Here is my sermon on Mark 4 – the Parable of the Sower
Bill Hybels Opening GLS 2017 Talk – Give Leadership Away
The world is still wondering if there are still leaders that put others’ needs above their own.It’s true, isn’t it? The whole part of his talk was about inspiring others to do great things. It reminds me of the Paul quoting Jesus:
 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”Even in leading things, you get more joy out of giving that leadership over to others than you did when you were doing it yourself. If that isn’t true, then you’re doing it wrong and you’re back to just leading to please yourself. I’ve worked with people before that lead by receiving from others. It’s awful because they suck the life out of everyone that works for them. Considering that there really isn’t a line between our spiritual life and our work life, this shouldn’t be any surprise. Giving is better than receiving in terms of gifts, money, time, care, etc. no matter what realm it is in.
Doing Life in Groups and Teams
Ecclesiology is as much about what you don’t say as what you say. This is something they say a lot at One Life:
At One Life we do life in groups and teams.
Not to speak for One Life, but I want to offer my own commentary on this. This is one 2017 paradigm of
 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (ESV)
When they say that life happens on groups and teams, they are saying that it isn’t dependent on the Sunday morning church service. The Sunday morning thing is a thing, and many of the teams are teams because of the Sunday morning thing, but if you talk to the people in the best of teams you’ll find out that they grow up into something much bigger than volunteer group.
The job or activity is just a framework to be together. Where the real Acts 2:42-46 part happens is when the group breaks out of just serving coffee on Sunday and turns into people playing volleyball together on a Tuesday night. When we structure our lives around time spent with people instead of things, our life is enhanced. That’s when our family life is the happiest and the most balanced: when we are spending time in the community of The Church.
I need to disclose here, that my family is part of the People of Praise, so we do community bigger and badder than a lot of people, but that is just part of our way of life.
In the Sunday morning church service, you are going to get some singing and some teaching, but if that is the full Christian Community experience for you, you are missing out. Joining with other people, changing your schedule and prioritizing deliberate time with Christian people, will change your life.
I used to have people over and they’d ask “Is this a Bible study?” my answer was that it was whatever we made it. If our hearts overflowed with YouTube videos and complaints about work, that’s what it would be. If our hearts overflowed with cool stuff we read in the Bible this week, then it would be that. Both are OK. We are free in Christ to talk about whatever. But there are some things that are going to grow us more than others.
The more we share together, the more we live life. Life in abundance is an overflow of everything that life is. Pain, suffering, joy, victory, you name it. If you want to up your game and have a richer, fuller life, do it. Adjust your schedule, cancel and quit the shallow stuff. Spend time with the people you want to be more like, and watch God show off and add to your number daily those that are also being saved.
Easter 2017 – Many Were Afraid of Jesus
Here are my notes and the recording of my Easter sermon this year. Notes get crazy at the end, but I dump them here for your ease.
Jesus Arrested by an Army
The Jewish leaders were Afraid of Jesus rising from the dead.
The city would have been crowded as ever. Passover filled the city of Jerusalem beyond capacity. People would be camping out all around the outside of the city too! It was tense! Passover was a deeply spiritual holiday AND a deeply patriotic holiday all at the same time.
The city was buzzing with fear and excitement about Passover AND about Jesus. Palm Sunday had just happened. Jesus clearing out all of the the merchants in the temple had just happened. Jerusalem was a lit powder keg and nobody knew how long the fuse would burn.
The Roman guards were sent out to arrest Jesus in the garden.
John 18:4-6 Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
When Jesus said “I AM HE” he was quoting God speaking to Moses at the burning bush. This was like Jesus said, “I’m Jesus of Nazareth, but there is something else you should know: I am God!”
Can you imagine dozens, maybe 100 soldiers all falling down and then scrambling to get back up? Imagine their conversation as they marched in the middle of the night to arrest Jesus.
Government Officials were Afraid
When Jesus was taken before Pilate, Pilate did the classic political move and passed the responsibility to somebody else.
Luke 23:6-12 When Pilate heard Jesus was stirring up people in Galilee, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Herod is afraid to do anything, Pilate is afraid to do anything. Pilate finally gets mad at Jesus and says
John 19:10-11 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”
Jesus says it right here. “Pilate, I have authority to judge here, and you will be judged, but the one that gave me over to you will be judged worse.
That is when Pilate really becomes afraid.
They Sealed the Tomb
*Matthew 27:62-66 * 62The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.
They probably sealed it with a rope and wax or clay. This was not a super-glue seal. This was a fragile, if you break it you’re busted seal. The seal could only be broken by the authority of the one that made the seal.
The guards took their watch seriously. If a captive was released, they would be killed. If these guys weren’t in the group that fell down when Jesus identified Himself, they surely heard about it. They were there when Jesus was crucified and the sky went dark and the earthquakes happened. These guys are not going to guard this tomb like lazy bums.
Jesus rises from the dead.
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
Sometime between this happening and the women arriving, the guards woke up and ran off. The angel sitting on the rock went away too. John uses a greek word for the stone being rolled away that means “to pick up and discard”
3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words,
2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
Numbers Part 3 – Aaron, the Priest Line between Life and Death
This section is one of my favorites from the whole Bible. God is teaching Moses and Aaron to represent Him with self-sacrificing compassion. He Himself is going to die for people who grumble against Him, and here He is doing a little bit of that kind of training on Moses and Aaron.
More than Numbers: Part 1
The book of Numbers has several of my favorite parts of the whole Bible. Andy Gries said that everyone thinks Numbers is just the same as what Deuteronomy is, but it’s not that at all! Here are the rough notes I preached from.
Download: Numbers Part 1 – 05072017 or subscribe to the Podcast.
Intro to the Book of Numbers (In the Wilderness)
Census was all men over 2
Army was men over 20
Levites that could work were men 25 or 30 up to age 50. After age 50 they keep guard, they help and attend to things, but they don’t do the priestly work that goes on inside.
There were 8,580 total Levites, 30–50 years old, that could work with the Tabernacle.
Aaron’s sons would cover everything up. Kohath’s sons would come in and carry it all, but even they weren’t allowed to look under the blue covers over the equipment.
Numbers 5 – Unclean and Restitution
Numbers 5:1–4 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous1 or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. 3 You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.” 4 And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord said to Moses, so the people of Israel did.
This begins the explanations of order in the camp. What is good and what is bad and what to do about it.
They start off with laws about a jealous husband and the very sad and difficult process of proving a woman’s guilt.
Next they talk about a Nazirite vow, which is a set-apart time dedicated to the Lord.
These are short-term versions of what Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist did for their entire lives.
Men or women could take a Nazirite vow for any amount of time, and their shaved heads would show that they were in the middle of it! When they were done, here is what sacrifice they had to bring:
 “And this is the law for the Nazirite, when the time of his separation has been completed: he shall be brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting,  and he shall bring his gift to the LORD, one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish as a sin offering, and one ram without blemish as a peace offering,  and a basket of unleavened bread, loaves of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and their grain offering and their drink offerings. (ESV)
This was what Paul paid for 4 men when he was arrested in Acts.
Priestly blessing Numbers 6:23–27
 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
 The LORD bless you and keep you;
 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
 “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (ESV)
Moses sets up the tabernacle and people are moved to give things to the Lord’s service.
 On the day when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle and had anointed and consecrated it with all its furnishings and had anointed and consecrated the altar with all its utensils,  the chiefs of Israel, heads of their fathers’ houses, who were the chiefs of the tribes, who were over those who were listed, approached  and brought their offerings before the LORD, six wagons and twelve oxen, a wagon for every two of the chiefs, and for each one an ox. They brought them before the tabernacle. (ESV)
Moses divides up all of the six wagons and twelve oxen among all of the Levites…except for the Kohathites. The Kohathites had to carry the temple furniture by hand, not by carts.
Numbers 9 – first Passover in the wilderness
Numbers 9 they celebrate their first Passover in the wilderness. There are some unclean guys that come and ask Moses, “We’re unclean, what do we do?” They don’t want to celebrate it if they aren’t allowed to, but they don’t want to miss it if they are!
Moses asks the Lord and the answer: No matter if you are unclean or not, keep the Passover!
The Cloud that followed them
When the clouds stopped, they stopped.
 Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. (ESV)
When they set out for Canaan Numbers 10:33–36
 So they set out from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey. And the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them three days’ journey, to seek out a resting place for them.  And the cloud of the LORD was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp.
 And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.”  And when it rested, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” (ESV)
The Holy Spirit – Imparted as a Whole
I just started reading “The Holy Spirit in Action” by Sheed and some of it is already blowing my mind. Some of it is just pondering the implications of God having and being a spirit. I’ll post the quote from the book, which is kind of heady and out there, then my interpretation which might be clearer or might be even more out there.
In a spirit – God, our soul – there is no division of parts as in matter. Therefore there is no dispersion of powers, but total concentration of being and of powers in one single act of being. the body has parts, each with its own function, which only it can perform. But all the things the should does are done by the whole soul, for there is no element in the soul which is not the whole of it. It knows, loves, hates, wants, chooses, refuses to choose, decides, animates a body. And one single soul does each of these things with the whole of itself.
Two things emerge from spirit’s absence of parts – it does not occupy space; it is everlasting.
Space is emptiness. A being which has parts can spread them in it! Even the minutest material thing has parts – the top is not the bottom, one end is not the other. But this is not so of the soul, not so of God: They have no parts to spread. They are not in space.
What of permanence? A being with parts can be taken apart; therefore it can always become something else by union with parts taken from some other source. But a spirit having no parts can not be taken apart; it has no parts to be taken from it. It is the whole of itself.
What he is saying here is that a spirit isn’t something that has distinct parts like a person. I have an arm and a nose, they are distinguishable parts that do different things. They also take up different spaces. If I reach for a hammer with my nose, it can’t do what my arm can do. If I dip my arm into a barrel of dandelions, it won’t sneeze. That part isn’t affected by pollen in the same way as my nose is.
That means that wherever the Holy Spirit is, there isn’t a part of it there that is different than another part. ALL OF GOD’S SPIRIT is there. God doesn’t put a little bit customized for Dan Sullivan into Dan Sullivan. All of God’s glorious self, is put, by the power of the Holy Spirit, into Dan Sullivan. The other wild part about this is that since the Holy Spirit can’t be cut up into parts, it can’t be combined with things and changed. Everything that exists in mass can be altered somehow like Lego blocks being switched out. The Holy Spirit isn’t and can’t. Therefore, the full and holy and complete spirit of God doesn’t get changed when He enters into someone. The person is what does the changing.
One more bit then we’ll give it a rest for the day. God’s unchanging, fully full and complete spirit is in all who believe in Him (Ephesians 1:13-14). Think about the implications of that. There is no training or urging or laboring as far as getting God to do something more because He has already filled you, Christian, with all the fullness of Himself. You have a lot more access to God than you realize, so pray today that we’d realize that!
God’s Righteous Kindness
Romans 2:4 ESV
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? — Ro 2:4
This has to be part of the discussion about why bad things happen in this world. Sometimes, God is letting us be. Like the end of Romans 1 talked about God giving us over to what we seek the most. He is patient and forbearing. He is waiting for us to turn around, but until then, He patiently waits with kindness, forbearance, and patience.
This is what the righteousness of God looks like. Not hitting with a baseball bat, but waiting with open arms.
Look at Luke 15 – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. In the tradition of the Rabbis, the son would come back and beg to work for the father, and the father would re-instate him as a slave. Jesus twists the end of this parable towards the grace and mercy of God by having the loving father welcome his son back and throwing a party! This would be like the three little pigs inviting the wolf in for steak and they all live out their days as friends.
Let’s bring repentance back.
Let’s call for repentance with all of the passion of a bullhorn guy.
But let’s do it the way God Himself would have us do it: with kindness.
Notes from One Life Church just before Christmas 2016
Name Him Jesus, because He will save His People from their sins.”
Jesus would be so with us that we’d be called “His people.”
It’s God’s story to tell and He tells it His way.
God spoke to Joseph after Mary told him about Jesus – DANG!
Righteousness was a part of the operating system of Joseph’s soul.
He was a righteous man, not about do-gooder, but right about seeking God.
Righteousness motivated him to NOT disgrace Mary. (So often we use righteousness as an excuse to shame others, but that is not the right way.)
Righteousness is a real thing and it’s good.
Sin is the lack of righteousness.
Which brings us to redemption by redefinition.
That’s what our culture does.
Redemption by redefinition was in the Garden of Eden too.
Jesus came to SAVE us from our SINS.
Don’t re-define it! We NEED those words to really mean what they mean.
Sin makes an ungodly mess.
It messed up everything we use to clean it up.
That last note was from this video below. It was pretty moving.
Speaking the Truth in Love
The other day a few of us were talking about “speaking the truth in love”. We, of course, were trying to correct a guy that was not doing that. It was a tough conversation because I think the guy was holding onto truth tighter than he was holding onto love. The challenge for me during that conversation was to hold on to truth AND love at the same time. It’s easy to hate a hateful person, but that would put me in league with the hateful person out of hate. I wanted to be in league with him because we are both in Christ.
Later in the day, I looked up that verse. We always quote “speak the truth in love” but what is its context? What else goes with that saying? It turns out a LOT.
The opening of Ephesians 4 is about unity. Paul urges the Ephesian church, from prison, to do whatever they can to maintain the unity of the Holy Spirit by being at peace with each other. It is by humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love that this happens.
That is probably the first red flag. We achieve unity through humility. The further we get away from humility, the further away we will be from unity. At the last supper, when Jesus was addressing the disciples who had spent part of the meal arguing who was the most important, He told them that “all men will know you are my disciples” by their love for one another. Love and unity go hand in hand because you can’t love each other and be fighting.
How about this part:
 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(Ephesians 4:11–12 ESV)
I have heard ‘prophets’ and ‘teachers’ say before that they are ‘just telling the truth.’ I can agree with them. All too often, though, they are speaking the truth without love. Considering the high stakes of Christian unity and the Body of Christ, you would think that truth would not have so killed off love in the Church.
Love is bearing with others. Love is considering that you don’t have to tell your brother where he is wrong, but you can instead teach by your own lifestyle and loving conversation instead of the truth grenade. Jesus did yell at the scribes and the Pharisees, but that was after a long series of loving face to face conversations.
Prophets and evangelists (good news tellers) are given to build up the body of Christ. This building up doesn’t happen by chopping off the sick parts and denying friendship with the parts that don’t look like us. Think of how the human body works. If a part is sick or injured or just plain wrong, the body sends white blood cells, antibodies, extra blood and oxygen, platelets, etc until the wound is healed. What if that is how we responded with truth?
What would happen if we held on to truth (which is Christ) and increased our love? What if we increased our love even more for those that we disagree with, or are even our enemies? That is one of Christ’s most compelling teachings and that fits right in line with these things from Paul and Christ’s words of forgiveness from the cross.
 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,  from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
(Ephesians 4:15–16 ESV)
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