Everyday Doctrive & Everyday Devotion

Author AW Tozer captured it well when he said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.” Theology is not just for dry, boring banter among stuffy scholars in ivory towers. Rather, every human being is a theologian with distinct beliefs about God that drive our everyday decisions of life. Regardless of religion or creed, everyone is a theologian and everyone worships. Everyone has doctrine that feeds personal devotion- and so does a local church.

At the beginning of each new year, we typically go back to the basics and re-center ourselves on the root of life and faith. This year, the elders are excited to commit the bulk of our 2018 preaching schedule to clarifying how what we believe shapes the way we live our everyday lives. We stand convinced that what has been handed down to us (2 Timothy 1:13-14) is worth preserving, prizing, and passing on to the next generation. This includes discussion on Scripture, the nature of God, the Gospel, Gender, Sexuality, the Church, and more. Our aim is to think more deeply so that we may worship more fully.

"The Gospel and Dead Religion" (Everyday Doctrine & Everyday Devotion)

As we continue to talk about the things that matter most (The Bible, God, the Trinity, etc) we want to draw a clear, deep, distinctive line in the sand marking out the difference between the gospel and its counterpart: cold, dead religion. Here at Reality, we reject any belief, form or practice that would confuse "add on" religion with the wonderful, beautiful, breath-taking gospel of Jesus Christ. This week, we will dive into Jesus' Last Supper words with His disciples to gain better understanding about the genuine nature of the gospel. It is given, not earned. It is internal not merely external. And it is all about "we" not simply all about "me." Any other message is a distortion that must be rejected.

"God - Trinity: Three in One" (Everyday Doctrine & Everyday Devotion)

After spending several weeks talking individually about God as Father, Son and Spirit, we are going to be pulling back the curtain to see how this trinitarian relationship works. After all, at the center of the universe is a relationship- a Divine community of loving union. While the concept of a God that is 3 in 1 blows our rational minds, it is a relational reality that reshapes everything about us. Years ago, the trinity was talked about by the Church Fathers as the "Divine Dance." This week, we will attempt to explain this dance in 3 ways- Who is in the dance? How do the steps work? And what does it mean for humanity to be made in His image?

"The Father's Gift: Holy Spirit" (Everyday Doctrine & Everyday Devotion)

 After spending time on the Father and the Son, this week we turn our attention to God the Holy Spirit. Depending on one's background and experience, no member of the trinity comes with more baggage and misunderstanding. In order to more fully explore the person and work of the Holy Spirit, we turn to Jesus' words in John 14. In the hours before his arrest and crucifixion, Jesus shared some of the most clear and helpful teaching on the Spirit who was shortly to come. If we take the words of Scripture to be true, then the Holy Spirit is the best gift given by a Father who gives an abundance of good gifts. May we not only unveil the Spirit's role, but also come to enjoy the fullness of His power and presence.

"God- Jesus the God-Man" (Everyday Doctrine & Everyday Devotion)

Up next in our conversation about God is deeper exploration of the 2nd member of the trinity, Jesus Christ. While we affirm the creeds and orthodox statements that declare Jesus to be "fully God" and "fully man," we need to evaluate the lens through which we view the life and ministry of Jesus. In the western church, most Christians tend toward a view of Jesus that enhances His divinity and diminishes the reality of His humanity. Jesus' childhood, life, miraculous ministry and death are often colored with the phrase, "Well, of course He did, He was God." This week, we will look at the life of Jesus the God-man by evaluating what really happened as Jesus emptied Himself to take on human flesh (Philippians 2). We must embrace Jesus' full humanity if we are to ever fully follow Him and recover our full humanity as well. Rather than just being a Divine Superman who briefly wore flesh as a costume, we must consider the life of Jesus as a full human marked by deep intimacy with His Father and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. 

"God - Abba: God as Father" (Everyday Doctrine & Everyday Devotion)

This week we move into a theological discussion about God- the "Big E" on the eye chart for any Christian community. However, in a world filled with God talk, we have to be extremely specific about God if we want to be helpful. Rather than spending time dissecting the attributes of God or the nature of His character, our starting place will be around the idea of God as Father. As JI Packer wrote in Knowing God, "If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all." As we look at the "Parable of the Prodigal Son," we will discover the two ways it is possible to miss the Father and mistake what He truly is like. Truly knowing God as "Abba" separates the Christian journey from everything else.

"Scripture - Minding the Gap: Biblical Interpretation" (Everyday Doctrine & Everyday Devotion)

Within every conversation about the Bible, a person has to answer two questions: What is it? And how should we use it? Having spent some time over the past two weeks working on our understanding of what the Bible is, this week we want to dive more practically into how one should use it. This process of interpreting the Scripture is a necessary and important process that keeps us from using and abusing the Bible on ourselves and others. We desire to be a community that in loving faith, "rightly handles the Word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).

"Scripture - Inspiration: the Divine, Human Book" (Everyday Doctrine & Everyday Devotion)

As we move into our first full week of this series, we will start with a discussion about the Bible. if we are going to have any hope of having a coherent conversation about theological matters- God, religion, church, gender, sex, you name it… we have to start with the Bible and what to do with it. Everything else to come stems from or is built upon this starting place: what do we make of this book claiming boldly and audaciously to be the living and active Word of God? This week will look at this Divine-Human book known as the Scriptures and explore what it means for the Bible to be inspired, profitable, and authoritative. And, if that is the case, how do we worship?

"Guard the Deposit" 2 Timothy 1:13-14 (Everyday Doctrine & Everyday Devotion)

Kicking off the beginning of our new sermon series, we will explore the claim that (1) Everyone is a worshipper and (2) Everyone is a theologian. It's not a matter of whether you are, it's a matter of what you are engaging. In his 2nd letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul offers a clear and powerful plea to "guard the good deposit" entrusted to him. In seeing the faith passed down from one generation to the next, there are words and practices that are healthy and worthy of imitation. It's our desire to receive the good deposit in such a way that unleashes a people who truly live.

Advent 2017: Lamentations

Typically, the Christmas season is portrayed as a time of boundless celebration, wonder, and joy. There is a steady stream of parties, presents, and tables that overflow with the finest of food and seasonal drink. The lights are hung with precision. The presents are wrapped with sparkle and flair. And the desires of countless children are etched onto physical and digital wish lists. With so much singing and festivity, it is easy to overlook what lies beneath the thin veneer. Even during the Advent season, there is enormous brokenness and pain. Even at Christmas, our world hurts. More than another kitchen gadget or gift card, what we need most is a message that addresses our real stories and our real lives. Drawing from the Christmas carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, what we need are “tidings of comfort and joy.”

For the Advent season this year, we are turning to an unconventional source of wisdom: the Old Testament book of Lamentations.  This short, five-chapter book tucked away in often unread places, is poetic lament. It is a creative yet devastating declaration of honesty about the destruction of Jerusalem during the Babylonian invasion of 586 BC. In its historic sense, it captures the essence of the Jewish condition before the coming of Jesus in a poem. They were a people of exile who were crying out in their pain for help. And their cries, like our own, are only fully answered by the coming of the baby born in Bethlehem. During this Advent season, we are looking to reclaim the lost art of lament that prepares us more deeply to see the comfort and joy of Jesus, the incarnated expression of God’s steadfast love. Honest, unbridled lament is a perfect backdrop to discover the true wonder of Christmas.

"A Matter of Life & Death" Mark 14:1-9

As the old year comes to a close and we pivot to 2018, we consider a story told in Mark’s Gospel of a woman anointing Jesus with precious oil worth a year’s wages.  While the disciples scold the woman for the waste, Jesus praises her, indicating that she is preparing Him for His burial.  What can we learn from this encounter?  What does it mean that the very author of life and creation was himself preparing to die?  How do we follow a teacher such as this?

"Happily Ever After?" Lamentations 4-5 (Advent 2017: Lamentations - Tidings of Comfort & Joy)

In our "fairy-tale" world, we absolutely love it when we and those around us live "happily ever after." We want happy endings, resolution, and tension relived. In terms of Lamentations, we would much prefer the book to end with Lamentations 3:22-24 with words of hope, covenant faithfulness and mercy. However, instead of ending there, the book goes on for 2 more chapters of lament over the brutal fall of Jerusalem. Although this may feel like a dreary ending as the book limps to a close, it is actually quite helpful to spotlight certain areas and themes that we tend to not handle very well. As we walk through the final 2 chapter of the book of Lamentations, we will hopefully recapture the value of repetition, repentance, and delay. Some things are too important to move past quickly.

"When Hope Dies" Lamentations 3:1-66 (Advent 2017: Lamentations-Tidings of Comfort & Joy)

Lamentations chapter 3 is not only the middle poem of this book of laments, it is also considered by scholars to be the climatic centerpiece. In theme and structure (it is 3 times longer than the other 22 verse chapters), all eyes are drawn to its message. Shifting from funeral dirge to personal lament, Chapter 3 involves the personified voice of the "suffering man" who finally hits rock bottom. In fact, by the end of verse 18, he declares that hope is dead and that he can no longer endure. But rather than ending in the bleak dark, the rest of Lamentations offers a glimmer of hope. And in a battle of memories, the Poet calls to mind God's covenant love and His personal touch. As we work through Lamentations 3, we discover the only path to hope's resurrection.

"Good News, Bad News" - Lamentations 2:1-22 (Advent 2017: Lamentations - Tidings of Comfort & Joy)

Moving into chapter 2 of Lamentations, we are once again confronted with the pain and agony of the author's lament. Due to the crushing fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, Lamentations 2 is filled with all sorts of news: painful news, bad news, and good news. In all of its poetic pain and beauty, there is one person that the author holds responsible for the unfolding chaos: God. How do you respond when you discover that God is your enemy? What do we have to hold on to? In judgment and in blessing, God is faithful to His covenant word.

"Finding Her Voice" - Lamentations 1:1-22 (Advent 2017: Lamentations - Tidings of Comfort & Joy)

This week we begin our Advent series for 2017 by beginning to venture into the opening chapter of the book. After a brief introduction about the what, why, and how of Lamentations, we will focus on the two features of chapter 1. It is (1) a funeral dirge with (2) a feminine voice that is lamenting the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. Often times we either avoid lament or don't know how to do it well because we feel uncomfortable expressing our hurts, frustrations, and disappointments to God. Yet, to be a healthy church, we need to re-discover the balance of both praise and lament. This question that guides us this week is: "What painful events do we need to name and give voice to? Without our honest expression, we lose the true longing for God's Messiah Son and His healing.

Matthew: The Power of the King

After almost a full year in the Gospel of Matthew, our journey through this narrative is coming to an end. And as the story reaches its pinnacle, Matthew intentionally slows down the story to cover the last week of Jesus' life. Out of all 28 chapters, 1/3 of the book is devoted to Jesus' final days that include His betrayal, arrest, death, and resurrection. Matthew wants us to know Jesus, not just as Good Teacher, not just as Miracle Worker, not just as Master Storyteller… but Matthew is devoted to introducing us to Jesus as crucified Messiah and sacrificial Savior.

Without this part- without the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus… all the rest of the story falls flat. All of it loses its punch. Matthew wants you to know that Jesus came to die, and that Jesus rose again on the 3rd day. Without the “last days” of Jesus, you have no Jesus at all. In this last week of His earthly ministry, we will see like never before, the power of the King.

"Resurrection Life" Matthew 28:16-20 (Matthew: The Power of the King)

This is the last scene in the last passage in the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus is alive and gathers his disciples for his parting words and instruction. Traditionally known as the Great Commission, Jesus prepares his disciples to step into the rest of their life and ministry with power and purpose. Without a doubt, they had no idea what was in store for this post-resurrection life. The tomb is empty. Death has been defeated. Jesus is alive… now what? What does it look like for disciples of Jesus to live in response to the resurrection of Jesus? As Matthew closes his gospel, he provides an open-ended finale that rings with massive implication for disciples in every age and era. Will we listen and obey?