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)

A Renewed Purity | 4-24-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-18-2020

[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 relationships and sexuality. This was apart of a series of sermons given on the subject that paralleled our church’s main service series on the same topic.]

Introduction

For a lot of reasons, the world is a different place than the one our parents grew up in when they were our age. According to Professor Scott B. Rae (2), for the first time in American history “the number of households headed by single adults [is] greater than those headed by married couples.” Basically, when our parents grew up, being married was the norm and being single was weird.

Now it’s the opposite: being single is the norm and being married is weird. So why is being single still not socially accepted, even though there are more singles than couples in America? Is being single weird? Not exactly.

Like every first world country, America no longer sees the need to be married or have sex as often as former generations. In fact, most first world countries seem to have this problem. For instance, in Japan roughly 35% of Millennials are virgins due to circumstances like work fatigue, social anxiety over relationships, and even addiction to technology (3). Because of the rise in automation in America, this might happen here too where less and less people are going to be romantically active and will remain single to pursue other things.

With all of that in mind, being single is not that bad. No for real, being single is super underrated. I mean, single people can literally go and do whatever they want when they want. For instance, I just got my ticket to see Avengers: End Game in IMAX opening weekend, I’m planning my vacation in Florida to see World’s Strongest Man for my birthday, and two other vacations later in the summer to go chill somewhere else.

Why? Because I do what I want within reason. But in a culture obsessed with relationships and sex, what should life be like for those of us who are single? For those of us who are just not with someone at the moment?

In 1 Corinthians 7:7-9, Paul writes about us singles when he says,

“Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Here in this text we have three main takeaways: being single is preferred, being single is good, and being single is for the self-controlled. To start, we’ll look at how being single is preferred.

Singleness Is Preferred

As Christians, we don’t have the same goals as the world. We are not about fulfilling the American dream where you get a job, go to college, find a career, get married, have kids, get a house, and so on. We are all about seeing people made alive in Christ. Showing others what it means to know God and make God known. Everything that we do must be completely centered on Jesus and sharing the Gospel to help the hurting.

Single people are not tied down with the stress or worries of a family life. Therefore, we are way more effective in helping those who are hurting. I see this a lot firsthand in my life where married people can’t always help you because of family responsibilities, but singles can in those moments.

When Abe [a former student in the youth group that graduated from high school a year before this sermon] was kicked out of the house he was staying at because he was homeless for months and was crashing at multiple people’s places, Andrew [the youth pastor] could not help him out. I woke up, picked him up, and he stayed the night at my place with my family. The next day, we got him the help he needed by having him return home shortly after that incident to figure out his young adult life. This is something that I’ve done multiple times not only for Abe, but others as well who needed help immediately. I got up and got to work when someone had a need.

Singleness is preferred because of the ability to get up and go whenever a need must be met in the community. Instead of worrying about a family, I worry about everyone as if they were my family. Growing up, I’ve always had this mental image from God that I’m to be a bridge for all people.

That my life would be one of continuously humbling myself and allowing people to walk all over me, so that they can be reconciled with God and those they disagree with in life. That God would use me to connect and bring people together in unity. Rather then division in the name of social conformity to this side or that side of the culture [When I shared this message, I expanded on this idea much more, but don’t remember what exactly I said].

Singleness is preferred in the kingdom of God because of how effective we can be in serving others. Is being single better than being married? No, not at all. They are equal from an eternal perspective. In Heaven, no one will be married or single. Why? Because we are there to love God and others, not ourselves. Both gifts are equal, but only one can effectively help more people.

Singleness Is Good

God’s gifts are always good. In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus explains how much better a gift is from God than the gifts from those who love us. How even when we with our best intentions give something to someone we care about, it doesn’t even come close to the gifts that God gives us. One of those gifts is whether we are married or single.

For the married, the gift is pretty obvious. The woman will honor and respect her husband in all things, while the husband will let all of his desires die and give his wife everything that was his own. You see, true love is not sexual, but sacrificial. This is demonstrated when the two love each other day-in and day-out, even when they don’t like each other everyday.

But what about us who are single? Think of it this way: if you remove the romantic element out of the equation, what is the difference between the love of a couple and the love of friends? Nothing. They’re the same sacrificial love. In the end, there is no greater love than putting someone else’s life above your own. Whether that’s romantically with your spouse or the camaraderie of friends. Both gifts, marriage and singleness, are expressions of true love. A type of love that looks out for the needs of others before the needs of yourself.

I love how Gary Thomas describes love in his book, The Sacred Search, where he says “Infatuation fills your eyes with what you’re getting, but let the Bible fill your mind with what you’re committing to give (4).” Lust is all about what you can take from someone, yet love is all about what you can give someone. Remember: lust takes, but love gives. In the kingdom of God, singleness is a good gift that demonstrates the same sacrificial love we see in marriage, but expressed differently.

Singleness Is For The Self-Controlled

When it comes to singleness, self-control is an important aspect of that gift from God. We sadly have many cases where those who are single don’t show self-control. From priests sexually assaulting kids to teen pregnancy, the lack of self-control is everywhere in our culture. There are more examples of no self-control than there are of self-control.

In this respect, there tends to be two types of people who lack self-control. Those who should be married, but are not and those who should be single, but are not. For the former, they are mentioned here in 1 Corinthians and Paul tells them that it is better to marry than to constantly wrestle with lust.

On the other hand, there are those who know they should be single and yet are doing everything they can to find a relationship. Both these people have the same problem: being a control-freak. They are trying to control their desires without the designer who gave them these desires in the first place. No human can control sin. That’s your pride saying that you have everything under control.

In reality, self-control is really when we give up trying to solve the problem on our own and get help from God. Our self-control is by the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot stop sin, but we can escape it. There is always a way of escape from sin and that is the quickest path to purity. Sadly, we would rather be stubborn in sin than have self-control in the Holy Spirit.

No matter where we are relationally, we must remember that we are God’s first before we are anything to anyone else. Self-control in the kingdom of God is giving Jesus control of all our struggles and trusting that he will bring us through them. It’s when people decide to solve these temptations on their own that they lose control.

Before we pray and breakout into small groups, let me end with this quote from G. K. Chesterton (5),

“In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

Conclusion

To sum up what Chesterton said, don’t remove a fence until you know why it was put there in the first place. Not all borders need to be crossed or at least not yet, especially when it comes to this stuff. Being single is normal. The gift of singleness is preferred, good, and for the self-controlled. Don’t throw away your gift of singleness until you know why God gave it to you in the first place. Let’s pray and we’ll break up into small groups.

I distinctly remember this sermon because of how much prep and research was utilized on my part. Given the subject and audience, I didn’t want to paint an inaccurate picture of singleness from the Christian perspective. So I studied a lot of sources and tried to whittle down those ideas as much as possible into a coherent sermon, which I think was fairly effective.

When it came to this series, we were struggling a lot with how to approach explaining God’s view on relationships and sexuality to a generation that has seen more pornography than any generation previously. That’s exposed to so much inappropriate material online and is essentially numb to the fact that they are too young to be engaging in said activity. This is wrong and we hoped that with this sermon series we could steer them in a direction long-term that would greatly benefit their emotional intelligence, mental health, and spiritual maturity.

Was it a success? Somewhat. Some students took the advice of us and other professionals we brought in like third-party counselors for this issue, but there will always be those who are non-receptive to what is being said. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics, P. 278
  3. https://youtu.be/4pXSJ35_v2M
  4. The Sacred Search, P. 67
  5. https://www.chesterton.org/taking-a-fence-down/

Think Biblically |3-15-2020

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-10-2020

[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 how to think biblically. This was apart of a series of sermons given during the Unshakable 2019 winter camp for our church’s youth group.]

Intro

During this weekend we are going to learn what it means to have an unshakable faith and tonight is all about how to think biblically. How to have a worldview that is able to withstand all the worries we have about our world. What I mean by thinking biblically is thinking the way Jesus thought.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus was constantly pointing everyone he talked to back to the Word of God. During that time this would have just been the Old Testament, which is the first half of your Bible. Now the Word of God is the whole Bible: Old and New Testament.

Needless to say, no matter what situation Jesus found himself in he always thought biblically. Everything Jesus did and thought was aimed at obeying God the Father. How can we purpose in our minds to do the same and obey Jesus? Tonight, we’ll learn how to do just that as we read part of a letter written by Paul the Apostle.

In the book of Colossians we read:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (2).”

After this, Paul then goes into a whole bunch of stuff that can distract us and reminds us to stay focused on Christ. He ends this section of the letter when he says:

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (3).”

Now from these two passages, we can gather three main takeaways on how to think biblically. How to think like Jesus thought in spite of the world around Him. To think biblically is to keep walking, to wise up, and to wake up. By learning how to train yourself to think this way, you will add the first brick of many to your unshakable faith. Let’s learn the first way, which is to keep walking.

Keep Walking (v. 6 – 7)

Most people remember when they first met God. Those of us who have had this encounter can either remember the exact moment or even the feeling we had when we encountered God personally for the first time. I know for me it was more of a connecting the dots over time than a specific moment.

You probably have a similar situation where you either in an instant felt the presence of God immediately or discovered Him slowly over time. However that went down for you, that was just the beginning. This first step in your walk with God was just the key cornerstone in what could one day be an unshakable faith.

You may have even had mentors or youth pastors who showed you how to live the Christian life. But in spite of all of that excitement, life happened. Things changed and you changed along with it. For some of us, we stopped walking with God.

In verses 6-7, Paul reminds us about this very common problem of walking away because of all that is happening in our lives. The first way that we can think biblically is to get our heads in the game and keep walking with God. To endure the attacks that we get hit with and to keep going as Christians.

During my last Strongman comp, I did the most difficult lift of my entire life: a 450lbs. axle bar deadlift for 4 reps. It was brutal. My body was aching from the overhead pressing event where I tweaked a muscle in my lower back, I almost blacked out with each new rep, and was just stupid tired.

But the worst part of the lift was the mental game. I was wrestling with my thoughts. “Should I give up? Is this too difficult? Why try when I’m competing with an active duty captain in the U.S. Army and another guy who is qualified for Strongman Nationals?” I was this close to giving up, yet I exceeded my limits and kept going in the competition.

[Ironically enough, I never shared this strongman example when I preached this sermon. At the very last second, I changed examples. Literally when it was time to share this example during the message, I chose not to and instead shared about a conversation I had with my Granddad about college. Not sure why, but it seemed like the right move at the moment.]

Like that day when I could have given up, we too must keep walking in our faith with God. Remembering why God’s grace leads to our gratitude. Enjoying life with Him and growing in our knowledge of God as we learn from others much wiser than us. Speaking of wisdom, let’s look at the second way that we can dedicate our minds to thinking biblically and that means we need to wise up.

Wise Up (v. 8)

In verse 8 of chapter 2, we read of another threat to thinking biblically and that is the distortions of truth that the world offers. The way that the world tries to find the truth is like taking a picture with a broken lense. They have the right desire, but will never get the ideal result. Like us before we knew God, they are just looking at the big picture the wrong way. Everything is distorted without God who brings all things into focus when we draw near to Him.

With this in mind, we need to wise up and be careful of all of the stuff that is out there. These days, everything is trying to get your attention. Everyone is desperate for you to give them your time. According to a YouTube press release, about “one billion hours [of video content is] watched daily” on their platform (4). There is a battle for your mind and to fight it, you have to think biblically.

Now this verse isn’t saying that all knowledge outside of the Bible is bad or evil. I mean, how would you learn about Algebra if not for the Muslim mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi who invented it? Without his work, we wouldn’t have Algebra and you wouldn’t hate math. So like 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” Until proven true, take everything with a grain of salt. You’ll know if something is the truth when it has been tested and proven to be true. This is the second way that we can think biblically.

Wake Up (v. 1 – 3)

The final way to think biblically is to wake up. We need to wake up and realize our main reason for being Christian in the first place. We are here to know God and make God known. The Gospel is the wake up call of the world and we are the messengers.

We’re not here to get caught up in the nonsense of what is being fought over today. We have to stay focused and remember that we have a mission from up above. We have a task at hand and that is to tell others what God has done, is doing, and will do through us as Christians. We need to focus on Jesus in our life on the daily and then when that’s dialed in, show others how to do the same.

[Here I added more in my sermon journal where I wrote “show, then tell.” For the uninitiated, to show then tell is a film idea. The idea that a picture can say a thousand words and our examples in how we live do the same. Don’t remember the exact wordage, but that was the concept.]

Conclusion

To wrap up, we need to think biblically if we want an unshakable faith. We must keep walking, wise up, and wake up to keep our mind focused on God. Until the whole world hears the good news of Jesus, our mission is loud and clear. Think about it and we’ll talk in our small groups in a minute. Let’s pray.

This was a really stressful weekend because it was my first time co-running a winter camp with another leader named Sierra. We worked all day running the camp the whole weekend and by the time came for me to share my sermon, I was quite exhausted. I wasn’t as tired as last year’s winter camp, but a different type of tired because everyone came to us with their problems versus last year where we just solved problems that were there.

Anyways, I was scrambling to write the outline in my sermon journal as the worship team was doing their set before it was my time to preach. I think the sermon was fairly straightforward and had little hiccups. It went as planned for the most part. The concept for this whole sermon series I outlined as far back as August of 2018 at a leader retreat, so the main ideas had been in my mind for months by the time I shared this message. Then again, I’ve always been a clutch preacher who is changing things at the very last second pretty normally, so take that as you will. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/
  2. Colossians 2:6-8
  3. Colossians 3:1-3
  4. https://www.youtube.com/yt/about/press/

The Laws of the Kingdom: Love God + Love Others | 2-20-2019

Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 4-8-2020

[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 kingdom of God. This too was parallel to our church’s main series as well.]

Intro

For the last several weeks, we have been talking about our identity and role in the kingdom of God. This study has included life with Jesus, how to worship in the Spirit, and last week when Andrew taught about the works of the Father. This week we’ll talk about the laws of the kingdom of God and what it looks like to obey these laws in our own life.

In every kingdom, there is a set of laws. Every country, nation, and tribe has a list of rules that they live by and which make them distinct from all other places. In the movie Black Panther, also known as the Live-Action Lion King, the nation of Wakanda has a series of laws and rules that they live by as a country. One of those laws is that anyone that is in the bloodline of the royal family can challenge the current king for the throne. Another law is that they are an isolationist country, which means that they do not aid in foreign affairs and/or help other countries around the world. They choose to isolate themselves and avoid conflict.

Laws of the Kingdom

Just like Wakanda and every other nation, the kingdom of God has laws too. Unlike all of these other countries though, the kingdom of God only has two laws. Let’s turn to Matthew 22:36-39 to see what those laws are in the kingdom of God.

[After reading Matthew 22:36-39] So this lawyer guy shows up and is like, “Jesus, my dude. What is the most important law in the kingdom of God?” To which Jesus responds pretty point blank with to love God and to love others. The two laws of the kingdom of God are to love God with everything you’ve got (i.e. body, mind; soul) and to love others equally to the way that you treat yourself.

Reactive Love vs. Proactive Love

Another way to think about these two laws is that to love God is reactive, while to love others is proactive. When we know God, we know His love and this love is awesome. It gives us meaning, purpose, and value as one-of-a-kind creations made to change the world. This love of God is beautiful and life-changing. It’s amazing what God has given us! In response to this love of God, we can really only react with gratitude.

Like I said last time, God’s grace leads to our gratitude. This gratitude is evident when we react in prayer, reading the Bible, and worship. These are all ways that we react to God’s love. In response to God’s love, we react with loving gratitude.

To love others is proactive. We proactively love others. We do this by befriending our enemies, helping the homeless, serving at church, and so on. In short, God’s active love moves us to a reactive love, which then motivates us to a place of proactive love for others. We love God with our heart, mind, and soul because of His love for us.

Let’s recap what we just covered before we move onto the next idea. God’s active love moves us to reactive love, which then motivates us to a place of proactive love. We love God because he first loved us and just like the Golden Rule, we love others the way we want to be loved. How does this look in real life? What does love in action look like?

Love In Action

Back in 5th grade, I had a friend who was gay that was bullied constantly by our classmate Dennon. Now Dennon was a big kid and he was an angry one too who bullied all the kids at school, especially my friend for being gay. This bugged me a lot in 5th grade and I didn’t know how to help my friend. I remember that I asked God how I could help my friend and God told me to become Dennon’s friend. God told me to love my enemy.

So after a lot of hesitation, I made an attempt at school to be friends with Dennon. He pushed me away and made fun of me. I went back to God and asked for another way to help my bullied friend that night in prayer. God gave me the same response: love your enemy.

I tried again, but this time I did things differently. I sat next to him at lunch for the first time and the same thing happened. Dennon made fun of me and my bullied friend as soon as we got there at the lunch table. Back then, I had a shorter fuse and would blurt things out in a way to get back at people.

When Dennon bullied us, I responded back with a witty one-liner that was supposed to hurt his feelings. Instead, it did the opposite! He instantly started laughing so hard he started crying and before you knew it, everyone at that table was the best of friends. Even to this day, Dennon is one of my oldest friends and when we can find the time we hang out to this day. By choosing to love my enemy, I made a new friend. By following the laws of the kingdom, I saw what life is like in obedience to Jesus.

Evident Love

Still confused on how reactive love and proactive love works in your life? No worries! Let’s look at what Paul the Apostle writes in the book of Galatians. Here in Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes about how Christians bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit and how this is directly related to the laws of the kingdom of God. Basically, how we know that someone is a Christian versus someone who is not a Christian. We judge them by their fruit. That fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Now there’s two main ways to understand this fruit of the Holy Spirit as Christians. The first way is to think that because the fruit of the Spirit is singular and not plural, then the fruit of the Spirit should be thought of as an all-or-nothing sort of situation. You either have all of it or none of it. The other way we can understand the fruit of the Spirit is to think that everything listed is in chronological order or from first to last. So from God we get love. From love we get joy. From joy we get peace and on and on it goes down the line.

Outro

Either way, you will know if someone is Christian by their love. You will see the fruit of the Spirit in their life. To live by the laws of the kingdom is to love God and to love others. Let’s pray.

If you couldn’t tell or were unaware, this sermon was extremely rushed. When compared to the last sermon, Worship in the Spirit, this one was missing some key details. Not enough research was done during the prep stage, didn’t practice at all, and the message suffers from this lack on self control to get it done right.

Given the circumstances, it’s why the sermon is filled with a lot of stories, yet not a lot of Scripture and zero quotes from others. When doing the work of God, do it well and don’t waste the opportunity that God has given you to display the gifts you have to share for the benefit of others. They are and never were your gifts to waste in the first place. You represent God, so represent him with excellence. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.pexels.com/