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Blessed are the Meek
The fear that pervades us all is that the earth is being passed out, carved up, divided and everybody is getting their piece but me. The talented, the good looking, the well educated. But Jesus says in my kingdom its just the opposite. Blessed are the meek - the quiet; the gentle; those who are easily imposed upon; the submissive - they’re the ones who’ll inherit the earth!
Blessed are Those who Mourn
Jesus announces that people of the kingdom are people who mourn. But what does that mean?
In John’s gospel, Jesus weeps at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. In Luke he weeps over the city of Jerusalem. And in the sermon on the mount he declares, “Blessed are those who mourn.” These were not a few moments of weakness. This was an essential part of Jesus’ message. Mourning and grief are at the core of the gospel.
Now of course, the good news is not that it is good to be poor, brokenhearted, or to mourn and grieve. The good news is that even in the midst of your spiritual poverty, broken-heartedness and mourning heaven is coming to you! This is a powerful declaration of a brand new reality. A gracious invitation to all who mourn.
Blessed are those who thought they had missed out.
Blessed are those who thought they did not measure up.
Blessed are those who thought they had no hope to be blessed.
Because now, through Jesus Christ, the life of heaven has arrived.
But not only that, mourning will be one of the core characteristics of those who have inherited God's kingdom. Once you've caught a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven (peace, justice, reconciliation) and the way it contrasts from the kingdoms of this world (war, famine, racism, violence) you begin to mourn.
In the face of our own sin and the sin of the world we grieve. But we are not mourning for something we do not have. We are mourning for something we do have, but not yet in full.
“The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God’s new day, who ache with all their being for that day’s coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence… The mourners are aching visionaries.” - Nicholas Wolterstorff
Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
This weekend we began a new series on the beatitudes, Jesus' introduction to his most indelible sermon. Nowhere does Jesus talk more clearly about what it looks like to follow him than in the Sermon on the Mount. It's a provocative and counter-intuitive announcement about what happens when God shows up: The poor, the meek, and those who mourn are called blessed.
The Beatitudes are not rules that need to be obeyed in order to be rewarded or things to avoid if you want to make it to heaven. They are an announcement about a new reality, the life of heaven, bursting forth into the world.
Blessed means not just happy, it means God is on your side. Every other religion asks the question, “what good thing must I do to be blessed?” But Jesus Christ is announcing, “blessed are those who there is no reason why they should be blessed!” The favor of God is now pouring down on all the people who do not deserve the favor of God.
This weekend Pastor Paul concluded our sermon series "The Hero's Journey" by exploring the nature of the resurrection and the hope for all in Christ. At the end Paul shares a powerful story of his own woundedness and how the hope of the resurrection is transforming these wounds into a beautiful story of redemption.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
- Luke 24:5
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, three women arrived at Jesus' tomb with burial spices. But when they entered, they did not find the body of Jesus. Suddenly two angels appeared and asked, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
This was, of course, a rhetorical question. They were not looking for information. They were trying to push them to understand what was taking place. They were pushing them to realize all of the implications of Jesus' death and resurrection because when we understand and receive the resurrected Christ, everything changes.
living hope vs. deadly cynicism
abundant life vs. dead religion
life-giving presence vs. deadly loneliness
living hope vs. deadly cynicism
None of Jesus' friends or followers were expecting the resurrection. They assumed Jesus Christ was like all the other founders of all other religions. All other major religions, their founders are dead.
These were all great teachers. They all lived remarkable lives and had incredible insights to share with humanity. But all of them, inevitably died.
Because thats what people do. Even the great ones. To expect anything else but death in this cold and callous world would be nonsense.
"But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense" (Luke 24:11.
From the very beginning, the gospel is good news because it dares to tell us things we didn’t expect,
things we were not inclined to believe
things that seem to good to be true.
things that seem like nonsense.
Because what makes sense in this world is death comes for us all and things that die tend to stay dead.
The second law of thermodynamics tells us all things are running down. Everything is falling apart. All matter and energy deteriorate gradually over time and the process is irreversible.
Death is inevitable and irreversible.
But the risen Christ announces, “Behold, I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:5).
Death will be no more.
Mourning and crying and pain will not last.
Because Christ is risen, every tear will be wiped away.
Against all odds, the irreversible will be reversed.
This is why we all love stories where against all odds the hero prevails in the end. A small, rag-tag group of rebels prevail against the all powerful empire in Star Wars. The tiny hobbits in Lord of the Rings prevail against the evil Sauron. The young Harry Potter against Voldemort.
If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, every time you see one of those stories it is going to lift up your heart a little bit. Because you’re going to say, “This will happen. The end of the world will be like this. The stories are all true. There is a knight who will slay all the dragons. There is a superhero who will save the world.”
In the midst of all the darkness and cynicism of our world, there is a living hope!
abundant life vs. dead religion
In Luke 24 the angels are saying, “The reason you don’t understand the resurrection, the reason you didn’t expect the resurrection is you didn’t understand his death. You didn’t understand that he must die.”
In order to be raised in victory, he must die in defeat.
These women knew he had died, but they didn’t know why he had to die. They thought he died as an example of faith and goodness. That in order to be blessed and acceptable we must follow his example and live a life of faith and goodness as well.
But the angels are saying, "Jesus didn’t die as an example, he died for you, as a sacrifice. He didn’t die as your example, he died as your Savior."
Why? Because all of your faith and goodness is not going to be good enough. Until you receive Jesus as your substitute, your Savior, you’re seeking the living among the dead.
Religion and Christianity are two different things.
Religion says, "Do these things, follow my example, live up to the standard, then maybe if you are good enough, you will be blessed."
But Christianity says, "I came to give you life and life abundantly! You are already blessed! You are already accepted! Just open up your heart and receive my life. Let me resurrect your broken heart and restore my spirit within you."
The resurrection gives us abundant life as opposed to dead religion.
life-giving presence vs. deadly loneliness
You may believe in the resurrection, but in terms of your actual relationship with Jesus Christ He might as well be dead. You don’t feel him. You don’t sense him. You don’t know him, you just know about him.
Easter pushes you beyond just believing. Easter says, “He’s a living reality.”
Because Christ is risen; because he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; because he sent his Holy Spirit as a powerful counselor and dynamic friend in our lives you don’t have to just believe he loves you; you can know his love. You don’t have to just believe Jesus is good, you can taste and see that he’s good.
In the midst of all the pain and loneliness in our world the resurrection gives us the life-giving presence of God.
March 25, 2018
The Great Ordeal
In the hero’s journey the ‘great ordeal’ may be a dangerous physical test or a deep inner crisis that the hero must face in order to survive or for the world in which the hero lives to continue to exist. Whether it be facing his greatest fear or most deadly foe, the Hero must draw upon all of his strength in order to overcome this most difficult challenge. On the cross Jesus Christ, our ultimate hero, defeated humanity’s greatest foes and leads his people into resurrection life.
March 18, 2018
The Hero’s Test: Part III
Now out of his comfort zone the hero is confronted with an ever more difficult series of challenges that test him in a variety of ways. Every obstacle that he faces helps us gain a deeper insight into his character and ultimately identify with him even more. Jesus’s final obstacle is the temptation to be powerful.
March 11, 2018
The Hero’s Test: Part II
Every great story has a basic form, a common structure: a hero who goes on an adventure, faces tremendous crisis, yet overcomes incredible odds and wins a decisive victory. The hero then returns home transformed with the power to give hope and rescue to those left behind. During lent we focus our hearts on Jesus Christ, the ultimate hero, as he journeys to the cross, overcomes the tomb and leads his people into resurrection life.
March 4, 2018
The Hero’s Test (Part One)
Immediately after the threshold is crossed, a hero begins to be tested. Trial and tribulation are placed in front of the hero, and these tests give us a deeper insight in the character of our hero, and what they are made of.
Feb 25, 2018
Crossing the Threshold
The hero acts upon his call to adventure and begin his quest, whether it be physical, spiritual or emotional. He crosses the threshold between the world he is familiar with and that which he is not. However the threshold presents itself, this action signifies the hero's commitment to his journey and whatever it may have in store for him.
Feb 18, 2018
Call to Adventure
The hero's adventure begins when he receives a call to action, such as a direct threat to his safety, his family or his world. Whatever the call is, it ultimately disrupts the peace of the hero's world and presents a challenge or quest that must be undertaken.
Every great story has a basic form, a common structure: a hero who goes on an adventure, faces tremendous crisis, yet overcomes incredible odds and wins a decisive victory. The hero then returns home transformed with the power to give hope and rescue to those left behind.
During lent we focus our hearts on Jesus Christ, the ultimate hero, as he journeys to the cross, overcomes the tomb and leads his people into resurrection life. Lent is a time to reflect on the brokenness of our world and a time to repent for the brokenness in our lives. It is also a time to look ahead to the day when all things will be made new!
“Christian spiritual formation is about learning in advance the language of God’s new world.” - NT Wright
Spiritual formation is about developing, in the present age, the character which anticipates the life of the age to come. This often involves doing what does not come naturally. Certain behaviors must be “put to death” in order to make way for our new “habits of life.”
Spiritual transformation does not occur by accident or without intention and effort.
This is what the apostle Paul means when he encourages Timothy to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:8) and what Peter means when he instructs us to “grow in grace” (1 Peter 3:18). If you want to learn a new language or play a musical instrument or run a business you must practice. Spiritual formation requires this same intentionality and practice. Spiritual disciplines such as solitude and silence, fasting and prayer, or study and service are the means to living out God’s vision for our lives.
Spiritual disciplines are all training us to do one thing; surrender.
Our willpower is easily fatigued. We can use our will to override old habits for a time, but habits will always beat our willpower in the long run.This is the brilliance of twelve step programs like AA. None of the steps say, “Try really, really hard not to drink.” Instead of mobilizing the will its followers learn to surrender their will. If you try to overcome addiction by willpower alone it will beat you. But if you surrender your will to a higher power then sobriety becomes possible.
Spiritual disciplines are about replacing my self-centered habits with habits of surrender.
- Solitude is about surrendering my need for attention
- Prayer is about surrendering my will for His will to be done
- Generosity is about surrendering my need for money or security
- Simplicity is about surrendering my need for the latest gadget or device
- Fasting is about surrendering my need for food
These habits train us to be people who are able to surrender to God.
“I submit my tongue as an instrument of righteousness when I make it bless them that curse me and pray for them who persecute me, even though it “automatically” tends to strike and wound those who have wounded me. I submit my legs to God as instruments of righteousness when I engage them in physical labor as service, perhaps carrying a burden the “second mile” for someone whom I would rather let my legs kick. I submit my body to righteousness when I do my good deeds without letting them be known, though my whole frame cries out to strut and crow. And when I do, I offer up my body as the place of God’s action.” - Dallas Willard
The only way to glory is through humility.
The only way to freedom is through submission.
The only way to victory is through surrender.
The call of Jesus is not to live a common, ordinary life but a life of flourishing abundance.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. But I came that you may have life and have it abundantly. I came so you can have real and eternal life, a better life than you could have ever dreamed of. - John 10v10
Inside your soul there is a battle between a flourishing self - the person you were created to be - and a languishing self. The enemy wants you to languish but God made you to flourish.
When you flourish you are most fully alive. You have a purpose for living. You are drawn to put on virtue and put off sin. But when you are languishing, you feel uneasy and discontent. You find yourself more easily drawn into bad habits - watching too much TV, drinking too much, misusing sex, or spending too much - because these things are anesthetizing the pain.
When you flourish you are marked with joy and peace. You are curious and love to learn. You ask questions. You are not easily bored. You awake with a sense of expectancy. You have a vibrant sense that this day will matter! But when you languish your thoughts drift toward fear or anger. Learning, serving, relationships do not feel worth the effort. Your thoughts are dominated by yourself - do people like me? will I have enough? The only reason I feel this way is because of him! You isolate. You dominate. You attack. You withdraw.
When you flourish you pour blessings into your relationships. You find other people to be a source of wonder. They bring you energy and life. When you are with them, you are able to listen deeply. You bless. You share. You forgive. You love.
When you flourish God can use you in his plan to redeem the world. You live with a sense of calling and a desire to contribute. You invest your time, your money, your talents into God’s world. You become resilient in suffering.
But we do not just drift into becoming the best version of ourselves. It requires the right vision, a strong intention, and the correct means to make this happen. It is not a one-time decision, but a daily, moment-to-moment resolve to re-pattern our lives around Christ.
Paul says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12v2). Our habits, patterns and routines have been formed in a world away from God. The key to renewing our minds is by cooperating with the Holy Spirit in developing new habits to bring our lives into harmony with the kingdom of God.
Because it is our habits, the choices we make either consciously or subconsciously every day, that determine the outcome of our lives. It is your habits that will determine whether or not you will be person who flourishes or a person who languishes.
This Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. Unfortunately the audio recording of this weekend's message was lost. Below is a summarized version.
Jesus told his followers to watch and pray for his return. Advent reminds us to do just that. It is a season of longing for Jesus to come back and put an end to injustice, hatred, sin and fear. Our prayer is like that of the prophet Isaiah, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” In this text we learn to wait by remembering our past (vv. 2-3), by confessing our sin in the present (vv. 4-6), and by anticipating our glorious future (vv. 17-18).
I. The Past
The prayer asks for a visible show of decisive power that will impress Israel’s enemies. It remembers the events of the past, where God came down to rescue His people from slavery and when God came down on Mount Sinai to establish his people within a covenant of everlasting love and protection.
The Bible presents us with a God who gets angry.
Isaiah was written to a nation in exile. People facing tremendous injustice. Their capital city, Jerusalem, has been torn down. Their own children slaughtered. So in verses 1–3 they’re asking God to come down and judge the injustice.
In order to live with hope, you need a God who gets angry enough at sin and evil and injustice to do something about it!
II. The Present
The problem is what would happen if God really were to come down with justice? Israel’s wicked oppressors would be destroyed, yes. But in verses 4-6, Israel begins to recognize its own sin. They begin to realize that they are just as guilty as their enemies.
Israel has been unfaithful, disobedient and impure. Even their best obedience is unacceptable (v. 6). Israel as a nation has walked away from God’s love and protection. Therefore, Israel is left open and vulnerable to the world’s destruction.
Israel begins to realize that they need not only a God of justice, but a God of mercy.
III. The Future
In verses 8-9 God is characterized as both a father and an artist. This fact does not mean that God does not get angry. Father’s get angry when their children are destroying themselves. Artists get angry when their artwork is misrepresented or destroyed. In fact it is because he’s a loving father and because he’s a committed artist that his anger is justified. God’s love is the cause of his anger.
The opposite of love is not anger. The opposite of love is hate. And the ultimate hate is indifference. The ultimate hate is not to care.
Advent is the season that we remember how much God cares and that He has intervened in the most unimaginable way possible. God came not only to forgive, but to set all things right again. Not only to pardon our sin, but to restore all of His creation. Not only to clear our bad record, but to welcome us home as his children.
God’s salvation is absolutely comprehensive.
Why? Because sin is not merely law-breaking behavior, it is a fatal disease. It is rooted much deeper than just our outward behavior. Sin is a sickness of the soul that makes us subject to futility and death. Which is why God comes not as a punishing judge, but as the Great physician. The one who would heal our brokenness and rescue us from the curse of death.
Sin is not just a series of mistakes we make. It is an entire dominion of darkness. The work of the cross was about God’s power (love) dethroning the cruel, illegitimate, power of Satan. Now all who are aligned with his rule, all who are “in Christ”, are saved because he is victorious!
So this Advent we can pray with confidence, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” Because we know he has already come once to bear our sin himself, so that when he returns he can utterly destroy all wickedness, evil and injustice without destroying us.
“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people to be a joy.” - Isaiah 65:17-18
Following an Advent calendar is one of my favorite Christas traditions. I’ll admit, in our house it is often just used as a countdown to Christmas (and presents!), but it is designed to be so much more. Advent is a season of hopeful anticipation for the coming of Christ!
We are often tempted to approach Christ's second arrival in the same way kids anticipate opening presents, but to live in anticipation is actually a vital part of our calling. As believers we are to faithfully anticipate the age to come by living it now! Because Jesus came announcing that the kingdom of God is near, we are to live in the realities of that kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven.
Each of us has the opportunity to bring restoration and renewal to God's kingdom through the generous offering of our financial resources. This year we have fallen behind in our giving as a congregation, but Advent is a great opportunity for us to catch up!
Please help us finish the year strong and prepare ourselves for an exciting year ahead by prayerfully considering an end-of-year financial gift to The Gateway Church. You can view your personal year-to-date contribution records by logging into Planning Center.
At Gateway, we do all we can to maintain the highest levels of integrity with the resources God gives us through the tithes and offerings of our people. Our approach to finances is simple: allocate heavily to ministry programming and outreach while keeping facility investments to a minimum and avoiding any kind of debt. All contributions go directly to funding the ministry initiatives of our church which, each week, affect the lives of hundreds of people.
Thank you so much for your faithfulness and generosity!
Advent is the joyful celebration of Jesus’ first arrival in humility and the anxious awaiting of His second in glory. It is season for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting. During Advent, we take time out of our daily routines to quietly wait and pray for the coming of Christ.
In the midst of all the holiday noise, traffic, hurry and commotion, Advent is a counter-cultural act of intentional patience. We slow down, we wait, we pray and we rest.
On Christmas we rejoice. Christ has come! Born a baby in the manager. The long expected king, come in the most unexpected way imaginable. But during Advent we long for this king to come again. We wait for His peace and rest and joy and justice to finally reign again on earth as it is in heaven. In Advent, we enter into the story of Israel and share their longing for a Savior.
For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.
For Israel, the story of salvation was a story of exile and redemption. They went from rest in the Garden to harsh labor in the arid desert. From the land of milk and honey to a life of slavery in Egypt. From the safety and protection of the walls of Jerusalem to exile in Babylon and Assyria.
Sin is losing our way. Leaving the safety of home. Walking away from the protection of our heavenly Father and being exiled into the clouds of thick darkness. Being ravished by sin, death, evil and injustice. Sin is exile. Salvation is coming back home.
Therefore, the great hope for Israel was a savior who would rescue his people from the land of darkness and bring them back home. Back into the safety and protection of the city of God once more.
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep.
This prophecy in Ezekiel tells us that our problem is not just that we have broken a few arbitrary rules and we need to clean up our lives a little bit. No. Our problem is that we are sheep, utterly helpless and defenseless, and we have been led astray by bad and corrupt shepherds. What is the solution?
I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
Because we are like sheep who have been led astray and because there is no one else who can lead us back home, God says, “I will come and shepherd my people.” God himself will come down and set things right. No more corrupt leaders. No more injustice. No more anarchy, tyranny or confusion.
God himself will come down, through the clouds and thick darkness. He will rescue his people from a culture of failed leadership. A land filled with poverty, fear and violence. God himself will lead his people home. He will bind up the wounded, He will strengthen the weak, and He will bring them into a land filled with food and water and rest.
Today in our country most of us do not have to worry too much about food or water, thankfully. But if you open up your news feed, its clear that our nation is in a season of deep political and social unrest. Politicians and world leaders acting like children. People being mowed down with automatic weapons in schools, in streets and in churches. Powerful CEOs, Senators, Journalists, actors and comedians preying upon women and children who looked up to them. More information than any other time of human history combined, all at our fingertips, and yet all of it being spun by corporations, powerful special interests, and even foreign governments to the point that it feels like a cloud of thick darkness. Nobody knows who to trust or believe.
I will make them lie down… I will feed them with justice.
God says “I myself will come down. I will make them lie down in green pastures. I will give them rest. I will feed them with justice.” No longer ruled by violent dictators and arrogant tyrants. No longer looking over their shoulder in fear of anarchy. No longer reading the news with a sense of hopelessness, confusion and foreboding doom.
The hope of Advent is that God himself will come down and He will finally give us rest.
This year we have fallen behind in our giving as a congregation. Each of us has the opportunity to bring restoration and renewal to God's kingdom through the generous offering of our financial resources. Help us finish the year strong and prepare ourselves for an exciting year ahead by prayerfully considering an end-of-year financial gift to The Gateway Church.
You can view your personal year-to-date contribution records by logging into Planning Center.