Monthly Archives: January, 2015

Fan or Follower: Interference

We all have things that interfere with our lives. A child’s cry at 3 am interferes with our sleep. A construction zone interferes with travel plans and arrival times. Snow storms interfere with school days and plane rides to southern climes. An unexpected death interferes with, well, life. The arrival of this blog post may also interfere in your life, especially if it lends itself to distracting you from work :). (Don’t worry, I’m guilty of that one too).

These types of interferences will often cause us to view any interference in a negative light. This past Sunday we explored the truth that following Jesus will interfere with our lives.

Principles of following:
1) Jesus is the only one worth following. 2) Following is essential to believing, just as believing is essential to following. 3) following means being a doulos (slave) to Jesus. 4) following means expecting Jesus to interfere with your life.

Sermon Big Idea: Following Jesus means being prepared for him to interfere with your life.

Sermon Points:

  • as you read the gospels, notice that Jesus interferes all over the place.
  • Jesus interferes with:
    • the rich young man’s priorities (Mark 10:17-21)
    • the rich young man’s religion (Mark 10:17-21)
    • James and John’s family (Matthew 4:18-22)
    • Matthew’s career (Matthew 9:9-13)
    • Nathanael’s point of view (John 1:43-49)
  • if following Jesus does not interfere with your life, it is likely that you are not really following Jesus.
  • being in a doulos relationship with Jesus means being ready and willing for him to interfere in your life.
  • deny yourself, take up your cross and daily follow Jesus: it has to be a daily thing, being willing for Jesus to interfere in your life on a daily basis.
  • Jesus interferences aren’t negative, and they bring rewards (Mark 10:28-31)
  • following Jesus means expecting him, waiting for him to interfere with your life, with your priorities, your religion, your family, your relationships, your career, your way of thinking and maybe even your very life.

Follow-up questions:
When was the last time you remember Jesus interfering with your life? How did you react to his interference? If you have never had God interfere with your life, is it possible that you have been blocking his influence in your life? What might that look like? Does the thought of Jesus interfering in your life scare you? Why?

Questions for families with young children:
The next time you get angry with your child for interrupting you (be honest, it happens), take a moment to talk to them about how not all interruptions are bad things. Ask them if they have ever felt like God wanted them to do or say something in a specific situation. Did they act or speak? Why or why not?

Fan or Follower: Doulos

Good morning my friends.

I hope and pray that your journey through the New Testament is going well, and that you are enjoying what John is laying out for you through his gospel. Again, let me encourage you to take time to really reflect on the readings and ponder what John is laying out for you about Jesus. Who he was and still is? What does he ask of us? What does he promise for us?

This past Sunday was our second Sunday exploring the question: Are you a follower of Jesus? In the first week of the series we explored that a follower of Jesus recognizes that there is no one else worth following (taken from Peter’s words at the end of John 6). This past Sunday we spent our time talking about one particular word used to identify Christ-followers in the New Testament. That is the word “doulos”.

Doulos, literally means bondslave, and talks about someone who is fully committed to serving their master. The big problem with this concept is that we are taught to be individuals, to be independent, self-sufficient, free-thinking, to take control of our own destiny. This concept from the Bible flies in the face of all of that.

Sermon big idea: Being a follower of Jesus means living out a slave relationship to him.

Sermon Points:

  • Being a Christian means both believing and following, they go hand-in-hand
  • New Testament word used to describe Christians is “doulos”
  • Doulos means bondslave:
  • Bond-slave: someone who was purchased at a price, who serves the master’s needs, is at the master’s beck and call every moment; someone who is devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests
  • A true bond-slave has no will of their own, but whose will is completely consumed by the will of the master
  • Slave not just to God, but to other Christians and to the world around us
  • Our slavery to God is lived out in our slavery to others
  • Pride and cultural sensitivity to this word can make us shy away from being identified as a slave
  • We must remember that Jesus was the first slave, he modeled slavery to us (Philippians 2:5-8)

Follow-up Questions:
Whose will is in control of your life, Jesus’ or yours? In what areas of your life do you still call the shots instead of letting Jesus call the shots? What is holding you back from more fully giving Jesus control? Are you at Jesus’ “beck and call”?

Questions for families with young children:
Take a moment next time your child is being will-full and talk to them about what it means to submit, to live obediently in relationship with those who have authority in their lives. Ask them how they should respond next time someone in authority (a teacher, bus-driver, parent) talks to them.

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Those are the closing words from Peter in John chapter 6. The words are spoken in response to a question by Jesus, the question was: “What about you? Are you going to leave too?”

On Sunday we explored the story of the feeding of the 5000 from John 6, a story that spans all 71 verses of this chapter, not just the first 15 that we often associate with the story. Jesus feeds the crowd, departs from them during the night (when he walks on water to get the disciples boat), and the crowd (or part of it) follows him across the sea the following day. When they find him, Jesus makes it plain that they were only looking for him because he had fed them.

Instead of offering them more food, Jesus offers them himself as the bread of life. John makes it clear that from that moment on, many people stopped following Jesus. So Jesus challenges the 12, asking if the would leave too. And we have Peter’s fantastic response. Who else can we go to? Only you have the words of eternal life.

Sunday began the start of a journey in answering the question: Are you a fan or follower? A fan follows Jesus based on what he can do for them, based on how he can meet their needs, based on how he can scratch their itch. A follower follows Jesus because he/she recognizes that it is all about Jesus; that there is no one else that gives life that lasts, not just fills their stomachs. In many ways, this is the first step in being a full follower of Jesus: recognizing that he is the ONE and ONLY Lord who brings life and gives us truth.

Follow up questions:
What was new about the story of the feeding of the 5000? Was anything shocking? Where do you see yourself in that story: like one of the crowd that went home or like one of the disciples? Do you follow Jesus because he is Lord or because he scratches your itch? Why do you follow Jesus?

Discussion for young families:
Take a few moments to talk with your kids about why you say grace before (or after) a meal. Talk about how Jesus meets more than just your physical needs as an adult and ask you kids what needs they have that Jesus can meet. Pray with them about the things they mention.

Challenge for the week: 
Spend time reflecting on why you follow Jesus.

New Blog Format

Good Friday afternoon my friends! We are beginning a couple of new journeys this year at PEMC. We launched the new Bible Challenge for 2015, a year-long journey through the New Testament. I mentioned already that I am not going to be blogging as much as I did last year, and the focus of these ramblings will be a bit different. I am going to blog Fridays and Tuesdays, and the focus of those blogs will be the message that I am going to bring Sunday morning. Fridays will give you an introduction to the themes and scriptures coming up on Sunday morning, with a question or two to get you thinking. Then Tuesdays blogs will be dedicated to reviewing the message’s main points and giving some questions for you to ponder or maybe journal about.

Before I go any further, I must say that this blogging format is not my brainchild. In fact, it is the format used by my friend Andrew Mills, who pastors the EMC church in Plattsville. So I give him kudos for that.

This Sunday we are beginning a new series called: Fan or Follower. This past year, I picked up a book by Kyle Idleman called Not a Fan, and in the book he draws some distinctions between what it means to be a follower of Jesus versus being just a fan of Jesus. That book really got me thinking, and that thinking has lead to this sermon series.

Over the whole of the series, I’m going to be challenging you to answer this question: Are you a fan or a follower of Jesus Christ? I know it’s a bit unfair to ask you that question out of the context of the series, but that question is the heart of what I’m going to be preaching on for the next 8 weeks or so. We will explore what it means to be a follower. We will explore the costs and the blessings of being a follower. We will talk about following in community, among many other things. Each week, I will draw a distinction between a fan and being a follower.

We will also be tying into something the EMCC has developed called: “The 7-fold way of following Jesus” (you can visit here for more information on that).

“Follow me”. Jesus uses those words about 20 times in the gospels. What do those words mean to you?

New Year, New Challenge

Alright, so our Bible Challenge for 2014 is completed. Let me congratulate all of you who journeyed with me through the entire Bible in 2014! Let me reiterate, the point of this challenge was not read every word in the Bible (if you did then well done indeed). The point was to get you reading your Bible more in 2014 than you did in 2013, or maybe more than you ever have in your whole life. The point was to whet your appetite for the Word of God.

On numerous occasions, Jesus tells people that he offers us food that will sate their hunger and quench their thirst. Accomplishing those things only happens when we are going deeper into our relationship with Jesus, and that only happens as we spend time with him, in prayer, meditation and, yes, reading the Bible.

Sometimes you don’t even know you are hungry for something until you get a taste for it. It is my prayer that as you took part in the challenge for 2014 that you appetite has been thoroughly whetted because of the taste that you got of God’s Word.

We are going to embark on another journey together for 2015, starting January 5th. The schedule will be posted under the “Bible Challenge” tab on the main page of this website. We’re going to slow things down for 2015 and take the year to journey through the New Testament together. That will mean a little bit lighter reading schedule, which I’m sure some of you will enjoy. Basically you will be reading a chapter a day, sometimes only part of a chapter.

This challenge is going to be less about quantity and more about quality. While there will be less reading to do each day, I hope you will take the time to dig deeper into each reading. Really ask the Holy Spirit to show you what he wants YOU to hear during each day’s reading. How does he want to continue transforming your life to better imitate Jesus? What actions does he want you to do in response to what you read? I don’t know about you, but I felt that we blasted through the New Testament in 2014’s challenge, and there is so much to unpack. It is my hope that by reading less, we will have room to respond and process more.

Another change for 2015 is that I will not be blogging as much. I’m sure many of you realize how much of a commitment it was for me to write as often as I did. It was my goal to write every day when we first began our challenge, but that soon whittled its way down to four or five times per week. My goal for this year will be to blog twice per week, once on Friday and once on Tuesday. The focus of my blogs will not be as much our Bible Challenge, although I will be commenting on it from time-to-time. The focus is going to be on what I am going to be speaking on during our Sunday morning gathering. Friday’s post will be some opening thoughts, scriptures to read and some questions to ponder going into Sunday, and Tuesday’s post will be some follow-up material about Sunday’s sermon.

Here’s a preview of how 2015 is shaping up regarding our 2015 Sunday gatherings. We’re going to start by spending some weeks exploring what the difference is between being a follower of Jesus, and being a fan of Jesus. Then we’re going to take some time looking at one of the outcomes of being a follower of Jesus: that we are “those who overcome”. This phrase shows up in Jesus’ letters to the churches in the book of Revelation. What does it mean to be an overcomer and what does Jesus say about those who overcome?

Then we’re going to take time between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to explore “The Art of Biblical Manliness”, and that will lead us into a walk through the book of Daniel through the summer months.

I want to encourage you to continue the pattern you started in 2014, and build on it in 2015. I know we have so much that demands our time, but there is nothing more important than our spiritual nourishment; and I have never heard anyone say that spending time with God is a waste. It takes away from other things, sure, but it is all a matter of priority and importance. Our time with God should take away from other things, because it is more important.

So thank you for journeying with me through the Bible in 2014, and I sincerely pray that God richly blessed you as you dedicated time to be in his Word. And I invite you to continue the journey withe me and with PEMC as we key in on the New Testament in 2015.

Happy Reading.