Grace Talk: Who is the Holy Spirit? | 10-17-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 12/23/2021

For a guy like me who is wired to love those heady knowledge-based sermons, this was a tough one to crack and figure out. As a part of the Grace Talk series from Reunion Church, this message was geared towards the role of the Holy Spirit in the grace process itself. How is the Holy Spirit himself involved in how we access grace? What does that relationship look like? This sermon was meant to answer those sorts of questions before we went into our hour of small groups.

Although from that premise, it should’ve been straight forward and yet when it comes to the topic of the Holy Spirit it’s never straight forward. In hindsight, it was good that I taught this one because I’ve done a lot of digging into this subject several times on this blog. Like one of my more popular posts on the Christian Essentials from a while back. Either way, over the years I’ve chipped away at the mystery that is God and all encompasses that reality.

Sermon Prep

For this sermon and for the sake of my audience, I had to take the most complicated idea in Christian thought which is the nature of God and break it down into a 15min message. Ha, no pressure. It’s not like making a mistake mid-message could lead the congregation to believing in blasphemy or heresy if I messed up. No big deal, right?

So how did I pull this off? Well, I flipped and paged through several super useful resources. A few of those being multiple key books:

  1. Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  2. Systematic Theology 2nd Edition by Wayne Grudem
  3. Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little
  4. Biblical Doctrine by John MacArthur & Richard Mayhue
  5. Christian Theology 6th Edition by Alistair McGrath
  6. The Mystery of the Trinity by Vern S. Poythress
  7. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R. C. Sproul
  8. The Forgotten Trinity by James White

Now that’s not even mentioning my online research either, but we don’t have time to discuss every footnote in my sermon. The point is I binged on understanding the Holy Spirit, so that my audience could get some key soundbites about him for the Sunday night discussion. My aim was to condense hours of prayer and study into key truths that could be shared in seconds.

I think I did fairly well, but the outcome is always up to God and his audience. I’m just the temporary bridge between both when I’m up there. Regardless of all of that background, here’s what I eventually came up with that night jotted down in my sermon journal:

Sermon Notes

Intro

  • Recap last week
  • Focus on who is the Holy Spirit and how he initiates grace.

Fax Machine Story

  • New job at Staples
  • Fax bank info to boss
  • Sandy prints floor plans for Texas Longhorns
  • Jake faxes info for me.
  • No matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get it.

The Trinity Explained

  • God’s nature is similar to a fax machine.
    • If you think you know everything about God, then you probably don’t know much.
  • Here’s what we know (2):

1) God is three persons.

2) Each person is fully God.

3) There is one God.

  • God is greater than us in every way.
    • Here’s a quote of God describing himself:

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (3).”

  • Even though God is beyond us in scope, the Spirit of God is the soul of the church.

“The fact that the Spirit indwells all believers, and provides the ground of our supernatural unity, results in true Christian fellowship-a sharing that knows no bounds (4).” – James White

  • God’s triune nature is the mystery of unity. Likewise, the church is the same.

Car Story

  • When it comes to money, I’m a hard-core saver and hate spending money.
  • Ben knows how to do the work, so that the car runs smoothly.
  • Like Ben when it comes to cars, God the Spirit does the work because he knows best and we just enjoy the benefits of grace.

The Holy Spirit Powers Grace

  • To understand the Holy Spirit, it’s best to know what he does.
  • In the grace process God the Father compels us to fascination (i.e. Head + Wonder), God the Son compels us to compassion (i.e. Heart + Will), and God the Spirit compels us to action (i.e. Hands + Works).
  • Grace is powered by the Spirit of God and leads to spiritual formation in our lives.

“Through the Holy Spirit we come to know Christ, and by the Holy Spirit’s power we live and grow in Christ, in the service of the king and in the fellowship of his church (5).” – Paul E. Little

  • Unlike the law where people hide behind veils of shame, God the Spirit gives us all of his grace all the time.
  • Because God does the work, he cares more about who we are and where we are in relation to his grace.

“We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people he wants us to be (6).” – Francis Chan

  • For Christians, where we are in relation to God’s grace matters most.
  • For Non-Christians, who you are matters most to God because he doesn’t know you yet.

Outro

  • All it takes is faith and humility to access all of the Spirit of God’s grace.
  • All it takes is humility and faith to know God and be known by him.

Final Thoughts

Given what had to be covered and the extensive work put into this one, I’m quite proud of the results. For more of my thoughts on this message, make sure to check out the Reunion Church Podcast on YouTube. With that said, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Systematic Theology 2nd Edition, P. 273
  3. Isaiah 55:9 (ESV)
  4. The Forgotten Trinity, P. 151
  5. Know What You Believe, P. 128
  6. Forgotten God, P. 148

An Ordinary Life: Physicality | 8-22-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11/25/2021

So this sermon was a part of a series called An Ordinary Life based on the book Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine for Reunion Church during the summer of 2021. This was a series focused on how to live simply within the mundane and enjoy the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life. I think this was a great first series for our church and it really resonated with the community.

I recall during this time I was feeling fairly burned out and tired from the church planting process, but wanted to still deliver a great sermon. What added to my nerves was the fact that I hadn’t preached a sermon in a church in almost 2 years given the pandemic. I was meant to give this message on the 8th of August, but Pastor Andrew and Pastor David had returned from a retreat so they shared on the 15th of August.

Also only 3 other leaders showed up on the 8th, so I didn’t share the message on that night. I honestly felt pretty down that no one showed up and that hurt, especially when you’ve invested so much time to give a valuable message. If I’m being really honest, I cried on the way home. For some reason, when I’m attuned to God’s will I find myself very emotional.

Sermon Prep

Then again, this message was difficult to get a grasp on what to share exactly. The chapter I was sharing and recapping was about 35 pages of dense material. The author writes with a very poetic power that hits all the keys of the heart. Trying to faithfully adapt his work in a 90min small group discussion is incredibly strenuous.

Either way, I prepped ahead of time and with the extra 2 week gap had even more time to tweak the message for the people of God to hear exactly what they needed. If you feel immense pressure to deliver, then I’d say you’re in the right place because you can only rely on God. In your own strength, your sermon is shit. Without the power of the Holy Spirit himself guiding every word, point, and pause the message will not be what they need in that moment. The fear of God fuels great sermons and this one was no different.

We had a good group that night and I think this was one of my better sermons. I got to lean into my strengths as a teacher, which is simplifying complicated concepts. I love expositing complicated ideas in a way that clicks with your average person. It’s challenging, but rewarding in the same respect.

Going back through my notes, I had so many for this message. Explaining how we’re made for a period of time among physical things is a hard idea to get across since it’s so abstract. It’s one of those ideas that needs a lot of padding and stories to pass onto others. Here’s what I had in my sermon journal:

Sermon Notes

Intro

  • Recap last week
  • To live an ordinary life is to know that we are made for a period of time among physical things.
  • As Zack Eswine writes,

“Faith, hope, and love-the matters of our souls-are tried, learned, and lived in close physical proximity to created persons and things within the limits of certain times and places (P. 173).”

  • Read Acts 17:24-26
  1. Limited doesn’t mean less than

“The ministry with its leaders and neighbors is boundaried and limited… But boundaried does not mean inferior (P. 174).”

  • Jerry McFarland’s Monday Night Study.
  • Read 3 John 2
  • How has a physical limitation led to an unlikely opportunity?
  1. A place is a people
  • Read 1 John 1:1-3

“We sensibly minister the gospel of Jesus to ordinary persons in their particular places (P. 177).”

  • How is a place a part of a person’s identity? Why does that matter?
  1. All matter affects the mind
  • Read 2 Timothy 1:3-5

“Bodily senses accompany our interior lives. At times, they can adorn our souls with treasures and at times litter them with trash (P. 177).”

  • What physical thing reminds you of a good memory? What makes you remember? A sound? A vibe?
  1. The boundaries of physical touch
  • Jesus touched everyone in ministry to heal, not to harm.
  • Read Mark 10:14-16
  • What are your physical touch boundaries? 
    • i.e. children, friends, relationships, etc.
  1. Should Christians cuss or swear?
  • Necessary + True
  • Context + Culture (Where + Who)

Outro

  • Final thoughts

Categories to Cuss

  1. Emoting through tragedy or great pain
  2. To shock or surprise
  3. Ordinary communication

“We religious must learn to recognize our own kind of cussing. Religious cussing often does not involve foul four-letter words (P. 204).”

“Language… always comes in the form of resistance or repentance or mixtures of the two (P. 205).”

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, this was a good one. A long message, absolutely and yet a really good discussion from everyone involved. To get more insight into my thoughts on this message, watch this sermon recap I do every week for my church. Also, for more insights into my thoughts on cussing and swearing as Christians, watch this topical podcast episode. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. https://reunionchurchcc.com/
  3. https://youtu.be/-yrOkwSAyOk
  4. https://youtu.be/lKzzXLYRjd4

Dawn + Joe’s Wedding | 7-24-2021

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 11/25/2021

This was a first for me. As a young pastor in the making, to officiate my first wedding was a huge deal. There was a lot of deliberation on my part in deciding to even commit to such a large responsibility in the first place. Never thought I’d be the guy to run one of these.

I distinctly remember being asked by Dawn if I would like to officiate their wedding. She texted me on January 23rd, 2021 and I took a whole day to text back. For one, I was shocked that they would want me to do it in the first place. I knew they were going to get married one day, but to seal the deal as their friend was such an honor after all these years.

Wedding Theology

The other roadblock I had to overcome was can I as a Christian pastor marry two people who may not be Christians? To be honest, I wasn’t sure about their faith and didn’t know the answer. To the surprise of many, there are very few people that I know are Christians. For most people, I have no idea and neither do you. Only God knows who is his and who isn’t.

So in the single day where I deliberated and asked advice from several people, I also studied this out for myself. I needed to know what I believed before I made a decision. So I did what I usually do and went back to Scripture itself.

From there I came to a new conclusion: marriage was a universal good that preceded the fall of mankind and this was critical in a lot of ways. One of those ways is that it’s one of a few, universal goods we find before mankind fell out of God’s grace and into sin. Here we see that taking care of Earth and its inhabitants or work and handling responsibilities is good, along with marriage itself. Therefore, these things must be better than the lack of them.

It’s better to be taking care of Earth than destroying it. It’s better to work hard than to be lazy. It’s better to be together than to be alone. Adam and Eve were alone, but God united them.

Premarital Prep

But should everyone be married? No and that led to my next question. Should they be married? They were dating for years, lived together raising teenagers, and were in their 40s as a couple after previous long-term relationships. From first glance, this was a very stable relationship already. So why did they get married?

Well, for them it was about telling their world and the world that they were together forever. Similar to how Protestants look at baptism, it was an outward expression of an inward decision. A pledge from the heart to be one with the one they love. For them, this was a permanent promise and I could discern that in prayer. The intent was there and obvious.

So over a period of 4 months, we did about 8 sessions of premarital counseling leading up to the wedding on July 24th, 2021. We began with Larry Crabb’s book, The Marriage Builder, but realised that book is dated and not that good. So I developed my own material for them to finish the rest of the sessions of premarital counseling. Using a framework I made from a previous blogpost of mine, each week we focused on 1 of the 5 core pillars of any good marriage: worldview, social status, intimacy, finances, and communication. This was what they needed and it worked well.

When the premarital counseling ended in early June, it gave them almost 2 months to prepare the rest of the wedding and myself time to think through what the hell I was going to say during the ceremony. As a preacher, sharing a message at a wedding is drastically different from your typical Sunday sermon. The atmosphere, the audience, and even the actual flow of this type of public speaking is far different than a normal church service.

Believe it or not, for the life of me I couldn’t get myself to write the message until it was the day before the wedding. Usually I write out my messages on Google Drive a few days earlier in the week word-for-word, wait a day or two, and then hand-write the key ideas into bullet points in my sermon journal the day before sharing it. This time, I buckled down with a glass of my reliable Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban whisky neat and got to work in the afternoon. I eventually stopped writing after hours around 1:00 am and then picked up again later that morning of the wedding. Quick advice: don’t do that.

Wedding Day

Regardless, I finished the message right in the knick of time and headed to the Historic Rapids Lodge & Restaurant in Grand Lake. During the end of my over 2 hour trek there, I prayed for their future as husband and wife. After typical set up and small talk, along with teaching Dawn’s son how to play chess it was time to start the ceremony.

Now I can’t recall everything I said because a good half of it was improvised in-the-moment, which is my style of preaching. Mostly the examples and jokes were on the fly, while the main ideas and structure was relatively intact. Either way, here’s most of the basic outline I had written in my sermon journal:

  • All rise.
  • On behalf of Dawn and Joe, I want to thank you for being here today. Not as observers only, but as active participants of the first day of the rest of their lives.
  • Marriage is a covenant, not a contract.
    • Contract = the desire to gain
    • Covenant = the desire to give
  • Marriage is the personal promise to be someone’s always and forever.
  • Let’s pray for the bride and groom.

Their Marriage Story

  • Dawn, you look beautiful and lovely on this wonderful day.
  • Joe, you look… present.
  • After all these years as your friend, it’s my honor and privilege to be here officiating your special day.
  • Before we share their marriage story, I’d like to share a personal promise from the book of Ruth.

Ruth 1:16-17 (NLT)

“But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but death to seperate us!”

  • When I met Dawn
    • I was 18 and aimless
    • AvidMax highlights
  • When I met Joe
    • I was the investigative instigator
    • The moment I knew you were the guy for Dawn
  • Rules to Remember
    • Life is a garden.
      • Explain inosculation
      • Marriage is when two gardens become one.
    • Head, Heart; Hands
      • Actively listen and empathetically act.
    • Life is a pain, but God is our joy.
      • You get to be married, so live like it and embrace the adventure.
      • There will be trials and triumph, yet God will always be your constant.
  • Be one, be open, and be optimistic.

Outro

  • Vows
  • Rings
  • I pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride.
  • Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Mr. and Mrs. Quinn!

Final Thoughts

Overall, I think it went ok for my first time officiating a wedding. They loved it and the crowd thought it was hilarious. Most of the audience didn’t know me, so I used that as my comedic edge to catch them by surprise with shocking zingers and also to balance the more serious stuff. There were definitely minor things I would do differently, but I wouldn’t have known those things anyway unless I had already officiated a wedding before. You don’t know until you know those sorts of things.

My only major regret was skipping over the vows section of the wedding on accident because of my nervousness. Not nervous from the public speaking per se, but more so the pressure of just trying to give them the wedding they wanted. Total amateur move, but learned my lesson there. Don’t veer from audience expectations and tradition too much or else some key moments could be missed that people want to see.

Either way, this is one of the highlights of the year for me and I’m glad I got to be a part of it with them. Cheers to the mighty Quinns! With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. Free stock photos · Pexels

Moses: From Man To Myth | 1-29-2020

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/25/2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand the person of Moses for a series called fresh start.]

Introduction

For the past three weeks, we have been studying this idea of a fresh start. With Adam, redemption. With Noah, a rescue mission. Then with Abraham, reality and reason in conflict. Now with Moses, we’re going to see how God brings revolution after reconstructing a man on the run.

But tonight we’re going to see how Moses had the right motive matched up with the wrong move. He had the right idea, but the wrong execution of it. Go to that first passage in Exodus 2:11-15.

The Motive | Exodus 2:11-15

Now a little context after we’ve just read the text. Moses was born Hebrew, but raised Egyptian. When he was a baby, he was adopted by the royal Egyptian family after he was hidden by his biological mother. This was because there was a decree to kill all male Jewish babies in fear they might grow up to resist Pharaoh by joining opposing nations and becoming free from enslavement. Also, Moses’ biological mother was the nurse whose job it was to take care of him in the Pharaoh’s palace.

With this in mind, Moses was born into Jewish royalty since he was an ancestor of Abraham and raised in Egyptian royalty for the first part of his life. He was a bridge to two worlds. A man torn between two different men’s legacies in his life: Abraham and Pharaoh. God called Abraham to be the founder of the nation of Israel, while Pharaoh was hellbent on their annihilation.

Years later here in Exodus 2:11-15, we see these two motives in conflict. His desire to free his people or to submit to the authority of his step family that ruled the nation. Next, we see his decision. His motivation throughout this whole story is to save his people. He chose freedom over fear. Yet, he went about it the wrong way. 

As a step-son of Pharaoh, he had the authority to order the Egyptian to stand down and stop beating the fellow Jewish slave. He could’ve commanded him to let the slave get back to work, but he chose the fast road to justice and killed the Egyptian instead. Burying him in the sand of the desert and then makes a run for it once he realizes that news of what he did has spread throughout the land. He had better options and chose poorly. Peace is for the patient and this is a quality that Moses has always lacked.

Needless to say, once Pharoah finds out and Moses escapes to hide from his warrant for his death. He chose the quickest solution to fighting injustice and ended up bringing even more consequences then there needed to be in the first place. When we try to fight injustice with what appears to be the easiest solution, we can actually end up bringing more harm than there was before. Because of what Moses did, the very people he was trying to save ended up staying enslaved for even longer in Egypt. 

The Mission | Exodus 2:25, 3:10

Moses is on the run, Pharaoh is even more brutal to the Hebrew people than before, and now God is going to initiate his next move through all of this by giving Moses his mission. We just saw his motivation, but now God is going to give Moses a clear mission to save the Hebrew the way God had always planned. Let’s read Exodus 2:25 and Exodus 3:10.

In life, I usually think I know what I’m doing next. How to make the next move. How to get where I want to go next, but God always has other plans and a better way of getting where we need to go.

For instance, I thought I was going to become a filmmaker who would dominate that industry. But God gave me a series of simple jobs, so that I could pursue serving others in my community by becoming a writer to advance our understanding of God. I had motivation and a mission, but God made it even better.

Likewise, Moses will save his people and this mission will eventually inspire a movement that will influence generations to come. But first, how did Moses free the Hebrews? How did God execute this mission he tasked Moses with here in these two verses?

Well, here’s the brief version of the story. God sends Moses to Egypt to speak with Pharaoh. Pharaoh said no, Moses tried again. Same thing like last time. This goes on a couple times until Pharaoh’s son dies and finally lets the Hebrew people go. From there, Moses leads the Hebrew people on their long journey to the promised land.

The Movement | Exodus 13:3

Jump to today, Moses is the figure of several movements in history. For example, Harriet Tubman was often called Moses because she freed slaves in America. Also, Superman has been compared to Moses in the way that he was born and other parallels within that story.

Just like them, you have two legacies you can choose from in your life right now. You can either go through the motions or be apart of the movement of God. You decide. Let’s pray and go to small groups.

This was my last sermon taught while serving in the youth group of my church. My best sermon? No, but I enjoyed the process of making it and wrapping up this series created by the new leadership for our youth group. Given during a time of change in leadership when I was stepping away as a new team was stepping up to take charge for the forseeable future.

Are they ready? Not even close to ready, let alone qualified. But neither were we when we started the youth group 3 years ago. They may not be qualified, but God has called them and if receptive to the leading of the Spirit will do great things in ministry. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1.  Free stock photos · Pexels

The Problem With Evil Is You | 12-4-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/24/2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students understand the problem of evil.]

Introduction

Tonight could go a lot of ways given what we’re talking about, which is the problem of evil. In a minute, we are going to play a clip of a philosopher who studied genocide for multiple years. Now after the video I will preach the remaining amount of time on the logical response to evil, then we will do a Q&A with three additional leaders on stage to talk about the emotional response to evil.

But there’s a catch because you decide which of our two videos we are going to watch. Option 1: we watch a 4 minute video and I teach 15 minutes. Option 2: we watch a 10 minute video and I teach only 10 minutes. But whichever way option you choose, we’ll do for you. So what will it be? Which option do you choose?

[Like most nights in ministry, especially in youth ministry, things don’t go according to plan. This entire introduction was scrapped because we left our projector at another location and couldn’t play either video. In response, I summarized the basic idea of what Clay Jones was conveying about Adam & Eve, along with the general problem of evil. I was going to share one of two clips from an interview that was done by Cameron Bertuzzi from Capturing Christianity with Jones, but God had other plans.]

1) Why are we responsible for what Adam & Eve did?

Based off of the video, we can gather a couple things about who we are as people. First, the problem with evil started a long time ago. It started with the first people and since then has spread like a disease to everyone else. This is what a lot of people refer to as generational sin or in other words “the sins of our fathers.”. But how does that work exactly? How did we inherit something that someone else did?

Let me explain by telling you about my family tree. In my family, we have a generational sin that everyone suffers from and that is addiction. On my Dad’s side of the family, we have my Great-Grandad who was a violent alcoholic. Then he had my Grandad who became a stoic workaholic because of the physical abuse he suffered as a kid. Next was my Dad who returned to the bottle, drugs, and the like because he grew up with a father who didn’t know how to show affection.

Same story is on my Mom’s side of the family too. Her Grandad was murdered by his own sons because they didn’t like that he was a violent alcoholic who physically abused their mom. Next my Mom’s parents also became addicted to alcohol and drugs, which is apart of the reason my Mom has to take medication for seizures because they abused substances during the pregnancy. If you take my Dad’s substance abuse and my Mom’s seizures, you get me who has the same problems because of their decisions and the decisions of the family before them.

That’s generational sin, in that when faced with the opportunity for self-actualization you instead choose self-destruction. Instead of finding an escape, you choose to live in the comfort of excuses. Like my family, all people are born evil because of the evil that’s been done before them.

This is how sin is inherited. By being a bandwagon following other examples and by blood we are naturally inclined to evil. At the end of the day, the problem with evil is you. The problem is me. The problem with evil is all of us because no one is good. We have both inherited sin and have a strong interest in it too. This is the cycle of sin.

2) If God is so good, then why is there so much evil in the world?

Wait a minute. How do you know I’m not good? What determines what’s good? God? Are you kidding me? Give me a break! If God is so good, then why is there so much evil and pain in the world?

Great question! Let’s answer that real quick, but first let me ask you a question. If God is so evil, then why is there so much good?

You see, the question whichever way you raise it implies that God and evil cannot both exist. That it’s impossible for God and evil to exist. Yet science proves God exists (i.e. the Big Bang Model and Evolution), along with all of us knowing that evil and good exist as well. It’s obvious. There’s evil and good everywhere!

[When sharing this message, I do remember expanding on this idea that evil and good are evident by sharing a few examples of these things existing.]

We don’t need to look very far to find any of these three variables. But the question remains: what is the ultimate standard that tells us what is evil or good? To put it simply, there’s only four options: nature, myself, society, and God.

First, let’s start with nature. In the animal kingdom and the natural world, everything is less than humans because we are the top of the food chain. We are the true kings of the world and no other species can top us because we are more evolved to be the fittest species to survive. So why should we find our standard of right and wrong from something that is beneath us? Therefore, nature is not our standard to measure good and evil.

What about myself? Am I the standard of what determines what is good or evil? I mean, you-do-you right? Whatever is true to you is true! But what if my truth contradicts your truth? Your truth is that lying is wrong, but my truth is that lying is right. Whose standard is correct if it’s between each other? Do I have absolute authority over everyone else who thinks they have absolute authority? No, so that’s not it either.

Wait, but what about society? Surely there is a society that has it all figured out! Not exactly because then how do we know which society is right? If there is a specific society, then what happens when it dies like all other societies have in history?

During WWII, we saw this problem in a really obvious way. Americans enslaved and tortured the Japanese, but weren’t okay with the Germans doing the same to the Polish and Jews. Yet the Germans weren’t okay with the Japanese enslaving and torturing the Chinese, even though they did the exact same thing. But then the Japanese felt the same way towards Americans because of what they did to them. Which society is right in that situation? Which society has the authority to say what is right or wrong? None of them if it’s all relative.

Now from the process of elimination, we know that God is the standard of what is right or wrong. He determines what is good or evil. Why is that? Because he created all things (Genesis 1:1), he made each and every one of us for a reason (Genesis 1:26-28), and he has established every society for our good (Romans 13:1). At the end of the day, God is the standard that shows us what’s right or wrong.

Conclusion

God in the beginning created everything from chaos and brought it into order. Then we took what was in order and made it chaotic. Now Jesus has offered to bring us out of chaos and into order, but the decision is yours to make. You can stay in the comfort of your own chaos or join God on the journey to order. That’s up to you because God doesn’t cause chaos, but he does allow us to do so.

God cannot be held responsible for a choice you and I make. If we want to sin, then we can and if we want to follow him, then we can do that as well. Like a parent whose kid decided to get in trouble at school, God isn’t responsible for your choices. In the end, you are responsible and that’s why God is good, yet we are the problem of evil.

[In retrospect, this concluding part was switched up to flow better in-person. Here it’s too rigid and comes off as brute, rather than loving. When sharing this message, I was much more tonally aware of the audience and adjusted to the nights circumstances.]

Now what you’ve just heard is a brief logical response to the problem of evil, but now we are going into a Q&A to talk about the emotional response to the problem of evil. If we could, can our three pre-selected leaders come up to the stage? Alright, let’s get to our first question.

Similar to my sermon about Job during the summer of 2019, I too wrestled to give a succinct response to such a weighty issue. The problem of evil and suffering. How do you approach that? How do you explain to students this extremely complicated problem without being confusing? In my case I attempted it and was not happy with the end result. It’s just a tough thing to understand, let alone explain to someone else.

Despite my mixed feelings about the sermon, the students seemed to engage quite well and the Q&A was very successful as I moderated while a few leaders answered questions I posed to challenge them. The best part was they were answering on the spot and had no prep ahead of time because I wanted them to speak from the heart, instead of their head. Ironic that they ended up giving better responses to the problem of evil then me during my message!

I was very proud of them and thank God for their willingness to jump into any ministry moment with joy. If I remember correctly, it was Mackenzie, Trevor, and another new leader who had only just started to lead with us. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1.  Free stock photos · Pexels

All For One + One For All | 10-16-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5/23/2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Last time I preached, we talked about idiots and influencers. This time it’s all about family and friends. But first, let’s read the text and then find out how to treat others, along with why we should treat them well. Let’s read Galatians 6:1-10 first.

“Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them. Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.”

How To Treat Others

This text we just read has two main points: how to treat others and why we should treat them well. We’ll focus on how before we go to why.

Alright, let’s just tear the bandaid off. You’re not that important. You’re really not too important. At least, you’re not too important to avoid helping other people.

It’s just true. You’re not too busy or famous or rich to help others who are in need. No one is too important to help someone else. Why? Because we all face the same issues just in different circumstances. We all have dealt with the same problems, but at different places in time and with different people.

I listen to a lot of podcasts and music throughout the week. Back when I was a video content creator, it was my whole job. To consume content and create it. Follow the latest trends and then start new ones with the company that I worked for at the time.

Anyways, I was listening to a podcast with Dr. Jordan Peterson and he has this quote where he’s talking about what brings meaning to people’s lives. What will help people know they have a role in the world and he said this: “I think of people as beasts of burden in some sense. We’re built for a burden and we’re not happy without that burden. We want to find the one that suits us (2).” In other words, part of our design is to help others with their problems. To serve a need not being met and to meet it to the best of our ability.

My family does this by making sure my Mom has taken her medication that prevents her seizures. Your family might be one where everyone pitches in to help take care of someone who can’t take care of themselves. Whatever that need is, it’s important and it requires your help. If Jesus thought it was important to help you, then you can help others. If not, then don’t call yourself a Christian because to be a Christian is to be like Christ.

How do we be like Christ? It’s pretty simple: obedience, opportunity, and then ownership. We live to obey Jesus by looking for opportunities to help others, so that we can take ownership of our faith. In other words, always be open to helping others and especially if it’s your own family.

But family doesn’t just mean those you’re related to or grew up with as a kid. As Christians, family also includes other Christians as well. When my Dad was in Russia as a missionary at the tail-end of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, he said his favorite part of being a missionary was meeting other Christians. Meeting family around the world who you had nothing in common with and yet you both had a relationship with Jesus.

The family of God is a real, tangible relationship with God that you shared with other people in different parts of the world. For Christians, your family is not just defined by the blood you share, but also by the blood that Jesus shed. Every family is defined by the blood that unites them, including the family of God.

Why Treat Others Well

So we know how to treat others, but why should we treat others well? Why does God want us to treat others the way we want to be treated? Well, for a few reasons.

First off, treating others well helps you have a bigger network. There’s plenty of people who only lookout for number one and they end up empty by the end of it. They burn bridges, they push friends away, and generally are really lonely people. On the other hand, when you help others you build bridges, create community, and give yourself way more opportunities than you could ever get yourself on your own.

Helping others and treating them well is also proven to improve your mental health for the better. According to mentalhealth.org.uk (3), helping others can reduce isolation by giving someone a sense of belonging, increase your happiness, and studies even prove that those who help others live longer because of their healthier well being. At the end of the day, helping others is more beneficial to you than living just for yourself.

Lastly, helping others is one of the reasons we are here as Christians in the first place. Jesus gave every Christian two commands to follow: to love God and to love others. We are commanded to do this as Christians because this is what Christ did. He was all for one and one for all. He loved God with all of his heart, mind, and soul. Then he loved everyone equally.

We too like Jesus are all for one and one for all. We love one God and each of us loves all people. We love because God first loved us. We can help others even when they don’t deserve it because God always helps us. So go help yourself by helping others and honoring God. Let’s pray and go get into our small groups.

I really like this passage of Scripture and loved sharing this message with the students. Like I’ve said in previous sermons for this particular study in Galatians, we were covering a lot of ground and not with time on our side either.

With that said, this message had a lot of good to share with our student body at the time. Being an active member of your community, mental health, personal responsibility, and so on. Very much a boots-to-the-ground kind of sermon where it’s extremely applicable universally, which I liked very much. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1.  Free stock photos · Pexels
  2. https://youtu.be/AscPHmLWo-M
  3. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/doing-good-does-you-good

Influenced By Idiots | 9-25-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 5-7-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Today we are going to talk about idiots and influencers. This will all make sense as I go on with the message, but for now let’s read about both in Galatians 5:7-12.

“You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you. Dear brothers and sisters, if I were still preaching that you must be circumcised—as some say I do—why am I still being persecuted? If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended. I just wish that those troublemakers who want to mutilate you by circumcision would mutilate themselves.”

Identifying an Idiot | Verses 7-9

In my day, I have met a lot of idiots. Like, a lot. Seriously, they multiply like ants. By idiot, I mean someone who knows better, but chooses to believe or do something anyway. It’s someone who is foolish or gullible because they can be easily swayed to believe any lie. Whether it’s a person with no credibility, an uninformed post online, or even a poorly made conspiracy theorist video.

Someone could literally make something up or provide fake news and this person would totally believe it. You guys have this problem? Trevor [one of the youth leaders at the time] had this problem when he hung out with his flat-earther friends and you probably have too. Let me tell you about my other friend who became an idiot.

I once knew this guy at my old church that Andrew [the youth pastor] and I went to years ago. He was a really cool guy. He helped in youth ministry, he was always there for others in the community, and was just a really solid dude overall. But after Andrew left to serve at another church and I left a couple years later, things changed.

What Andrew and I were hearing about this guy was kinda weird. At first, I brushed it off as he’s just being political or he’s just riled up about an issue that will go away after a few days. But no because for this guy, suddenly everything he knew to be true he rejected. He out of nowhere believed every lie he heard, even though he knew better.

For instance, here is a list of things I got from his Facebook that he believes today. Chem trails are actually poison for population control, fluoride in water is for mass mind control, there is a worldwide frequency that is distracting you from realizing you are in a simulation, you are God, every church that receives donations is satanic, vaccines are evil because they cause autism, all religions are the same, and the list of stupid goes on endlessly. To be an idiot is to be misinformed, not uninformed.

Paul in verses 7 and 8 is talking about this very thing. He sees this collection of churches in Galatia who knew better, yet were now believing a lie. That what Jesus did for us was not enough. That we need to work our way to God, instead of being thankful that God worked out a way for us to be with Him.

They were influencers, but now were idiots. They knew better, stopped running in their faith, and traded the truth for a lie. Fear in exchange for the freedom they had in Christ.

When this exchange happens, we change too. When we throw out what is true for what is false, we end up even more confused than ever before. Like yeast in bread, a little lie can quickly transform what is simply true into something extremely convoluted.

Be an Influencer | Verses 10-12

Yesterday, I was listening to an interview with this philosopher named Peter Kreeft and he said something that I think summarizes verses 10-12 really well. When talking about how personal sin impacts a community he said, “every good that we do has consequences in everybody else’s life and every evil that we do has consequences in everybody else’s life (2).” Basically, when you cause something we deal with the effects.

Think of your choices like a rock thrown in a lake. You threw it, but the whole lake was moved by it. The entire lake physically changed when that rock hit the water. Rather than harming your community, you should help it.

Instead of being an idiot like most people, be an influencer. An influencer is someone who sets the standard of good in their circle of influence. Be about what actually matters and pursue it with everything you’ve got. Maintain your steady pace and forget about that stupid rat race. Idiots hold people back, but influencers push people forward.

When we fall for idiotic nonsense, it takes us away from every influence that is good and true. God will deal with those idiots in your life who are trying to get you to leave the truth. That being that you are made with purpose and are special. You are loved by God and were made to love others.

Conclusion

In life, you’ve got two choices on how you live your life: be an idiot or be an influencer.  Your actions will cause chain reactions that will impact your community. As Thomas Moore once said, “there is nothing neutral about the soul (3).” When we care about something, we give it our everything. We all influence someone, so let’s focus on being the best influencers that we can be as we follow Jesus. Let’s pray.

I remember being pretty passionate about this message. For me, I had less notes and more thoughts that I wanted to get across than my usual messages. This was because I have always seemed to be in a constant struggle with people who know better, but choose what’s worse. It’s puzzled me all my life and still does to this day.

Yes, I understand how Christians grasp this concept with the idea of original sin corrupting all of us. How as Alvin Plantinga writes extensively in his book, Warranted Christian Belief, that our very minds are corrupted by sin. But reading a book and seeing it in person is not the same thing. Why? Because it’s more heartbreaking in-person when you know them.

This was a period of time where having a pastoral heart was a very clear concept. I felt it when preaching that Wednesday night. It’s something that Derek Prime & Alistair Begg wrote about extensively in their excellent work, On Being A Pastor. To be honest, it will always be a struggle for any leader or mentor trying to guide someone to truth.

They will almost always choose the convenience of a lie over the rewarding hard-work of finding the truth. Sadly, the worst part is you will see this a mile a away over and over, yet will have no ability to save them from these bad decisions. They like it and they want it, but one day they will hopefully desire God more than the guise of their empty pursuits. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com
  2. https://youtu.be/aLqf5EptHJ4
  3. Care of the Soul: Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

Doing Too Much | 7-31-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-24-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Last week Dan taught on the latter half of Galatians 2. Tonight we will look at the first 9 verses of chapter 3. Let’s read the text and then break down what it means from there.

“You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”

Now this part of Galatians is really split into two main sections. The first half focuses on the bad example of what the Galatians were doing, while the latter half is centered on the good example of what Abraham did differently. The key is that Paul is first addressing the problem that these Christians are dealing with before getting to the solution. What’s the problem? Well, they’re doing too much. Like most of us, they forgot what it means to be a Christian because they added all of this unnecessary filler. Let me explain by focusing on what they got wrong.

Verses 1 – 5

You see, when you first become a Christian, everything is super simple. You know God, He loves you, and all of life seems right for awhile. But then as you get older and the longer you remain a Christian, the more complicated things tend to get. You learn more, you meet different Christians who believe different things, and pretty soon you eventually find yourself wrestling with some new ideas that you’ve never heard of before.

But there’s nothing wrong with learning something new. In fact, Paul himself who wrote Galatians and plenty of other books in the Bible is always encouraging believers to grow in their faith. To mature and go from being infants to mature, seasoned believers who know more about God.

The problem is that most Christians don’t become mature believers over time who know better when a new thing is introduced that may or may not be true. What’s even worse is that we love to be fooled and tricked. Don’t believe me? Watch this (Play magic trick video: https://youtu.be/OVkmibfFbVI).

Honestly, everyone loves to be fooled. We love it. We love movies without knowing how they’re made. We love celebrity couples, even though they are staged. We love drama and gossip, even if it’s not true. We love to be fooled. Combine that with your longing to belong somewhere and that’s where we get this word in verse 1 called bewitched. This word basically means that they were captivated or thoroughly tricked into believing something that is not true.

The Galatians were bewitched into buying the lie that they needed to do more. They took the bait that by adding all this extra fluff to their faith, they were somehow being better Christians. When Paul repeatedly calls them fools in these first 5 verses, he is literally calling them idiots and stupid for believing this lie where they are doing way too much. The Gospel is not I need to do all of these things to show I’m good enough. The Gospel is I can’t do all these things, so God sent Jesus because he is good enough. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

The more you mature as a Christian, the more you realize how much you need Jesus and what little you can do without him. The older we get as believers, the more humble we become as we realize how much it really cost for Jesus to die for our sins. Now let’s look at this guy Abraham.

Verses 6 – 9

Who was Abraham? Well he was a lot of things. He was the ancestor of Jesus, the founder and father of the Hebrew people, along with being a man known for his faith in God. Here, we’re going to look at him and his faith.

For the church in Galatia, Abraham was a big deal. Especially because they were Jewish and Abraham was the father of the Jewish people. So when Paul mentions Abraham, it would be the equivalent of going to China and talking about Jackie Chan. Everybody knew who Abraham was and next Paul is going to bring up why he is so famous in these last 4 verses.

In verse 6, righteousness just means being right with God. Abraham trusted in God and this is what made him right with God. He trusted God for everything. When he moved to a new land and started a whole new nation. When he struggled to have children with his wife and God finally gave them a son. Through it all, Abraham trusted God in the end and that’s why he was considered righteous or right with God.

Anyways, because of this anyone that trusts God is of Abraham. That’s what Paul is trying to get at here in this passage. We trust in God and that means that we are of Abraham, in that we are righteous in God’s eyes. We are right in God’s eyes because we trust in Jesus.

Conclusion

In Philippians 1:6 Paul writes, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” There is nothing to add to the Gospel. The change that you’ve seen is a result of God working in your life and not the other way around. We might slow down the process when we sin, but we can’t speed it up. Paul writes elsewhere that, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

In the end, there really are only two types of Christians. Those who are all about trusting God and those who try to add to what God has done, which shows they trust in themselves more than God. But what God did is done and finished. Don’t try to complete what God started because God is enough for your faith.

This is admittedly a much shorter sermon than usual. It was 3.5 pages versus my more common 4 to 5 page average with double spaced, 12 point font. Think of each page written as 5 minutes when presented. So this message for instance was 17.5 minutes excluding the video. My video example was just over 4 minutes, which meant I had less time to share and therefore shortened my notes to fit the format.

What some of you may have noticed, is that over the past few sermons previously I have mentioned Romans 8:28 to one degree or another. I did this intentionally, so that students could comprehend their own faith with one very compact verse that sums up what we were learning quite well. An overarching theme throughout multiple sermons.

I enjoyed the simplicity of this sermon and it was nice to focus on smaller sections of Scripture, while adjusting to the change of a topical series to a verse-by-verse format for the book of Galatians. It was the original method I learned on how to teach the Bible back in middle school and was fun to go back to for this series. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com

Freedom For All | 6-26-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-22-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students study the book of Galatians verse-by-verse.]

Introduction

Now that we’ve finished our mini series on mental health in the Bible, we are going to start a new series going through the book of Galatians. We will be taking apart each verse as best we can and learning how to really study the Bible better. This just means that we are going to critically study and investigate part of this book to see how it applies to us today.

The book of Galatians was written by Paul the Apostle as a letter to the churches in the ancient highlands of Turkey called Galatia. The whole reason he wrote this letter was to defend against this group of people called the Judaizers. Their whole deal was that they claimed that the old laws of Judaism still applied to Christians.

That instead of being free from the law, somehow Christians who were still under the law. It’s wack and Paul spends this whole letter kind of calling them out for it. Think of Galatians as the Twitter rant of the Bible.

Let’s read the first 9 verses of chapter 1 and then break it down from there:

“Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen. I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

Verses 1 -2

First things first, Paul in his opening of the letter was reminding the church who sent him. He wasn’t sent by some group that hired him or by his own will, but rather he was sent by Jesus as an apostle to guide the church with letters like this one. He was writing under the authority of God to the churches of Galatia.

Also, he was with a group of other Christians who were travelling with him preaching the Gospel. He mentions them as another way of showing that he isn’t alone in calling these Judiazers out, but other Christians were in agreement with Paul in correcting their mistake in going back to the law. As Paul later writes in Galatians, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you (1).” They were free from trying to earn their way to God, but then they went back to it for no reason.

It’d be like if Martin Luther King Jr. changed his mind about equality for minorities during the Civil Rights Movement. Like what if we went a few years into having equality for all and then out of nowhere Dr. King decides that life was better when everyone was not equal. That’d be dumb, right? That’s kind of the backwards and bizarre thinking that these churches were going through right here. They were living in the past, instead of the future.

Verses 3 – 5

Here in verse 3, Paul is just saying what’s up with a greeting that was common for Christians at the time. After that, he then briefly goes over who Jesus is and what He did for us in verse 4. This is really the start of the letter and Paul is setting up his argument for why these Judaizers are wrong by quickly defining the Gospel. Verse 5 is Paul thanking God for what He did and this verse is finishing the thought in verse 4.

Verses 6 – 9

Now Paul gets to the part of the letter where he hella mad over what’s going on in these churches. He’s honestly shook that these churches that were taught by Paul on what the Gospel is have now left it for something not nearly as good. They’ve traded the truth of God for a lie.

He keeps going in verse seven and Paul points out that what they fell for isn’t even the Gospel, but a twisted perversion of it. That what they left behind was the true Gospel and what they embraced was a sad attempt at humans trying to spice it up. Kinda like when you at the cookout and Karen puts stupid raisins in the potato salad for no reason whatsoever.

No one actually likes your potato salad, Karen. The cookout was fine and good before you butchered it with your HGTV, white suburban trash-salad. Who in the hell puts raisins in potato salad?!

Anyways, you guys get the idea. Paul’s got the same react when he is calling these guys out. Why would you change the Gospel? It was perfectly fine before you showed up and ruined it. The Gospel was super simple until you guys made it all convoluted and complicated. Watch what he does next here in verses 8 through 9.

What does “he is to be accursed” mean? Think of accursed as being damned to Hell or something equivalent. Those people should be avoided and not given a platform where they preach a false Gospel is basically what Paul is saying here.

Next, Paul’s mention of even an angel telling you a different Gospel is in direct conflict with other world religions like Islam where an angel called Jibrīl (Gabriel) visits Mohammed to tell him a different Gospel or when an angel named Moroni visited Joseph Smith to tell him a different Gospel. By this verse alone, neither of those two worldviews can be true because they directly contradict Scripture.

Whether it’s a religion like Islam or a cult like Mormonism, anyone that claims to have a different Gospel is wrong. The same can be said of Jehovah Witnesses where someone made up some horrible way of understanding the Bible while leading a small group at some local church a couple decades ago. Bottom line: there is only one Gospel. But what is the Gospel? Here’s how I would put it and how I share it with people.

God made everything good. We made everything bad. Jesus has made and will make everything better. Now all we have to do is believe in what Jesus did and trust Him in what He is going to do. That’s it. That’s the Gospel. It’s simple, it’s straightforward, and easy to understand. Now let me break down each part of the Gospel real quick before we wrap up tonight.

Conclusion

In the beginning, God made everything good. He made the whole universe and all that is in it. Everything that God created, including us was good.

But then something happened. The first people, Adam and Eve, screwed everything up. They had the option to either love God or not. They could do whatever they wanted in the Garden of Eden, except eat from one tree. Why? Because in order for love to exist there must be the ability to choose. In that moment, they chose disobedience and that brings us to today where we all now have the inclination to disobey God and are no longer as close to God as we were back then.

But God loved us so much that He sent His son Jesus to make things right. Jesus lived a perfect life and died on the cross for our sins, which repaired the broken relationship with God. Jesus has made and will make everything better.

Now all we have to do is believe in what Jesus did and trust Him in what He is going to do. To decide whether or not we believe that Jesus really is God and really did die on the cross to pay the penalty of sin. We all have to decide for ourselves whether or not we want freedom. Let’s pray.

I don’t remember exactly when, but it was during this series through Galatians where I struggled a lot trying to translate our church’s sermon series into something for the youth group. In my mind at the time, I saw too much as a speaker that didn’t seam relevant to our ministry. This was because there are more factors to consider than just the message being communicated.

There is the intended audience, the setting where you will preach, the attention span of listeners, knowing what is relevant to said audience with various illustrations, and so on. I just wasn’t a fan of copying and pasting someone else’s sermon and calling it mine. It seemed lazy to me given my background as someone who knew how to prepare sermons.

For the newer leadership, this was very beneficial and they appreciated following the lead of someone more experienced and that being our main teaching pastor. Each method has its drawbacks, but for me I felt that these sermons were subpar because instead of crafting a message, I was just translating a message that someone else crafted. Maybe it’s evident in these sermons through Galatians, but for me I wasn’t very happy with how they turned out.

Regardless, this was an okay message. Not everything clicked and examples fell flat that were not given enough time to be fleshed out into better ideas. At the end of the day, what matters is that the sermon that needed to shared was shared. This was focused on a specific subset of verses and that brief overview was accomplished. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com
  2. Galatians 5:7-8

Job: A Sermon for the Suffering | 6-5-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-21-2020

[This was a sermon I gave to the youth group at my local church when serving there as a youth leader. It was about 25 minutes and was focused on helping students explore mental health by examining the lives of four different individuals in history. This week was focused on Job.]

During this short miniseries on anxiety and depression, we are looking at mental health in history from the perspective of people in the Bible. First we learned about Jonah and Elijah, so now we’re gonna look at Job’s struggles with mental health when he gets struck by tragedy. But first let’s get a little back story on who Job was exactly. In Job 1:1-5, we read about who Job was before the tragedy:

“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. Seven sons and three daughters were born to him. His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When the days of feasting had completed their cycle, Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.”

So he was the richest man in the east during this time and was a godly guy. He would have been a millionaire in our time and the equivalent of a CEO of a profitable business. Also, Job was deeply close with God and interceded or prayed on behalf of his children everyday first thing in the morning. Overall, Job was what we would consider a good person.

What’s important to understand is that this is a story that is a condensed version of what really happened. In fact, it’s structured nearly identical to other stories of suffering from Egypt written during the same time period. Basically, it’s a true story told through the form of a narrative or what they would call a parable.

Think of it this way: Jackie Robinson was a real person in history who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The movie 42 is a biopic that tells the true story of Jackie Robinson playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but only shows you the main parts of that story. Essentially, this is the SparkNotes version of Job’s life.

Next in the story, messengers report back to God about what is going down on Earth. One of these guys named the adversary (i.e. Satan) doesn’t buy what he sees as the “good guy” persona of Job. He’s just too good to be true. He loves God because his life is really good.

So God brags that Job is the best and challenges Satan to take everything away from Job, except taking his life. So Satan does just that by killing Job’s employees, his farm animals for his business, and even his own children all within the same day. When he hears the news of what happened, Job reacts at the end of chapter 1 starting in verse 20:

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”

Couple of things to observe here. First, Job follows how people in his culture would react in the face of tragedy. What he does first is a very cultural and normal way of reacting to tragedy at that time.

He then humbles himself by acknowledging that God is ultimately in control of everything and that God can do whatever he wants. This is true when we read Psalm 115:3 or Psalm 135:6 where King David also proclaims the same truth about God. Lastly, Job did not sin at all during this time. In fact, he doesn’t sin at all throughout this whole situation of suffering. Yet he does repent at the end of the book for not relying on God more than he could have when he was suffering, but we’ll get to that later.

[This isn’t necessarily the case. As some have argued, Job did sin during this season of trouble. Notice the passage says “In all this Job did not sin with his lips,” which some have noted as an argument that he did inwardly sin either in his heart or mind. This would add up with why he repented for not trusting God in the latter end of the book. There wasn’t enough time to cover the nuances of this idea, so I opted out of including it in this sermon.]

When this first attack doesn’t work, Satan goes back to God where they talk back and forth before Satan attacks Job again. This time he does attack him physically and these disgusting sore boils develop all over his body. Let’s see how those around him react.

“Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”

So now we get the worst wife of the year nagging Job about still trusting God, even though he has lost so much already. He claps-back and says that if we only trust God during the good times, then we don’t actually trust Him. We’re just following Him for selfish reasons or to get something back in return.

When his friends hear about what happened, they show up to be there for Job. When they arrive, they see the condition that Job is in and they cry with him before joining him in silence. When someone is having mental health issues or suffering in general, one of the best things you can do is just be there for them. Sit there, actively listen to their struggles, and be the comforting friend they can lean on when they are hurting.

When Douglas Groothuis’ wife was dying of dementia, he wrote in his book, Walking Through Twilight, how we can mourn with others as Christians:

“If we take the cross of Christ, we can become more like Christ, more aware of others’ suffering, and more willing to listen and help. I learned that I can keep praying when I am not happy with God. I once believed that prayer was reserved for certain emotional states. To be joyful or thankful is to be prized, but God is still there when those emotions escape us (2).”

The rest of the book of Job is a collection of conversations between Job and his three friends counseling him. They give him bad counsel, even though they had good motivations as Job grapples with all the questions he has for God as to why he is suffering. In the end, God confronts Job and asks him a series of questions that confront his lack of trust in what God is doing. When that’s over, God restores everything and gives Job twice as much wealth as he had when he lost it all. After everything that happened, life is now even better for Job because he trusted in God in spite of his doubts.

The story of Job is a very unique story. There is no indication in the text that God ever tells Job why he had to suffer the way he did. He was never aware of the cosmic conflict between God and Satan. The book of Job is a study on suffering and does not focus on a single solution, but that’s not the point either. The main point of the book was to show two things: how to go through suffering and what it looks like to truly trust in God.

Romans 8:28 says that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” In life, we go through a lot more bad than good. We cannot control what happened to us in the past, but we can control our reaction. As Viktor Frankl writes as a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, “When we are no longer able to change a situation… we are challenged to change ourselves (3).”

We can’t change how our life started, but we do have the ability to trust God and move forward through our struggles. You could get bitter or get better, but the difference is to switch those letters. Job’s friends and wife chose bitterness, but he chose getting better. Not perfection, but God made him better.

Sometimes it is not for us to know why there is suffering, but rather what can we learn from this suffering? Sometimes suffering is used to make us better people. Job had doubts and trust issues with God, but by the end of the story they are resolved.

God is our guide through suffering, even when we don’t understand why. The moral of the story of Job is that there must be a progression through suffering: from victim to victor. One of the most difficult truths in life is that in order to grow we must embrace suffering and not avoid it. Anyone who has ever overcome adversity or suffering chose to face it and go through it versus avoiding it all together. Tonight, let’s choose triumph in our tragedies through the power of God. Let’s pray and we’ll break into small groups.

This was a tough sermon to crack. First of all, it’s the book of Job and that is an extremely difficult book to understand given its age compared to the other books in the canon. Also, the fact that it’s a summary of the whole book, which is near impossible for one sermon.

The second main challenge was trying to key in on the mental health aspect, which I feel like I failed the most at for this one. Not addressing the issue as much as I could have. It was a sermon that lacked singular vision and needed to be refined a lot because it’s just not presentable in the shape that it is in currently.

A sermon is never ready to share, but some sermons are either more ready or less ready and this was less ready than other sermons I’ve taught. Not a favorite of mine, but another opportunity to learn and improve for the future. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. www.pexels.com
  2. P. 19, Walking Through Twilight
  3. P. 112, Man’s Search For Meaning
    • Key quote on the Fall and our sin nature: “Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright” (P. 134, Man’s Search For Meaning)