We were not created to live stagnant lives. To be stuck, bound or broken. We were created with a pulse, to be fully alive with a single-minded purpose, a holy calling, a clear mandate and an explicit mission. Even in times that are uncertain, chaotic or incomprehensible, this calling remains. That’s relatively easy when life is good, but what happens when suffering hits, or circumstances cause our heart rate to elevate, our anxiety levels to go through the roof, and we can no longer cope with the stress and distress that confront us? Jesus has some encouraging words for his disciples that not only redefines their circumstance and renews their strength, but reorients their hearts to a joy that is always life-giving and always life sustaining. It doesn’t take away the suffering, the pain or the anxiety, but it gives a framework that enables us to respond to suffering wth joy, embrace hardship with hope and overcome all things in the strength of the risen Christ. We’ll explore and experience that today as we embrace life beyond suffering.
#1 in series: Life Pulse
Out of battery – No more memory – We can’t afford it – I don’t have time…Much of contemporary life is defined by limits…by scarcity…by what we don’t have. We say “Enjoy it while it lasts”, knowing that all good things come to an end. So we sleep. We eat. We work and we repeat the cycle over and over again. But getting by, treading water until we no longer can, merely existing is not the life we were created for, redeemed for, and raised for. Easter Sunday tells us that there is more life than we can ever imagine. The heart of Easter is not about an empty tomb, but about the fullness of life the risen Christ gives, guarantees, and make come alive in us. Christ is raised not just from the dead, he is raised to life so we can be alive with the fullness of his life. So today we experience the flipside of life…life in abundance that overflows with unbounded joy, unlimited hope, & unending love. It’s a gift that you receive today, tomorrow, and the next day after…all because Christ is risen from the dead.
#4 in series: The Flipside of Easter
Death. It's the inevitable that we want to avoid. From anti-aging creams to efforts to download a person’s brain so he or she can continue to live virtually, to cryonics, the practice of freezing and storing bodies or body parts in the hope that future scientists will thaw them and bring them back to life. We are obsessed with health fads like activity trackers and crash diets. We love the idea of a pill that will extend our vitality. Many are waiting in anticipation for the vaccination to be rolled out as a protection against death by virus, so life can resume more normally. For the flipside of death is life...and that is a far more compelling option. But there's a problem. For no matter what medical advances are made, no matter how much we try to avoid it, death comes…to hopes…to dreams...to plans…to relationships…to families...to you. But Good Friday reveals the true flipside of death. That hope is reborn. Dreaming is possible. Plans can be made. Relationships are restored. Hearts are renewed. Love wins and eternal life is real. All because the flipside of Jesus' death is life to all who receive it, believe it and live in it.
#3 in series: The Flipside of Easter
Betrayal...it's what we see as the Flipside of love. It's a word that burns deep. You don’t expect to get undercut, undermined, blindsided or betrayed by someone you trust. Someone you love. It’s cruel. It wounds. “On the night he was betrayed…” God in the flesh, was betrayed at the hands of one of his closest companions. Jesus was not only sold out by one who was supposed to support him and stand up for him, but abandoned and denied by those who knew him intimately. Jesus knows who. He knows when. He knows why. In a different time, different place, or under different circumstances, it could be anyone who has been handed the bread of Jesus’ life. That includes you and me. But for Jesus, the flipside of love is not betrayal, but something far stronger, that gives all those who betray, abandon and deny, a place at his table. It's called grace. And that's what we receive again this day.
#2 in series: The Flipside of Easter
The impact of power. It's been plastered over our television screens over recent weeks. The raw and destructive power of storms, winds, and floods, sweeping up and destroying everything in its path. The abusive and coercive use of power in workplaces and institutions. The violent and corruptive use of power by government and military groups globally. Human nature finds power unavoidably addictive and more often than not, its impact leaves nations and lives broken, torn apart, and destroyed. But when Jesus enters Jerusalem to the shouts and accolades of the crowds we witness and experience the “flipside” of power…power that restores, rebuilds, forgives, heals and blesses. Jesus didn’t grasp for power; he challenged the powerful, the privileged & the proud so that all people could receive the power and presence of God. He flips our world until it is right…in relationship with the Father…responsive to his love…embraced in his death & rejoicing in his life.
#1 in Holy Week Series: The Flipside of Easter
“Are we there yet?” It’s not just a question that children ask their parents on a long journey. It’s a question that many ask in life. Have we arrived? Have we fulfilled our goals? Scaled the heights of our ambitions? Reached the pinnacle of our aspirations? We all have an instinctual motivation to aspire to greater things, to make something happen or to have an impact through our life. Ambition by itself is neither good or bad. But today as we continue a journey of deliberate discipleship, Jesus challenges the inner motivations that drive our ambition. He leads us on a path that is relationship driven rather than results driven; a way that transforms our motivations into a life that reveals his glory and makes a powerful impact for eternity. Less ambition...more submission. Are you there yet?
#6 in series: Addition by Subtraction
Being spread too thin is a reality for many of us. Competing demands. Overwhelming needs. High or unreachable expectations. It's burdensome trying to be all things to all people. It's exhausting when we feel stretched to capacity. It's demoralising when our best efforts end in failure. It's frustrating when we can't find a solution to fix the problems that confront us. When the margins are gone and you are running on empty, the “demons” just won’t budge. That's what we discover today. It’s difficult to live "in-between" success & failure, certainty & doubt, faith & unbelief…where fragile faith becomes desperate faith. But in all things, Jesus does not leave us alone in that in-between space. He comes to be with us so that our daily experience is one of less noise, more hearing as we walk the thin line between fragile faith and desperate faith in his presence and with his power.
#5 in series: Addition by Subtraction
Experts say we live in an Attention Economy and our wealth or net worth is measured in clicks, likes, page-views, downloads, swipes followers & friends. Every second of our life, something is craving for our attention - notifications, spam, RSS feeds, social network requests, sponsored posts, reminders or news bulletins. Distraction has become habitual. Checking your phone while waiting in line is our default. Stopping mid-sentence while reacting to vibrations real or imagined is common place. These distractions push us further away from the abundance of life God desires for us to receive. We spectate rather than create. Live on the side-lines instead of get in the game.
But God calls us to keep our attention focused on Jesus. He invites us to listen to his voice so that no matter where we are, who we’re with, or what is happening we respond to him alone as he lives through us to bless and transform our world. Distractions may never go away but in their midst we can offer a broken hurting community looking for "the next thing," the transfigured, transforming, risen Jesus. He alone stills the disturbances of our lives, and calms the clamourings of our hearts. He invites us to share his glory by fixing our attention & devotion on his life given for us. So join us today as we explore less distraction...more focus
#4 in series: Addition by Subtraction
Do you remember this "Snickers Ad campaign. "You are not you when you're hungry." Is that you? Are you prone to becoming 'hangry'? Or irritable, or impatient, or easily annoyed. How do you react when your plans are interrupted? How do you respond when someone asks you for something that is more than you think you can give or more than you think they deserve? Deliberate discipleship is asking Jesus to deepen our trust and dependence on him and be present with compassion however life unfolds. It is asking Jesus to use us as he pleases for the purposes of his kingdom at whatever cost. It is asking Jesus to empty us of our plans and intentions to serve the immediate needs of those right before us. As Jesus works in us we discover that God meets our needs in the most unexpected ways for whenever there is less self and more sacrifice, God promises that there is always an abundance for all. We'll explore that today.
#3 in series: Addition by Subtraction