Sermon Review: How Jesus Brings Your Job Back To Life – Ryan Cochran

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This is a review of a sermon by Pastor Ryan Cochran preached last Sunday, April 15th, 2013. Vancouver BC.
I haven’t ever reviewed a sermon like this, especially one at my own church. This one struck me as especially important.

Main Point:  Your Job is meaningless, but the resurrection of Jesus gives it meaning.

 
Flow of the Sermon: 
  • Ecclesiastes says everything is meaningless, including work. That’s right. When we try to build our identity or put our hope in our jobs we will always be disappointed. If our purpose is just our work then life is meaningless.
  • Our jobs are ONLY good if they are for the purpose of following, loving and worshiping God.
  • We should do four things
    • DIE to the idea that our jobs can be who we are and what we live for.
    • BE OPEN TO GOD at work by viewing our jobs as a gift from Him and praying for our work.
    • HAVE JOY in our work because it is for God.
    • SEE IT AS MISSION.  The work itself is part of God’s work. There is no separation between church and God and the rest of life.  It is all one.
 
Good Stuff:
The ways we worship God in church are just an image of the ways we should be worshiping him in everyday life.  In communion we eat and give thanks. We give our money. We pray for people. We study the Bible.  We are supposed to be doing these daily in our lives. Church is training for worship in the rest of life.

Conclusion:  You should believe that God has given you your job and sent you to that place.  This faith will bring your job back to life.

What Will I DO in Response?
  • think about this sermon again by editing my notes on it (which you are now reading)
  • Remember the image of Sunday worship service as training for everyday life.  Try to implement all the ways we worship on Sunday into my life outside Sunday morning.
by Isaac Whiting
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How To Be a Tech Hero

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I hesitate to post this.  Everyone who reads it will find out that I don’t really know much about computers at all.  I just know where to go to find the answer fast.

Hey, do you know how to download a youtube video?  How do you copy a dvd?  How do I get this weird video file to play?  Do you know how to edit a pdf?  How can I cleanup my computer and make it faster?

It doesn’t even matter what the question is.  Here’s the answer.

1) Ask this question.  Would a special computer program be able to solve my problem?  And does this program probably exist?

About 80% of the time the answer is yes and Yes!

2) Go to techsupportalert.com  or google gizmo freeware

This site is not very good for browsing, but it is absolutely incredible for finding a free program you can download immediately that does exactly what you want.  Use the search box or look at their categories.

Let’s say someone asks you to convert a .wmv video to .mp4 and you have no idea what that means.  Just pretend like you do. Go to techsupportalert and search for convert video. Look for an article that starts with the word Best, as in ‘Best Free Audio-Video Conversion Program’.  This page will give you a detailed description of four or five great programs that will do what you want for free. Drop down to their quick selection guide and pick the one they recommend the most. Download it.

Make sure you at least glance at the instructions.  These programs are always safe, but sometimes install other annoying programs you don’t need.  They will give you tips on how to avoid that.

In a few minutes you will have a new program, convert your friend’s video and you will be a Tech Hero!!  A Genius!  How do you know so much about computers?!

This simple strategy will work for tons of computer challenges. Use it to make friends. It can be especially useful when someone you have been on bad terms with is in a bind.

Be careful who you tell the secret to. Some people will love you if you do it for them, but won’t believe you if you tell them how.

by isaac whiting

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Church Experiments: The Awakening Part 1

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The following are my reflections on a specific attempt in 2008-9 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Vancouver BC  to generate true Christian community through a one month experience of seeking God together called ‘Awakening‘.

Youth Ministry Before

I started at Ebenezer in June 2005. The youth ministry was a Wednesday night meeting, Sunday morning bible studies with virtually no attendance, and a once a year vacation bible school for teenagers in the summer.  Anyone who wanted to could come to these events. In this sense they were exactly like our Sunday morning church services. Whoever walked in was the meeting for that night. A particular group of teenagers would come for a while. Then new people would show up, and old people leave and the group would change. Over the course of three years this happened several times.

This ministry as I did it was also based on my performance. Because there were always new people and those who were attending would only be there for a short time there were discipline problems and virtually no interest in the real purpose of the group, the mission of Jesus. My response was to consistently present ‘powerful’ messages that shocked and held the attention of the group. Sometimes this had a positive effect. Several youth became more serious about their faith and a few ‘decided’ to follow Christ for the first time. I also spent a considerable amount of time one-on-one with several young men in the group.

Man this is Terrible!

In the fall of 2008 my frustration with this kind of ministry peaked. It was hard to face discipline problems and lack of interest every week. What kept me going was the hope that the message would get through to some. However, I began to realize that even those who wanted to go deeper with God had no opportunity to do so. One-on-one ministry seemed to me the only really fruitful thing I was doing. I did not, however, see any way to change the Wednesday night meetings.

Our Children’s Pastor Chris Hensel began to push me about the way Wednesday nights were and to consider changes. He asked me what youth ministry would look like if I could make it any way I wanted. Conversations I had with him and our Senior Pastor Ryan Cochran resulted in the following idea.

Awakening?

The youth group should be a committed community seeking God. It should not be open to just anyone at any time. The youth group was disbanded and reformed. Membership required completing a one month experience called Awakening. During this month participants would be required to call each other every day, complete set scripture readings every day, pray at set times twice per day, meet together twice per week to prepare, eat meals, read scripture and pray, complete a two week media fast, go on a one day spiritual retreat together, follow a common menu for all meals for one week and be baptized.

These practices were designed to mimic living together under common spiritual discipline without being physically present with each other more than twice per week. We tried this idea first with church staff families in preparation for use with the youth group.

To Be Continued…

Book Review: Company of the Committed – Elton Trueblood

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This is an amazing book published in 1961 that predicted what has happen to the church. Trueblood calls for things that many Christians and churches today are just waking up to.

Summary:  The Church is a company of soldiers, metaphorically speaking, who live with Jesus and go forward on his mission in the world. The Church is loving communities established not for themselves, but in order to help and bless everyone else.

Good Stuff:  

Preaching may not in some instances be helpful to those who listen, but it is almost always helpful to those who speak.

“I just let my life speak.”  What one of among us is so good that he can let his life speak and leave it at that?

Sometimes the best witness if that of the church as a whole.

The vital idea is that the pastor is the helper of the ordinary lay members in the performance of their daily ministry in the midst of secular life.

The concept of a churchgoer is inept. Christians may indeed come in but they do so only that they may go out.

In many churches the entire church operation points to a climax on Sunday morning.

The church building [should be like] a drill hall for the Christian task force

Great discipline in regard to style as well as content must be learned if we really seek to reach contemporary minds.

We ask what Presbyterians believe but we seldom ask how Presbyterians love.

In all periods of great vitality the church has been deeply concerned for the welfare of those who are not adherents at all.

If God, as we believe, is truly revealed in the life of Christ the most important thing to Him is the creation of centers of loving fellowship which in turn infect the world.

Complaints:  ??  None really. I love this book.

Also, this book is available for FREE online!

Christians – Stop Using Words that No One Else Knows!

can't hear you smallMy Beloved Brethren dwelling in fellowship through the righteousness and loving-kindness of our glorious and only begotten Lord, I declare to you this day the dire need for our confession and repentance from the sins of the tongue. For the sake of our evangelical outreach, witness and testimony, that we might see salvation, redemption and assurance of new birth in the holy spirit come to unreached sinners we must turn away from speaking in foreign tongues without an interpretation.

Translation: Christians – STOP USING WORDS NO ONE ELSE KNOWS!

Seriously, just stop it right now.

Imagine that you were not part of our weird church culture  The words we use on Sunday or in a prayer meeting would make no sense to you. It would be a foreign language. 

Here’s why you should stop using special christian words.

1)  Special Christian words block the way to God

Jesus was constantly angry at the priests because they were keeping people from coming close to God. They required people to eat certain food, dress a certain way and use certain words to worship God.  This made regular people think they could never be close to God. We are doing the same thing!

2) There is nothing special about this language, we are just used to it

Some might object that many of these words are necessary because they have special christian meaning. Wrong. When properly understood many of these words do have a specific meaning that is hard to match exactly in other language, but that doesn’t matter.   

The earliest followers of Jesus knew concepts about God that were easier to express exactly in Hebrew or Aramaic, their native language and the language Jesus spoke with them.   Greek didn’t have the right words.  But they didn’t hesitate to translate the message immediately into simple, everyday Greek. The Greeks would never understand the message in the old language.  New words had to be used.

3) It Messes Up the Way WE Think About God

Using these words creates a division in our brains between what we do for God or at church and our ‘regular’ life.   It makes church and God stuff feel different than the rest of our life. The bible recognizes no such division. When we pray with a bunch of fancy words our prayers easily lose the deep and personal connection that is supposed to be there between us and God.

Often we don’t even understand what we are saying. Take your pick of special christian words we use all the time and ask around at your church to see how many people can tell you what it means. The answer is very few.  I am talking about words we use literally every time we meet like majesty, gospel, holy and hallelujah. I estimate that over half the regular members at our church cannot explain what these words mean. If that is true then what the heck are they doing in worship, prayer or when the bible is being read?!  Not much. They are left out. Only the core, born and bred, older, native English speakers are able to really understand these words. The core worships while the rest sit on the sidelines.

by Isaac Whiting

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What’s Your Story? Here’s Mine.

Corridor SkyEaster is a time to remind each other of what Jesus did.  What he did then and what he’s done now.  Here’s my story.  What’s yours?

I didn’t grow up in the church. I was given a lot of freedom when I was young and as a fairly shy person didn’t know what to do with it. I experienced serious depression as a teenager. I was always good in school and used success to build up my ego. I decided I was “the smartest person who has ever lived”. In college I devoted myself to philosophy. I thought if anyone could figure out the meaning of life just by thinking about it surely that person was me. The more I studied the less I knew and the more depressed I became.

        One sunny day while walking under my dark cloud I realized that there was one thing I had never truly doubted. I had pretended to doubt it, but deep down I had always known that everything we see around us came from somewhere. I had always known there was some kind of God. Not a weird spirit-being out there, but something that created all this. That day began my search into what people thought about God and why. I studied Buddhism, Taoism, Islam and Hinduism. I took classes, read books and talked with people. I also began reading a bible someone gave me in grade one.

        I used to be a very ‘logical’ person. I always had to ‘prove’ everything. By the summer of 2000 my bible reading had brought me to the gospel of Luke, which my ‘logical’ mind could not comprehend. Jesus simply commands and tells. He rarely explains and never proves anything. As I read, however, I experienced something entirely new. Something entered my mind that was not me. In fact, it was very different from me. It was a voice, it was very loud and this is what it said, “THESE ARE THE WORDS OF MY SON. LISTEN TO HIM!” You may think that I am lying or crazy, but I am neither. This happened and I can remember it as well as I remember eating breakfast this morning. I stood up and it stopped. It returned every time I sat down to read for about five minutes.

        That experience became my proof. I became more certain that Jesus Christ is the Son of God than I have ever been of anything else. I was and am willing to bet my life on it.

Book Review: Crazy Love by Francis Chan

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I am disappointed by this book and confused by its popularity.

The book boils down to “love God with your whole life”. But it is delivered in a boring, frustrating way.

Good Stuff:  This book is clearly popular and lots of people online say it changed their life or their thinking.

Complaints: I agree with all of Chan’s main points. It is the message of the New Testament and the most important message in the world. But hundreds of others have written on the same subject and done a better job.

Much of the book is Chan quoting the bible and saying, “I know you’ve heard this before, but have you really THOUGHT about it. Stop reading right now and think about it.” Come on.

A book on the primary message of the bible should do the work of bringing this message to life for me in a new way. This book did NOT do that.

Bottom Line:

I have heard a lot about Francis Chan and was excited to read his most popular book. I can’t think of when I have been so disappointed. I cannot understand why so many people have reviewed it so positively. Are we all just writing nice Christian reviews?

Book Review: Huckleberry Finn Audio by Elijah Wood

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This book is one of the funniest and best I have ever read and I cannot say enough about the performance.

I had tried to read this book before and honestly could never get into it. The performance brings it to life.

Good Stuff:  Extremely funny. This book is deep and surprising.  It is both series of funny stories with no real point and a treatise on race relations in the United States.

Complaints:  I have none.  Be warned that the N-word is all over this book. It is also edgy about religion sometimes.  At a critical point Huck decides he will try to free a slave even though he knows it is wrong and will go to Hell for it.

Conclusion: I laughed out loud for a third of the book. At the end I clapped even though I was alone in my living room. I am astonished at both Mark Twain and Elijah Wood. You have to listen to this book. Seriously.

Jesus Outside the Church?

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Luke 4:16-30 is the story of Jesus going to Nazareth where he grew up and preaching a sermon their synagogue.  It’s a story I didn’t understand for a long time, but I think I do now thanks to God’s spirit and an amazing book by Kenneth Bailey.

Jesus has just begun his ministry after being tested by Satan in the desert.  He has traveled around a bit preaching and done some healing.  He enters Nazareth knowing that he will be rejected by his own people.

Bailey argues that Nazareth is a settlement community of Jews established about 100 years before Jesus was born.  Most people in Galilee were not Jewish. Settlement communities were supposed to spread Jewish influence by growing.  They were supposed to take over the region from the Gentiles through cultural dominance. The people of Nazareth had a mission.

Isaiah 61 is a text that fits right in with this mission.  It was understood to mean that when the Messiah came he would restore the original land of Israel to Jewish rule and make all the Gentiles slaves or servants.

Jesus enters Nazareth and preaches a sermon on this very text.  The only problem is that he changes the text.  That’s right, he changes the Bible. He brings in verses from another place in Isaiah and he leaves out the verse where God takes vengeance on the Gentiles.

He then preaches a sermon that enrages his own people.  He gives them two examples of faith.  The two examples are Gentiles who lived in their own region.  They aren’t even believers. One is a widow who Elijah helped. She had faith enough to give Elijah her last bread during a famine and God provided a miracle to save her. But she was a worshipper of Baal, the pagan god of the Sidonians.

The second example is Naaman, a Syrian general and enemy of Israel.  He had faith to ask the prophet Elisha how to heal his leprosy and then to do what he was told even though it didn’t make sense to him.  He did become a believer and worshipped God, but he also continued to worship the gods of his country.

Why would Jesus point to such people as examples of faith? 

The people of Nazareth knew truth from the Bible. In many ways they were very close to God.  But they had become captives to the idea that God was only at work in them and in this one task they thought they were called to do. They could not imagine that God was at work outside their church. Jesus says that they are blind.

We who are the church today are no different are we?  I am no different. If I see something good happening or being done outside the church I don’t know what to do with it. I want to brand it as Christian and control it or else I dismiss it and ignore it.

I was sent a song yesterday by Peter Mayer called Holy Now.  It is about this very question. Where is God at work?

Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind.  Who are the blind?

Our Homeschool Pomodoro Lifestyle

tomatesThis is the second year my wife and I (mostly my wife) have homeschooled our two older children. They are currently in grades 6 and 2. Here’s a snapshot of what I call our homeschool pomodoro lifestyle.

First, what is homeschool?  It does not mean teaching your children anti-social tendencies along with math and reading alone in your basement. Homeschoolers don’t have to be weird or particularly intellectual.  Some are, but so are some kids in public school. For us homeschool means learning in a community based on families instead of one based on classes and age.

We are part of a group called the South Delta Home Learners.  We chose that group because it is big and active. The group, along with our church, makes up our kids social and educational world. They do swimming lessons, choir, scouts and all kinds of special educational events with these same people. These are the friends they play with.  They know all the parents and the siblings. Some they call auntie and uncle.  The line between education, recreation, friendship and family is blurred. 

What’s a Pomodoro?  It’s the Italian word for Tomato.  It is also the name of a productivity system named after a tomato shaped kitchen timer. Check it out at www.pomodorotechnique.com.  The pomodoro system is based on focused work for short periods, followed by breaks.  The idea is that by doing this you will be much more productive than if you work straight through the whole day. I believe that’s true. Our experience of homeschool is a lot like the Pomodoro system.

Every morning the kids eat breakfast and begin their work. They focus for an hour and a half.  During that time they get ready, dress, brush teeth, make beds, read their bible, do their chores, and do all their Math, Reading and Writing for the day.  What?! Only an hour and a half?  Yes, that’s right, in that amount of focused time every day they can easily keep up with provincial learning objectives for those subjects.

After that their days are different.  Sometimes they play the rest of the morning then go to a friend’s house.  Sometimes they have structured activities: swimming, scouts, music lessons, church groups, etc. Anyone who went to public school, like me, would think their schedule is remarkably free. Every Thursday we take a rest day, as I have written about here.  Our entire family essentially does nothing for whole day.

So far the results of this homeschool lifestyle are fantastic. The kids like school and even enjoy the subjects they don’t like a little. They keep up with school and are able to spend lots of time having new experiences and doing what they want. They have more friends than I ever had growing up and these friendships are of a different kind. They are friendships between families. We focus hard, then we rest and play. I am not suggesting homeschool is the only way, just that it can be pretty awesome for some families.

 

by Isaac Whting

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