Peter's Perspective - Nets, Fear, and Following (3/26/2017)

The Bridge, 200 South Hanover Street, Hummelstown, PA - Pastor Justin Douglas

Imagine you're a first century Jewish boy and you just turned five years old and you start going to training in the scriptures. This would be around the time that you would begin your intense training of the scriptures. You would've already been very aware of the scriptures growing up in a Jewish family, but this is where it begins to get intense. You are to learn the scriptures, you are to memorize the scriptures, even as a five year old. From five to ten, the expectation would be that you would memorize the first five books of the Bible. That would this this much of the Bible memorized, committed to memory. The first five books - the Torah.

Imagine that being you, and wrapped up in all of that is as a five year old as you go into this education, you're told at ten years old there's going to be a cut-off. There's going to be a determination at that point if you go on to the next level or if you go home and start learning the family trade. If that's what you go to, you learn the trade of the family, the way to make money, or if you continue on this prestigious path toward a rabbi. And the goal of every child in this culture is to become a rabbi, really, even the family would say, wow, if you could do that, that would be amazing. That would be such an honor. That would make your father the proudest if you could do that. Right? For some of us it's throwing a football really far or putting a ball in a basket. Right? But for this culture, it was if you could do that.

And so you go with all those expectations, with all this, and at ten years old you're told we're taking Jimmy and Johnny but not you. You know, and the rest of the class goes and they go back and they learn the family trade. And then there's all kinds of other stepping stones. And at one point, at 30 typically in that process, you would become a rabbi. But you would follow a rabbi for a long time during that and be trained and learn and learn.

So this is the first century Jewish model - and even before the first century - model of education and model of the new rabbis coming in. They would learn for a long period of time before they would be released to teach. But it created all of these people who went through the process who really weren't worthy. Think of it in those terms. Weren't smart enough, weren't bright enough, didn't have what it took , maybe weren't good enough.

And so this is where we pick up the story, if you think about it, of Peter. Peter went through that similar path. Peter goes to the school most likely, just like every other boy in his culture would have done, and eventually he goes back to become a fisherman like many of the other disciples were fishermen. Now, Peter's first encounter with Jesus is in Luke 4. We're going to be focusing on Luke 5 today.

So imagine you have that experience and then you're still part...you're practicing your faith, you go to the synagogue, and one day you go to the synagogue and there's this new rabbi there who just started, and his name's Jesus. And there's a lot of buzz about this new guy named Jesus. And this new guy named Jesus, after the worship at the synagogue, says I'd love to come eat at your house, which for many of us...like if someone just comes up to you after church and is like, hey, I'd love to come eat at your house today, you're like, whoa, back off creeper. Right?

But, in this culture, that was actually a sign of respect because for Jesus being the rabbi there, He would've went to...most rabbis would've went to the person in the room who had the highest position of power and would've asked to come to their house and eat. But instead, Jesus goes to Peter and says I'd love to come to your house and eat. Very interesting that He would choose and single out this particular person who, by the way, did not make the cut, he's just a fisherman, just a common person. But He goes there, right? And when He goes there, what He finds is that his mother-in-law is really sick. Like so sick she might even die. And so Jesus heals her, and the text is so funny here because it says that Jesus heals her and then she got up and made them food, which was kind of funny. Jesus's motives might've been in question. [laughter]

But He heals her and then they share in a meal together, but the word gets out in the city that Jesus has the power to heal and Jesus is healing. And so more and more people start coming to the house, and Jesus is healing all through the night, and then Jesus leaves. And Peter is left with this very unique experience with a rabbi unlike anything else he probably ever had, and then he goes back to fishing. And this is his first experience with Jesus. We don't know how long the gap is from that experience to the experience we're going to cover today. We know it probably wasn't the next day; it was sometime later that he encounters Jesus another time.

And so as we read today, I want us to think about Peter's perspective. You know, we're starting this series called "Peter's Perspective" because sometimes when we read the Bible, we act as if the words are meant for us. And here's the deal, the words ARE meant for us, but they're meant for us as we understand the perspective of the first reader. As we understand the perspective of the one who those words were spoken to. I can speak words to you that carry no meaning, but the moment you understand what those words meant to that particular person, it reveals the character of God. Does that make sense? Because that person had a story, that person had an experience, and by God saying what He said to that person, He was saying a life-giving, hope-giving, grace-giving, love-giving statement that we maybe can't fully unpack because we read the Bible as if this sentence is just meant for me. Sometimes we have to understand the first person who would have read it, the first person who it would have been spoken to. And from that position, when we understand their perspective, we can say wow, God is up to something interesting here, and that means a lot for me. And so today and through this series, as we try to unpack Peter's perspective as he journeyed with Jesus, as we journey with Jesus, there's going to be reminders for us. Things that further root us in Jesus. And so here we go. We're going to start with Luke 5:1-3.

We're going to stop right there. Here's the deal: Rabbis don't preach on beaches. Okay? This is not a common thing in this particular place. Rabbis would have certainly been out amongst the people. That's certainly something they would have done, but really their primary place would've been in the synagogue. Yet, Luke 4 and Luke 5, Jesus is in common places. We see Him in the synagogue, but we don't hear any story. The story comes when He goes and eats at Peter's house and then following that when He's healing people. And now He's out amongst the people. And any point where I can emphasize our mission at The Bridge and why we do what we do. When we talk about relating with relevance, we're talking about being out amongst the people, relating to people in a real way. This is where the people are. And a lot of times there's this expectation in the church where people need to come to where we are and then we'll talk about Jesus. And even Jesus is like, yeah, we're not expecting people to come into the synagogue, I'm going to go where they are. So even here we see the heart of Jesus is to go to the common person, to not make this some elite club where if you're good enough, you get in. He's critiquing that culture right from the start.

Even stopping there with washing their nets. Let's think about this. You wash your nets at the end of fishing. Now, fishermen in this culture would fish most of the night or very, very early in the morning all the way through, and then when the sun came out, this was a time where you could no longer fish or it was very unlikely you would catch fish. This is the time of the day when fish are not to be caught. So they come in, they clean their nets, they hang them up, and they get ready to either go out that night or to go out early the next morning when it is time to catch fish.  And so Jesus is saying I'm coming to the shore at the time where all the fishermen are coming in - all of them - because this is the end of the fishing day for them, or at least the end of the first shift. And that's important as the story develops.

Now imagine this, Jesus is in the water. So imagine I'm in the water here, not kicking over mic stands, and so I'm in a boat in the water, and you guys are all on a beach. You guys are all on the shore. This is exactly what He's experiencing, almost like...think of like an amphitheater on the beach, and you have this rabbi teaching in a way that would've been so incredibly counter-cultural to what this upbringing of all of these people would've been. They would've probably never seen a rabbi in a boat teaching to a mass crowd about God the way in which Jesus was, which as we see over and over again, with authority and also with the background of miracles. They would've known the stories. Remember, this is not far from where Peter lives, so some of these people might've actually been healed by Jesus as they're sitting here listening to Him teach now. So this is the landscape of what we're seeing now. Jesus is among the common people teaching.

So, really quick, right there. Peter's kind of like, okay, Jesus, I know You've got this whole rabbi thing on lock. Like, You're really good at that; actually You're doing some interesting stuff. I'm actually really interested in seeing how this works out for You. But I've been fishing for awhile now, and no one goes out right now to catch fish. This is not the time we go out to catch fish. Maybe You're not an outdoorsman, but let me tell You about this, how it works. This is not the time where we go out and catch fish. There will be no fish caught, it's a waste of time, but okay, You're in a position of authority, and I want to honor that, so at the very least, we'll make a trip around the lake. Right? And that's kind of what...and by the way, I mean, he didn't even have an engine, so he's even committing to manual labor right here out in the middle of the sun. But he does that, and it says:

On the verge of sinking. Think about that, how many fish they would've had to catch to be on the verge of sinking. Now think of...again, we're looking from Peter's perspective. Peter has now - and most likely a short period of time, we don't know exactly - experienced two miracles of Jesus: the healing of his mother-in-law, which some may say is a miracle, some may say is a curse depending upon your situation {congregation laughs}; and then the catching of all these fish. Right? And so he sees all these fish caught, and think about that. Financially, he's catching all these fish...think about the financial repercussions of that. This is like, wow, this is amazing. We, we're going to be...it's very rare you would come into the bay with this many fish that you're almost sinking, so think of that...the families, the money they would make, the investment they would be able to make back into their business, or just the ability to know they're set for the next month or the next couple months, however that would be. So he's experienced this in a real way, an impacting way. Jesus has impacted his life before Jesus ever asked him to follow Him. It's very interesting. And as we continue:

Oh, Lord, please leave me - I'm such a sinful man. Peter knows who he is. Peter knows his identity. Not only does he know that he's sinful, but he knows that he's not good enough for this life. This isn't really a veil he's allowed to see behind. He didn't pass the class. He didn't move on to the next level. This isn't meant for him. So he's like, this was really cool for awhile, but I'm not worthy of this, I'm a sinful man. And then there's another element here of, you know, everyone in this culture would've been waiting for the Messiah. This would've been something taught to him even before 5 years old. That the Messiah was coming and was going to free him and they were no longer going to be slaves to Rome. Like all of these Passover metaphors, all of this stuff, waiting and waiting and waiting for the Messiah. And now, part of this even is, you wonder if he's even seeing the Messiah in Jesus and saying like, I'm not even worthy of being next to the Messiah, let alone the Messiah blessing me through two miracles. Are you kidding me? The passage continues.

See, Peter knows his place and he knows he's not worthy of this. He knows. I'm a failure. That's who I am. That's where I am in life. And by failure, I can still do okay. I'm going to do okay because I can learn the family trade. I'm going to go on and do that. But in this whole religious area, I'm a failure. And Jesus is like, you know what? Later on, Jesus says I've come for the sick, not the healthy. He says later, I haven't come for those who are righteous, I've come for those who are sinners. And like, there's this upside down element that we see here when we look from Peter's perspective because Peter is like, literally the last person a rabbi should be interacting with is me. And even more so the last person a rabbi should be blessing is me, and this is getting on the borderline of calling. The last person a rabbi should be calling or have this much interaction with is me. You're in my boat with me. Why are You here? I shouldn't be a part of this. Interestingly enough, if you think you shouldn't be a part of what God is doing in the world, God like, yeah, you're ready. Like, that's what we're hearing in the story. And the story continues.

Don't be afraid. Think of that word. Don't be afraid. That phrase. And fear. Peter has a lot of fear. Fear of rejection. He's been rejected. Fear of failure. The fear of not being good enough. His shame, his guilt, his brokenness that he brings to the table. The first thing that Jesus says here: "Don't be afraid," as Peter has experienced this. And his response is I'm a sinful man, I can't be in Your presence almost. Don't be afraid. See, for some of us, our guilt binds us, our shame binds us, the limitations we've experienced already in life bind us and make us a slave to fear. But Jesus is saying don't be afraid. Don't be afraid because I have something in store for you that you can't be a part of if fear controls your life. Don't be afraid. From now on, you'll be fishing for people. So He doesn't just tell him don't be afraid, He says don't be afraid because I have a purpose for you that overcomes your fear.

Keep in mind, though, Peter is this conflicted character that we see through the text. We see times where Peter has amazing faith, and then we see times where Peter...and you're just sitting here like Peter, were you...are you even foll...hold on, Jesus? Is that the name that's familiar to you right now when you're doing this decision? Like you know? We see times of great failure and great faith, but even in that Jesus is saying don't be afraid. And Peter might be like, I've been there, I've done that, I got the T-shirt, I've gone that direction. It doesn't work. I'm not good enough. I know You're trying to maybe call me to that, but You weren't there when I failed the 5 tests. Like, You weren't there when Jimmy in class was way better than I was and had all the stuff together and I don't. Like, you know? And Jesus is saying...doesn't seem very interested in the systems that declare righteousness of that day, that determine who's best to follow a rabbi. Jesus isn't going to the Harvards of rabbi schools and saying tell Me your A-list students right now because I want them to follow me. He's going to a beach, a random beach where there are fishermen. And by the way, then he goes to a tax collector booth [Justin laughs]. Like He's not interested in the elite.

Safety and security, the known versus the unknown, change versus staying the same, they left everything. Think of that. Think in your mind for a moment. Let's all just close our eyes for a moment, and we really want to adopt Peter's perspective here, so if we could all just close our eyes and imagine for a moment we're standing on the beach. We've experienced a miracle, whatever that might be in our life that would be meaningful for us. And we're standing on a beach with things that hold us, whatever that might be, just lined up. And this person who's handed us this miraculous experience saying come follow Me and leave all of this behind. So what is that on the beach for you? Just visualize it. What is it? What's lined up there? What possessions are lined up there? What fear is lined up there? What guilt, what shame, what limitations? What's the list and litany of things lined up on the beach?

Open your eyes. Now, Peter leaves that. And it doesn't...it's not like Peter gets to the shore, parks his boat, and then contemplates. That's not even what we see. And James and John leave it, too. They're like, wow, this is a whole different turn than we ever would've thought possible. They would've never seen this as a possibility.

So like sometimes we have the one-in-a-million story, like this is March Madness right now, and I remember as a young person being raised in Indiana, there was this small Indiana school called Valparaiso, and some of you might remember the shot. Bryce Drew shot this random shot that sent them into the Sweet 16 and like everybody in Indiana was going crazy because they were a seed that was not supposed to get there. Right? And so this was a longshot for this team to even get out of the first round, let alone get this far, and in the fashion that they did it with the buzzer-beater shot.

The thing is, we've seen that. Even before Valparaiso, we'd seen that. It was just really cool. This is something that Peter, James, and John don't have a filter for. This isn't something they've seen. There isn't a rabbi coming along doing radical things like calling fishermen and tax collectors. And now, they've decided they're going to leave everything. So Jesus says to you, "Follow me! Don't be afraid." Don't let the things in life that capture your fear - again, the guilt, the shame, the fear of failure, the fear of change, the fear of stepping into something new and maybe even unknown - don't let that hold you so much that you miss, you miss this beautiful reality that I have something for you that's so much greater.

So as we go through this series, as we go through Peter's Perspective, what we're going to see is we're going to see this conflicted character who at times steps into great things and at other times steps back and steps like into failure. And the interesting thing is Jesus never says, 'I'm done with you.' And so this perspective is for us, but we have to read it from his perspective. We have to close our eyes at times and think what would it be like if I was in that place? Sometimes so easy to look at the life of Peter and be like, what an idiot! But then it's hard for us to say what would I have done in the same exact situation with the same exact upbringing as this young man who's called out of the life of fishing to follow this radical rabbi who's turning everything upside down? It's such an interesting thing because that same call exists today. We are called to follow a radical rabbi who's turning things upside down in our world, and sometimes those things He's turning upside down make us very uncomfortable and we're very afraid. Even in our own life. Don't turn that upside down, Jesus. You can turn everything else upside down, but that you can't turn upside down.

But here in the life of Peter, we see Jesus journeying with Peter and the rest of the disciples, turning their lives upside down, and here's the deal: I don't think at the end of Peter's life he would've went back and changed a thing about this day. He would've said I'm leaving everything. He maybe would've left it faster.

And so for us today, the question is: Are we following, and is there stuff we've tried to take with us? How hard would it be for Peter to follow Jesus if he would've said Jesus I'll follow You but here's the deal, I'm going to bring my boat along. [Justin laughs} Just in case. Safety net, right? No. He leaves it all behind. And so what are we holding onto? What fears are we holding onto while we follow Jesus? What guilt, what shame are we carrying that we don't feel like Jesus can release us from?

As we go through this series, I really feel like we're going to grow closer in our relationship with Jesus because I feel like we're going to start to see the perspective of how Jesus calls us but then how Jesus journeys with us through our triumphs and through our failures. And then how Jesus even, just restores us and showers grace upon us when we fail really bad. And I think this is something we each need. We need to be reminded of this, and we need to see that this isn't some, like, one sentence in the Bible, but it's literally in this life of this individual. And so it's in our life, too, so we want to identify with Peter so that we can experience it in our life, so that we can see the parallels within our lives and be reminded that yeah, I've failed, I messed up, but it's beautiful that God doesn't give up on me. And so through this series, we're going to do that.

Today, I want us to focus on the reality that God has probably done a miracle in your life. Somewhere. Think about it. Think about it. What has God maybe done in your life? Reflect on that this week. And then reflect on what is on the shore that you either need to let go of to follow Jesus for the first time, or if you are following Jesus, what are you trying to hold onto while you follow Jesus? And there'll be more next week. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we are so thankful that You give us raw, real people as examples because we are raw, real people. We desire to be authentic. We don't want to be people who wear masks, who pretend to be something. We thank you that Peter, even in this story, is fully aware of who he is. I'm a sinner. I shouldn't even be in your presence. We thank You for that perspective and that humility, and we pray You would work that into our story, work that into our lives. God, be with each and every one of us this week as we reflect on the miracles You've done in our lives. The time when You've showed up where we've needed You most. The time where You transformed our situation, our circumstance, maybe provided that relationship where we needed it. God, you are our provider, so may we look back and see where You've provided for us and cared for us.

God, may we also see what we cling to because sometimes we don't cling to You, we cling to other things. Whatever those things may be, whatever it is actual things, possessions. Whether it's status and wealth and power, whatever it might be. Whether it's fear. Fear of failure, fear of... even just fear of failing at following You. For some of us, that is a big struggle. Remind us of Your grace if that's where we're afraid to even take a step. God, in our fear, meet us there. God, if we're guilty, if we just feel overcome by what we've done and we just can't get past that, remind us of Your grace. If there's shame for things we've done in the past, God, I pray that You would release us of that.

All these things that might line up on our shore, God, I just pray You would meet us in that place and make it to where we can walk away. Walk away from that and walk toward You, even if each step is a process, even if each step is a season of life. God, we want to be closer to You. We want to follow You because we know in that place, You're transforming us into something new, taking us from being identified with that - fishers of fish - and transforming us into something far more beautiful: fishers of men. So whatever that transformation is, whatever image You need to give us to get us there, show us what we're gaining even as we let go.

God, as we continue to open the scriptures and see Peter, I pray we would see ourselves. I pray we would see a man who journeyed and attempted to follow You the best he could and failed and also succeeded. And may we realize our journey is full of that: failures and success. And God, Your grace is abundant in our failures and You celebrate with us in our successes, and You never leave our side through it all. And so may we be reminded of that through this series. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Our House - Why We Call the B.I.C. (Brethren in Christ) Our Home (2/12/2017)

*We are not covering the core values in any particular order. We have actually created our own order so that we can pair two values that work together each Sunday. If you would like to learn more about the Core Values of the BIC, you can purchase the book Focusing Our Faith or visit http://bic-church.org/about/values

Our House Week 3.001.jpeg

Sometimes things are better together than on their own, and today we're starting a new series called Our House and why we call the B.I.C. our home. The B.I.C. is the Brethren in Christ, the denomination that we consider ourselves a part of, that is our home, if you will. So today we're going to start a series where we're going to cover two core values of the Brethren in Christ each week until we cover all ten, so this'll be a five-week series.

So a couple things quickly as we get into this...I think you're going to see a lot of overlap in our church's core values and the core values of the Brethren in Christ actually. If you know our values, you might be interested to see how many of them actually blend pretty well. Another thing is, this Our House series is in no way a condemnation of other people's houses, of other denominations, okay? So there are other denominations out there. Some very similar to us, some very different than us, okay? But this isn't about throwing stones, this is more about us understanding the foundation that makes the Brethren in Christ the Brethren in Christ but also makes The Bridge The Bridge. And so we're going to be getting into that throughout the series.

Now really quick, in college I remember doing a class where I had to study all the different denominations, and there's thousands. I didn't have to study thousands, but some of the main ones and even some of the fringe ones, and that class was really boring. Okay? And just so we know before we get started, this is not that class, okay? This is not just information to fill your brain so you know a little more. If not, I would just read you the minutes of our general conference this last year. That would be really fun for us if we were planning on taking a nap. That's what I did most of those sessions. Anyway...[congregation laughter] don't tell the bishop I said that!

But for us, what we're going to do actually is we're going to be talking about some of these core values that are actually very personal. For many of us, hopefully this will be a challenge for us personally but also for us communally. As we kind of study some of these, it'll remind us the type of community we strive to be while also reminding us the type of person that we strive to be. A lot of the quotes that I'm going to take out of here, I might say a quote here or there, it's coming from a book called Focusing Our Faith, where they go deeper into the ten core values.

So there are ten core values that the B.I.C. holds, and again we're going to cover these, and we're not covering them in any particular order since we had to connect two each Sunday. We kind of connected two that made sense to put together. Let's get started.

The first value that we're going to cover today is Belonging to the Community of Faith. Belonging to the Community of Faith. You are designed for community, whether you're aware of that or not. You are designed to be in community with other people. This goes all the way back to the Genesis account when God says, 'Let us make man in our image.' There's this image of God as community and that we are designed to live in community. And so...by the way, this is not a spiritual idea, this is a very scientific idea, a very philosophical idea. Even Aristotle said this, "Man is by nature a social animal," and that term 'social animal' has been carried on in all kinds of scientific talk, all kinds of psychology talk, and so there's a longing that all humanity kind of has to belong somewhere. There's a longing that all humanity has to kind of find a group to be accepted in. If you don't think you have this longing, for a moment close your eyes, and maybe some of you are in junior high so you can remember what it was like to walk in the cafeteria of junior high or high school and be like, 'What table am I gonna sit at? I want to belong to one of these groups. What do I have to do? Okay, I have to dye my hair pink. I can do that. That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.'

No, but the truth is we do desire to belong, and you see this at a very early even level of adolescence but also even as a child and even as an adult. Belonging is very important. There 's a reason that it's not healthy to be isolated, that anyone will tell you to be isolated for long periods of time is not the way you're designed to be. We are designed for one another, we are designed for community.

Interestingly enough, God knows our needs, and God meets our needs. And so God, knowing He has created this being that desires community, as Christ leaves, we're handed the church...a community, a group of people that are supposed to meet and gather and love one another and create this belonging community. And so this provides for some of our deepest needs. This here, but far beyond what we do on Sunday morning, can provide for some of our deepest needs.

So under each of these values, we're going to talk about four kind of sub-points to kind of tease out that value a little bit. Here's our first one.

We value integrity in relationships and mutual accountability in an atmosphere of grace, love, and acceptance. Our desire is that we're growing together, that we are experiencing the grace, love, and acceptance of God while growing in relationship to one another and that there's accountability within our group, that we help each other, that we encourage each other, that we support each other, that we motivate each other and even that at times we're able to say the hard thing that might be needed to say to one another. That is what accountability looks like.

I have a mentor, his name is Jason, and he was my youth pastor when I was in high school, and ever since then he's been my mentor. We talk on the phone every once in awhile and I know when I call him sometimes I'll be like, 'Man, I'm dealing with this. It's so frustrating, I don't know what to do.' And he'll be like, 'Here's some ideas, here's some thoughts.' And then there's times when I'll call him, and I'll share 'I did this,' and he's like 'You shouldn't have done that.' And I'm like {exasperated sigh] 'Don't tell me that; it's already done!' And he's like, 'Well, you need to go undo it.' And then I'm like, 'No, I'm gonna do it my way.' No, I usually have to sit there and be like, oh, Jason said the hard thing I did not want to hear today. And because of my relationship with him and because I know that's coming from a place of love and care for me, I listen, and it's hard.

It's hard to be corrected, isn't it? If you're not a parent, you maybe don't know that as much as the depth that I know it. But when you correct a kid, they never like, 'Dad, you're right. I totally shouldn't have done that. Oh, man.' No, it's hard! It's hard! You wanna push back. You wanna be like, 'NO! Shut up!' Like you know? That's our natural response to accountability, but there's something beautiful that happens when we begin to have a depth of relationship that's built on love and grace that then becomes to extend out to where we can say the hard thing to one another in love, in grace, and it can actually begin to grow us deeper together. And so that's the type of community we desire to create here.

Next, we take very seriously the 'one another' scriptures. We take very seriously the 'one another' scriptures. There are many scriptures that say how we are to relate to one another. Let's read a few of them. This is just a few. It's gonna be like four slides, but it's a few, okay?

And this isn't even all the 'one anothers.' There are so many 'one another' passages. We desire to take these passages very seriously because God seems to communicate that He's very interested in our relationships with one another. There's so much the Bible says about how we're called to treat one another, and it seems that can even affect our relationship with God, that our relationship with God can actually shift and change based on how we love our neighbor. That's very interesting. And so we desire to create a community, to be in community, where we hold high the 'one another' passages. That this is the type of place we're called to be. A place where we love one another. A place where we take each of these passages very seriously.

Next, we are committed to the mess.

Here's what a quote from the book says: "As long as there are people in the church, there will always be problems in the church. Where people gather, problems must be expected." Yes! Community is not easy; community is messy. I remember the pastor who was talking to one of his good friends who hadn't had any interest in church and they'd had all kinds of conversations about church, and the topic of church came up again and he told the pastor, he said, "All Christians are just hypocrites, so why would I want to go to church?" And the pastor kind of paused, and they'd had a lot of conversations about this, and he just kind of paused and just stopped for a little bit, and then he said, "You're right. All Christians are hypocrites, and at our church, there's always room for one more." {congregation laughs]

That's kind of funny, and I would say maybe you want to have a relationship with someone before you throw that out there, but I would simply say, like, there's an element of truth to that, though, and the pastor admits, hey, I'm a hypocrite. Like, we're all hypocrites when we really pause and think about it. Like, we've all failed. None of us are perfect, and so we desire to be a place where we kind of embrace the mess. This is a mess. Life is a mess. There's brokenness that is part of each and every one of our stories. None of us are exempt from that. And maybe you did come from a really toxic community into The Bridge, and that was even a mess that was so hard for you, and we would first and foremost say, welcome. You've been burned by the church? We want to welcome you, but we do not want to hide behind some façade that we're a perfect community.

We say we're the perfect place for imperfect people. {Justin laughs} That's what we say. Because the truth is we're not trying to sweep anything under the rug and pretend that we are perfect. We're very up front about not being perfect because we believe in showing that, hey, I'm messed up. That actually elevates the grace of God, it doesn't elevate my good character. It elevates the reality that God's grace is so vast and good that He would, in my brokenness, in my messiness, enter in and offer something that I totally and wholly don't deserve. That is the community we desire to create because we confront our messes in a true way, in a real way, in a raw way, and that's a far more healthy community because the cornerstone of that - instead of the sweeping it under the rug is the cornerstone of putting on a mask. For us, confronting the mess, being real with the mess, is being raw and open to the grace of God on display in each and every one of our stories. And this leads to our next sub-point.

Here's another quote: "An intimate church community is one that provides a safe place for people to be honest and vulnerable with each other." We want to create a space where we can be real, authentic, about who we are and what we're struggling with. So much of my church life was coming together in community as a young kid and sitting down in a group and everyone would share what are you struggling with, and no one was being real. I'd be like, I mean, even in high school I was like, dude, you smoked pot last night. Let's talk about that struggle. Like you know what I mean? Like no one wanted to talk about the real stuff. It was like 'Uhhhhh, uhhh, things are hard at school.' Like you know? Like it's like, no, there's more going on, man, let's talk about real, but there was also this certain kind of thing where it was like we can only share so much. And certainly I would encourage you to have a trust of this community before you would open up and be fully vulnerable. But at the same time, we desire to be a community where we can be vulnerable with one another.

And the church is not just, it's not a building at all. Like this is another thing to say. We are a community of people. That is the church. So many people come in here and rent the church, rent the building, and when they do that, they say is this used as a church? Is this a church? And we're like, uhhh, yeah, it's a church, we meet on Sundays, because we know what they're asking. But really, so much of our language, and even mine if I'm not conscious of it, is a building represents a church, but it's not. The people represent the church, so when we go out of these doors, we're an extension of the community of God. We're an extension of the church, and the church is a gathering of people doing their best to follow these "one another" passages and their commitment to others. You are the church. I am the church. We are the church. And we are designed to have this crazy belonging in acceptance community. Yet, it's difficult and it's messy. We have a road map, but the road map's bumpy. And so we gather together. The next thing we have outside of that mission is a mission to go. And that brings us to our next core value that we're covering today.

Witnessing to the world is our next Brethren in Christ core value that we're covering today. In Acts 1:8, it says this:

This passage here is important because this is Jesus right before ascension. It's the last thing He says to the disciples before He leaves them, and He tells them you will be my witnesses in these areas. And the area kind of starts like this, and then it gets wider and wider and wider. Let's actually look at a map real quick. 

This is interesting. You can't even make out Jerusalem on this map. And this is just a map of the region. But we'll put a circle around there so you can make it out. There's a purple circle right there. So that is Jerusalem. So you'll be My witnesses in Jerusalem.

The next thing that's said is that you'll be My witnesses in Judea.

Then the next thing that's said is Samaria. Interestingly enough, this passage is given in Acts 1:8, and at this time, He says you're going to be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and so He's pretty much telling them go be My witnesses in these areas. We're eight chapters later in Chapter 8 before they ever move and go into Samaria because if you didn't know this, Jesus has a predominantly Jewish audience, and they do not like Samaritans. So they would've heard Jerusalem, Judea, I'm okay with that. Samaria? No thank you. That's not really a region where I'm going to go tell people about Your love because THOSE people, okay?

Funny thing is, persecution breaks out in the church in Acts 8:1, and they're forced to go to Samaria as pretty much refugees in Samaria and witness there because God's like, 'Okay, you don't want to move? I'll move ya!' Like, you know? That's kind of what happens. And so they break out and sort of branch out in Samaria. And then the rest is just the ends of the earth. And at this point, it goes far beyond even this map what the known world was.

So there's this picture of starting local, more, more, more. And even as the SLT (Strategic Leadership Team) was talking through how do we strategically create missions partners? We want to start local and work our way out.  So local, regional, national, international. Kind of a focus built off of Acts 1:8. And the purpose of that is this: We are called to love our neighbor that's right next door. Sometimes the church is very interested in global missions, but they don't know the people in their own backyard. And that's disappointing when there's so much need right here, too. And so we start here. We start with the people we're already in relationship with and we share with them the love of Jesus. Next:

We must be active in the lives of others, active in our community where life is being lived. We have to enter those arenas with love, not shield ourselves in those arenas because potentially we'd get contaminated or something like that. This is the greatest witness, I believe, of the love of Jesus to the world, that we would be in relationship with others. Here's how John 13:35 puts it (this is Jesus speaking):

Love for others seems to be the indicator that you are a disciple of Jesus. That same love on display toward others can be transformative. Like, this love that Jesus had that we desire to model can transform someone's life just by seeing it. Just by witnessing it, it can transform their life, even if the love isn't even meant for them. It's you loving someone else and them seeing it. And you might think that's crazy, but let me tell you. I don't know, maybe you've watched videos before, and you've been like, oh, and you started been tearing up, I don't know if you've watched videos before and that's happened, but I was watching a video, actually I think it was yesterday,  where one of my friend's churches, they do a disabilities prom and they had this prom where all these people gathered, and then the amazing thing was they all gathered on the second floor of this hotel and it was this huge ballroom and they were doing all this stuff, and then what got me, like I was already tearing up a little bit, and then what hit me was they said, and on the first floor, all the parents and caretakers who put so much time into them, we have massages set up and dinner set up and all this stuff set up for them so that they get a night out and night away. And I'm just sitting here, I'm like bawling, like, man, that's amazing. I had nothing to do with it! I was just witnessing the love that someone else was showing to someone else, and it hit me.

When we see self-sacrificial servant-oriented love on display, we look at it, and there's something true there. There's something we can't deny. There's something that even hums within us that says I was designed to receive and give that type of love. So for us, we look at this and we say, hey, I need to be active in loving witness of Christ to all people. Next:

That Jesus modeled for us relational evangelism. And here's a quote from the book. Right from the book, by the way, the core values book of the B.I.C. "Many Christians have been so afraid of being contaminated by worldliness that they have avoided any social contact with unconverted persons. As a result, they have no natural bridge," I found that interesting, "for evangelism. What witnessing they do is usually artificial and forced rather than the spontaneous outgrowth of genuine friendship." Genuine friendship.

Jesus met with people and had real relationship with people, real friendship with people, and from those places began to talk about God. There wasn't like this immediacy, there was this desire to get to know them. It was, 'Zacchaeus, I'm coming to your house to have dinner tonight. Let's hang out.' Everyone in this story wants Jesus to come to their house, and Jesus chooses literally the last person anyone would have thought He would have dinner with, and He goes to his house and has dinner. In essence, He's saying, 'I wanna hang out. Let's talk.'

And it's from this place, this place of desiring to have a relationship. We can see this over and over again. Jesus just stops at a well in Samaria and sits down with a woman at a well and begins to have a conversation with her. 'Hey, can I have some water?' Jesus doesn't, 'Hey, have you heard of God? Do you want to check this box? Let's say this prayer.' Like that's not His way of approaching these people. He says, you're a person, you desire relationship, you desire friendship, and so I bring that to this place. And we all have friends who need the grace, hope, and love of Jesus. And just, by the way, if you don't have friends who need the grace, hope, and love of Jesus, you need new friends, okay?

We should all have friends who challenge us, who aren't followers of Jesus. I was taught at one point growing up that I shouldn't have any friends who don't follow Jesus. I can't believe that's even a teaching in the church. We should be befriending everyone, sharing the love of Jesus with all. And maybe in that loving, intentional relationship, they would see a glimpse of Christ. Maybe in our patience and as they see us being patient when everyone around them isn't, they would say something's different about that person. Something's different about Justin; he's more patient. That's not what they'd say about me {congregation laughs], but at the same time, we try, right? Like there's an intentionality in saying how do we enter into relationships that are meaningful? That are motivated even not in this person's conversion but are motivated in us trying to say I want to look more like Jesus.

I think looking like Jesus is the best way to live, and looking like Jesus means I love people and I enter into relationship with them. Not with some motives. Certainly I'd love for them to know Jesus, but my motive is that I would look more like Jesus each day. And this person may be hard to serve, hard to love, but that's why I'm entering into relationship with them, because I desire to serve them and love them. Next:

Here's a quote: "Perhaps the greatest investment we can make in evangelism is to take seriously the business of loving and accepting each other." To take seriously the business of loving and accepting each other. I'll never forget a sophomore came to our youth group, sat down in my office, and some of his friends had told me before he came that he might be coming, and we talked about this particular student and he sat in my office, and the first question out of his mouth was, "Did God make a mistake when He made me?" And I said, "Uh, let's talk about that." And the student them told me he was gay, and being gay in the area of Wisconsin that I came from was very, very difficult and being a sophomore at this particular high school that he went to was very difficult. Students would show up in their 4x4 trucks with their Confederate flags hanging off the back, which I found ironic because we lived about as far north as you could go [congregation laughs], but at the same time, you know, whatever. And so, like, it wasn't the environment for a sophomore to begin to, as they enter into understanding sexuality, to find themselves with these attractions that do NOT match the culture that they've been put in, and literally have this kid in my room, my office, weeping, saying I wish I could just be like every other dude at my school. And by the way, this was after his first suicide attempt.

And I'm sitting here, and I'm like, I have no filter for this. Like I have no way of handling this. And I just said, look, here's what I can commit to you: This space for two hours every Wednesday night will be your sanctuary as much as I can control it. We are going to create a space of acceptance and love for you and care for you and anything you need. We're not going to answer all the questions. We're just going to tell you our default position here is going to be love, and that's what we're going to do. And that's what we did. And we did that until he graduated. In his senior year, he graduated, and I just remember even his small group leader Jeff on stage giving him a big bear hug because our small group leaders would track with the student through their whole four years, so they'd start out as a freshman, and then a sophomore, and then a junior, then senior year each year, and so he got to know Andrew really well. And I remember in the parking lot afterwards Jeff said I think Andrew taught me more than I taught him over these last two years. I was just like, wow. That's amazing. That's amazing.

And then, Andrew graduated. And he came back from college, and he said I think I'm going to start coming to your church on Sunday mornings and, you know, the same commitment you told me about before, you know, is that going to be something that I can expect here? And I said no. I said I'm sorry. I wish we were there, I wish our church were there, but we're not. That's not going to be your experience on Sunday mornings. And that was really hard and painful for me. When I say we champion evangelism through loving community, there's a lot of pain in the world that the church has worked to alleviate. And then there's a lot of pain in the world that the church has amplified. And we want to be a place of refuge for those going through pain. We want to be a place that default - we love. If there's a choice where we're on the fence, we're not sure which way we should go, love. If we get to Heaven and God says, look, you were part of The Bridge, you're going to hell, okay? And He says you guys just defaulted to love way too much {congregation chuckles], that was your problem, that's something I think I'm okay with.

Other stories of pain where judgment is kind of given, and I'm not saying that that fixes everything, we live in a messy community. We talked about that earlier. This is part of us embracing the mess and saying, look, we can't answer some hard questions, there will always be hard questions, but the question is what do we do in that space? Do we love or do we just throw down judgment? So for us, we love because we also think loving is the best way we can witness to people who don't know Jesus. Lastly:

A multiplication mindset. Starting new churches is the most effective way to reach people outside of the kingdom is what the book says. So in focusing our faith, it says starting new churches. One of the things we've been convicted of and convinced of as the SLT {The Bridge's Strategic Leadership Team} is that we want to launch a new campus. We decided this back last year {2016}. Many of you guys are already aware of it. We're going to be launching a community in Midtown {Harrisburg} in September {2017}. The first week of September we'll be launching in Midtown. That's September 3rd, so you can even already start praying for that. And as we start thinking about that, as we think about adding a new campus, we're talking about taking this community that we celebrate and taking it somewhere else and saying there's maybe another community that needs this belonging by acceptance that we have experienced, that we champion. Maybe they need to experience the love of Christ in this way, and so today we're launching the recruiting of the Launch Team for that particular campus, and it'll go through the rest of February.

And here are some things about that Launch Team. We have a kiosk right here, and you can walk over here and grab one of these papers and fill it out if you're interested in being on the Launch Team. Being on the Launch Team, there will be a process here. There's an application process, and here's why: We can only take so many people on the Launch Team. We're trying to have a very balanced gift set. You'll be seen as leadership of that campus. Also, we know the commitment level is meeting regularly and going on a retreat even together and growing together as a Launch Team.

ANYONE, let me say this very clearly, can go Midtown, and that can be your new campus. To be on the Launch Team is actually a certain level of leadership and commitment. You're serving in a way that you can go over there and maybe become someone who can train others to serve in that way that you're serving or you have gifts that can be used there. And so there is a commitment level to signing up to going to that campus on the Launch Team. There are terms. Maybe you're sitting here like, Justin, I really want to do that but I just love Hummelstown. And I would say, yeah, that's awesome. Go for a year and come back. We have that option on there. And that year is to go, take the gifts you have, transfer them, and then head on back to Hummelstown. Or two years; we have one- or two-year terms or it's your new forever home. So, you can see the boxes you can check on there.

And we want to be very clear also: Many of you are staying, and that's exciting. And what we want to give to you is this challenge: On September 3rd, bring a friend. Bring a friend. That's your challenge. All of us are taking a step toward this community we're trying to create of belonging and acceptance. We have new people every Sunday. We're going to send people. There's going to be people who will leave from here and go to Midtown. We need to bring more people in. You have a role to play in that. We all have a role to play because we desire to have a multiplication mindset.

One thing I struggle with very much in the Christian church is that it becomes like a country club. 'It's about me. I want to be served a certain way. That's why I go to church.' Okay, the point of church is that we are serving others and that we are branching out, and so even some of you - this can happen - change is hard, and we've been through a lot of changes at church. And this change will be hard for us, too, because it's multiplying. But in that change, remember: the focus is not about me. The focus is about sharing the love, grace, and hope of Jesus to others. And in that place, in that place, it's a whole different model.

I share this sometimes when people ask me about church membership. We don't do church membership at The Bridge. If you're here and it's your first Sunday, welcome, you're a member. [congregation laughs] So, what we pretty much do at The Bridge is we say, look, members...like if I'm at the gym, and I'm running on the treadmill, which I wouldn't be doing [congregation laughs], but if I was...I would be walking, this would be my pace right here...no, so if I'm on the treadmill and I'm working out, and the treadmill breaks, what do I do? I go to the front desk, I say y'all got a broken treadmill. I actually don't do that. I just go to the next one and let the next dude deal with it. [laughter] But, if I was to deal with it, I would go the front desk and have them deal with it, right? So that is what a member does. Okay? What does an owner do? An owner fixes it. An owner owns the problem. An owner says how can I be of assistance to remedy this? We're trying to create a community of owners. Not people who are like, 'Oh, go fix that.' People are like, I want to be involved. And so we get involved in the multiplication process because it'll make you more pumped; you'll be so excited. I'm so excited because I've already been in Midtown, like strategically for the last 12 months, like just getting coffee there and getting to know people there, and I'm like, this community needs this, and this is going to be so awesome when we launch it.

And so even now, that friend that you have that you're like, there's no way they're coming to The Bridge, well, start loving them like Jesus. Start caring for them, and maybe September 3rd, they'd be ready. For each and every one of us, we need to have a multiplication mindset because this was the mindset of Jesus. Jesus never saw this message of grace being exclusive to His disciples. He said, you take this, and you take this to the ends of the earth because that's where we're called to go. Alright, let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we thank You for these two reasons we find a home in the B.I.C. and we look forward to covering the other eight. And God, even now we just thank You that You've been present in this community. It's not easy, it's messy, but we're so thankful that we're doing our best to lead by belonging by acceptance, for our default position to be loved. God, continue to wok on that in us where maybe our default position isn't that. God, continue to guide us in our day-to-day lives and interactions with friends and acquaintances. Show us the opportunities we have to serve and love and care that we're maybe even missing each and every day. God, bring us as a community a successful launch of Midtown, God, that You would just gather together and bring together the Launch Team that would be perfect for that community and that we would just have an amazing impact on all those people in Midtown and even outside of Midtown that need a community like ours. God, we're so thankful for what You've done at The Bridge, the type of community that has been able to be fostered here, and we pray that would continue, even through the multiplication, even through the changes. God, we know You're present here, that Your Spirit's here, and so continue to speak to us and guide us and give us the steps needed. God, we pray for us as individuals, whatever the next step is, as we hear and respond to these two values. God, make us aware of that, whether that's for our families, whether that's for us individually, guide us because we're a community here but we're also a community when we go home. We're also a community at our workplace. We're a community in our friendships. God, we take the church everywhere we go. We're created for community, and we see so many people who are as well, and so guide us and show us how we're supposed to respond in each and every relationship we have because we know that how we treat one another is connected to our relationship with You, and so guide us in those "one anothers." Amen.

Time Treasure Talent - TREASURE

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Scriptures: Psalm 24:1, James 1:17, Deuteronomy 14:22-23, Leviticus 27:30, Luke 11:42, Luke 12:29-33, Luke 12:34, II Corinthians 9:7

"Too many people spend money they earned to buy things they don't want to impress people that they don't like." This is something Will Rogers said. Epictetus said this: "Wealth consists not in having great possessions but in having few wants." Ralph Waldo Emerson said this: "Money often costs too much." One of my favorite quotes, Jonathan Swift said this: "A wise person should have money in their head but not in their heart."

Today as we continue our Time Treasure Talent series, we're talking about treasure. And as we talk about treasure, I think it's important to note that much has been talked about when we talk about money and when we talk about the separation of, I guess even as Swift puts it, money in our head and money in our heart and this concept of greed that can so quickly seep into the way we hold our money. Because this is a series all about stewardship and all about how we use our money wisely and how it grows the kingdom in the way in which we use it.

Before we get started, I want to share a story about my own personal life. I grew up going to multiple different churches. My family, we were kind of figuring it out while I was growing up. Figuring out what denomination fit us the best, what church fit us the best, and one of my church experiences happened while I was in middle school. We were in a very Pentecostal church, it was a Pentecostal church revival, and by the way, before I go any further in the story, I just want to say I love and celebrate the Pentecostal church. This was not a very good experience within the Pentecostal church, though.

The pastor passed the plate around the audience and then passed it again later on after a little more preaching, passed it again, and then again, passed it again. So usually, potentially the plate being passed twice wasn't like a phenomenon or anything. It wasn't anything crazy, but now it had been passed three times. And then, then the pastor said I feel like there are some people here that God is calling to put your jewelry into the offering plate, that God is calling you to give it all, give everything to Him, and to even give that.

And so they passed the plates again. And I remember sitting there as a young middle-schooler watching this take place and thinking, 'Wow. I'm watching grown adults drop their jewelry into an offering plate. I'll never forget the darkness that I sensed in that moment. It was...it was a dark place. It was not a place in my mind that reflected the Kingdom of God. I saw a man from the pulpit, best as I could tell as a middle-schooler, manipulating people.

So today as we continue this Time Treasure Talent series, last Sunday we talked about time and we talked about how our life is short. James says, what are you? You're a mist that appears for a moment and then you're gone. And so today as we discuss treasure, we should discuss it with the concept of time also attached to that. We have treasure, but we have a limited amount of time. And so these are all interconnected...our time, our treasure, our talent. But as we come into this, I know this topic can be messy. For many of us, we enter into this conversation when we talk about money, when we think about money with much baggage, and I want you to know up front, I'm skeptical. I'm part of that group that has baggage when it comes to this.

At The Bridge, one of our core values is giving compassionately, and we do believe in this value strongly, but we also see value in applying it in a non-pressure way. We don't see any value at all to apply this value in a high-pressure way as maybe you've experienced in church in the past, or if you've been like me, maybe you've seen that in your upbringing. And most research even says that a lot of reasons that people don't attend church is because they say the church just wants my money.

Well, at The Bridge, we have giving boxes. You can hit the giving boxes on the way in, you can hit the giving boxes on the way out, you can hit the giving boxes during, but there's no pressure. No one's keeping a tally like, oh, so-and-so hasn't stopped over by the giving box yet. We don't pass plates for that exact reason. We don't want people to feel that in order to attend The Bridge, they must give something. We believe giving is the antidote to greed, and so we believe giving is incredibly important for you personally, but it's not important if it's a decision that you're manipulated into. It's important if it's a decision that your heart becomes aware of your need to give. And we would even say that giving extends beyond The Bridge. Certainly if your heart is connected to The Bridge, we would love for you to support what we're doing, but there's so much good happening out there, and there are so many things that God has connected your heart to that are beyond The Bridge, and so how are you giving? Because again, giving is the antidote to greed.

So before we get started though, we're going to go through a few points. I'm going to read a few scriptures as we talk about this topic of treasure/money today.

So the very first concept we have to get is this: God owns it all.

This is so fundamental to our posture of generosity. If we believe that we are owners, then we forget who is seated above us. God owns it all. We serve God. A servant going to his master and claiming ownership of what is the master's seems incredibly ridiculous. So we must remember that God owns it all. And then the second principle that flows out of that, James tells us this:

So the next principle is that God gives it all.

God owns it all, and God gives it all. So another equally hard principle for us to grasp, especially in American culture. We didn't earn it, God gave it. Just like salvation. Some people bask in their good works, but we didn't earn our salvation, God gave it as a free gift from God. It is the same with our treasure. Certainly we worked hard, yes, but who gave us the ability to work hard? Now certainly your decisions have consequences. If you decide not to work hard, yeah, that could result in you being destitute, but ultimately God is the one who blesses. God is the one who gives gifts. And so when we think of God providing for us, we see this in a multi-faceted way. God provides for you a relationship when you're in a really difficult season. So we have to see our time, our treasure, our talent all as flowing from God's goodness and God's grace.

And so this leads us to kind of point 3, which is really just a question, because I'm asked this a lot:

I'm not sure how many of you have heard of this word tithing before, but tithing literally means one tenth, and there's much debate over this concept of tithing throughout scholarship today. Let's read a few passages from the Old Testament about tithing.

So many pastors will get up and say God commands you give away 10% of your income, yet we don't see tithing explicitly mentioned in the New Testament. Jesus doesn't mention it as a commandment; therefore, is it valid for us to, I guess, and further God desires right now in this moment a tenth of our income.

Interestingly, a deeper study into the Old Testament seems to show that there were actually three different tithes: A tithe of the produce of the land to support the Levites, a tithe of the produce of the land to support religious festivals in Jerusalem, and a tithe of the produce of the land every third year for Levites, orphans, widows, and strangers. And so you have really 23.3% yearly tax/tithe, whatever you want to call it, of the annual income. So even if you go by the Old Testament principle, if you really take it, 10% isn't what was happening there. It was more accurately probably something like 23.3%. So 20% two years and then every third year they were giving 30%.

So what about us? What does this mean for us today, because these numbers and this rigid, I guess, kind of law-driven giving, I don't think is helpful, and so what does Jesus say about the topic of money? So when He is confronted with Pharisees who tithe...I mean, they tithe everything. They have this great ability to show everyone that they're giving God the money God has asked for, they're giving the tenth...here's what Jesus says to them, those who are tithing:

So Jesus says, you've given a tenth. You've been faithful in giving a tenth of your income, but you've neglected justice and you've neglected the love of God. He immediately talks about a heart issue being the heart of the issue. They gave faithfully but they neglected justice and the love of God. See, Jesus moves us forward into getting to the heart of the matter. Jesus often said, "You've heard it said, but I tell you..." Especially the Sermon on the Mount, He constantly said, "You've heard it said, but I tell you." So here's a few of those.

"You've heard it said, 'Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.' But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all." So Jesus gets to the heart and says hey, just don't even swear, like let your yes be yes and your no be no.

Here's another one. "You've heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I tell you do not resist an evil person." So like this concept of revenge and violence, he's saying no. No, no, no.

Here's another one in that same kind of vein. "You've heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."

Jesus moves the conversation forward, and the proof is that when we look at the followers of Jesus, they were incredibly generous. They didn't just give 10% and like feel like oh, there it is. No, their hearts were connected to what they were passionate about to what they'd seen the Kingdom of God valuing. And so in Acts, we see people selling their houses to give to the poor, we see people investing in the Kingdom of God instead of the kingdom of this world, and this is what marked a follower of Christ: extreme generosity, a love for advancing good. This is what should mark us today.

A friend and I were debating tithing, and it was a really great like kind of theological debate because I enjoy those. And he said to me, it got really personal, he said, "Ten percent is a good starting point for me because it helps me keep my heart in check.' And I actually really thought, that's really helpful. See, 10% isn't the problem. The problem is: where is our heart? For him, he said, you know what? I'm less confident that the Bible is telling me to give 10%, but I know that 10% is something that helps me keep my heart in check.

Because the truth is...he knew, and you know, and I know that we always want more. There's always an upgrade, there's always a new thing that we desire. We live in a world that convinces us we need more, more, more. But what's the starting point for giving compassionately, and how do we get there?

"...for where your treasure is," we're talking about treasure here today, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Giving is a heart issue.

This is point #4. Giving is a heart issue. Your heart can seek riches or your heart can seek the Kingdom of God. But it seems consistent throughout the Bible that your heart cannot seek both. At some point, these worlds collide. Even more so, where your treasure is, there your heart is. I have this book that I will sometimes read the kids, it's Aesop's Fables, these short little stories with a moral at the end, and here's one of those fables. It's called The Dog and the Shadow.

"It happened that a dog had got a piece of meat and was carrying it home in his mouth to eat it in peace. Now on his way home, he had to cross a plank lying across a running brook. As he crossed, he looked down and saw his own shadow reflected in the water beneath. Thinking it was another dog with another piece of meat, he made up his mind to have that also, so he made a snap at the shadow in the water. But as he opened his mouth, the piece of meat fell out, dropped into the water, and was never seen again. Beware, lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow."

Let me read one more time the final sentence that kind of closes out this teaching. "Beware, lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow." You know, in a Christian context, you might say, "Beware, lest you lose the Kingdom by grasping at the shadow of riches."

So what do we do, where do we start, where do we go from here? A few quick things to note.

We give from the heart. We think of even songs we sing like Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours. We need to examine our hearts. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart.

We give without guilt. We have no interest in placing guilt on you or for you to give from a place of guilt. Giving from guilt may change your behavior, but it doesn't change your heart. And God's not after our money; God's after our heart. We see this consistently in Jesus that Jesus would much rather have our heart. And what we know to be true, and what at the deepest core of your being you know to be true, money is one of the greatest competitors of your heart. We see money as one of the leading causes of divorce in our country. There's a reason. Your heart is tied to this individual, and money can get in there and greed and a desire for that can begin to trump a desire for that relationship, and it's no different than our relationship with Christ. And so when we think about this, we need to get to a place where we give without guilt. We give from a place of desire to give. That's the healthy way to give. And then even deeper, we give cheerfully.

And this can all be seen in II Corinthians 9:7, so you can check that out.

But we give cheerfully. And what a joy it is to give when we give cheerfully. We celebrate that God owns it all. We celebrate that God is blessing us, but not just blessing us. See, all the way back when God began to bless mankind, it was always blessing them to be a blessing to others. So we are called even as God blesses us to bless others. So we get to celebrate that our hearts remain connected to God and not being swayed by the shadows of riches. Giving actually becomes fun, not a burden. We begin to think about 'What can I do to give?'

I think of this actually...Jesse Carey from Relevant Magazine, I got to go to Florida this summer. Last year, he did a Nickelback challenge for charity: water where he listened to(http://www.charitywater.org/) Nickelback for seven straight days to raise money, and I think he raised something like $17,000. And then this year, he watched Nicolas Cage movies for 24 hours, and I actually got to go be there for a couple of the movies while I was in Florida in Orlando for our conference at the same time. And he raised over $30,000! And I think of that, between these two campaigns, he raised close to $50,000. And it wasn't a burden for people to give, they were excited to give. They were engaged. It was fun! There was this cheerfulness to it. They were able to give cheerfully.

And so when we think about this, is this how we're giving? How are we giving? Because I think Jesse just said, hey, you know what? I'm going to give up two of my birthdays, I'm going to do these crazy fun campaigns, get a bunch of people involved, and from that, charity: water will be able to build like something like three or four or five wells. And you're like, wow! Villages that didn't have water now have water because people gave cheerfully. When we give from the heart, it isn't a burden, it is actually incredibly life-giving.

So at The Bridge, we encourage you to give from the heart. We desire that all of our stories would be marked by the example of compassionate giving. But not just here in this space, because it isn't just about here, it's about our hearts being transformed and our world being transformed because of our hearts being transformed. So whatever touch points you have, not just this place on a Sunday morning and mid-week, but even all the other touch points you have: your family, your friends, your workplace, all of these opportunities that God gives you to be a compassionate giver, as our hearts are transformed, we begin to see those opportunities and be aware that they exist, and our whole lives begin to reflect the generosity of Jesus, so may we take a step toward generosity as we manage our treasure. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, You own it all and You give it all, and we are so thankful that You are good. That You are good, that You would bless us in the way You've blessed us. Change our hearts where they need to be changed, draw us closer to You. Where we need to shed bad thinking about this topic, remind us that we've heard it said this way, but You tell us something different. You're drawing us into the new, and may we be mindful of that newness.

May You place in us a desire to give from the heart, to not give with guilt, but to give cheerfully and to grow our compassion, a desire for us to grow our compassion. A desire for us to maybe even get a standard of living raise, but instead say, this year that's going to be a standard of giving raise because we see so many needs around us and we want to, we desire to give. And so place that heart in us and allow us the opportunity to give in that way.

Lord, I pray for those at The Bridge who are struggling financially. I know there are those stories here, and Lord I pray that Your goodness, Your mercy, Your grace, would be on them, Lord. Be with them in this time. Draw them close to You to trust You even more in this season, and Lord, provide for them their needs. And show us as a community how we can provide for them as well.

Lord, continue to allow us as a community to reach the community You've placed us in, Hummelstown, and beyond, Lord. We have a budget that we desire to meet, but not just to meet a budget, we want to be able to do ministry in this place. Every dollar counts because every dollar is spreading the Kingdom in this community. And so, Lord, give us for what You're doing here at The Bridge, and may we engage in meaningful ways. Lord, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart, and so Lord we pray that You would capture our hearts and that we would be forever changed. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Time Treasure Talent - TIME

September 4, 2016

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Scriptures: Ephesians 2:10, Ephesians 5:15-16, Psalms 90:12, James 4:14, Matthew 22:36-40, Exodus 16:23

William Penn has this fabulous quote. I'm not going to tell you the quote, I'm going to see if you can guess. I'm going to take one word out of the quote; we're going to see if you can guess what the quote is. Here's what it says: [Blank] is what we want most but what we use worst. [Blank] is what we want most but what we use worst. Think about that. What was that? Time is correct! Ding ding ding - winner! Is that Nick? Alright. Nick wins the game. Time is correct.

Time is what we want most but what we use worst. And we're launching a new series today Time Treasure Talent.  There was a little bit of a hint in that video, right? That it might be time? We're kind of going to have a holistic look at stewardship. Now if you're wondering what stewardship is, stewardship is simply an ethic that embodies like responsible planning and management of resources. But we're going to look at this from the resources of time, treasure, talent. We have so many resources at our disposal. These are three of you might say the largest resources. So how do we use these?

Do...we've said this a few times...do these own us or do we own them? Sometimes - be honest - you open your calendar in your phone and you feel like it owns you {Justin laughs} more than you own it. Correct? Like we've found ourselves in this place. Sometimes we pull up the bank statement and the bills, and we're like, ohh. Yep, that owns me more than I own it. And so we're trying to take this holistic approach of we have all of these resources that we've been given, how do we manage it well?

So today we ponder time, and there's no shortage of great thinkers who have reflected on the topic of time. Ben Franklin said this: "You may delay, but time will not." Bruce Lee said this: "If you love life, don't waste time, for time is what life is made up of." Charles Darwin said this: "A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life." Much has been said about the topic of time. It seems that sometimes we find ourselves desiring more time. I would say we all desire, in a sense, more time.

What does the Bible say about time? Here's a quote from Ephesians. We're going to have five scriptures and five points. So if you're a note-taker, if that's the type of person you are, you can take notes if you want or you can just follow along on the screen, whatever you prefer. Ephesians 2:10 says it this way:

Hey, the very first thing we have to get out of the way before we even talk about time is that you were created for a purpose. God created you for a purpose, and the purpose that this passage says is to do good works. You are God's handiwork. Think about that for a minute. Have you ever felt like junk? Have you ever looked in the mirror and said, I'm no good. I'm worthless. This thing I did, my past, whatever, fill in the blank. This passage says no, no, no, no, no. You're not supposed to see yourself that way, you should see yourself as God's handiwork, and then you should own the reality that your purpose in life is to do good, to do good works.

And so the first thing we have to do, #1, is to discover your purpose.

You have to discover your purpose. So what is your purpose? Think of an organization, how crazy it would be to sit on the board for an organization that had never come up with a purpose statement or mission statement. How is that organization supposed to really think through and strategize what they're going to do if they have no purpose, if they have no mission? Yet so many of us have not created - even in our own lives - a purpose statement or a mission statement for our lives or a vision for where we might want to go and how we might want to use things and where we might want to land. We just expect it to maybe come together.

But God has placed desires within you, gifts within you, passions within you, things that make you tick. I think of certain people who have these talents, abilities, time that they're like, when I'm in this place, time kind of just goes away. Like, I could be here for hours, and I just feel like it's where I'm meant to be. This is part of your purpose probably. This is part of maybe the way God has wired you. So as you think about that, think through 'What's my purpose?' First is to see myself as an image bearer of God. I was created in the image of God. I'm God's handiwork. Second, I'm created to do good works, so how do I start using my time for good, to serve other people? Here's what the Bible says specifically about time, okay? Ephesians 5:15-16 says it this way:

Very interestingly, the writer of Ephesians connects wisdom with making the most of every opportunity. Now let's go to the Psalms and read this:

Number our days, become aware, maybe you might even say make the most of every opportunity, wisdom. These two passages seem to link and connect a knowledge that we have a short period of time. We do not have all the time. We will run out of time. When we fathom this, when we confront this face to face, because so much of our culture is putting things in our way to keep us from {Justin chuckles} remembering that hey, one day you're going to die.

Like, hey, you guys came to church today and you're so excited to hear a message about how we don't have an unlimited amount of time. Yaaaayyy. Right? No! No, we don't want that! Like, pastors who talk about this, it's like, yeah, if I talked about this every Sunday, you'd be like, 'Justin, I'm done. Bye.' The truth is, is like we don't enjoy coming face to face with the reality that our days are numbered. But, when we do come face to face with the reality that our days are numbered, we tend to live in a more wise way. There's wisdom in the way we spend every minute when we know that each minute matters. Each minute counts.

I think of Clayton McDonald. Clayton McDonald was a teenager who battled leukemia and eventually died, but when he was standing before his school assembly in high school, here's what he said to his school assembly: "I have the luxury of knowing about when I am going to die. You don't. I feel sorry for you because it is not hard for me to be thankful for everyday things like my family and friends when I know I might not see them again tomorrow."

Wisdom comes when we start to recognize our days are numbered. It creates a perspective within us that realigns our priorities. James said it this way. He said:

Again, not the most encouraging verse, but at the same time, it puts in perspective what is important. What is important in my life? So, point #2 is:

Live in the moment. Now I want to be very clear...this is not the philosophy of YOLO. Let me really quick bring you up to speed on what "YOLO" is if you don't know what that is. You only live once. This is like, 'Oh, should I do this stupid, crazy thing that I should definitely not do? YOLO!' And then you do it. Okay? {congregation laughs} That is not what we're talking about here. What we're talking about is live in the moment, and this means be present in the moment. Be present.

I just got a book actually this morning, an audio book. Whenever I travel, I do audio books. You don't know this, but speaking of time, today, as soon as I'm done giving this life connection, I bolt out, I drive to the airport, and tonight I'm actually teaching in Wisconsin, the church I came to here from. I'm going to be there this week and we worked it out to where I could be there for that, still be here with you guys this morning, but then be there tonight.

So on my trips, I normally download a book to check out, and there's all of this buzz around this book called Present Over Perfect. Present Over Perfect, and it's written by Shauna Niequist. I already know it's going to be a phenomenal book. I'm looking forward to reading it. But that's a concept that we're finding ourselves in in the 21st century, that we are rarely present in moments. We are rarely present because we're so busy.

When you think of it, have you ever tried to talk to someone who is checking their phone constantly? They're like looking at you but then they're checking their phone, looking at you, doing this the whole time? Have you ever had a conversation with that person? Is it not the most frustrating thing in the world? And if I've ever done that to you, I apologize, because I probably have. Because I do it, too! We're all guilty of it. Like we hate it when people do it, but then we do it to people.

And then have you ever pivoted from an interaction from someone like that to where you sit with someone who's fully present, and you're like, 'This is weird. You're way too interested in me. Back off.' Right? Like, like don't make so much eye contact with me, this is weird! Like we don't even know how to interact with people anymore because...because we've...we're so used to this, and so how do we regain this idea that we live in the moment, that we become fully present, that we give people our full attention?

And I want to share really quick. There's this artist and nurse, Bronnie Ware. Her job as a nurse for hospice care led her to many interactions around dying people, and she would have these interactions with dying people, and she was an artist but she was also a nurse, and so she really wanted to collect some of these stories and kind of share with people five things that people on their deathbed regret. Five things people on their deathbed regret. Here are the five regrets that she shared in her book that she wrote.

"I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Many dreams have gone unfulfilled," she writes, "Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing it was due to choices they had made or not made." That was the first thing she had seen.

The second thing she had seen them say on their deathbed, "I wish I didn't work so hard." I wish I didn't work so hard. Here's what she says. "This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much time of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

Point #3 for her of what she saw in hospice care. "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. Many people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others. Many developed illnesses related to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

The fourth thing she noticed people regretted, "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends." She writes this, "Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks, and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserve. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

The final thing she notes about someone who's dying is this. "I wish I had let myself be happier." I wish I had let myself be happier. And then she goes on to explain it this way. "This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called comfort of familiarity overflowed into their emotions as well as their physical life. Fear of change had them pretending to others and to themselves that they were content when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way off from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again long before you are dying."

So when we talk about living in the moment, we talk about living in a space where when we come to the end, whenever that may be, we don't come to the end with regret, we don't come to the end looking back and saying I wish I had been more present, I wish I invested in relationships, I wish I didn't work so much, we can come to the end with a little more satisfaction of knowing I really did care for others, I really did put the proper perspective on things in my life.

As we continue, here's what Jesus says about our life, He says...He's asked the question what is the greatest commandment? What's the greatest commandment? And here's what He says, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself." All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.'"

So point #3 is going to be this:

Invest in relationship. You were designed for relationship. Not for religion, Not for ritual. You were designed for relationship. A relationship with God and relationships with others. You were designed for that. Jesus literally says that the two greatest commandments are to love God, have a loving relationship with God, and to love others. Think about that. This is the way you were designed to live. Love God; love others. The two greatest commandments. So as we think about that, how many times do our possessions or our chart of what's most important really reflect really strengthening our relationship with God or even strengthening our relationship with others.

Sometimes you might look at someone and say is your priority really people or is your priority stuff? Is your priority...where...what are your priorities? Yet we can drift, and this drift slowly happens to where we get all the way out here, and we don't even understand how it happened, it was so slow and gradual. But we have completely flipped our priority list, and people just aren't that important anymore.

A great book is titled...many of you have maybe even read it...it's called The Last Lecture {by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow}. There's this chapter in The Last Lecture, Chapter 15, I'm going to read an excerpt from it. I think it's one of the most profound stories. When I read it, I dropped the book. I was like, 'Man, that is a gut-check moment in a book.' Here's how it reads: "For a long time, a big part of my identity was bachelor uncle. In my 20s and 30s, I had no kids, and my sister's two children - Chris and Laura - became the objects of my affection. I reveled in being Uncle Randy, the guy who showed up in their lives every month or so to help them look at the world from these strange new angles. It wasn't that I spoiled them, I just tried to impart my perspective on life. Sometimes that drove my sister crazy.

Once, about a dozen years ago, when Chris was seven years old and Laura was nine, I picked them up in my brand-new Volkswagen Cabrio {Cuh-bree'-oh} convertible..." I don't even know what a Cabrio {Cuh-bree-oh} is. {Congregation yells out the right pronunciation} Cabrio? {Ca'-bree-oh}? Cabrio, my apologies. I'm sorry. Someone over here is a car person that knows about Volkswagen convertibles. And he said, "'Be careful in Uncle Randy's new car,' is what his sister told them. 'Wipe your feet before you get in, don't mess anything up, do not get it dirty.' I listened to her and I thought, as only a bachelor uncle can, that's just the sort of admonition that sets kids up for failure. Of course they'd eventually get my car dirty; kids can't help it.

So I made things easy. While my sister was outlining the rules, I slowly and deliberately opened a can of soda and turned it over and poured it on the brand-new cloth seats in the back of the convertible. My message: People are more important than things. A car, even a pristine gem like my new convertible, was just a thing. As I poured out that Coke, I watched Chris and Laura's mouths open, eyes widened, here was Crazy Uncle Randy completely rejecting adult rules. I ended up being so glad I spilled that soda, though, because later in the weekend, little Chris got the flu and threw up all over the back seat. He didn't feel guilty, he was relieved. He had already watched me 'christen' the car; he knew it would be okay."

I think of a story like that and I think, 'Man, this is a picture of how we're supposed align to our lives.' This isn't me telling you, go pour soda in the back of your car, I'd probably lose it on my kids if they did, right? But what I'm trying to say is like when we live our life oriented a little bit differently, when we start to say, man, my time is more important, relationships are more important in the scheme of time than possessions. We start to say, hold on, yeah, that was not helpful that you poured soda on the back of the car seat, but how do I respond in this moment? Do I respond in a way that communicates that possession is more important than our relationship? How do I respond? It changes us. It changes us because we're called to invest in relationships.

There's this passage in Exodus, Exodus 16:23, it goes this way. God said to them: This is what the Lord commanded them...I'm sorry, Moses said to them:

Now for this passage, there's like...you have no context, and it's important to have context. Up to this point, the word Sabbath is nowhere in the Bible. This is the first time we hear the word Sabbath in the Bible. Sabbath is to symbolize one day of rest in a day of seven, okay? Now God eventually points back to the Creation story, back to how the earth was created in six days and then there was a day of rest. But for all of human history up to this point, God does not command that people rest. God commands it here. And I think it's important for us to note what's happening in this moment.

The Israelites were slaves. Slaves that were making brick after brick after brick after brick for Egypt. And in this moment of slavery, it's estimated that they were working anywhere from 14- to 16-hour days, 7 days a week, bricks, bricks, bricks, bricks, bricks. This was the only thing they knew. Work, work, work, work, work. Rihanna's song, they were singing it all day. And so, that's like all they knew in life, and God frees them, brings them into the desert, and in the desert, one of the first things He says is, 'Hey, so you need to rest one day.' Do you think that was easy for a group of people who had done nothing but work? I would ask you this...'How easy is it for you?' It's hard to take a step back and say, 'I need a day to breathe. I need a day to rest. I need a day to not have a to-do list.'

That is more relevant right now in the 21st century than maybe it ever has been. Because we have...we are a nation of workaholics. God understood that to free the people from slavery, it would take more than just getting them out of Egyptian oppression. They were slaves to a system of work where work was constant and never-ending. And so some of you might be in that same system today, and I would say you're probably you're a slave to it. You're probably a slave to that.

So our next point:

Create a Sabbath rhythm. And I want to be really careful here because I don't want it to get legalistic, okay? I would talk to some people who had been raised in really legalistic churches when I was a pastor in Wisconsin. I would talk to some of these people, and they would tell me that on the Sabbath, they weren't allowed to ride their bikes, they weren't allowed to go to the pool and swim, they weren't allowed to watch TV, and I was like, 'What kind of rest is this? This is terrible!' Like I was like, how could God be for that? No riding bikes? Like where's that in the Bible? But they had just made it really legalistic, they had made this...all these rules up about what rest was. And I would say this: What rest is to you and what rest is to me is going to be completely different. What recharges you? What recharges you and gets you ready for Monday? Because Monday is coming. What recharges you and gets you ready? Rest. Create rhythms that recharge you.

The other question is: What do you need to unplug from? Maybe one day a week, you need to unplug, and maybe it needs to start with for one hour, I'm not going to look at the phone. It's going to be the hardest hour of my life, but for one hour, I'm not going to do it. And then the next week, it's for two hours, right? And you try to build up a little bit of like I want to disconnect because there's something healthy about when I disconnect. There's something restful about disconnecting. And so create that Sabbath rhythm.

Another thing, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. This is what Luke 5:16 says.

Jesus had this like strategy about the way He did things. He knew he needed to be alone, which is very interesting because Jesus was fully human and fully God is what we're told. So fully human, fully God, and it seems like this human part of Jesus was like, 'I need to retreat. I need to get away. I need to be alone.' Yet, He would constantly have crowds in his face asking for things. We need this, we need that. And He knew He had to let them down sometimes. And so Jesus had an attention strategy, you could say.

So I would tell you, create an attention strategy. Create your attention strategy. What do you need to do to make sure you're able to put attention to the things that matter most? What is distracting you from discovering your purpose and living it out each day? What is distracting you from living in the moment? What is distracting you from investing in relationships? What might be distracting you from a Sabbath rhythm?

See, because Jesus recognized this is a hard balance. There's this one story where He's up all night healing everybody and He's healing them, and all of a sudden the disciples are like, 'Where'd Jesus go? Where did He go? Where did He go? He's gone! Where's He at?' And they can't find Him. And He's like gone. He's gone. They're like, 'There's more people that need to be healed! There's more to be done! We need to do this!' And He's like, 'Uh, no. It's time to take a break. It's time to get away.' And so He left, and finally they find Him, and He's just like, 'No, we needed to stop.' Like pretty much like, we just...we...like He just constantly had these different rhythms than everyone living around Him because He recognized you can't be healthy and continue to run a pace like that.

Interestingly enough, when we think about creating, like an attention strategy, we have to understand that our attention, we are one click away from our attention going somewhere else, right? Does that resonate with anybody? We're one click away from our attention going anywhere else. Here's what research studies are saying about attention spans. The attention span, first of all, is the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. So, the amount of concentrated time on a task without becoming distracted. Researchers found that the average attention span of an American is eight seconds. Eight seconds. In 2000, it was 12 seconds. So we are devolving. The attention span of a goldfish is believed to be 9 seconds. {Justin laughs} So, this is not good news.

Now there are some scientists that would say actually we have a 10-minute attention span. That research is wrong, so I do want to throw that out there, but all research, no matter what research, even their research about a ten-minute attention span and why we have that, all research shows that our attention span is going backwards. We have less attention span than we had last year, and this coming year we'll have less attention span.

And you think about it, just think, about social media. YouTube blows up, right? But now we have this thing called Vine that's blowing up. What's Vine? Maybe you don't know what Vine is. If you don't, it's 6-second videos. Because God forbid we watch any more than six seconds. You can sum it up in six seconds. If you can't, get off of here. Go use YouTube! Go use that old thing! Right? It's like, what? Six seconds, what can I...what can be communicated in six seconds?

But hilariously, there's a lot that can be communicated in six seconds. It's actually pretty hilarious; you should check it out...if you want to be more distracted and spend time on things that are meaningless. Yeah, not quite the point of this message. But...{Justin laughs} but the point is is that we have to create a rhythm. How do we interact with all these social media technologies that exist?

I love Facebook! Because I get to keep up with friends I went to college with. As we talked a moment ago, one of the things that people on their dying deathbed said is they had lost connection with so many of these friends. Though Facebook, I've been able to keep connections with a lot of my friends. So that's great, but how do I navigate that healthy? How do I navigate that where my attention isn't going to be like oh, I sat here at nine o'clock and now the sun's going down and I'm still on Facebook. Yeah, that's a problem, right? Like that's a little too long, maybe a little too much connection with old friends.

So we have to create that attention span...we have to create strategies that allow us to have the proper attention span in these places. I think what it really comes to is recognizing back to our first point: there's wisdom in recognizing that life is passing us by with every single breath. The breath you just took was a moment. How are we going to spend that moment? How are we going to invest that time? I think sometimes we can think about this theoretically, but sometimes we need a visual because visuals can be very helpful. So watch the screen.

What are you going to do today? What are you going to do today? Whether you're 17 or 70, you're here with a purpose. Are you going to look back on today and wish you had done it differently, or are you going to say I invested that day wisely? I invested that day wisely. My prayer is that we would seek God for the step that He would have us take in how we invest our time. All of it. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, help us see our time as a resource. Help us find purpose in life. Maybe we have a unique purpose that you've called us to, passions and gifts that You have called us to use and utilize. Show us what those are, and also allow us to rest. If we're here and we're one of those people who work so much, create in us a Sabbath rhythm. Remind us of our need for rest. Lord, teach us to love You and to love people, that we are designed for relationship, and part of that design is that we are designed for relationship with You and we are designed for relationship with others. May we discover the purpose God has for our life. May we live in this moment and invest in what is eternal. And may we find rest as we unplug from the distractions of this world. God, be our guide on this journey that is life. In the name of Jesus, amen.

8/28/16 - Tweetables - He > I

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Scripture: John 3:30

Well hello and welcome to The Bridge Podcast. This is Pastor Justin. This is not our typical teaching Podcast because usually you would be listening to me live as I gave the life connection on Sunday, but this Sunday we had some technical errors, and those errors left us without a recording of the service. And so instead of missing that teaching and missing that opportunity for many of you who maybe couldn't make it, certainly we're in the last kind of, I guess, Sunday for many of you for what you would consider summer, and so you might've been gone, you might've not been able to hear the teaching, and so I'm sitting at my desk now. I'm going to record a Podcast of the teaching from Sunday. So if you want a refresher on what we talked about on Sunday, awesome. If you missed Sunday, then this is for you as well.

We continued our Tweetables series this past Sunday. I started with the question of...kind of a quick poll of the room you might say...and I asked people to participate. I guess, as you're driving in your car, as you're, you know, washing dishes while listening to this, as you're doing whatever you do while you listen to this, even run, I don't know what you're doing. But I asked people raise your hand if you've ever heard of Edmund Halley. And then I said, raise your hand if you've ever heard of Isaac Newton. As you can imagine, the majority of the room raised their hand when I said Isaac Newton, and I think we had about ten people raise their hand when I said Edmund Halley.

Everyone knows Isaac Newton or at least they usually remember the famous falling apple story. Newton discovered and introduced the laws of gravity in the 1600s, which revolutionized science studies. But without Edmund Halley, none of us would probably know Isaac Newton. Halley challenged Newton to think through his notions. Halley corrected Newton's mathematical errors. Halley prepared geometrical figures to support Newton's discoveries. Halley pushed back the hesitant Newton to write his great work. He just pushed him to do that. Not pushed back, pushed him toward. The title of that, by the way, was "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy." So if you blew through your summer reading list and you're looking for something at the tail end of summer here, "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy" sounds just great.

Halley edited and supervised that publication. Halley actually financed the printing of that publication even though Newton had more money, had the ability to do it...had even more access and ability to do it. Halley was so excited about the project, so excited about the advance of science, that he even fronted the money. Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the history of science. And Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence, and Halley received little credit.

Now, I just said Halley {Hay-lee} because the way you would pronounce his name is Halley {Holly}, but you guys would probably know of him as Halley {Hay-lee}. He used the principles to predict the orbit and return of a certain comet that now bears his name, but that only happened after his death. So even as he was alive, he never knew he would be credited for much of anything, and the truth is, even the comet we celebrate, Halley's Comet, only comes every 76 years. The year 1986 was the last time we saw it. I was two years old {Justin chuckles}. I don't think I saw it {Justin chuckles}. And when it comes back again, it's 2062, so that's the next time it's actually planning on being here.

So when you think about that, you're like, wow. We popularly call this Halley's Comet, and he was not concerned with credit. He got this comet, okay, but none of us really know his name and none of really know his real name because Halley {Hay-lee} isn't even how you would pronounce his name. But then, we all know Isaac Newton, who wouldn't have had any success or...maybe 'any success' is a little strong...wouldn't have had nearly the amount of success if he hadn't had this other person pushing him forward.

But see, Halley wasn't concerned with getting credit. He was concerned with advancing the cause of science. There's something to be learned here as we read our passage for today. Where is our concern? Are we really desiring credit or are we desiring to advance the cause of God, the Kingdom of God? See, Halley was a scientist who, for him, any new science discovery was so important that it needed to be published, it needed to be out there. People needed to have access. It needed to be critiqued, edited, all of this. More studies needed to be done. For him, the goal was to advance the cause, not to grow his brand or his name.

And so as we look today at our Tweetable, which we are going to cheat a little bit because typically these Tweetables have been 140 characters or less and that's all we cover, which is our Tweetable for today, but we're going to get some context because it is a small passage that we're going to cover that's our main passage, but we are going to get some context before that so that we can see what's happening in the story even before we get that passage.

So our passage today is John 3:30, but we're going to start in John 3:22. So here we go.

So people are coming to John to be baptized. This is kind of this exciting time. There's this Messianic expectation, and Messianic expectation simply means that the people at the time had had all of these prophecies about a Messiah coming. They had waited so long for this Messiah, and for them they had been under Roman rule and Roman authority, and they could not really probably stand how long this was taking for a Messiah to come to remove Roman authority, to reestablish the kingdom of Israel, to sit on a throne, and rule Israel. This was supposed to be the Messiah. You might call it the second coming of David if you know the stories of David in the Old Testament. It would be a warrior king, a warrior Messiah.

And so John the Baptist becomes this kind of picture of like 'Is he the new king maybe? Is he the new Messiah that we've been waiting for?' There's all this mystery surrounding the Messiah, by the way. Some would've thought he was a warrior, probably many would've thought he was a warrior, some might've thought he might be something different. But in this time, there is this expectation that's rising because they're oppressed. They're under Roman rule and authority, and they're leaning into these prophets who have told them the Messiah will come.

And so at this time, John is growing in popularity. John the Baptist is growing in popularity in the region. People are coming out to the Judean countryside to be baptized, and at the same time now, we have Jesus starting to establish His ministry. But John has been around. John has been baptizing and growing in number, getting his own disciples even. And so these two kind of stories, they intersect because John baptizes Jesus, and then Jesus goes off and starts doing ministry is kind of where this is at, and here's what happens.

"An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing." And really quick we'll just stop there. Ceremonial washing was this...I guess ritual that you would do as you went into the temple. You would also do it in other spaces where you would clean yourself. It was a picture of you being clean enough to enter into the temple, clean enough as you entered further into the temple, you would do more and more ceremonial washing. Well, John is baptizing and so most likely what they're arguing about is what's the difference between baptism, what's the difference between ceremonial washing. I'm sure that was a huge debate at that time. So that continues...that conversation's happening, but then really the root of what's happening here is in this next verse. I think it's verse 26.

"They came to John and said to him, 'Rabbi, that man who is with you on the other side of the Jordan, the one you testified about,' which is Jesus, "look, He is baptizing and everyone is going to Him." And everyone is going to Him. Now, all of this debate of the day about ceremonial washing and baptism, that's not really what's happening here. What seems to be happening is the debate, whatever it was, moved quickly to point out that Jesus is more popular than we are. Jesus is baptizing and everyone's going to Him, but John you started this whole baptism thing. In essence, Jesus is stealing all of our converts, everyone's going to Him, what do we do, John? You could say John's disciples have this competitive mindset. And this is what John replied.

He said, "A person can receive what is given them from Heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said I am not the Messiah." So, I'm not the one you're expecting. "But I am sent ahead of Him. The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete."

John pretty much says you are my disciples, you know I said that I am not the Messiah. The bride belongs to the groom. Now, the groom also has a best man; the best man has a lot of responsibility. Typically a speech, holding the rings, planning the bachelor party. In our context {Justin chuckles}, the best man doesn't really have that much responsibility honestly. He stands up there. His job is to not fall over and to hand the rings and to maybe say, you know, to say a speech at the dinner, and to maybe plan a bachelor party.

In a Jewish wedding, though, the best man had quite a bit more. He was supposed to actually present the bride. So, not the father...in our culture, it would be the father. Now, a Jewish wedding ceremony included all kinds of things. It can be seven days, so certainly our context for what a wedding looks like and the Jewish context for what a wedding would look like are incredibly different.

But the bride and groom analogy is used throughout the New Testament. The bride is the church, the groom is Jesus, and it seems as if John the Baptist is positioning himself as the best man. He played an important role. The best man, you know, they get dressed up nice, they hold the hand of the bride, take her to the groom, and it's easy maybe to mistake him for the groom for a moment. He's dressed up nice, he's standing next to the bride, maybe they're even...arms locked. But that's not who he is, and so his disciples maybe have seen him and said, 'Hmmm. That looks like the Messiah. But really he was delivering, you could say, he was handing the bride (the church) to Jesus, preparing the way. This is what John the Baptist was doing.

John knows his role, and John knows his purpose, and John is determined to stay in his lane. And from that place, he gives us one of the most profound Tweetables of this entire series that we've been in. It might be our smallest but potentially the most difficult to live out and to put into action in our lives. And this is our last Tweetable of the summer. Here it goes. Here's what it is, John 3:30.

He must become greater; I must become less. Other translations say it this way: "He must increase, and I must decrease." Imagine a best man that tries to steal the show at a wedding. What does that look like? That would look crazy. If you attended that wedding, it would be embarrassing to watch.

And then I thought to myself, I think I saw a video...not where like a best man intentionally tried to steal a wedding, but where he did {Justin chuckles}. The video, we showed it on Sunday. Obviously this doesn't work over the format of podcast audio. {Note: Since this is the blog version, the spoken description of the scene appears after the embedded video below.)

But you see the zoom-in of the bride, the groom, and the pastor; and they're standing on this like elevated platform, and there's like two steps up to them, and the pastor just gets done feeding the bride the last vow that she speaks. And at that moment, he asks the best man to present the rings. The best man is staring off into space, just completely absent what's happening. You can tell he's not really paying much attention, pretty much what most best men do in this moment, and so he catches attention, realizes the pastor's talking to him, obviously gets a little rushed because he's like, oh, man, I'm messing up my one part in this wedding.

So he hustles and hightails it up the two stairs. He trips as he's pulling the rings out of his pocket, and when he trips, he bumps into the bride and into the pastor, who are on this elevated platform with a pool behind them. And the bride and the pastor {Justin laughing} fall into the water right here at this moment during the middle of their wedding. Now it's pretty hilarious. If you YouTube that, just YouTube 'bride falls in pool,' and I'm sure it's like got a million hits at ten different videos.

But anyway, the funniest part about that is the bridesmaids start laughing and then they catch themselves laughing, and then they're like, 'Oh, don't laugh. This is serious. This is not good.' And so imagine, though, as that bride and groom think about their wedding, they're probably not super satisfied about how that went. That wasn't in the plans. The best man didn't do his job and get out of the way. The best man is the thing most people are going to remember about that wedding.

So John shares this principle with us of like, I know my role, I'm the best man, I'm here to prepare the way for this marriage. And this principle to him, he makes it personal. Jesus must become greater, and I must become less.

But hey, we live in a world that throws us lie after lie, and they're so easy to buy into. So lie #1 that we buy into that makes it very difficult for us to live out John 3:30:

Live in a way that increases your possessions. We desire stuff: newest, best, most up-to-date, accumulate more and more. And this is the story we're told. We can become people who live our life for the next purchase. Life becomes something that gets us to the next purchase, to the next vacation, to the next experience, but this isn't how we were designed to live. When we live this way, we've bought into a lie. We've bought into the reality that our possessions may very well possess us. So lie #1 that keeps us from living this John 3:30 principle is that we live in a way that increases our possessions.

We can also live in a way that increases our position. That's a lie we're told. We're told live in a way that increases your position. You know, we all want to probably be more powerful. We all probably want to be more respected. Many of us want to be first. We want our team to finish first if we're at work or for watching a sports team. We desire to position ourselves on the top. As the great philosopher and theologian said, Ricky Bobby, once said, "If you ain't first, you're last." Right? {Justin laughs}

And so we buy into this type of lie that we need to position our life around being first. And there's this show on Netflix called House of Cards that I watch, and I remember one point in House of Cards where the main character, Francis Underwood, was talking to another politician. They were doing some kind of behind-the-scenes shady business, which probably is what actually happens in politics nowadays.

And sometimes when you watch House of Cards...it is a mature show, so if that's something you're into, awesome, but it's interesting because Francis is this character who's really dark and is this character you follow, and sometimes he'll step away from a scene that he's in, and he'll narrate a scene. And you realize as you're watching this...you're watching the conversation but you don't necessarily always know what he's thinking. But he'll step away and tell you what he's thinking. And so after this scene with this politician where he pretty much pays him off, like he's going to get a certain amount of money and that seems to satisfy this politician.

Well, Francis steps back and goes into narrate mode, looks right into the camera, and tells you his intentions. And he said something like this...I didn't...I couldn't find it. I didn't go back and get the exact quote, but I remember it so vividly. He said something like, 'He's interested in wealth. I'm interested in something far more valuable: power.' Power. See, it doesn't take House of Cards to know that there's many people that live in a way to position themselves higher on the chain. They want more power. They want to accumulate position. The higher they can position themselves, the better. Well, that's a lie when we think of the John 3:30 principle that we must become less and He must become more.

Another lie we buy into is:

Live in a way that increases your fame. We all have something to say, and we want someone to hear it, and now we have this great platform called social media or blogging, and there's so much that the technology revolution has given us. It's given us new platforms. Almost daily now we have new platforms, and some of them are sticking, and we're having to navigate and learn new things. Some of you are just now navigating to Facebook. You're like, wow, this is amazing. And some of you are like, Facebook is the oldest thing ever. I closed my account. I don't even care about Facebook.

Because we're seeming to try to find these platforms where our voice can be heard, where we can connect with one another, and these are really healthy...except as I listened in a documentary recently, that we are becoming the "like" generation because our desire, especially for many young people, is to see how many friends we can get, how many likes we can get, how many comments...how many positive comments we can get. And when we are trending, there is value found there. It causes us to live life in a way that orients ourselves toward more likes, toward more friends, toward more followers, toward more plays.

The goal is to increase our fame. Interestingly enough, this was one of the first...was part of one of the first sins. When the serpent said to Eve, "You will not die. God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you," this is what the serpent said, "will be like God." The first temptation was a temptation to be like God. All of these three have that in them. All of these three lies we buy into are part of the first temptation - to be like God, to have access to everything, to have...to have all possessions at my hands. We buy into that. To be all-powerful, to be the most powerful. We buy into that lie to be like God. And we may not think of it that way, right? But that's what's happening. We're buying into that lie, the lie the serpent sold Adam and Eve, and we're continuing to be sold today.

Finally, even, as we talked about just this last lie, the desire to be worshipped, the desire for fame, the desire for likes. The first temptation of the serpent is simply this: you must increase, and God must decrease. And this is not just the first temptation, it is a temptation that plagues us to today and almost everyone in between. And so here's our three take-home / takeaway Tweets that might be helpful for you as you navigate this.

First:

When we live increasing our investment in this world, then we live for very little. But - when we live for things that are eternal, when we live in a way that grows the Kingdom of God, we live with our minds set on eternity. Sharing our faith with others, caring for others, investing in relationships, being a friend to those in need, serving our community and our world, giving generously out of our resources.

Our next series that we're going into, even this Sunday coming up, is Time, Talents, and Treasures, and we're going to talk about all of our resources that we have at our disposal and do we lock them up in a vault or do we use them to further the Kingdom of God. To further the Kingdom of God even within us. How do we do that?

Our takeaway Tweet #2:

We are pretty impatient people. I remember a story. I was at Wal-Mart once, and we were in Wisconsin. I was at Wal-Mart and I'm circling around the parking lot. I'm one of "those people." I'm circling around Wal-Mart, I got two kids in the back, it's snow on the ground because it's Wisconsin, it's pretty much all the time, right? And we're driving around and I'm like, I'm getting a really nice parking spot today. Today, I am willing to sit in this warm car for 10-15 minutes if I have to, to get a front row or pretty close to front row spot because I don't want to walk these kids all the way through all this snow, you know, so I was like, I'm going to do that.

So I'm circling around. Of course I'm not the only one with this idea. There's other people that have this idea. They want to circle around, too, so we're circling around. Finally I see this lady about ten minutes in walk out and walk to her car, which is like three parking spots from the door, so I'm like YES! So I pull up right there, I turn the turn signal on, watch her load her groceries in. I'm like, yes, I got a spot, totally worth it, awesome. And she goes in her car and proceeds to like check Facebook or I don't know what she's doing on her phone, but she's just sitting there, has no desire to leave that spot now, and it's been like five minutes. It's been a good amount of time. And I'm kind of like sitting here like, you saw me while you were unloading your groceries chillin' here, what's happening? You know?

And then...this big old truck pulls up behind me - and when I say 'big old truck,' I mean like monster-truck huge - pulls up behind me, and I was like, okay, what's happening here? And he didn't have the room to get around me I guess, or didn't have the ability to, I don't know, but he just starts honking at me. So I'm sitting here impatient because this lady isn't backing out of her spot. Now this guy behind me is impatient, honking his horn, and finally gets to the point a couple minutes in where he just lays on the horn, like just lays on the horn. And I'm like, well what am I supposed to do, man, I'm not losing this spot because the moment I leave this place right here, some other person's going to come in, going to take my spot with the turn signal, and then this person's going to decide to move out.

So I'm sitting here; I'm standing my ground, and I'm like, 'Please don't run me over.' Please don't run me over because he's in a huge truck, probably could've ran me over. And what he does, he pops it in reverse and like guns it as fast as he can. Like there's no way he looked behind him, and he was angry, you could see it in just the way he drove this car. He was impatient, so he's flying backwards.

Finally, the lady leaves, I get in the spot, I go in, and let's just be honest, most of our adventures to Wal-Mart require patience, right? We're sitting there, maybe in a busy line to figure out how we're going to, you know, get through the line {Justin laughs}. I mean, what's so frustrating about Wal-Mart is you go in, you get your groceries or whatever you're getting... Okay now, by the way, Wal-Mart isn't necessarily a place I frequent, but in that, it is a very convenient place to go. You've got kids, you got one-stop shopping here. Then you get there, and you're like, oh, this convenient place where I can one-stop shop has 45 lanes, awesome. But 4 of them are all that are ever open, and so now I have to wait in a line as long as this.

The point I'm trying to get to is, on that day alone, in that small little story I just told you, I was impatient. The guy behind me was impatient. The people in the store were impatient. The people standing line were impatient. As people got back out to their cars, they were probably leaving impatient. We live in a world that tells us we deserve instant gratification and if you want something, then you deserve it right now. You deserve it fast, and we all want to be first. We forget the words of Jesus that the first will be last and the last will be first. And we forget the words of John here, that we must decrease and Christ must increase.

Here's the difference, though, and here's the reason patience is so important in this key to us decreasing and Christ increasing in us even. When we live patiently, we are open to serving others. When we live patiently, we are open to seeing the needs of others. When we live patiently, we are open to Jesus being greater and us being less. Because when we are in a hurry, life becomes all about our needs. In that moment, I was not at all concerned about the guy in the truck behind me. I couldn't care less about his needs. I was concerned about my needs. That's not the posture or position that we should place ourselves in if we are asking for Christ to increase and us to decrease.

So patience is a huge part of this because we live in a world, again, that tells us we need it now, we need it now, it's yours to have now, instant gratification, so we need to start creating rhythms in our lives that allow us to have more patience.

Our final take-home Tweet (#3):

The more we lean into the life of Jesus, the more we are protected from desiring things like possessions, power, and fame. We become okay with the idea of decreasing because we see the bigger picture, we see Jesus, we see Jesus elevated, we see the power of Jesus on display in the world, we become more concerned with advancing the cause of Jesus than elevating our name. This is why John the Baptist spoke with joy. Right before John said, "He must become greater; I must become less," he said these words: "The joy is mine, and it is now complete." Meaning, 'I was the best man, and I did my job well. I followed the will of the groom, and I delivered the bride, and I got out of the way.'

And we have a job. Our job is to elevate Jesus to a broken world. May we have great joy at the end of our lives when we see that our work made a difference in the Kingdom of God. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, may we increase our investment in the Kingdom of God. May we grow in patience and become aware of the needs around us. God, may we look more like Jesus each and every day. May we immerse ourselves in the story of Jesus, in the teachings of Jesus, in the life of Jesus, and may that be an encouragement to us as we fight and push back against some of the lies we are told. Jesus must become greater, and we must become less. May this be the motto of our journey through life. May we be marked by humility instead of pride. In the name of Jesus, amen.

8/21/16 - Tweetables - We Meet

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Location: Lower Dauphin Middle School

Scripture: Hebrews 10:24-25

Can you guys believe summer's almost over? {frustrated sigh} Ahhhhh! Like, great way to start a message, Justin. Do you want me to check out? Right? No. You know, we only have two messages left in our Tweetables series, and I know you guys are really going to miss that trailer, right? Some of you are like, get that trailer outta here, I hate that kind of music. Others of you are like, party! So, yeah, you know...

But we've only got two left, and some of you have kids going to school this week even, and then some of you it's next week, and so summer is almost over and our Tweetables series is almost over. If you've been here in and out through our Tweetables series, it's kind of been this summer series that we've done because we recognize with traveling and with all these other things that you might be doing...for example, you might go on vacation, you might have travel league with one of your kids and they play on Sunday, whatever...we thought, how do we do a series that's not really built off each other, because a lot of series it's one after the other and they build off of each other. So this is been kind of a one-off series. Each one is just a one-off message, and so it's a great time to come in, plug in during the summer, and we're getting ready to ramp up with the school year coming up, some new series on the horizon that are exciting.

The whole premise of the series has been, let's find some really small passages of the Bible - small like Twitter-small, like 140 characters or less - and let's look at those, examine those, and examine the depth of those. And so you've all gathered here today, which is an interesting thing. Think about that. You have oriented your Sunday, potentially one of your only two days off of the week, to come to a space, gather with other individuals, maybe sing together, maybe volunteer and serve, and listen to a message, maybe pray, maybe give. This is kind of interesting, isn't it, that we're all here right now? Something within us says yeah, this is helpful. Right? Or this is something I'm interested in. Why? Why would we gather together on a Sunday on our, you know, one of our two days off maybe to actually be here? You could be out on the golf course, you could be out...I'm not trying to give you all reasons, okay? But I'm just saying like it's interesting that we're all here right now. Right?

So we're going to talk about that today. Why do we meet? Why do we get together? Why do we do this thing called church? It's an interesting...you could almost say phenomenon in our age when time is so crunched that we would come here, lay down an hour of our time to be here together. So we're going to talk about that.

Today's Tweetable is Hebrews 10: 24-25. Here's how it goes:

Let me read it one more time. "Spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another." So we're going to make three points off of this passage, this passage, this small, little tiny passage that maybe is the reason from all the way to the ancient world to now, we still meet together. This passage says don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.

So it seemed like in the early church, when this was written, some people were in the habit of saying, 'You know, meeting together isn't that big of a deal. We don't need to meet together. We can still follow Jesus without meeting together.' And while I believe certainly you can follow Jesus, I don't necessarily think it's ideal to follow Jesus without a community of believers around you. Okay?

And so some people in even today's world might say things like, 'You know, I love Jesus, but I hate going to church.' I would say, well, it's important that you're around people who are finding their faith in Jesus as well who are developing their faith in Jesus who can be an encouragement to you and you can be an encouragement to them.

So these next three points are really going to be things that I think we're all looking for. We all want these things, and the church - and The Bridge even - is primed to provide these. And so let's think about that as we go through this. What is our calling as we are considering ourselves maybe a bridge builder? That's kind of what we've titled ourselves. If you're here and you come here regularly, you are a bridge builder, and so if you're a bridge builder, I want you to listen to this and say, 'What is my calling? What...when I come to this space, what am I to do with my time here?'

And maybe you're here and you're not a bridge builder, but you're kind of exploring, examining 'Is this a community I really want to be a part of?' I would say do...put us to the test on these three things. Is this something that we really provide? Is this something we really do? Because if not, you should be looking for another community. I'm going to say it that bluntly. Okay, so here we go, first take-home Tweet.

We motivate one another toward love and good deeds. I'll never forget watching grown adults like banter and argue - in a good way - like tease each over pink yard flamingos. Okay? Let me tell you this story. This is a great story. Yes, I said flamingos if you were wondering where this is going.

My high school youth group, we used to do this fundraiser where we would have 50 plastic yard flamingos. You know what I'm talking about? The kind that stick in the ground and make your yard look magnificent. No, I'm just kidding. And so what would happen is, the youth group would go out and we would "flamingo" your yard. 'You just got "flamingoed' is what I think it would say. And kind of the way it would work was like you wanted to get flamingoed because then you could pay the youth group a fee (because this was a fundraiser), pay the youth group a fee, to then go flamingo someone else's yard. Does that make sense? Or you could just give them back to the students and kind of say, hey, thanks, that was cool, but I'm not going to pay the fee, then we would go find someone else's house to do it.

What would inevitably happen is we would start the flamingoing, and the students would never touch the flamingos again because then that person would pay our youth pastor at the time, and they would get their friends and go flamingo one of their friends' yards. And it was this back and forth, okay? And here's the deal, it was this fun, competitive, silly thing, but it was funny because this community of people would look forward to this random fundraiser every year. Okay? Like the ones...are we getting close to flamingo time? Are we there yet? Like they're so excited because they couldn't wait to flamingo their friend's yard, who like the homeowner's association was like, 'NO! No flamingos in the yard this year!' You know what I mean? And like we would be like, that's the yard we've got to hit first, guys. Two a.m., let's get out there! Throw some toiler paper in the trees while you're at it. {Justin laughing}

So we would have this great time, but the cool thing was - what it was actually doing is it was this community of people spurring each other on toward helping students get to camp. Students who couldn't afford to get to camp, this was a fundraiser that helped them get to camp, and I'm just sitting here thinking, man, what a cool opportunity of these people who are able to make fun out of this game, but also be able to then say, hey, I'm going to pay, and I'm going to pay again, and I'm going to pay again to go flamingo all these people's yards because I know that this money - and this is a fun thing - but I know this money's going to help so-and-so kid get to camp who wouldn't be able to go otherwise. And so it was cool to see even this competitive nature spur each other on toward doing good things. And so I think here in the community we're called to spur each other on, we're called to motivate one another toward doing good.

You know, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett started this, I guess, pledge. It's called The Giving Pledge. It's this group of people that...here's what it is: The Giving Pledge works to inspire very wealthy people in the world to give the majority of their net worth to philanthropy either during their lifetime or upon their death. So to be a part of this, I think you have to be a billionaire. That's the first thing, so I'm disqualified. Maybe you're out there and you're like, 'Oh, I might join that group.' I'm not.

So maybe this is a group you want to join, but if you want to join the group, here's the catch: you have to be willing to donate 50% of your income. Now some of you are like, of course, if you have that much money, you could donate 50% of it. The truth is, though, anybody in the world who usually gets to this point of wealth, there's always a reason to hold onto it. Right? There's always another thing once you get into a certain level of wealth, there's always the yacht you could buy or I don't even know what you could buy at that point. The football team, right?

So like there's always something else, but these people have to...if they want to join The Giving Pledge, they have to say, no, the something else is giving. Like I want to give away over half of my net worth. I think Bill Gates is at something like 90% of his net worth he's given away or he plans to give away. That's just crazy! Now it's important to note Bill Gates is, based on Forbes' list, the #1 richest man in the world, so talk about a leader giving away that much of his wealth as being the world's wealthiest person, and I think Warren Buffet was ranked third by Forbes.

But this pledge and this leadership of these two individuals to spur other people on toward love and good deeds could potentially end malaria in my lifetime. It could potentially provide HIV and AIDS education and treatment for the world. Clean water is a big issue in the world. It could potentially fix that issue. That's how much money we're talking about as these billionaires pledge to this giving pledge.

Waves and waves can happen when we spur each other on toward love and good works. And so the church - while we maybe can't do it on a financial scale of that proportion - we are called to think creatively, to be a space where we motivate one another toward good work. And so sometimes we need someone in our life who thinks a little different than us. Right? Not every billionaire's out there saying, hey, I think we should give away 50% of our wealth. Oh, that's a great idea. That's how I got here. Right? No, that's not necessarily the greatest idea. It took some creativity. It took someone thinking differently.

Here's my question: If you say, 'I can do life alone. I don't need other people. I don't need community,'  and you walk away, do you get that perspective? Do you hear that different voice saying, 'Hey, maybe there's another way. What do you think about this creative idea? So in the church, we're supposed to be this place where we hear new ideas, where we're even adventurous in our giving, where we make radical decisions to say, 'How does love and good deeds lead in my life?'

The reason community is so essential is because on our own, we are bound to become selfish. We are bound to become self-focused. When we enter into community, we see needs that we were not aware of. We see passion that other people have that maybe we don't have. We become connected to that, and we become passionate about that as well, even though we weren't even passionate about it before. And so as our passion grows, we are able to enter in with love and deeds and serve in that area. So this is the first take-home Tweet.

The second one, if that's not enough...

We are designed for community. Last week we opened up the message talking about Genesis and talking about light. Let's go back to the creation story. God creates. God creates all kinds of things, then He finally creates Adam, and He places Adam in this pretty sweet garden pad that he has. You know what I mean, right? He gets to name all the animals and do all that. I don't know how he came up with some of the names, but anyway...that was funny, guys! Hippopotamus, think about it, okay? Anyway, whatever, alright.

But God looks...and He looks at all this creation He makes and He's like, the sun and the moon? That's good. Then He's like, He's like, the oceans and the land, that's good. How many of you guys went to the beach this summer, right? Or have plans to go to the beach. It's good, right? The ocean? And so He's like, this is good. And then He looks at the plants, and He's like, this is good. If you're the type of person who likes to plant flowers and do that kind of thing, you know, that's fine. Adam was cursed to do that. You can do it for fun. But if that's your thing, God looks at it and says it's good. You know what I mean? And then He looks at the animals, and He's like, it's good. And then He looks at Adam, and here's what God says: It is not good. It is not good for the man to be alone. This ancient statement from Genesis rings true today. It is not good to be alone. So we know how the story goes. God creates Eve in the story. But we need social interaction. Adam was craving something that nothing in his surroundings, nothing in his environment, could provide for him. He needed social interaction.

A study in solitary confinement concluded that even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes as torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. Just 15 days in solitary confinement. The study found that after 15 days, there was irreversible harm psychologically done. In 15 days of solitary confinement. However, and this should be interesting to us, many prisons in the United States even will allow far past 15 days of solitary confinement. That's very interesting.

We are not designed to be alone. We are designed for community. The science of being alone - think about it - is all around us. We can see people who are lonely. We don't have to trust in a scientist who says hey, I did a study and just so you know, 15 days of solitary confinement, that's probably the limit. We can probably think of people in our lives who are lonely, and we can probably say, yeah, that's a tough way to live.

Loneliness is heavy. We can even look to the movies. Think about this. Castaway, right? How many of you guys remember Castaway? You remember Tom Hanks and he's delivering FedEx boxes and he ends up on an island. He's there all by himself. What does he need? He needs food, he needs water, he needs shelter, and that's all he needs. Right? That's all he needs, food, water, shelter. That's all he needs. He gets that. That's all he needs. What else did he need? He needed Wilson! Yes! He needed companionship. He needed community. He's even arguing with this volleyball. We never saw volleyballs the same after this, correct? Like, it's wild.

And so even there we recognize our need for community, our need for relationships. We see it on the silver screen, we see it in our own lives, we see it in our friends, we see it in the scriptures. You are designed for community. If you do not have community, it is unhealthy for you. And so this is a place where we come together, and we have community together. We have friendships, relationships, opportunities to learn from one another, opportunities to grow because one person may have more wisdom than another, and so we get to tap into that wisdom and say, oh, tell me about how you think I should handle this situation because I've never been up against this before. You have; tell me about it.

We get opportunities to grow from one another...opportunities that are only available when we have authentic relationships in community, and that's something we're striving to provide here at The Bridge. We have life groups and growth groups and here on Sunday mornings. So plug in, get connected, get community.

Our last take-home Tweet is this:

We thrive on encouragement. So we need community, we need relationships, we need that; but what makes us thrive - like be our best - is when we have encouraging relationships. William Arthur Ward said this: "Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will never forget you."

Encourage me, and I will never forget you. We can all probably think of the person in our life that spoke a word of encouragement to us, and it like clicked something in us, and it gave us the confidence we needed to take that next step that we were really unsure of. Maybe it was a teacher, maybe it was a coach, maybe a mentor, maybe a friend, a parent. I don't know who it was in your life, but here's the deal: The moment that person spoke that word of encouragement in your life and that thing clicked and you took that next step, you aren't going to forget that person. That what that person did for you was so incredibly powerful, but what that person did for you cost them nothing. Way more powerful than any monetary gift that that person could've given you was that word of encouragement. And so here in this space, the more encouraging we are to one another, the more we thrive as a community, and the more we thrive as individuals. Encouragement is necessary for us to thrive.

I remember my youth pastor {Justin chuckles} asked me to speak - I think it was the end of my freshman year, maybe my sophomore year - he asked me to come speak at a...yeah, the end of my freshman year...he asked me to come speak at his junior high camp. And this was a junior high camp where multiple churches came together, it was a weeklong camp, I've just finished my freshman year of college, okay, and I'm back for the summer. And as I'm considering this offer, I'm like, wow, I don't know...I don't know if I'm ready for like 200 middle-schoolers, and teaching in front of 200 middle-schoolers because like I've never really taught before. I've never stood on stage in front of people before, I've never given a message before. He's like, oh, you got this. Just, you know, we'll talk it over, we'll figure it out, it'll be great. I'm like, uhhhhh, alright, I'm in. You know, you encouraged me, so I took the step.

And then we prepped for it and we did it, and here's the deal. I know those CDs exist somewhere for what I did that week, and if I find them in my storage stuff, I want to burn them because I guarantee you it was terrible. Like it's real...like it was bad. I'm confident it was. Some people have like told me...I've had junior highers tell me, 'I remember when you spoke at camp!' But I'm like please don't remember, don't tell anyone, it never happened, I wasn't there, there's no photo evidence.

Like...but the thing is, like he gave me a chance. He encouraged me along the way. He encouraged me during the week because there was like five messages that I had to give, and even during these things where I'm growing each message, he's encouraging me, and even afterwards he's like, 'Man, you did so good. You've got...this is your gift, you just need to keep developing it, and you need to keep...' And now, like, I like realize I actually...I'm okay at this talking stuff. Like I'm okay at giving a message. Like I'm not where I was back then. I've developed this gift. But he saw something in me that very few people around me saw. And then he encouraged me even to the point of taking a risk to encourage me by the way.

This is the community. The community that encourages one another that sees in someone else something they maybe don't even see in themselves, even the people closest to them might not see in them and comes alongside and says I see this in you. It may not be developed yet, but I believe God is doing this in your life, and I want to help you and encourage you any way I can. What a beautiful thing we miss out on if we say, "I love Jesus, but I don't need the church. I love Jesus, but I don't need community.' No, we need community because this is what the church is called to.

Even science says this. There was this treadmill study done...which by the way, doesn't that sound terrifying? Can we just talk about that? This treadmill study done like where they have people come in and they run.  Like for me I'm like, if you told me like to sign up for a science like...like test thing, and I walked in and there was treadmills, I'd be like, 'I'm out.' You know? I'd be like I was hoping this'd be the one where I get to eat a Snickers bar and tell you how it tastes. That's what I was in for. I wanted that one.

So, no thanks to the treadmill one, but apparently they got a few people to sign up for this treadmill study and this is how the study works. They took three different groups of people and they all ran on the treadmill once, and they got their time for what they ran. Then they came in and they ran again, and they got their time. This was to give them a baseline, like where's this person's average time kind of at. And so it gave them a baseline.

Then they came back like a third time, and the third time, they took one of the groups off to the side, they let the other two run, and then they took that third group and put them on the treadmill. And what they did was, twice a minute, they would tell them something encouraging. Something like a personal trainer might do. Something like, hey, you got this, push harder. Does that make sense? Some word of encouragement they might give them. And the groups that didn't have the verbal encouragement were demolished by the group that had the encouragement. And they told them, run as best as you can, try to beat your time from last time. All three groups were told to run as fast as you can, try to beat last time's time, try to do what you can. The study found that verbal encouragement led to the runners giving maximum effort and the belief even that they could do it.

See, verbal encouragement in the church leads us to maximum effort and loving and good deeds. Maximum effort in serving others before ourselves. Maximum effort in laying down our lives for the betterment of someone else when we encourage one another, and even more so, a belief that changing the world is possible. Because it's so easy to become cynical, right? All you gotta do is turn on the news and watch like 10 minutes and you're like this world is a mess and nothing is...nothing's savable.

Well, the truth is when we encourage one another in this way, it does something in us that says good's possible. Maybe I can actually be a part of the good in this world. Maybe something I do can matter. It begins to give us purpose. It begins to tell us take the next step, keep running, don't give up, hey, let's...actually let's bump up the pace...because we were encouraged by someone else. And so this community is to be a community of encouragement.

Finally, there was a study done by a mega-church. They did this study where they sent out to their entire community these fliers where they wanted to know why don't you go to church. Like they...this is not just to their church community, this was to their whole community. They were like, hey, we want to know why you don't go to church. If you don't go to church, tell us why you don't go to church. And so they got back...here's what the top five reasons they got back were: church is boring, church is irrelevant, churches always ask for my money, I'm too busy, and I feel awkward at church. Those are the top five reasons. I think some of the reasons are probably pretty valid maybe in their experience.

But what if you flipped the question? What if you flipped the question and ask why do you go to church? Certainly you guys have a ton of reasons for why you're here today. I would say part of your upbringing, part of your tradition, I would say just your life has influenced your reason for being here today. But one might be, 'I leave motivated to love and do good for others.' Another might be, 'I'm part of a community, and I've learned that I need that.' Another one might be, 'I love encouraging others and being encouraged by others.' Like what if we left church every Sunday feeling motivated to do good in the world, connected to the community we were designed for, and feeling loved and encouraged? Think about that. This would make us primed to share the Good News, and that's why community is so essential. And so may we at The Bridge be that kind of community. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we thank You that You call us to community. Not just because You want us to gather but because You recognize we are designed for it. We are designed to be together. We go further faster with the encouragement of one another. We thrive on that. Lord, we thank You that You've designed us this way where we need one another. We can't be on an island alone. Being on an island alone will break us, so we pray for anyone in this room who's experiencing loneliness that You would provide for them a friendship, that you would provide for them in this season, Lord, even more so that they would recognize that no matter how lonely they are, that You are with them.

God, we thank You that You've given us this community. We pray that we would be the community you desire us to be, that we would be a place that motivates others toward love and good deeds, that we would be a place that sees a gift in someone and encourages that gift. Lord, show us those opportunities because we are all part of the community. This isn't about leaders who stand on a stage or volunteers who volunteer in a space, this is about each and every one of us seizing the opportunities to be creative in the way we love, to be creative in the way we motivate others to do good deeds and even do good deeds in our own life, and creative in the way we encourage one another. Lord, give us that creativity, and may we grow stronger as a community because of it. May we be more primed to offer hope and life to those searching for it.

God, we thank You that You provide for our every need, and the need of community is a great need within us. So may we never become cynical to where we give up on community, to where we give up on relationships. Lord, even if there's deep hurt that the church maybe has done to us, God I pray that you would be working and healing that so that we could reconnect in a meaningful and powerful way and live in the way You designed us to live. In the name of Jesus, amen.

8/14/16 - Tweetables - We Do Good

Tweetables: We Do Good (Matthew 5:16)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Rail Community Center

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

I want to start off by acknowledging the band. Before you give them a round of applause, let me tell you their plan was to play out in the band shell this week, you know, over there at the park {ed. note: Shaffer Park - changed to The Rail due to expected inclement weather}, and it was supposed to be loud and exciting and one service, not two, and now this is their second set, and so they've gone above and beyond in being flexible even to the space and also to extra time, so if we could just thank them for that {well-deserved raucous applause}. I also want to acknowledge all the other volunteers who have been setting up the picnic, who are cooking the food right now while you're in here. There are many people who make what we do here happen, especially on special Sundays like this where it's supposed to be an outdoor service, it takes even more hands. So if you see someone serving, thank them for their service, thank them for getting here probably at 7:00 a.m. this morning to start setting stuff up to make sure you got a hot dog, you know? So, yeah.

"Now in the beginning, God created the heavens and earth. The earth was formless and empty; darkness was over the surface of the deep." This is the opening of the book of Genesis. Let me say that one more time. "Darkness was over the surface of the deep." The opening words of the Bible highlight that darkness was present. So at the very beginning, darkness is present.

Now, the first words we hear from God are four very simple words. Four very simple words that maybe you've said when you've walked in a room and flipped the light switch on. "Let there be light." Right? Let there be light. So these are the first words of God. We see darkness, and then we see God saying, 'I'm going to separate light and darkness.' God first creates light and then uses the light to push back the darkness. This is the metaphor we see of light and darkness from this point forward throughout the rest of the Bible.

Light and darkness are always used to describe positive/negative, good/bad. God and bless or evil and curse. Like these two metaphors are constant throughout the Bible. Here, just to give you a quick brief, and this is not even close to all the metaphors to light and darkness, they're just some of the big ones.

David said, "'The Lord is my light and my salvation."

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world."

John said, "God is light; in Him, there is no darkness at all.

James kind of got wordy and creative with it. Here's what he said, "Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

John has this book called Revelation, which is this really crazy book of all this imagery. It's like Jewish apocalyptic literature, and so when you read it, you're kind of like, 'What is that about?' But at the very end he talks about this city that we spend eternity in, and when he talks about the city, here's what he talks about. "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb (Jesus) is its lamp." The imagery at the end is that darkness has been defeated by light, fully defeated, so much defeated that we no longer need the sun and the moon.

See, light throughout the Bible is a main theme. And whether you know it or not, light throughout your life is a main theme. I mean, just a quick science lesson about light. You use light more than you're aware of. Did you know...so, light is called electromagnetic radiation. How many of you guys knew that? Just really quick, electromagnetic...like one hand raised and then dropped really fast like 'I don't want to be the only one in the room.' {congregation laughs} But I'm not a nerd, so I didn't know it, I had to Google it this week. {more congregation laughter} Sorry if you're a nerd. I apologize. You're way smarter than me. But I don't know science. I didn't pay attention in science. It really wasn't interesting to me. Until now, it's become a little more interesting.

But I was studying light this week, and I was like, 'What? That's light?' So light is not just a wave and not just a particle, it is a wave and a particle mixture. It's this interesting thing in science that is almost like a phenomenon. The crazy thing about light, though, is light is what allows your microwave to work, to reheat your food. And I'm not talking about the light that turns on when you open the door, I'm talking about when you shut it, when you turn it on, what heats the food is a light source. What takes x-rays of you, to show the inside of your body, is a light source. When you listen to FM or AM radio in your car, that is a light source. Technically, scientifically speaking, there are waves that travel through our universe that you cannot see, okay? So there is visible light and then there is all this other light around us.

Visible light makes up like this small, little percentage of like a stream of different options of light in our universe, probably from that wall to that wall {ed. note: roughly 60-70 feet}, and this is visible light. So what we see in our universe that's affected by light is just barely anything. Yet what we see is incredibly important because light for us, visible light, is incredibly important. Light is so incredibly helpful, it reveals things to us. We gather information about our surroundings because of light.

For right now, for instance, right now I'm standing here. If I start walking this direction, I see a chair because there's light. If there's no light in this room, there's no visible light in this room, I do not see the chair, I bump into the chair and I'm like, 'Oh, there's a chair there.' Outside of visible light, I would not know that. I'm able to gather information about my surroundings, I'm able to make adjustments, because I can see things. So light illuminates for us our surroundings. It also illuminates dangers. So we see that something's dangerous because we can, in fact, see. It provides us a path.

So light is revealing things to us, all around us, but light is also removing darkness. And so when you think about an ancient metaphor that has stood the test of time, light might be the best one. It's found at the very start of Genesis: darkness and light. It's all throughout the Bible, and it's still relevant in our lives today. What better metaphor for God? God reveals the dangers in our life. 'Hey, don't do that. That's dangerous. That's not going to work out well for you if you go down that path.' God provides a path of light you might say, so, a way of a living that is good.

Then also God defeats darkness along the way, and so light is victorious over darkness, and we love these stories, right? Christ on the cross is supposed to be –  in my mind – the best story of light defeating darkness, but we love telling these stories. Some of the popular stories of our time right now, or even in our history, you might think of Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. This is a dark versus light story, and we just saw the reboot of it, and everybody's so excited about Star Wars and all the new Star Wars coming out. One of my favorites is the White Witch and Aslan in Chronicles of Narnia, so if you're a Chronicles of Narnia fan, you might see that and say that's a great representation of light and darkness and even darkness masquerading as light. The Wicked Witch and the innocent Dorothy, right? {The Wizard of Oz}

We could go on and on with all these stories that are in our world that are light versus dark. Light against dark. And we love it when the story ends and the light pushed back the dark a little bit, or maybe even the light defeated the dark. Something within us is like, 'Yes! That's the way it's supposed to be.' I would say that something within us is that we are created in the image of God. You and I are created in the image of God, and being created in the image of God, the first four things...four words God says, "Let there be light." We are called to push back the darkness in our world with light.

And so we're in the series called Tweetables, these small, little passages of the Bible pack big meaning. We've been on this journey through this variety of different passages that call us to action in some way. So today's passage is no different. Today's Tweetable, I'll read it for you right now. "Let there be light..." or, sorry, "Let your light..." 'let there be light' is what God said earlier, these are Jesus's words.

This passage reveals something interesting. When we do kind things, when we let our light shine, it has an effect on other people. Think about that for a minute. Your light, when you let it shine, when you do something good, it can actually effect other people. The passage reveals that good deeds can actually be a part of the process in which someone finds Jesus, finds faith. Isn't it interesting that sometimes we think we might have to enter into evangelism as an argument or evangelism as 'I have to have all the answers to all their questions'? We enter in saying 'I have to know the right formula, I have to know the right thing to do and say,' when really this passage tells us hey, when you shine the light of Jesus into someone else's life by doing good deeds, it can actually bring them to a place where they want to glorify God, so they are able to connect with God. That is amazing.

I think St. Francis of Assisi kind of in a sense got this. Here's his quote, here's what he said. "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words." Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words. It's this picture that our deeds, our actions, can speak volumes about who Jesus is.

Have you ever met that person who's trying to share with you Jesus, but they're kind of a jerk? Like I've met these people maybe. I don't know if you've met these people, but they always come up to me...it's funny because I'll be like at a county fair or something. There's one county fair that always had this booth where, you know, they would do evangelism out of this trailer that they would have, and they would see me walk by and they would see the earrings and the tattoos, they'd be like, 'That dude needs Jesus, so we're going to go talk to him.' {congregation laughing} And so I would always play along like, 'Yeah, tell me about that. Yeah, tell me about my sin.' You know what I mean? And so {Justin chuckling}...'Tell me about how my tattoos are sending me to hell.'

But anyway, they were a little different than what we believe here. But I would let them talk to me and the crazy thing is, they would be so harsh and like uncompassionate. They didn't have a desire to serve me or love me; they just had the desire to tell me how terrible I was and how if it wasn't for Jesus, I was going to hell. And while I agree with a lot of what they were saying, I didn't like the way they were packaging it. I was like, you know, multiple passages...let me just read this again: "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Why would you package the gospel any different than that?

My goal is to come to you, to love you, to have compassion for you, to show you good deeds, and through that, and certainly through dialogue as well, you can come to a faith. And so when we see that, it's kind of like an oxymoron. It's kind of like these are not...these are so inconsistent with one another, the idea that you would be this way in the way you share Jesus when the text calls us so clearly to share Jesus as a servant through our deeds, and then hopefully through that they get a glimpse of God because remember, you're created in the image of God. And so when you shine a light, you're shining a picture of God to this person, a reflection you might say, and it might change them.

Now I've got four points to make, and these are going to be our take-home tweets for the day, and these are ways that you can go into this world and hopefully take this passage and apply it to your life. So here we go.

Point #1:

 

So first things first, you've got to be connected to the light source. You've got to be connected to something that's going to keep you charged. But it can get really hard, right? And so we need prayer, we need meditation, we need the scriptures, we need the community of faith to encourage you and to connect you, and even more than that, you know, find what recharges you. But here's the deal, we need these anchors in our lives. That's what they are, they're like anchors. When the waves hit, that life hits, it can be very easy for us to become so inwardly focused that we miss our opportunities to shine light because we become so inwardly focused. These practices help us recharge, help us remember that we are called to shine a light in this world.

Now, my son has this thing that's attached to his crib. Reed is just about two years old, and he's had it for quite awhile, and it takes D batteries. It takes like four D batteries, and whenever this thing goes out of batteries, it's almost always like one minute before bedtime. And it's really important because he presses the button, and what it does, when he lays down, and he'll literally lay down while he's on his back and hit it, and when he presses the button, the light turns on and music turns on. And it goes on for about five minutes and then what happens is it has an auto off, and he usually falls asleep within that first five minutes. Brittney and I are like, 'Best invention ever.' We would've paid $200 for it, you only charged $20, your loss. Right? Because this is what gets us a good night's sleep. So when the battery is not working, when it runs out of batteries, I'm running around anywhere they'll sell me D batteries and I'm willing to pay whatever the cost is. Like I'll go up to 7-11, I'll be like, 'You're selling them in singles for $10, I'll take eight of 'em,' just in case it goes out in the middle of the night. Right? So we have to recharge this thing, because here's the deal, the next day, we'll be exhausted, Reed'll be exhausted, he'll be cranky, he'll be terrible.

Here's the deal, for us in our own life, we have to recharge. We can't constantly be doing good to others without also connecting to God, connecting to the light source, recharging our own batteries, refreshing in the way that we were designed to refresh. So what in your life allows you to have a healthy rhythm? What in your life allows you to feel connected to God? You have to lean into that before you can really lean into shining your light.

Now, Point #2:

Every day you encounter a variety of opportunities, whether you're aware of it or not, to be kind or to serve someone else. Let's just start here. You have a house, probably, or a place you live. You have people you maybe live with or you have friends that have that you see every single day that are your roommates or your family. Start there. How can you serve them? How can those people be people you can serve? Can you share a kind word? Can you do something nice for them? Maybe your brother has chores and you've seen he's had a tough week and you're like, 'You know what? I'll go ahead and vacuum the living room for you,' and so you vacuum the living room for your brother. Are there ways you could serve your spouse? Are there ways you can serve in your own family? Start there. How can you shine a light in that place? Then let's talk about work. You go to work. How can you shine a light in your workplace? How can you be a reflection of God in your workplace? How can you love in that radical of a way? And then maybe as you go about your day. Maybe when you're at the grocery store, the restaurant, the library, the gas station, Starbucks, wherever you are, how can you be a reflection of Jesus to those around you?

I remember I was at home, my hometown Shelbyville, Indiana. We were there for like Thanksgiving, I think, and we were on vacation there. I'm standing...I'm in line at the Starbucks, and while I'm in line at the Starbucks, I order my drink, I pull up to the window, and I, you know, I'm getting ready to hand the payment for the drink, and they're like, 'No, the car in front of you got you, you're good.' And I'm like, 'Well, I'll take a scone, too.' No, I didn't say that. {congregation laughs} But I was like, 'Wow, okay,' and they're like, 'Yeah, they took care of you,' and I'm like, 'I don't even know that person in that car,' and they're like, 'No, they just wanted to do something randomly nice for somebody else.' I was like, I sat there and I was like, man, that's awesome to think creatively about how we can be a light in the world, even through just sitting there and doing some random act of kindness.

So I was like, 'You know what? There's somebody behind me; I'll pick up theirs. And they had like two or three drinks. I was like, 'This is messed up. The economy of this is not working.' No, I'm just kidding. It wasn't like that. But, I mean, how can we be creative? I'm kind of curious about how long did that chain last? There was a car behind them. Did they say, 'Hey, I'll take the car behind me.' I mean, when we do something kind in our everyday life, we have no idea what the impact could be because you have the power to shine light in someone else's life who might be in a dark place. I mean, that act of kindness had me glowing all day. I was like, 'Man, that was awesome. That's such a cool thing. Someone paid for my Starbucks. That was really awesome.' We have the power to do this in our everyday lives.

And even more, on I guess a deeper level, I have this friend named Steve who is homeless, and I met him first about eight years ago when I lived in...the first year I lived in Wisconsin. He drove through on his bike. He rides a pedal bike. His headquarters, you might say, is in Georgia. He doesn't live there, but he rides a pedal bike all across the nation, which is just ridiculous to think about, pulls a trailer with a tent, and he pulled into our church lot while we were having youth band practice and walked in and said, 'Are you guys having a Wednesday night service?' And I'm like, 'No, we don't have Wednesday night service. We're just doing band practice for Sunday. And he's like, 'Well, can I set my tent up in your backyard? I'm traveling.' I'm like, 'Yeah, sure, you know, whatever.' And he's like, 'Great. You're the first church in the last like 20 miles that's actually let me.' I'm like, 'Okay. Like that's crazy that no one'll let you set up a tent in the backyard.' So we got to talking. I talked to him the next morning when we went out to breakfast. I talked to him, and then he left. And I gave him my email; we stayed in touch through email. He would go to the library and check his email and email people every, you know, every once in awhile.

Stayed in contact and he would come back, and eventually our relationship got so he would stay at my house when he would come. So he would stay at my house. Probably the third or fourth time he came, we were sitting eating, and he had had a tough couple days. He'd got in a wreck where he messed up his hand really bad, and even with that, he had gone like two days without eating, and keep in mind this dude's like traveling 100 miles a day on his bike, like pulling a trailer and stuff. It's nuts. And he had gone a couple days without eating, and he told me about this story about how he had sat outside a store asking for some change or for some food for a whole day and saw people walk by him all day and he got nothing. So we're sitting here eating lunch and I'm like, 'Man, how do you keep your faith in God? If He really cares about you, if He really wants to provide for you, when you go a whole day – a whole day – asking people for help, praying that God would provide for you, and you get nothing.' You get nothing.

I said, 'How do you...how do you keep your head up? How do you really feel like God is on your side?' And here's what he told me. He said, 'I feel like God answered my prayers that day.' I said, 'Dude, you went hungry. What do you mean you feel like God answered your prayers?' He goes, 'I feel like God prompted many people to help me that day, but no one helped me. They were too busy to recognize the need right in front of them or too busy to hear God prompting them to care for me, but I don't think God's the one who let me down. I think they let me down. I think God was prompting many people to help me out, just like He prompted you to help me out all those years ago and now we have this relationship.' And I'm sitting here like, 'How do you have this perspective, dude?' {Justin chuckles wryly} Like I could not...it was like a Judo move he did on me, and I'm sitting here like how did that happen? That is a crazy way of seeing it, but it's so true.

So how do we navigate our everyday lives? Are we so busy that we don't even see the needs around us? Do we look the other way so quickly that we miss opportunities where God might be speaking to us to care for somebody? And it might not even be as extreme as helping a homeless person, but it might be just that person at the office who is down. Something's different and you come and say, 'How are you doing? What's going on?' Or a kind word to that person. It can be so simple but sometimes we navigate life completely unaware of our opportunities to shine light in the darkness.

Point #3:

Let's watch this clip together on the screen.

Some of you have talents, gifts, abilities, skills that can be used to bring hope to people who are hopeless. What a creative way of thinking, not thinking inside of the box, you know. You're a barber, you're a beautician, you're like, 'Oh, wow, I could actually use this skill every once in awhile to help someone out who really needs it.' To bring some dignity back to someone who's maybe lost it. And all of us, we need to think creatively, even outside of the cultural norms, with the gifts we have because stories like this are amazing, and when we watch them, we get teared up. We're like, 'Oh, man, that is so awesome.' We're...we can do that! You and I can shine our light in that way. We have gifts. We have abilities. There's people who need what we have. There's an opportunity to shine a light in a dark place, and so we need to take that opportunity. We need to use the gifts we have to serve others.

Finally our last take-home tweet (Point #4):

At The Bridge, we believe a relationship with Jesus is the most life-changing thing you can possibly have. It pushes back the darkness within us. It provides grace for all of our brokenness. We believe without Jesus, the world is an incredibly dark place to try to navigate. So why wouldn't we work as we do good to connect people to Jesus? And again, we need to think creatively about this, but maybe it's that you continue to share good deeds to them, and when they ask why, you share why – because I believe I was created for this. I was created to bring light into the world. Or maybe you invite them to a growth group or you invite them to The Bridge on a Sunday morning experience and you say, 'Hey, come join me. Come check this out.' Or maybe you just ask them about their experience with God, what they think about God, and then you listen...like you really listen. You desire to know more about what their experience has been as it pertains to faith. We have the opportunity to shine hope into the world, a hope that is everlasting hope as the scriptures say, and this is a light that we cannot ignore, connecting people to the true source of light.

Finally, there was a man walking down an alley one day, and in this alley, it was really narrow and it was kind of even like canopied, and so he could tell as he was walking down it was a really dark alley and it really never got light. It was the light of day, but this alley was incredibly dark. So he noticed that, and as he was walking, he saw this boy at the end of the alley standing in the light trying with a mirror to grab the light and shoot it up to one of the windows. And so he asked the boy, he's like, 'Hey, what are you trying to do?' And the boy said, 'Yeah, you see that window right there? That's my house.' And he's like, 'Oh, okay. What...why are you shining a light from here?' And he's like, 'Well, my brother two years ago had an accident and now he's bedridden and he lays on his back in bed all day, and his room is located in a part of the house where that's his only window. That's our only window in the whole house, so that's the only one that has any access to light and this alley never gives light. And so what I do once a day is I come down here, I grab this mirror, and I try to reflect some of the light from the sun into this dark alley into the window so that he can get a glimpse of the light at least once a day.'

We have access to the light. Some are living in darkness. It is nothing for us to grab a mirror. It is nothing for us to reflect the light of Jesus to those around us. As followers of Jesus, we're called to do good to others, we're called to shine the light of Jesus, so may you let your light shine. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we pray that we would take every opportunity to let our light shine, that we would see people in our world around us, that we would see opportunities to shine Your light, to reflect Your light in this world, that we would not be so busy that we miss those opportunities, that we would be mindful of all of the people around us who are maybe living each day in darkness. And we have an opportunity to say a kind word, to provide a gift, to provide something that You have gifted us with – maybe an ability, a skill – to meet a need that they have. God, show us the opportunities that we have in our lives to shine light. Allow us to think creatively about the ways we shine light in this world, to be aware of the opportunities around, but to think creatively. God, may we stay connected to the light source, may we stay reliant on You, may we understand that without Your light we are nothing. So may You continue to work on the darkness even within us. But as You work on that, guide us and show us opportunities for us to shine Your light. We were created for light. "Let there be light" is what You're saying over each of us right now and not just for us personally but for those in our sphere of influence. And so, God, let there be light in our stories. The way we navigate life, let there be light. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 

8/7/16 - Tweetables - We Imagine

Tweetables: We Imagine (Ephesians 3:20)    

Sunday, August 7, 2016

10:00 a.m. Lower Dauphin Middle School

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

My four-year-old son comes up to me the other day and he says, 'Dad, can you help me with my invention?' And I'm like, 'Okay, what's up? Let's do this. What are we going to do?' He's like, 'Dad, I need to build something that helps me change my clothes real quick!' like that. And I'm like, 'Uhhhh, okay.' So, Beckett is the type of kid...before we go further...Beckett, my son, is the type of kid who like you send him into his room to change, and like 20 minutes later he comes out still in the same clothes or he comes out with the new clothes on but all of them backwards or, you know, like mix matching. Like he's not particularly fast at changing his clothes or things like that.

So for him, he has solved a problem...there's a problem that exists that 'Hurry up, change your shirt,' or 'Hurry up, go get changed,' and he's like, 'I saw a TV show where someone went in to a machine and it changed their clothes like that. Dad, I need that machine!' {Justin and congregation laughing} Right? It's like, 'I need this. It would make my life so much easier. It would make your life easier, too. Let's invent this, let's build this, we can do it.' As if it's like nothing, as if it's a typical Saturday project to build something that changes your clothes for you. Right? And so it's like, 'Dad, I need you to build it for me. Can you do it?' Think like Clark Kent telephone booth, right? Like it's like, 'Dad, can you do it?'

And in my mind, it's like this is the question that's frustrating, right? Because it's like, 'Dad, can you do it?' It's like, 'Uhhhh, yeah! I can do anything, son. That's who I am, I'm your Dad, I can do whatever you need.' 'Tell me, we can do this.' So I'm like, "Uh, yeah, I got this.' Because it's like the badge of honor, right? Like parents, especially dads probably, you know, we've got a little bit of an ego, not going to lie, and we're like, 'We can handle this. I can do this. I can build something that doesn't exist outside of cartoons. But hey, we can figure this out.' Right? And so I'm like, you know, 'Of course,' and so I'm like, 'Let me think on it and we'll get back to it, son, okay? We'll think on it.'

Now this is the type of kid who forgets nothing, right? So like we went a week with him like, 'Are we ready to invent it yet, Dad?' Like you know what I mean? Like every time I come home, I'm home for lunch, it's like, 'Dad, this morning, did you think about it? What are we gonna do? How are we gonna do it? When's it gonna happen?' Now, he has moved onto something else, so it'd be really helpful if none of you reminded him of this today. Okay? Because I still have no idea how we're going to answer this, but my internal reaction was when he started talking about this was it's impossible. Right? My internal reaction was it's impossible. His internal reaction, and even his outward reaction, was it's totally possible. It's totally doable.

And I want my kids to imagine 'more. Right? To live a life where there are little to no limits. This is why we as parents say things like this: You can be anything if you put your mind to it.' Right? How many of you guys ever heard that or said that to your kid? You're like, 'Hey, little Susie, you can be anything you want if you just put your mind to it.' 'Hey, little Bobby, you can be anything you want if you just put your mind to it.' Like we say this to kids, right? 

And here's the deal. I'll never forget this moment in junior high where me and my friend are at this revival, because that was the type of church I was raised in, the type that planned a revival week. You know? I always thought that was kind of interesting you planned a revival. It's like why do we have to wait two months? Why not just have it now? But whatever. Anyway, my friend and I are sitting here at this revival, and his brother is on my right, and you know the speaker of the night begins to go around and prophesy over people, and this wasn't weird for our upbringing. We saw this a little bit. Might be weird for you, but it wasn't really weird for us, we'd seen this.

So the guy, the speaker comes over and starts talking to my friend's brother next to me. So he says all this stuff to him. He starts communicating and prophesying over him, and I mean, I kid you not, he said a bunch of stuff, and then he says this, okay, this is what he says. He says, 'I see the sky. I see the stars. I see the planets. I see NASA.' And now, me and my friend, like, we're like praying you know because we're supposed to be praying right now while this is happening, and we like turned around and make eye contact, we're like, 'What is happening right now? He just said NASA! Like what is going on?' So then he says, he says over my friend's brother, he says, 'You, son, are going to be an astronaut.'

And like me and my friend are doing everything we can to keep the laughter inside because for us, we know a little bit about his brother's grades and you know the situation that is abounding here that makes it very unlikely that that scenario is going to play out. Not to mention, I don't know if this guy thought NASA was going to do some serious expansion, but currently, we have 52 astronauts at NASA. That means you have a 1 in 6,132,692 chance {Justin laughing} of being an astronaut at NASA! So can we talk about how like this prophet like was like, 'Let's think of the most impossible scenario...' Like it seemed like that. So he says this to my friend and the prophet finished and walked away, and I'll never forget like me and my friend like sit there and we're like, 'You know, he's not the brightest bulb in box.' You know what I mean? This is not going to work out. And, I mean, he did get caught up in drugs and he got high a lot, so maybe that's what he saw. I don't know what he saw. All I'm saying is something there was interesting.

Now here's the deal. Me and my friend walked away from this conversation, we kept coming back to it, and we would be like, 'Do you think it's possible? Is it possible that maybe, you know, things could change and he could be an astronaut? He could be at NASA or something.

There's something about us internally that wants to hope for the best, right? We live in a cynical world, it's very easy to get negative, but something about us wants to hope for the best or at least desire that the limitations around us are able to be shattered. Whenever we watch...right now we're watching all of these Olympic stories, right? So if you're watching the Olympics, you're going to hear all kinds of stories over the next few weeks of athletes who had limitations and shattered those limitations to get where they are today in Rio. Right? And so, so we all love these stories. Something about us, something inside us, leaps when we hear these kinds of stories because we want to believe that the limitations in our life are able to be shattered, that we don't have to live in a world where it's like, 'That's impossible. That can't be done.' For us, we might be able to...we might actually be the one saying that, but the truth is there's something internal in us, and I believe God has placed it there, that we really don't want to be bound by these things. So I told Beckett I would string a line across his room {Justin laughs} like a clothesline and then I would put a shirt on it and then he could just like slip his hands in {congregation laughing} and like there's your sweet machine that puts the clothes on for you. And at that point, he was like, 'No, Dad, that's not really what I'm looking for. Why don't you keep thinking about different ways you can do it?' So if any of you have any really cool ideas for how...because he was like, he was like, 'No, Dad, it has to take my clothes off and throw 'em in the dirty hamper for me. How's it gonna to do that?' I'm like, this kid right now is already like Ferris Bueller. Like, he's like ready for...it's going to be...it's going to be tough with raising him, but it'll be fun. Luckily he moves onto new things like I said. 

But it seems that "impossible" is a word we use a lot today. It seems that even in our lives that we run up against the impossible, and we quickly say there's limits here. We quickly say I'm going to live my life in a box because that's not possible, and we stop thinking with imagination. And the thing is, a kid thinks with a lot of imagination, right? Like I might ask Beckett, 'What's that drawing?' And he like tells me a like novel story, and it's like, you know, a few stick figures on a page, but his imagination is just going. Here's the deal: in our faith life, we need imagination and creativity, and often we find ourselves limited because we believe that God maybe doesn't have the power to fix our situation or doesn't have the power to come through in the way that we maybe are feeling He...we need a breakthrough.

So I want to share a few things with you real quick. Check this picture out. This is called the Oculus Rift.

It's a virtual reality headset that was released earlier this year. The Kickstarter campaign ran in 2012 for this, and then they had a bunch of prototypes, and then Facebook bought them for $2 billion before they had released this product. They just bought them because they were like, 'This is going to be big.' And they bought them, and this is virtual reality. You put this on and you can like play games. You can be in a world where you don't see anything else except like everything around you. And like when you turn, the screen turns. It's like 360° all the way around you when you turn.

How crazy is this? Keep in mind, I like...I like lost all control of every part of my body when I got a Nintendo entertainment system at 9 years old. Like I went crazy because I was like, 'The coolest invention ever made!' And now we're like, less than 30 years later, this is there. If you would've told me something like this would exist in my lifetime, at like 12 years old, I would've been like, 'When I'm 80.' Right? Like this is a crazy breakthrough that we have here.

How about this? 3-D printing. Or it's also called additive manufacturing depending on the term you prefer. But now you can make 3-D images, like literally all kinds of different things this can be used for. Jeremy Rifkin {ed. note: author, economist, futurist} claims that we are on the edge of the third industrial revolution because of 3-D printing. Once it is able to be done at a cheap rate, this will revolutionize the way that we do things. How crazy is this?

I remember...like I thought it was a breakthrough...my mom had one of those printers. I don't know, I think they were called dot matrix printers. Do you remember these? Where you had the like tabs on the side that you had to like rip off? You remember this? Like when they were all connected to one sheet and then you had to like tear them off? I thought it was a breakthrough when we could get a single piece of paper through the printer. I was like, 'WHOA!! Look at that! Technology!' Now we can print...you can print like stuff, like real stuff. Like here's the crazy thing...you can print a gun that shoots. So there's even ethical like questions of like, 'Wow, you can do that on a 3-D printer?' That is wild! All kinds of things this opens up. And here's the deal...how many of us 10 years ago were like, 'Yeah, that 3-D printer thing, that's going to be something that'll take off.' Like if you would've told one of us, we would've said, 'That's impossible.' Like that's more impossible than Beckett's idea of like changing clothes fast; that's more impossible. But now it's a reality that potentially could lead to a revolution.

Here's another cool story. These are the best ones when it's something done like this. This is Matthew Walzer {ed. note: photo below}, and obviously LeBron James as well, but Matthew Walzer's a young high school student who has cerebral palsy, and he wrote a letter to Nike and expressed his desire for a basketball shoe that someone disabled like him could get into. He talked about how he was getting ready to go into college, and as he goes to college, he doesn't want people to have to tie his shoes for him but he likes to wear basketball shoes. He likes to wear Nike basketball shoes. He doesn't want someone to tie his shoes for him and he said, "Nike says, 'If you have a body, you're an athlete,' So if you mean that, you need to make a shoe for us."

And so Tobie Hatfield {ed. note: Athlete Innovation Director at Nike, Inc.} started like working on a design for a shoe that he could do with just one hand with minimal grip. And the shoe's actually really interesting, it like...it comes off in the back and it like zips out, and it's just one hand and it pulls the whole zipper and it closes and it's really easy to do. And you're like, wow! This kid thought, I mean, was bold enough to say there's a concept that could be created to where I could still wear a really fly pair of kicks. Right? You know? But also be able to get into them myself and have some self-reliance, and not only me, an entire disabled community could have a little bit of self-esteem by something like this. And then LeBron James endorses it, and it's like LeBron's shoe even. They're called...if you ever want one or want to look into them, they're called the Zoom Soldier 8 FLYEASE because a shoe is no longer just one word, it's like a whole sentence now because there's so many of them out there. But if you...how cool is that, though?

And then when we even think about it, just the things that we have, because a lot of these are things we don't have, but let's think about something we have. Look at this picture; what's this?

It's a SmartPhone! It's an iPhone, right? SmartPhone, whatever kind you have, is a constantly innovative machine because every day thousands of apps are being released, some of them like impossible, things we never thought of. Like this whole Pokemon Go thing, right? Like what's this about, right? You walk into traffic while playing on your phone. Sounds great! You know what I mean? No problems there. But thousands of apps come out every day, right? All kinds of stuff. Here's the crazy thing that we don't think about because we live in this world and we live with tunnel vision sometimes and we don't think back: Did you know that in the Bill Clinton administration...okay, so when Bill Clinton was president, he had access to information, okay, he had access to less information, not nearly as fast, as a junior higher does on their phone today. Their SmartPhone. Think about the breakthrough where if I would've told you 20 years ago, 'Hey, did you know what? The access to information that the President of the United States has now? A junior higher'll have that in their phone in 20 years in their pocket while they're in class, and the teacher's like, 'Stop!' {Justin laughs} Right? Like that's a real thing!

Some of us, we live with these limits, and we say, 'There's no way this is going to change.' But the truth is, breakthrough is possible because we see it in our world, and sometimes we can't catch the vision for our life. But let me say this, those who dare to think beyond limits find themselves doing extraordinary things. Those who dare to think beyond their limits find themselves doing extraordinary things. But when we believe our potential is limited and when we believe we can't do much, it's very easy for us to become negative, to lose hope, to be hardened by the world, because it's not easy to lose self-esteem, to become depressed, to be anxious about everything.

When we believe we are limited in our abilities, we stop thinking creatively. We stop seeing problems as like, 'Okay, what's a creative way through this?' And we start saying, 'Nope, this is the box I live in.' The thing is is when we live like this even our faith takes a step back because God would call our stories to be impacting, to be amazing, to be stories that are like, 'Wow! That...wow, how could you...I can't even believe that! That's impossible!' But it's possible here.

Our Tweetable for today is this verse that has a lot to say about the impossible in our lives. We've been going through this series called Tweetables where we talk about small passages of the Bible that have a huge impact, and so this small passage of the Bible...if anything up to this point has like, 'Man, you have my attention,' this passage is a passage you should memorize, you should write somewhere, you should read it all the time. Here we go, Ephesians 3:20.

I'm going to read it one more time. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

Point #1, our Take-Home Tweet #1:

The passage starts by saying, "Him who is able." This is a reference to God. God is able. When we find ourselves in a place where we are limited, we find ourselves in the midst of problems, the first thing we have to say is, 'God is able.' I might not be able. Right? Like I may be like, 'I have no idea to solve this, I have no idea what's happening,' but God is able. God is always able, and this is the first domino that must fall if we expect for limitations to be broken through because if we try to break through them on our own, we will always fail. We see this throughout the Bible – characters trying to do things on their own apart from God. So when we talk about strengthening our relationship with God, we talk about the box we might put God in, this is not strengthening our relationship. When we start to say, 'You know what? I'm up against this.' Whatever "this" is in your life, God is able. Now how do I start to take steps to trust in God and His ability, because if God able, then you are not bound by your limitations. If God is able, then you are not bound by the place you are at right now. If God is able, then nothing – nothing – is out of bounds. When God seeks to elevate your story,  God is able.

Point #2

Expand your expectation #ImagineMore. For some of us, we expect very little from God. Let's just be honest. Again, we've put God in a box. We do not rely on God because we feel we might either be let down or we feel like we can't rely on God for that. We limit God's power and therefore we experience a powerless God. Let me say that again. We limit God's power and therefore we experience a powerless God. We must expand our expectation. This starts with imagination. We need to start immeasurably expanding our imagination. Let me read this passage one more time now. "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."

Now the word here, immeasurably, in Greek, this word in Greek is huper. Okay? Huper is the word for immeasurably in Greek, and it's actually where we get the word hyper. But not hyper like 'I'm hyped up on caffeine, I'm going crazy.' You know what I mean? Not that kind of hyper, more like the hyper like above, more than, beyond, bigger, better, faster type of hyper. And so the passage is calling us to think above, to think beyond, to think more than the situation you're in now. This passage is saying, 'You know what? God can do immeasurably, beyond, more, above where you're at right in this moment, even the most that you can imagine.' Let's say your imagination is awesome, like Alice in Wonderland awesome, right? And so your imagination is way out here. Did you know God can do immeasurably more than that imagination even? Above and beyond that. Now, we need to expand our expectation.

The next three points are ways that we can expand our expectations and imagination for God. Here we go.

Point #3

Now this can seem a little self-centered, so it's a dangerous one and I want to be careful with it. I'm not advocating that like God's a genie in a bottle, and you know He's just going to do whatever you want. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying expect God to do more for you, and here's a way this manifests in non like financial way, which is sometimes the way we might think, like 'God, get me a jet.' You know what I mean? Whatever. I want to say it this way. Some of you I meet with, you don't expect God's grace to be there for you. Like you think you've done too much for God's grace, and I'm like, 'That's a free gift that's already been given to you, and it's proclaimed multiple times in the Bible. God has given you grace. You are forgiven. And you're like, 'But I can't...I don't know if I can expect that from God.' Hey, our expectations of God for ourselves need to grow because God loves you deeply, God created you in His image, God wants to redeem you fully, God wants you to live a story worthy of being told, and so if that's the case, we need to expect more from God for our story.

Now that's not a selfish thing, it's just to say, 'Hey, this life is difficult, and I know you're wanting me to be built up into the creation I'm called to be, to live the story I'm called to live. And so here's the deal: when we start to tell ourselves lies like, 'I'm not good enough. I'm not worth it. I'm not forgiven,' we start to deal with shame and guilt and all this other stuff that hinders us, that holds us back, or we start to believe that lie that, 'You know what? That would be a cool thing, but it's really not possible.' Have we prayed about it? Have we sought God? Have we been patient? Have we really like run down every opportunity for what God might be doing here? Because maybe we've already put God in the box. Right? And so in our own lives, we have to start saying, 'Hey, I expect God to do more.'

Point #4

We need to expect God to do more through us, so you need to expect God to do more through you. It's not about God blessing you, it's about God blessing you to be a blessing to others. When God blesses people in the Bible, he blesses them to be a blessing to others. You know what He tells Israel? He tells Israel, 'I'm blessing you so that you can be a blessing to the nations around you.' It's not just 'I'm blessing you so you can hoard it, you can hold it in, you can kick back on the La-Z-Boy and have fun.' No, He's saying, 'I'm blessing you so that you can be an example of what it looks like to give generously to those around you." And so maybe you have opportunities to give generously, and you've kind of been like, 'Ohh, that's just not possible. Ohh, I don't know if I can.' And God's saying, 'No! Are you serving in a way that's like, look! Look at all the opportunities in our world for you to serve.' We have tons of opportunities here, but even outside of here, there are so many opportunities for you to serve in our world.

Expect God to do more through you. And it can be simple. It can be that, you know what? I want to be known as the encourager at the office, so I'm going to start saying words of encouragement. When everyone else starts to gossip, when everyone else starts to speak bitterly, I'm going to be known...my story, my next few years, my next ten years, my legacy at the office, whatever...is going to be encourager. When this stuff happens, I'm going to encourage. It could be that simple, but that's huge! Do you know how many people need a word of encouragement? It can be that you know someone who has financial needs and you have some means to help, and you're like, 'I'm going to step in and help.' How awesome, how great of an experience is that to do that?

Maybe it's that you have a passion for a problem in the community, whatever problem that might be, and it might not even be in our community, it might be in the world, you have a passion for something. You're like, 'I'm going to put my effort into that because everyone's saying it's impossible for that to change, but I know if I put my effort into it, God can do something immeasurably more than I can even imagine about this thing. God can use me.' Don't be defeated by the voices that tell you you're not good enough or it's not going to work out, there's no way, because God can do immeasurably more."

Finally, Point #5:

How many of you guys like Buzz Lightyear? Right? Buzz Lightyear, right, he says this line all the time, "To infinity and beyond!" The thing is, like, infinity is beyond, so that's a little bit redundant. Buzz Lightyear, what are you talking about? Right? But the point is is like he is so optimistic. To infinity and beyond! Right? And you're like, 'Okay, that doesn't quite make sense, but okay I get it.' He is all about this idea that like he is the strongest in the universe and he can do it and he, through his powers, through Buzz Lightyear's powers, can conquer evil and write this amazing story.

And you know I look at the...even The Bridge now...and I'm like, 'Hey, look! We have a great story. I've been here a year now, I feel like I have a pretty good pulse on our DNA, we have a great story. You know what? We've done great things in Hummelstown, and we're continuing to do great things, but beyond even. Like what about that? Like think about that for a minute. Like some of us, it scares us. Right away we're like, 'Whoa. I don't know about that.' Because we've lived in a box some of us. Even as we think about church, we say, 'Wow. We could do so much because God can do immeasurably more.' Imagine something for The Bridge right now. Just imagine, imagine something big for The Bridge, whatever it might be, put it in your head right now. Imagine it. Something big. God can do more. Imagine something else really big, like bigger than what you imagined last time. God can do more. Think about that. Think about the impact we could have on this community and the community around us.

You know, for many of you, The Bridge has been kind of a refuge of sorts. You came to The Bridge at a low point in your faith, maybe where you didn't even know if you had faith in God anymore at all, and you found a community that loved you, found a community that accepted you as you were. You found a community that allowed you to be a skeptic. You found a community that truly, genuinely said, 'Don't wear a mask here. Be yourself.' We'd rather you be authentic than be something fake, and we journeyed with you through that. How many people need that? How many people in our community and beyond our community need that? That's impact. We could have huge impact. Think about this. Your own life, our life as a church, God can do immeasurably more.

One of the things we've been saying on the Strategic Leadership a lot this year is our best days are ahead of us. And we literally have formulated this statement from the passage Ephesians 3:20, "Our best days are ahead of us," because we believe God can do immeasurably more at The Bridge. That's not in any way, and I've said this before, that's not in any way a slight to what we've done. We've done great things, but we believe God can do immeasurably more than we can even imagine Him doing right now in this moment. And here's the deal: not because of us. It's not some great idea that we came up with. It's not the music. It's not the life connection. It's not the volunteers, even though you're all awesome. It's because God's power at work.

You know, I'll read the passage one more time. It says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to his power that is at work within us." According to his power that is at work within us. The Greek word here is dynamis. It's where we get dynamite. It's where we get dynamic. Right? And dynamite, I'm just thinking here, how amazing is that? It can explode, it can break, you're like, 'Whoa,' but it can build something new. It can remove structures that have once inhibited us. Think about that in your own life. The power of God can cause a breakthrough for you. The dynamite of God. Think about that. That's amazing.

Now, I'm not a fan of flying. I actually hate flying, and I've been to Nicaragua twice. And when I go to Nicaragua, you have to land in the capitol city, in Managua. And then you fly to Puerto Cabezas, and you fly to Puerto Cabezas on like a 10- to 12-passenger plane, and it is really scary. I remember getting on the first time and everyone on the plane like fell asleep like right after takeoff. And there's two pilots, and I'm sitting in the front row, I could literally like strangle the pilot if I wanted to. He was sitting a row in front of me. It's awful. I'm like, 'This is terrible. I don't know what's happening right now.'

And there's two pilots in the front, and as soon as we get in the air, the other pilot goes to sleep. They have this like rotation where one of them goes to sleep and then the next one flies back, and they just do this all day, they like go back and forth, back and forth. Okay? So we start hitting turbulence, and like no one on the plane's awake. I have a Coke bottle in my hand that is slowly turning to shreds because I'm like, 'Ooohhhhh, God!" And so it's like a car crash every 30 seconds. Like it's VOOOOM! And you're like, 'Oh, my goodness!' Brittney's passed out next to me, completely asleep, like no worries, not a care in the world. Everyone else on the plane is passed out. I am freaking out. I'm like, 'What is happening?'

Why am I freaking out when I'm on an airplane? I'm freaking out because I'm not in control. {Justin laughs} I want to be in control! It freaks me out to put my trust in this dude that's a pilot right here, that I don't know, that doesn't even speak my language, let alone like...I'm just like, 'I don't know if this dude even has a pilot's license. This does not seem legit.' Like there's a jungle under us. I'm looking out the window, I'm like, "There's no roads visible, we haven't seen a building for an hour.' Like if we land here, if we crash land and I even survive, I don't even know if I want to because I don't know how I would get out of this jungle. Like, you know, that's how I'm thinking in my mind while we're flying across this country.

Here's the deal: I am a little bit of a control freak. I think most of us can, in a certain way, understand that, that sometimes we want to be in control of our lives. Well here's the deal. I'm not a pilot. I don't know how to get that plane from one side of Nicaragua to the other. The pilot does. He does it every day. Okay? If you see limitations in your life and you start to say, 'This is the world I live in,' you know what? Maybe you weren't meant to navigate through those limitations, maybe God was, and God knows how to get through that and you don't. But sometimes we want to control it. We want to be the pilot, and sometimes we gotta do that good old classic country song and let Jesus take the wheel, right? You know what I'm saying? And we need to let Jesus be in control because we...we by the power of our own, we're weak, but God can do immeasurably more, like dynamite more. Blow out all of these things that are holding us back and give us a breakthrough. So I pray that we would believe in a God who can do immeasurably more for each and every one of our stories. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we pray that You would bring us to a place where we can give up control. If we've placed You in a box, maybe because we're not comfortable with You having a certain amount of control in our lives, we pray right now that you would help us to start taking the steps to hand You more authority and more control in our lives because we know You would have a breakthrough moment for us. Whatever limitations we see, may Your spirit give us an imagination to see more and then even beyond that may we be blessed because immeasurably more is what You're capable of, so start to train within us a mind that doesn't say, 'I can't,' that starts to say, 'Maybe God can.' When we find ourselves up against walls, let's believe in that dynamic power, that dynamite, that can get us through these difficult seasons of life, that can bring us a breakthrough moment. God, You are able; in our weakness, You are able, so may we see You as able. May we begin to think imaginatively about our own lives, about the way we serve others, and even about the way this church serves this community and beyond. Lord, give us big dreams for our lives, give us big dreams for The Bridge, and show up in big ways with Your dynamic power. In the name of Jesus, amen.

OUR MISSION

BUILDING BRIDGES WITH GOD, EACH OTHER, AND OUR WORLD.

THE BRIDGE IS...

A safe place. We want people to be able to explore spirituality and the significance of Jesus without guilt or pressure. You will be encouraged and challenged to move forward in a spiritual journey at your own pace. We’ll offer unconditional love, support, and acceptance as you explore.

A different place. If you have any concept of what church is normally like, The Bridge most likely will not fit it. We’re intentionally different from “traditional church” because that doesn’t appeal to everyone. Here, the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. We talk about real-life issues in everyday language. We also believe you don’t have to disconnect from a style of music you enjoy every other day just because you decided to check out God, so the music is edgy and upbeat.

An authentic place. We are real people who are looking for real solutions to the issues of life. All of us experience problems in life at times and have to face the fact that we’re not always who we would want to be. At The Bridge, we believe that a relationship with God through Jesus is to be about all of life so we’re not going to act like problems don’t exist or like we don’t have any. Instead, we experience the highs and lows of life together, and seek to learn how a relationship with Jesus can help us through real life and give us the tools we need to live life well and in a healthy way.

A challenging place. When people who are different get together and really share life with one another, ask honest questions, engage is genuine exploration, and determine to grow and change for the better, it can be uncomfortable at times. But it can also be exciting as you see yourself and others transforming into the people we were created to be. We would love to have you join in this journey and link up with others who desire to love God and others while being transformed.

7/31/16 - Tweetables - We Renew

Tweetables: We Renew                                                                                    Sunday, July 31, 2016

10:00 a.m. Lower Dauphin Middle School

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Hey, before we get started today, I want to celebrate...we can show the picture. This is us loading the truck and me taking a picture of the "Welcome to Pennsylvania" sign a year ago this week {congregation applauds}. So, hey...I don't know what you're clapping for; I want to clap for you guys. We've loved this community so much. This has been a year of blessings for us, so we are ecstatic to be here and so pumped for what the future holds the many more years we're going to be here, and we just love you guys, and we love The Bridge, and it's an awesome fit, so we thank you guys so much for all the grace and love you've poured out on us {congregation applause}. Give yourself a round of applause for that.

So today we continue our Tweetables series, and this series is small passages of the Bible that pack a big meaning. So, kind of like Twitter, this crazy thing that actually literally in certain parts of the earth, we're going to be looking back in the future and looking back and being like, 'Wow, this small little tool social media called Twitter that really just sends out these random messages of 140 characters or less caused like uprisings in certain parts of the world. You know what I mean? That toppled leaders, like that Twitter had a huge part in some of that. Like you're just sitting here like, 'How can some small thing like this have that much impact?' And so, even as we read the Bible, as we open the Bible, even these small passages that are 140 characters or less can have a huge impact in our life.

Sometimes we open the Bible, we see how small the words are, right? Like, text-wise, and we see how huge the book is and we just get intimidated, and we're like, 'I don't even know where to start. I don't know what to do.' We talked a little bit about this last week. But, hey, guess what, this series, small little passages, but they can have a transforming impact in your life, and I really think today's is a huge one.

And so, just a real quick note about last week. I had a lot of you guys reach out to me and really say like last week's message was really helpful for you. And I would say if you're still processing last week's message or if you missed it, go check it out. If you didn't, if you were here and you're still processing it, I would love to sit down and chat if you have questions or anything. We talked a little bit about the Bible, and just, I thought for many of you it was very helpful, so I would love to continue that conversation if that's something you want to process further.

Today, we are reminded that we renew, so here's our Tweetable for the day:

Do not conform. There are words right there – do not conform – that every like angsty teenager loves, right? You're like, 'Do not conform? Yes, please! I'll take more of that!' Right? And I've never really got out of that stage, so I'm still good with that. Like I'm like, 'Yeah! Okay. Don't conform. You have my attention.' And so if we're honest, there's probably a little bit of rebellious spirit in each of us. Some of us maybe walk the straight line a little better, but really the scripture at the very start is telling us be a non-conformist. Be a rebel. And then you're like, 'Hold on! You have my attention. What are we rebelling against?' Right? Like that's the next question, like what are we rebelling against? Like, what, are we fighting for our right to party? What are we doing, right? That's a Beastie Boys reference if any of you got that.

But we're rebelling against the patterns, the patterns – as this passage says – the patterns of this world. And so take a moment to think to yourself what are some of the patterns of this world? Just think what are some of the things that are kind of fixed and set patterns? Maybe things throughout history that we've seen people be prone to do, struggles people have been prone to have. I can think of a few. Greed. Right? Gluttony, envy, laziness, excess, bitterness, hatred, anger, dishonesty, violence, disunity. And I mean, I'm just getting started. We could sit here all day and talk about a variety of patterns that we're handed in this world.

And so as we think about that we're like, 'Wow. Okay, so I'm supposed to be a non-conformist, I'm supposed to be a rebel against these patterns that the world hands me. So, the cool thing is there's this portion of the scriptures called The Sermon on the Mount where Jesus talks, and He gets really...like it's His first sermon and He's like, He's 0 to 100, like just really fast, like going for it. And you're just sitting here like, 'Wow, Jesus, what are you talking about?' And really what it is, The Sermon on the Mount is a rebel's guide to following God. He's constantly saying, 'You've heard it said this way, but I tell you...' He's saying you've heard it said this way and you've created a pattern around this, well, let Me tell you what's it's like. And usually whatever He's telling them to do is like rebelling against this old idea. It's like, 'You're not going to have it very easy in this world, you're going to be a little bit of a non-conformist, people are going to misunderstand you probably more often than they're going to understand you if you follow what I'm teaching right now.'

And so even in the life of Jesus, we see this call for us to rebel. Jesus, you could argue, was a rebel Himself. I mean, I don't even think you could argue it. I think it's pretty obvious if you understand His time, place, and context that He was quite the rebel to the system that He was thrown in. So there's this new thing that we have access to, but it causes us to have to rebel against this old thing. Jesus was encouraging transformation, and if we read the rest of that passage, it says, "Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but..." One of my professors would always say whenever you see a 'but' in the Bible, it's probably big. So think, when you see that 'but,' this is a big but. I need to...you're like, 'Stop. Stop, Professor. You're not understanding what you're saying! He's like trying to teach us hermeneutics – like hermeneutics is the study of the Bible – and making sure you don't look over, you know, important words, and you're just sitting here like, 'You don't even understand what you're saying.' Like it wasn't even a joke to him, it was like, 'It's a big deal when you see the word "but."' And you're like, 'Shut up!' You know, but he's talked about how those are connecting words that connect ideas, and so don't miss what comes after that because it's really important.

So it says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And so we gotta ask well, what's that about? You know, Paul said if anyone comes to Christ, he is...a new creation has come, the old has gone, and the new is here. The old is gone; the new is here. If you're a new creation in Christ, the old is gone, the new is here. Let's take that in, let's absorb that, let's think about that, let's maybe even believe that. How many of you guys believe...I'll read it one more time. If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come, the old is gone, the new has come. The new is here, has come as a different version.

Think about that, though. Do we really believe that? Do we really believe we're new creations? We've got so much negativity, I think, like stored in us because of the pattern of this world that so often it's hard for us to believe, to absorb, to really meditate on the idea that I, through the power of Christ, am a new creation. The old is gone. Like gone. Like let's talk about what that...gone...right? And the new is here, and sometimes we're like, 'No, Justin, the old's not gone.' That's so tough. Because before you can be renewed – we're going to talk about what that means in a minute, this picture of renewing our mind – but before you can be renewed, you must accept that you're a new creation.

Let me say that one more time. Before you can be renewed, you must accept that you're a new creation because this comes first. And so many of us get hung up on this because we still live in a world that's trying to hand us the same patterns, and we haven't quite gotten rebellious enough. Right? How many of you guys want to get rebellious this morning? That's a question I've never asked in church before, but I'm excited to ask it. Right? Like how many of you guys want to get rebellious? This is exciting stuff. I'm pumped to preach this message.

So the question, though, is why don't we always feel new? Why do we sometimes feel like for some reason we're junk. Or that like the struggle is so real and difficult that we just feel like there's no way I could be made new. Like I want to believe that, and there's certain moments of certain days where I believe that God could make a new creation out of me, but, man, those moments are so small, and then it just...the reality hits that God can't create anything new in me. And these are all lies that we buy into and we believe that keep us conformed to the patterns of this world.

So let's talk about this – a few ways, a few things that get in the way of us recognizing that we are a new creation.

Our history. Our history gets in the way. We ruminate on what we have done in the past, the person that we were, the old that Jesus says is gone. We sometimes bring it back and like a slideshow focus on it. And it can hit us at different times because there might be different triggers. It might be a friend we haven't hung out with in a long time and then we remember all the stuff we're ashamed of that we did with that person. Or it might be whatever, fill in the blank. But we begin to believe the lie that our actions define us, that our previous actions have defined us, and grace is not possible for those anymore. And it keeps us believing that we are in fact not a new creation, the old is still here, maybe the new's here a little bit with it, but the old is still here, and we go right back to those patterns. And here's the deal: It might not be that we go back to those old patterns, it might be that we really do live a life where we stay away from some of those patterns, but we never really have the freedom of believing and owning our newness and renewing our mind.

Another thing that happens is our hurts get in the way because, you know, what we talked about a moment is maybe what we've done to ourselves, our history, but then our hurts, things people have done to us, maybe your road to even faith has been abuse. Maybe you've had a lot of people really hurt you in deep ways. Maybe you've had friendships that have gone south, by really no fault of your own, just people letting you down. And so that hurt sits there and it starts to say, 'I'm not worth that much. Why would God create something new in me? I'm not really worth His time, His effort, His energy, the desire that He would want to make me new. Why would God want to make me new?' And so we get hung up on that.

So it can be our history, it can be our hurts, and then it can also be our habits. It can be that maybe we really have experienced a level of freedom from our history and a level of freedom from our hurts but now we have unhealthy, negative habits that are in our lives that we're maybe not even trying to get freedom from and they keep bringing us down, bringing us down. And this can take a portion of our life to get over. Trust me, habits aren't necessarily easy to break. I'm not here to say that's easy, but I am here to say a new creation is possible within each and every one of us. And sometimes we don't focus on it enough because we buy into the lie. One of the things we're told in the scriptures about Satan is that's he's a deceiver, that there's this like something even within us that is sinful, and this thing within us that's sinful seems to be the lie consistently in our ear. 'Hey, you're not good enough. Hey, that thing you did? That defines you, not God's grace.' 'Hey, guess what? This habit, it's never going to go away no matter how much you work on it. It's always going to be here, so why even try?' 'You're not worth God's grace or love. You're worthless.' And I know some of you today, this is really connecting. Because this is, this is...you've had these kinds of movies, these slideshows playing in your head.

So today we're going to talk about what it means to be renewed. We have six take-home tweets today. So the first three are going to be to talk about how we are a new creation in Christ, and then the last three are going to be some helpful practices for us to continue to renew our minds because here's the deal: We live in a place that's constantly throwing other information our way, and so if we're not in the rhythm of renewing, then we will digress. We will go back.

Take-home Tweets:

Your past is forgiven. Ephesians 1:7 reads this way: "In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." In Romans 8:1, this is one of my favorite passages, this is a great passage. If you struggle to believe you're forgiven, you should write down Romans 8:1. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." No condemnation. You are not condemned, so if something in your head keeps saying, 'Oh, man, I'm condemned for that thing I did way back here,' that is not Jesus. That's either you, Satan, fill in the blank, friend, whatever. Something in the world is throwing that your way, and it's not good. And so you have to believe I don't have condemnation; in Jesus there's no condemnation for that.

Your hurts are healed. Jesus, when He comes, He heals the sick. This is one of the biggest things Jesus does, constantly healing people. Jesus is very interested in healing, and I would say even in an emotional way, interested in healing. I think of Jesus sitting down with the Samaritan woman at the well, and I think of this story as a story where He sits down with this woman who's broken, who's been hurt so much in her life. I mean, most people would believe that she probably has suffered abuse in her life, and Jesus sits down and has this lengthy conversation. And if we just read it and we forget, we forget that like Jesus is a rabbi. Jesus is not supposed to talk to a woman alone. Jesus is a Jew; He's not supposed to talk to a Samaritan at all. But He lowers Himself because He recognizes this woman needs healing. He humbles Himself. Wherever you are, whatever hurt you're experiencing, don't think it's so low that Jesus won't come meet you in that place because Jesus does. Jesus meets us in our deepest hurt, our darkest place, and Jesus heals in that place.

Let me read this passage from 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."

At the very least, even if we go through this world and we struggle to find healing for a particular hurt that we've been dealt, we certainly can take heart in that we're comforted by Christ, that Christ comforts us in our times of pain.

You are set free from negative habits. John 8:36 says it this way. "If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed." If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. Ephesians talks about putting the new self on and putting the old self off and experiencing freedom. Now here's what I want to say really quick, though, this isn't easy. I don't want to act like this is like easy to leave negative habits, that this isn't a process; it takes time. But freedom is available, it really is. And here's the deal, there's some great stories of freedom here at The Bridge. People who have experienced habits and found freedom from something they might have at one point in their life said there's no way I'm ever going to experience freedom from this.

Now let's get practical. Three things we can do to renew our mind because that's what we're talking about. We're talking about how we're non-conformists, we're rebels, we're rebellious today, and we're going to stay that way, right? And then, what are we rebellious against? The patterns of this world. But not just to be rebellious against the patterns of this world, but to renew our mind so that we pick up something different. Usually the inverse. If the world's telling us to be greedy, Jesus is saying, 'No. Give. Give it away. Be compassionate.' One of our values here at The Bridge: Give compassionately. Right? The world's telling us, 'Don't forgive; harbor bitterness. Bitterness is so good because that person deserves it.' And Jesus is saying, 'No, no, no, no. I forgave you, you can forgive them.' And you're just like, 'Whoa.' This is like an upside-down way of thinking. That might be another way of inserting this concept outside of 'rebel.' It's flipping things upside down, living in a different economy even, right, where for us it might be that greed gets you ahead. In the Kingdom of God what gets us ahead is when we are generous maybe. So all of these concepts.

One thing we can do is start small. Two simple words: start small. And here's what I mean. Don't think you are going to rebel against a system that you've been raised in, that you've lived your whole life in, in like a week. Right? Have you ever seen the person who goes on the diet and they're like, 'Yeah, man, I'm totally done with this. I'm eating this way forever.' And then you see them like three days later and they're like having a Big Mac and fries, and you're like, 'What happened to that diet?' They're like, 'Yeah, I was like totally gung-ho at the start because I was looking like three months down the line instead of looking at just today, right now, what do I need to grow in.'

Sometimes we can have too much vision and lack the ability to be disciplined right in the here and now. And so what I would encourage you to do is start small, and here's what I mean by that. Think of one character trait – one, just pick one – the fruits of the spirit would be a great place to start. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self control, faithfulness. Think of these and say, 'Okay, which one of these do I need more of? Which one of these am I struggling with? Alright, this week is going to be my week of patience,' and then expect God to throw everything at you to make you go crazy. Right? Because trust me, it will happen, okay? And so this week, I'm going to focus on being patient. And what that means is I'm going to...at the start of every morning, I'm going to focus on it, I'm going to pray on it, I'm going to read what Jesus says about it and how He lived, patient life maybe. I'm going to navigate my relationships with patience. Right? And just get through that week and then at the end of that week do some inventory. Was that helpful? Wow, I actually feel different this week even though it was a struggle. It was really hard. And it may be patience is again next week because you have a lot to learn in that area. But maybe you switch to something else. The hard part is if we think we can just digest it all at once. It's really difficult, this renewing of the mind. We have to be focused; we have to start small.

Next, and this is part of us renewing our mind and part of us even on the traits that we talked about.

One of the patterns of this world is to mask our ability to see even ourselves, to see what's happening internally, and the thing that does this is noise. There is so much noise in your life, whether you're aware of it or not. And I'm guilty of this, too. I hop in the car, I turn on the music. Right? We just got a newer minivan and it has DVDs in it, so now every time we get in the car, the kids are like, 'What are we gonna watch?' Right? And we're like, well, we were just going to use it for trips, but now we're like, 'If that means you're going to be quiet on the drive to Wal-Mart, then sure.' Right? Does that make sense? So for us it's a little bit of silence actually, but for them it's like another thing to be in front of them, another noise to be in front of them.

I mean, we live in a world of noise, right? We live in a world of busyness, and that can be a certain level of noise in our head. I've got to get this next thing done, I've got to go here, I've got to...and we're never present with our thoughts. Information is coming at us so fast whether it be the television or Facebook. We're constantly thinking about oh, what have I got to post, Instagram, oh, how many people liked it, oh, what about the comments, I've got to get back to this person and comment on their thing. So all of these things are coming at us, all of this noise, and how often, be honest, are you left quiet and alone to really just be with your thoughts? To really say what's going to pop up here in this moment?

You know, withdrawing is a spiritual practice. When we see the life of Jesus, He's constantly withdrawing, and I would argue He has this rebellious call to rebel against the powers of His day, and He recognizes 'I have to step away sometimes. I have to be alone. I have to connect with God. I can't have all this noise.' There's this crazy story where Jesus stays up all night healing people, and they keep bringing Him people, and then He just leaves. Everybody was like, 'Where'd He go?' And He's gone, like He didn't tell the disciples where He was going, He didn't tell anyone where He was going, He just had to get away. It was so busy, it was so noisy, He needed to reconnect with His Father. Hey, we can't renew unless we reconnect. If we're constantly going to be running around in the noise, we aren't connected. There's not a chance for renewal to happen in that place, and so we have to pause, take time for prayer, for meditation.

And hey, let me tell you, I just read actually a really great book on the Christian practice of contemplation, which is kind of like the Christian version of like meditation. It's called Into the Silent Land: A Guide To the Christian Practice of Contemplation, and it is amazing. And it talks a little about what we've been talking about today and kind of how when we sit down like the first week or two of like really like serious like meditating and really thinking on God and really like being alone with our thoughts, it's scary because we don't spend enough time alone with it and so we start to like be like, 'I had that thought. Why did I have that thought? Why would I think that?' And so he actually walks through some practical steps for like how to go about that practice, so if you're into that, that's called Into the Silent Land: A Guide To the Christian Practice of Contemplation and it's by Martin Laird, so check that out.

Finally our last point:

Community. One word. What a great tweet, you know? If you can tweet with one word, that's perfect, right? You were designed for community. Whether you believe it or not, you were. Even if you're a loner, even if you're a person who likes to be alone. Solitary confinement will drive anyone crazy. There's a reason for that...because we are not designed to live alone. We are designed to be with others. God, for example, in the Garden, looks at all He created, and He says, 'It's good.'  And then He sees man and He says, 'But what's wrong over here? Man's lonely.'

Even at the very onset of creation, we are told we are designed for community. Renewal is not an individual process. Sometimes we think this way. 'Renewal is just about me.' No, no, no, no, no. It's a communal process; we're all part of it. We renew together. This is discipleship. You know, the great commission says, 'Go and make disciples.' It's a picture of community, not just you. It's not, 'Go and read the Bible and pray a lot and get smarter.' Right? That's not what... {chuckles}. Go and make disciples. This is a communal thing.

And so we share our burdens with one another because James tells us that when we share our burdens with one another, when I come up to a brother and I say, 'Hey, I'm dealing with this,' and I share that burden? James says times of refreshing come in that moment. Think about that. Have you ever had that happen? Where you like say something that you've been holding for so long and you finally find someone to put your arm around and say that to, and it's like 'Ohhhhh, I can kind of breathe again.'

The scriptures are true on this. We need others. We need love, encouragement, support, accountability, people that can even call us on our garbage. Like people that we're like, 'Okay, no matter how hard it is, I'm going to listen when you tell me that thing that I said I didn't want to do that I know I'm probably going to go back to, I'm going to listen to you.'

There's a band I love called Me Without You and they have this song called The Sun and the Moon (off the album Brother Sister), and one of the lines reads this way. It says, "Find a friend and stay close and with a melting heart tell them whatever you're most ashamed of."

There's something profound and beautiful about a community that you can grow deeper in trust with. It's a renewing thing to have these types of relationships, and so we believe that this space on Sunday morning is part of that. This is a space where we lead with Belonging by Acceptance so that in this space, we can share our hurts together, we can share our history together, we can share our negative habits together, and we can seek freedom. We can express that we're a new creation despite all of that in this place.

Even deeper, we have what we call life groups. These are groups that meet a couple times a month, and these groups are groups where you can even go deeper and have more trusting relationships with people and meet regularly with them and connect and so we need community. Don't try to renew your mind without community. You need that piece.

Finally, I want to share a story. There was once a businessman. He owned a warehouse property, and he decided to sell this property. And so after a while, he got a taker, a bidder, and they met at the property, he met to show him the property. The buyer was actually really serious; he wanted to buy the property. He was like, 'I'm pretty sure I want it, I don't...you know, I don't even know if I need to see it.' He's like, 'Well, I better show it to you,' and so they get there, and the businessman arrived a few minutes early to find that the warehouse had been vandalized. The door had been kicked in, there was spray paint all over, there were windows that were broken out, trash was everywhere, and the buyer showed up just a minute later.

He showed the prospective buyer the property; the whole time he was apologizing. He said, 'I'll fix the windows, I'll fix the door, I'll clean the garbage, I'll fix any other damage in here, I'm really sorry.' And then the buyer says, 'You know what? Forget about it. Forget about the repairs.' The businessman said, 'What? Why? Why would you tell me to forget about the repairs?' He says, 'Well, when I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site.' You and I are the site. God is not interested in what you've built, no matter how cool it might be. Truthfully. God doesn't care if your warehouse is ratty, old, with graffiti all throughout. God isn't coming into your life to renovate it...your history, your hurts, your habits...renovate that. God's saying, 'I'm not in the business of renovating; I'm in the business of renewal. I make all things new.' That's what the scriptures say.

And so don't live your life in this old, ratty building. Right? And hoping that like a new one is kind of fused in it. Like, 'Oh! We finally got the living room done. It looks a little better.' Right? {laughs} No. We, as we renew our mind, we recognize that we live a whole new structure. Like this is new creation. Yes, it is the same site. It is us, it is Justin, it is you. But at the same time, it is something altogether new that me left to my own would have no ability to do. Not even close. It is all God, and this is why we give glory to God because we say, 'Wow. You can create something new even though the doors are kicked in, the windows are busted, there's trash everywhere, there's graffiti all over. You have the power to create something new in me and You would want to? Wow.' So we commit to renewing our minds because we're like, 'Wow, I want to experience more of that. Where do I go to get more of that?' So we renew our minds. Let's live in the new creation. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we are so thankful that You declare we are new creations. We desire to follow You as we seek You. We don't always get it right, but the beautiful thing is Your grace, Your mercy, Your love, is there for us. So we thank You so much that even when we have no idea where our mind is that You're calling us a new creation, and You're desiring that we would renew our mind, that we would seek You in everything, that we would not conform to this world, but we would be rebels, but rebels with a cause and the cause is to come closer to You, to look more like Jesus every day, that our traits, the way we live in this world would reflect the fruit that we see in scripture. So be with us on this journey. Allow us to get away from the noise, allow us to connect with You more, allow us to connect with each other more so that we might be renewed. In the name of Jesus, amen.


THE BRIDGE CORE VALUES

Belonging by acceptance. We believe people need relationships, with God and others, in which they will be received with non-judgmental love. We desire to give people the right to explore, ask questions, and voice doubts in a community that accepts and expresses the love of God.

Relating with relevancy. We believe in meeting people where they are on their spiritual journeys. We desire to express faith within the context of real life in today’s world.

Identifying with Jesus. We believe in the significance of a connection with the authentic Jesus. We desire to develop a faith that is based on a relationship with Jesus rather than a religion about Jesus.

Developing healthy people. We believe God guides people into meaningful life transformation which impacts every area of life in a healthy way. We desire for God to continually develop people in who they are and how they live.

Giving compassionately. We believe Jesus modeled compassionate giving. We desire to encourage people to give and serve generously outside of themselves.

Extending the mission of Jesus. We believe a relationship with Jesus changes a person’s perspective on the world. We desire to join Jesus in his mission – locally, regionally, and globally.

7/24/16 - Tweetables - We Read

The Bridge Life Connection

Tweetables: We Read                                                                                    Sunday, July 24, 2016

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

There was a pastor once, and he was driving through town one night, one Friday night, and he noticed his friend, his old friend Frank. And Frank was drunk and dressed like a bum walking, seemingly walking, home. And so the pastor pulled up beside him and rolled down his window and started a conversation. Old friends catching up. Eventually the pastor asked him, he said, 'What happened to you, Frank? You used to be rich!' And then Frank told him a sad tale about how he made a bad investment and then another bad investment and had lost everything. The pastor then gave Frank a ride home that night, and while sitting in the driveway the pastor told Frank this advice. He said, 'Tonight, go inside your house, open your Bible at random, stick your finger on the page, and there you will find God's answer to your problems.' And so, some time had passed, and the pastor and Frank bumped into each other again. Frank was wearing a Gucci suit, a Rolex watch, and he just got out of a Mercedes-Benz. And the pastor said, 'Frank, I'm glad to see things have like clearly turned around for you!' And then Frank said, 'Yes, pastor, and I owe it all to you and your advice!' Then he said, 'I went in my house that night, I opened my Bible just like you said, I put my finger down on the page at random just like you said, and there it was! The answer to all of my problems. Chapter 11!' That's a Chapter 11 bankruptcy, get it? Chapter 11 bankruptcy!

So, anyway...{congregation and Justin laughing}...wow, it took a minute for a few of you on that one! I like it! You're like, 'What? Chapter 11? I don't get it.' No.

Today we continue our Tweetables series. The first week we talked about how we love God, the second week we talked about how we love others, and today we talk about how we read. Yes, we read the Bible. But it can be confusing, right? Like reading the Bible can be difficult. It can seem like a puzzle we're trying to solve or some code that we're trying to decipher or some magical equation that we hope to get right. Maybe if we randomly open the scriptures, we just hope we point and there, that's going to be the answer to all my problems. And when we read the Bible like this, we can get it wrong, right? Maybe not like Chapter 11 wrong, right? That's pretty interesting to see hey, God spoke to him in that powerful way.

But at the same time, I don't know about you, but there's been times where I've opened the Bible, I've read it, and I've thought, man, this is exactly what I needed. And then like a few years later I come to it, and I'm like, oh, I don't know if that's really what that was communicating. And so it can be difficult. We draw conclusions about the Bible, then something might change. We grow, we journey, things change, and here's what I want us to think about today. Each of us are on a journey with the Bible. Some of you are here and you're skeptical of the Bible. You're not sure what to think about it, and that's awesome that you're here, that you're open to being here. Some of you are here and you're like, 'The Bible is perfect, there's nothing wrong with it, and I have no questions. I have never questioned the Bible, never will question the Bible.'

And what I think I want us to say is like wherever we are in our journey with the Bible, some of us - all of us, I would say - are on a journey of how to live it out. How to live out what it means. And when we're not reading it, when we're not active in it, it slowly becomes less active in us. Does that make sense? And so today I want to encourage us to read the Bible. Here's our tweet for the day. Our tweetable of the day comes from Hebrews 4:12.

We're going to read that in the real sense. Here's what it means. The word of God is active and alive, alive and active. So this is a simple...we're talking about this in our whole Tweetables series...it's the idea of 140 characters or less. This has changed the way we communicate in the modern world. Twitter has changed it. If you want to follow us at Twitter, @BridgeAndRail, you can follow us.

But it changes the whole way we communicate. When we read these small passages of the Bible, it can change the whole way we live. They might be small, they might be very compact, but they pack this huge meaning. And it certainly packs a huge meaning in the way we live and move in this world, and so, "For the word of God is alive and active." Alive and active.

Now, alive...when we say the Bible is alive, we are saying that an ancient collection of 66 books, which is what it is, it was meant for this ancient world, but it is also meant for us today. What an interesting thing. There's life in these words that go beyond the setting in which they were written or said and lessons to be learned, hope to be had, grace to be experienced, salvation to be extended to all. I mean, this book has so much to say about so many of the questions that we ask, right?

We desire grace, we desire love, we desire hope, and interestingly enough, these are all main themes of this collection of books. So there's something even about the human experience that is alive within this collection of books, and then it's active. And then if you go to the dictionary definition of active, you're going to see energy and movement. And so energy, the scripture is full of energy. The scriptures explain this as the Spirit of God working in and around us and even through us as we read the scriptures. So there's this energy, this life force that's flowing through us as we open the Bible and as we read it.

There's movement because it moves us to act. It's not something that we just read and we're like, 'Yes! I'm smarter!' and then we walk away from. Some people read it that way, but that's not helpful. It's moving us, it's drawing us into a different way of living. So for us, the Bible is alive and active. But what happens when you're not sure it is? What happens when you're not sure if you can trust the Bible is alive and active?

I was wrapping up my seminary study when I took a class, it was my last semester in seminary, and I was wrapping it up and I had to take this class where we focused for a period of the class on the textual criticisms of the Bible. And this class was supposed to be a class that would firm up my belief in the Bible because we would look at the textual criticisms and then I would have all the right arguments. Right? Because that's what you do, right, sometimes? So, because, I mean, we all live in this world, right, where you just have all the right arguments to every question that's at you. And that's what this class was supposed to provide me for. It provided pretty much the opposite. I went in, I started reading, and I was like, 'What?! What is this? I've never heard this.' And this became a real problem for me. So I want to share a little bit of that journey.

So I'm finishing up my master's class. I'm a pastor at the time, I'm preaching every Sunday, and I'm starting to conclude like, I don't know if I believe in the Bible. Now let me tell you how awkward it is {laughing}, okay, to get on stage, okay, open the Bible {laughing}, read it, give a message, okay? That's awkward in itself, right? And be like, 'I don't know if I believe this thing,' right? Like I felt like I was trapped. Like because it's really tra...you really feel trapped when you're preparing for a message while you're also wrestling with 'What is happening to my faith?'

I had been taught my whole life that the Bible was inerrant. This is the word I was constantly told from a young age, all the way through my high school, all the way through my undergrad, and even all the way through my seminary, and inerrant literally means without errors. And I'm reading like conservative people who are saying, 'Yeah, the Bible has this error here and this error here,' and I'm like, 'What?! No! It has NO errors!' I had built all my faith, kind of this house of cards, on this idea that there are no errors, there's nothing wrong with it, it's perfect as is, like, and I'm just sitting here like, 'What is happening? Am I an idiot? Why would...why did no one tell me this?'

And then, the conundrum really amplifies when like after you give a message and you're really not sure what you think about it, you get...you know, this literally happened to me during this like two-month window, okay? Because it was about two months of this window where I got off and someone came up to me, 'The way you share the Bible is so profound. I just got so much today. Oh, man, like, you just fired me up to study the Bible. I'm going this week and reading that whole book of the Bible.' I'm just like, 'Amen,' {laughs} right? Because you're kind of like, I don't...I can't tell anyone this. I am trapped!

And so I'm trapped. I'm on these discussion boards in my class, like challenging these other students who at some point, at some level, are just kind of like taking whatever it takes to get through. You know, because we're all on a journey, and for me the journey was inerrancy wasn't going to work for me anymore. Like I don't know how I'm going to work that back into my vocabulary. I was in a hard place. Like it seemed fake, it seemed false. There were errors, and to me they weren't monumental. I could see and see that they weren't monumental errors, but there were errors. So what do I do with this? What do I...where do I go? And I felt duped.

Let me say it this way: I felt like why didn't someone tell me this? Why didn't someone say when I was in junior high, when I was in high school, when I was in undergrad, early on in graduate school, why didn't someone tell me that these things existed? That these textual criticisms, historical criticisms of the Bible, existed? Why are they flooding me right now in this moment, and why is it hitting me like a ton of bricks where I'm like, I have a...okay, at the time I have a Bible degree in undergrad, I'm about to finish a Bible degree in my master's, and I'm like, 'I don't know if I believe in the Bible.' Right? Could you imagine if you're like, 'I don't know if I believe in science anymore, and I'm a scientist.' Like, that's a problem, right? This is like an existential crisis that I'm going through!

But then I realized that there was a tradition that considered the Bible to be inspired, alive, and active, and generally reliable and authoritative and transforming and needing to be read and understood in the context in which it was written. No matter some of these petty errors, I still believed the Bible was alive and active, and I still believed in God. Because at this point, there was nothing challenging my view of God. I was like, there has to be a God, because that for me was easy. I just look around the world, and that's always come easy to me. I see an infinitely complex universe, and I say, 'There is an intelligent designer.' I don't know what you want to call it, but there's something out there that's intelligent that's beyond me. I couldn't have designed this amazing, beautiful world that we live in with the complexities. But I was being transformed, transformed in some crazy ways.

And so what I want to do, is as I thought about what we would talk about as we open up and unpack this small passage that has this huge life force, was just five things that just kind of kept me from just saying, 'Forget the Bible,' and walk away. By the way, I went through undergrad with people who were desiring to become pastors, and I think, I sat down with my friend Mark, who was also...went to school with me, and we talked about our class, and we talked about how 50% or more are already not in ministry. And there's a large reason for that. Some went to really difficult churches and had really heartbreaking experiences, some had crises where they stopped believing and lost their faith altogether like this. So there have been some who have had this moment and responded to say, 'Forget God, forget the Bible,' and walked away, and the truth is I've met some of you out there who have had that experience.

And what I want to say is there were these few things that kind of kept me tethered to the Bible that I want to share with you today that I think are helpful for us. So these are going to be our take-home tweets of the day. Five points that might help you as you journey through the Bible, or maybe you're not there yet. Maybe someday in the future you're going to have this crisis of conscience like where you're going to be like, 'I don't know if I believe in the Bible anymore,' and these might be helpful things. Or you know someone who's going through something like this and you can maybe share these with them. But here they are:

Tweet #1

We actually have 25,000, roughly 25,000, manuscripts that help us construct the New Testament, okay? This is the most of any ancient document in history. So it's really important that we understand when we're talking about the Bible, when we're talking about this collection of books, we actually have quite a bit of evidence. The next closest ancient document has 900, and that's Homer's Iliad. And so you look at this, and you look at anything ancient, any text that's ancient, if we cannot conclude that the Bible is historically reliable, then we must conclude that all ancient text is really not very reliable. So that for me was huge. This was a huge thing for me because I wanted to come at it from just a critical lens and say, 'Alright, is the Bible well-preserved? Is it historically reliable? What's going on here?'
Another great thing to note is you have a Jewish historian by the name of Josephus who references Jesus, who references the movement of Jesus, in his writings, and this is happening at the same time that Jesus is there, so he sees Him, he acknowledges this is happening, so you have outside sources. This for me was another big, helpful tether, if you will, to keep me on board.
Tweet #2

So, while it totally wrecked my world that there were a few errors, or potential errors, in the Bible, because I was taught there were no errors, no possibility for errors, it was sealed tight, and some of you have been taught that same thing. And we could talk deeper about this, because some of you are going to be like, 'Justin, this is earth-shattering, we need to talk.' And we can get coffee this week. Let's chat, okay? But because if it was me, I would've been the same...it would've been the same thing for me.

So 98% of the New Testament text is not in question. Let me say that again: 98% of the New Testament text is not in question. Even the most liberal scholars would say 95% of the text is not in question. So anywhere from 2% to 5%,  so in even the 2% to 5% of the text that might be considered questionable leaves us with more question marks than answers. Here's the way to think about it: You might be looking at a text, okay, and you might say we're not sure where this came from, we're not sure how this got in this book, we're not sure if it's with this particular author, it doesn't seem to be pieced together the right way, this manuscript doesn't have it there, but this one does. What do we do with it? And you might say it's 80% reliable. You might say it's 60% reliable. You might say it's 90% reliable. But if you don't say it's 100% reliable, it's not reliable, and it falls into the questionable. Does that make sense? So when I say we have 2% to 5% that's questionable, what I'm really saying is this huge questionable category? There's a lot of potential in this category that what's questionable isn't necessarily an error, but something that happened over time that we don't have the manuscripts to show the connection. Okay? And that might be a little complex for some of you, but the point is to say it's generally reliable. Generally reliable.

Tweet #3

Like I said earlier, for me, believing in God wasn't an option to come undone. That was, for me, just easy. I don't know why. Maybe it was a product of my upbringing, a product of the way I see the world, I don't know, but I knew God was there. I didn't have any threat of becoming an atheist through this process, but I certainly had a threat of like not knowing who God was. Well, the Bible gives us clarity on who God is. We're here, and someone made us, and what is this being that made us? Well, the Bible has the answer to this question. And the Bible even goes further in the New Testament and says the character of God is found perfectly in Jesus. Hebrews 1:3 tells us "The radiance of His glory, the exact representation of His being is found in Jesus." And so now I'm like, man, this Jesus that I'm in love with, that has made me like want to serve people, made me want to like be a pastor, like the Bible tells me that this is what God looks like. I can get down with that, right? Like, I...I can...yes! I can worship that God and so for me, that kept me tethered, to be able to say the Bible helps me know God. Even more, the Bible helps us know ourselves.

Tweet #4

The Bible helps us know ourselves. We can see ourselves all throughout the Bible in the characters. If not yourself, we certainly see humanity represented, right? We see humanity's need and tendencies, we see humanity's flaws, we see humanity's triumphs. We see politics, we see science, we see all kinds of things throughout the Bible that we can see humanity flourishing and humanity at war with each other. Things we still wrestle with today in the 21st century, we see humanity wrestling with throughout the text. So interesting that it teaches us something about ourselves.

Let's just take one story to show what it teaches about ourselves. Take the story of Jonah. We all know the story of Jonah maybe. What's the most overwhelming piece of the Jonah story that we all know? What is it? {congregation response} The whale! Right? The whale! We all know the whale from the Jonah story. And that is a detail, an important detail, but here's something interesting about the Jonah story that it informs us for today.

Consider you're Jonah, okay? Consider you are Jonah, you're living in this time, and you are asked by God to go to Nineveh. Let me tell you what that's like. That's like being asked to go serve the message of God to ISIS. Nineveh was like brutal. Nineveh flayed people alive {flayed: staked to a peg and having your skin torn off}. That's what they did. So Jonah, what does he naturally do? What would any of us do? We'd be like, 'Oh, God, no, I'm okay. I'm gonna go this way.' Like, right? I mean...and so we're sitting here and we're like, 'Jonah, man, you're a joke. What are you doing?' No! No, he's not! He's what any of us might do in the same exact situation. And so what happens? God gets his attention through a series of events that includes the whale, which we end up highlighting. 'Whoa! Look at that! He was swallowed by a whale, how cool!' And then we forget the rest of the story.

Well, the rest of the story goes he gets thrown up on the shore of Nineveh where he was supposed to go the whole time because God's like, 'I'm gonna get your attention. You're gonna do what I say.' And He finally gets him there, and then what does he do? He's like, 'Okay, I'll go ahead. I'll tell 'em. I'll buy into this suicide mission to go in here and tell Nineveh about You. It's not gonna work out, God. I know things better than You.' And he goes and he tells them, 'Repent or else God is going to punish you.' And then all of a sudden they're like, 'Really? Oh, no!' And they actually start repenting! And they don't just start repenting, it gets back to the king, the king repents, and the king sets a decree that everyone must repent. The whole nation is in repentance. And what's Jonah doing? Jonah's like, 'You gotta be kidding me. This is not how this was supposed to work. These people? These people get God's grace? Are you kidding me?'

So he goes, and he sits on a hill over the city, overlooking the city, waiting for God's judgment to come down because he wants fire to come down. He's like, sooner or later God's going to send fire. And he sits there, and he sits there, and he sits there. And the story ends with him...him...kind of resenting God. Like, 'How could You offer Your grace to these people?'

So what does this story have to teach us? This story teaches us: Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Hope the best for even the worst people. Hope for salvation even for those who are so far from God. The same things that Jesus tells us...already on display in Jonah. We are in the Bible. Your and my tendencies, but yet we also see the downfalls of these characters and the downfalls within our own character of when we decide to say, 'No, God, You got it wrong.'

And we can learn from the story of Jonah and say look, wow, I don't know if I'm ever going to be called to anything that radical, but what I do know is that God clearly wants me to pray for those who persecute me, to love my enemies, to seek the best even for the worst people. Wow. That's transformative. The Bible knows humanity. It knows us really well actually.

Finally, the thing that tethered me. The Bible helps us know how to live.

Tweet #5

The Bible helps us know how to live. Let's just take one passage for example: The Fruits of the Spirit. The Fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. So we think about these character traits. If you were looking for a friend and they had all these character traits and you weren't a believer in Jesus, would you probably say that's a good friend? You probably would say that's a pretty good friend. These are some pretty serious character traits. You could spend your whole life trying to live in this area and it be incredibly difficult, but these certainly are at the very least great character traits that we would all desire to have within our lives. The Bible teaches us how to live a life with purpose and meaning and integrity. And so we see that even in this one passage but in multiple others.

I remember hearing a story of a guy who was at work and he was on his lunch break, and as he was on his lunch break...he was a pretty quiet guy, and a group of employees started talking. They started talking about love, they were talking about relationships, and it eventually got to love, and he usually kind of sat off to the side, and eventually they started asking, 'What's love?' Like, define love. What is love? And so they started sharing. One person says, you know, 'Love is someone who comes into your life and takes care of you.' And then someone else comes in and says, 'Love is someone that trusts you and you trust them, and that is a loving relationship.' And they kept going around and sharing all their different views on love, and eventually they included the quieter employee and asked him. They said, you know, 'What do you think love is?' And he responded, he said, 'I think love is patient, I think love is kind, it doesn't envy, it doesn't boast, it's not proud, it doesn't dishonor others, it's not self-seeking, it's not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, it always trusts, it always hopes, it always perseveres. That's what I think love is.' And like everyone's jaw drops because this guy's been so quiet and now he shares this. And like someone speaks up and goes like, 'Is that a poem or something?' And then someone else says, "No, no, no, no, it's from a movie. What movie's it from?' Like and they're like trying to figure out like what's it from, they're like, 'This is awesome.' And the truth is it's from 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7. It's God telling us what love is. The Bible helps us know how to live.

All of these things are true, at least in my estimation. The Bible is this life force. It is alive and active, but active to the point that we allow it to be in our lives. And this is why it's so important to read it because the more we read it, the more active it is.

Now I want to acknowledge something really quickly. The Bible's intimidating because as I talk to people usually it's like, 'I want to read the Bible but I don't know where to start.' Right? That's kind of the thing. Or 'I want to read the Bible but every time I open it, it's so confusing.' So a few just quick practical things.

Get a translation you understand because if you're reading in a translation that was written in 1600, we don't talk like that anymore and you don't have to either. So don't...you don't have to like read it like that. So, a few translations...the translation we usually use here on Sunday is New International Version. That's one of the most popular translations. You can also get a version that's like really easy to understand like The Message, which is a paraphrase but still very good, very accurate. So I would check that out. There's other translations, too, we can talk about.

For me, what lit me on fire to make me want to study the Bible was the book of James. It's my favorite book in the Bible; still is to this day. My high school youth pastor pulled me aside and said, 'Hey, I want to do a Bible study with you, and I'd love to do the book of James. Let's do it.' And so I did that, and for me, that moment was like the moment of like, 'Wow. I love the Bible. I want to learn more about the Bible.' If you're looking for a book to start with that's really practical and really easy to understand, the book of James is that book. Start there; that's a great place to start. Another great place to start is the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Any of these books are going to be stories of Jesus, great opportunities to learn more about who Jesus is, and not just who Jesus is... who God is because again like I said earlier, God is revealed fully in Jesus. So these are great opportunities, great places to start.

And I would also encourage you, don't read alone. Read with somebody. Maybe it's a friend, maybe it's a co-worker, maybe it's a spouse, maybe it's a family member, whoever. Read with somebody and then process it together. You know, we actually did a growth group on James, and we would read the text together and then we would talk about it together, we would ask questions, we would process it together. It's so beautiful to process in community because your experience is different than the other person's experience and you come at it differently and you're able to see that this word of God is active and alive. It's alive in that person's life, and it's active in different ways, and it's beautiful because you start to say, 'Wow, this passage doesn't just have one meaning, it has multiple meanings. Things can be pulled out of it that I'm not even aware of, and then you start to study the history and you see, 'Wow, the context of what was happening at this time is so interesting.' If you want some Bible study tools, come talk to me. I can get you some of that. I can get you access to that stuff.

Hey, look, we read because we want to be alive and active for the Kingdom of God in this world, and the scriptures are still that. They're not some old "back then" type of thing that's, you know, old and that's not really helpful, that's ancient, that's not helpful for today. You know what? The world has changed way too much since then to now for that to have any impact. It does have impact because when you share what love is like that story, people are like, 'Whoa. That's really good. That's a really good definition of love.' I dare you to find a better definition of love than what we find in 1 Corinthians. It's a beautiful definition of love. It's powerful, it's active, it's alive today.

May we come to know that the Bible is life giving and it is there for us to be activated within us, may we find that the Bible is reliable and that it is transforming, and may we come to expect the scriptures to be alive and active within us. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, You have inspired the words of the Bible; we're so thankful for that. We have words on a page. Help us to take these words on a page and make them lives lived out for You.

Love: We need more of it.

Joy: Help us not to be cynical; help us to be joyful in life.

Peace: There's so much conflict in our world. We know only You can bring peace, so show us how to be peacemakers.

Patience: Slow us down so we're not in such of a hurry that we can actually be patient.

Kindness: Allow our words to actually show kindness for the individual that we're talking to.

Goodness: Let us live lives with integrity that we can really say we're a good individual.

Faithfulness: Help us be faithful to the commitments we make.

Gentleness: Let us not be so harsh with others but to be gentle.

Self control: Let us have control, Lord. Bring us to a place where we can have healthy control over ourselves.

These can take a lifetime to figure out, God, and this is just one small portion of the Bible. The Bible has so much to teach us, so we pray Your spirit would use the words of the scriptures to reveal to us the areas we need to be transformed. As we open up our Bibles this week, I pray You would meet us in that space. As we talk with others about the scriptures we're reading, I pray we would find encouragement. Lord, I pray that we would fall in love with the scriptures, that we would receive life from Your word. Remain alive and active in our life. In the name of Jesus, amen.

 

7/17/16 - Tweetables - We Love Others

The Bridge Life Connection

Tweetables: We Love Others                                                                           Sunday, July 17, 2016

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Well good morning again. I don't know how many of you guys saw this random kid down here head-banging {congregation laughter}. Who is this kid down here? I don't know who his father is. He needs to get on him. It's my son. My son was down here. This is his way of worshiping Jesus {Justin bangs his head}. I've taught him well. Moving on...

So last week, I was in Florida. I was at general conference for the Brethren in Christ, that's the denomination we're a part of, and Carmen brought the life connection. Give it up for Carmen! {applause} She did a great job! Wow. She opened our Tweetables series and did an amazing job. I was so blessed to have her do that but also to listen to the podcast. She did an amazing job.

So last week as Carmen opened, we talked about Twitter, this social media app that allows us to send out a message or a link or a picture or a video or other things. We can send all this stuff out. Here's my Twitter page if you want to follow me: @justindouglas {screen shot on projection screen} This is my page on a desktop if you pulled it up. I was like early adopter to Twitter. I was like, in the first two years, I opened a Twitter and I just left it aside and like never touched it, never played with it. So like I actually have my real name, @justindouglas. Very few people can do that. I'm sure I could probably sell that or something to some other Justin Douglas out there.

But Twitter's this unique thing that allows you to send out a message that only has 140 characters, so a really concise and short message. So the purpose of it is to make communication simple, right? Because none of us love reading a novel. None of us really love even anymore reading an article, right? The truth is, the way you read articles now is you see the headline and then you start commenting on Facebook without reading ever reading the article, right? {Justin laughs} Let's be honest {Justin raises his hand} if you've done that. I've done that. Right? We've all done that.

So you read the article. You're like, headline! What are they talking about? And then you comment and someone comments under you, 'Did you actually read the article?' and you're like, 'You caught me.' Right? But we do this. We love concise information, simple information, simplify the conversation. Some might say oversimplify the conversation and the information because sometimes it's far more complex than you can throw into 140 characters. Nonetheless, Twitter has changed the way we communicate.

They're only 10 years old, and it's a massive platform for social media, but now we communicate more short and to the point. Not only Twitter but other things have brought our attention span to an all-time low. Like we have no attention span for information anymore because we're so used to consuming information in small, little clips. And Twitter has been this.

So this Tweetables series, what we're thinking about in this Tweetables series is there are small passages of scripture that pack big meaning. But there's really...it's under 140 characters, but it has huge punch and it has huge influence in the way that we live out our faith. Big meaning can be packed into 140 characters or less, and we see this throughout the Bible.

So last week, we saw that Jesus was asked a question on what the greatest commandment was. So just a recap, a Pharisee asked Jesus this question, and here's what He said, and we're going to do it in Twitter form. ".@Jesus, because then everyone sees it, right? Those of you who use Twitter know this. Okay, I'll walk you through it really quick. If you say @Jesus, just @Jesus, then it just goes to Jesus and no one else sees it. Wow, this is really weird that the Twitter name is Jesus, I feel like this is awkward. But if you have a Twitter handle, if you're sending me a message, you could say @justindouglas and then it just goes to me, but if you put the period before it (.@justindouglas), then it actually goes to everyone. Everyone sees it. So, there we go.

Jesus replied..." {Justin laughs} I don't know why I went all that. @Jesus replied to @ReligiousLeaders, Love the Lord your God with all your #heart and with all your #soul and with all your #mind. Jesus said it just like that actually. But Carmen showed us last week about all these different ways that we love God and how we love God fully with our heart, our soul, and our mind.

Now, Jesus, interestingly enough, doesn't end the conversation there. Jesus is asked one question, 'What's the greatest commandment?' And Jesus, usually when asked a question, replies in a parable. He doesn't reply straight up. He kind of makes you think about it, makes you have to unpack it. He replies straight up, 'The greatest commandment Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind.' Okay. Then, He says, 'There's more.' {Justin chuckles} Jesus said more to the religious leaders. "Love your neighbor as yourself." #micdrop, #loveothers, right?

Because the interesting thing here, and the reason this is a mic drop moment...and we're kind of all watching the political stage right now, right? When you ask a politician a question, what's the first thing they do? Don't answer it, right? They sidestep it, what else can I say? And this is on both sides, so I don't care what side of the aisle you're on. They are masters at not answering the question you asked and answering something else. Jesus says, 'I'm going to answer your question, and I'm going to tell you what the second greatest commandment is.' And it's like, whoa! Jesus is offering more information than even the question He was asked, and He's going to make a point with this.

The point is...He says this after that, 'All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.' When He says all the law and the prophets, what He's meaning is the entire Old Testament, which at that time was the Bible. Okay? The New Testament was being lived. The entire Old Testament hangs on these two commandments: Love God; love others. Who's he looking at when he says this? People who have done a great job loving God, at least outwardly. They show up to the temple, they pray, they give a tenth of their stuff, but they have done a pretty poor job of loving others. And so Jesus goes to the extra step to say, 'Love others.'

So today as we talk about this, as we think about this - the second commandment - and we ask ourselves why...why is this so important that Jesus answers the question of love God, and this is so important, this is the greatest commandment, but then feels this need to throw out the second greatest commandment in that moment...and then link them both together, that everything hangs on these two. Why is that so important? Because the Pharisees loved God, but they did not love others. They had this reputation, all throughout the New Testament they had this reputation. Jesus is reminding them that the first and second commandments are linked. You can't have one and not the other; they go together. You can't love God without loving God's creation. Right?

So the Pharisees had a reputation, right? Here's the definition of reputation just because we're going to talk a lot today about the word reputation. "The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something." So, do you know that you have a reputation? Think for a minute. What is your reputation? Take a moment; think about it. If you're bold enough, lean over to your spouse and ask 'Dude, what's my reputation?' Don't do it; don't do it. That's a bad idea. No, I'm just kidding. {Justin laughs.} Right? Lean over to your child and be like, 'Tell me what my reputation is.' 'Dad, I just wanna play XBox. I'm grounded.' No, I'm just kidding.

But we have a reputation, and sometimes our reputation goes through seasons where it can be maybe on a mountaintop. 'Man, I feel good the way people look at me, the way people see me, the way people perceive me.' And then it can go through valleys where our reputation is struggling. Sometimes it's really not a matter of our integrity. It can be a perception. It's not reality maybe. Other times it can be reality. It can be that we've treated other people wrongly.

It seems that the Pharisees had a clear reputation of treating the marginalized in their community really as outsiders, as if they weren't worthy of God. Jesus has a big problem with this. Jesus has a big problem, so when He comes, He says, well, why don't I go on the other side of that and hang out with the prostitutes and hang out with the tax collectors and show the love of God to these individuals that are so starved for the love of God because all of the religious leaders of their day have said, "No, no, you're not worthy. You're not worthy.' And you're just watching this radical person constantly come into conflict with this system that says loving God is the greatest command. Loving God is the greatest command. These people don't love God so they're not worthy. Jesus says, 'Hold on, you've missed another very vital command. These commands balance each other out. These commands are to be put together. Love God, love others.'

So the last three weeks, I've been trying to buy a used car, okay? And what's the largest adopted perception/reputation of a used car salesman? Holler! Holler it out! {responses from audience called out} Slippery? Yes! Yes! I wrote a few down from my experiences, but then I realized I can't say those in church, so I ended up going with dishonest, cheat, liar, sketchy. Sorry if there's a used car salesman in the room right now. But this is the large perception, right, of used car salesmen? Used car salesmen are kind of like, 'I will do anything to get that sale.'

So let me take you on a journey really quick, okay? The first vehicle that I looked at, this was back before 4th of July, the first vehicle I looked at and got serious about and started, you know, wheelin' and dealin', you know, because that's how it works. I went to him, I'm sitting down, and I'm like, 'I want to have my mechanic look at it.' And this is what they say, they say {in Justin's best disreputable, reptilian used car salesman voice}, "Your mechanic doesn't need to look at it, Mr. Douglas. Let me tell you why. Our service department operates independently of us, so they ran through the whole car and it is all good. It is great! It is perfect! It passed inspection, everything's good.' I said, 'Sir, your service department has the same name as your used car salesman, so like I don't think, since the service department and you have the same name, that they can really fully operate independent.' 'Well trust me, Mr. Douglas. Here's the CarFax, here's all this.' I'm like, 'Mike, I'm having my guy look at it.' And he's like, 'Well, we're up against the holiday weekend, and you know, I don't know if we can do that, you know. I'm sure that there's other people interested in this vehicle.' And I just sat there and said, 'Well, I'm going to be here until you guys close. I'm going to sit right here until you close, and if you want to think creatively about how you can loan me the car for the weekend so that I can have my mechanic look at it, then I'll leave here and I'll go have my mechanic look at it.'

Finally, five minutes to close, he finally decided, 'Alright, I'll let you have the car for the weekend.' And so I take the car for the weekend, I have my mechanic look at it. My mechanic looks at it and says there's three things wrong with it: there's a broken engine motor mount, there's like a rusted-out transmission line, and there's all this stuff. So I take it back to him, and I'm like, okay, here's pictures, here's proof this is all messed up, and they're like, 'Hey, you're getting a great deal. You should just fix it yourself.' What?! What world are you living in, sir? And so I'm like, 'No, no, no, no, no, I'm not interested.' And then he says, 'No, here's what you should do. Here, I got a better idea. I got a better idea. Let's just go through it, sign everything, and then activate the warranty right afterwards, and we'll fix it for you because you'll activate the warranty.' I'm like, 'Sir, I know how warranties work. If I know there's issues before, those issues aren't valid on warranty.' I'm just sitting here like, can a guy buy a car? Like, I just wanna buy a car. Why is this so difficult?

So then I go to my second place, and this was on Thursday, this last week on Thursday. And the second place I go to, I find a car, but it's a decent click away. It's like an hour and a half away. And so because it's the car I'm looking for, so I'm like, 'I'll go.' But I call ahead of time, we're negotiating over the phone, they're like, 'We won't negotiate price over the phone. You have to come here.' So I ask her, I say, 'So, when I get there, there's room on the sticker price, right? There's room on the sticker price.' And she goes, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Once you get here, we can negotiate.' So I pull on the lot, and of course, Sara, who I'm talking to...I should not have said a name. I don't know. Oh, well, you guys don't know Sara, so she's just...anyway, she sends Juan out to me, and Juan comes out to me and this is interesting how used car salesmen work, just the whole hierarchy of it. I almost want to go study it for a week because it's interesting. But, sends him out to me, and he's like, 'Hey, man!' And the thing is they always compliment you, right? They're like, they shake your hand like, 'Hey, man! Ohhh, nice tattoo, man! Ohhh, I like your hair, man!' It's like, 'Stop kissing my butt, I'm just trying to buy a car!' Like, come on! Like, what are you doing? I'm not here to be your friend, I'm here to make a transaction.

And they want to make you feel good because they know you'll buy something if you feel good. That's not me, though. I'm there to buy a car. So I'm sitting here, I'm talking to him, and he's trying to hand me the keys, and I won't take them. Because I'm like, 'Uh, we talked over the phone and we said there was wiggle room, so let's start, you know, talking about this before I take it to go get it inspected.' You know? Let's talk about this. And he's like, 'Oh, man, I wish there was, but you know man, there's just not room on the sticker price.' I'm like, 'Dude, I just drove an hour and a half, so Sara's going to need to come out here and have a conversation with me because there was wiggle room over the phone and now there's not wiggle room.' And he goes, 'Well, here's the deal, man, we did everything we could to get you that interest rate, you know? We worked so hard to haggle with the bank to get you that great interest rate, so we just don't have room.' I'm like, 'Man, my credit score got me that interest rate, sir.' That's what, I'm like, 'You didn't haggle with any bank.' I'm sitting here having an argument with this guy, and I'm like why can't I just buy a car? Finally he said, 'There is room. Just take it and get it inspected. There's room.' You know? So finally I take it and get it inspected, and it has an oil leak, which the mechanic said, 'I wouldn't touch this car with a 10-foot pole because it could be a broken head gasket.' You're about to get this nice, you know, newer car, and you don't want to start it off with an oil leak.

So finally, third time's the charm apparently, so yesterday we actually, I actually drove off the lot with a car, but here's how the conversation went. The guy answers the phone, because this is another one that's further away, and I say, 'Listen, man, please...it has been a heckuva time trying to find a car. Just be honest with me, and I will not walk. We will have a deal if you can just be honest with me.' And he like really actually respected that and was super honest with me through the whole process. But there's a reputation, okay, for used car salesmen, and I guess, at least in my experience, I would argue the reputation has not changed {Justin laughs}. I don't know if that's how you've experienced car sales, and maybe you have a dealer that you're like, 'Justin, this is the dealer to go to,' please come tell me afterwards because I would love to not have gone through what I've gone through the last three weeks.

But we know certain people have certain reputations that are in our life, certain organizations, or certain job titles might have a perception. Now that's not the case for every used car salesman. I've got to believe, I have hope, that there are some good used car salesmen out there who are honest individuals, but the truth is there's a reputation.

Now let's all take some time to think inwardly. What is the reputation of a Christian? What is the reputation of a Christian? Specifically a Christian in North America. What is the reputation of a Christian? In 2007, unChristian was published. There's a picture of the book cover right here {on projection screen}. The subtitle was What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It Matters. 

So this was done in 2007. It was done with the Barna Research Group, and they did extensive research primarily asking young people 16 to 29 this question: What is your perception of Christians? In essence, what is Christianity's reputation in North America? Let me show you what this said.

91% - anti-homosexual

87% - judgmental

85% - hypocritical

75% - too involved in politics

71% - insensitive to others

Here's a quote from their research: "Many of the young Christians have found their elder believers to be unChristian in their attitudes and actions. They, too, may easily become as disaffected as their outsider peers. We have a serious problem. A huge chunk of a new generation has concluded that they want nothing to do with us. As Christians, we are widely mistrusted by a skeptical generation." Our reputation in 2007 amongst young people 16 to 29 was widely mistrusted. Those 16- to 29-year-olds are now 25- to 38-year-olds, and the gap seems to be growing.

Now, let me acknowledge that this is 9-year-old research, so certainly a lot could change, but most people...lists that I look at that are more current, maybe not as research-based data, but other more recent lists say things like this:

Christians are opposed to science.

Christians just want my money.

Christians are out of touch; they're not relevant.

Christians are hostile toward the LGBT community.

Christians are behind on issues of social justice.

Christians are arrogant.

Christians are too political.

And I could go on and on about things and lists that I find that are out there that are real, but most of us would probably agree that these 2007 perceptions and reputation still exist today. And I guess what I would say is this, as I've talked to many of you, I would say some of you have felt the consequences of that reputation. Some of you have been hurt by the very things that are listed on that page. The same way buying a car was exhausting because of the dishonesty that I had to work through, the reputation of the church can be exhausting to people who are looking for hope, people who are looking to feel loved, people who are saying, 'Tell me more about this Jesus guy because I know there's something more in life than what I'm living,' and then they're met with something very different.

What was missing from this list? What was missing from this list? Love. Love! You're telling me that an entire generation...and you can say 16- to 29-year-olds, 'Oh, those young whippersnappers. They don't know anything about life.' Right? You know, I mean, you can say that, but I'm saying we didn't even get like 51% look at the church and say, 'They love me. They love others.' That's hard.

Let's read our Tweetable for today. This is our scripture for today. It comes from John 13:35. "Jesus said, 'By this, #everyone will know you are my #disciples if you #loveoneanother.'" By this, everyone will know you are my disciples if you love one another.

Who will know? Everyone will know. What will they know? They will know that you are My disciples; you are followers of Jesus. How will they know it? Not because of the things we saw listed a moment ago. How will they know that you're My disciples? They'll know that because of your love for others.

At The Bridge, we want to be a place that challenges and even dares to challenge the reputation that the church has. Our first core value out of the gate and probably the one we lead with in nearly everything is Belonging By Acceptance. Creating a space of belonging and acceptance for everyone. Here's the tagline under it: We believe people need relationships with God and others in which they will be received with non-judgmental love. We desire to give people the right to explore, ask questions, voice doubts in a community that accepts and expresses the love of God.

This is our value and this has been our value or coming up on 16 years. This isn't something new for us. Nine years ago when that research was made, this was us, this continues to be us today because we believe Jesus says 'Love God,' and certainly we love God, but we can't do that without tangibly loving others. And here's the deal, here's the thing the Pharisees didn't want to do. They recognize loving others means you're going to get messy. Loving others means you're going to be around people who don't have everything together all the time. But really, if you're just loving people who have everything together, they're just wearing a mask anyway. Both are essential to what it means to follow Jesus.

So today, I asked you earlier, 'What is your reputation? What are you known for?' Well, if you follow Jesus, if you believe in Jesus, the thing you should be first and foremost known for is your love for others. That you're a person who's patient, that you're a person who's kind, that you're a person who's humble, that you're a person who's selfless, that you're a person who cares about others. These are just some of the many markers of love that are listed in the scriptures. So how are we doing? Because I want to take it away from just The Bridge, I want to think about you personally, think about myself personally. How am I doing? Am I taking advantage of every opportunity to show that I follow Jesus through the way I love each individual I interact with on a daily basis?

We fail. We're never going to get this all the time right. This is the beautiful thing about grace is that we fail; our reputation suffers. None of us in this room has a perfect reputation because none of us are deserving of a perfect reputation. We've done things. The point is, though, as we desire to follow Jesus, we recognize we can't do that without loving others, even above ourselves. What a crazy thing to command.

The world wants to know Jesus. I firmly believe this. People know there's something else, and they don't know what it is. The want to know Jesus, but the only way they can really, truly know Jesus is through the power of love. We get to be that. The best evangelism, the best outreach we can possibly do, is to love the people that we have opportunities to love...tangibly. So today, may your reputation be love. May you take the steps to love those around you even when it's difficult because it probably will be difficult at times. And may you discover that loving others is the greatest way to share the hope of Jesus to the world. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we love You so much. We love You with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind, and we recognize Your call for us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Even further, we recognize that we are marked as followers of You, and the world knows us as that when we love. So, Lord, we love others. That is a marker of what it means to follow You. It is such a short and simple concept, yet it can take a whole lifetime to even come to a place where we feel like we've even roughly figured it out. So we pray for Your spirit to be alive and work within us because we fail more often at this than we succeed, but we strive to take hold of every opportunity to love the people that You place around us. You have given us opportunities to be more patient, even though we want to stop praying for those because it's so hard to be patient sometimes. You've given us opportunities to be kind even though sometimes we're short-tempered.

Lord, as You give us opportunities to show tangible love to the people around us, we pray that we would take those opportunities, that we would say yes to those opportunities, that we would love fully because when we love fully, it is an extension of Jesus to our world. Be with us in those times, in those opportunities, and may our reputation grow. When this statistic is done again, when this research is done again and we see the statistics, may it be that love defines the church. May it be that they felt cared for and that's their impression of the church. Lord, restore the reputation to where we would look more and more like You each and every day. In the name of Jesus, amen.

7/10/16 - Tweetables - We Love God

The Bridge Life Connection

Tweetables: We Love God                                                                               Sunday, July 10, 2016

Speaker: Carmen Dickerson - Member of Leadership Team, Ministry and Strategic Leadership, Next Generation Volunteer Group, Hospitality Team, Information Table, Rail Underground Renovation Project

Today I'm here to start a new series - Tweetables: Small Passages with Big Meaning. If you didn't notice, I am not the Lead Pastor Justin Douglas, nor am I the Next Gen Director Chip Hitz. Both of those gentlemen are out of town, so today you have me {applause}. If you don't know me, my name is Carmen Dickerson {raucous applause}. You guys are way too generous. {Carmen laughs} And I am going to bring you the beginning of our new series today.

So first, as a teacher, I feel like I need to define what Twitter is. So Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short, 140-character messages called Tweets. And so if you are not on Twitter, it's like Facebook, it's like Instagram, different things like that. So it's just a way for people to share information with each other. And Tweets can only be 140 characters, so it can't be very long. There's no whole big essays on there. It's only 140 characters, so it's very small. It has to be a message that is concise.

So, I use Twitter often. So if you look, teachers as a whole use...I'm a teacher...we use Twitter often, and data shows that out of the half a billion Tweets that go out per day, 4.2 million of those Tweets are related to education. So a lot time that I am on Twitter, I use it in a way to communicate education information, idea-sharing about projects, different things like that. So if you look up there {projection screen}, you'll notice it tells a little bit about me. It tells you that I'm a middle-school teacher, special education teacher in Pennsylvania. I'm a new teacher induction co-leader. I am also a middle-school math teacher. Up there it also says I'm a STEM junkie. What that means is, as a teacher that's the science, technology, engineering, math. I like that kind of stuff, so I put myself as a STEM junkie. And then also a little bit of personal information...I am a single sci-fi nerd. That's how I describe myself. Okay? So I follow lots of people who are like me.

So some of the people that I follow are other teachers, friends, and then of course the Kardashians {audience laughs}. Kim and Khloe, not Kourtney because she's annoying. Nobody wants to follow Kourtney. But then there are people who follow me. There are people out there who also follow me. If you look, I follow a lot more people than the people who actually follow me. But there are different ways that we do it, so we use it in education, and we use it to share ideas with other educators, we share ideas about projects, information, different things like that.

We can also use it for social reasons so that you know...I love to share this information...I follow a group, and this is the name of the group, it is called Black Girl Nerds. That is the group. I follow it, I love it. It's awesome because it is a whole group of women who are exactly like me, who are sci-fi nerd girls who are like me, and we can share ideas, and it's super cool if we did watch all of the Marvel things, we could talk about it and it's awesome. So that's one way that Twitter can bring people together by sharing information.

Also another way to do it is we share some information with just people that you love and things like that, so I follow a lot of my friends' children just to see what they're up to and things that are happening in their lives. So that's the social aspect that comes out too in Twitter. There's also...the other part that I like is the news and information. For example, Lower Dauphin...I work for Lower Dauphin School District...so they send out alerts on Twitter. So here's a funny story: one day we're in math class, and a little girl comes up to me, and she says, "Miss Dickerson, we're getting out early today." I said, "No, we're not, that's ridiculous. What are you talking about?" She goes, "It said so on Twitter," and she showed me her phone. And I was like, Lower Dauphin actually Tweeted out the information about our early dismissal before they even told the staff. {audience laughs} So I was like, "Okay, I guess we are getting out early today." So that is one way to communicate information.

There's also another one I like is 511PAHarrisburg. And all that is is PENNDOT giving out information about like traffic jams and things like that. So if you're outside and you're like 'What's going on?' You can pull up Twitter and pull up that. They tell you what's going on also. Another one of my favorites is VisitPhilly because it's close to us and sometimes there are fun things going there and I want to know what's going on, and they just post lots of fun like...festivals and street fairs and different things that they have like that. So, another way of just sharing ideas.

So I'm giving you all this information so that you know a little bit about Twitter. I'm not trying to sell it to you; I don't have stock in it. If you want to, you can give it, but I just want to let you know about it. So and also if you want to start following me, it is I am @trekkieangel, just in case you want to start following me. You don't have to, but if you want to. Okay?

Another big thing that we have to bring up is hashtags. Hashtags came about during this whole Twitter age, and let me tell you what a hashtag is. A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify a message on a specific topic. So there are different hashtags that people follow. If you click on that hashtag, it'll be a bunch of people who all want to talk about whatever that one topic is. Okay, so up here, I have other little hashtags that I may have followed and different things like that. And so I want to give you an example of perhaps hashtags gone wrong. So sometimes hashtags go a little bit wrong, and I want to show you a little bit about that. I have a little short video for you to watch. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57dzaMaouXA]

[Knock knock]

Jimmy Fallon: Hey, Justin, what's up?

Justin Timberlake: "Not much, Jimmy. #chillin What's up with you?"

JF: Just been busy working. #riseandgrind #isitfridayyet

JT: Hey, check it out. I brought you some cookies. #homemade #oatmealraisin #showmethecookie

JF: Sweet! #don'tmindifidon't Pretty good. #gettinmycookieon #imtherealcookiemonster #nomnomnomnomnomnomnom

JT: Delicious, right? #ididitallforthecookie #lollollollollollollollollollol

JF: #classic By the way, did you watch last week's episode of Duck Dynasty? #quackquack

JT: Naw, lately I've mostly been watching Netflix. #orangeisthenewblack

JF: Ah, nice. I've been watching a lot of Barney the Dinosaur. #purpleisthenewblack #iloveyouyoulovemewereahappyfamily #im38 #dinosaurs #howdidtheygoextinct #meteor #iceage #speakingoficeageijustwatchediceageondemandtheotherday #funny #rayromano #debra [in Ray Romano voice] Debra! Hey, by the way, Halloween's only like a month away.

JT: I know.

JF: I mean, do you know where you're going to be? #lifedecisions #sexyghost

JT: I think I'm going to go as a Ninja Turtle. #gottaberaphael #leonardosucks #theturtlenottheitalianrenaissancepainter #monalisa #isshesmiling? #speakingofsmilingijustsawmydentist #bling #dentalcare #cavityfree #thatshowwedo #wegohard #wecantstop {singing}

JF: {singing} We won't stop.

JT: #werunthis

JF: #trueplayasforlife

JT: #isitworthitletmeworkit

JF: #putmythingdownflipitinreverseit

Carmen: So that's how hashtags have gone wrong, so don't do that at all, please. But I, [Pastor] Justin's not here, so I get to...two of my favorite guys, Justin Timberlake {laughs} and Jimmy Fallon...so of course I get to watch them when I'm up here. He's not here, so that's what you get. {audience laughs}

Alright, so today I want to talk about our topic which is our Tweet, there is a Tweet that we have, our Tweetable, and it can be found at Matthew 22:37. And I'm going to read that to you. It says, "Jesus replied, 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.'" That's it. Under 140 characters. I counted it, it's about 105 characters, so it's really small. But there's a lot going on in that little verse.

So what I want to do first is I want to tell you what's going on during this passage when He's saying that. If you were here before, you might have remembered that at this time Jesus is being persecuted. There are people who want Him out, want Him away, want to kill Him, get rid of Him. So Jesus is in the temple, and He is teaching to a group of people, to a larger group of people, and prior to this verse, the Sadducees... they are the upper class, they are the teachers...and they had already asked Him a question and Jesus had shut them down. He was like done. And so everyone was like, 'Okay." And so the Pharisees see that. They were like 'Wow. Jesus just shut down the Sadducees. What are we going to do?'

So the Pharisees were like, 'Okay, let's ask Jesus a question. Let's us...we'll do it, we can do this.' So they want to ask Him a question, and so the question they asked Him was, 'Teacher, what is the best...most important commandment?' And so Jesus said this commandment. This was the one that He said was most important, and it was almost as if everyone should know that. Jesus was like...in my brain, when I hear this, Jesus was like, 'DUH. It's this.' And what Jesus was actually doing was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5. So He was quoting a Bible verse from the Old Testament, and He was saying that that one was the most important. And again, it's something that everyone should've known. So that is where this whole context is. So that is why Jesus is saying this. So this verse isn't even really new. It already sort of existed. Jesus...a lot of people were not really sure why He didn't exactly say what was said in Deuteronomy, but He is sort of saying that this is the most important thing is for us to love God.

So what I want to do today is talk about what that means. So we're going to unpack it a little bit. So I want to talk about the different ways that...how we can love God so that we all are aware of different ways that we can love God. One thing you need to know is that different people have different ideas on how this verse should be broken down. This is completely one of the ideas that I like. If you go out there on the Web, you talk to theologians, probably each one will have a different idea. So when I did my research... this is the one that I felt most clicked with me. The one that I thought was like, 'Yeah, that makes sense. This is what I feel is going on.' So I'm going to break down each of the different loves.

So the first one says "Love with all of your heart." And so what it says...one way we can interpret this is as the heart is equal to or equates to your conscious mind. Alright? So what you're almost thinking about. So your heart is that conscious mind. And what we need to know is that when we do something like that, love with the heart, it takes effort and it takes intentionality.

So what I'm going to do, and just so you know, I told you I'm a teacher, I like to teach with analogies; it helps my students to understand what's going on, so I'm going to give you an analogy. So my analogy for this one is coffee. If you think about coffee, the first time you drank it...or let's think of a four-year-old. The first time you probably drank hot, black coffee, you probably didn't enjoy it. You probably weren't like, 'This is the nectar of the gods. Why was I drinking milk? This is ridiculous. Give me coffee for the rest of my life.' People usually don't think of that when they drink coffee for the first time. It's a very strong beverage, it's very bold, okay? So it's something that...it's going to take intentionality to like it. Sometimes you might put a little milk in it, a little cream in it, but over time you may enjoy it. But it's going to take effort. It's not something that comes immediately. Okay?

Another analogy is...that I want to share with you...is my students. As a teacher, most teachers love their students, and I love my students. I love them all. And this one year, it's about two or three years ago, I had this little girl...she wasn't quite little, she was middle school...and I gave her the same amount of love that I gave all the rest, and she needed more, and I just did not...it just wasn't working. I was trying; it wasn't working. My heart was like, 'No thank you. I don't...mm-mmm, no thank you, I don't want that.' So I talked to my friend Teresa who is a guidance counselor, and she said, 'Carmen, she needs love.' So I was like, {exhausted} 'Okay, alright.' So literally in my brain I always think of like I'm downshifting, and so I'm like I have to kick this like, everybody else gets 100%, she's going to need 250, 250%. So I had to intentionally dig down and find the love for her. I had to find areas where I could really connect and find the good in her. And it took effort. It wasn't...all the other kids, right, it was fine. 'I love you, I love you, you're a nice person.' No, it took intentionality for me to love her. It took effort and took purpose. But...I was able to do it. And so that's what I want you to know with the heart. It's not always something that comes immediately. It takes effort; it takes intentionality. So, that's the heart.

Alright, the next one I want to talk about is your soul. And your soul, when you think about it, they equate that to your unconscious mind, so that can also be your spirit. And your soul and your spirit, those words can be interchangeable. And I really like the verse in Genesis 2:7, and it says, "And Jehovah God formed Man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and Man became a living soul." So, God gave us a soul. He breathed that soul into us. So everyone has a soul, and everyone has a soul that was given to us by God. That's that part inside of you, that unconscious part.

So when we go back to that story about that little girl, my soul was not in love with that little girl. My soul...mm-mmm... didn't...it wasn't there. My soul was like, mm-mmm, mm-mmm, I don't...mm-mmm. Sometimes you can think of your soul as your life, your personality, your inner self, your identity...that's that part that helps to dictate. And so going back to the coffee analogy, some people in their soul, they're just never going to love coffee. They never will, no matter how much effort or intentionality they put into it, they just won't like it. And that's fine. Okay, but that's your soul, that personality, is what defines that. So we can love God with our soul. Alright?

The next one is all of our mind, and the mind equates to your conscience. And I'm going to read the definition for conscience. "Conscience is the inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to rightness or wrongness of one's behavior." It's your moral sense. So your conscience is that thing in you that is telling you what is right and what is wrong.

My example for this one is...I'm just going to call it the handicapped tag. My parents are here; I told them I was going to show them out. So my mother has...if you know me...she's had some medical issues, so she has a handicapped tag. And so whenever I drive her around, she always wants to whip out her handicapped tag and say, 'Oh, park there; I have this handicapped tag.' And I say, 'Mom, I'm not handicapped.' I say, "Mom, I will drive you to the front door and carry you in, but I'm not handicapped. I'm not going to put that on my car because I'm not handicapped.' She's like, 'Well, I...' I say, 'I appreciate where you are, I understand where you are, and I will do whatever it takes to get you to wherever you need to be, but I can't put that on my car.' So that's that part of that conscience that is saying like I knew for me that was wrong. Other people might not sense that as wrong, but for me it wasn't right. And it was just so funny... we were yesterday...we were in front of Café Fresco and there was a handicapped spot, and my Dad's like, 'Oh, we should've brought the tag,' and my Mom said, 'Carmen wouldn't let us park there anyway.' {audience laughter} So that's that conscience, that inside part of you that is telling you what is right and what is wrong, and that is what's also used to help love God.

What you also have to know about your conscience mind is that it can be corrupted. So part of you, if you...and again, let's go with the handicapped tag...is if you're around people that are telling you it's okay, it's okay if you just park there, it's okay...you start to feel like it's okay. Or whatever that thing is that you know in your soul, in your mind, is wrong, it can be corrupted. It can be changed to be something that isn't good or something that you know goes against what you feel is true and right. So you have to be very careful and nurture it.

My one friend told me a story of there were two girls that went to college in the south. And both grew up in this area, both lived in Christian households, both went to church every Sunday. So the one girl went down and she went to school and she went to church on Sundays and she belonged to like Christian organizations, and she had a great time there. Another girl from the same area around here, she went down there, and she started to party and she was with a lot of different groups, and so she didn't last very long at that school. She knew it wasn't right, so she left. And so she communicated, 'Oh, that was a corrupt university, that university was corrupt, and it was wrong.'

But you have to see that not one place or one area is inherently bad or wrong. It's what you bring into it. So let's call it the University of Tennessee because...not that I'm saying it's wrong, but let's just use that as an example...University of Tennessee is not inherently bad or corrupt. Some people might feel it is, but some people might not. Okay? So whatever it is, whatever you bring to the table, you have to know that your conscience can be corrupted, it can be weakened, so you need to put yourself into areas where it can be strengthened and it can be revitalized.

Okay, so with all of that, I have a picture of what I feel like it looks like, and I sort of created this picture. Again, remember I'm a teacher. So here's how I see it working, all three of those working together. And again, I'm going to use the example of the little girl. So in this example, my soul...that little girl who was giving me problems...my soul was like, 'Uh, we don't like her. Let's go. She is annoying.' Okay, my soul was not in it and wanted to pull my heart with it. 'You don't have to...that's work. Don't do it.' Okay?

So the heart and the soul can be connected, but it's that conscience, that big conscience, that is holding it up and telling me what is right and wrong. So in my heart, I knew that that little girl, no matter how she tried me, she needed love. She needed more love than the other children. She needed it 200% instead of the 100%. So that conscience helped to grow those others, so it sort of pushed the soul to say, 'Hey, you know what needs to be done.' So the soul said, 'Okay, I have to get with this.' The heart had to put some effort into loving that little girl. The heart had to. Had to put praise into that little girl, effort, recognizing everything wonderful that she did and see the good in her. That's what the heart had to purposely and with effort had to do that. Okay?

What did happen was, by doing that, the soul learned to love that little girl. It wasn't forced, it wasn't fake. it was genuine, and it was real. And that little girl became one of my favorite children because I put a lot of energy into her. And my soul legitimately loved her. So if you use your conscience to help you guide where your soul and your heart need to be, that will definitely help you with your loving relationship with God. Okay?

So today I want to give you a couple of take-home Tweets. That's what we're calling them, take-home Tweets. So the first thing that I want to tell you is we have to understand that the goal of this verse is to tell us that Jesus wants us to have a loving relationship with God. That's His biggest thing. He could've picked any other verse. He could've said 'Thou shalt not kill.' He did not pick that. He wanted us to know that the most important thing for us is to have a loving relationship with God.

So our number 1 Tweet is to have that loving relationship with God. That's what He really wants from us. And I did put hashtags with all of these so #relationshipgoals. So you just want to make sure that that relationship is what you're having.

I had a little girl when I was growing up who lived in our neighborhood, and I was probably like 10, so she was maybe 8. And I remember one day we were together and we were talking about nightmares. I don't even know why we were talking about nightmares, but we were talking about nightmares. And we both went to the same church, our fathers were both deacons, and she told me...I was talking about nightmares, and she told me, 'Well, you know what I do when I have a nightmare,' she said, 'my Daddy said to just ask Jesus to not have any nightmares.' She said, 'So I just say, Jesus, can I not have any nightmares tonight?' She goes, 'And then I don't.' And I said, 'What? That is awesome. I didn't know you could do that.' She's like, 'Yep. just say, Jesus, I'd like not to have any nightmares.' I was like, 'Okay.' And I will tell you from the age of 10, that's what I did, and Jesus helped me. I just said, 'Jesus, I don't want to have any nightmares tonight,' and He does that for you. But you need that relationship first. You need to be able to trust in Him and know who He is.

For example, if you're at the grocery store and you're in line, and you turn to the person in back of you and you say, 'Hey, I have a meeting tomorrow, it's real early. Will you call me around 6:00 a.m.?' That person will look at you like you're crazy! They look at you like you're crazy because you don't have a relationship with that person. They don't know you; they don't know why you're asking that. That would be strange and weird. But if your sister is behind you in line, or if one of your friends is behind you in line, well that makes a lot more sense because you have a relationship with that person. So your goal is to create that relationship with God. God wants that relationship. So that's your first one is to create that relationship.

The second one is to read the Bible. #redwords You're welcome, Ray. My Dad, when we were talking about this...my sister and I are going over what hashtags are - my sister and I are like Justin and Jimmy up there. We're like, 'Ha ha ha, we're hilarious.' And my Dad says '#redwords.' And we're looking at him like, 'What are you talking about, Dad?' He goes, "No, no, no, don't you get it? Because then Jesus, when he talks in the Bible, those words are red, so then you should say #redwords." We're like, 'That has nothing to do about the pancakes we're talking about right now!' And then of course, he just kept saying '#redwords' all day long. So I'm including #redwords in there for my father. But it's also true. One of the ways to grow that relationship with God is to read the Bible. My advice to you is to start...if you're new to it and you're new to starting this relationship...start with the New Testament. That's the easiest one to start with. That's easy; you'll know who He is, you can understand Him. Jesus is a great person to figure out, and again He's the one who's talking with the red words.

And then there's other verses. One of my personal favorites is Jonah. Jonah is a great book to read. What I like about Jonah is it talks about how Jesus isn't going to ever give up on you. God will never give up on you, okay? And if you want to get to know God, just read Jonah. It's four chapters; it's very, very short. Piece of cake; read that. And the first three verses are awesome, too. I love the first three verses. Spoiler alert...no, I'm not going to give anything away any spoilers, just read it. You're going to like it. Okay? So -read the Bible.

The third thing that we're going to do, point 3, is be in relationships with people who love Him. So you could only grow together if you know there are people out there who love God, it's going to be easier to grow in that love. When I, let's say, go to see Star Wars, I want to be with people who love Star Wars, who know Star Wars, who can talk about Star Wars. We talk about every episode. We love it. I want to be with people who do that. Not my friend Tam, who knows nothing and keeps saying, 'What is that sword they keep bringing out?' And you're like {exasperated}, "Ahhh, it's not a sword, it's a light saber. Ohhh!' Okay? She doesn't get invited to Star Wars movies. I still love her, but she doesn't get invited. You want to be with people who know and share, okay? So if you're going to be in a relationship with God, you want to be with people who know Him. The easiest way to do that is to come to church. Doesn't have to be this church, it can be any church. You have to figure out where you feel the most comfortable. So go to a place where people are already in a relationship, are starting a relationship with God, so just go to a church. There are people there who do that.

Next one is four: Look for Him in nature. And you can just go out and meditate. I love to look at the clouds and know that He did that. Look at a flower; He did that. Look at the birds and know that He did that. All of those things, God did those. He had a purpose for those, and it helps you just talk to Him and figure out what was Your purpose with that? Another way to see Him...I always see it when I work with kids. Sometimes when you see kids and they're little, there's no filter there, so you have to know that the things that they're doing has to be generated by like a greater power...by God.

And then the other one I wanted to say was the...which one was it...good things happen. Things that are happening in the world where you're like, 'Yes! Thank you, Jesus.' And I bring up Malala Yousafzai, who is a girl, a Pakistani teen who is fighting for education in her country, and the Taliban shot her, and she still lived, and she's still out there trying to fight for her cause. So when things like that happen, and she is not brought down, you have to think you know, 'Thank you, God.' That is because of You. You are out there trying to do good things for us.

The next one is number five: Talk to God. #pray I liked #areyoutheregoditsmemargaret I don't know, there's some old people out there who know that one. Thank you very much. It's a book from the 1970s. Everyone who's a little younger than that, Google it. It'll be fun. But what you need to do is have a conversation with God. Start off small, just start talking the way you would normally talk. It doesn't have to be some prayer with thy and thous or anything like that in it. Just talk to Him.

And then what also you could do is, if you want to look for a little bit more structure in a prayer, just Google it. I was going to think of...give you some ways to do that, and then I was Googling it, and I was like, 'Oh, that's a great idea.' I'd go another page, 'Oh, that's really good, too.' 'Oh, that's awesome.' So I don't want to tell you what's going to work for you, you're going to have to find out how a prayer can be structured to work for you. So if you need to Google it and look at other people's advice, or just start to have that conversation and get to know Him, if you just talk to Him, God wants that relationship. He wants you to talk with Him. So definitely just start a conversation.

The sixth one is: Love God by serving others. And with this one, all of us are God's children. He loves all of us. So when we do something kind or generous for each other, God appreciates that. For example, if you're a parent and say your child needs bone marrow and someone donates bone marrow for your child, you're going to have a relationship to that donor. You're going to care about that person. You're going to have strong feelings. You're going to want that...you're going to have strong emotions for that person. And that's how God is for us. He wants that for us, so by serving others, by being out there and helping others, it's a way of connecting to God, getting a little closer to God.

The last one I'm going to talk about, number seven, is: Be aware of that love relationship and make it important. A lot of times, you'll start a relationship, it'll be there, it'll be great, and then you sometimes just take it for granted. You just assume, 'Oh, yeah, she's my friend. They're good, I haven't talked to her in a couple of years, but that's okay.' What you need to do with God is to remember once you start that relationship, which is what He wants, is to keep making it important, keep putting time in it, keep praying to Him, keep talking to Him, keep learning about Him. And one way that it gets tripped up is when you get caught up in yourself. That's always with me. I always get farther away from God when I get more inside myself. When I'm like, 'Oh, I'm angry at this person, I'm so angry, and ohhhhh,' I'm not thinking about God or having that relationship when I have all of this anger or animosity in my brain. So sometimes you have to step out of yourself and help yourself to remember that God is there and He wants to have that relationship with you.

Let's see. Alright, Twitter is a way to share messages with people all over the world. And with Matthew 22:37, it's a verse that Jesus shares with everyone, the entire world, He shares it with the entire world, to let us know that the Lord wants a loving relationship with everyone on the planet. Let us pray.

Thank You, Lord, for letting us gather together here today. Thank You for bringing us all in this building. Thank You for letting those who aren't with us...Lord, thank You for letting them be where they are, but thank You, Lord, for letting us gather together today and just learn to love You, learn to start to love You. And we thank You, Lord, for loving us. We don't deserve it. We didn't do anything to deserve it, Lord, and no matter what we do, You love us. You never, ever give up on us, Lord, and we thank You for that. Lord, help us to grow in our relationship with You. Help us to do all of those things. Help us to pray and serve and love and see You in nature, all of those things, Lord. Help us to do each of those so that we can grow in a relationship with You. Help us to love each other, Lord. In Matthew 22:39, Jesus tells us that the second-most important verse is to love your neighbor as yourself. So, Lord, as we leave this place and we leave this gathering today, Lord, help us to know that loving You is the most important thing. But the second most important thing is to love each other as ourselves. Lord, give us the strength, the patience, the empathy, to love others the way that You have always loved us. We love You so much, dear Lord. In Your Son Jesus's name, amen.

7/3/16 - Framed - Stephen

The Bridge Life Connection

Framed: Stephen                                                                                             Sunday, July 3, 2016

Speaker: Justin Douglas, Lead Pastor

Well, hello and good morning again. This is our final Sunday in our series titled Framed. We see injustices all around us. It does not take long watching the news to see injustices, right? Small and large. Even in our lives, we see injustices all around us. And we desire a few things. We desire to know the truth about what's happening in those injustices. Usually maybe there's like shadowy stuff happening, and we want to know what the real thing that's happening behind what we're seeing is, and so we want the truth to be illuminated. We want to know why this is happening. We want to know who's wrong in a situation. We want to know how it can be made right.

And through this series we've talked about how even shows, many shows, have this theme of justice woven in and out. Very popular TV shows that we watch like CSI, Law & Order, NCIS, etc., Making a Murderer, which is a big, huge Netflix show, all the new O.J. Simpson stuff that's been coming out lately is all themed around the idea of justice. Was he guilty or innocent, right? And it's like why do we care about this when this happened so long ago? Because something about us yearns for justice, things to be made right. I remember growing up, my parents are here today, I remember growing up and my Dad would always have Matlock on, and we'd watch Matlock. Right? And so maybe you remember that. That's a show with the theme of justice woven throughout it. You might even see some characters in that who are clearly framed, and then Matlock you know got 'em off. You know, like that's awesome, right? When you're like at the very end, like, truth wins in the end kind of type deal. And we love that. Something about us is tuned into those stories where there's resolve at the end and there's justice.

Here's what we've been saying through this whole series, though. That's not an accident that we're drawn to stories where injustice happens and then resolution happens because the wrong is made right. It's part of the reality that you and I are not an accident. We were created in the image of God, and the image of God desires to redeem the brokenness, to restore the injustice. And so when you find yourself in a place where injustice is being done to you, you long for it to be made right. When it's not even being done to you, but it's being done to someone else, you could even see that and say, 'That is wrong; that needs to be made right.'

Something within us desires for things to be made new. This is not an accident. That's what we've been talking about through this whole Framed series - it's not an accident. But we live in the here and now in a very broken world, and daily we navigate all kinds of injustices. It could be your co-worker, it could be your boss, it could be your family; we could go on and on about all the injustices small and maybe even large that you might have to navigate in a day or in a week or in a month.

So the last three biblical characters we talked about are characters who are persecuted, even killed, for false reasons. And now we're going to continue. Even from where we left off last week, we talked about Jesus last week, and Jesus was crucified. As we pick up the story there, three days later Jesus rose from the dead, resurrection, this is what we celebrate on Easter, and Jesus is with the disciples for a little bit. And then He says, "I must leave so that one greater than Me can come," and at this point one greater than Him is the Holy Spirit, and then Jesus ascends. Shortly after this is what we call the Day of Pentecost. This is the day where the Holy Spirit comes. "And all the disciples were in one place," is what the passage tells us. And then what we see is by the end of this day, they add 3,000 to their number.

Think about that real quick. Let's say, you know, we're here at The Bridge, and we're having a typical Sunday, and by the end of the Sunday, we add 3,000 to our number. Can we just talk about how that's going to change a lot of things, right? Like that would be crazy! Could you imagine how that might have been on this day? There's a reason we celebrate this day. And they kept growing from there.

So this growth came with all kinds of new challenges and needs that the church had to fulfill. And so they would distribute food to the widows, okay? They shared a lot of things. Now in distributing food for the widows as they continued to grow, this put all kinds of pressure on the leaders, the disciples. The disciples were the only real leaders. Also they were in charge of spreading the Gospel, teaching, ministering, again to people who maybe never met Jesus, maybe didn't know Jesus. So they're like saying 'Jesus said this, Jesus said this.' They're the ones who were right there while Jesus shared that parable, and so everyone wants to go to them and hear from them. 'What did He say? What did He mean when He said this? What does this mean?'

And so they're constantly teaching. But then also on top of all that, they're in charge of distributing food. {laughs} They've got a lot going on. We're talking in charge of distributing food, we're talking that could be a daily thing that they have to go back to, and here's the deal. You have different widows in different classes of Judaism, and when certain widows feel like they're getting neglected for the other ones, it creates a problem, and this is exactly what happens. There's this problem of 'Are they favoring one group of people over the other group of people?' And probably what's happening is they don't have time to pay attention to the details. They're just like, 'We are just so overwhelmed with all the stuff we have to do.'

And so they say, 'Let's appoint seven new leaders.' The primary immediate function of these people, they need to be godly, but the primary immediate function is that they're going to serve these widows, and they're going to be the food center. They're going to be the food bank, kind of, of the first century church. And the name of these individuals in the Greek is Diakaneo. This is where we get the word deacon. If you've ever wondered what the biblical function of a deacon is, it's a food pantry. Like, that's what we see here in the text.

And so this is happening right after Jesus ascends. This is all happening pretty quickly. And so what happens after this story, they install these seven deacons. One of them is named Stephen. This is the one we will be focusing on today. After the disciples create this position, this position of deacon, they install these seven people into this leadership position under them, then the number of followers of Jesus increases again. Another big one. But there's this crazy detail that the text says. This is in Acts. It says, "A large number of priests became obedient to the faith." Let me say that again. "A large number of priests became obedient to the faith." So priests are becoming followers of Jesus now.

Now, this is awesome for the church. They're reaching all different people in their time and place. This is also dangerous for the church. Here's what I mean. We talked about this a little bit last week about the history and the time and place, so if you missed that message, you can go back and listen to a little bit of the historic context of what's happening here.

But for the religious leaders of Jesus's day, for those who ran the temple, to see some of their priests begin to leave the temple and begin to worship with the church, this was like a slap in the face. Not only...in two ways: 1) because it created instability within the religious system. To see a priest walk away meant that priest probably had people who followed him. What's happening? Why are these people leaving? That was one piece. The other piece was the piece of stability as far as doctrine. Oh, my goodness, look at this. This new movement of followers of Christ is threatening us. So this is dangerous for the church. They're starting to actually convert priests from the temple to join them. This is infuriating.

So here's where we pick up the story. This is all what's happening, okay? Jesus has died, resurrected, ascended, Holy Spirit comes down, the church grows so rapidly that they have to install these new people called deacons, these new people called deacons start distributing food. In their distributing of food, they're even converting priests, like priests are coming to the faith, and here's the story of Stephen.

"Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the synagogue of freedmen as it was called, Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria, as well as the provinces of Sicily and Asia, who begin to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke."

So he performs these great signs and wonders, and this is a picture of the Spirit is at work in the life of Stephen at this time. And that same Spirit that lived in the life of Stephen, just so we know, so we can be clear, lives in you and I. Sometimes we don't think about the power of God. The power of God, even at the end of this passage, where it says that the Spirit gave him words to speak even, gave him wisdom. That same Spirit is alive in you and me.

Now there's this one interesting part of this passage that says 'synagogue of the freedmen,' and I want to just unpack that for a quick second. There were Jewish people who were held captive under Pompey, okay? And we talked about this briefly last week. But these Jewish people held captive under Pompey were set free, but they lived in Rome. They were moved to Rome, they were captive, taken to Rome. They ended up setting up homes in Rome, living there. But they built their own synagogue in Jerusalem. So they had their own place of worship. So there's all these different sections of Judaism, they build their own.

Instead of losing their religion while living in Rome around all the pagan worship, they actually became more and more zealous for their faith while they lived amongst the pagans. And so they would come back to Jerusalem, and they would see their fellow brothers and sisters that were Jewish living amongst pagans there, and like allowing for some of the pagan worship or being, you know, maybe too liberal, you might say. Does that make sense? And they would freak out. They would lose it. They would be like, 'No! We need to be this!' And like 'Rowr!' And so, rowr, right? {laughing} And so...that's the doctrinal term for it actually. No, I'm just kidding. And so they would be upset and this would cause friction.

So by the way, these people aren't only in friction with like Christians, they're in friction with even their Jewish brothers and sisters. But here, they come across Stephen. Jesus has recently died; this is a new movement. They've recently gotten their numbers like moving to where people are actually noticing who they are, and they get into a conversation, and Stephen's like, 'No, Jesus was the Messiah.' And they're probably like, 'No way. No, he wasn't, blah blah blah blah blah. The Messiah doesn't die. The Messiah's a king. He sets up a throne, He rules the world, He defeats Rome, that's how it works.' And like, and so there's this argument that ensues, and it seems that Stephen kind of wins the argument. That's the way it ends. He was given wisdom.

But here's how the story continues. "Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, 'We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God." So they persuaded some men to say that. That's important, okay? "So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses who testified, 'This fellow never stopped speaking against the holy place and against the law, for we have heard him say this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.'" And so the plot against Stephen begins. It begins largely out of fear. Fear that our doctrine is being changed, things are different now, this is not okay, what they believe is not okay. Fear of the political structure falling apart. All of this fear, and how does it continue?

"All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel." Either that means he had baby skin or like light was on him, I don't know, but something was going on. "Then the high priest asked Stephen, 'Are these charges true?'" So the high priest gives Stephen a chance to respond as it would be, and Stephen responds all right. He responds and takes the whole chapter up. Okay, like, he talks for a whole chapter. He goes through all of like Jewish history, he's linking all these things together, he's talking all this stuff, like for a long time he's sharing all this different characters of the Old Testament, sharing how they connect with Jesus. I mean, it's kind of like he's filibustering his own trial. He goes on and on, okay?

And then at the very end, he kind of hammers it home. Now we're not going to do the whole chapter 7. If you would like to read that, I'd encourage you to read it. I think it's phenomenal what he says, but like we would be here for another 30 minutes if I read that whole chapter, so you maybe this week should take time to read it. But I want to fast-forward to the end of his speech. His conclusion kind of gives you an idea of what he thought of the individuals he was talking to. {laughs} Here's how it goes.

"'You stiff-necked people...'" Well, that's a good way to close. You know, they only have your life in their hands. And then he continues, "'...your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised.'" Like the imagery there is very interesting. "'You are just like your ancestors. You always resist the Holy Spirit. Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute?'" Which is such an interesting statement because they celebrated the prophets, and he's pointing out was there ever a prophet you didn't persecute? In essence, 'history is on my side. You've persecuted the ones who are bringing you forward, who are revealing God, and now you celebrate the very ones you persecuted.' This is great stuff. So "'Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.'" Jesus. "'And now you have betrayed and murdered Him. You who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.'"

Now this is what you call a mic drop. This is just like, bam! Right? Like, if there was like emojis, you would see like fire emojis and 100s. Like right? Like he's keeping it 100 and this is fire ending. Like this is the way you end a speech. Here's the deal. It's not the way you end a speech if the people you're talking to have the power to kill you. Right? Like you may want to tone it down, but no he is zealous for the faith, he believes in Jesus, he believes wholeheartedly in the church. And here's the other thing. He believes that these people that he's standing before don't get the picture of God's grace. They're living under the law. They're condemning tax collectors, they're condemning prostitutes, they're walking into temples and saying, 'Oh, I'm so glad I'm not like the tax collector.' And you're just like, 'Hold on! Were we ever supposed to be prideful and boastful about our position with God?'

And so Stephen is calling them out for their pride, for the way they see themselves. Now how do you think the Sanhedrin responded? You know, maybe lean over to your neighbor and say, 'Here's what I think happened next.' Okay? I don't know, take a guess, think about it. Here we go. "When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to Heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 'Look,' he said, 'I see Heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'"

Now, gnashing your teeth, in ancient culture, is a sign of judgment, it's a sign of condemnation, it's a sign that means you are sinning, and as that is happening, I am gnashing my teeth in disgust for the sin that you're doing, that you're saying. So here, you have all of these people, multiple people, close to 100 people probably in this room maybe even more depending on how many actually came to testify, and they're probably all gnashing their teeth. Like, think about that. That is a scary scenario. And this is happening, and then Stephen is like, 'Okay, well let me say one more thing, just so you know, right now I see Heaven opening up and I see God and I see Jesus seated at His right hand.'

How do we think this is going to go over? {laughing} Right? Like, maybe just let them gnash their teeth and like just get out of here, you know, maybe with a beating, but you know, the point is is that Stephen is very interested in saying, 'I'm going to challenge your doctrine. I'm going to challenge your belief here.' The belief that God is somehow only in the temple. The belief that Jesus is not the Son of God. The belief that Jesus was not this figure that literally brought grace, that ushered in a new era of how to know God. If you believe that, I've got to challenge that. So he even challenges it in the vision that he says he's seeing.

"At this, they covered their ears and yelling at the top of their voices." Kind of like have you ever had someone you've walked up to and you've been like, 'Hey, have you seen the new...whatever TV show's on," and they're like, "La la la la la la la la! Don't want to hear it!" Or it's like a baseball score. I'll never forget the World Cup was on once, and I was like in the back of church for like an evening service, and I was checking the score, and I checked the score and the guy in front of me had like the USA shirt on, and I was like, 'Hey, man, just so you know the update, we're up 4-0,' and he's like 'Ohhhhhh, I'm DVRing it!' Like I was like, 'I'm so sorry! I can't take it back!' Like you know, so you know the moment when you're like out but I'm like ready to put my fingers in my ears and no one can tell me. Like that's what they're doing now. Now they're like, 'La la la la la la la, we don't want to hear it. We don't want to hear any more of your blasphemous words that you have to say because you're challenging the imagethat  we have of who God is. We live in a box, and the box we've created for who God is is good and it's fine and we do not want to be challenged. You're challenging it, Stephen, and it's not okay.'

"So they covered their ears, yelling at the top of their voices. They rushed at him, dragged him out of the city, and began to stone him." Now this is pretty serious actually, because capital punishment really wasn't something the Sanhedrin did. They might find someone guilty, but then what they would do is take them to Rome and get Rome to handle it. At this point in history, we don't see a ton of capital punishment going through the Sanhedrin. But here's the deal. There's no vote. It's not like they pause and say, 'Let's vote on this. Let's vote and let's say he's going to die.' Like they are overcome with such emotion that they rush him out.

There's an interesting mention of this new character in this story while this is happening. This is the next verse. Meanwhile, while the stoning is happening, "The witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul." Interesting. The character named Saul seems to be in some level of authority. People are coming and laying their coats at his feet, and he's the only name that's mentioned outside of everyone else in the story. They're just mentioned as teachers of the law or Pharisees, but here we actually have a name. So, very interesting.

Now, as he's being stoned, what is his response to this injustice that he's absorbing? "While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then he fell on his knees and cried out, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' When he had said this, he fell asleep." Now, "fell asleep" is an ancient way of saying he died, so his final words were, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." Stephen follows the example of Jesus on the cross. Think about that. Envision it. Take a moment. Like imagination is needed when we dive into these stories in the Bible. Like maybe you need to close your eyes, maybe you can do it with your eyes open, but think about the scene of all these hundreds of people picking up stones and throwing them at Stephen and the terror that he must feel in that moment as he knows how this is going to end. Place yourself in his shoes. And he looks over to Saul, and he says, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And he looks at all of them and says, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

This is a powerful, powerful statement. Why? Why would Stephen say this? Because Jesus showed him a different way, a different way to respond to the injustices of his time. In the face of persecution, not to get bitter, not to hope the worst for the person that's treating you unfairly, but to forgive. And to even go as far, not just to forgive, but to beg God not to hold the sin against them. That's deeper than forgiveness. Forgiveness is just about me letting go. I'm actually inquiring of God to say 'Please let go of this person's sin. Please forgive them of it.' I don't know how this is possible, right? Like some of you are like, 'How is this possible?' Our nature, everything about your and my nature, is self-preservation. So the moment we begin to be in that place of knowing that our death is coming and it's coming at the hands of someone else, curses are what we say.

Here's how, here's one story of how interesting it is in the Bible even. The disciples are following Jesus, they've been following Him almost three years at this point, and they come to a city in Samaria and they're not offered shelter and housing. And in not being offered shelter and housing, two of the disciples say, 'Jesus, should we pray to God that fire comes down and just burns up this whole city since they didn't offer us a place to stay?' They just didn't offer you a place to stay, and you want to burn down their houses, kill their village, kill the kids. Like you're just...that is the natural human response to injustice, to feeling like you were treated unfairly, that is the natural human response. Jesus shows us a different way. Stephen, very close to Jesus, says that's a realistic model for following Jesus, even though it seems so outside of the realm of realistic.

Now, Stephen's dead. Stephen is only mentioned in this chapter and a half of the Bible. Really, I mean, he's referenced back to that portion of his story throughout the New Testament, but really he's not like a huge character like some of the other New Testament characters. He takes up a chapter and a half, but I believe Stephen is one of the greatest characters in the entire New Testament. I believe his prayer is a game-changer in the movement of Christ. Let's read what happens after Stephen dies. Here's how it goes. "And Saul approved of their killing him," (Stephen.) "On that day, a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him, but Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison."

Remember the church was growing. We know there were over 3,000, and so now they have this big following and all of a sudden, a great persecution breaks out against them. This event creates all of this drama, all of these problems. Much of the church packs their bags and become refugees right away. Like right away, they're gone. They go out into the Judean countryside, they go out into Samaria, out into places where they might not even be welcome. But they're clearly not welcome in Jerusalem anymore because Saul is bent on persecuting them. So right here, we see Saul's character. And let's be honest, our nature might say, 'Saul needs to be stopped, he needs to be killed, he's doing damage, he killed Stephen, he's persecuting more.' You'd probably find no greater link to a modern-day terrorist than Saul in the Bible, in the New Testament at least. Saul is terrorizing the early church. Terrorizing. But Stephen prayed for Saul.

One of the most interesting things about the early church was their hope that even the people who are farthest from God could somehow, somehow be redeemed. Somehow that any person, any person, no matter what their circumstance, could encounter the grace of God and it could change their life. They might say something like God is that loving, God is that forgiving, God's grace is that powerful, that even if you're that far from God, even if you're Saul, maybe...maybe God can get to him. And certainly we believe that at The Bridge. We believe no matter your past, your present, that hey, God is that loving, God is that forgiving, and God's grace is that powerful, that it can transform your life.

And here's why I believe the early church believed it...because they had enough stories in their midst that they knew that dude used to be very different than he is now. And I think we have enough stories in our midst that we know, wow, we used to be very different. And this is why the Bible talks about new creation. There's this newness that comes about. We're never beyond the reach of God. I also believe, and I think we believe at The Bridge, there's power in prayer. Prayers get answered. It can even be miraculous. I believe God answered Stephen's prayer.

Saul had an encounter with Jesus while he was persecuting the church. Saul's encounter with Jesus transformed him. Maybe some of you know this, but Saul then later changed his name to Paul. Paul is the second-most popular character of the New Testament, probably, wrote nearly half the New Testament. When we look back at the story and we say 'How do we respond? How do we respond when being wronged?' What if we look at Stephen and say here's an example, a Biblical example of what it looks like to say, 'God, please, please don't hold this sin they did against me against them. Don't hold it against them because I believe You can redeem them.'

The boss that is unfair, throws all kinds of work your way and lets other people slide? Hey, God, don't hold this sin against them. I know You can transform them, I know You can change their heart. The family member that just is constantly treating you unfairly? How do you navigate those waters? Now we certainly need to be processing and saying I need to have healthy relationships, but even in that, how do we say I'm going to choose forgiveness instead of bitterness? I'm going to choose to let God control this because if I pray this type of powerful prayer, I could see something amazing.

Here's my question today for us to wrestle with: If Stephen doesn't pray that prayer, does Saul meet Jesus on the road? Prayer changes things; we believe that. Prayer is powerful. Stephen prayed for that. We need to have these types of prayers when we encounter injustice. So...if we are being wronged, how do we apply this? We pray. We pray for the person, we pray for our hearts to have a posture of forgiveness toward the people who wronged us, even the slightest wrongs like we've talked about in this series. Even being cut off on the road and that first word that comes out of your mouth, saying alright, I know that's part of my character that I come out with that word right away when I get cut off, but how do I start to create within me a posture of forgiveness where that moment I get cut off I maybe say you know what? Maybe that mom in front of me who just cut me off is having a really tough day and start actually making excuses for them. Start actually saying, you know what? I've probably cut people off in my life when I'm driving. Let me bless them instead of curse them. How do we create that posture in our heart? I think that's so important.

Secondly, maybe you're here in this room and you've done wrong to others. Maybe you identify more with Saul than you do with Stephen. And I want to remind you: we all have guilt, we all have shame, all of us have some actions that we're not proud of that we know were wrong. And the truth is God is that loving, I don't care what it is; God is that forgiving, I don't care what it is; God is that powerful...forgiveness is possible. Redemption is possible. New life is possible. So follow Jesus because Jesus transforms us into a new creation.

Now...injustice is all around us; we're not going to get away from it. But how we interact with it really deeply effects our faith. And so I hope through this series we've seen that sometimes God is using the injustice to even shape our identity like we saw with Joseph. Sometimes God is teaching us to be faithful through the injustice like we saw with Daniel. Sometimes God is reminding us that forgiveness is so incredibly vast, it is even for the Roman soldier with the hammer and the nail like we saw in the story of Jesus. And sometimes God is reminding us that our response to injustice deeply matters and can have a huge impact on others like we've seen today in Stephen. So may you find that your response to even the smallest injustices is spiritual. May you grow to have a posture of forgiveness when you're wronged, and may you find that God has given you models that pave a different kind of road, a road that hopes the best even for those who have wronged you. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we come to You, we come to You powerless. We recognize that when we are wronged our first response is to get bitter, to hold it against that individual. Lord, we pray that You would do transforming work within us. Put us in situations where we can take steps toward a posture of forgiveness, where our first response can be to forgive when we encounter injustice. I want to especially remember and lift up right now those in the room who have had a deep hurt against them...much more than being cut off in traffic. Lord, I pray that they would remember that You are with them even as they process that hurt. I pray that Your presence, Your comfort, would be on them as even they continue to feel the scars or pain of that hurt that they experienced. And I pray that You would even be working with them to choose forgiveness. Lord, we go through this world, we encounter difficult things, but even in our encountering difficult things, we create difficulties for others. Make us self-aware where we've hurt others, and allow us to come to You with repentance, to repent, to say we're broken, we made a bad choice in that situation because we know Your grace is enough. We know that You desire to forgive us. We know that You desire to make within us a new creation. You would love to see us live fully as image-bearers of You, and so may we boldly choose that. In the name of Jesus, amen.

6/26/16 - Framed - Jesus

 

The Bridge Life Connection

Framed: Daniel                                                                                                            Sunday, June 19, 2016

Speaker: Justin Douglas, Lead Pastor

I was 14 years old. The year was 1998. Raise your hand if you remember the year 1998. Now, the most popular thing in pop culture you'd probably remember from 1998 was our president said something. He said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." And that's pretty much all we remember from 1998. There were some other good things that happened in 1998, guys, like, I was 14 years old, it was like the prime of life, right, 14? You guys remember the most popular TV show was ER? My mom used to watch that like all the time. I think that's what inspired her to become a nurse. The most popular toy at the time was Furby. That's what we were punching each other for in malls at that time. I think this is pre-Tickle Me Elmo.

Let's do some trivia on three songs, okay? Once you know the band, yell it out. Don't be afraid; we're in church, we can have fun with this, alright? So, here's one band. {sings} "All my life..." {from audience} K-Ci & JoJo. Yes! Yes, sir! Hey, gold star for you, sir. That was my jam! It was his jam, too. Him and me were jammin' at 14 to that. It is; it's a great song. How about this one: {sings} "And I don't want to miss a thing." {from audience} Aerosmith. Exactly. I'm not going to go the high note there because that'll just hurt everybody. What about this one? This was a good one. {sings} "Girls, you know you better watch out...some girls..." {from audience} Lauryn Hill. Oh, yeah! Doo-wop, right? That was some good stuff.

1998 was a great year for music, but Justin Douglas was still wearing flannel and stuck in the grunge days, okay? Grunge was my jam as a 14-year-old. I loved it. I did not read books, I listened to music, okay? My mom would take us every week, or really more often than every week, to the library, and all I would do was check out CDs. I was exposed to The Beatles. I got my first...my first listen to The Beatles was because we went to the library, and they had it on CD, and I convinced my mom to let me have it, like to let me rent it out instead of a book. And you know, whenever I did rent out a book, it was usually picture books because that was me at 14. I was not really into reading, I wanted to listen to music, then I wanted to learn how to play it on guitar. That was the way it was.

So one day in 1998, I walk into the library, and they had just got this book in. And it's important to note that my favorite band is Nirvana, okay? So, like, I have every Nirvana CD, but not really CDs, just all the singles like recorded to a tape. You know how you would be like, 'Come on, radio,' bam! Got it! Yes! No commercials! Like you know what I mean? Like how you would do that on your like tape? And I had them all hidden under my bed because I'm really not supposed to listen to that kind of music in my house. So anyway, that was the life at that time.

But I walk in, and there's this book sitting on like an end cap. Who Killed Kurt Cobain: The Mysterious Death of an Icon. I was like, 'I think I'm gonna read a book.' Like I was like, I gotta have that. So I convinced my mom to let me get it, and I read it, and it was like I read it in like two days. And you have to understand, at this point, like, reading was just not my thing. And so I read it in two days, and then I read it again in over like two weeks. And the question is like why, why at 14 years old did I find this like compelling? Certainly I was into that kind of music, I was into, you know, Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and grunge music, but it's largely held, and I believed this at 14, that Cobain committed suicide. But the book asked questions like this, just even on the cover:

Why were there no legible prints found on the shotgun?

Who was using Cobain's credit card after he died?

Why were there two sets of handwriting on the notes when the handwriting analysis went through the note?

Why was there an L.A. musician who said he had been offered $50,000 to kill Cobain?

Why was that L.A. musician found dead after he made that claim?

DUN, DUN, DUN! You all want to read the book now, don't you? Like it's a great book, and so I'm sitting here like this is like, 'I'm in! I'm like, let's read this book, this is going to be great.' I was gripped, and partially because I was a Cobain fan and a Nirvana fan, but I was gripped because of something else, and this is what we've been talking about in this series: Something within us yearns for justice, yearns for wrongs to be made right. We see injustice all around us, maybe small injustices, large injustices, and we desire to know the truth, to know what really happened, so that we can make it right. We want to solve the case. We want to right the wrong. We want to illuminate the facts. You might say something within us desires to be made new because we know that the world we're in is broken and we want to participate in making it new because we were created in the image of God.

Even at 14, I can see the image of God coming out in me in my desire to say, 'Something's wrong here.' And maybe something was wrong, maybe something wasn't, I'm not going to give you my opinion on that book, but I think it's interesting that we have such a desire, a compass if you will, toward justice, toward righting wrongs. And so as we do the series Framed, what we're really talking about is we're talking about each of us go through life and we experience injustice. Maybe not on the scale that anyone intentionally actually like frames us, okay? But we have that boss who's unfair. We have those situations that we find ourselves in where we're like, this just isn't right and I'm the one shouldering all of the blow. And how do we respond to those? The interesting thing is we're highlighting four characters who went through injustice on a severe level and saying how did they respond as they encountered injustice because maybe, maybe how they responded can help us when we feel we are treated unfairly and unjustly.

So today's title is "Making an Insurrectionist." Now, I want to start first by describing what insurrection is because this is a big word. Insurrection is an act or instance of rising and revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government. The penalty for this in the time of Jesus was death. In Jerusalem, if you did this, you'd be killed. This was what the cross was invented for: insurrectionists. Other people found their way there, but it was largely for people who were trying to create disorder in order to no longer be under the control of Rome.

So, a quick history lesson because maybe this is helpful. In the year 63 B.C., Roman General Pompey conquered Jerusalem. And so you have a group of Jewish people who are now conquered. They did not slaughter everyone; that's not how Rome conquered. Rome conquered and then ruled the people. And so Julius Caesar rose to power in 45 B.C. and made Judaism an official recognized religion of Rome. They would do this as well. And here's why they would do this because they were all about all religions as long as they had an element of control within them. So the priests would have to make a sacrifice to Caesar and that would then make that another one of their many state religions. And so this is how they would conquer people. They would manipulate even their religious system, put their religious system under their control, because then you could really, really, really cause friction amongst the people that you're trying to control. And as long as they're in friction with each other, it's a lot easier to control them because they're not coming for you. So they were masters at this. Rome did this so well.

So this creates a relationship, though. The temple leaders, the religious leaders of the day, the Sanhedrin as we know them as we read through the Bible, had a relationship with the Roman authorities, and they had to be on the same page with a lot of things. Often it was Rome telling them what they needed to do, who they needed to get in line, who they needed to get in order. Or it was them coming to Rome and saying, 'This guy is about to start a rebellion; you need to take care of him,' and they would take care of him.

And so this is the relationship...mutually beneficial, yet Rome always has the upper hand. They could destroy the temple whenever they wanted. And here's the deal: if you believe God lives in a temple, if all of your worship is centered around a temple, and you have someone who's in control over you who's saying, 'You don't want to do things our way? We'll just destroy the temple.' You're going to say, 'What do we need to do?' So we have this very tense time that's...it's more nuance than we sometimes give it credit for. It's a difficult time for everyone in this region, and Jesus is born into this mess. Born into this mess that is first century Jerusalem. And so, by the way, they would end up tearing down the temple in A.D. 70 during the Jewish-Roman war.

Now, while we maybe don't know a ton about the political tension at the time, we know enough. We know there were three sects of Jews, sections of Jews. So you have the Pharisees, maybe you've heard of them before; you have the Sadducees; you have the Essenes; and then you have what some would call a fourth, which were the Zealots. Okay? And the Zealots were the ones who were like, 'We need to defeat Rome. We need to rise up against Rome; we need to defeat them.' And so what they wanted to do was they wanted to take over Rome, so they especially opposed the taxes that Rome was charging.

So you know in the Bible, if you're familiar with the Bible, there's this one part where they come to Jesus and they're like, 'Jesus, should we pay taxes?' And we just think of that as like a 'Jesus, should we pay taxes?' question. Really what it's asking is like 'What section of Judaism do you fall into? Do you fall into the Zealot section that we should like take over and kill Romans because they're taxing us so much? Do you fall over here?' And His question is like this Jedi mind trick that where he doesn't fall into any of the categories, He just says 'Who's face is on it? Oh, give it to him.' {laughs} That's...that's awesome. You know what I mean? Like Caesar's face is on it, give it to Caesar. You know? And like no one could say anything to that. That was like a we haven't...that was a different way. And Jesus is constantly presenting different ways than the way the culture thought at the time.

So these Zealots, what they would do is there were small bands of them, and they would go in with daggers into large crowds, they would find a powerful person who was in a vulnerable place, they would stab him, and leave before usually most people would know the person was dead. And this created all kinds of problems because disorder, unrest, revolt, you have high-ranking Roman officials dying, and here's the thing...the Zealots didn't care. If you were a sympathizer of Rome and you were Jewish, they would kill you. So they were killing their own people even if they had to. So this is a very tense time.

Now, in the story we're about to read, which is the story of the crucifixion which you probably maybe have heard before, we're going to go through it in a different way in a way that shows Jesus was framed. One important thing to recognize is at the time this is happening, this is Passover. It is the largest festival on the Jewish calendar. A few quick things. Most say there were about 40,000 roughly in Jerusalem and maybe 250,000 came to the town for this festival. Now here's the crazy thing...Josephus, the best Jewish historian, but a lot would argue not the best counter, argued that there was 3,000,000 in the town during this time. So somewhere between 250,000 and 3,000,000, you know, whatever, right? Not that big of a gap. But there's all these people, this influx of Jewish people, and what are they celebrating? The Passover is a celebration of when Jews were in bondage to Egypt and they were freed. They're looking for a savior; they're looking for a messiah; they're looking for someone, maybe a zealot, who's going to lead a charge and take over the Roman authority and knock 'em out.

So it's important that we recognize all of what's happening in this story is largely because of the time and place that it falls into. Control, when you have this type of a crowd, is very important because Rome was certainly outnumbered. And so what do you do if everyone all of a sudden rallies around this new rabbi on the scene? What do you do if they rally around Barabbas, who we're about to see in the story? You have to keep control, and they used the Jewish leaders to help them keep control.

So we're going to see the story. A few things to note really quick. As we go into the story, there's a lot of scripture today. Part of that is just because you can't really go through the crucifixion narrative and see all the spots where Jesus is being framed without a lot of scripture, so we're going to go through it really quick. In your bulletins, it says John 18 and John 19; we actually, we're going to do Luke 22 and Luke 23. You can read John 18 and 19. it's also the account, the same exact account, but Luke 22 and 23 was a little bit shorter, so I felt like it was better for this morning.

So, here we go. "Now the festival of unleavened bread, called the Passover, was approaching. And the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus for they were afraid of the people." See? I told you. They were looking for a way to get rid of Jesus. Why? Because they're afraid of the people. They're afraid of what they might do. They're afraid of that they might rise up. Jesus has been gaining a lot of momentum, His ministry's been going for about three years. This is scary for these people in leadership. They're like, 'Hey, if there's a war with Rome, the temple may fall. We might win, but the temple might fall. Or we might win for a period of time, but let's remember, Rome is the superpower of the world. We may knock out everyone who's here, but more will come.' So they're all thinking about peace, and they're like, 'Do we need to take out Jesus in order to make this happen?'

And then it says this: "Then Satan entered Judas..." Interesting passage. We're not going to talk about all the implications of that today. "...called Iscariot, one of the twelve..." One of the twelve disciples. "And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present."

So Judas betrays Judas. Jesus even says this is going to happen at the Last Supper, He says this is going to happen. He watches for an opportunity for when Jesus is alone. Why is it important for Jesus to be alone? Because you don't want a crowd when you go to arrest a guy you're worried about who might cause a revolt. You want to do it when no one's going to be there. Again, the motive here is crowd control, fear of what might happen if He gets a following.

"So Jesus went as usual to the Mount of Olives, and His disciples followed him." So as usual, it would seem like this is kind of a secret hideout. No, I don't know, maybe not a secret hideout, but a place they would go hang out. Because this was as usual they would go here. A place of solitude, a place where they would be by themselves, and Jesus is here and Judas probably knows, 'Hey, the best place at this time to find Him if they're not here, here, here is probably out here. And actually that's a really good spot because there's no one out there, He'd probably be all alone.' So night comes and they go out. Here's how it goes.

"A crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss Him, but Jesus asked him, 'Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?' When Jesus's followers saw what was going to happen, they said, 'Lord, should we strike with our swords?' And one of them, Peter, struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear." Because Peter had terrible aim with a sword. "And then Jesus answered, 'No more of this!' And He touched the man's ear and healed him." He healed the person who was coming to do injustice to Him. Interesting. "Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple guards and elders who had come for Him, 'Am I leading a rebellion...'" Because that's what they're afraid of, right? "'...that you have come with swords and clubs? Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on Me. But this is your hour when darkness reigns.'"

Judas has betrayed Jesus to the point that Jesus is now arrested. He is now with Roman military being marched away as the disciples look on. Many of them are fleeing, one of them is following, and then he...if we know that story, he denies Him three times. So there's all of this unrest that happens right away within this united group of...well, not united because one had went off, but 11 and Jesus. And so think of it this way, though...how many of you have ever felt betrayed? I mean betrayed by a friend, a family member, maybe you said something in confidence and it wasn't held, maybe someone back-stabbed you, whatever you would call it. Jesus picked Judas, spent three years pouring into him as a disciple, loved him, cared for him, and Judas betrays Him. How hard is that? I gotta believe, that feeling of injustice of your friend, someone you've poured into, betraying you, is so incredibly painful.

And the pain continues, because as Jesus gets to where He's going, the men who are guarding Jesus begin mocking and beating Him. They blindfolded Him and demanded, 'Prophesy who will hit You.' And they said many other insulting things to Him. So they're mocking Jesus, they're beating Jesus, but even though Romans are brutal, which they definitely are, we have history of this, they do have a judicial process. It's certainly not always fair, I'm not going to argue that, but they did have a process. It didn't necessarily start from the position of innocence like our country tries to do, but there was a process that needed to happen. It wasn't just beat Jesus and put Him on a cross, there's like, 'We need to have a trial here. We need to make sure everything goes according to the way it needs to.' But - it's important it happens quickly because Passover's here, and we have all these people here, and they're going to find out that Jesus is in jail, and that's going to be a problem, so let's try to get this thing done like right at the crack of dawn. Let's try to make this happen when no one's looking. When the crowd is all on our side, let's try to ram this through because we don't want the people to rise up.'

"So, at daybreak, the council of elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law met together, and Jesus was led before them. 'If You are the Messiah,' they said, 'tell us.' Jesus answered, 'If I tell you, you will not believe Me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.' They all asked, 'Are You then the Son of God?' He replied, 'You say that I am.' Then they said, 'Why do we need any more testimonial? We have heard it from His own lips.'"

They have what they wanted, a claim that He has violated their law, blasphemy, and they feel like this will be enough to get Pilate on board, who's the official of that territory. And they say, 'Okay we're going to take this information to Pilate, because if we tell him He's committed blasphemy, we can convince him that this will start an insurrection.' So you don't want to mess with this, you need to take care of this. Then the whole assembly rose and led Him off to Pilate. So now He's onto the second stage, if you will, He was judged by you might say a jury of His peers, all Jewish jury, now He's being led to the real authority - Rome.

"And they begin to accuse Him saying, 'We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah and King.'" Now real quick, did Jesus say anything in that passage about wanting to subvert the nation? I guess in a sense He does. He talks about His kingdom a lot instead of the kingdom of Rome, but He doesn't say anything about taxes in this time. They're starting to throw all these new things on, trying to convince Pilate 'Hey, we need to crucify this guy.'

"So Pilate asked Jesus, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' 'You have said so,' Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I find no basis for a charge against this man.' But they insisted, 'He stirs up the people all over Judea by His teachings. He started in Galilee and He has come all the way here.'" Key word 'He started in Galilee,' okay? "Because on hearing this, Pilate asked, if the man was a Galilean. When he learned that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction..." See, if you're Galilean, you're not under Pilate's jurisdiction, you're under Herod's jurisdiction. But Herod is in town for Passover. So he sent Him to Herod who was also in Jerusalem at the time. Pilate is in charge of this region, Herod's in charge of this region. Pilate's like, 'Okay, I don't find any basis for crucifying this guy. Why should we crucify a rabbi right in the middle of Passover? That's probably going to cause more problems than just letting Him do what He does. But I'll send Him to Herod. Let Herod deal with Him because if he wants to kill Him, then let it be on his hands' kind of type deal.

"When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased because for a long time, he had been wanting to see Him. From what he had heard about Him, he hoped to see Him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing Him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked Him. Dressing Him in elegant robes, they sent him back to Pilate. That day, Herod and Pilate became friends - before this, they had been enemies."

Interesting! Jesus is reconciling all kinds of things. Right? I mean what is happening? They became friends because Jesus was sent to him, and he got the chance to mock Him and make fun of Him. But the thing is, Herod doesn't say 'I think He should die.' Herod doesn't say 'Jesus is definitely a threat to us.' Herod says, 'I'll send him back to Pilate and let Pilate make the choice.' Very interesting stuff here. But the nation bonds over this {laughs} interestingly.

"Pilate called together the chief priests," So now He's back at Pilate again. Jesus is being kind of drug around all over the place. "...the rulers, and the people and said to them, 'You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined Him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against Him. Neither has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; as you can see, He has done nothing to deserve death. Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.'"

What are you punishing Him for? You're punishing Him because you're like, okay, you guys want Him to suffer some kind of pain. I'll punish Him but I'm not going to kill Him. It's