“Good job Debbie… but I got to say though [the song], it’s a little upbeat for a series on fear… do you know anything that’s a little scarier than that… like the Halloween theme song or Jason or something along those lines? (laughter).
Let me ask you… what is your earliest memory of being afraid? Surely we were we were afraid and experienced fear before we can remember being afraid… but let me just ask, when was your earliest memory of being afraid?
I know mine… I think I was like five years old, I’m not sure exactly, but I know I was living in our house up in Ann Arbor Michigan, and I had two older sisters. And parents, you know how it is… like, you’re kind of super cautious with your oldest kid, and then you get a little more lenient with the next kid, and each kid that comes you just start exposing to them to stuff sooner because you know part of is because your other kids are watching these things.
I had two older sisters, and I don’t think they were old enough to be watching the Halloween movies, but we were watching them, with Mike Meyers in our living room.
And there I was five years old or so and I was sitting just feet away from the T.V. by myself on a little blanket with apples and peanut butter watching this Halloween movie and my sisters were in the dark back in the back of the living room on the sofa.
And I remember the first time that I saw Mike Myers. What happened was this person gets out of the car and there’s this kind of ominous sort of scene the camera pans over and you see this guy in this white mask and he’s you know clearly after this person.
And I saw Mike Myers, and I threw my apples and peanut butter as high as I could up towards the ceiling. My mom claims I put peanut butter on the ceiling. I don’t know, but I through these apples and peanut butter up and I turned around and I ran to my sister’s and I kind of like dove into the couch seeking some sort of refuge around them.
I know it’s not a very flattering story of me but it happened.
Needless to say, I spent many years in my childhood, often sleeping with one of my two older sisters because I was afraid at night. In fact somewhere along the line I got the idea that I was safer sleeping in the hallway than in my bedroom. So I would grab my pillow and blanket and put it out in the hallway and sleep out there. That’s not safer, by the way, but nonetheless I did that.
NOTE: This Palm Sunday Service was a Choir Cantata with Pastor Dan’s message woven in. The first 3 songs were: Amazing Love! Lift Up Your Voice and Sing, “Hosanna!” As You Serve, Remember Me
“Palm Sunday is the Sunday that launches the focus of Jesus’ last week here on earth leading up, at least, until his arrest and crucifixion and ultimately his resurrection.
This is Palm Sunday which we’re celebrating in part, but then often we kind of go silent for a few days and then really things ramp up, to where we’ve moved in our service here this morning, to Thursday evening.
Thursday evening, the evening when Jesus gathered together with His disciples and had a meal with them… the evening in which Jesus would be arrested and betrayed. The eve of his crucifixion.
It’s this evening in which Jesus gathered together with His disciples and had this meal in which he took the bread, and he broke the bread in plain view of the disciples saying to them,
“This is my body which is broken for you; do this and remembrance of me.”
And then he moved on… later in the meal he took the cup, and holding it in plain view of his disciples giving thanks for the cup as well, he he held it in plain view of them saying,
“This cup represents a new covenant which is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
And so on this eve of Jesus’s crucifixion we are reminded that Jesus was not thrown off by the events of being betrayed and being arrested and then being crucified, but rather he knew it was coming.
– – – – – – So who could blame him. Who could blame him for being maybe a little self-centered, a little inward thinking during this time, knowing all that was going to be happening to him.
And yet the Scripture repeatedly tells us that even on this evening Jesus is thinking of his disciples, those who have placed their trust in him… even during such events Jesus is thinking of folks like you and me.
He did many things to show his thought process for us and his thinking of us. The Scripture says that he showed us the full extent of his love by washing his disciples’ feet.
In John Chapter seventeen he teaches them around the table in this long wonderful discord… passionate teaching like a parent wanting to pass on this last wisdom to the child before they drop him off at college… knowing the separation is happening, he’s teaching them… letting them know that they’re going to undergo some of the difficulties that he’s about to undergo.
– – – – – – – And then finally he ends this teaching by praying.
He prays right there in plain view of them… that they might hear and see; like a pastoral prayer, He prays aloud. And one would think, well maybe this is the time where Jesus moves into selfishness,and he’s focused on all of his needs and concerns… and again who would be able to blame him if that was the case.
Jesus Prays for All Believers
He does pray for himself for a small period of time, and then probably three times the amount of that he shifts his prayer to the disciples who would place their faith in him and this is what the Scripture tells us he prayed. In John 17:20 Jesus says,
“My prayer is not for them alone…”[speaking of the original 12 disciples; then he says], “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
Do you hear what that just said? … the wonder of what that means.
It means if you’re here today and you placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, that some two thousand years ago, on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prayed for you.
Now he may not have prayed for you the way you would’ve wanted him to pray for you had he asked you, “What would you like me to pray for you about?”.
Had he taken the time to ask us and say, ‘Hey what do you want me to pray for?”, many of us would have said things like, “Oh I like to get into a certain college.” or “I’d like to get a certain job… or I’d love to move into a certain house or neighborhood.”
Or maybe you’d say something admirable like, “You know I have a health concern that I’d like you to pray about Jesus.” Or someone else’s health concern that you’d like him to pray about.
But he didn’t pray for any of those things on this particular Eve. No, instead what he prayed for was this, in verse twenty one,
21-23that all of them may be one. Father, just as you are in me and I am in you, maythey also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.I have given them the glory that you gave me,that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent meand I have loved themeven as you have loved me.“
Jesus comes along and of all things to pray about, he prays that you and I–that the church would be one–that we would be complete unity.
– – – – – – –
Now what does he mean by that?
Well he certainly doesn’t mean things like, “Oh by being one, that must mean we all come from the same socioeconomic background… or we all have the same political world view... or we all have the same theological opinion on every single issue… or that we all have the same ethnicity… or our skin color is all the same… or any of that stuff.
In fact the beauty of him praying for us to be one is that in having all of those things different and not in common with one another, he still is seeing that we would become one. Onein a more beautiful and profound way that meant then we might first think he meant us to be one. One in a way that says we are:
One in worship. Not some of us worshiping and others watching the rest worship, but all of us worshiping as one.
One in service. Not some of us serving and others watching others serve, but all of us one in our service.
One in kindness and grace. Not some of us ready to show kindness and grace and forgivenessto others.. and others unwilling. But rather all of us being willing to show that.
A oneness that is far deeper and more meaningful than perhaps the oneness that first comes to our mind.
[00:06:32] – – – – – – –
Now, speaking of which comes to our mind and I’m concerned that you’re getting the wrong idea of what Jesus means by us being one… like you’re picturing you’re having coffee with a good friend and you guys are just like one with each other.
Or maybe a twin and you finish each other’s sentences and you’re like one or something… or maybe even your spouse. No, this is different from any other relationship… it’s the relationship that Jesus calls the church to have with one another–the standard of oneness that Jesus gives us is incredibly high.
Look at what the text says and verse twenty-one,
“just as you are in me and I am in you.”
That’s the standard for our oneness. He goes on to say in verse twenty-two,
“as we are one.”
In other words what Jesus is saying is that we are supposed to be one with one another like Jesus and the Father are one,
That’s an incredible standard isn’t it?
Jesus and the Father’s Oneness is a difficult theological thing to try to expound upon, to try to grasp. But I think that we can all just imagine that they probably had an incredible oneness and we can all probably be willing to admit quickly that we don’t always have that oneness with one another.
That’s the standard of the oneness that he calls the church to have together. But for what purpose? For what purpose does he call us to such great Oneness?
The Scripture tells us the purposes is… (v21),
“so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
And then he goes on in verse twenty-three,
“To let the world will know that you sent me...”
So you see thatthe purpose of our oneness is so that we become greater, and more impactful, more effective at letting the world know about Jesus and the events that were celebrating this week, then we could as a group of individuals.
He’s inviting us to come and to be a part of something that we would never be able to accomplish on our own; so that our oneness is not to the end that we become a close-knit family that unintentionally closes its doors–that no one else is welcomed into. But rather the opposite:
We become a missionally sent group of people who are affective, more capable than we would be able to be on our own at letting the world know of how much Jesus loves them.
That’s why he calls us to unity into oneness.
[00:09:06] – – – – – – –
Whether a man or woman or child comes to relationship with Jesus is really a matter between them and God isn’t it… ultimately. But this may be the single greatest aspect of that process that is in our ‘duty, if you will–to be one. To be one so that we can more effectively let the world know about Jesus.
Church, you should know… that we’re praying for you this morning, praying for you this week, that all of our thoughts, and our actions, and our words, move this church towards unity and oneness, so that the world may know of Jesus’s love for them.
CHOIR INTERLUDE [00:09:57] Alone in the Garden He Prays Behold the Lamb of God!
There are few people who doubt that there was a man named Jesus–a Jewish man named Jesus from the rather insignificant town of Nazareth who was crucified… crucified at the request of Jewish priests demanding his crucifixion… crucified at the request of crowds who joined them… crucified at the hands of rather indifferent Roman leaders and also crucified at the hands of Roman soldiers.
There are few people who doubt the historical reality of those events, but there are some, many actually, who make the mistake of thinking that Jesus’ value, if any at all, was found exclusively in his life.
We hear things like, “Oh Jesus was a great teacher,” or, “Jesus was a wonderful prophet, he came to sort of show us the way.” And then they make the conclusion that in him being crucified that his death was really just the outcome of being so significant in society, of standing out from the norm, like a Martin Luther King Jr who comes along, whose value is found in his life, and who’s put to death merely as a result of going against the grain.
Many people think of Jesus that way.
Others might come along and make the mistake of thinking of Jesus’ value, that it’s found exclusively in his death. Some who’ve been brought up in the church have been taught that Jesus’s death is impactful and significant to them, and certainly it is. But the real value is found in when we bring the two–Jesus’ life and his death together, and we begin to realize that the one being punished to death is the only one whose life deserved no such penalty.
What shall we say in this matter?
Should we should we declare that God is unjust then? Should we declare that God is somehow unjust for allowing Jesus to be crucified… he who had done no sin?
Well certainly we would have to declare God to be unjust if Jesus was being crucified for no sin at all. But it is the Scripture that tells us not that he was crucified for his mistakes and sins, but rather for ours.
And so we see that Jesus’ actions are designed to accomplish our forgiveness.
And if there’s any seed of doubt for us, wondering whether or not Jesus has really accomplish your forgiveness through His death on the Cross, we might allow his words on the cross to drive away that doubt, for here’s what Jesus said while being crucified.
It is the Scripture that tells us in Luke 23:32-34, that,
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed.When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.Jesus said,“Father,forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
To clarify who Jesus is speaking about when he seeks their forgiveness,
he’s speaking about all those around him who have participated in the process of him being crucified;
he’s speaking of the Jewish leaders who unjustly ran a trial against him, who spoke lies against him, who stirred up the crowds and demanded that he be crucified;
he’s speaking of those in the crowd who joined their leadership and also chanted for Jesus’ crucifixion;
he’s speaking of the Roman officials who had the power to stop this from happening but did not;
he’s speaking of the Roman soldiers who actually carried out Jesus’s crucifixion.
And Jesus says of these people, “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
I mean the mere fact that Jesus was praying this prayer; the mere fact that what this reveals about the character of Jesus and the character of God, should give us a greater sense of confidence that we have indeed been forgiven. [00:14:19]
I mean for when we mess up against another person in life, it’s usually all we can do to somehow encourage them that they should desire to forgive us, let alone whether or not they’ll actually be able to forgive us.
I mean not only should Jesus’ words in seeking their forgiveness give us confidence in our forgiveness, but also, as we go through the Scripture, we begin to see that Jesus’ prayer here is actually answered.
There’s a Scripture that tells us in passages like Matthew 27:54 that the Roman centurion and the soldiers involved in this process, some of them come to faith in God. Here’s what the Scripture says, Matthew 27:54.
When the centurion and those with him who were guardingJesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Here’s Jesus’ prayer for those around him to be forgiving starting to be answered.
We go on in Acts 6:7, we ask ourselves what about the Jewish priest, what about the leaders who really made this thing happen to Jesus? Surely they might be somehow excluded… maybe Jesus wasn’t thinking about them. And here’s what the Scripture tells us,
So the word of God spread.The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly,and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
It’s not only encouraging when we think of our own forgiveness, and wrestle with our own forgiveness to think that Jesus said “Father forgive them” of those who were crucifying him, but it’s even all the more encouraging to start to see Jesus’ prayer in this way answered and unfolding.
For some people in our lives have desired to forgive us before, but they haven’t had the character to do so. And here we are reminded that Jesus not only reflects the forgiving character of God in his desire for us to be forgiven, but that it becomes a reality in our lives as well.
– – – – – – –
Let me ask you this morning church… what have you done that is worse than being involved in the crowd that crucified Jesus Christ?
What have you done, if Jesus can say to them, “Father forgive them“, that he’s unwilling to say to you, “Father forgive her… father forgive him.”
I know some of you have made mistakes in your life in the past that have maybe been haunting you now for decades. Others of you are struggling with sin in your life in such a way that you are really beginning to question whether or not you’ve crossed the line… whether or not Jesus’ words are no longer applicable for you. And that struggle with sin, the sin you’ve made in the past, the devil, the enemy has used as a footstool, and he’s begun to speak into your head and into your life that these words that Jesus says, don’t apply to you.
And we want you to know this morning, that we are praying for this congregation, praying for you, that by the grace of God, louder so much louder than what the enemy would say to you on this matter, you would hear Jesus saying,
“Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
CHOIR CLOSING How Can it Be? Christ Is Risen, Sing Alleluia!
Until December 3, 2017 I thought I had a Spiritual ‘handle’ on Christmas, and my method of teaching my children it’s true meaning. But four messages capsulized below revealed the fragility of my grip.
I learn best by listening to audio messages then transcribing them, of which most of this blog site is composed. This one is an excerpted composite of four separate sermons given by Pastor Dan Borget, at Kirkmont Presbyterian Church in Beavercreek, Ohio.
What follows is a ‘labor of love’ which I intend to apply not just at Christmas, but every day for the rest of my life. I hope you will join me in in this venture to sharpen our “swords” and put on our “full armor” because Christmas has become a battle… a battle between two competing stories: one that is seductive and attractive but fundamentally untrue; and the other that is deeply humbling but what every person everywhere needs.
Week 1 – WORSHIP MORE FULLY
AUDIO (30 min):
Worshipping Jesus Christ More Fully
In that past I thought I was fully celebrating Christmas by teaching my children that it was about GIVING, not receiving presents. Then I realized that while there’s nothing wrong with giving each other gifts, we’re not giving them to Jesus. Imagine a birthday party in your honor where everyone gave their gifts to each other, but none to you.
The very first Christmas was filled with WORSHIP–the worship of baby Jesus. Perhaps the closest thing we have in our culture of worshipping someone or something are images of people at a concert… and that teen star, or that super handsome young man or beautiful woman comes out on stage. We can picture groups of people pushing their way to the front, reaching their hands up, longing to touch them in some way, crying that they’re finally seeing this marvelous person in person — worship.
Or consumerism ‘worship’–the new iPhones come out, people in line for days, camping out, and they finally get their hands on the new one, and they’re crying over it, or they are crying because they didn’t get one… perhaps that idea of ‘worship’. But when one thinks about people in the church worshipping… well, it’s just different to most people.
When the Magi came, their level of passion and enthusiasm to worship this baby, this child, the KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS… doing something like this in public is something that would make many of us very uncomfortable.
I used to think I was showing the world I knew that I was zealous by saying “Merry Christmas” (not ‘happy holidays’). I’d even write ‘Merry CHRISTmas” with Christ in red, and put the manger scene in my yard because after all “I knew what Christmas is all about.
And while those are good things, I was still not worshipping fully as the Maji did.
It’s possible to do all the things on the surface that show we understand Christmas intellectually, but never move into this place the Maji did.
Like what’s happening today, King Herod wanted to introduce a new story to hide the real story; he wanted to kill baby Jesus and hide the truth of the Christmas story from the world around him. And while we may not have a King Herod walking around in the American culture today, we do have an evil one who has introduced a different story for the purpose of concealing the real story.
Warning: Christmas Is Coming!
“There’s an ongoing WAR which will define our children’s beliefs about who they are, what they need, and what their lives are about. We must ask ourselves, will they experience the true Christmas Story, or the one our culture has introduced?
The war signs are already appearing, and we should consider ourselves warned. Our family is about to be attacked. Not physically by terrorism or fire… no, this attack is much more subtle, seductive, and attractive, but infinitely more dangerous.
Our family is about to be attacked by a holiday season which should be a peaceful time of remembering God’s response to his lost and rebellious image-bearers. That response wasn’t to condemn, but to give the ultimate gift—the gift of himself—in the person of his Son. But instead of a peaceful season of worship and celebration, it has devolved into a spiritual war with our family at the center.
There’s nothing wrong with beautiful decorations, family feasting, or giving gifts. The Christmas season can be a time when families gather again, renew relationships, and express love for one another. But we should be concerned because there is a war for which story will define our children’s beliefs about WHO they are, what they need, and what their lives are about.
FALSE CHRISTMAS STORY The “Christmas story” our culture tells our children puts them at the center instead of God. It looks to creation for fulfillment rather than worship of the Creator. It makes physical pleasure our primary need rather than the rescuing intervention of the Redeemer. It’s dominated by the comforts of the moment rather than eternal priorities. In every way, the story our children will hear over and over again during this season is dangerously wrong when it comes to who they are and what they need. It calls them to find comfort where comfort can’t be found, to place their hope in things that will never deliver, to think they can accomplish what only the Messiah can do.
TRUE ADVENT STORY But unlike this false “Christmas story,” the true “Advent Story” is humbling and unattractive. It’s a sad story about a world terribly broken by sin, populated by self-centered rebels who are willing participants in their own destruction. It’s about beings created to live for God but who in every way live for themselves. This story is about the dethroning of the Creator and the enthroning of his creation. It’s about conditions so desperate that God did the unthinkable, sending his Son to be the sacrificial Lamb of redemption. And why did Jesus come? Because we were so lost, so enslaved, so self-deceived that there simply was no other way.
Until our children hear and understand the bad news, the good news won’t be attractive to them. The news that Jesus came on a glorious mission of grace to live, die, and rise in our place is only worth celebrating when you understand it’s our only hope.
FIGHT THE REAL WAR The battle of Advent isn’t about whether we should sing silly seasonal tunes versus gospel carols, or have worship times versus big family feasts. No, this war is about what story of identity, need, meaning, and purpose our children will believe and give their hearts to pursue.
Life really is a battle of stories, and the battle rages most fiercely when the true story is meant to be told most loudly.
So enjoy the gifts, the decorations, and the delicacies, but start preparing our family early this year for the battle to come by telling them the true story. Before you begin to get distracted by all the traditions of holiday fun, take up the battle for the hearts of your children.
5 WEAPONS TO USE FOR THE WAR OF THE HEART Here are five ways to help our children focus on the true Advent story: 1. Start early. We can’t start early enough or tell the true story often enough, since the false story is everywhere to be heard. Don’t wait until Christmas Day to point your family to God’s Word.
2. Tell the bad news. Protect your family from fake news by telling them of the bad news: their sin and separation from God. Good news isn’t good unless it’s prefaced with bad news, and redemption becomes beautiful when we understand the depth of our need.
3. Warn them about the false story. Enjoy traditions and fun, but take opportunities to point out how and why the false story your children will hear again and again isn’t true. I learned that whether we realize it or not, there’s a battle for the souls of children. It’s between the illuminated brilliance and ‘present’ presence of the world’s false Christmas… and the real story of Christmas.
If we’re trying to uphold both stories, the cultural one is going to win–especially with a four-year-old child for example. While fun, the false story is going to make a more indelible impression on than the real one.
Santa Claus is an example. We don’t need to avoid his name, or talking about him to our children, but we also don’t want to pretend that he’s real. We can treat him like Dora the Explorer… we watch her on television, but she’s not real.
4. Present Jesus as the gift of gifts. Express love by giving gifts, but remind your children that creation can’t satisfy, and that our only hope is found in one Gift—the person, presence, work, and grace of Jesus.
5. Embed the Advent story everywhere. The Advent season gives you a wonderful opportunity to help our children understand themselves and everything in their lives from the vantage point of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The Advent story tells them who they are, what they need, and what their lives are about. This story is the only reliable way they will ever make sense out of the story of their individual lives.
Nothing is more important than helping your children understand that the grace of Jesus shines brighter than any gift the world has to offer. It’s a light that will never go out and will never be put away.”
“ADVENT CONSPIRACY INTRO VIDEO” played in audio link above (3 min)
Week 2 – SPEND LESS
AUDIO (26 min)
The second thing I learned was that I need to spend LESS on material things and spend MORE in the currency of TIME with others.
1. We should spend less at Christmas because we don’t honor Jesus’ birth by buying temporary things. For those of us who’ve come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, it’s the most life changing thing we’ve ever experienced–we wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s not only radically transforms who we are now, but who we will be for all of eternity.
And there’s nothing that someone else could give us at Christmas that would even come CLOSE to not only rivaling it, but even even being in the same ballpark. The temporary stuff we get for Christmas really just doesn’t even match the occasion.
2. We should spend less at Christmas because we don’t honor Jesus’ birth by buying so much that we go into debt. Realizing the amount of debt we’re willing to go into in order to somehow please our spouse or our children or grandchildren, we may see that we’ve actually made little gods out of them. And so we don’t honor Jesus’ birth by buying so much that we go into debt.
3. We don’t honor Jesus’ birth by buying each other gifts. Again, imagine at your birthday party everyone else received gifts but you.
When God acted in history to ensure that his people were freed not just from physical slavery, but from spiritual slavery, He instructed us not to do anything that would overshadow that. Ultimately when we fill our Christmas with presents for each other it doesn’t do anything to remember God.
4. We should consider spending less this Christmas so that we don’t honor Jesus’ birth by BUYING our children another Christmas story. Eventually present after present after present just becomes stuff after stuff after stuff… and eventually all that stuff becomes stuff that competes with the real story of Christmas.
Which one is a six year old going to walk away with and remember?
Do we really want them to remember that at Christmas they got a certain toy? Is that life changing? Can we save our own kids? Have we ever died on the cross for them? Is the new sweater, the is the new game… are any of those things going to get them through life?
None of it will.
But a precious powerful transforming relationship with Jesus Christ absolutely will every single time… and so that’s what we should impress upon our children.
AUDIO of above (26 min)
Week 3 – GIVE MORE:
AUDIO (26 min):
Scripture shows that in his travels, Jesus was always pausing and stopping if only for a moment to give people true relational time.
He shows his relational character through those with whom he engaged–they were the social outcasts of society, those who other people had deemed unfit for a relationship. Jesus invests in those people.
God is a relational God… and we see it never more clearly than in the story of Christmas when he comes to be amongst us. His gift to us is a gift of himself.
So how do give more and still spend less? … by giving more of ourselves relationally in the currency of time.
God gave himself relationally at Christmas and so should we.
Shut-ins, or those living in retirement homes, for example, have more years behind them than they do ahead of them. What dominates their memory is not the stuff that people bought them throughout their lifetime, but rather their memories are flooded with precious times they’ve spent with people whom they love and cared about.
On the other side of the coin, the majority of regrets they might be carrying with them over the years are not centered around things that they didn’t buy people, but rather regrets with the time they didn’t spend with people.
Adding to all that, the relative little effort it takes to give quality time with people shows the value of the “currency of time“.
We model the character of God when we make the transition and are spending less on presents and spend more on giving ourselves away relationally to one another.
Yes, time is the most effective currency that we have to express and demonstrate love towards one another, but it would be almost irresponsible not to mention one other aspect that might be keeping us from giving ourselves away relationally with others and that would be the whole idea of technology. Think about often technology allows us to be partly but not fully present.. and ultimately and then fall short of giving yourself away relationally.
Some images to consider when we think about technology…
Our modern culture paints this illustration that when we walk around with our phone, it’s like the end of our world… we don’t see what we’re missing.
Some of us may be tempted to blame the whole idea of being distracted just on modern technology, but this next picture will add perspective.
While our obsession with the cellphone is part to blame, it’s not just the cellphone. The cellphone just draws out an aspect of the broken condition inside each of us. I makes it easy, to use that part of our brokenness.
The top picture reveals that it’s ingrained in us as part of the enemy who would love to keep us isolated and out of these wonderful intimate relationships… that God has come and died for to restore.
God’s people are are relational people, and we give ourselves away relationally. It’s the cultural norm not to be present relationally … and this message is to encourage us to be counter-cultural, and not settle for some in-part giving of ourselves–but to be fully present in the moment… not just be there physically, but when we’re there to put the phone down, put the whatever down and invest in one another’s lives–to give ourselves away to them as God has given himself away to us.
AUDIO of above (26 min):
Week 4 – LOVE MORE
AUDIO (31 min):
LOVE MORE The humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth reveal that all_are_loved, and we are to love ALL… four examples that point to the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth: 1. MARY
The Bible says Mary, mother of Jesus, is a servant, a humble servant from humble circumstances who focuses on the reality that she is not up on the throne of a person of great significance and importance and her society in the fact that she’s relatively poor.
God takes our normal social order and construction, and flipping it completely upside down and saying he brings down those who are rulers and rich and lifts up those who are poor and not considered significant in society.
The birth of Jesus Christ and his humble circumstances reveal that no one is below his love–the fact that he was born to Mary and Joseph in these circumstances is reassuring.
Some of us grew up with parents that we would consider to be in very humble circumstances by the way that we were raised. But it’s reassuring to realize that those things don’t disqualify us, in fact nothing about who our parents were disqualifies us, or put us below the line of being a part of God’s rescue mission.
The fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem points to his humble circumstances. Bethlehem was a very humble city of no real significance and yet God chooses here for Jesus to be born.
In today’s culture we would call this “the wrong side of the tracks” or from the “South” or the “Eastside”.
Bethlehem lies not in the city of itself but in the one who are to be born in the city because the one who would be born is born into a city that is otherwise a very humble city and of no suit real significance and yet God chooses and here of all places to be born today in our culture society we have expressions like oh he was born on the wrong side of the tracks or she’s from the wrong side of the tracks or oh he’s from the south side or I don’t go over to the east side.
We have you know all these associations about people, or where they’re from, and we realize right that sometimes those things actually get in the way of ability to love and how we perceive people… and Christmas just comes along and reminds us that all of that just gets flipped upside down–that no one is below the rescue mission of God. No one falls below the line of God’s love,
The manger points to the most significant of the humble circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.
Most likely Joseph, and all of his other relatives who had moved away and now were required to go back to Bethlehem, most likely they would have gathered together in a family home of some kind at some relatives who were still living in Bethlehem.
When you consider that relatives would have opened up their homes to them, and now you start thinking about it, it starts to feel really weird because which one of us would tell them, “No, you must sleep outside.”
Even if our bedrooms are full we’d let them sleep on the floor or the hallway, unless… they had brought disgrace to our family, and they included a child… a young woman who was pregnant outside of wedlock, and letting her come into the family home was not a good idea.
And so most likely scenario is that Joseph and Mary are turned away, not just because there’s like no place literally to put them in the family home… but because there’s no room for them.
And so then you add in not just the physical dimensions of the humble state of Jesus’s birth, but the reality of us parents at the very least whether they are rejected by their family in this moment or at the very least alone.
And then finally the shepherds invited to the birth of Jesus. Shepherds were social outcasts of their day. As they travelled and moved about they would often supplement their low wages with thievery and stealing. And so they had a reputation for being cheaters and stealers and so that eventually led to the place in society where they couldn’t even testify in court. or serve as a witness in the legal judicial system because they were considered such an unreliable group of people… and yet they’re the first ones who go and visit Jesus after his birth and the first to go out and tell other people about his birth.
This isn’t by accident.
God is flipping our societal norms completely upside down through the birth of Jesus Christ.
A modern parallel could be someone who’s been in prison for crimes. But through maybe just good enough behavior have been allowed to be in some sort of a work program. Prisoners who are out on the side of the highway cleaning up the trash that people throw out the windows. Just not a group of people in society that many people care about… certainly don’t want to hear their testimony.
And for some reason is a good dark God decides to come and communicate to them this wonderful news.
And what’s he telling the rest of us by telling them and not us?
That even them. Even them. Even they don’t fall below the line of God’s rescue mission. Even they are to be loved by God and the recipient of his love.
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This reality, that the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth reveal that no one is below God’s love, is first to be received by us as the church as wonderfully good news–the assurance that comes from that reality… for some of us have been taught a competing message.
Some of us have heard a different story than that. Some of our parents or our past churches, or past friends, or whoever it might be have told us a different story that said no for whatever reason, because of where we’re from, or who we were born to, or what we’ve done, or what we didn’t do, we’re below the line somewhere.
And the good news of the birth of Jesus Christ is that reminds us and lift us up and helps us to see that we’re above the line.
Some of us have been struggling with sin and the certain areas of our life long enough that we’ve eventually believed the lie that maybe we’re below the line… and this good news of the birth of Jesus Christ lifts us above the line and reminds us that no we’re not.
Some of us have loved ones that we wonder that maybe God has given up on. We care about them. We love them, but they’re making dumb decisions repeatedly in their life and we wonder, are they below the line? Has God given up on them?
And the good news of Jesus Christ and the humble circumstances of his birth remind us no they’re not either.
But not only is this reality a message I think should be heard by us as far as good news, but I think it’s also an eye opening challenge as well. Because it teaches us not only that all are loved by God… but the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth also reveal that we are to love all.
And this becomes the challenge that comes out of the Christmas story.
In a moment I’m going to go through a list of examples of groups of people that you may have unintentionally allowed in your mind to slip below the line of your love. And I’m going to go through this list and it I think will be maybe potentially offensive to some of you.
And I will pray of course that you receive it with humble hearts and grace and mercy.
And I want to be clear about something… as I go through this list of people that should receive our love even though maybe some of us have left them out and put them below the line, I’m not claiming that the Bible says there’s no difference between right or wrong or there aren’t bad choices or good choices or anything like that.
But I am suggesting to you that our love for people is in no way at all conditional or based on how other people behave. So saying that we should love them is not saying that we think that they’re doing the right thing, it’s just saying that we should love people whether they’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing.
So what I’m talking to you about of the idea that we should love these groups of people.
So what I want to suggest to you is that some of us have allowed people to slip below the line in our life and that does not parallel the character of God at the Christmas story
So regardless of someone’s skin color; regardless of their race or ethnicity; regardless of their religious practices or beliefs; regardless of their political party; regardless of their view of America; regardless of how they got into America; regardless of their sexual orientation; regardless of their moral decisions and lifestyles… they ought to be above the line when it comes to who the church loves.
And it doesn’t matter, if everyone else in your family, or in your circle of influences has taught you otherwise… the birth of Jesus Christ tells you they are above the line. God could not have communicated it any clearer–they should be the recipient of the church’s love because they are the recipient of God’s love.
The Bedtime Hoops: 4 Important Questions to Ask Your Kids Every Night
by Christine Leeb
I love my kids, but by bedtime, I’m just exhausted. At 8pm, my patience shuts off. It’s like I have some sort of glitch in my mommy code, or maybe I just missed the patience upgrade with each kid or something?
So when I have to jump through so many drinks-of-water hoops, tickle hoops, tuck-in hoops, bedtime-song hoops, pee-pee hoops, and brush-your-freaking-teeth-already hoops, I feel that if they don’t get away from me as soon as possible, I’m going to jump through the I’ve-lost-my-mind hoop and escape into a dimension where only brownies, beaches, and books exist.
But that’s not reality! (Oh how I wish it was sometimes though—minus the losing my mind hoop). The reality is that motherhood doesn’t stop at 8pm. And even though some of the hoops I jump through annoy me, there are four hoops that I would never miss jumping through no matter how tired or impatient I feel…The 4-Questions Hoops.
I started asking my kids these four questions every night and it has changed our relationship. It has brought us closer. It has created a more positive shift in their focus throughout their day and in mine.
What was your favorite part about your day? This question allows us to jump through the hoop of positivity together. It helps my children focus on the best parts of their day, and gives us another opportunity to reflect on them, laugh even more about them, and find joy in those special moments one more time before they close their eyes.
What was your least favorite part about your day? This question allows us to jump through the hoop of reality together. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, so it’s great to have the opportunity to be real and talk about those things in their day that didn’t go well—bad choices, disrespect, being irresponsible. This question has allowed for me to model unconditional love and has given me many second-chance teachable moments. Even if I lost my temper the first time around, I have one more chance to walk them through what they should have done differently. It’s great for kids to be reminded that tomorrow is a new day to try again.
Do you have any questions about your day?This question allows us to jump through the honesty hoop together. It establishes a habit of always letting them know that they can ask me anything and can trust me to listen and love. It shows them that I’m a “safe” person who isn’t going to judge or get angry or be upset if they want to talk about the tough stuff.
How did you show kindness or love today?This question allows us to jump through the integrity hoop together. It encourages them to be kind and loving to others even when no one is watching. It is the most powerful, life-changing question I have asked! My kids have learned just how simple it is and how capable they are of showing kindness or love every single day. When I first started asking this question, my eight year old had trouble coming up with an answer, so I would step in to tell what I saw him do–he was thoughtful to take his plate to the sink, he played with his sister nicely, he gave his little brother a turn with his squirt gun, he washed his hands the first time I asked him to. Creating an awareness of the little ways that he can show kindness and love has empowered him to do even more. Plus, I find myself looking for those positive things that each child does throughout the day so I can share it with them that night. They love hearing all the great things they’ve done. Kindness and love…this is the focus I want my kids to have throughout their day!
The 4-Questions hoops have helped me learn more about my kids: baseball game play-by-plays, storm fears, favorite colors and movies. But I have also taught more to my kids: answering questions about abortion, smoking, appreciating the differences in others and I’ll never forget the night we cried together about a little boy in a wheel chair.
Because of jumping through the 4-Questions hoops of positivity, reality, honesty, and integrity every night, I have laughed louder, cried more, snuggled closer, and taught lessons about life that I would not have had the opportunity to do in the busyness of the day. Dear mom, at bedtime, won’t you join me in fixing that glitch in your mommy code, upgrading your patience level, bending your knees, and jumping through these four extra hoops with me every night too? I promise that these are the hoops you will never regret jumping through for your kids.