Monthly Archives: February, 2015

No place to lay his head

I think we can all agree that Jesus says some pretty shocking things throughout his time of ministry on the earth. Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the poor in spirit…Whoever wants to be first must be last…Go, sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor…Woe to you Pharisees, you hypocrites…Follow me and I will make you fish for people…

I could go on, and I’m pretty sure you could add your own to the list, things that have stood out to you as pretty shocking as you read them for the first time…or perhaps were still socking even reading them for the tenth time.

I could be wrong about this, but I think that some of his most shocking statements were made to people who wanted to follow him, who came to him and asked to follow. You see, in Jesus’ day, Rabbis took applicants for positions as their students, and the recruitment process was brutal. Applicants were told to recite whole books of the Old Testament (can you imagine reciting the book of Numbers from memory!?!?!?), or answer questions about obscure people or figures in the scriptures.

So it made some sense that people who came to Jesus asking to be his disciples met some pretty strict questioning…but it was not the kind of questioning that they were expecting. More often than not Jesus questioned these potential followers, not about their memorization techniques or how faithfully they followed the rules of the Jewish religious system, but about whether they were willing to accept the cost of following him.

He said things like: From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:52-53)

Or: Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39), and then there’s the story of the three men who desire to follow Jesus and the rebuttles each of them received (from Luke 9)

In each of those instances, the unasked question Jesus puts forward is: “Can you handle the cost of following me?” We are under a great delusion if we think that following Jesus means simply saying a prayer for Jesus to “come into my heart” and that’s the whole deal. No where in the Gospels do we see this picture modeled by Jesus. In fact, we see the opposite. We see Jesus saying: you want to follow me? Fine, but it will cost you your comfort, your family, your freedom, your possessions, possibly even your life. That’s the cost. Anyone can come, but come counting the cost.

The clearest place that Jesus lays this out is in Luke 14:25-34. Those are the nine verses we are going to dig into on Sunday as we explore what it costs to be a follower of Jesus. Read those words of Christ over and consider what he is saying.

Fan or Follower: Mission Follow-up

Luke 9:23 Then He (Jesus) said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

If we are a follower of Jesus, we must understand that we are following Jesus somewhere. It is not simply a matter of praying the “sinners prayer” and then, well, nothing. In fact I can find no passage of scripture that talks about following Jesus that mentions standing still. Even in our Bible Challenge readings (from Acts 23 today), we find those who follow after Jesus on the move. There’s Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch, Peter with Cornelius and Paul on the move from Jerusalem to Caesarea. Idleness was not in their repertoire as follower of Jesus, and it should not be in ours. Being a follower of Jesus means following Jesus somewhere, and that somewhere, in the broadest of terms, is on mission.

We each have a mission given to us by Jesus when we become his follower, his mission to be precise: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) Our mission is to seek out those who are lost in sin and help them be found. That mission does not have cultural, geographical, spacial, temporal, political (or any other “al” you can thing of) boundaries. It is the mission for all Christians regardless of age, gender, race, culture, economic class or education level. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whenever you are doing it, that is your mission.

One other thought before we get to the notes from Sunday’s sermon: John 12:26 reads “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” This is Jesus’ mission. We make a very critical mistake if we try to make it our mission. It is always Jesus’ mission. Why is this distinction important? Because if we are going to engage and participate in this mission, we have to be following Jesus’ lead. We have to be where Jesus is, just like he says in this verse from John 12. If we think that we can conveniently fit this mission into our own plans, lives, goals, then we are missing the point. It is Jesus’ mission. It has to be done with Jesus’ direction, done Jesus’ way, with Jesus’ provision. Our lives, goals, plans should center around the mission, not the other way around.

I know, I’m making this really complicated. I’m making this whole Christian thing really hard and challenging…but I’m not actually. I’m just passing on what Jesus said. We have to be conscious of the fact that Jesus defines the relationship we are to have with him. I’m just as challenged as you are…perhaps more. My whole life is supposed to be about this mission…and sometimes I wonder how much I’ve fooled myself into thinking that some of my “pastoral” duties are mission oriented when in fact they are not. This is a troubling thought for me, and one that requires a deep look at my motives, the way I spend my time and my gifts, and the very nature of what it means to be a pastor.

It is my deepest hope and prayer that this conversation we are having about being a follower is making you pause and re-evaluate your relationship with Jesus and consider where you are follower (celebrate those spots) and where you are merely an enthusiastic admirer (a fan…work on those spots, it’s worth it, I promise).

Principles of following (so far):
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. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately. 6) A follower follows Jesus in a community of other followers.

Sermon Big Idea:
A fan will not say no to themselves; a follower will join with Jesus on mission.

Sermon Points:

  • For too long, Christians have considered “mission” as something someone else did, somewhere else.
  • So too has evangelism been left to the “professionals” like Billy Graham and pastors.
  • the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is the responsibility of all Christians.
  • John 20:30-31 tells us that the point of the written Gospels was to tell the story of Jesus so that we may believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
  • Philippians 1:3-5 tells us that the job of the church is to partner in the gospel.
  • Who is the church? US. Christians. It is our job to share the gospel, to tell the story of Jesus so that people will believe in Jesus.
  • John Wesley: “You have one business on earth – to save souls.”
  • How? 1) Deny yourself. Forget you exist and live only for Jesus. (Luke 9:23-25). 2) Join Jesus where he is (John 12:24-26).
  • Where do we follow Jesus on mission? Wherever he leads.
  • When do we follow Jesus on mission? Whenever he calls.
  • What do we do when we follow Jesus on mission? Whatever he tells us to.
  • Being on mission for Jesus is not boring!
  • “Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.” Robert C. Shannon (Christian author)
  •  “Some wish to live within the sound of church and chapel bell. I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell!” C.T. Studd (British cricket player and missionary to China)

Follow-up questions:
Are you following Jesus on mission? Are you intentionally listening to where, when and what Jesus is calling you to as his missionary? Do you even consider yourself a missionary for Jesus? (You are!)

Questions for families with small children:
As you child if they know someone, a class-mate, neighbour, teacher, friend, who does not know Jesus. As them if there is some way they can think of to show that person God’s love for them. Help them execute their plan.

Fan or Follower: Mission

If you are anything like me, you have a distinct and deeply embedded definition that comes to mind when someone says the word “mission”. Truthfully, if you grew up in the 80’s like I did, you may have two definitions: the one you got from 80’s action flicks and the one you got from church. The 80’s action flick definition usually had to do with large guns, a larger than life hero and going up against impossible odds.

It’s the church oriented definition of mission that I’m thinking about today…and that particular kind of mission seemed distinctly less exciting or glamorous than the ones depicted in 1980 action films! For me, growing up, Christian mission was something that someone else did, usually somewhere else in the world or in the dingy back alleys of the inner city. Mission was something that someone was “sent away” to do. There was a distinct line drawn in my church teaching between mission and evangelism. Mission happened “cross-culturally” or in another country, and evangelism is what Christians “at home” engaged in.

What if that definition is wrong? When I joined the EMCC back in 2003, it was amid growing conversation among evangelicals that we had gotten it wrong over the past couple of hundred years in drawing this distinction between those who went on mission and the rest of us Christian folk. That somehow going on mission was some special calling that the rest of us were excused from. Then our culture began to change. Christian values began to slip, taking a back seat to socialist agendas and the concerns of liberal minorities. Suddenly, people were not walking into churches looking for God…in fact, people stopped walking into churches altogether. Even more disturbing, people began to walk OUT of the church in droves.

Why? Because North American Christianity had become nothing more than empty shell religiosity for many, many people…all form and no substance; all tradition and no experience. Suddenly, the church found itself having to justify its existence and value. The “seeker sensitive” movement grew out of this, trying to discover and implement changes that would draw people back to the church, scratching their spiritual itch so to speak and then sneak Jesus in along the way.

This movement ultimately failed, because it created and fed nothing more than a consumeristic group of Christians who walked away as soon as something happened they didn’t like.

In the midst of all of this, a curious thing was happening on the edges of evangelical Christianity. The word “mission” began to be used in a different way. It was no longer used to describe men and women who served Jesus on other continents. Instead, it began to be used to talk about how all Christians should follow Jesus, wherever they are. Suddenly mission fields were no longer talked about just as remote pieces of jungle in Africa, but came to describe the local neighbourhood where any Christian lived, or the place where Christians worked or the coffee shop where Christians gathered to sip hot beverages.

It’s like the blinders had suddenly come off and North American Christianity began to realize that the Great Commission had been offloaded onto the “professionals” (at home and abroad) while the average, every-day Christian lazily coasted their way through their spiritual lives. The leaders in denominations and churches began to see that the church could not longer be filled with observers who merely showed up on Sundays to listen to their favourite songs and hear an entertaining message. If the church was to survive in this increasingly un-Christian culture, then the church needed to start being the church: it needed to start being gatherings of committed Jesus-followers who were cooking full tilt boogie for the glory, honour and proclamation of the great name of Jesus Christ. (If you got that reference to the helicopter movie “Thunder

The only way to do that is to teach people not to be enthusiastic admirers of Jesus (fans), but to be disciples of Jesus; followers of Jesus; and not just follower of Jesus, but followers who are passionate about making more followers of Jesus…of making disciples who makes disciples, who make disciples. That’s been the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada’s mantra for the past decade as it has awakened to this renewed vision of what the church needs to be about.

As we journey further in our sermon series “Fan or Follower”, we are going to explore the truth that a follower of Jesus is following Jesus somewhere, namely on mission. The really critical part of that discussion is that the mission can’t be my mission, it has to be Jesus’ mission. Remember when we started into this thing, I mentioned that Jesus only calls us to believe in him about 5 times in the gospels, but he calls us to follow him about twenty times…and we have to be following him somewhere. That somewhere is our mission.

Take some time before Sunday to ponder John 12:26. See you Sunday!

Fan or Follower: Not Alone

When was the last time you tried to do something on your own and failed at it? Would it have gone differently if you had asked someone to help you? Very few things in life are certain (cue the playback of the old adage about death and taxes in your head), but what is certain is that we are humans are not designed to be alone. Of course I’m speaking in a broad general sense here, but the Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image, and God is a relational God.

Yet it baffles me that so many Christians think that they can be a follower of Jesus in isolation from other believers. This is an indefensible position from a scriptural standpoint.

Sure, there are times when it is “easier” to journey alone with Christ, and certainly there are times when it is less messy. But when you journey alone, who is there to correct you or pick you up when you fall down, or cheer you on when you feel like quitting.

Of course, the “spiritual” answer to those questions is “God is walking with me and he is everything I need.” True, God is all we need…if that were how he chose to work in the lives of believers. But it’s not. He chooses to use the church, the local fellowship of the saints. It is God’s plan that we journey together in fellowship with other followers of Jesus.

Principles of following (so far):
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. 5) A follower knows Jesus intimately.

Sermon Big Idea:
While we are called to an intimate relationship with Jesus, that relationship is not intended to be an exclusive relationship. We are followers of Jesus in community with other followers.

Sermon Points:

  • John 10:1-6 Jesus calls his followers sheep, this is not an accident!
  • Sheep are flock animals, they do not do well on their own.
  • We make the mistake of thinking that our intimate relationship with Jesus is an exclusive relationship with Jesus. It is not.
  • The New Testament teaches that our faith journey with Jesus is never intended to be something we do alone, but in community, in fellowship with other believers. (2 Peter 2:9-10, Hebrews 10:24-25).
  • Acts 2:44-45: the early church devoted themselves to: 1) the Apostles teaching (the Word); 2) breaking of bread and fellowship (each other); 3) prayer (relationship with God).
  • Some Christians strongly affirm #1 & #3 above but neglect #2
  • Not just fellowship on Sunday mornings! The early Christians shared life together.
  • A fan thinks that their faith is personal, a follower shares their faith in fellowship with other followers.
  • What happens when we fellowship: 1) we help one another; 2) we meet Jesus; 3) sympathy, support and acceptance; 4) we find family

Follow-up Questions:
Do you share your faith journey with other people? Do you pray for people and let people pray for you? Do you share life with other Christans? If no, why not?

Questions for families with young children:
Take a moment to talk to your children about their best friend. Then ask them how they got to be such good friends with that person. Then take time to talk about what it means to share that friendship with other people, to extend it’s benefits and blessings to someone else. That is what it means to be in a community of Christ-followers.

Fan or Follower: Relationship

We all have relationships. Some of them are deep and abiding, some of them are shallow and passing, and others fall somewhere in between those two extremes. We have so many names for relationships that it can even be challenging to define the kind of relationship we have with someone. Is it a friendship or an acquaintance? Where do you cross the line between the two? Is someone a friend or a confidante? When does that line get crossed? What about the kinds of relationship that have deep trust and accountability but are not friendships as at all (like a mentor or a coach)? How do you know when someone crosses that deepest of lines and becomes the proverbial BFF (best friends forever for those reading this who do not keep up with modern short forms)?

This past Sunday in continuing our journey in answering the question: “Are you a follower of Jesus?”, we explored a key principle of following that makes all of the other principles of following possible. The principle is this: a fan knows ABOUT Jesus, a follower KNOWS Jesus. A follower has a relationship with Jesus to such an extent that the follower knows who Jesus is, recognizes his voice and appreciates his company.

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: A fan knows about Jesus. A follower knows (yada) Jesus.

Sermon Points:

  • Yada: to know someone and be known about someone, it refers to a deep knowledge of someone
  • This Hebrew word defines the kind of relationship God desires to have with us (Psalm 139 talks about this)
  • It is because God wants this kind of intimate relationship with us that he sent Jesus to earth to die for our sins
  • Yada talks about knowing someone because you have spent time with them and have experienced who they are
  • Yada is something that grows (Ephesians 1:17 & 2 Peter 3:18)
  • John 15:15 “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” We are Jesus friends, that is the relationship he defines for us
  • Duality if our relationship with God: our position is that of beloved child & friend, but our posture is that of a humble slave (doulos)
  • This principle is critical for all of the others to happen. You can’t get the place where you believe Jesus is the only one worth following if you don’t know him. In order to be willing to be his doulos (bondslave), you have to know him. In order to be willing to let Jesus interfere with your life, if you do not know him.
  • Our relationship with Jesus is personal. We can’t compare our relationship with others (“Well, compared to person “G” my relationship with Jesus is good!”). Jesus rebukes Peter for this in John 21:20-23. We must be concerned with only our relationship with Jesus.

Follow-up questions:
How close would you say that you are to Jesus right now? Are you “friendly” enough with him to share you deepest fears, dreams, concerns, secrets with him? Are you in more  of a strained or even estranged relationship right now? Did you know that no matter where your relationship is with Jesus right now, he loves you, he died for you and he wants to “yada” (know) you more? Take time with Psalm 139 this week. Marvel at how much God already knows you, and how much he wants you to know him. Then spend time with Psalm 139:23-24, make those your prayer and see what God shows you.

Question for families with young children:
Take a moment to ask you child who their best friend is and why. Then ask them what it would be like if Jesus was as good a friend. Ask them how they would like to get to know Jesus more.

Fan or Follower: Yada, yada, yada

No, I’m not trying to imitate the sound you thought your parents were making when they were trying to tell you something important about life (past or present). The word “yada” is actually a Hebrew word used in the Old Testament, and the best way of defining it is “to know completely and to be completely known.” It is the word used in Genesis 4:1 when we are told that “Adam lay with his wife Eve.” It is more than just a sexual activity that Genesis 4 is talking about here. The word yada talks about the mingling of souls, the very depth of intimacy.

This word, yada, appears in many places throughout the Old Testament, and if you were to take time to follow it, you would find that it is the word used over and over again to describe God’s relationship with us. It is the word that is used to describe how God wants to be known by us, and it describes how God already knows you.

Take the beginning of Psalm 139 for example:
Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord.

It is God’s desire to know us and to be known by us. That is the principle of following that we are going to explore this week. A fan knows about Jesus, a follower knows Jesus.

As we march toward Sunday, take some time in Psalm 139, one of my favourite pieces of scripture, to contemplate how deeply God already knows you.

Perhaps takes some time in John chapter 10 as well, where Jesus talks about being the good shepherd. In that section of scripture, Jesus talks about the sheep recognizing (knowing) the shepherds voice, and so they follow him.

The truth of the matter is that there are many competing voices in our world today, many things that push and pull us to follow. We must learn to hear the voice of the Shepherd, and the only way to do that is to know him enough that we recognize his voice.

See you Sunday.

Fan or Follower: The Way

Good Tuesday morning!

We had the privilege of having Claran Martin with us on Sunday. Claran is a Regional Minister with the EMCC, a member of the EMC’s National Team as well as the gentleman who helps resource, coach and equip me as a Pastor with the Evangelical Missionary Church.

Claran was with us on Sunday to bring greeting from President Phil Delsault as well as to give us some further conversation about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

I don’t have Claran’s notes to share exactly when he spoke on, but I will share my thoughts with you about it. Following Jesus means going on a journey with him, a journey of transformation. Claran spoke from Matthew 4, where Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to follow.
19 “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

I will make. Jesus calls us on this journey to follow him, but he does not call us into something that we must do alone. This has struck me on several occasions as I have been studying this topic. Many commentators, many authors reiterate the point that the Christian walk is not a lone walk. It is not something we endeavour to do on our own. Jesus asserts “I will make”. The transformation we experience as we journey with Jesus is not something we generate on our own, it is not something we make happen. It is something God does in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. It is also something that we are encouraged in by other Christians in our lives.

Claran made several other points during his time with us that I will try to outline briefly. First, the North American church is experiencing a time of decline. 60% of youth leave the church when they move away from their families, and of that 60%, 60% leave and never return. This is a startling statistic. Part of the issue is that the church has expected people to come to it, instead of realizing that the the call to follow Jesus is a call to go out, a call to be a blessing to the world around us. We need to go to those around us as a blessing, instead of waiting for them to come to us.

Second, Claran reminded us that our journey with Jesus is our own responsibility. We can’t rely on hearing a sermon once/week to grow as a Christian. In fact, did you know that you forget 80% of what you have heard within 24hrs? That is one of the reasons I am doing these blogs, to remind of what we have learned on Sunday and give you some thoughts/questions to ponder to keep it fresh in your minds.

Follow-up questions:
What does it mean to you to let Jesus make you into someone who fishes for people? What is something you would like Jesus to work on in you to make you a better “fisher-person”? What is one way you can be a blessing to a neighbour, friend, family-member, co-worker or complete stranger this week? Follow through on your plan. Share your experience with a Christian friend.

Questions for families with young children:
Ask you child to think of a time when they received a blessing from someone? Ask them how that made them feel. Ask them if they have any ideas about how they can be a blessing to someone in their lives, and then help them to follow through on their idea/plan.