Sermon in a Sentence - Sermon Review

Sermon Review - The Pharisee and The Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)

Image Big Idea: We need churches that need Jesus.

Summary: Jesus tells the story of a wicked man who experiences the approval of God and a good man who does not receive God's approval. It's a reminder that our external religious actions will never save us - not even the things that can only be attributed to God's grace. Our only hope is Christ alone; and it is that hope that gives us the courage to plant the gospel in our neighborhoods and start churches around the world.

Next Steps:

  • Whenever God speaks, we respond - either in obedience or disobedience. Doing nothing is disobedience.
  • Obedience to God is built on repentance and faith - honesty about our sin and hope in Jesus' work on our behalf.
  • The Holy Spirit fuses God's message to our life. How are you supposed to respond to what you heard this week?
  • Who is helping you follow Jesus this week? Discipleship in isolation is a recipe for frustration.

A few ways we can help you as a church:

  • If you're in a community group, take time to pray this week for God to give us the honesty we need to confess our self-reliance and the hope to believe that we are loved by God because of Jesus.
  • You can learn more about our involvement in starting new churches  around the world by going to the Acts 29 Network website.
  • Our primary focus in church planting is investing 10% of our income as a church in new churches. You can help by a) continuing to give generously or b) beginning to give generously. Setting up an online giving schedule can help.

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Sermon Review - The Rich Ruler (Luke 18:18-30)

Image Big Idea: We need a good God to convince us to give up control of our life.

Summary: A wealthy man asks Jesus to help him find what's missing in his life. Jesus shows him that what he needs is a God who is so good that He'll dive into what controls this man: his money. Like the rich ruler, we'd rather walk away from Jesus than to give up control of our life. And the only way that we'll give up control of our money or our comfort is for God to overwhelm us with his goodness.

Next Steps:

  • Whenever God speaks, we respond - either in obedience or disobedience. Doing nothing is disobedience.
  • Obedience to God is built on repentance and faith - honesty about our sin and hope in Jesus' work on our behalf.
  • The Holy Spirit fuses God's message to our life. How are you supposed to respond to what you heard this week?
  • Who is helping you follow Jesus this week? Discipleship in isolation is a recipe for frustration.

A few ways we can help you as a church:

  • If you're in a community group, take time to pray this week for God to overwhelm our church with his goodness.
  • If you're looking for a way to take in the goodness of God, here is a sermon by John Piper that you can read or listen to.
  • If you have the day off tomorrow for Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday, take time to watch his I Have A Dream speech or read his Letter from Birmingham Jail. See the world through his eyes and give yourself a different perspective.
  • Since God is gathering a people called the church and remaking them into a new humanity that transcends culture, staying where we are as a predominantly white church is not an option. While the path forward is unclear, consider your part in the journey:
    • If you want to help us take next steps in becoming a transcultural church, email me (madair@misionathens.com)
    • Let's all persevere with both patience and persistence. No turning back. No getting ahead of God.
    • Let's pray that where our demand to be in control keeps us from being who God intends for us to be, God will be gracious to us and overwhelm us with his goodness.

You Need A Budget - If you haven't signed up for next Saturday's personal finance seminar, you can change that right here. It's free, it's simple and it will give you a way to change how you handle your finances.

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Sermon Review - Jesus and Children (Luke 18:15-17)

Image Big Idea: Will we trust Jesus with our helplessness and with the needs of the orphan and the unborn?

Summary: When parents bring their infants to receive a blessing from Jesus, his disciples try to keep them away from Jesus. Jesus takes it a different direction, inviting the children to come to him while reminding us that everyone matters to Jesus. Seizing on the opportunity to make a point, Jesus asks whether we will trust him with our helplessness the way that a baby trusts their parents? And since we're near the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this story is a good place to talk about the orphan and the unborn.

Next Steps:

  • Whenever God speaks, we respond - either in obedience or disobedience. Doing nothing is disobedience.
  • Obedience to God is built on repentance and faith - honesty about our sin and hope in Jesus' work on our behalf.
  • The Holy Spirit fuses God's message to our life. How are you supposed to respond to what you heard this week?
  • Who is helping you follow Jesus this week? Discipleship in isolation is a recipe for frustration.

A few ways we can help you as a church:

  • If you're in a community group, take time to pray this week for the orphan and the unborn.
  • There will be lots of news over the next ten days about abortion. Pay attention.
  • Pick up a copy of Russell Moore's Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches. Pay attention.
  • Press into the needs that are immediately around you - in our church, in the city, in your neighborhood schools.
    • Thank you for the big and small things that you're already doing. Everything matters.
    • If you're not sure what to do next, email us (info@missionathens.com) and we'll start a conversation.

Build What You Love. After the gathering, we had an all-church meeting to say 'thank you' for 2013 and to encourage all of us to 'build what we love.' And what we love is helping each other follow Jesus together as a family. Are you connected relationally? Where are you serving? Let's build something great together.

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Sermon Review - The Parable of The Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8)

Image Big Idea: Let's pray for it to be impossible for anyone around us to ignore the real Jesus in 2014.

Summary: During this week's gathering, we heard Jesus tell us in Luke 18:1-8 to pray and keep praying and then pray some more so that we won't give up. And while that's an invitation to be persistent about anything we need to pray about, the conversation Jesus has in Luke 17 about the kingdom of God gives us a clear application for prayer in 2014. While we wait for Jesus to return and for everything to flourish and for everyone to thrive both anywhere and all the time, prayer is how we express our faith in Jesus' promise to finish what he started.

Next Steps:

  • Whenever God speaks, we respond - either in obedience or disobedience. Doing nothing is disobedience.
  • Obedience to God is built on repentance and faith - honesty about our sin and hope in Jesus' work on our behalf.
  • The Holy Spirit fuses God's message to our life. How are you supposed to respond to what you heard this week?
  • Who is helping you follow Jesus this week? Discipleship in isolation is a recipe for frustration.

A few ways we can help you as a church:

  • Paul Miller's book, A Praying Life, has done more to help me understand prayer than anything else I've read.
  • If you're wondering who to pray for, start with the people who live next to you and work with you. The way we love our neighbor (BLESS) starts by B - beginning in prayer.
  • Our Prayer 2014 series continues each Sunday in January. Next Sunday we'll connect prayer to our involvement in starting new churches.
  • We've created community groups as a place for you to connect relationally and grow spiritually. If you'd like more information about community groups, fill this out.
  • We've created DNA Groups as the place for you to go deep in the Bible as you get deep with other people. For more information about DNA Groups,  read this and that; then drop us a note at office@missionathens.com if we can help you start a DNA Group or get connected with one that's already up and running.

If you have any questions or want to add to the conversation, look at the box on your left and 'leave a comment.'

Have a great week and thanks for allowing us to help you follow Jesus!

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Guilt Might...

  • ...get you nowhere
  • ...create a violent life that thrashes around in a flailed attempt to make up for past mistakes
  • ...paralyze you
  • ...blind you to the freedom that is yours because of grace

Last Sunday's call to a life of true repentance that pursues justice - particularly for the poor - from a heart of mercy left many of us feeling guilty for our failure to live this way. The response this week in our community groups has been somewhat predictable: feverish planning to do something about the poor.

While I don't intend to get in the way of the work of the Spirit - and I do believe he intends to change us into a people who give our lives to the cause of justice and mercy - you might want to listen to this from David Powlison:

So often when people feel remorse for what they've done wrong, it is a remorse against their idealized self-image, a remorse in their own eyes, and a remorse against what other people think about them.

There is a kind of guilt that will not make you more like Jesus but will drag you away from him in a bitter self-reliance. But there is a kind of guilt that owns up to our failure to declare and display the character and life of God and leads us straight to the cross where Jesus died to forgive us for our unjust treatment of the poor and to free us from the deep spiritual poverty created by injustice.

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Christmas Eve 2010 - 'Help Comes Looking For You'

For those of you who weren't able to be with us during our Christmas Eve gathering, what follows is the transcript from tonight's message from Isaiah 9:1-7.
Every 4th of July we tell stories about 1776 and the battles fought to win our freedom as a nation. In 733 BC, the great story of freedom for the people of Israel were the events of the Exodus where the God of the Scriptures bent the laws of nature in order to rescue them from slavery to the Egyptian kingdom. 

In 733, that story becomes real and familiar because on the northern horizon, another kingdom threatens to invade and enslave this people...God’s people. The king has told the army to get ready for a fight and has made deals with other nations to help them fend off hese marauders - deals that will provide a short-term solution but in the end only delay the inevitable.

These are dark days...hopeless times. Because where do you go if you’ve exhausted economic, military and political help AND you think that God is angry with you and is out to get you? The shocking answer in this ancient text is that you don’t go looking for help; help comes looking for you.

You don’t go looking for help. Light shines into the darkness. Grief gives way to glory. Because help comes looking for you.

You don’t go looking for help. Crops you have ruined turn into a great harvest. Your story of scarcity becomes a tale of treasure. Because help comes looking for you.

You don’t go looking for help. Your pitiful attempts to rise up are eclipsed by a well-planned, infinitely-resourced rescue mission. Because help comes looking for you.

You don’t go looking for help. The war is already fought and won. You don’t step foot on the battlefield until the conflict has been resolved. Because help comes looking for you.

You don’t go looking for help. Help comes looking for you. A baby is born and you know that help has arrived. Help is not coming - you don’t have to wait for the baby to grow up and learn military strategy - his birth means that help is here and your hope is secure.

The birth of this baby reminds us that God is a wise warrior who will not rest until he finishes the job. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of peace. You don’t go looking for help; help comes looking for you.

The God of the old Exodus is the God of this new Exodus.  A baby’s cry pierces a silent night. This God proves he is mighty to save. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks the new and glorious morn. You don’t go looking for help; help comes looking for you.

History and hermeneutic can tell us the hope these words provide to a people living in 733BC or to these same people centuries leader under Roman rule on the night that Jesus Christ was born. But what do you make of this?

I don’t know the kind of help you need tonight. Lonely. Tired. Guilt. Shame. Skeptic, seeker, saint - every story is unique but every situation shares this solution. You don’t go looking for help; help comes looking for you.

Will you let him help? Do you have the courage - the humility and the hope - to let a baby help you? Can you confess that you need help? If you walked in tonight as an outsider to Christianity, every hope and every help besides Christ is futile. If it isn’t failing you now, it will fail you later. Quit looking for help; help has already come.

If you call yourself Christian, this table is set so you can live out the story of Isaiah 9. You don’t walk up here looking for help; you make your way to this meal because help came looking for you. A baby is born. The wise warrior who won’t rest until we are rescued arrives. And so we sing songs about the night of his arrival and we soak bread into wine because on the night before his death, Jesus said ‘Do this and remember that you didn’t come looking for help; help came looking for you. You didn’t come looking for me. I came looking for you.’

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He Will Break Into Your Silence

I'm still processing yesterday's sermon from Luke 1:57-66. I can't tell you how many people I know - in our church and in our city - whose story has chapters in the past where faith felt strong and Jesus seemed to matter. But now...? But now you feel lifeless, stagnant, like someone hit a great big cosmic pause button. You're not alone. God knows that and he's not done with you yet. That's why Zechariah's story shows up in the Scriptures - to convince you that your failure and futility do not define you.

He is faithful. He will break into your silence and leave you singing of his greatness and grace.

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Preaching Evaluation

Came across this reading Darrin Patrick's book Church Planter. It serves as a great way for me to personally evaluate my preaching but I offer it up here as a suggestion for how you can pray for me - both as I prepare to preach and reflect on it at the beginning of the week:

On one occasion I had tea with Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Ealing, London, and decided to ask him a question that concerned me. 'Dr. Lloyd-Jones,' I said, 'how can I tell whether I am preaching in the energy of the flesh or in the power of the Spirit?' 'That is very easy,' Lloyd-Jones replied, as I shriveled. 'If you are preaching in the energy of the flesh, you will feel exalted and lifted up. If you are preaching in the power of the Spirit, you will feel awe and humility.'

- Edmund Clowney

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The One Thing I Wish...September 19, 2010

The audio from this past Sunday's sermon on Luke 1:5-25 can be found here. The one thing I wish I had more time to dig in and unpack is the relationship between shame and guilt. This came up a few times in conversations after the sermon because while my particular focus was on the experience of shame because of something that had been done to you, it was noted that you can feel deep shame when you're the perpetrator who has done wrong.

So then the question expands beyond 'what do I do about my shame?' to ask whether or not I have good reason to be experiencing shame in the situation and circumstances that present themselves.

To help answer that question, I encourage you to check out the manuscript of a sermon by John Piper entitled 'Battling the Unbelief of Misplaced Shame'. Here's an excerpt:

Misplaced shame (the kind we ought not to have) is the shame you feel when there is no good reason to feel it. Biblically that means the thing you feel ashamed of is not dishonoring to God; or that it IS dishonoring to God, but you didn't have a hand in it. In other words, misplaced shame is shame for something that's good—something that doesn't dishonor God. Or it's shame for something bad but which you didn't have any sinful hand in. That's the kind of shame we ought not have.

Well-placed shame (the kind you ought to have) is the shame you feel when there is good reason to feel it. Biblically that means we feel ashamed of something because our involvement in it was dishonoring to God. We ought to feel shame when we have a hand in bringing dishonor upon God by our attitudes or actions.

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The One Thing I Wish...September 12, 2010

The one thing I wish I had more time to talk about from this past Sunday's sermon in Luke 1:1-4 is this:

In the end, Christianity is a story we simply cannot avoid and are crazy if we try. What other story transforms us into people marked by faith, hope, and love?

Because of Jesus, we have faith that our past doesn't define us - we have a new backstory.

Because of Jesus, we have hope that every wrong will be made right, everything sad will be made untrue, and in the end everything will be made better than brand new.

Because of Jesus, we are loved so deeply that we find new freedom to approach life today with courage and confidence.

To listen to the entire message, click here.

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