I wanna take you back to 1989, my first everyday summer job. Landscaping. I was pumped. I had aspirations of cutting grass, building patios, laying down asphalt. That would come eventually…
But first…laying down sod…a massive park need resurfacing…and my first job was…watering the grass.
Here’s where it gets fun…the space was so big that we got to use a fire hose. Imagine a teenager, allowed to use a fire hose and spray wherever he wanted to? Ya. A blast. Both my twin brother and I were on this job. The fire hose did get us in a ‘little’ trouble. By brother lost control of the powerful hose and it veered in the direction of a city inspector. Not good. However, we quickly found out that this inspector was not well liked by the city crew. While she was very upset at this incident, her crew was very happy that we soaked her (by accident). How’s that for a first day on the job?
Our instructions? Don’t stop watering until the water gets through the sod and it’s drenched underneath. Why? That’s the only way for the roots of the grass to attach to the soil. So…I watered, and watered, and watered…
Later in life I’d often see these kinds of projects in new developments and subdivisions and say, ‘they better water their grass well, otherwise it ain’t gonna live.’ Very judgemental, I know. But true.
If you want green grass, water it well, period. The roots have to go deep for the grass to last! (sorry to my environmentalist friends who believe grass is a weed like all others and should be left alone. They have a point)
– – – – – – –
Two reasons why we’re talking about grass:
It’s the day we spring time forward, so we’re hoping for sunny days, enjoying the plants, grass, trees with friends and family.
We have arrived at a point in Colossians where we hit the title track. (i,e. title track of a record)
Our title is : ROOTED.
– – – – – – – –
If there’s one thing that Paul thinks brings this whole letter together, it may be this one word – rooted.
Some writers agree that Colossians 2:6-7 is the centre of this letter. What come before and what comes after, hinges on these 2 verses. I would agree.
Let’s see what they say (2:6-7)
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Paul starts with really good advice: What you’ve received is to be lived out!
- I receive Jesus
- I live my life in Jesus
- I receive a gift
- I use that gift
- I receive…____________
- I live out…____________
How many times have we wasted a good gift or a blessing? Lost or didn’t use a gift card with a substantial amount of money on it, didn’t put your mom’s (free) food in the freezer as you were told, never wore that great piece of clothing you got for 70%, never got around to learning on the guitar your inherited from your uncle or grandfather or elderly neighbour?
What you have received…you must live out.
The question is, what does living in Christ look like? Glad you asked? Paul gives us 4 words to help us get there: ROOTED / BUILT UP / STRENGTHENED / GRATEFUL.
When we think about this word, we think of depth, digging deep, building foundation, strength under the surface – that is in fact what Paul is getting at.
When we ask, what are your roots? We’re curious about where someone came from, what experiences has shaped them, what kind of family are you from, where did you go to school, grow up, experienced childhood. These make deep impressions in us.
What are the things that are deep within you that have shaped you thus far?
Last week we dove into Col 1:15. Paul’s manifesto about Jesus. Image of the Invisible God. This is who Paul wants us to have roots in. Jesus.
The word used for rooted is exactly what we think it is: a tree with roots deep in the soil.
– It’s in the perfect tense, so there’s a sense permanent strength, solid foundation, something that won’t be moved easily.
The cool thing is that it’s connected to the next word…
This word is in the present tense, indicating a continual process.
Start with deep roots, let them settle, and then you have the foundation to build your life, one step at a time.
I love this metaphor, and especially the balance between roots (down deep) and built up (upward motion). So interconnected.
You can only go as high as you are deep.
You can also only build your life up one step, or one brick at a time. Never worth getting too far ahead of yourself.
It’s not worth worrying about too many steps in front of you. The best way and only way is to do well with the one step you have to take today, the one brick you have to lay today, the rest will take care of itself.
DEEP ROOTS and a well structured BUILDING will lead to a life that can withstand storms, and crisis, and pain, and suffering.
STRENGTHENED (in the faith…)
What is one thing we can count on? Storms. Sickness. Pain. Uncertain circumstances. They will come.
The only way to be ready for this is, as Paul says, to be strengthened in the faith you were taught. (the faith we received)
The 3 words up until now all identify what is going on inside of us. Roots, Foundation, Strength. They are often unseen, but it’s what inspires your actual life, your outside life, your external life.
The funny thing is that we often focus on the external, and don’t pay attention to the internal. That kind of thinking is dangerous and will lead to a fall.
ABOUNDING IN THANKNFULNESS
Paul ends with the external – gratefulness.
That word again? Feels like we can’t get away from this word. (if you’ve been tracking with us this winter, the word thanksgiving keeps popping up)
For good reason – Paul uses it 26 times in his writing.
Thankfulness is the spontaneous response that flows from the deep roots, the strong structure, that our life is built on.
Think of improvisation, in music, in acting, in spoken word. We think to ourselves: How did they come up with that? How did they know what notes to play, words to say, expressions to use?
Here’s how? After hours of work, digging deep into scales, theory, words, lyrics, stories, phrases, etc. Then when the time comes, they can draw on what is deep inside of them.
The sports world lost an icon a few weeks ago. KOBE…an artist on the BB court…top 5 player ever…was the first in the gym, the last to leave, worked harder, often when no one was looking…but then, when on the court, was able to do things others didn’t. He, and other sports legends like him, were able to drap from their depth of practice, routine, structure, developed skill, and come through in the clutch when most needed.
How did they do that? I couldn’t do that?
People say the same thing when they see others being grateful when life stinks: How can they be grateful at a time like this? How can they live with that kind of joy?
Not just any kind of thankfulness, but overflowing with thankfulness, like a river overflowing at it’s banks.
‘Overflowing’ can also be translated as ‘abounding’. More thankfulness, joy, peace, grace, love, than is expected or possible.
Only because we are ROOTED, BUILT UP, STRENGTHENED…in and through JESUS.
– – – – – – –
So…where and how are you digging deep?
Where and how are you building your life up?
What steps, bricks, pieces, are you adding, daily, that add to your life of faith? That are making you a person of Jesus who is ABOUNDING in good things?
– – – – – – – – –
We all want the green grass on our side of the fence.
But the only way you can have that is if you take the time to let the roots go deep, build the surroundings conducive to growth, feed it, nurture it, water it, be intentional about it, and then, even during and after a dry season, your grass will pull through and be strong and beautiful and useful.
We will often only know we went deep with our roots, and wise with our building blocks, when life is tough. Then we’ll be glad we dug deep and built strong.
Jesus said (Matt 7:24-27), “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
I think that’s a good place to end.
This weekend our students are at a Retreat. We’ve been praying for them. I, like other parents had to get our kids to the meeting point for departure…
– 5pm arrival, 5:15pm departure
– As usual, one of my kids was ready, and the other, well, wasn’t (not revealing which one).
– Wanted to be there on time, the leaders were using our car for the trip, I wanna say hi to people, etc.
– Already late, we’re turning onto Brock Street (towards the meeting place), and my ‘late’ child says, “Dad, um, I forgot my contact case & solution”
– This led to some interesting conversation which led to this statement, It’s not my fault that I can’t see well” (HA. Very True.)
Seeing clearly is a beautiful gift. I am just now starting to feel like I might need a little something something to read. I’m putting it off, but eventually I too will need some spectacles.
I fondly remember my old church’s foyer having a bin to collect eye glasses so we could send them over seas to those who didn’t have any. Amazing right?
Seeing clearly is wonderful…especially when things get fuzzy…it becomes very frustrating.
– an image on your phone isn’t as clear as you’re used to
– watching TV/sports online when the wifi isn’t so good
– driving the first few minutes on a cold day (anybody do this? looking through the one part of your window that is semi-clean?)
– if you’re like my dad, who waited what seemed like forever to turn the wipers on when it was raining
In addition to our eyes, we also look for words, tag lines, phrases, that bring it all together for us…bring things into focus…sum up our values, our purpose. Why? Because we want a clear path to where we’re headed.
– – – – – – –
We dove into Colossians last week…
As we walk through this small book we will discover so much about Jesus.
Paul wrote these early Christians a gem of a letter…with a few very crucial parts, and none perhaps more important than the text we’re going to walk through today, 1:15-23.
A clear picture of Jesus is painted in this old poem or hymn. More than that, it tells us that Jesus himself is the clearest picture of the God we’re looking for.
– – – – – – – –
Let’s read this poem/hymn together… (1:15-20)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
It’s hard to express how much is in these few short verses – So much about Jesus – So much about Paul and the early church’s subversive language (more on this at the end). So much about why Jesus is everything and more, to them, and to us.
There are 6 words that you wanna focus on and really think about today and onward…
IMAGE / FIRSTBORN / HELD TOGETHER / HEAD / FULLNESS / RECONCILIATION
He is…the image…of the invisible God…
The most important thing we read here is that Jesus makes God visible.
What was once ‘unseen’ is now ‘seen’.
Eikon is the greek word for Image in this text. It can mean likeness (Hebrews 1:3). It can also mean manifestation. Those two meanings may tell us enough. However…
This word for image was also used as the word wisdom in Proverbs 7:26. So maybe Paul is also saying that Jesus is the wisdom they’ve been searching for – the image of the goodness and wisdom of God.
And…the word is the same as used in Genesis 1:26, ‘man in our image’. Humans were made in the image of God, but sin of course ruined this and messed this up.
All those things lead us to this: Jesus is…the image of God, the portrait of God, the clearest picture of God, the wisdom of God.
And if this word for image in Genesis has any connection…we can also say that he’s the clearest picture of our best selves. Jesus is what humanity looks like when it’s at it’s best…it’s intended creative purpose.
He is…the firstborn…over all creation…
Jesus was before and still is before. Jesus was part of creation. This puts Jesus at the beginning of the story, not just the end.
He is…the glue…that holds all things together…
“All things are held together through him”
This is a continuing theme of creation. If Jesus was there at creation, then and all created things are held together in him.
Paul probably says this to also combat the Gnostic philosophy that was prevalent in the 1st century. Gnostics believed that the earth was evil and the spirit is good. They created this divide between good and evil, but mainly saying that all things earthly are evil. But…All is good if Jesus created it. Of course there broken things, and sinful things, but in there original essence, God created all things good.
He is…the head…of the church body…
This is consistent with Paul’s thinking in other letters, reminding the Colossians that the church is a body, made up of many parts, with Jesus being it’s leader, it’s brain, it’s head. (an amazing metaphor)
The metaphor informs this idea: If Jesus is the head of the church, the body, then we are a living organism, we are limbs, we are connected to each other, while everything we do, inspired by and directed by, Jesus.
As much as this says about Jesus’ role as the head, it also very much tells us about our role as the body of Jesus.
He is…the fullness…of God…
This adds to Paul’s initial idea that when you see Jesus, you see God. So the fullness of God is in Jesus.
He is…the reconciler…between God/us…us/others
This last word is important for many reasons.
One – it’s reflection of our relationship with God, and Two – it’s reflection of our relationship with others.
Peace is always in high demand. If it was a stock, it would always be way up. And Jesus, according to Paul, is the one who brings two sides together, the one who breaks down dividing walls.
(Worth noting: When we build walls of conflict and hostility, we are actually working against the mission of Jesus – yikes)
– – – – – – –
We don’t have much time to go through 1:21-23. However, these verses continue this theme of reconciliation, and add a profound understanding of how God brings us close to himself.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.
Think about being in a big Mall…Yorkdale (a huge and classic mall in Toronto) maybe… and you go to the Map to find out how to get to the new chick-fil-e…or Drake’s OV store…or… (fill in the blank).
Once you find out where the store is, you look for that red symbol that says, “YOU ARE HERE”.
In order to get to where you have to go, you have to know where you are.
Paul, in these final verses says that there was a time that we weren’t even on the MAP. And now, not only are we on the map, we have found the store – we have been reconciled to GOD.
(We can tell Bono/U2 that we have found what we’re looking for – pun intended)
What a beautiful gospel message:
ONCE YOU WERE _____________
BUT NOW YOU ARE ____________
– – – – – – – – –
Now, back to the first verse, about Jesus being the image of the invisible God. HE. JESUS. Is where God and Humanity Meet.
When we see Jesus, we say, God? Is that you?
– – – – – – – – – –
This was subversive language in the 1st century. This poem was treasonous in a world populated by images of Caesar. A slap in the face to the Roman Empire.
Paul calls the Christians to bear the image of Jesus in shaping an alternative to the image of the empire. (Brian Walsh, Colossians Remixed)
Think about the images we wear, we represent, we give money to – the images that hold our attention. In this ancient poem, as much as it’s a theology lesson on who Jesus is, Paul is also challenging the images that take up too much space in our lives – that have become ‘god’ to us.
Only one image, one icon, leads us to the divine, that’s Jesus. May we see him for who he is, and trust him for all he does. He’s the only one who gets us from where we are to where God is.
For our walk to Easter this year we will use Colossians as a map. Why? Because Paul has so much to say about why we follow Jesus, who Jesus is, how to live out the Jesus life, and finally, maybe more importantly, that we need to “live our lives in Jesus, rooted & built up in him…” (2:6-7)
– – – – – – –
Every letter starts with something note worthy, some kind of intro, something endearing perhaps, or something to get the reader’s attention. Colossians is no different.
- Paul is an apostle: sent, on mission, spokesperson for God
- This tells us who Paul is…
- Addresses this church as God’s HOLY people & faithful brothers and sisters
- This tells us who the Colossians are
- Sends grace & peace to them on behalf of God
- This tells us how God feels about them & us
After these introductory words, Paul gets right into it. His first theme: The kind of people they are and can be because of Jesus in their life.
What do you think about the term. “My kind of people” or “these are my people”?
– a big assumption
– Positive? Negative? Depends?
– Sometimes you wanna be associated with that ‘person’, other times, not so much 🙂
– If you’re a foodie and you’re with foodies you might say, these are my people…
– If you’re a golf nut and you’re with golfers you might say, these are my people (or you might say, we only have golf in common:)
– If you’re a starwars fan…a marvel fan…a teacher… a sneaker snob…a gym rat…a startrek fan…you get the picture
“THESE ARE MY KIND OF PEOPLE”
Paul, in this first chapter of Colossians, basically is saying, you are my kind of people, because, you are or at least you are becoming Jesus-y people!!!
Let’s read through part of chapter one and see what kind of people Paul is describing…
– – – – – – – –
People of faith & love (1:3-6a)
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.
This young church is showing two very important qualities: Faith in God, Love for others.
Two very important sides of a follower of Jesus.
If we were a coin, these would be the two sides we flip between, both coinciding and working together.
Paul, in addressing these people, wants to remind them that they need to be committed to these twin pillars: Faith & Love.
Where does he get this from? Jesus of course.
Jesus’ very own creed, in Mark 12, included this two sided coin as well: LOVE GOD – LOVE OTHERS.
Paul says, THIS IS THE MESSAGE that came to you. Live this out. Faith in God. Love for others. Spurred on by the hope we have in Jesus.
This begs the question: How am I loving God & loving others?
People with goodnews to share and goodnews to live (1:6b-8)
He continues with these words…
In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.
Paul wants this young church to know that the message they’ve received isn’t just good news for them, but it’s good news for others, and it must be shared.
He commends them for how the gospel is bearing fruit , is growing, and is spreading.
He says something important:
- You learned it from Epaphras.
- (who is simply a local leader)(faithful, loving, living out his calling)
- They received it from someone
- They heard it from someone
- They learned it, not just from someone’s words, but someone’s life.
If that’s the case, then you, Colossians, and us, (insert the city you live in) need to in turn model this goodnews for others so that they catch if from you.
What do we learn here: that the gospel is a fruit bearing power wherever it is preached & lived.
This begs another couple of questions: What am I doing to share the good news? What am I doing to live the good news?
People who pray… (1:9-14)
Leading by example, Paul teaches them to pray… (and you thought we’d be done with prayer?)
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
I love how we get a glimpse into what’s important to this early church – what they value.
You get to know a lot about a person by what they’re praying. If you could listen in, you would know what they’re struggling with, what they love most, what they may be discerning at the moment, what hill or mountain they need to climb, what good thing may have just happened to them. All through what they’re praying.
First observation is that Paul, and his community of friends and Christian siblings are praying for another local church. Pretty cool. I wonder how many of us do that? Do you pray for every church you pass by? Probably not!
At the Village, we often say that every church is a good church for someone. If true, then we should be praying for them as much as we’re praying for us???
Second observation is that Paul specifically prays for…
- knowledge…of God’s will (ways/direction)…through the spirit’s wisdom
- that they would live lives that reflect who Jesus is…that bear fruit…that grow in their faith
- strength, endurance, patience (who does wish that someone was praying these 3 words for them?)
You can pray these already knowing that God is with you, helping you, rescuing you, loving you, redeeming you, forgiving you. (I LOVE THIS.)
One writer narrowed down this prayer to two requests
– discernment (knowledge)
– power (the ability to live out that knowledge)
Remember this: We pray, not to escape life, but to be better able to meet it head on.
– – – – – – – – –
To bring this to a close I want to go back to the beginning of the text. We skipped it on purpose, so we can end with it.
What kind of people is Paul hoping this young church develops into? People who others are thankful for…
People who others are thankful for (1:3-4)
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have…
I hope you’ve had this happen to you before, and if you have, you’ll know what I mean. Someone comes up to you, writes you, texts you or calls you to say, “I am so thankful for you”.
Is this not the best compliment any of us could receive? Yes. I mean, we don’t ever do it for the compliment, but if we here this, we know we’re doing something right.
This best describes everything we talked about today. People who love God & love others; People who share good news and live good news; People who pray; They are people who others are thankful for.
I wanna be one of those kinds of people. You?
If you get nothing else from today’s conversation, may it be this…
“Live in such a way that others are thankful for you”
What does that look like?
- we respond to needs
- we give what God puts on our heart to give
- we take time to listen
- we love without condition
- we don’t judge others for their sins
- we pray for people
- we encourage people
- we bless people
- we are present, in the moment, with others
There’s a reason Paul starts this letter with these words. Take note. Be those kinds of people – Jesus kind of people.
Family Weekend…that one holiday that we don’t care what government introduced it, we’re just glad they gave us another day off in the year 🙂
We’re thankful for another reason to spend time with the people we love the most and do life with.
Becoming family – it’s wonderful, messy and beautiful, all at the same time. If that’s having a child or two or three, becoming family with your spouse, or discovering that you’re family are the people who love you and that you love back. There’s always more to the warm and fuzzy feelings – we have to figure our HOW to be family – day in and day out.
– – – – – – –
Think about it this way: comparing Theory vs Doing or Instructions vs Action. they are always fun to balance and figure out. Easier said than done.
This week, I almost played pickle ball for the first time. Almost. My friend’s text instructions are worth mentioning…they said, ‘watch the video’…so I watched the video, and texted back, ‘I’m ready’…and they texted back, ‘that’s what I thought.’ (theory vs doing)
My kids recent got offered a side gig…a side hustle you might say. They both have part-time jobs, but figure they would use this little bit of extra money to put towards education. I was out at Costco and they called to tell me they were going to start this project (putting candy in gum ball machine capsules. They hadn’t received any instruction yet, so I had to slow them down and ensure they had all the info they needed to get started on this job. Not a fun thing to do while trying to shop at Costco and get out as soon as possible. Instructions vs Action.
– – – – – – –
Two weeks ago we came across this line in Luke 11, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
We have been talking about prayer the last few weeks. Figuring out how to pray???
3 things about prayer from our first talk:
- It’s Human to pray
- It’s Biblical to pray
- Praying happens everywhere & somewhere
3 things to keep in mind when we pray from our second talk:
- Keep it simple
- Keep it real
- Keep it up
What is prayer? (conversation/time with God)
Why do we pray? (develops our faith, heart, and life)
There have been many approaches to teach us HOW to pray. One traditional acronym is A.C.T.S. (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). One approach from Anne Lamott is, Help, Thanks, Wow. Simple, but good.
I came across one from Gordon Smith that felt like the perfect blend of all of them. The reason why I feel good about using this approach from Smith is:
- Gordon Smith is…an author, a teacher, and most importantly, a spiritual director
- He teaches people how to discern next steps, through prayer.
- One of his best lines or pieces of advice is this, “You can only make one decision at a time”
When you sit down to pray (find that somewhere), assuming that you will naturally ask God for help, Smith suggests 3 movements:
Thanksgiving / Confession / Discernment
Remember, our desire to figure out prayer is based on the disciples question in Luke 11, “Teach us to pray” and then in the crux of the Lord’s prayer that follows “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
With this prayer we are expressing the longing of our hearts & minds that the will of God would happen…here…on earth…in our everyday lives. Out of that main prayer, come these three movements.
We see and respond with gratitude to the ways in which God is already at work in our world and in our lives.
This is always the best place to start: when you feel it and when you don’t.
If it’s obvious, great, if not, then look for how you may have missed God at work in and around you.
If you can’t see his kingdom come just yet, thank him that you will see it very shortly.
Gratefulness is foundational to the Christian life, and therefore it’s gotta be foundational to prayer. We probably would agree that…
- grateful people see the world differently
- grateful people appreciate what they have
- grateful people love more, serve more, give more, help more, etc.
Not sure if you’ve seen The Mandalorian, a star wars series on the new Disney Plus. The Mandalorians are a tribe of people in the Starwars Galaxy. Not to take too much of your time on this, I will say that when this Mandalorian is faced with an ethical dilemma, his tribe reminds him of his way of peace and protection, and they say these words, “THIS IS THE WAY”.
The scriptures are very clear that ‘gratefulness’ is the way of the Christian. Followers of Jesus are, and must be, grateful people. This is OUR way.
Psalm 100:4, “Enter his gates with…Thanksgiving”
Colossians 3:15 “And be thankful” ( a simple, yet powerful 3 word sentence)
Colossians 2:6-7 says, So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
We only pray well when we give thanks.
It’s not always easy, but it’s always important. There is none, or at least very minimal growth in the Christian life, and no maturity, without gratefulness.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “We don’t enter into community as demanders, but rather as grateful recipients.”
Thanksgiving is the first movement of prayer. Then comes…Confession!!!
In the Lord’s prayer we are encouraged to ask for forgiveness and express forgiveness. Confession is our way toward forgiveness.
In Mark 1:15, Jesus says, “Repent and believe the goodnews” This starts with confession.
When we pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done.” We become aware of the ways our lives and wills are not in line with God’s ways. Confession helps us with awareness. It gets us to our authentic self – the real me
Important to note that repentance isn’t about feeling bad, it’s an act of intentional alignment, or better yet, realignment, with the ways of Jesus. Prayer is relationship. Prayer is also recalibration…re-centring.
Also important to remember that Confession is not about getting God to love us more. It flows from knowing that God already loves us a lot.
Prayer is the safest place to bring our mess ups to light. In whatever area we mess up: words, finances, integrity, sexuality, relationships, ethics, etc.
Confession is the second movement of prayer. Then comes…Discernment!!!
One thing we don’t often do in our praying, but should most definitely do, is ask God for direction, for discernment, for wisdom in all things.
Discernment is considering how God is calling us to live and act as participants in his kingdom, played out in our work, our families, our neighbourhoods, our decisions. We are discerning…what way to go, what direction to turn, what path to choose.
Why? Because our words and actions matter.
We read in 1 Kings 3, an amazing exchange between God and Solomon.
God says, ‘Ask me for anything’
Solomon says, ‘give me a discerning heart’
How would you respond if God asked you that question? Money. I’ll take Money. Since you’re asking, I’ll take some form or currency please. There are so many things we’d ask for before we get to wisdom and discernment.
But…if we had the discernment to make the right choice in every decision, just think about the possibilities???
Why is this such an important aspect to prayer? Because our actions matter, our work matters, our conversations matter, our decisions matter.
This is important to remember: we are not called to do more or less than what God is calling us to do. There are so many distractions, external and internal, that take us away from the right choice before us. If we could just realize that all we have to do is what God is asking of us, what God is leading us to, not more, nothing less.
“Discernment is always a matter of doing the best we can, with what we have, amidst the complexity and noise.”
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Why are these three movements essentials in our practice of prayer? It’s because of the temptations we fight.
Temptation #1: We frequently focus on what God is not doing, and the ways we wish he was more present, more active, more attentive.
Being thankful in our praying opens our eyes to see what God has done and what he’s actually doing.
Temptation #2: We tend to look at how others fall short, and how they aren’t living up to how we think they should be living.
Confession in our praying takes our eyes off of others and helps us see where we need to change.
Temptation #3: Two-fold. 1. See what’s wrong in the world and do nothing about it. 2. See what’s wrong with the world and try and do everything.
Praying for discernment helps us recognized what we are called to do, called to fix, called to serve, and do it with confidence & humility.
This week, when you pray, try using and implementing these three movements.
Start with thanking God for what he’s done, or what you believe he will do. Ask him to open your eyes to what you need to be grateful for.
Move to Confession. Be real with God. Don’t hide your brokenness. God loves you anyways.
End with Discernment. Ask God to direct your steps, your conversations, your conflicts, your difficult decisions.
A friend of mine recently posted a question on FB hoping to discover some information about musicians.
“What’s frustrating about guitar playing these days?”
“What is holding you back?” (various answers)
After a concert many years ago, I walked onto the stage to ask the band a few questions. Ya, I’m that guy who randomly walks onto stages post concerts. Asked the guitarist, “How’d you learn? School? Which one?”
Get this – he was embarrassed that he had a degree in music. Why? Because so many of his colleagues are self-taught.
This era is the self learning era – is it not? Google, youtube, _______ for dummies books and online resources.
Some people complain about our younger generation? I don’t see it. They are smart, disciplined in areas of learning and figuring out so many things. I, as do you, know people who are so passionate about learning something new, and it feels like in a about two weeks, they can become an expert in something. Amazing.
Why do people spend hours and hours on youtube and google? They want to figure out new things. How to…golf, build things, cook, program their computer, fix some broken item in their home, play music, etc.
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Two weeks ago we came across this line in Luke 11, “Lord, teach us how to pray.”
They had no google search. No Youtube. Just a simple question to the one who caught their attention, Jesus, “Can you teach us how to pray?”
What is prayer? (conversation/time with God)
Why do we pray? (develops our faith, heart, and life)
3 things from our first talk:
- It’s Human to pray
- It’s Biblical to pray
- Praying happens everywhere & somewhere
Wonderful. But there are some obstacles to praying. Aren’t they. One you may hear about a lot? It’s hard to pray.
Today we’ll talk about 3 things to help us overcome this obstacle…
But first: Matthew 6 (1st – MSG & 2nd – NIV)
5 “And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?
6 “Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
7-13 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.
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5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
One phrase rings through this text…
“When you pray”
I love the assumption Jesus makes…that we will pray, that we need to pray, that we must pray, that prayer is essential. But he doesn’t leave us hanging, he gives us some valuable instruction.
When you pray…don’t be fake…if so your only reward will be that you’ll be seen by others.
When you pray…go to a place of solitude…if so, you won’t be seen by others, but you’ll be seen by God.
When you pray…don’t babble…because many words aren’t important…words or no words, God knows what you need before you even say a word.
Knowing that we will deal with these issues in prayer, like not doing it for the right reasons, like trying to hard to make our prayers perfect, worrying what we sound like, and the most important one, it’s hard to pray – here are few things to keep in mind to help us figure out how to pray.
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(These points titles were inspired by and borrowed from Pete Grieg)
Keep it Simple
The words we read in Matthew 6 are followed by the Lord’s Prayer. This prayer was just 31 words long (original language). Originally, it rhymed. Jesus offers us a simple poem that rhymes. It fits in a tweet folks.
Anglican Bishop, Justin Welby, said that the Lord’s Prayer is, ‘simple enough to be memorized by small children and yet profound enough to sustain a whole life time or prayer.’
A new Christian once asked, ‘is it ok if I talk to God in the shower?’ YES. Better than talking to yourself I guess 😉
I’ve been driving with people and and talking about perhaps some difficulty they’re going through, and offered to pray, and they might joke, ‘don’t close your eyes’. For some reason we think our eyes have to be closed.
There are very few rules – the shower, driving, running, quiet moments in solitude, write them down, sing them, rap them, pray in your head, etc.
Hebrews 10:9 says that God’s presence is available to us all at any time, in any place, through Jesus.
God only invites us to pray simply, directly, and truthfully.
In the words of Avril Levin, why we have to make things more complicated?
Keep in Real
In Luke 18 Jesus tells a story about people arriving at the temple to pray. One, a Pharisee, stood and spoke eloquently, ticking all the right religious boxes, but the other man, a tax collector, humbled, wouldn’t even look up, muttering, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus says, which man went home justified? The humble, real, authentic, tax collector.
Thomas Merton says, “God is far too real to be met anywhere other than reality.”
Some of you may remember, a few years ago, we borrowed Anne Lamott’s book title for a series on prayer. So refreshing – simply, “Help, Thanks, Wow”. She argues that these are the only words we will ever need.
“My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say, ‘I’m exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like you at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in you,’ that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. Or if you said, it’s all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if you exist, but I could use a hand,’ it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride, for the courage it took to get real – really real.”
Let me tell you…my prayers have been very REAL the last few months. Janet asked me one night in the hospital, “I never see you crying?”. What she didn’t see was me walking the halls, walking back and forth to the car, driving the 401, crying, praying, saying all sorts of stuff to God. I gave it pretty hard to God in those moments.
Jesus was real with God before the cross. Sure, he said, Let your will be done, but before that he said, take this cup from me.
In my prayers, I might eventually get to ‘Let your will be done’ too. But God probably hears a lot more than that before we get there.
Psalm 55:17 seems appropriate here, “Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice.”
Jacob literally wrestles with God. (Gen 32)
Moses complains about the people God called him to lead. (Numbers 11:11-12)
I love that these things, and so much more, are found in the scriptures. No hiding people’s honest prayers to God.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “What seem our worst prayers may really be, in God’s eyes, our best. Those, I mean, which are least supported by devotional feeling…These, perhaps…come from a deeper level than feeling…God sometimes seems to speak to us most intimately when he catches us, as it were, off our guard.” (Letters to Malcom)
Keep it Up
Jesus told his disciples that they should always pray and never give up. (Luke 18:1)
Paul told the Ephesians to “Keep on praying” (6:18)
Prayer isn’t about trial and error and finding the right formula, it’s about not giving up.
Daily prayer means…well…daily prayer.
“You cannot grow in prayer without some measure of effort and discomfort and self-discipline.”
Someone once compared praying to throwing rocks in a swamp. Each rock sinks without a trace. The exercise seems pointless. But keep going long enough, keep throwing those rocks, and the swamp will eventually be filled. One day, a rock will be thrown that will not sink. Solid ground will begin to appear.
Build the rhythm and routine of prayer in your life. It’s the only way for your relationship with God to, not just survive, but thrive.
I was encouraged and challenged, a few months back, to hug my wife every day for 15 second. It’s been amazing. The routine, the rhythm, the consistency, it all adds up to a better, loving, appreciative relationship. It’s the same with ongoing prayer.
There’s no other way to say this, but the more you pray, the better you become at prayer, and the clearer God’s voice becomes in your life.
Keep it Simple
Keep it Real
Keep it Up
In other words, our basic building blocks in our approach to prayer must be…
There’s a story recorded in John chapter 4 where Jesus is interacting with a Samaritan woman at a well. The woman is shocked for the fact that not only is this man speaking with her, but this Jewish man is speaking with her and knows things about her he shouldn’t possibly know. She then says this:
19“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
In other words… you used to worship somewhere, but now the time has come to worship everywhere. If prayer, as we talked about last week, needs to begin somewhere in order for us to do it everywhere, the opposite is true of worship. In order for us to experience meaningful worship when we gather together as community on Sundays, we need to be people familiar with worship in the everyday, in spirit and in truth.
So let’s start with a basic a definition of what worship is, “Worship is to honour with extravagant love and extreme submission”.
I read a description once that has always stuck with me where the author described worship as ‘adornment’, meaning with our words, actions and deeds we are adorning our King. We are crowning Him and wrapping him in His kingly robes. We are enthroning Him with our worship. Thats what worship is – it’s us saying ‘God, take your rightly place as King and Lord.’
As accurate as I think that description of worship is, sometimes we can get it a little twisted and we think that somehow when we worship, we’re doing God a favour. Like He needs this.
Have you ever seen the movie Elf? There’s a scene near the end of the movie where Santa’s sleigh can’t fly because it runs on Christmas Spirit and Christmas Spirit is low. So this group of people, they started singing Christmas songs together because “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” As they sing, Christmas Spirit increases and Santa’s sleigh is able to fly. I think we can view worship like that sometimes. The more I worship, the harder I worship, the louder I sing- the more power God will have to be able to move in my life and in my circumstance. If I could just worship harder, God will be able to move. He can fly his sleigh and the presents will be delivered to all the boys and girls.
But that’s not how it works. God does not in fact NEED our worship in order to accomplish anything.
So then why worship?
Let’s go all the way back to the Exodus story for moment. This is the story of God calling his people, Israel, out of slavery in Egypt. God raises up Moses as a leader and His spokesperson who then goes to Pharaoh and presents the Lord’s request which is, “Let my people go…” But the second, often overlooked, part of that request, is “…so that they may worship me.’
God’s intentions for Israel in freeing them from captivity is for worship. But why? He doesn’t need it.
Let’s look at two main reason for worship from the Exodus story:
- Worship changes us.
After the Exodus event we have to assume that everything God requested of Israel was meant to be worship. Everything – from what they wore to what they ate, how they interacted with one another, even how they treated animals – it was all worship. It was God’s plan from the start that worship first and foremost would be a way of life. Not just an event or occurrence. Worship truly was meant to be the lifestyle of God’s people.
And this worship – this lifestyle of worship – was what God used to form His people into His people. It wasn’t performing rituals and following commands that made them holy- what made them holy was that they were doing all of these things as worship to a Holy God. We become what we worship.
Did God need Israel to worship Him? No. But Israel needed to worship God. Let’s go back to that description of worship as adornment – that image of crowning God has King and putting Him in his rightful place. We don’t do that because if not God cannot be King. He is King. We do that because WE need to recognize God as King in our lives. We need Him to be our Lord.
Here’s how one author has perfectly described God:
From all eternity the ever-existing, never-becoming, always-perfect God has known Himself and loved what He knows. He has eternally seen his beauty and savoured what he sees. His understanding of His own reality is flawless and his exuberance in enjoying it is infinite. He has no needs, for he has no imperfections. He has no inclinations to evil because he has no deficiencies that would tempt him to do wrong. He is therefore the holiest and happiest being that is or that can be conceived… To share in this experience – the experience of knowing and enjoying His glory – is the reason God created the world.
That’s why we worship. Because God has invited us to share in who He is. To experience that. Worship is an invitation from God not an invention of man. He moves first, He invites, we respond.
Just as an aside here, as I’ve mentioned already, worship is more than one specific activity. Our work can be worship, cleaning our house can be worship. There are a lot of ways to express our worship to God. But, that being said, there IS something about a song that helps us connect those Spirit and Truth pieces of worship.
When Israel was called out from their captivity in Egypt, to their new life of worship do you know what the first thing they did was?
Exodus 14:29-15:1 says, But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
“I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
Both horse and driver
he has hurled into the sea.”
I don’t believe this is a coincidence. The very first thing God’s people did when they were freed from Pharaohs’ hand and they arrived on the other side of the Red Sea to live their new life of worship was sing a song together as a community. And I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is the first ever song recorded in the Bible. There’s something about a song. There’s something powerful about music.
Here’s a question for us to consider today: how do we know we are successful worshipers? How do we know we’ve done a good job at worshiping God? What does successful worship look like?
Constance Cherry is an Anglican minister who’s written many books on worship and she says this: “The measure of a worshiping heart is the active disciple.”
Which bring us to the next reason why we worship:
2. It changes our world.
Worshiping hearts make for active disciples which makes for a changed world.
Let’s go back once again to that Exodus story. Now you have God’s people living their lives of worship in the Promised Land. And from the outside, that ‘life of worship’ can look very insular. From the outside looking in, it can appear that in order to be God’s Holy people they must be cut-off from the world. It could appear that all these laws and regulations were to keep the bad away. But true worship, as NT Wright says, is not world-denying but world changing. When we pull back the lens and zoom out we see the bigger picture. We see that this life of worship and holiness wasn’t just for the sake of God’s people right there, at that moment in time. It wasn’t just for Israel. It wasn’t just so that they could have their life of freedom out there in the promise land. When we see the bigger picture we see that this bunch of crazy worshipers changed the world. And you know how I know that? Because we’re here right now.
When the catholic church gathers for worship, it’s called mass. Mass comes from a latin word that means the sending. I love that. This is the sending. This is why we gather together to worship. It’s for the sending. It’s so that the world can be changed.
(written & taught by: Rebecca Chase)