Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Day in the Life

The following are notes from my sermon last week titled "A Day In the Life". You can listen to it here.

A Day in the Life- from our series of Beatle’s tunes called “Get Back”. I used the song as a springboard for discussion and as the outline for my lesson using Acts 3 as my narrative.

From the song, “Got up, got out of bed, ran a comb across my head…” Are our lives really that different? We all have the same routine: get up, get ready, do what we have to do, come back, go to bed, start over. Our lives fundamentally all look the same. So how do we live a life that stands out, that makes a difference? What does a day in the life of a disciple of Jesus look like?

The song begins with the verse, “I read the news today, oh boy…” The first point is “I read the news today… oh, boy”

-what is our reaction to the news today? Do we get depressed, angry, stressed out?

-Francis Chan “Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace towards others, or our tight grip of control. Basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s ok to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional.”

-Just a couple months before what we read in Acts 3, the disciples witnessed Jesus arrested, beaten, and killed. In fear they locked themselves away, unsure of what was going to happen next. But Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them, giving them confidence to face the world.

--Where do we get our confidence from? -Our response to the news in the world needs to be prayer

--Acts 3 begins with Peter and John going to the temple to pray

--I’m not a prayer warrior. I’m challenged by this quote from Martin Luther, “I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.”

---The “epic quiet time” is an intimidating thought. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to pray. So here’s a tip- pray three times a day for 10 minutes each:

1) In the morning, praying for the day ahead
2) At midday, praying for the here and now
3) At the end of the day, giving thanks for the day that was

-Which is exactly what Peter and John were doing in Acts 3:1. Jews in Jerusalem would go to the temple three times a day to pray: 9 in the morning (see Acts 2), midday, and 3 in the afternoon (or evening in other examples)

-Psalm 55:17 “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.”

-If we can get in that habit, it’s not too much of a leap to “pray continually” as in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

--rejoice, pray, give thanks / morning, noon, night / three prayers

The middle section of the song begins, “got up, got out of bed…”. The second point is Got Up and Got Out

-we are not called to live a monastic, cloistered life isolated from the rest of the world. The disciples didn’t- they went out. The end of Acts 2 mentions that they spent every day in the Temple courts.

-Acts 3:2-8

--this was their regular routine. We know they went three times a day. We know from chapter 2 that they went every day. We also know from chapter 1 that they lived together. So you have to figure they went the same way, the same time, seeing the same people. The man they met was also there every day and we read later that everyone recognized him. So you have to wonder, how many times did Peter and John pass him by?

-We pass by needs every day. It is hard to break out of our routines to take notice the people we see every day. What a difference it would make to take the time to get to know the cashier that always serves you at the bank, the checker you always see at the grocery store, the beggar you see every day at the same intersection.

--“silver and gold I do not have…” It is easier to throw money at someone’s problem than it is to take the time to get to know them and their need. To quote Gustavo Gutierrez “So you say you love the poor? Name them”

-Peter and John knew that giving this man change would not bring about change. So they offered something that would have eternal impact: “in the name of Jesus of Nazareth…”

--It is Jesus’ name, not our efforts, that has power (v 16). John Stott writes about this verse, “The power is Christ, but the hand was Peter’s.” It takes both. Jesus needs us to be his hands and feet, but we need His power to have a lasting impact (and not get stressed out by relying on our own power).

-Peter and John went about their daily routine, acting in Jesus’ name. Brennan Manning writes, “God is calling each and every Christian to personally participate in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.” And later, “Jesus said the world is going to recognize you as His by only one sign: the way you are with one another on the street every day.”

-Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 10:31 that “whatever you do, do for the Glory of God.”. A.W. Tozer writes about this verse, “Paul’s exhortation to do all to the glory of God is more than pious idealism... It opens before us the possibility of making every act of our lives contribute to the glory of God.”

-every day, every act

--so as you go about your daily routine, ask yourself what you are doing in Jesus’ name for the glory of God. As you get up and get out, consider that there are no small moments, no insignificant actions, and that everything is an opportunity to make a difference in Jesus’ name.

--If you’re afraid, remember Peter who sunk while walking with Jesus on water because of a little wind. Who assured Jesus he would stick by him but gave in to peer pressure and denied him three times. But this same Peter saw the resurrected Christ and “received a spirit of boldness.” Because of this, he would draw a crowd.

The third point plays off the lyrics but mixes it up a little: I Made the News Today, Oh Boy

-When we live our lives in Jesus’ name, people will notice. What do you do then?

--1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

--if you’re living your life in Jesus’ name, you need to be prepared to explain why. Why do you make the choices you do? Why do you have the hope that you have?

-Acts 3:12-end

--Peter used this opportunity to share his faith. He was able to share about Jesus because he knew Jesus. He was able to share about the Old Testament promises because he knew them. We cannot share what we do not know.

-how is your Bible study? Can you honestly say that you “know” Jesus? Do you spend time with him, getting to know him, sharing everything with him? Do you know the foundations of your faith so that you can “share your faith” with others?

-if we skip to Acts 4:4 we read that their number grew to 5000. So let’s talk about “sharing our faith”

-imagine Peter and John saying to this man, “silver and gold I do not have, but here’s an invitation for church” or Peter saying to the crowd that gathered, “if you think this was great, come back Sunday at 10:00 and see what we’ll do then!”

--no, Peter shared right then, right there, about Jesus. He didn’t wait- he shared what he knew. He shared about Jesus because it was in His name that this man was healed. It was in His name that Peter and John lived their lives. And it made an impact. When we share our faith, it needs to be more than just an invitation to church, we need to literally share our faith. Who is Jesus to you, what has he done in your life, what is he doing now? Be prepared to give an answer.

-one day, one act, one diversion from their regular routine changed this man’s life forever and saved the souls of 2000 men.

-A.W. Tozer: “Let every man abide in the calling wherein he is called and his work will be as sacred as the work of the ministry. It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything. Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act.” There is no common act when you live your life for the glory of God in the name of Jesus.

What makes A Day In The Life so recognizable is how it ends. An orchestra builds what is called a glissando, building up to a crescendo. Note after note, louder and louder, higher and higher; our lives, if we are living in Jesus’ name are building towards something great. Then unexpectedly John, Paul, George, Ringo pound on pianos in the climax of the song. That last note lasts 42 seconds. What we build will last for eternity.

If we live a day in the life a disciple, in prayer, in action, and in the word.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Short Drive For Forgiveness

I remember when the news came out. It was the turn of the century, a new millennium, a jubilee year for the church. To celebrate, Pope John Paul II declared that Catholics could earn an indulgence by taking a pilgrimage to a [long] short list of churches or holy sites. Conveniently for me, one of those churches was the Diocese of Denver.

It was just a few years earlier that JP2 (as we affectionately called him) visited Denver for World Youth Day- the same event Pope Francis I is currently celebrating in Brazil. Yesterday's headline was how his convoy made a wrong turn and got caught in a throng of pilgrims and revelers. If you're not Catholic, it is hard to describe the celebrity status of the Pontiff- but seeing all those people crowding themselves closer to the non-popemobile is worth more than my words.

I was one of them nearly two decades ago. I remember being shooed away by Secret Service as my friends and I got a little too close to the helicopter landing site at Mile High Stadium and later allowing some nuns a better view (right next to a barricade) of the Pope's convoy on his way to mass at Cherry Creek Park.

All that to say, I get it. But back to 2000 I was faced with a dilemma. I had stopped attending the Catholic church, so I wasn't technically in the "good graces" required to receive the indulgence- a remission of the "temporal penalty" of my sin. At the same time, I had spent the previous two to three months studying the Bible and coming to my own convictions regarding the forgiveness of sins. So I had a choice to make, take a short convenient drive to downtown for a temporary fix to my sinful nature without changing my lifestyle, or actually repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of my sins (Acts 2:38).

I'll leave you guessing which I chose.

At home I have an old Catholic Bible. In the inside cover are a list of indulgences from Pope Pius XII based on the frequency with which one read it. When I open that Bible and look at those I scratch my head, wondering how that doctrine survived the Protestant Reformation. I figure many others felt the same way when they saw last week's headline "Pope forgives Twitter followers". The news resonated, even if it got the theology all mixed up.

I'll leave it to others to recap the subject and correct the doctrine. Meanwhile, maybe you should follow Pope Francis on Twitter to cover all your bases. (or just trust the atoning blood of Jesus instead)


Monday, July 22, 2013

Redemption in the Desert

The need for redemption is a universal theme. In music this can be expressed lyrically, but since the dawn of a relatively new medium- the music video, it can also be expressed aesthetically. (did you know that 40% of all YouTube views are of music videos?)

These two songs have nothing to do with one another, other than this common theme found in their videos. That, and they're both really cool songs.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Some of My Best Friends Are Worship Leaders

A good friend of mine got married last weekend. At his groom honoring, his best man showed a video slideshow of some of his favorite memories with this brother. Based on the pictures, the groom looked like a pretty fun guy.

Of course I already knew this- he was a worship leader.

I wasn't in any of the pictures. The narcissist in me always feels insecure at times like these- doubting the depth and value of our friendship- but the reality was that I lived an hour and a half away. As I was watching his pictures- fooling around with mixed martial arts, out on the shooting range, cooking dinner with his buds- I was content to admit that that's just not me. Does that make me less of a friend? Of course not! But the context of our friendship is different. While the friends in these pictures stood beside him on his wedding day, I was behind the scenes as his wedding coordinator. (I need to be reminded sometimes that I "have the gift of administration" and I fail badly when I try and be something I'm not)

There are different kinds of friends: the goof-offs, the memory-makers, the initiators, the deep all-night talkers; then there are the rocks, those friends who will always be there in any time and any circumstance. I'm embarrassed not to be the former, but I recognize the need for the latter.

When I got married, I told my wife that I was like a faithful old dog- she won't be able to get rid of me, I'll follow wherever she goes, and I smell and drool. I think I'm pretty boring; she tells me she was attracted to me because I'm interesting. My daughter thinks I'm funny. I think both are lying to make me feel better (just kidding, I just struggle to see myself that way).

So some of my best friends are worship leaders. I need those friends- the outgoing, the flamboyant, the risk-takers. At the same time they need me- the introvert, the faithful, the reliable.

How would you describe your style of friendship?
Are you comfortable in that role?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm Full of It

The Apostle Paul admonishes us in his letter to the Ephesians to "be filled with the Spirit." (v 5:18).

What, you thought "it" was something else?

The "it" in the title is usually related to something that rhymes and smells. We say it about someone when they are talking nonsense or we think they are lying.

"After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." (Acts 4:31)

I don't see a lot of nonsense there, but the disciples were definitely full of it.

In Mark 4, Jesus gives us the "Parable of the Sower" (title in the NIV); a story about four seeds that are planted in the ground (so not really about the sower at all): one falls on the path and is eaten by birds, one falls on rocky soil and cannot establish a root, one falls among weeds and thorns and gets choked out, and one falls on good soil and produces a harvest 30-100 times larger. (v 3-8)

When the disciples approached Jesus confused, Jesus explained that the seed is the word of God. The first seed is snatched by Satan before it can take root. The second seed is planted in shallow hearts and cannot survive dry spells. The third seed gets choked out by the worries and distractions of the world. But the fourth seed is planted in good hearts and produces fruit. (v 13-20)

The seed is the same. The only difference is the soil.

We can take a couple of religious extremes when it comes to the saplings produced by the seed. On one hand, we can rejoice for even the smallest leaf even if it will soon wither and die, counting it as "fruit" by adding it to our church rolls and counting towards our attendance. On the other extreme, we can judge the saplings that don't survive as if something is wrong with them.

Both are obviously wrong. The young sapling didn't choose where it would be planted- it is the product of its environment. There is no such thing as a bad seed. And both extremes fail to do anything to help that young sapling.

Who will pull the weeds and cut back the thorns in a Christian's life to help him or her grow strong? Who will till and break up the hard soil so that the Word of God can establish deep roots that can survive any draught?

Like I said, I'm full of it. Sometimes "it" smells. You know what "it" is? Fertilizer.

I look at the role I play in my church family as "the guy who spreads the fertilizer". I focus on teaching- spreading "it" around in marriages, parenting, friendships, hermeneutics, theology, and on and on. My heart aches for the shallow roots, fearful of the day when the sun beats them down. So I keep "laying it on thick".

Paul told the Corinthian church that he plants seed while Apollos waters it. (1 Corinthians 3:6-9) Some of us are planters, some are waterers. Some are even weed whackers. And some of us smell like fertilizer.

(I ask for your continued prayers as my teaching ministry is beginning to take off at my church. If you don't see many updates here it is because I'm busy writing small group curriculum. And please pray for this bit of exciting news- I've been asked to preach a couple Sundays from now. Please pray that I don't stink up the joint too much!)

Monday, July 08, 2013


When I share songs on my "Music Monday" series, it is usually to call us to think more deeply about a song's meaning- asking what hits us deep down when listening to it, and what lessons can we apply to our daily lives. It is one thing to have a favorite song that you love to listen to, but what does it mean to you? We get in the habit of driving around with the radio blaring and it so easily becomes nothing more than background noise. We often don't slow down to actually listen to what the song may be singing directly to our soul.

And this includes secular music. We need to recognize that the people we reach out to, those who are in need of the Gospel message, have worldviews shaped by their media- music, television, the internet. So when I share a song like last week's, we need to consider the perspective of the singer/songwriter and think about how others may also relate.

Like last week's "Good Man", this song is another favorite of mine and expresses the need for redemption. It is a song about our personal demons. And the video reminds us that we all have our demons that we hide. But because of the Gospel of Jesus, those demons do not have to define who we are.

(as a complete aside, the advertisement that played for me prior to the YouTube video was a Chevrolet ad with John Legend singing "Made to Love". Right when he sings "there must be a God because I saw you" the commercial zooms right in to a Chevy cruising down the street. Like I said, our worldviews are shaped by media- and we are always being sold something.)

Thursday, July 04, 2013

A Better Country

I pick up my Chai Tea and take in my surroundings. At one table is a Filipino couple drinking coffee and working on their computers. A young Persian girl is talking on the phone over in the corner. And I am just about to sit down with two of my best friends- a refugee from El Salvador and an African American from North Carolina. All of us in a Starbucks at the corner of a shopping center with a Mexican supermarket as its anchor.

I turn on the news and see a democratically-elected president toppled only one year after his election by a military coup while his allies are being thrown in prison and dozens are killed. Meanwhile at home our elected representatives have the lowest approval rating of any organization ever polled by Gallup yet no blood is spilled.

Our country has been called a "melting pot" and our government the "grand experiment". Depending on your political leanings and who is in office you might have a few more colorful adjectives to describe your temporary home. Maybe a "melting experiment" might fit. You might not like the current administration or you may be celebrating the recent decisions by the Supreme Court. Either way, you and I can sit down and have coffee together without risk of physical harm, imprisonment, or political retaliation.

And Sunday, in an environment when many political decisions appear to be counter to the Bible I read and follow, we can still come together and worship in freedom.

American Stock/Getty Images

We live in a pretty neat place.

But this place is not my home.

I love Hebrews 11, often called the "Hall of Fame of Faith". While the stories of Biblical heroes are inspiring, it is their motivation that always moves me. Describing Abraham the author of Hebrews writes, "For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God." (v 10). Of Moses he writes, "He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time." (v 25)

Their motivation was not in the here and now. They were looking forward to something more, something better. "All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own... [T]hey were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." (v 13-14, 15-16)

As you celebrate our country today (assuming you're reading this in the US) I urge you to long for a better country- a heavenly one. I pray that together we long and strive for a Kingdom with Jesus himself as priest and king, independent of any political party or movement. And I ask that you remember that this is not our home.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Good Man

I wasn't planning on sticking with hard rock with this week's Music Monday post, but then I heard this song which became a new favorite even before checking out the lyrics. I'm not familiar with the band Devour the Day or their predecessor Egypt Central. But this song definitely makes me want to explore their back catalogue.

I could nit-pick theology like I have in my last two posts, but these guys don't claim to be a Christian band so I'm not going to hold them to the same standard. (although I do sense a bit of Paul in Romans 7 here, and I they ask the question we need to be prepared to answer "am I worth forgiveness?")

Without getting any deeper, I recommend just turning it up and rocking on. \m/