Choosing Church, Int'l Parents Say "Chill", Picasso, Movies to Share, and Evidence of the Fall – Stuff We Like #18

It’s been a while. That means there even more

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thank usual.…

Art I Like - The Blind Man’s Meal (Picasso, 1903)

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For those of us in the sighted world, we cannot imagine being unable to see. We are moved to pity for those who do not "see" the world in the way that we do. But Picasso's painting forces us to reconsider; his subject touches the pitcher of wine, and holds the bread, symbols of Christ's own life and death. The "blind" man may indeed "see" God far more deeply than those of us who are distracted by the busyness of the sighted world.

A Fun Article I Like

Movies Every Millennial Dad Should Introduce to His Kids

 I was super proud when I read this. I think Kathy and I have covered at least half of the list!

I was super proud when I read this. I think Kathy and I have covered at least half of the list!

Two Parenting Articles I Like

From Tokyo to Paris, Parents Tell Americans to Chill

Because we apparently have no chill.

Wise Parenting Dos and Don’ts from 1886

I like this one: “Explain the reason why. The child is a little walking interrogation point. To it all is new. Explain the reason. Your boy will some day repay this trouble by teaching some other child.”

Two Thought-Provoking Articles I Like

Choosing Church

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Best word of advice: “A healthy church will help you get over yourself.” Gold!

Private Dreams and Public Ideals in San Francisco

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To have grown up through San Francisco’s recent history is to be haunted by the visions of progressivism that did not end up where they were supposed to, that did not think far enough ahead and skidded past the better world they planned. It’s to be paranoid about second- and third-order social effects, to distrust endeavors that cheer on sensibility more than sense. It’s to have seen how swiftly righteous dreams turn into cloister gates; to notice how destructive it can be to shape a future on the premise of having found your people, rather than finding people who aren’t yours.

Two Articles as Evidence of the Fall

Black Man’s Fatal Encounter With Police Strikes Close to Home in Silicon Valley

This man is a modern saint. His ministry has had a tremendous influence in my life. He isn’t gone yet, but he will be sorely missed.

The Gospel Comes with a House Key, Ozark, Rent-A-Family - Stuff We Like #18

School is in which means more links coming out! You know you need them!

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Books I Like

The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

Still not done with this book but easily the most challenging book I've read all year. It's one that makes you want to buy a whole box of them and pass them out to every church member. If you want to grow in hospitality, go deeper in what it means to welcome others into your life, or simply need a good spiritual kick in the pants, you need to read this book. When I read a book that makes my mind try to argue against it and then realize I'm just trying to justify selfish attitudes, I know I'm being convicted. This book has done it for me.

 

Shows I Like

Ozark (Netflix)

My wife and I are in the middle of this still but it doesn't let off at all. As with many shows in this period of high quality television, it's quite the exploration of what happens when we make questionable choices, the ramifications of justifying selfishness, and consistent failures to remember that everything done in the dark comes to the light. It's a fast pace show that still takes time to enjoy its setting.

Articles I Like

Japan's Rent-A-Family Industry

Courtesy of my wife, a reminder of how lonely our lives truly can be. There are countless articles out there about the loneliness epidemic that has hit Japan but is prevalent in many other countries. It's an interesting exploration of this plague and its intersection with the guilt/shame dynamic you often see in Asian cultures. The manner in which they've tried to overcome it is sad and a reminder of the precious gift that Christian community is. We do not simply attend the same church, we are brothers and sisters and family in Christ. We share both our joys and sufferings.

Now that I think of it though, maybe my wife is trying to tell me something by showing me this article......

Succession, Stamped from the Beginning, Mission:Impossible - Stuff We Like #16

Summer's going by too fast, feed your brain something that will last.

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Shows I Like

Succession (HBO)

An incredible show that explores power differentials that the ultra-wealthy enjoy, the cutthroat world of corporate power, and the soul-crushing hold fathers have over their children. Cynical but hilarious, dark but ridiculous, Succession both lampoons a world absolutely foreign to the 99% and challenges us why we try so hard to become the 1% in the rest of life. 

Books I Like

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

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I'm no history buff and don't particularly enjoy reading history books. This however might be the most powerful book I've read this year thus far. Kendi tracks the foundations of the racial inequalities evident today. Not only does it point out political and socio-economic roots of these problems but how certain stereotypes and attitudes have developed in the course of our nation's existence. It's a hefty read but well worth the time invested.

Movies I Like

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Look, I'm not keen on supporting Scientology either. But this is easily the most action-packed movie I've seen in awhile and I think the Fast and Furious movie franchise is the best series of movies ever made. Fun fact: Tom Cruise, when he made this movie, is a year older than the Quaker Oats guy when he made his commercial: 

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Yeah that guy. Also, my favorite past-time is watching Tom Cruise running.

Middle Child Extinction, George Lucas Is Crazy, LES BLEUS, and Black Dignity in a White World – Stuff We Like #15

My first post-paternity leave version of:

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Children I Like - Margot!!!

I mean, I like all of my children. But welcoming our fourth child into our family has been delightful in a way I couldn't have expected. She is a joy to all of us. I'm in love. 

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Books I Like

I'm Still Here, by Austin Channing Brown

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Our only change at dismantling racial injustice is being more curious about its origins than we are worried about our comfort. It's not a comfortable conversation for any of us. It is risky and messy. It is haunting work to recall the sins of our past. But is this not the work we have been called to anyway? Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate truth and inspire transformation? It's haunting. But it's also holy.

She's a black woman with a white man's name. Her parents gave it to her on purpose so that she could get her foot in doors that are typically closed to people like her. This is a brutally honest, challenging book, written by a Christian woman learning to exist with dignity in the body God gave her in a world that constantly undermines that dignity. 

The Dark Tower, by C.S. Lewis

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This is a collection of short stories, many of which are available elsewhere. The whole reason to read this book is for ONE story, "The Man Born Blind."  It is genius and heartbreaking and opens your mind to things it should definitely open up to. Also, the title story will be interesting to anyone who has read Lewis's space trilogy. 

John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor, by W. Robert Godrey

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This is a short, readable biography of one of the greatest Reformation theologians, written by one of my old seminary professors. Calvin was a flawed man, but he had a glorious God and it was his deep understanding of God's Word that led him to be one of the most influential figures in Western history. 

Son of Laughter, by Fredrick Buechner

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Buechner is one of my new favorite novelists. This fictional retelling of the life of Jacob (son of Isaac, which means laughter) puts you in the ancient world and makes you feel the visceral earthiness of the life of the biblical patriarchs. 

Articles I Like

The Extinction of the Middle Child

Apparently, August 12 is Middle Child Day. Many of our most important national figures have been middle children (Abe Lincoln!). In the 1970s, 40% of mothers had 4 or more children. Today, nearly two-thirds of mothers have either 2 or 1 child.  The author claims we need middle children now more than ever. I don't know about that, but this is an interesting look at family dynamics in our culture.

George Lucas reveals his plan for Star Wars 7 through 9—and it was awful

 Jedi's inside a human body. Because, of course.

Jedi's inside a human body. Because, of course.

I never thought I'd say this, but here it goes: Thank God Disney owns Star Wars. We already knew that old George Lucas is bad at making movies (two words: Jar Jar). But somehow, he was going to take the franchise in an even worse direction. Mickey's corporate overlords have somehow saved us. 

Soccer Teams I Like - FRANCE!!!

The last time France was in the final, Kathy and I were on our honeymoon. And that game did not end nearly as well as this year's final against Croatia! 

 

What stuff do you like? Share in the comments below!

Sermon Recap: Jesus and the Broken (Mark 10:46-52)

This is a recap of the first sermon in our current series: Jesus & People

As a society, we have an empathy deficit. Ours is an age of fake news, undocumented families being ripped apart at the border, enormous economic inequality, and vitriolic political rhetoric. In this series, we will look at Jesus to help us learn to see others with the love, compassion, and empathy that he embodied. Mark 10:46-52 gives an example of Jesus and the broken.

1. Bartimaeus was broken.

Everyone in Jericho would have known Baritmaeus as a poor, blind beggar. In Mark 10:48, we see the crowd treating this marginalized man with contempt. Contemporary Jewish literature said things like "it is better to die than to beg" (Sirach 40:28). Many in the crowd likely felt that this broken man would do better to give up and die than be such a nuisance to them as they tried to see Jesus.

2. The broken cry out to Jesus.

Because Bartimaeus was a broken man, marginalized in his culture, he had nothing to lose. When he heard Jesus was near, he cried out "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" (v.47). His cry of desperation is a profound prayer that we should learn from.

  • "Jesus" - God made himself available to Bartimaeus in the incarnation. He could call out to God because God made himself present and gave himself a name in Jesus.
  • "Son of David" - Bartimaeus recognizes that Jesus is a King in the line of David, the promised King who would put things right again in Israel. Jesus was that King, but his throne wasn't golden. His throne was a wooden cross.
  • "Have mercy on me" - As a broken man, Bartimaeus understands his relationship to Jesus better than those who are wealthy, strong, and capable. He knows he is broken, poor and needy and speaking to the King of kings. His prayer is a plea—not for his rights—but for Christ's mercy.

3. Jesus heals the broken.

Jesus responds to Baritmaeus's request to see again in v.52: “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” Bartimaeus’s brokenness makes him throw himself on Christ’s mercy by faith. He doesn’t trust his own strength, ability, intelligence or goodness. He doesn’t have any of those things. He only has his brokenness. And THAT is why he trusts Jesus alone! His brokenness leads to faith. And it’s that faith that Jesus says leads to his healing.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. It can be easy in our day to think about social issues in the big picture, but fail to treat individuals who are hurting and marginalized with dignity and love. The crowd treated Bartimaeus with contempt—who are you tempted to treat that way? What kind of person is especially hard for you to love? 
  2. Do you believe Christ will answer your prayers? He promises to in John 14:13-14. What stops us from believing in prayer's power? 
  3. Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus in prayer because he was broken. How frequently do you find yourself broken before the Lord in prayer? Why?
  4. What is your greatest need right now? Take a moment and ask God for his help in prayer.
  5. In what ways do you tend to rely on your own strength rather than put your faith in Christ alone? How can you grow in faith and decrease your tendency to self-reliance?
  6. Bartimaeus started the story on the side of the road; he ended the story healed and on the road, following Jesus. How is God calling you to follow Christ on the road of your life right now? How is calling you to grow as his disciple?

An Untouchable Day, The Esther Option, Gone But Not Deleted - Stuff We Like #14

Catch up on some reading. An articles-only edition.

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Articles I Like

An Untouchable Day by Neil Pasricha

It's becoming popular to advocate disconnecting at least one day a week from technology. The author advocates it as it's better for work, human relationships, and self-care. It's a great idea. But it's not a new idea. God's been commanding us to do this for awhile now. He calls it the Sabbath. It's for our good to observe it. ;)

The Esther Option by Mike Cosper

Cosper is always a thoughtful observer of areas where Christ and culture meet. This article wisely lays out what we hope to be as a church that desires to be a faithful witness to Alameda, Oakland, and the rest of the Bay Area. We are called to a present perseverance in the places and to the people God has called us to and surrounded us with. What does that look like for you? What does it look like to do this with your church community?

Gone but Not Deleted by Luke O'Neil

Technology has changed the way we do everything. Here's a look at how it affects loss and mourning over one's who are gone. How do we hold onto those that go? How might that which be a reminder of lives lost also become crushing reminders of guilt? Is this the best way we might remember those we love?

The Average Guy Who Spent 6,003 Hours Trying to Be a Professional Golfer by Stephen Phillips

Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that real expertise of any field only happens to those who put in at least 10,000 hours of practice. One man put into action this idea by taking up golf at 30, a sport where competitors come in all shapes and sizes but begin at early ages, and try to make the PGA tour. What he discovered are professionals don't just put in practice time but have intangible qualities of focus, passion, obsession, and drive that separate them from the rest. It's pretty much why I never made the NBA.

Don't Blink! The Hazards of Confidence by Daniel Kahneman

An article I used as a resource for my sermon self-confidence a couple of weeks ago. Confidence is a virtue we lift on high but the author points out how it also deceives and deludes us into thinking we're experts in things we actually aren't. It also fools those who are looking for experts into thinking they've found one. As they say, "Fake it 'til you make it."

Sermon Recap: Self-Service : Sacrifice (Philippians 2:25-30)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series, Get (Outta) Your Own Way

Our culture is built on the assumption that we should all be able to serve ourselves and get what we want. This is not the way of the cross. God’s desire is not for us to serve ourselves but to live sacrificially in worship of Christ.

1. The Failure of Self-Service

Self-service never turns out the way we want. If anything, the ways in which we try to do things ourselves end up revealing our sinful motivations and desires. We end up treating other people as objects and deceive ourselves with an illusion of control when we really don’t have any. We’re not very good at being a god, even when we try to make ourselves to be one. Ultimately, God will hold us accountable for this selfish way of living.

2. The Root of Sacrifice

The cross shows us that Jesus came not to be served but to serve. His sacrifice for us is the root of why we can sacrifice for others. We see this exemplified in Epaphroditus as we is willing to be sent anywhere, willing to serve anyone, and make any sacrifices possible to honor God. He came close to losing his life in the process but his vision of ministry was made clear by the cross.

3. The Fruit of Sacrifice

A life of sacrifice brings people together in unique ways that normally don’t happen. It sets people on the same course of life together, walking in lockstep with each other. It also testifies to a watching  world that Jesus is King and that he is worthy of worship. Following Jesus shouldn’t be easy and requires sacrifice. Thankfully our Savior is always serving us by His Spirit.

Reflection and Application

  1. In what ways do you see our culture being obsessed with self-service?

  2. How do the ways in which we serve ourselves actually end up enslaving us to spiritual idols and reveal our sinfulness?

  3. How does Epaphroditus’ sacrifices in service reveal the nature of what it means to serve others? Do you see this typified in how you love those around you?

  4. Have you ever suffered and sacrificed with others around you? Did it become a blessing? How and why?

  5. Why does the reality that our Savior continues to serve us by the Holy Spirit empower us to live sacrificially instead of serving ourselves? How does that change our attitudes toward everyday sacrifice?

Sermon Recap: Self-Interest : Unity (Philippians 2:19-24)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series, Get (Outta) Your Own Way

Self-interest is a cultural buzzword that some see positively but most see negatively. Some accuse the church of being this way. Nonetheless, it is actually in our self-interest to pursue unity in the church to bring glory to God in the gospel.

1. Understanding Self-Interest

We throw the word “self-interest” at those we believe to be selfish. At the same time, self-interest, when rooted correctly, is a good thing. Scripture even points toward elements of self-interest that are good for us. Jesus tells us to lose our lives if we want to save it. There are eternal rewards promised to those who persevere in faith, who remain steadfast. This is not selfishness nor works-righteousness but a self-interest that is rooted in the gospel to honor God.

2. A Unity of Vision

Paul had to have been tempted to be a control freak. Yet the testimony of Philippians shows he had great care and love for Timothy because they shared a united love for Christ. Likewise, Timothy served with Paul out of a shared vision for gospel work. Do we live our lives with the same vision of unity in line with Christ and his church?

3. A Unity in Community

The two men were also dependent on each other. Timothy needed Paul because he encouraged and legitimized Timothy’s calling in ministry. Paul needed Timothy’s faithfulness and perseverance in  order to serve God rightly. The reality is that all the Christians we admire are not believers who operate apart from a community of faith. It is in our self-interest to live in union with the church in Christ.

Reflection and Application

  1. What do you think of when you hear the word, “self-interest”? Is it positive or negative to you? Why?

  2. How can self-interest be a good thing in certain situations? How can self-interest be good at all?

  3. Why would self-interest in the gospel be a good thing? Why would it lead us to unity with others by sharing the same vision?

  4. What was the last decision you made with a vision of unity in line with the gospel? In view of the church? Why would it be in our self-interest to consider these things?

  5. Consider Christians whose faith you admire. Why do you think community is integral to their faith? Would it be in your self-interest to grow in the community God has placed you in?

Sermon Recap: Self-Pity : Joy (Philippians 2:14-18)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series, Get (Outta) Your Own Way

Self-pity is a reigning attitude in our day and age. It’s easy to slip into  but is it how God wants us to live? What we must see is how the gospel doesn’t make room for self-pity but calls us to rejoice in Christ.

1. Why Self-Pity is a Problem

Self-pity exposes our self-centeredness, makes us angry and play the victim, refuses to show gratitude, and leads to self-worship. Worst of all, it’s outright rebellion against God. Paul warns the church of being like the Israelites in wilderness, feeling sorry for themselves, incurring God’s anger. Even if the outworking of self-pity isn’t directed toward God, he still takes it as a personal offense.

2. What the Gospel Says to Self-Pity

To get out of self-pity, we need is a shift of perspective to the cross. The gospel says Jesus was my substitute and he suffered what I should’ve received. If I don’t deserve good things but get them anyway instead of the bad things that should come my way, my whole life is a gift from God. The cross confronts our temptation to self-pity and forces us to ask if we’re right to pity ourselves. When you consider all the people who have greater right to self-pity but lived in faithfulness, they are all marked by a joy in the Messiah that kept them away from feeling sorry for themselves.

3. How Joy Transforms Us

When we move from self-pity to Christ-centered joy, we first being to shine as stars in the sky. We serve as a witness to world steeped in self-pity, making known the unspeakable joy of Christ. It is inconsistent to proclaim Christ as Savior and wallow in your own misery. Joy also makes us sacrificial worshipers. We will be willing to step out of ourselves to serve and love others in honor of our God who did the same for us. We can celebrate the joys of others, even if it comes at our own expense.

Reflection and Application

  1. How are you often tempted to self-pity? What type of situations force that emotion to arise? How does it affect you?

  2. Have you seen self-pity affect your understanding of God? How has self-pity been debilitating to your life?

  3. Why does looking at the cross change our perspectives on our own lives? How does the gospel challenge us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves?

  4. Are there ways in which more Christ-centered joy could actually change your life? Places where you would begin to thrive rather than cave in?

  5. What does it look like to shine like a star in the sky for Christ through your emotional health? Why is joy so integral to our Christian witness?

Sermon Recap: Self-Confidence : Faith (Philippians 2:12-13)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series, Get (Outta) Your Own Way

The world believes that many of our problems can be solved by having more self-confidence. What we really need is to see that self-confidence is self-defeating and why true faith is Christ-confident.

1. Why Self-Confidence is Self-Defeating

The world says over-confident people must learn to humble themselves while under-confident people should learn to act more confidently. The problem for both solutions is that we’re still told to depend on ourselves. It’s foolish to think we can flip a switch and become who we desire to be.

2. Why Faith is Christ-Confident

This is why faith is better than self-confidence. It leads us to be confident in something other than ourselves: Jesus Christ. Faith requires you to lose self-confidence, not gain it, to be dependent on Christ alone. There are three ways Paul drives this reality home to the Philippians.

A. Rely on Christ Alone

Faith relies on Jesus alone. There are always mentors and influential people in your life who will help you grow in faith but they are not God. They still fail and fall short. God’s desire is for us to put all our confidence in Him and not be dependent upon other fallen people to save us.

B. Revere Christ Alone

We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, with the right awe and reverence of God that puts us in our proper place. Faith forces us to “come to Jesus” and realize how small and helpless we truly are. Why be confident in yourself when God has it all?

C. Recognize Christ at Work in You

God assures us we can be confident in Christ because He is still at work in us. None of us come to faith by our own power but only by the Spirit’s moving. God took all the risk, gave up all things, and made the sacrifice to love us. He alone is worthy of our faith and deserves all our confidence.

Reflection and Application

  1. How would you rate your level of self-confidence? Do you tend to be over-confident or under-confident? Why do you think that is?

  2. What are our culture’s answers to our confidence issues? Why aren’t they very helpful?

  3. Why is it about faith in Christ that necessarily draws you away from self-confidence? How is that a good thing?

  4. What does it look like for you to “work out your salvation in fear and trembling?” How should confidence in Christ play a role in this?

  5. Why should we be comforted and confident that God works in us, “to will and to work for his good pleasure?” Are there ways you’ve seen this happen in your life? Celebrate them!

Evil Genius, Killing Eve, Thinking - Stuff We Like #13

Grillin' and chillin' with some extra hot links.

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Movies I Like

Evil Genius

It was awhile back but there was a famous case of a man robbing a bank with a bomb strapped around his body. He had claimed that someone was forcing him to do it. This documentary uncovers the insane plot behind it all and the insidious mastermind who set it all in motion.

The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

I usually have an interest in people and things that I know I have no plans on ever emulating or attempting. Everyone involved in this race are an example of that. A race that has people ascending and descending the equivalent of Mount Everest twice and stretches over 130 miles just isn't my thing. A testament to both how crazy the human mind is to think of a race like this and how strong the human body and mind can be to finish it.

Books I Like

 

 

 

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosario Butterfield

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An incredibly powerful story of the Spirit at work in a lesbian professor's life in revealing the truth of Christ and the importance of real, honest, intimate community. Her testimony is a reminder that God's grace works anywhere and everywhere, often in the most unexpected of places with the most unexpected of peoples. 

 

 

 

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

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This Nobel Prize winning professor sheds light on two different ways our brain receives, computes, and responds to information and what that looks like in everyday life. It's a fun way to help explain why you think the way you do and a sober way of easy it can be to manipulate other people. What this monster-sized book isn't is a summer, lay-out-on-the-beach read. 

Shows I Like

Killing Eve (BBC)

It's often easy to make shows and movies that turn strong female leads into Rosie the Riveter caricatures of empowerment and control (i.e. Mad Max: Fury Road, Jessica Jones). There is certainly space and some necessity for this to exist. What I appreciate about Killing Eve though is the show's cat and mouse game that could become that but doesn't. It goes deeper, with actresses that give performances that have more depth and nuance, leaving the viewer with less of a desire to "be like her" and more urge to feel the thrill of the chase. 

Sermon Recap: Self-Exaltation : Humility (Philippians 2:1-11)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series, Get (Outta) Your Own Way

Our culture naturally rewards those who exalt themselves. Humility is not a celebrated trait in our world today. What we need t o see is that humility is the call of Christ and the better way to live.

1. Folly of Self-Exaltation

Self-exaltation is everywhere and happens at every age, from oldest to youngest. Yet the roots of self-exaltation go back all the way to the Garden of Eden and the fall of Adam and Eve. They were tempted to exalt themselves over God and gave in. Self-exaltation is perhaps the most anti-God of all sins. It’s a pursuit of empty-glory, a striving after the wind that only proves futile. Humility is a quality that few civilizations have ever treasured. Yet it is exactly what God calls us to in his letter to the Philippians.

2. Failure of False Humility

The problem with humility is how hard it is to identify. The moment we think we have it, we’ve lost it. False humility is evident when we can’t thank others for a compliment or doing something kind for us. CS Lewis reminds us, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” False humility also can’t thank God because it only wants to give credit to itself. It pursues excellence and ambition at the expense of serving and loving others.

3. Foundation of True Humility

Humility isn’t something you can work on. It’s annoying that that’s the case but it’s probably right. Humility requires you to look entirely away from yourself which is why it is so integral to the gospel. Paul breaks out in song in the middle of this passage in praise of Jesus’ humility. The road to glory for Christ only came by walking the path of the cross. For us to expect something different for ourselves is to exalt ourselves over God and make it about us.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Do you ever feel like you’re “in your own way”? When something that could’ve been great for you doesn’t work out because of something you thought or did?

  2. Are you ever tempted to exalt yourself? What kind of situations or contexts do you find this to be strongest?

  3. Do you practice false humility? Are there ways in which you pretend to be humble but know you’re not? Why does CS Lewis’ quote above help address false humility?

  4. In what ways have you found humility to be the hardest virtue to comprehend? What makes it so frustrating or difficult for you to understand and embrace humility?

  5. Why does faith in the gospel naturally and necessarily lead us to humility? How does it help us grow in humility?

Sermon Recap: Grace and Limits (Hebrews 12:1-11)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series on parenting: Raising Humans. 

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When I asked my son, Jonas, what makes a good parent, one thing he said struck me: "Don't give the kids whatever they want. Because if they get whatever they want, they won't know what's right." Limits are good us—they give shape to our lives. Parents give children limits through consistent, loving discipline that reflects the discipline of God in Hebrews 12

God’s Fatherly Limits for Us

When we look at God's fatherly limits for us in Hebrews 12:7-11, we learn 6 things about our discipline for our children:

1. Discipline is an act of love (v.7)

What parent doesn’t love their children? When God brings us through suffering, we can see it as His love for us, teaching us, training us to know and follow Him. Parents who love their children discipline them. “God is treating you as sons.”

2. Failure to discipline is hatred. (v.8)

If your whole life were rainbows and roses, it would be a mark that God doesn’t love you! It takes discipline to grow up and become our best selves. Failure to discipline a child is a mark, not of love and compassion, but of hatred and contempt for their potential.

3. Discipline trains children to receive their limits. (v.9-10)

A parent’s discipline leads children to respect them. Discipline from God the Father, in turn, leads us to submit to Him. If our sinfulness leads us to try to transcend human limits, and that is an inherently bad thing, then discipline teaches us to trust, not self or sinful pride, but our loving Father. 

4. Discipline is unpleasant. (v.11)

These Christians are suffering persecution. They are being maligned, scoffed at, imprisoned, betrayed. And God is ALLOWING this. It isn’t because He is incapable of stopping it. It is because He has a gospel vision for their lives. It is because He is not satisfied with where we are, but has a greater goal for where we will end up. Discipline is unpleasant. But that unpleasantness is key to growth. 

5. Discipline bears fruit.

This is an essential component of gracious discipline. Bringing the unpleasant aspect of discipline into our children’s lives without the goal of bearing fruit is tantamount to punishment, if not plain cruelty. We have NO RIGHT to punish our children. We do not punish—by grace Christ was punished for us (see 1 Peter 2:24)! We correct and train—we discipline. We lead our children through unpleasant experiences so that it will bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 

6. Discipline is divine.

Earthly parents are an analogy of God’s loving care for us as His children. When we discipline our children, we are participating in God’s work in their lives. When we discipline our children in love, to instruct, and to bear fruit in their lives, we are imaging our Father in heaven. 

The Grace of Limits

 

Hebrews 12:3-7 teach that mom and dad get to reflect the Father and His loving discipline for their children. We discipline, in part, to teach our kids the way God created the universe to work, according to His law and the "if this, then that" principle that is a prerequisite to godly wisdom. 

How should parents do this? What discipline method should be used? Hebrews quotes Proverbs, which elsewhere discusses "the rod" (Proverbs 22:15; 13:24). This does NOT mean abuse, and parents must remember our authority in our children's lives is given by God for their good. Rather than prescribe method, as a church we want to encourage everyone to discipline in community. Talk with others, learn from each other, be accountable to one another. 

Most importantly, remember that you will make mistakes and need repentance throughout your parenting. Give grace to your kids, and receive the grace of Christ. 

Raising Humans Homework #3

If you are a parent, sit down on your own and/or with your spouse and answer the following 3 questions together:

  1. The life stage and appropriate limits for our child(ren) are _____________.
  2. Currently, we ensure those limits are upheld in our child(dren)’s life by ________________.
  3. We will live in community by honestly sharing our discipline practices and parenting struggles with these trusted brothers and sisters _____________. 
  4. Extra Credit: Ask a wise brother or sister who has spent time with your children this question: “Do you think my children understand their God-given limits? Do they understand them too well (not free to be themselves)? Or not enough (TOO free around others as to make them uncomfortable)? 

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. What kinds of limits has God given you in your life? How do you view them?
  2. What is one God-given limit that you seek to transcend? Why? 
  3. What does it look like to humbly submit to your God-given limits? 
  4. Do you believe that God's discipline for you (and yours for your kids) is an act of love? Why or why not?
  5. If you have kids, in what ways do you seek to reinforce the God-given law principle in their lives, "if this, then that"? How consistent are you in this?
  6. Is it easier to give your children the law or to give them the gospel? Why are both necessary to their development and knowledge of God? 
  7. Is the way you discipline your children honestly submitted to Christ? Are there things about your parenting that you don't want Him to touch? Why or why not?

Klay’s Kisses, Parenting by Grace, and Loving Orphans – Stuff We Like #12

It's hard to know when to stop. There's so much…

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Moments I Like - Klay's Kiss

Klay is the best Warrior on the internet. First #ChinaKlay. Now this.

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After hitting a three in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals Monday, the normally quiet, reserved, most-likeable-because-he-never-speaks-up Klay Thompson blew a kiss to the Houston crowd. It was this glorious moment of competitive greatness and snark. It made my night.

Books I Like

Give Them Grace, by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

If you're going to read a book on how the gospel applies to parenting, there's no better book than this one. Here is an article-length distillation of the book's message, and below is Elyse discussing the ineffectiveness of rules to change our kids. 

This Letter to a Young Parent, by Jamie Smith, is in the same vein and speaks to our children's participation in the Christian community. Like Mariellyn said Sunday, "if it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a church to raise a Christian!"

The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald

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This book has one of the most brilliant illustrations of what it means to live by faith that I have ever read!!! I read it to my kids last month and they thoroughly enjoyed it. There is bravery, adventure, monsters, battlers, and a fairy grandmother. I highly recommend it!

Book SALES I Like - The Alameda Library Used Book Sale

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Three days, thousands of titles, every six months at the officer's club on Alameda Point. The last day, you fill up a bag of books and pay $4 for it no matter how many you've got! All proceeds support the library. Next one is in October!

Podcasts I Like

Revolutions Podcast

This is a nerdy/guilty pleasure that Nate Puckett turned me on to (thanks Nate!). Starting in the 17th century, it tells the detailed story of the many revolutions that have taken place in modern history. I'm hooked. 

Stories I Like - Moses from Mcheneke

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Moses lived with his mother. She died when he turned 7. He and his little sister then moved in with their grandmother. She was weak and elderly, and struggled to provide basics like blankets and soap. He longed to go to school, but they couldn’t afford the minimal enrollment fee.

This was his situation until a Hands at Work care worker, Fanny, visited his home

Grace Alameda partners with our sister churches, Christ Church and Wellspring, to support 200 orphans in Moses’s community, Mcheneke, Malawi. Participate with us! (Be sure to select "Grace Alameda - Mcheneke" in the dropdown menu.) $20/month provides food security, health care, and education to children like Moses. 

 

What stuff do you like? Share in the comments below!

Sermon Recap: God at the Center (Ephesians 6:1-4)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series on parenting: Raising Humans. 

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We need a Copernican Revolution in our parenting. For 1500 years in the West, we thought the sun revolved around the earth. Copernicus—and others before and after him—helped flip that thinking on its head. The earth isn't the center of the solar system. The sun is. 

Likewise, we tend to think that the family revolves around the parents or the children. But we are wrong. We need a Copernican Revolution in our parenting. We need, not parents or children, but God at the center of our families.

Christ Is the Sun That the Family Should Orbit

In Ephesians 6:1-4, children are called to obey in the Lord, and parents are to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Christ is the sun that rises and sets on the household.

Subverting Patriarchy

Paul is subverting the conventional wisdom of his day. In the Roman world, the father was the center of the family. He owned the property, his word was law, he even had the power of life and death over his newborn children. But Paul elevates the mother to equal status in the home ("children obey your parents") and curbs the father's authority ("Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger"). Paul subverts patriarchy because the gospel does!

Acknowledging True Authority

This passage likewise subverts the conventional wisdom of our day that is more child-centered than father-centered. Our culture is understandably suspicious of authority—in the wake of two world wars and the systemic oppression of people of color and women, we ought to be. But as followers of Jesus, we can't simply react. We have to submit to His authority, and teach our children to do the same. Which is why Paul calls children to obey and honor their parents (Ephesians 6:1-2). When we teach them obedience, they learn to acknowledge Christ's authority.

Obedience in the Lord Brings Joy

But God doesn't demand obedience for its own sake. He gives promises in Ephesians 6:3. Parents who teach their children obedience give them an incredible gift. God promises joy to children who obey.

The Joy of Knowing God

Our children's relationship to us is a scaffold God uses to build their relationship with him. An essential way we teach our kids to know and love God is by showing them that it is good to submit to His authority, by requiring they submit to ours.

The Joy of Being Like Jesus

Jesus is the only child in human history who perfectly obeyed His Father (Philippians 2:8-11). He is proof that obedience brings joy! When we teach our kids obedience, we help them receive the joy of growing to become like Jesus.

Raising Humans Homework #2

If you are a parent, sit down on your own and/or with your spouse and answer the following 3 questions together:

  1. The tendency in our household is to give primary authority to _____________.
  2. The effect of putting authority in the wrong place in my household is__________.
  3. I want to work toward making Christ the center of my household by___________.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. When in your life have you observed authority being used rightly, for the good of others?
  2. When have you observed authority being abused? Have you suffered abuse at the hands of misused authority?
  3. In what ways is it difficult for you to exercise the authority God has given you in your life? Why?
  4. In what ways are you influenced by the misuse or misunderstanding of authority in our world? How can God's Word counter that influence?
  5. Do you believe the promises of Ephesians 6:2-3? What makes it difficult to believe that obedience brings joy?
  6. How consistent are you at requiring obedience of your children? How have you hurt their ability/desire to obey godly authority? How will you repent of this?
  7. What is one step you can take to grow in submission to God's authority in your life? If you have kids, how can you help them grow in this as well?

Sermon Recap: Gospel Vision (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series on parenting: Raising Humans. 

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Raising humans begins with vision. If we want to raise humans who will flourish in God’s world, we need a better vision for our kids than a school or career or future lifestyle. We need to think bigger. We don’t need our vision for them. We need God’s vision for them.

God's Vision

In Deuteronomy 6:4-7, God tells His people what His will is for their whole lives. Not only did He want relationship with the grown-ups there that day. He tells them that they are to pass His vision on to the next generation. God’s vision for our children is this: that they would know and love God, and that WE would be the ones to teach them how

Our Fallen Vision

We may know God’s vision for us and our kids, but we can go astray, get distracted, be tempted. It's easy to fall into the patterns of life and behavior of the people around us that have nothing to do with God’s vision. Our vision for our kids and our parenting is fallen. We emphasize success, self-esteem, or self-sufficiency in our parenting, rather than knowing and loving the God who made us and loves us in Christ.

Gospel Vision

The gospel sets us free from the fear that we will mess up our kids. It tells us we are sometimes bad parents. But it also reminds us that God calls Himself Father! He is the first and perfect parent. And He loves us with a deeper, truer, freer and purer love than any parent has ever felt for their child.

This sets us free to infuse our lives and our parenting with the gospel as Deuteronomy 6:7 calls us to. As parents, the way we teach our kids to know and love God is by embodying the truth of the gospel. It means that when we feel helpless as a parent to console or care for our kids, we can bow ourselves down in prayer. It means that when we sin against our kids, we can repent to them and ask their forgiveness.

Raising Humans Homework #1

If you are a parent, sit down on your own and/or with your spouse and answer the following 3 questions together:

  1. Our vision for our family is _____________. (How will you restate God's vision for you and your family in light of the gospel?)
  2. We will live out this vision by__________. (How will you seek to embody the gospel in your family life?)
  3. The people outside our family who will help us do this are _________. (Who in your Christian community will walk this out with you?)

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Do you delight in God and the gospel? How can you grow in this? (Can we expect our kids to if we don't???)
  2. What side of the "fallen vision" spectrum do you fall on? Do you tend to have a vision for your kids that emphasizes success? Self-esteem? Self-sufficiency? Something else? 
  3. How can you repent of your fallen vision and begin to grow towards a gospel vision for you and your family?
  4. In what ways do you feel like a failure as a parent? How does God's love for you in the gospel meet you in that?
  5. How often do you pray with your kids? How can you infuse prayer throughout life in your household?
  6. Do you regularly practice repentance toward your kids? Why or why not? Is this something you feel free in the gospel to practice?

Sermon Recap: New Mission (Acts 16:14-34)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our new series: Grace Changes Everything. 

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God has called us into mission wherever He sends us. So long as the Bay Area is our home, it is our mission field. In His wisdom, we encounter people who are in all kinds of life circumstances. Our call is to persevere in loving and serving them with the gospel of Christ. 

For Every People

Most people think that religion divides rather than unites. The gospel creates unity because of the radical nature of grace. We see this in how Paul has no hesitation in interacting with three entirely different people. They differ in gender, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. All three are people who typically seen as lesser in the Jewish world. Nonetheless, these are three of the first converts to the Philippian church.

For Every Situation

The gospel applies to every situation of life. There are no set of circumstances where the good news of Christ does not apply. For Lydia, she sought a rational and beautiful connection between spiritual rules she admired and the longings of her soul. The slave girl experienced freedom in both the physical and spiritual realm. Lastly, the jailer who lived a life of lawful rigidity felt the full power of undeserved grace and mercy. Being on mission doesn’t mean waiting for certain situations to arise. It means speaking and living out the gospel at all times in all places.

Present Perseverance

Being on mission is not easy. The slave girl hounded Paul and Silas for days. These men were also humiliated, beaten, and imprisoned for the gospel. Yet even in jail, they praised and prayed to God, knowing that their lives were hidden in Christ. We live in a place of constant change, where everything new quickly becomes old and gets tossed out. What our communities need is a faith that perseveres, that is here to stay, that will not leave but will walk alongside others.

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. What type of people do you find it easy to talk about Jesus with? What type of people are hard? Why shouldn’t it matter?
  2. How did the gospel “click” for you? What type of situation were you in or what kind of questions did you have when you finally came to faith?
  3. What are the different ways you’ve seen the gospel work in the lives of others? How has it been  different from your own personal experience?
  4. What does it mean to be present in a place where people are constantly coming and going?
  5. What does it look like to persevere with difficult people or difficult circumstances in your life? Why does this matter to a world that’s watching?

Sermon Recap: New Community (Acts 15:1-22)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our new series: Grace Changes Everything. 

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The church is a community of people called by Christ to reflect the heavenly reality that the gospel has initiated. It is where “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11). Grace changes everything, and brings us into a new community. 

Deep Separation

When Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, separation was introduced into the world—separation from God and each other. They hid, they blamed, and they dressed themselves so they wouldn’t be seen and fully known by each other. As their children, deep separation is a challenge the early church faced (Acts 15:1-5). So do we.

New Community

The church is the community ordained by God to bring the spiritual truth of the gospel into concrete reality. It is a new community that works through distinctions, that embraces difference, and brings individuals into a family that walks in unity, with confident humility, knowing the glory of our identity in Christ and the deep flaws that remain in all of us.

Messy Together

To follow Jesus, we have to walk toward each other. We have to lean into the mess. We have to put ourselves in situations with each other where we might have to ask for forgiveness, and where we might have to extend that same forgiveness to others. It wasn’t easy for the early church; it won’t be easy for us. But grace changes us and leads us to be messy together for the glory of Jesus. 

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Where do you see a tendency towards separation/withdrawal from others in your life?
  2. How would you describe yourself in each of the following categories: 1) culture, 2) church-background, 3) ethnicity, 4) economic status , and 5) social status? What differences make it difficult for you to be messy together with others?
  3. Why is togetherness a necessary implication of the gospel? How did this play out in Acts 15?
  4. Why is togetherness messy? What relationships in the church are messy for you?
  5. What is one concrete step you can take to pursue being messy together with others? How will you ensure that you take that step?

The Tyranny of Convenience - Stuff We Like #11

Link it up, link it up!

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As power and influence skews younger and younger, societies and cultures will have to reckon with their failure to care for those who are older. As we care more about building technological marvels, we will have to reckon with leaving behind human beings. This is not something unique to Western cultures but a worldwide problem. What happens when we stop caring for people as people?

The Tyranny of Convenience, by Tim Wu

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How we are the generation that comes closest to both having our cake and eating it too and how that's totally destroying us. Amazing how the more convenient life is, how much more difficult it ends up becoming.

Books I Like

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

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A glimpse into a world that is totally foreign to me in a lot of ways yet brings greater understanding on many different levels. An easy read that helped me see why it's so hard for the poor to get out of poverty, both because of pressure they place on their own as well as systemic oppression by others that keep them there. People in the Bay Area can often get myopic about America and this book reminds us there's a whole lotta country out there filled with very different people who are made in God's image.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua

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From a book I could not possibly understand to one that could've been my biography were I a girl. I didn't have a tiger mom but a tiger dad and so many of the experiences of the author's daughters are similar to my own. Some made me laugh, some came uncomfortably close. A reminder that so much of who we are is a product of how we're raised and a challenge that there are no magic bullets for being parents. What was missing though in this book and is necessary for all parents and children? Grace.

Movies I Like

Ready Player One

If you love nostalgia and you're a child who devoured pop culture in the '90s, this is your movie. It's a movie set in the far future that happens to be a time machine to the past. Not particularly deep, not a ton to think about, but great for grabbing a tub of popcorn and enjoying the ride. Of particular fun is the tie in to a classic horror movie! So well done.

Sermon Recap: New Identity (Genesis 32:22-32)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our new series: Grace Changes Everything. 

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As a church, we believe that God’s grace changes everything. It changes who we are, where we belong, and why we’re here. Many people don’t go to church because, they say, religious people are too judgmental. But for Christians who have received the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we should be the least judgmental people in the world. In Genesis 32:22-32, we learn that our identity should be rooted in the underserved love of God in Christ. 

Broken Identity

Jacob’s background and history show his need for grace. He had been defined his whole life as a cheater and lacked a stable community in which he was loved and accepted without reservation (see Genesis 25:19-34). Jacob’s identity was broken by sin. He needed God to break in. 

New Identity

God meets Jacob in a mysterious wrestling match. Old identities die hard—they often have to be wrestled away (Genesis 32:25). Grace is costly (Genesis 32:26). Jacob has to come to the end of himself before he can receive a new name. God renames him Israel (Genesis 32:27-28).

Confident Humility

In his brokenness, Jacob’s identity has been characterized by insecure pride. But now he has received a new name. He has faced God and lived. And he walks with a limp (Genesis 32:30-31). With his new, God-given identity he can go through life with confident humility. 

Reflection & Application Questions

  1. Jacob was named “cheater” before he had even come of age. How have others named you? How have you been negatively defined by the people in your life? 
  2. How have others judged you? How have you been made to feel unsafe by the people in your life? Are there ways in which you are insecure as a result?
  3. How has your broken identity emerged in sinful habits and behaviors? How have you hurt others? Judged others? Been jealous? Greedy? Arrogant? 
  4. God’s grace shows you you’re a sinner, and yet calls you a saint through the atoning work of Christ. Have you received His grace? Has that grace changed your identity? How?
  5. Having received a new identity, Jacob could walk in confidence, knowing that he was loved and accepted by the God of the universe. Does the gospel provide you deep security? How do you need to find security in Christ?
  6. Jacob emerged from his encounter with God walking with a limp. How has the gospel humbled you? How do you need to grow in gospel humility? 
  7. Walking in confident humility shows that you are living in your new identity in Christ. Did you walk in confident humility today? How will you tomorrow?