sermon

Sermon Recap: Prayer in the New Year (Colossians 1:9-14)

That time between Christmas and the New Year gives us a moment of reflection. We think about what has happened over 2017 yet also look forward to what 2018 has in store. So much of how our lives have changed in the past year greatly affect how we move forward in the year ahead. The Christian life is lived in the same way. To move forward in the Christian faith, we often need to spend more time looking back at what God has already accomplished for our sake in the past. With that in mind, I offer three areas of prayer we should all desire for 2018.

Pray for the Knowledge of God

Our culture has shifted where we only care about how much we store in our heads. There has been less focus on how what we know should change how we live. We often approach spiritual living in the same way. We wonder if there's more to the good news of the gospel, as if there's some greater spiritual plane we need to ascend to, some secret knowledge we still need to attain in order to have real breakthrough with Jesus. Yet when Paul prays in v.9 that believers would be "filled with the knowledge of his will," he's not asking God to give the Colossians more enlightenment than what they already know. He's praying they would root themselves deeper in what God has already revealed to them in His Word, the gospel of Jesus Christ. To know God better, know Christ more. To go deeper in faith, know the gospel well.

Pray for the Power of God

The hope of the gospel is that we would be transformed and changed to be more like Christ. This isn't easy but God has empowered us so this change might be possible. Paul prays in v.11 that believers would "be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might." This is the same language used in Isaiah 11:2, where it is the Holy Spirit that empowers God's people. The reality is that the person who finds the Christian life boring or passionless simply does not understand the power at work in them by the Spirit. We need to cede control, surrender to Christ, submit to His rule and let God's power work in us by His Word, His people, and prayer.

Pray in Thanksgiving to God

Paul gives us ample reason to be thankful to God. He specifies three things in v.12-13: we are qualified for a spiritual inheritance, transferred from darkness to light, and redeemed and forgiven of our sins. It's hard to be thankful when we don't know what we're being thankful for. The truth is a lack of thankfulness to God in our faith often is connected with living out of a perceived spiritual poverty instead of apprehending the riches of our spiritual treasure in Christ. When we live as if God still owes us something or that the gospel is missing something, we will not praise but complain. True thankfulness rises only when we've taken hold of all that Jesus has won for us at the cross and in His resurrection.

Reflection Questions

1. As you look back at 2017, what did you learn or experience that you plan on carrying with you into 2018? 

2. How do you want to know God better this year?What do you think it looks like to go deeper into the gospel this year?

3. Have there been seasons in your faith where you've felt apathetic, passionless, or bored? Why do you think that is?

4. What does it look like to be empowered by the Spirit? How would that change the way you currently live and think? What are the ways in which the Spirit is already at work in your life?

5. Are there ways in which you feel a spiritual poverty in your faith, as if God hasn't provided enough in the gospel? Why? 

6. How does reflecting, meditating, and trusting in the promises of what Christ has won for us at the cross make us more thankful to God? How might you grow in thankfulness to God in this year?

Sermon Recap: Security (Luke 12:13-21)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series on Jesus on Money.

We live in a culture where a premium is placed on security. The question we need to ask ourselves though is what exactly are we securing? What do we think we can guarantee for the future? What we see is true security is only found in  giving up control to the God who is in control of everything and secures our future by His Son, Jesus.

Our Unsecure Security

In v.13-15, Jesus’ rebukes the interloper for covetousness, which clearly was connected to a desire for security. He was more concerned with his financial future rather than his eternal future. Reality is that most of our efforts with earthly security aren’t all that secure. If anything, our search for peace of mind only brings us more worries. Jesus’ parable reminds us that there is no form of earthly security that can rescue us from death.

Our Insecure Security

Just as we are with money, the more security we have, the more security we need. Our sense of security is all-consuming and relentless. The parable shows that the rich fool is not satisfied with what he has but only sought to make space for more. Ultimately, my definition of what is the right amount of security to have in life is purely subjective and never truly secure.

Our Savior’s Security

By every worldly standard, Jesus was the least secure person in the world, with no home, no wealth, no influence. He gave all this up so we might be recipients of God’s love and protection. Gospel tells us it is acknowledging our inability to secure and protect ourselves that God meets us with Christ and his care. We know we are spiritually secure when we think more about what we can give rather than save, are self-forgetful rather than self-protective, and are no longer worry about our security.

Reflection and Application

  1. In what ways have you tried to secure for yourself and your family a good future?

  2. How much control do you think you have over your own safety and security? Do you ever think you fight God for this?

  3. Is there a point where you think a person has saved too much for the future? What is it?

  4. How does our sense of security become a form of self-righteousness before God? How does it affect our attitude toward others? How does it reveal our own insecurities?

  5. In what ways was Jesus the least secure person ever? Why did he choose to live this way?

  6. Are there ways in which you see your own heart changing as you’ve grown in trusting your safety to God in your own spiritual life? How might placing your security in His hands change your life now?

Sermon Recap: Worship (Luke 16:1-13)

This is a recap of the latest sermon in our series on Jesus on Money.

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Whether you realize it or not, everybody is a worshiper. Everyone is devoted and has reverence and adoration for something. There is always something that demands all your time, thoughts, energy, emotion, and money to. In most cases, what we own, we end up worshiping. Since we are owners of God’s grace in Christ, we worship Him by being faithful stewards of what we’ve been given.

What You Own Owns You

Whatever it is we worship will always be all-consuming and place demands on you. The reality is what we own always ends up owning us. This isn’t just talking about children, houses, or jobs but even how we possess ideas like freedom or choice. These are not bad things in and of themselves but they easily consume us. This is why there is freedom in reality that God doesn’t call us to be owners but stewards of all He has given.

Stewards Never Own

In the parable, the dishonest manager realizes his previous failures in stewardship and makes decisions to protect his future. The reality of stewardship is you can’t do whatever you want with what you’re given. You’re always subject to the one who gave you the responsibility. In the same way, God has called us to be stewards of what all we have and act with God’s desires in mind.

You Worship What You Own

Furthermore, Jesus’ parable helps us see that if non-believers are wise enough to invest with their long-term futures in mind, how much more should followers of Jesus take what is earthly and invest it in eternal things? Especially since Jesus is the only thing we ever truly own, how much more should all we have, spend, give, and do be directed toward His ends? Jesus is the only thing in this world that we worship that will not demand or eat us alive. He is worthy of our worship.

Reflection and Application

  1. What are the things in your life that you feel a strong sense of ownership of? What are the things that you know you are only a steward of?

  2. Have you ever owned something that really ended up owning you? That ended up sucking up your time, money, or energy?

  3. How does seeing yourself as a steward rather than an owner of your money change the way you think about and handle it?

  4. Are there ways in which you are actively seeking to take what is earthly and temporal and investing it in eternal and everlasting things? How?

  5. How does the reality that the only thing God calls you to truly own and take hold of is Jesus Christ Himself? How does that change the way you approach your possessions?

  6. How does worship of Jesus differ from worshiping any other gods or earthly things? What does Jesus demand from us in return versus what everything else demands from their adherents?

Sunday Sermon Reflection - The Hound of Heaven

In light of what was preached this past Sunday, we wanted to share this poem as a reflection of God's faithfulness. He chases after us even when we've run away, seeking us out even when we try to hide.

"The Hound of Heaven" by Francis Thompson

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
   I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
   Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
             Up vistaed hopes I sped;
             And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
   From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
             But with unhurrying chase,
             And unperturbèd pace,
     Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
             They beat—and a Voice beat
             More instant than the Feet—
     'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me'.

             I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
   Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followed,
             Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
   The gust of His approach would clash it to:
   Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
   And troubled the gold gateway of the stars,
   Smiting for shelter on their clanged bars;
             Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.
I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;
   With thy young skiey blossom heap me over
             From this tremendous Lover—
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
   I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
   Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
   Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
          But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
     The long savannahs of the blue;
            Or, whether, Thunder-driven,
          They clanged his chariot 'thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet:—
   Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
             Still with unhurrying chase,
             And unperturbed pace,
      Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
             Came on the following Feet,
             And a Voice above their beat—
'Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.'

I sought no more after that which I strayed
          In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children's eyes
          Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
         With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
Come then, ye other children, Nature's—share
With me’ (said I) 'your delicate fellowship;
          Let me greet you lip to lip,
          Let me twine with you caresses,
              Wantoning
          With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses,
             Banqueting
          With her in her wind-walled palace,
          Underneath her azured dais,
          Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
             From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring.’
             So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies.
          I knew all the swift importings
          On the wilful face of skies;
           I knew how the clouds arise
          Spumèd of the wild sea-snortings;
             All that's born or dies
          Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful divine;
          With them joyed and was bereaven.
          I was heavy with the even,
          When she lit her glimmering tapers
          Round the day's dead sanctities.
          I laughed in the morning's eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
          Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine:
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
          I laid my own to beat,
          And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
          These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
          Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
          The breasts o’ her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
             My thirsting mouth.
             Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
             With unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
             And past those noisèd Feet
             A voice comes yet more fleet—
          'Lo! naught contents thee, who content'st not Me.'

Naked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou has hewn from me,
             And smitten me to my knee;
          I am defenceless utterly.
          I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
          I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amidst the dust o' the mounded years—
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
          Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist;
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
          Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amarinthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
          Ah! must—
          Designer infinite!—
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou canst limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
          From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
          Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpsed turrets slowly wash again.
          But not ere him who summoneth
          I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man's heart or life it be which yields
          Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
          Be dunged with rotten death?

             Now of that long pursuit
             Comes on at hand the bruit;
          That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
          'And is thy earth so marred,
          Shattered in shard on shard?
          Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!

          'Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught' (He said),
'And human love needs human meriting:
          How hast thou merited—
Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
          Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
          Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
          Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
          All which thy child's mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
          Rise, clasp My hand, and come!'

   Halts by me that footfall:
   Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
   'Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
   I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.'