Right now our church family is teaching through a series to help us experience the greatest life Jesus has to offer. Here are few empty lies robbing us of rest, joy, hope, and peace that is freely given in Jesus:
Spiritual Pride: Genesis teaches us we are created with purpose, meaning, and value that comes directly from God, but when we put ourselves in that position it is going to rob us of all that Jesus has to offer. We will find ourselves saying things like, “How come those good things aren’t happening in my life? How come bad things keep happening in my life? Or, who cares what happens in the lives of other people?”
The reason we will land in this place is because we have placed ourselves at the center, and all the weight of life is resting on our shoulders.
On Sunday mornings North Village Church has been studying through the book of Esther. A common theme we see throughout the book is that God involves people in the lives of other people. It’s that simple.
Throughout Scripture we God involving people in the lives of other people and it is something we need to consider about our lives today. Here are a few questions to help us reflect:
Am I Embracing My Faith? Esther and Mordecai hid their faith for half of the book. There are specific parts where they tell one another to “Tell no one.” Continue reading
On Sunday mornings at North Village Church we have been studying through the book of Esther. In Esther 5, we see two great examples of people chasing after favor in the life of Esther and Haman. Specifically, in the life of Esther she is longing for favor from the King of Persia, she is putting her life at risk, and the text says, “She obtains favor.”
Can you imagine how scary it must have been for Esther in those moments? She is risking her life. She is longing for favor to present her case to save her people. She dresses herself in the royal robes, and then she hears, “what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.”
Scripture teaches through faith alone in the God of Scripture (Father, Son, and Spirit) we are given a greater favor. Esther’s favor is temporal. It was based on her beauty, but God’s favor is eternal established in Christ’s work on the cross. Esther’s favor was based on her effort, but God’s favor is based on grace, and unmerited. Esther’s favor resulted in half of the kingdom, but God’s favor is greater and we are made son’s and daughter’s.
In our culture today that question probably sounds like nonsense. We place ourselves as the final authority in life on all matters, however, this isn’t very logical because all we have to do is look back on the last 6-months of our lives to see that our “final authority” isn’t very reliable.
This is why Scripture is so important.
I know there are some objections and concerns so let me respond quickly:
When we look at Scripture we see the Apostle Paul find his confidence and boldness as an “Apostle of Christ Jesus.” It is easy for us to assume the authority comes from the title “Apostle” but the only reason it carries any authority is because it is connected to Jesus. He found his confidence in Jesus?
Consider all the places where we look for confidence and boldness in life. We easily turn to our physical appearances. If we feel like we are in shape and eating healthy then we walk with a little pep in our step. We also turn to our finances. If our savings is growing then we feel confident about life. We turn to our circle of friends also. If they are inviting us places and including us in social activities then we tend to feel better about ourselves.
In our culture today there is a political debate on the sanctity of marriage, and on a deeper level there is a humanitarian debate on the acceptance of people. When the common Christ-follower hears about these debates in the news or mainstream media it is overwhelming for them. They are confident in their position on marriage taking place between one man and one woman, but they also don’t know how to express their views without coming across hateful. They are conflicted. They want to show their support of what they see in Scripture, but they don’t know where to start, what it would look like, and how it should be expressed.
I think if we are honest there are times in our relationship with Jesus where we are discouraged because we see a lack of renewal and transformation. We are confident of our faith in Jesus’ work on the cross. We have experienced renewal and transformation in the past, but there are times we can get discouraged because we don’t see a pattern of power and restoration in our personal lives.
Example #1: Your child hurts my child
What are we going to do when our children hurt one another? This is a sensitive subject isn’t it? We love our children, we defend our children, we protect our children, so when my little angel gets hurt by your little terror then it can get really complicated.
What are you going to do? We might gossip to the other parents and say something like, “Be sure to watch your children around that “one” over there. We might attack and say something like, “You need to do a better job of watching your children!” We might suppress and become bitter so every time we see them we think to ourselves, “Yep, there they go doing a horrible job of parenting!” When we are doing this we are telling ourselves God didn’t want this to happen and I need to do something to fix it! But what if we were more than friends then the gospel will shape our relationships with one another and we can:
When we trust in Jesus’ work on the cross we become sons and daughters who are adopted into God’s family. Therefore, the relationships we have with one another is more than friendship. It is more than a way to meet new people or have someone to hang out with on the weekends. So much so that there is a supernatural quality to our relationships with one another, but sometimes those relationships can still be difficult. Consider a few of these possibilities:
- How many times have you been hanging out with someone from North Village Church, and there is someone in the group that you really rubs you the wrong way. You can’t explain it, but you are actually thinking about what other group of friends you could hang out with so you can avoid that person.
- How many times have you been in a conversation with someone and they talk to you about something that is really difficult? You empathize with them, but the best you can come up with is something like, “That sucks and I will be praying for you.” Inside you are wishing that you could have said something more meaningful.
- What do you do when you have a friend that seems to always have the same problem. You know every time they go down this road it is going to end up in the same place. You are thinking to yourself, “How come they can’t change?” But you never say anything because you are afraid you are going to hurt their feelings.
- How many times have we been trying to talk to someone, but they keep playing with their phone, checking email, checking updates, and texting, and it feels like what ever is going on in that phone is more important than having a conversation with you.
- Or, how many times do you show up at church on Sunday and you see everyone talking to everyone, and inside you are wondering, “How come nobody is talking to me?” Why does it look like everyone else is so friendly, but nobody is friendly with me?”
Scripture teaches us because of our faith in Jesus there is a quality to our relationships with one another. Below are 4 characteristics that shapes our relationships with one another. Take a moment and consider how they might apply to your relationships.
It seems like around the holidays Jesus is just reduced to a rosy cheek little baby in a nativity scene. However, Jesus isn’t just a baby in a manger, but He is also our warrior.
He is our warrior because we constantly live in a world of opposition against God. When you turn on the television it doesn’t speak of His glory. No, the news comes on and tells us the world is falling apart and then a commercial comes on and tells us we need their product or we are never going to be able to make it in life. When we put on our clothes they don’t affirm that we are beautiful, and created in the image of God. No, they reveal our little bits and nibbles that we need to cover. When we eat a meal the food doesn’t declare the provision of His hands. We feel anxious about how many carbs, sugars, and how badly we want to eat that Snickers. When we go to work do we gather in the conference rooms and praise Him for the ability to create, manage, sell, teach, teach, organize? No, we carry the weight and responsibility to financially provide for ourselves. When our children come home from school they don’t walk in the door singing of His glory. No, they sing of their glory. They beckon for their snack, sit in their Dora chair, and sit to watch their favorite cartoon. Every day we walk into a world that is openly opposing God.
Sin can be discouraging sometimes because it reminds us of our imperfections. We will say things to ourselves like, “Why do you keep showing up in my life!” We might respond by thinking we need to “try harder” or we might go in the opposite direction and tell ourselves we need to just “give up.” Don’t you just feel like giving up sometimes?
Sin is discouraging, and really apart from the Gospel it is devastating, however, through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross there is a joy that is often overlooked. Consider how the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are involved in in the sin that we see in our lives and hopefully you might see a glimpse of the joy that is poured out on us through the Gospel.
Work of the Father: Scripture teaches us the Father is powerful and majestic, but also intimately involved in our lives so that when we see sin in our lives it isn’t to discourage us, give us something to do to try to clean ourselves up to be better people, or be indifferent because we don’t care anymore, but He has gone before us to reveal to us our so that it might weaken our faith in ourselves and strengthen our faith in Him. It means in every circumstance we experience in this life it is to draw us to Him. It is to remind us that we can’t do it on our own and that we must trust in Him.
I can’t think of a place in Scripture where Jesus calls us to worship Him, but He does call us to obedience throughout Scripture. Obedience is one of those words that will often times make us twitch. We will feel the weight of not obeying, we will feel guilty, we will feel defeated, and some of us even feel indifference when it comes to obedience.
It doesn’t mean we don’t try to be obedient because we do. We will tie strings on our finger to help us remember, make sticky notes, wear wrist bands, tell our friends to punch us in the face when we disobey, and it might work for a little while, but it seems like over time we slowly wander back into a pattern of disobedience.
Scripture teaches us that our lives are eternally changed through faith in Jesus work on the cross, but I think if we are honest we don’t feel eternally changed. When we look in the mirror we don’t see change. When we think about what we did last night it doesn’t feel like change. I think if we are honest, we feel like we are letting people down a lot of the times and we feel like a failure.
Here is why. We live in a world of chaos and frustration. Often times that chaos and frustration leads to pain. We experience pain through verbal abuse and how we talk to each other, sexual abuse in how we treat one another, and sometimes it is so painful we keep people at a distance because we are afraid they are going to hurt us or even worse, that we would hurt them.
Somehow we have created this illusion in our culture that our life is a collective effort between us and God. It is a group project and we are working together. God does all the research and we do the presentation. Pretty good partner to have, right? We work really hard for a while and when we get tired God works at it for a while. When we need some help on a test God comes through for us. When we need help getting a job we ask for God to help. When we get sick we think this is a job for, “God.” This mentality works great when we pass the test. We give God a high-five, thank him for doing what we asked, and then we go back to our lives.
This mentality is horrible when we fail the test. When we don’t get the job. When we don’t get healthy, and we start thinking, “God isn’t doing what I told Him to do.” God isn’t very helpful. God isn’t very powerful. If God was so great then why isn’t He making everything better! Why isn’t God doing what I want Him to do! Sometimes we find ourselves getting to a point where we start thinking, “God doesn’t care, God isn’t real, and God doesn’t matter, because if He did care or was real He would do something.”
The problem is that when we have that perception we have placed ourselves in the position of God and we have placed God in the position of our servant, and when we find ourselves with that perspective we have a really distorted view of ourselves and a really distorted view of God.
As we take the next 35-days to press into Jesus it isn’t that we are trying to be more religious or trying to be better people, but that we are praying that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes so that we can see Him in such a way that that we are in awe of who God is and what He is doing.
Most Christ-followers want to have spiritual conversations with other people because we believe in what Jesus has done in our life and we want others to experience that same transformation, but we don’t know how it happens. We don’t want to be the crazy guy on the corner with a bullhorn. We don’t want to be the angry guy that writes letters to the editor. We don’t want to be the creepy guy that starts telling people what to do, and we aren’t really sure what it is suppose to look like. How does it happen?
When we look at Jesus’ conversations in the gospels there are some similar themes captured below:
OBSERVATION: John 4:5-9
In verses 5-9 we see Jesus is having a conversation with a Samaritan woman and with a little observation we can have a great deal of insight into the conversation. She is a woman and it was unusual for men to have a conversation with women. She is a Samaritan which creates some ethnic division between Jesus (Jewish) and her being a Samaritan. In addition, she is drawing water from the well at the sixth hour, which was about noon and it is the hottest part of the day. Typically women would come in the morning to socialize, but as we read the story we see this woman has been through multiple marriages.
Can you imagine the shame of being married and divorced multiple times? Multiple times telling your friends, “This is the one! This time its going to work. This time it is going to last.” Multiple times of hearing someone say, “I will love you forever” and not seeing them follow through on their word. With just a little bit of observation we see a woman carrying a lot of guilt and shame.