in God’s Not Dead who obviously needs Jesus.  If the government seems to favour their beliefs more than my tribe’s it bothers me.  Why?

I have a feeling this is not the way God intended us to look at things.  I believe “us vs. them” died with our sin on the cross.  So why are we dragging this mentality out of the grave?  Why are we living out of fear, living with jealousy over other peoples’ rights?  Shouldn’t our first inclination be towards love?

Yet, historically, Christianity has been bent toward tribalism… it’s our default when we get off the rails from loving our neighbour as ourselves.  We start loving ourselves… loving our own tribe, taking care or our own.

Loving our neighbour includes thinking of them first and being a proponent of their freedom of choice.  Maybe as we show them preemptive love, they will return the favour.  If not, I’m pretty sure we are called to stay the course nonetheless… expecting nothing in return and not crying “persecution” every time we meet a little bit of resistance.

Like seriously… have you ever watched a Fifa World Cup match?  When a player just touches an opponent and the opponent falls to the ground, writhing in pain as if he has been severely injured?  That’s what we look like with our persecution complex.  It’s embarrassing… and it does not benefit the gospel.  Nobody wants anything to do with us, except for people from our own tribe.  And we wonder why we don’t reach the lost.  Yet this cycle is repeated every time our world diverges from biblical values.

It’s time to stop the tribalism.  It’s time to demonstrate to the the world that the Gospel is inclusive.

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Identity: He Sees You

One of humanity’s greatest problems is an identity crisis.  When the created loses sight of the creator, it is propelled into chaos.  The enemy knows that when he can confuse your identity in Christ, he can confuse your life in Christ.

We all have stuff in our life that we don’t want people to be aware of.  Shame is a powerful weapon against us.  The Holy Spirit opens our eyes.  The enemy knows when he can confuse your identity in Christ, he can confuse your life in Christ.  

For your ways are in full view of the Lord,
    and he examines all your paths.  – Proverbs 5:21 (NIV)

We are never out of God’s sight.  When we are aware that we are in God’s view, our eyes are opened to the fact that He is with us… that is, keeping in mind that we are in His view, keeps Him in our view.    

You have searched me, Lordand you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.  – Psalm 139 (NIV)

He knows everything about you, your deepest, darkest secrets and He still loves you!  His life is not removed from you because you’ve screwed up. He is actually living His life through us…  

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. – Psalm 139:7-8 (NIV)

 

My friends left me to die after an overdose.  Fear gripped me… I cried out to God. I could feel His presence manifest and love broke through.  This was not my salvation moment… that came later.

That point of desperation is not always the turning point, or salvation moment.  It also does not always have to be at a point of desperation at which you seek the Lord.  Even when you are just going through the motions, you can ask Him to guide you.

No matter what state you are in, His presence can manifest.  Whatever the condition of your heart, you can cry out to God and ask Him to make Himself known to you.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea

10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. – Psalm 139:10-12 (NIV)

You are always in his view.  There is no hiding from Him.  Why do we even attempt to get away from Him?  

I tried everything to hide from God, but God always found me.  You can never outrun Him.  The Lord carried me through hard times when my house burnt down.  He carried me through the darkness.  

I am always in His view.   

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13 & 14

God does not make mistakes.  He did not screw up when He made you… you are a masterpiece, made by the Master Artist.  No works of art can even begin to be  comparable to the immense array of natural beauty of that which has been created by God Himself and you are one of His creations.  Isn’t that mind-blowing?   

Thank you, God, for making me so wonderfully complex!  

15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.  – Psalm 139: 15-18 (NIV)

God’s perfect love casts out all fear.  He sees you eternally!  

We typically teach a post-fall salvation in the evangelical church.  We get hung up on the fact that sin entered the world because of what Adam & Eve did and we allow this fact to weigh us down.  Our battle with sin can become such a focal point, as if we need to achieve a sin-free status before we can approach God.  

The fact is, our redemption restores us to pre-fall status.  I’m going to say it again.  Our redemption restores us to pre-fall status… crazy, huh?  Under the blood of Christ, our innocence is restored.  

Wash me, and I will be clean… restore me to where I was when I was free, I surrender.  Surrendered, I give my all to You… filled with Your Spirit, I’m made new.  I’m Yours forever.  

Your spirit has rulership over your soul and your flesh falls into line under your soul.  This falls apart when the enemy convinces you to bite the carrot and your soul goes back to being a fallen creation.  

Our spirit, restored to pre-fall creation has no sin in it.  If we allow our spirit, which is in Christ, to be in control, we are walking in the Spirit.  

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. – Psalm 139:19-24 (NIV)

God only sees Christ in us, when we are covered by His blood.  

Lord, what offends You?  Point out anything that would keep me from experiencing that everlasting life.  

Nothing can separate you from the love of God, but it can sure blind you from it.

Your purpose is rooted in your identity… your identity is rooted in God’s view of you.    Anything that keeps God from our view is sin. Sin is rooted in idolatry.  Your flesh is craving things that take you away from God.  

In Jesus’ name, flesh, stop craving that!  

We think the sin is a veil that covers us so that God cannot see us… but He actually does see us.  He always sees us.    Think about the foolishness of Adam and Eve thinking they were hiding from God when they sinned… Do you think He really could not see them?

We cannot do this apart from God.  We need to seek the Lord first, we need to drop everything and pursue Him first and foremost.    

You said I had access to You without anything between us.

Allow your darkness… your worst thoughts to be drowned out by His light.  There is no point at which He cannot enter, even when you are in the midst of the most sinful acts, you can stop and lift up His name in worship!  This can be your turning point.  

He sees you anyways, no matter what you are doing.  There is no hypocrisy.  He knows.  

So when you are feeling that shame weighing you down, cry out to Him.  

In the name of Jesus, shame off!

Bring it to Him in the moment He sees it, immediately.  Be freed… you do not need to wait, you do not need to wallow in shame, you do not need to have a period where you feel awful and unloved for what you have done.  Be freed immediately in the name of Jesus!  

Your purpose is rooted in your identity, your identity is rooted in God’s view of You.  Under the blood of Christ, God sees you as perfect.  

His Spirit has fully redeemed us.  He will pick you up where you are and continue His good work.  Giving your children time-outs can give your children a false view of God… God does not force us out of the His presence due to our failings. God doesn’t give us time-outs.  We run away from Him, out of shame… just as Adam and Eve did.  

He sent Christ to the cross so it didn’t have to be that way.  He doesn’t punish us, He disciplines us.  

According to Focus on the Family, punishment:

  • serves the purpose of inflict penalty for an offence,
  • focuses on past misdeeds,
  • comes from a place of hostility and frustration on behalf of the one giving it out, and
  • results in fear and guilt for the one receiving it.

Discipline, on the other hand:

  • serves the purpose of training for correction and maturity,
  • focuses on future correct acts,
  • comes from a place of love and concern on behalf of the one giving it out, and
  • results in feelings of security for the one receiving it.

God says, “I want You in my arms, I don’t anything in between us.”  

God has never moved, He’s never changed.  It is we who run and hide.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows. -Psalm 23:5

He will set a table right in front of our enemies.  Even when you are under attack, and the enemy has you on the ropes… When the accuser has accused you of terrible things and you know you are guilty, start worshiping God.  This can be your turning point!  Tell God, “I cannot fight this stupid thing without You.”  

The root of the word “convict” is “convince”.  Convicted criminals are meant to be brought back into society.  This is discipline, not punishment.  God wants to draw us in closer.  

You are in God’s view right now.  He does not think you are shameful.   You are the apple of His eye, your identity is formed in that very place, that revelation will make him the apple of your eye.  

Lord, let these words hit our hearts… reshaping the way we see You.  Make it so evident to us that you are ever present… even when we think we are hiding from You and as we see you clearer, reshape the way we see ourselves.  We are your masterpieces, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  We thank you, for all you have done and we offer up our lives to You and You alone in Jesus name, Amen.  

Taken with permission from Mark Gordon’s (@rmarkgordon) message, “Peek-A-Boo He Sees You” from Church in the Hills men’s retreat at Camp Evergreen November 20, 2015.

The Four Cups

Christianity isn’t a new religion, it’s a continuation of the movement of God.  The Old Testament is planting the seeds for the New Testament.  You cannot separate the Old and New Testament or else it won’t make sense.  We live under the new promise, no longer under the old one.  Jesus was a fulfillment of the prophecies.  Jesus was already celebrating the passover when he introduced communion.  The passover celebration is a huge part of communion.

This all started with Abraham.  

Genesis 12:1-3

12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

God says to Abraham “I want you to uproot your family…If you listen to me I will make you a nation. A great people through which I will bless everyone.”

Abraham had Isaac, Isaac had Jacob, Jacob became Israel (which means “struggles with God”), Israel had Joseph.  

Joseph has an ego problem.  He has dreams in which his dad and brothers are down low and he is up high.  He causes problems with his brothers by bragging about his dreams.  His brothers have him sold into slavery.  Eventually, he gains favour with Pharaoh and Pharaoh makes him the second most powerful man in Egypt.

Joseph’s family becomes huge living in Egypt.  The new Pharaoh doesn’t regard the Israelites the same way.  He sees them as a threat.  He fears that the Israelites may partner with other nations and take over.

We don’t generally do as well in times of prosperity, we do better when we are faced with impossible situations.  It is in those times when we are dependent on God.  The people cried out to God.  

Exodus 1:15-22

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah,16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

The midwives feared God more than Pharaoh and were blessed because of that.

Exodus 2:1-10

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

“Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

They manage to keep Moses away from the Egyptians, but as he gets older, he gets harder to hide.  She wants him to be found In the reeds.  He is found by the Pharaoh’s daughter.

When he grows up, he kills the Egyptian man, and runs to Midian.  Then, He encounters God in the burning bush: 

Exodus 3:7-10

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

God says: “I have heard you” and “I was working on your behalf”.  He hears us.  He remembers the promises he’s made to us.  God will always keep his promises.

“Moses, I want you to tell the Pharaoh that he wants you to let his people go.”    Moses argues with God, then relents and goes.

So many times in life, things get harder before they get better.  Sometimes it would be easier to not do the thing God tells you to do.  “God I can’t do his job…”

“Yeah I know.  I’m going to send your brother with you to speak”

Moses was 80, Aaron was 83.

“You still have a lot of things to offer.”  

When Moses meets with Pharaoh, Pharaoh is like “um… no!”  God sends lot of plagues, but Pharaoh does not relent.  Ironically, the last plague is death of firstborn sons.

Exodus 12:21-30

21 Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. 22 Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning.23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

24 “Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. 25 When you enter the land that the Lord will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony.26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. 28 The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron.

29 At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

Lamb blood is painted over the Israelites doorposts and judgement passes over them.  It has nothing to do with performance, it has everything to do with blood of the lamb.  There not an Egyptian household without someone dead.

The oppressor of our soul wants us bounded up.  There is nothing you can do to free yourself.

“Every year I want you to remember”

How often do we want to go back to Egypt?  We often want to go back to the old oppression because the old is familiar.  It was important to observe the ceremony to remember that it was God who had freed them from tyranny.  

Exodus 6:6-7

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.

The ceremony involved four cups of wine:

1.  The Cup of Sanctification.  They had gone from being slaves to being sons and heirs.  We are not freed to be whatever we want to be, it’s to be what God wants us to be… we are freed so we can be sanctified (set apart).  Don’t trade everything for another type of oppression.

2. The Cup of Deliverance.  You can’t do anything to set yourself free.  There are some things in your life that will power will never overcome.  It requires supernatural deliverance through God alone.

3. The Cup of Redemption.  Jesus is “God in a bod”.  He understands what it’s like to be us, and has overcome the world for us.

4. The Cup of Hope.  Gods is always faithful to keep His word.  He will fulfill all of His promises.

Luke 22:14-20

14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.[a]

The past, present and future came together.  The biggest slavery we experience is slavery to ourselves.  Your biggest enemy is yourself.  There is Something calling you to a higher place.  You are offered the cup of hope.  The story doesn’t stop there.

He will hit the reset button.  This is the slaughterhouse religion.  Blood is life, and Christ’s blood was given for you.  There is  hyssop in the blood (hyssop was a herb used to ritually cleanse items).  Jesus puts the blood over you, and death will pass over you.  We will live forever.

That’s not the end of the story.  We experience salvation, redemption, and hope.

Until then, we live in an Egypt of our own making.  He has set a place for us at the table.  There is a promise of a new heaven, new earth, and a new you.

What is your Egypt?

There was no leaven in the bread, leaven represented sin… The bread had no sin, like Jesus.  When we take communion, we are celebrating the third cup: redemption.  Jesus says “do this in remembrance of me.”  

We remember that He and He alone is our redemption.

————————————————————————————————————————

Based on Pastor Dan Varn’s message from March 29, 2015.  For audio of the sermon, go to http://www.cithcalgary.com/sermon-archive/

Caring Community

All of us feel a little bit scared to show people who we really are.  We have a tendency only want to have surface conversations.  We need to dig deeper.

We need to get out of the mind set that church happens on Sunday.  What happens on Sunday is just a pep rally, the real event is the remainder of our lives.  Sunday services are such a small portion of our lives.  The Angels are waiting for us to get out of church and be witnesses.

 Acts 2:42-47

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

They met every day.  Not just on Sundays.  They went to each others’ houses and ate together.  They flourished, more people joined their church community.  More people were getting saved.  People wanted to be a part of what they were doing.  

This is similar to how people were attracted to Jesus.  He loved on people and they just had to be with Him.

We often struggle to love ourselves, how do we love people?  How can we flourish as the early church did?  Here are 7 things that the early believers in the passage above did that made them flourish as followers of Christ:

1. Teaching, learning and applying God’s word  We need to care so much for each other that we guard each other, that we hold each other to the teachings.  This is why we have small groups.  It’s a place where we can learn and encourage each other.

2. Fellowship We need to have mutually accountable friendships.  We need to make each other sharper.  This is why we have various ministries such as youth group, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, and small groups.  When you skip out on events in which we connect with each other, such as church potlucks, you are losing out.  Take these opportunities to connect.  These relationships will build you up in Christ, we can support each other.  We are in this together.

3. Worship We need to praise God for who he is and what he has done and is doing.  He is the most high God, the creator of all things.  His glory envelopes the whole earth. We need to recognize that every good thing comes from Him.  We need to recognize our need for Him in all things.  When we actually allow ourselves to see Him for who He is, we cannot help but give him our adoration.

4. Prayer We need to listen to God and share intimacy with God, interceding on behalf of others.  This is such a vital part of our relationship with Him.  How can we have any kind of relationship without communication?  We can bear each others’ burdens and take them to the only One who has the solution.  

5. Power We need to experience the filling and outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  He is waiting for us.  He offers so much to us, all we have to do is ask.  Through his power, we can do all things He has called us to do.

6. Ministry We need to use our spiritual gifts as well as natural gifts to love people in practical ways.  Open up your homes.  There are way more gifts and abilities in our church than we need.  If you’re in a bad spot use it for God, if you’re in a good spot, use it for God.

7. Sharing Jesus with Others  We have been blessed with salvation, we have the key to the promises of God.  Jesus is hope for all of mankind.  We have to share Him with others, so they can also have this hope.  

We hope to do all of this in our small group ministries.  Our mission as small groups:

I. Pursue deeper intimacy with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit.  

2. Pursue deeper intimacy with each other.

3. Pursue deeper intimate connections with the unchurched.  

There are incredibly lonely people who do not know how they can go on with life.  Our world teaches them that if they find that special someone, their soul mate, they will have a purpose in life and they will find happiness.  We do not need a soul mate, we need God, and we need to each other to encourage us in our spiritual walk.

We have God, let’s run with it! He loves you, He loves you so much and wants to pour into you.  Let God open you up.

There are people with depression, people who have lost loved ones, people in strained marriages, people with wayward children.  

We are like unpeeled onions.  Once we are cut up, we see the layers.  As this happens there are tears.  We need each other to help us unravel.

Mark 14

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba,[f] Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cupfrom me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter,“are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.

41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Jesus was in the garden: “boys, keep watch for me”.  Jesus had three buddies that he shared everything with.  “Guys, I need you now.”

There are three levels of relationship.  On the outer circle are acquaintances, the people we work with, go to school with, people we see in crowds, people we pass by on the  street.  The next circle are the twelve people we connect with in our church community, like Jesus’ disciples.  The inner circle is the three friends you share your intimate struggles with.

The only member of the opposite gender who should be in your inner circle is your spouse, and your spouse should definitely be one of the members of your inner circle.  These are the people you can turn to for support in various situations in your day-to-day life.

James 5:16

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

The spirit of Christ is in you, you have the power to do great things for Him as we support each other and seek Him.

Taken from Phil Reimer’s message at Church in the Hills Calgary’s March 22, 2015 church service.  See link below for the audio from the sermon:

http://www.cithcalgary.com/sermonarchive/caring-community/

When Followers Become Leaders

Following Jesus should define the way we lead.  Jesus wants to lead us in such a way that there is a wholeness.  The opposition we face as leaders is often moreso about what is happening on the inside of us, rather than the outside.

They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him.  We are going up to Jerusalem,’ he said, ‘and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.’ 

– Mark 10:32-34

Things were going to get bad.  Jesus was a man who was very clearly on a mission.  Earlier, Peter had rebuked Jesus for being negative.  The disciples did not get it.

Jesus gets very specific about what is about to happen.  He tells them whom he will be handed over to, and describes his death and tells them when he will come back to life.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do for us whatever we ask.’

‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked.  They replied, ‘Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.’

‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said. ‘Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”

‘We can,’ they answered.

Jesus said to them, ‘You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with,  but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.’

 – Mark 10:35-40

James & John change the subject.  It’s pretty obvious that all they care about is where they are going to fit in the organizational flow chart.  Jesus explains to them that they don’t know what you are asking, leadership is not about power and prestige.

One could say that any person who wants be a leader is an idiot. When people repeatedly say that they want to be in leadership, it’s a sign that they are not ready.  It is a mantle that is bestowed upon those who are chosen, and often bestowed upon humble people who take it on reluctantly.

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

– Mark 10:41-45

When the disciples heard about what James and John had asked, they were irritated.  It’s pretty easy to imagine why.  James and John were trying to assure for themselves a place above the other disciples.  Jesus explains that it is not about having the power to get your way, when you lead that way, you have to use your authority to maintain your authority.  This is man’s way, the way of the tyrant leader.

But Jesus’ way is if you want to be great, be a servant.  As followers of Jesus, our words carry influence.  Leadership is about responsibility and you will have to answer to God for how you lead.  When your a leader you have to be out in front lines and will have to get shot from time-to-time.  You must be willing to stay in the front lines regardless.

Rather than leveraging your authority to benefit yourself, you should be leveraging your authority for the good of other people.  When you find yourself in a position of leadership, you should use it to serve others.  Jim Collins says that the thing that makes a great leader is an attitude of humility.  We need to recognize that this thing is God’s, not ours.  Followers of Jesus should be great leaders. We are not given lordship to be tyrants, we are given our position so we can serve.

If we want to be the leaders Jesus has called us to be, we must lay down our egos and we cannot be afraid to lead.  If you are living to build your own legacy, you are living too small.  Don’t sell yourself short by living small, live for the kingdom.

Many of Jesus’ disciples suffered violent deaths for Jesus.  Jesus calls us to lay down your lives for others… to lay down our agendas and take on God’s agenda, to love others more than ourselves, to follow where he leads to the front lines of his purpose.

 – Taken from Pastor Daniel Varns’ March 15, 2015 sermon at Church in the Hills Calgary

For audio of Pastor Dan’s message, click the link below:

http://www.cithcalgary.com/sermonarchive/when-followers-become-leaders/

Off Script

I’m a curator of music, theological ideas, and philosophical concepts.  It all comes out here.

It’s been a long journey.  I used to work as a public school teacher.  I found the most difficult part of that career was being bound by a curriculum.  I still desire to teach, but I want it to be on my terms… I want to teach things I am passionate about.

I have also spent multiple years playing music in church.  I developed musical skills… I developed an understanding of how to make a band work: what sounds work together, building dynamics, how to communicate to an audience.  But I’ve felt like there is more to what I have to offer than sticking to the written music.  

I want to go off script.  I want to build my own platform.  I feel like I have something to say.  Hence, I am starting The JohnnyHow Blog.  

Some of it will be stuff I’ve gleaned from messages I’ve heard in church or on podcasts, some of it will be deep concepts I am just wrestling with personally and I may just throw in some poetry or lyrics I’m working on.  I may even share a little audio I’ve created.

Your feedback is appreciated.  What works for you, what doesn’t?  I want to enrich your life somehow by sharing my learnings.  Let me know what you’d like to see… And what you wouldn’t like to see in this blog.

Blessings,

j

@johnnyhow

www.facebook.com/JohnnyHowMusic