You may remember, in our last post, we started talking about activities that some find enjoyable, but others may actually find repulsive. Golf, Cleaning your house, Math, the Gym, and…Fishing. Ah, Fishing, an activity I never think about doing 🙂
All that was to lead us to this theme that we find in some parts of the Bible…stories that involve fish.
Brad Clarke started us off in the Fall…(Matthew 17, coin in mouth of a fish)
2 weeks ago we talked about Jesus calling Fishermen as his first Disciples.
In the fall we’ll hit the biggest of all Fish Stories…Jonah.
Today we jump into a story that, to be honest, the fish take such a small part of, but that’s the point of today’s text. It’s not about how much of the story you’re in, but that you’re in the right story. It’s not about how much you have to offer, but that you offer what you have. It’s not about the size of the your gift, but the willingness to give it, to use it, to share it, to see what God will do with the little that you have.
You’ll find today’s story in all 4 gospels. There are a few differences, as the gospels often offer, but otherwise basically the same. In Matthew’s version, it’s bookended with a story about John the Baptist’s death, and Jesus walking on water. One about grief, one about faith, and in the middle, one about Jesus doing what Jesus does with the little we have to offer.
It’s in Matthew 14:13-21, where we read about Jesus feeding 5000+ people.
(more like 15-20000)
Definitely one of Jesus ‘greatest’ and most ‘popular’ miracles…if we’re grading them 😉
Why? Simply the sheer number of people affected, and the craziness of the story. Let’s get into it and see why there’s more to this story than a crowd, a big dinner, and enough leftovers to feed an army.
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13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
In the verses just before, we find a gruesome story. John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was beheaded. All this because the King’s daughter asked for his head on a platter, and the King obliges. So sad.
So when Matthew says, ‘Jesus heard what had happened.’ That is what happened.
And what was Jesus’ reaction? To be alone.
When were you last really sad? Death of a loved one, a break up, you didn’t get the job you wanted and thought you’d be getting, etc. In moments like these, you might wanna hide. You cancel your plans, you say no to your friend’s invites, and you stay home, or go to your favourite ‘alone’ spot. Jesus didn’t have Netflix to binge on, so solitude actually meant solitude.
Jesus is no different. That is his plan. To be alone. But that plan doesn’t transpire.
14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
You get to your favourite spot and you see someone you know (bad timing).
You just settle into a night alone and the door bell rings. (bad timing)
It could be your best friend in these situations, but you don’t want to see anybody. (bad timing)
The crowd beats Jesus to his ‘alone’ spot. Not only is he interrupted, but they even get there before him.
3 things happen:
– He SAW people
– He had COMPASSION on them
– He HEALED their sicknesses
The only thing that could’ve changed his plans? COMPASSION. It always wins at the end of day.
Compassion isn’t just feeling bad for someone, it’s feeling what they feel.
It’s like you are suffering what they are suffering…you are suffering with them.
It’s more than ‘too bad’…it’s more like…I see your pain, I feel your pain, how can I alleviate your pain.
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
I love this scene. The Disciples are thinking, ‘good job Jesus, but let’s get these people out of here, it’s getting close to dinner.’ Smart. They propose an idea to Jesus. Jesus, of course, says, I take your idea, and I’m going to expand it.
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
Jesus takes good ideas and turns them into great ideas…or crazy ideas, depending how you look at them. Probably more like crazy ideas that turn into great ideas.
His COMPASSION compels him to go further. They’re hungry? Let’s feed them ourselves. The disciples might say, ‘of course Jesus, that would be the more ‘compassionate’ thing to do…let’s go with your idea…as crazy as it is…BUT…
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
Words many of us have said before…WE ONLY HAVE…or…I DON’T HAVE enough.
These are regular, everyday, human reactions.
Here’s where the fish come into play. Told you… they are a very small part of this story. Only two of them. That’s it. Two fish.
What part do you play? Do you see yourself as insignificant? Or can you appreciate the role that you play, the part that you contribute?
We think this about ourselves too often.
I’m not enough
I don’t have what it takes
I don’t have much to offer
I ONLY HAVE 5 loaves & 2 fish
Just then, Jesus offers some of the best words we’ve heard uttered from him…
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said.
What do you have? OK. Offer it up. Give it to me. Hand them over. I’ll work with what you have.
I was at a leadership conference many years ago. It was inspiring and challenging and somewhat overwhelming too. I happened to meet one of the key speakers, and when I introduced myself I said, “Hi, my name is Jonathan Manafo, I’m just a 29 year old pastor from Canada.” And he replied with one simply, but powerful word, “JUST?”
Those are Jesus’ words to the Disciples and to us. JUST? You don’t ‘just’ have 5 loaves. You don’t ‘just’ have 2 fish. You HAVE 5 loaves and 2 fish.
BRING ME WHAT YOU HAVE.
NT Wright comments on these verses by saying, Jesus takes ideas, loaves and fishes, money, a sense of humour, time, energy, talents, love, artistic gifts, skill with words, quickness of eye or fingers, whatever we have to offer. He holds them before his Father with prayer and blessing. Then, breaking them, so they are ready for use, he gives them back to us, to give to those who need them.
19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
This is interesting…Jesus takes the food, prays for it, breaks the bread, and gives it back to his Disciples.
Jesus will always turn back to us and say, ‘you in?’ Let’s do this together.
So instead of worrying about what you don’t have, Jesus reminds us to thank God for what we do have, and then use it.
The story ends with…
20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that wereleft over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
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Let’s wrap things up with a few questions…
Will we be like Jesus and let compassion influence our actions & reactions?
Jesus eventually does get some rest and alone time, we should too. But if we choose to be people of compassion, sometimes the rest will have to wait, but the possibility for a miracle goes way up.
Simply put, compassion may take over, and if it does, follow it to see what happens.
Will we let Jesus take our good ideas and turn them into great ideas?
Brainstorming in team settings is always the best way to arrived a preferred outcome, the same goes with Jesus. Don’t be afraid to offer up an idea, and don’t be sad when a better one comes along.
Jesus’ ideas might even be crazy, but they are definitely worth entertaining if they come from him.
Will we let Jesus use our limited resources and turn them into miracles?
Only in John’s gospel do we read about a boy in this story. He gave what he had, his lunch that contained only 5 loaves and 2 fish. And guess what? Jesus did what only he could do, and turned it into a feast.
A lunch combo into a FEAST. Crazy? Yes. Amazing? YES.
I leave you with one line to remember and think about…
“Jesus wants what we think we don’t have, to help us do things we think we can’t do.”
Is there a pass time or a passion that your friends are into that just baffles you? You think, ‘how can anyone spend time doing this?’ I’d rather watch a tap drip than doing that?
My Father in-law used to say, ‘you couldn’t pay me a million dollars to follow a little while ball around a field of grass’, to which would say, ‘I’m pretty sure I’d accept a million dollars to do that’. He was speaking about golf of course. (some people think it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world)
Fishing might be that thing for me. Some of my friends absolutely love it. I don’t see what’s so awesome about it. I have a friend who uses his kayak to fish; I mean, who would ruin a good paddle by bringing a fishing rod along?
I have very limited experience in it. Never on a boat – only on a shore. I’ve never once thought,“I would love to go fishing this weekend”. To be fair, it’s not something my dad ever introduced to me or anyone in my family was into.
You ever talk to people who love fishing? They are serious. There are those who do it for a hobby, and then those who do it for a living. We’d call them the real Fishermen or Fisherwomen.
Well, if you’re wondering why we’ve started with this little rant, it’s because it’s to these kinds of people that Jesus extended an invitation (one of his initial invitations) to follow him.
Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen. They either loved fishing or knew no better way to make a living.
(FYI: Fish Stories is a mini series we’ll sporadically come back to from time to time. This post is about one such fish story in the Gospel)
Today’s story lets us in on Jesus’ attraction of first century crowds, Peter’s acknowledgment that Jesus is Lord, and our response to Jesus’ invitation – to fish? No, to do what he asks and what he calls us to.
Let’s Jump in…into Luke 5:1-11
Just before this story, in Luke 4, we read about Jesus’ being tested in the wilderness, we get a glimpse into Jesus personal mission statement (proclaim good news, set oppressed people free, give sight to the blind), and other acts of healing and deliverance.
When we reach Luke 5, we find Jesus teaching, with a crowd gathering. So much of a crowd that he had to find a creative way to have this crowd actually hear what he is saying.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
Luke makes an important point in these opening verses: When Jesus opens his mouth, he is speaking the words of God. Very intentional here by Luke – he wants us to know that Jesus’ words are God’s words.
Why did the crowds form? Why were people so intrigued? What was all the fuss about this guy Jesus? It was this: His words were God’s words, his teaching was God’s word, to them, to us, to anyone who hears them.
This is all we know about what Jesus taught that day, no details, just this phrase, “The people were listening to the word of God”.
At a certain point, Jesus asks Simon to push his boat out to shore. This is not ideal for Simon, who just finished his shift. Who wants to drag out their tools when they’re done work? Not too many people. Especially those who’s work is hard and labour intensive.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
The potential irritation to ‘keep working’ continues here…
Nets are cleaned, boats are docked, the night shift wasn’t successful…
Jesus still asks Simon to put the nets in again
How would you feel?
This is Simon’s response, “Because you say so…I will.”
Was this a reluctant yes? Was it a willing yes? Was it a, ‘sure, but do you think you know how to fish better than I do,’ yes? Note that more fish were caught at night in this sea. The day time wasn’t a good time to catch anything. Again, adding to the potential questions from Simon and the others.
But this says so much about how we listen to and obey Jesus. Listening is part one. Doing is part two. Sometimes you might even question in your mind and heart, which is very normal, but, can we get to a point where we say ‘If you say so…I’ll do it?’
What does that response look like for you right now?
When was the last time you responded to Jesus this way?
Might you be in a conversation like this with God right now?
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
What happened in this next section of the story is that their uncertainty turned to into astonishment. Their ‘sure we’ll do this’ turned into ‘oh my…wow…AMAZING.’
Not to get lost in this story is that Jesus helped these fishermen at work. Which begs a few questions…
Do you regularly allow God to help you at work?
Are you open to Jesus’ informing your work related decisions and tasks?
Do you even consider that this is possible?
Peter’s response is key to this story: it’s one of awe, worship, humility, brokenness, awareness of sin.
Peter didn’t say, ‘C’mon Jesus, now you’re just showing off’ He says, You’re God, I’m not & I’m in!
Miracles aren’t about Jesus’ showing off – Miracles help us see God for who he is, and see ourselves for who we are.
This brings us to the end of this story…
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
We see this line 9 times in the gospels from Jesus. Don’t be Afraid. About what? Afraid about what just happened? Afraid about what is going to happen? Both?
Jesus knows that what he’s calling them to is risky and scary and different…but it’s also worth it. He doesn’t want fear to hold them back. He never wants fear to hold us back.
Think about how crazy this is: after their best day on the job, Jesus’ asks them to do something else. I mean, at least he asks them to fish for something else. But after the most successful and profitable day on the job, he turns to them and says, ‘It’s time to quit.’ That’s crazy right?
“From now on you will fish for people”
I’d be like, Are you sure Jesus? We had a good day. We can made bank with you on our team. Hey guys, can we all vote to invite Jesus as our new business partner? What percentage do you think he’s worth? 10, 20? 50%? It would turn into an episode of Shark tank.
Their response is wild and crazy and yet, still appropriate.
They pulled up their boats on shore, left everything and followed him. WOW!
In essence they say, I’ll keep fishing…but it’ll be for things that matter.
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Disclaimer: Not everyone has to leave their job. Some do (many examples of that, my Dad being one of them). But most don’t.
At the very least, what will change is your purpose. See things for more than they are. Invite Jesus to help you at work, but know that it’s also not all about what you do or accomplish, and more about the people you impact, the neighbour you love, the co-worker you listen to, the child you teach, the boss you pray for.
Getting a HUGE catch at work is great. Landing a HUGE sale at work is great. Making lots of profit at work is good. BUT…seeing God work in someone’s life, seeing Jesus’ ways get planted into someone’s life and then seeing that life make a difference because of it, that’s HUGE. That’s the HUGE catch Jesus is calling us to.
So…as we wrap things up…
What is your YES to Jesus about?
What does your “If you say so, I’ll do it” story look like?
Who is Jesus drawing your attention to…or putting a burden on your heart for…basically, who does Jesus want you to lure into the Kingdom of God?
And what are you afraid of?
Is saying YES scary? Yup. Is it worth it? Yup.
When Jesus extends an invitation to normal people like us, let’s try and get ourselves to this response, “Because you say so…I will”.
The Table is the most important piece of furniture in the Kingdom of God.
Let me say that again…The Table is the most important piece of furniture in the Kingdom of God.
It’s what brings us together. It’s what levels the playing field. It’s what gets us talking, and praying, and confessing, and asking questions.
On Sundays like today, we have two tables set-up. One is larger in length, at the back, that holds the coffee and snacks for our break, the other is smaller in size, but larger in significance. Both do similar things, bring the body of Christ together in Community.
We’ll get to more of that theme in today’s post, but first…a bit of a recap from our series: GROW-ing.
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Our winter series was intended for us to walk through few vision points, and we did just that.
We started with a reminder that we have the responsibility to plant seeds, nurture those seeds, and allow God to do his work of growth…in us… through us. (post here)
What did we focus on?
Letting go & Letting God
What must I give up? What must I add?
Formation isn’t a one time event, but a collection of moments, experiences, practices, conversations, gatherings, challenges, wins, losses, brokenness, and healing.
“The kingdom that Jesus preached & lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity”(NT Wright)
Being generous, is an investment…
More about a decision, than a dollar…
Everybody wins with generosity…
It’s going to involve a healthy understanding of stewarding your finances and your gifts…
Impact is doing good
Impact is sharing Jesus
Impact is Living, Serving, Speaking
What kind of dent or difference are we making for God and for good, at home, in our neighbourhood, at work, in our city, in our world?
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This ALL happens…in and through the context of community.
We want to grow in our sense of community.
Become a community who has Jesus at the centre
Become a community who loves God & others
Become a community that is unique & attractive
Become a community who cares, loves, welcomes, cheers on, prays, builds up, encourages, challenges, confesses, that IS
The word for church is EKKLESIA. This comes from two words: Kaleo (called) & Ek (out).
We’re called out of the world, to be community together.
Henri Houwen talks about a traditional Bell Tower ringing…and people, from different homes, different experiences, different backgrounds, different influences, come together and become one in Christ – to be the church together.
Remember though, that we’re also called back into the world, to be light, to be hope, to be makers of peace.
The church is called out of the world to be community together (gather) and we are also called back into the world (scatter) to be live out the love of Jesus we’ve experienced together.
Earlier in our gathering we read from two scripture texts. Matthew 18 & Acts 2.
(Matthew 18) For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. (Acts 2) They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.All the believers were together and had everything in common.They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Jesus’ words in Matthew were the initial invitation to gather around him.
In Acts 2, Luke fleshes this out in a practical and real way.
Here’s the beauty and mystery of all that we talked about in this series…it all happens or flows out of a biblical and healthy understanding of community.
Luke describes a community where all these things happen: Formation, Generosity, Impact. In Acts they…
Broke Bread together
Filled in Awe, saw god at work…together
Looked for needs to fill…together
What we learn from early on, from Jesus words, from the early church’s experience, and up until our current day expression: Following Jesus can’t happen alone. It’s impossible.
A few other places we see this in the NT…
John 17:20 ‘I pray that they may be one’ Ephesians 4:2 ‘bear with one another in love’ Galatians 5:13 ‘serve one another humbly’ 2 Thessalonians 1:3 ‘thank God for my bros & sis’ 1 John 3:23 ‘love one another’ 1 John 4:12 ‘people see God when we love one another’
Think about the 2 sacraments that the protestant church practices: Baptism & Communion.
Each of them are things you can’t do alone
You can’t dunk yourself. Baptism alone is just a bath.
Communion alone is just starch & shots
The word Sacrament = Mystery. And it is a mystery how broken people become family. It’s a mystery I want to be a part of.
Bob Goff wrote, “Next to grace, I bet God thinks having us need each other was one of his best ideas.”
Mr Rogers said, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet? There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” (this is most true in the church)
Bonhoeffer (the real theologian of the bunch) said, “In a Christian community everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in the chain. Once the smallest link is securely interlocked, is the chain unbreakable.”
He’s saying that the weak need the strong, and the strong need the weak.
Just like kid’s Lego sets, you don’t always know what’s missing, until you need a piece.
But I think the church should be different…
“Let’s not wait until someone is missing to value them – let’s value them from the beginning so they never go missing.”
So…know this…as we grow in community, we will inevitably grow in formation, generosity, and in impact.
And know this too…gathering together is not to be taken lightly…it’s so important to your spiritual life. You are MISSED when you’re not here. The church is not the same, when you are not here.
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Let’s end with Paul’s words in Colossians 3:15-17. May they be a prayer for you, for us, for all who desire to find Christ in the context of community, the church.
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.
We’re continuing our conversation from last week about our desire to grow, as a community, and as individuals, in our impact.
Growing…in Formation…in Generosity…in our sense of Community…will always lead to us making a greater impact!
How do we define Impact?
What kind of dent or difference are we making for God and for good, at home, in our neighbourhood, at work, in our city, in our world?
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For any church community…or follower of Jesus…of human for that matter…we make an impact in 3 ways…
How we LIVE…SERVE…SPEAK
LIVE in such a way that convinces others that God is real and present.
Fredrick Neichze, a philosopher and cultural critic, who lived in the mid-late 1800’s was an advocate of atheism and agnosticism. He was well known for one of his written pieces, Madman. About a man running in the streets shouting, God is dead, God is dead. One of the many lines was this very interesting one, “And you killed him, because you live like he doesn’t exist.” A serious critique of Christianity, wouldn’t you say.
Ghandi, in less dramatic style, said this once to the church, “I like your Christ, I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ. If they were, all of India would want to be a follower of Christ.” Also, quite the critique, don’t you think?
They were both saying the same thing: Live like Jesus, and people might just see that God is ALIVE. If you don’t, you Christians are hurting the cause.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9, Paul is grateful that this early and young church are, one, imitators the gospel (living out their faith for people to see) and two, loud with their lives (his words are in fact, and the message rang out from them).
So, don’t just talk a good talk…live a life that backs it up!
SERVE in such a way that shows others that Love & Grace are alive & well.
Anytime we give, serve, contribute, fill a need, help a hurt, feed an empty stomach, … We are being Jesus to others.
It’s in Matthew 25 that Jesus days, if you’ve done this to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me…
this is what makes dent in our world
this is what makes difference in our city
this is what helps others see the love and grace of Jesus
Jesus will only be as alive to others as he is alive in us and through us!
SPEAK in such ways that communicate Jesus is alive and is worth following.
I recently came across some info that says there’s a decline of religious and moral words. Words to describe faith have declined over the course of the 20th century. According to Google Ngram, 74% of words associated with faith were used less frequently over the last century. Words like, grace, mercy, wisdom, faith, honesty, righteousness. And…words like love, patience, gentleness, have become rarer too. Modesty = 52% less. Kindness = 56% less. Thankfulness = 49%.
Why bring this up. Well, I believe that it’s our responsibility to provide language and words for good conversation to take place.
For this we look to Colossians 4:2-6… Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Pray (talk to God about people before you talk to people about God)
– Pray to be clear, to be wise, to be graceful
Be wise when talking to people about God
– don’t waste opportunities
– don’t manufacture moments
– but please, don’t waste them either
When you do open your mouth to speak, remember that it’s a conversation, never a speech.
– 2 ways: Listen & Talk (in that order)
– Full of Grace & Salt…or…put another way, Thoughtful & Tasty
– – – – – – –
If we wanna make an impact? If we wanna make a difference?
It’ll happen in the way we LIVE, the way we SERVE, and in how we SPEAK.
I guess now all we have to do is simply live out our faith…take advantage of the opportunities to serve…and when the moment arrives, speak, with gentleness, respect, grace, and a touch of salt. Who knows what God can do through us? Let’s try and see what happens.
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We also had the chance to interview Michelle Little this past Sunday. We do this from time to time at The Village; take a few moments to hear someone’s story through a live interview.
Here are a few things that came from the interview:
Michelle is a camp director, a mom, a wife, and a wonderful person who’s trying to become all that God has called her to be
Michelle is passionate about helping young people, kids and teens, discover how amazing it is to follow Jesus, and how that will help them in every area of their life. She’s also very excited to help them become future leaders.
She sees camps like Mini Yo We as a partners in a child’s development, both spiritual and physical.
We talked about her journey of formation, the people that helped her along the way, and how this inspires her to do the same for others.
We heard about her patience in waiting for what she thought was her and God’s dream for her life. How she almost gave up on it. How it eventually felt like the exact perfect time for it all to come together.
She affirmed our greatest church community value, that it takes a village for any of us to become who God is calling us to be.
Why does she follow Jesus? Because he makes sense. Because he is worth every inch of our heart, and every moment of our attention.
If you get a chance to chat with her, she’d love to tell you more.
Why do we think that we have to be loud to say something…that we have to be loud to get the attention of others?
My Grandfather used to say that if you throw pots down the stairs they’re loud and clanky, but that’s because they’re nothing inside. However, when you turn a light on, you hear nothing, but everything in the room changes – the light says so much with very little volume.
We can say so much with who we are, how we live, how we love…and yes…even with what we say…and how we say it!
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This week we continue our winter series : GROW-ing
So far we’ve talked about Formation (so important) & Generosity (important and & fun). We’ll eventually end with Community. But today we land on IMPACT.
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Can a church, be a church, without the expectation of growth & impact? Can we say we’re a church, but then have no expectation or desire to increase, both in number and in impact? I’m pretty sure the answer is no.
And what does or should that even look like?
Brian McLaren said, “The gospel is like a good song, it sneaks up on you, then it sneaks into you.”
You can’t hear it without it changing you, without it making an impact on you.
It’s not a song that can stay on your personal playlist…you gotta share it.
What does it mean to make an impact in our world, our society, our cities, our neighbourhood?
We often share our mission statement, which goes like this, “We are discovering what it means to Love God, Love Others, Make the world better.”
As a community, this involves what we do collectively:
Being Jesus (with skin on)
Where do we start?
Making an impact must involve pointing people to Jesus.
If we believe that Jesus points us to God, then we must, in some way, point people to Jesus. And be as creative in doing that as possible.
The Bible Says…
Preach the gospel & Make disciples
Share the gospel, and share your lives
God so loved the world that he gave
You are the light of the world
I’ve always found that 1 Peter 3:13-17, gets us to the heart of what it means to live an impactful life.
Let’s dig into this text, shall we…
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 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,keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Peter gives us a really healthy template for what an impactful life looks like. More than that, how to share our faith with integrity and authenticity.
Do Good (always)
I love how Peter starts us off in this section…
Who’s going to harm you when you do good? Actually, that may happen…but even it does, don’t let it stop you. (HA)
I have a contact card…are contact cards still a thing?…oh well. There’s a line on it that I’ve borrowed and paraphrased from Galatians 6:9. It goes like this. Don’t stop doing good things.
Doing good will always be part of our mission. On days when it’s easy. And on days when it’s hard.
Christ followers have an incredible contribution to make to society in which they live, by breaking the cycle of people returning evil for evil.
A few verses earlier Peter says, Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called…
You can’t go wrong with doing good – it’s like planting seeds and believing for a good return – it’s also like laying the groundwork for God to get people’s attention.
(look at this old paraphrase of this same text) …we do good, and even suffer for it, in order to unscramble God’s word and declare in witness and deed his love & salvation for a disoriented & disjointed world… (I LOVE THIS)
Keep Jesus at the centre
If the first thing Peter says sets the stage for others to experience Jesus, this next thing sets the stage for us to be effective in our witness…
In your hearts, revere Christ as Lord (NIV) Worship Christ as Lord in your Life (NLT) In your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy (ESV) Keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master (MSG)
In your hearts = at your core, in your centre. Simply saying, keep JESUS at the CENTRE.
The greek word (revere) used is hagiazo = which also means, “set apart”
Jesus, I set you apart, as master, lord, ruler
Also means you’re acknowledging Jesus as HOLY = he’s God, I’m not.
And he makes me Holy (I can’t do that on my own)
Peter talks about holiness a lot in his letter
If I want my witness to be effective? If I want my life to make a difference? If we want our church community to make an impact?
JESUS has to be at the CENTRE
JESUS has to be LORD
JESUS has to have my heart…our heart
Live a questionable life
Now we move to the fun stuff…
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
The word for answer is the word ‘apologia’ which we translate as apologetics = defence, reason, response, rationale.
Two things about this are important:
We must have some response ready
We must live a life that invites questions
Be ready. Be prepared. To answer or engage in dialogue.
But more important than that is, live a life that begs the question.
What a shame it would be to follow Jesus, and not to stir up as many questions from as many people as possible. (that’s a waste of faith)
Where will the questions rise from?
Your Hope…especially when it’s hard to hope
Your goodness…especially in the face of evil or struggle
Your generosity…especially when you’re not in a season of abundance
Your kindness…your love…your help…your attentiveness…
Here’s the thing: It’s impossible to have Jesus in you, without some of him leaking out of you.
Be gentle, respectful, and authentic.
Peter ends so beautifully. He reminds us that how we share faith is as important as sharing our faith.
With gentleness. With respect. With authenticity.
If you only want to be right or theologically correct, then that’s all you’ll be.
But always remember that your love, your grace, your posture of humility, will speak louder than any words you use in your conversations about faith.
Basic principal to remember: share the gospel with the spirit of Jesus. Lovingly meet people where they’re at.
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As we take this home, think about these few things…
Who are you praying for? – talk to God about your friends, before you talk to your friends about God
Who are you being attentive to? – Do you listen more than you talk?
Who are you inviting? – 82% of people say they’d go to church if they were invited. 2% of Christians invite their friends to church. A little bit of a disconnect there!
Are you/we making our church community a safer, warmer, more grace-filled, excellent, and intriguing place? – People will inevitably belong, before they believe. Let’s always be making it easier for our friends and neighbours to belong, and let the Holy Spirit encourage them to believe.
When you have nothing to talk about, you talk about? THE WEATHER.
When you have something to talk about, we still talk about? THE WEATHER.
The weather is the easiest thing to talk about? Why?
Because we have no control over it
We can’t get blamed for it
We can’t escape it
What’s not so easy to talk about? MONEY!
You may have heard this before – that some married couples will never talk about Religion, Politics, and…MONEY. They vow that it helps their marriage! Those three things have caused many arguments, but the weather, that’s a safe topic.
Out of the three, money is by far the most divisive. It has broken up many relationships.
If I were to ask, does money make you happy? you’d probably say, no.
If I were to also ask, would a little more money make you a little happier? you may say, YES!
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This week we continue our winter series :
We’ve been talking about and will continue to talk about Spiritual Formation, Generosity, Impact and Community.
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Today we continue with GENEROSITY, but will move into some practical thoughts on giving and stewardship.
Last week we walked through 2 Corinthians 9, which deals some important things about generosity:
It’s about investing, not losing.
It’s about a decision, not the dollar
Everyone wins with generosity
God’s mission is resourced through generosity
2 quotes we want you to remember:
“The kingdom that Jesus preached & lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity”
“It’s the decision, not the dollar, creates a giver!”
We said that this week we’d get into the nitty gritty of it. Well here we go.
Why even talk about this? Why talk about money?
(and please know that we don’t talk about money too often around The Village)
Generosity is a theme through out scripture. You can’t miss it. If you do, you’re reading with blinders on. Money, gifts, possessions, time – it’s all there. God gives – God calls us to give. God loves – God compels us to love.
The bible talks about money a lot. Directly 800 times, indirectly, more than 2000 times. That’s a lot.
More than 1/3 of Jesus’ parables include references on money or possessions.
Why do you think that is?
Because what we own, make, spend, keep, and owe, is connected to a deeper place – our heart.
Jesus says (Matthew 6) You can’t serve both God & Money.
Mammon, the word for money in this text, refers to property and wealth as a god…as an idol. It was a Chaldeon word for both god & money.
Jesus’ point is clear: don’t turn money into what it was never supposed to be, a god, an idol.
We joke about the term, “almighty dollar”, but we are well aware of it’s power.
Jesus is warning us to be careful not to let money give you orders or boss you around.
You’ve probably heard this… “Money makes a wonderful servant, but a horrible master”
Who has ever felt like a slave to money? Either by choice or by circumstance?
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This is why stewardship is so important – using wisely, what’s been given to you. Using what you have – your time, gifts, skills, land, opportunity, and MONEY, well.
The reason we even use the word ‘steward’ is because we have come to the understanding that everything we have comes from God, and in light of that, we ‘steward’ the gifts of money, time, and opportunity, that we have been given to us.
Psalm 24:1 is the bases for this, “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
As people who are discovering what it means to follow Jesus, this is the worldview we start from. This is the lens by which we see the world.
If this is true…that what we have has been given to us, then we are responsible to ‘steward’ it well.
Here’s the best way I know how to steward finances: 80-10-10. This works! Many Studies, Psychologists, Financial planners, all agree that this works. People without faith in Jesus have even come to know that this works. Live on 80%, Save 10%, Give away 10%. It’s good math. It’s good human ethics.
But…if we believe what Psalm 24 says, then we must turn these numbers around: 10 – 10 – 80 Give Save Live
I GIVE…so that it’s not all about me
By giving first, I invite God back into the equation.
By giving first, I remove the chance for selfishness to creep in.
By giving first, I’m grateful for what God gives me.
By giving first, I’m living with open hands instead of tight fists.
So you’ve figured that part out. Which means you’ll probably ask this next question, How much do I give?
YES, 10% is either a great place to start or a great place to strive for.
There are some really good biblical principals that encourage this (Mal 3, Lev 27, Num 18, etc)
It works – it’s good – but it is an OT law. Do you follow every other OT law? Hmmm.
Paul says, decide in your heart what you will give.(2 Cor 9)
Think about it. Pray about it.
Be strategic and thoughtful about it.
Which means your giving might be even end up being more, depending how God is challenging and directing you.
Here’s the thing, I really think that giving 10% to the local church is an act of trust, of worship, of gratefulness, of community. And I also believe that if you do this, you will continue to experience God’s provision, and will continue to see all you have as God’s gift to you.
BUT…if you’ve never done this; if you’ve never given 10% of your income away (at the beginning of your budget), I want to encourage you to start somewhere, and see what God does, in and through you. If you’re at 0%, start at 3%. If you’re at 2%, try 5%. If you’re used to giving, but aren’t so consistent with it, commit to 10% at the top. It’s amazing what God will do.
Andy Stanley offers a two-fold approach: form a basic plan with a willingness to consider spontaneity when opportunities arises!
I SAVE…so that it’s not all about now
Canadians save less today than 10 years ago. 0.8%, down from 1.4% (this will eventually effect consumer spending and economic growth).
People spend almost $5000 a year in impulse purchases – that’s almost a full TFSA limit.
Seth Godin Talks about the $37000 latte.
$4 a day on an afternoon coffee or snack
10+ years of this + the credit card high percentage debt = $24000
saving that same money with 7% over 10 years = $13000
I’m not telling you not to buy coffee, but if you’re buying coffee and not saving, something’s wrong.
If you’re buying stuff before you save, that’s not right.
If you’re wasting money without knowing where it’s going, and not saving for your future, it’s simply unwise.
Proverb 6:6-8 says, Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.
There are lots of ways to save. Just like giving, you have to be strategic and decisive about it.
I LIVE…on the rest, as a mature & responsible neighbour, friend, parent, and human.
Proverbs 13:7 One pretends to be rich, but has nothing. One pretends to be poor, but has great wealth.
Proverbs 22:6 has been quoted at baby dedications, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Funny thing is that the verses that follow are about stewardship & generosity.
(7)The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender. (9)The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor. (16)One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.
Why not try talking about the 90%? We (rightfully and sincerely) encourage conversation about the 10% of giving off the top. However, if we’d be wise and intentional about the rest, the 90%, we’d have no problem giving away the 10%.
Many are unable to be generous because they have yet to develop a sustainable plan for what we decide to keep.
Simply put: Live below your means. You have 3 choices: above, within, below. Which one do you think is best?
TAKE IT HOME
Giving takes TRUST
Saving takes SMARTS
Living on less takes GUTS
All 3 of these…honour God.
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Bonus Material: (sign up for our Sunday Financial Health Classes)
– Make a budget and when doing so, put giving at the top, before any other expense.
– Start with something. If 10% sounds crazy, start with something smaller for now.
– Pray about this. Ask God what he thinks you should give. We ask God for all sorts of stuff. We ask God for wisdom in all areas of our life. He is faithful to lead and direct you in the process with gentleness.
– Create a rhythm and routine. Give weekly or monthly or every time you get paid. Make it a first thing, not a last thing. Use our Canada Helps partner to make it easier. Or use an envelop system if you like to give cash or cheque. This helps you to be committed to what you’ve decided to give.
– Be open to God’s voice in your life. Be open to opportunities to help, to serve, to give. In the end, as much as your giving is helping (the local church, a charity, a neighbourhood need, etc) others, your giving is actually helping you to become the person God is shaping you to be.
– Those who don’t save are saying that they don’t care about their future.
– Those who don’t save are thinking selfishly about today, without any thought for tomorrow.
– Yes, there are seasons where saving might feel impossible or is impossible, but don’t let that be the norm.
– Save for: 1 – emergencies, 2 – retirement, 3 – future purchases, (4 – education if you have kids)
– When you get a deal on something, save the difference.
– When you finish paying something off (car, furniture, loan), keep saving some or all of that money.
– If you’re buying $5 coffees, but aren’t saving, that is not good. Buy cheaper coffee and save the difference. That goes for any small luxury.
– It’s not that you shouldn’t enjoy going out or vacationing or nice things. Please do. But, if you’re spending money on those things and not saving, then you’re doing it wrong. Save first, use what you have left to spend & enjoy.
– All we will say here is this: create a budget, and stick to it. It’s amazing what we can live on when we create healthy parameters to live within.