Unsensibly Sensible is such a great way to describe Jesus’ teaching. He pushes past our natural way of thinking into His supernatural way living. This week, we look at His statement, “Blessed are those who mourn.” How can someone who is mourning be the blessed one?
Small Group Questions
- Please read Matthew 5:4. What things in this world break your heart? What things in this world should break our hearts but don’t? What things in this world break God’s heart?
- Please recap the story of Jonah 1-4. What parts of the story stand out to you? Why did Jonah despise the Ninevites so deeply? How do you think Jonah rationalized his hatred for the Ninevites?
- Can you relate to Jonah? Be honest! Why is it seemingly so easy for us to hate people we don’t like? Why would we not hate those we dislike?
- Jesus flips our entire world on its head with His way of doing life. Why is His way so much better? What would happen if we truly started seeing people, all people, like Jesus sees them? How could you start seeing people through Jesus’ eyes?
Download Small Group Questions here.
Stubborn, headstrong, bullheaded, cantankerous, ornery, hardheaded, mulish, pigheaded, and unreasonable. Those are just some of the synonyms for how my parents referred to me and my little brother, Aaron. Aaron was stubborn in a loud way, and I was stubborn in more of a quiet way. We fought a lot. I mean, what else would two incredibly stubborn boys do? So when it came to whatever our latest debate of the day, Aaron’s arrogance came in the form of him having to have you agree that he was right. He was always so convinced that his view point was correct that he literally could not sleep until you agreed with his position on a topic-no matter what topic it was. My form of being stubborn comes off as more agreeable but is probably an even worse form of pride and doggedness. I would debate with him for a while, but when I came to the conclusion that he was never going to have the clarity of mind to see that he was in error, I would just dismiss him. I would then say something spiritual sounding like, “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.” Oh, he hated that, and I loved that he did!! In all of those debates/fights, the biggest thing missing was a desire to see another perspective, to see that there is more than one way of looking at things. Truly in most cases, there are many “right” ways to do things. If your initial response to that last sentence was something like, “There might be many ways of doing things, but there is only one right way!” then you might just be as stubborn as I am!
Before I go further, please know that I believe persistence is an incredible gift from God. Otherwise, we would give up at the first sign of trouble, or we wouldn’t stand for anything. We all should be proud that we are resilient and persevering, but we must be careful to ensure we are being tenacious with the right things. When I stubbornly hold to a point without being able to hear a different perspective, I don’t believe I’m being wise. Some of my greatest break throughs in my walk with Jesus have come through people who saw things differently than I did. I made a commitment over 20 years ago now that if someone brought up a perspective that was different than mine about God (or really anything else), I would take the time to research why I believe what I believe versus the other beliefs. Let me tell you, it’s uncomfortable at times. But my faith is stronger because of it. I am stronger because of it. And my witness of Jesus is stronger because of it.
Here’s a quick example. Last night, I was playing sand volleyball with a team I’ve played with since the summer of 2016. One of the young ladies on my team was talking about a great new show she found fascinating. It’s some sort of science show on Netflix with Will Smith as the host. In the middle of telling me about the show, she stopped and said, “Wait, I take that back. Don’t watch that show.” I was very confused. I asked her why she took back her recommendation, and she said it’s because it’s very science based and teaches stuff that goes against the Bible. The old Rob might have debated the point with her on how science is mostly theoretical and how people make statements based on blah, blah, blah… The old me would have felt the compulsion to defend my stance. But slightly wiser version of me today simply said, “What are you talking about? I love science! I’m not bothered by science at all! I nerd out on the stuff!” I asked her the name of the show, and you better believe I’m going to watch it. Not because I’m going to believe everything in the show, but because if my faith can’t stand up to a tv show, then what kind of faith do I have? And there was a bonus to my conversation with this young lady as well. Later, that evening she brought back up that I was a “priest”. I told her I wasn’t a priest but a pastor but that I could understand how that could be confusing. She then went on to ask if I would be willing to perform her marriage ceremony for her. I just wonder if that opportunity would have happened if my stubbornness had led the way in my conversation with her.
Sometimes, agreeing to disagree is the best choice for keeping a relationship alive. But many times for me, it becomes a cop out, the easy way out. I’ve got to do my homework. I have to understand why I believe what I believe, and I need to understand why someone else believes what they believe. Our beliefs are tied to our identity. If we don’t take the time to learn the what and why of someone’s beliefs, we aren’t really taking time for them. We’re just stubbornly pushing our agenda without caring for who they are, and they deserve more.
“I’m not yelling!” Yes, I am one of those who doesn’t think he yells even though others perceive me as yelling. I grew up in a house full of yellers. My family is loud and sarcastic! My family is probably a bit inappropriate for some people! So when someone says I’m yelling, the filter I run it through is the filter of what yelling looked like in my house. With that in mind, I quickly dismiss this person’s observations that I’m yelling because if they want to hear “yelling”, I can show them yelling!
But here’s the thing. Perception is reality for people. You can argue that perception isn’t reality and people should know better, but what good is that when we are trying to communicate with people, to help people, and to live in community. If I want to be able to speak into people’s lives, to help them experience the love of Jesus, to be a life-giver for them, to help them pursue their God-given purpose then I’ve got to exercise some Emotional Intelligence (EQ).
The first time I heard of EQ was at a Global Leadership Summit, where Dr. Travis Bradberry presented what he thought was the most essential attribute of successful people today in any industry. He spoke of how IQ (intelligence quotient) and business acumen were all nice and grand, but without EQ, you’d never be able to make the splash in this world that you could. I’m not going to bore you with a ton of details. You can go look them up for yourself at TalentSmart.com. But, I will tell you that the more I’ve looked into this EQ thing, the more I’ve become a believer. Why? Because it’s based on two simple concepts: knowing yourself and knowing others.
We know we are all different. We have some similarities, but we are unique. That uniqueness is part of God’s design for each and everyone of us. Each of us holds with us a glimpse of the majesty and glory of God. We are not accidental. So to get to know our great God, it makes sense to get to know His creations, and I think you should start with you. The better I understand myself, the better I understand why I do or don’t do the things I do. When I understand myself, it allows me to start becoming who God created me to be. It requires a lot of sober judgement because I have to admit where I struggle and where I flourish. It also requires that I acknowledge that I don’t know it all, can’t be it all, and that I need help.
So let’s take a step toward getting to know ourselves a bit better. I love personality assessments. I’ve taken a dozen if I’ve taken two! I think they help me be honest with myself. One that is pretty popular in the church world right now is called the Enneagram. It has nine main categories and is pretty accurate on describing what motivates you and how that effects the way you live. You can take a free Enneagram assessment by going to this website: assessment.
I think it would be great to sit down, take the assessment and then see if you agree with the results. Now the more honest you are in your responses, the more accurate the assessment will be. If you don’t think you agree with the results, just ask your spouse or close friend what they think. Let me share a word of warning. Every personality type has a “dark side.” You know why? Because every one of us has a dark side. It doesn’t do us a “hill of beans” to take an assessment like this unless we can admit that we have room for growth. Some of us have a lot of room for growth, and I put myself on the top of that list!
I can’t wait to hear your results. In fact, I’d love it if you would share your results with me. Just email me what number the assessment said you are and whether you agree with it or not! If you share yours, I’ll share mine!
I remember thinking to myself, “This guy actually cares what I think. He’s actually listening to my opinion. Why would he care what I think?” At the time, I was a sophomore in college sitting in the office of the Executive Vice President of my college. Somehow, I had pulled off the dream gig of being Dr. Shoemaker’s personal assistant. I can honestly say that I have no idea how it happened. No one in all my life had garnered as much respect from me as Dr. Shoemaker had. He was the best professor. He pulled off cool even though he was 30+ years older than I. He drove a Buick LeSabre and, somehow, even made that cool! He was the man, and he was my hero. He was asking my opinion, and then, genuinely listening to my response. He had piles of work on his desk, but he stopped to hear from me. That day, I started to believe I might actually be able to make a difference in this world. I started to believe I might have something to contribute. Why? Because someone I looked up to and respected to took time to honor me with his attention.
We live in a world that, itself, seems to have an attention deficit disorder. I mean look at the definition and see if it doesn’t sound like our culture today: “Any of a range of behavioral disorders occurring primarily in children, including such symptoms as poor concentration, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.” We are so busy and distracted by so many things We are running at full speed, and I’m afraid we are missing the most important things. Unfortunately, it happens in the church too. I look back at my last month, and it was a bit insane. Yes, we had an awesome Easter Egg Drop (turned Hunt/Dig), Good Friday service, and Easter services. I’m overwhelmed by how God is using Brooklife to make an impact in this community. But in the middle of all that impact, we can easily lose sight of sitting down and asking someone what they think and letting them know they matter. Who knows where that conversation will take the person? It might be what God uses to light a fire in them…a fire that will give them the confidence to take on the great big dream God has designed for them to live out.
I know I’m no Dr. Shoemaker, but that doesn’t mean I can’t speak life into someone’s soul and let them know that they are an incredible masterpiece of God and matter a ton in this world. It reminds me of what Jesus said to the disciples when they tried to shew the children away from Him. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Matthew 19:14).” You might not be a Dr. Shoemaker either. But, God has given each of us a sphere of influence, and we must make sure we use it to bring life to someone’s soul and, in doing so, help bring the Kingdom of God to this desperate world.
So, by far, it was one of those most intimidating of experiences in life. Rachel and I had picked the place out, but we really didn’t know what to expect. I mean, we had been to this kind of place before, but each one is so different and has their own nuances. I remember actually spending time thinking about what I was going to wear. I wanted to fit in and didn’t want to be the odd ball! When we arrived, it was a bit confusing on where we were supposed to park and where the entrance was. There were two, so we just went for the one that was closest. The trepidation intensified, and we freaked out a bit about being complete strangers there. We wouldn’t know anyone. At least, we didn’t think we would. And then we had the thought, what if we do know someone here. How would we explain why we are here? Once we had entered, then came the fear of trying to find the main attraction. How do we get where we are supposed to go? Once there, what’re we supposed to do? We didn’t want to stand out as the weirdos. It was so awkward!
Guess where we were. Visiting a church one Sunday morning when I was off from Brooklife. I’m a pastor. I’ve been inside more churches than most people. I know how church works and what it is about. I was familiar with this church, even though I had never been there. I know how typical services work and know most of the ins and outs on which most churches operate. Yet, I, the pastor, was freaked out! It made me realize how desperate someone has to be to enter the doors of a church. Their world has to be a wreck; a catastrophe must have occurred in their world. They are looking for something they can’t find anywhere else in their circles. So, they are looking for hope, for some help, for God. I honestly have no clue how they do it, but it did make me ask the question, “How can we make it easier for people?”
I started thinking through strategies. Having people with big smiles at the front doors (which is awesome) might make someone smile, but would it put them at ease? Yes, it will a little. Then once they enter the building, they will be warmly greeted by several people. That’s gotta help a ton! But would it put them at ease? The service can be well thought out, and we can explain everything we’re doing to take away the awkwardness. Would it put them at ease?
We do all these things and so much more, but none of them is as valuable as this one thing:
a friend of theirs meeting them in the parking lot and walking into church with them. All of a sudden, they’re not worried about where to go. They’re not worried about not fitting in ’cause his/her friend gives them the skinny on what to expect. They’re not worried about looking foolish; they’ll just do whatever their friend does. They still may be a little nervous because it’s a new experience. But, it’s the exciting kind of nervous because “I’m safe. I’m with my friend.”
When it comes to what we do as followers of Jesus, there might not be anything as important as building friendships, real ones with real people. Then, when the door opens up to have a God-conversation, you are able to invite those friends to come with you to Brooklife where you’ll be their host. People need you. People are hurting and desperate for love, hope, peace, and belonging. We can give that to them…if we build real friendships with real people in our real world who need the Hope of Jesus.
Democrat or Republican? Allah, Buddha, Jesus or “other”? Asking a lady her age or weight? All of these are questions which are totally forbidden, or at least, that’s what I was taught growing up. But another one has entered the arena and has been hotly debated on social media and the media in general. What is this new hot topic? Organic versus non-organic food. Seriously, I have been standing by when I thought a fight was going to break out between people heatedly discussing how the whole “organic” food thing is just a croc versus how there are so many pesticides and chemicals in “non-organic” food that we are basically just poisoning ourselves. To be honest, I have no idea who is right. Can I be even more honest? I know I should care, but, I don’t. I know that means some you might stop reading right there and delete this email. So be it. I’m sorry. I’ll try to care more about it, but it probably won’t work.
Now, I’m not a gardener, and I’ve already confessed my lack of understanding in the whole organic versus non-organic foods. But, here’s something I do understand. If you let something grow completely naturally, you will likely end up with a good product. But in order to promote the most healthy and vibrant growth, you also need to add in some systems: nutrients, water, weeding, fences, etc. Why wouldn’t we give our best to ensure our efforts don’t fall short?
With all that being said, the discussion between an organic following of Jesus and a systematic following of Jesus is alive and heated within the church world. Here’s the tension. Shouldn’t following Jesus be a very personal thing, just between you and God? God gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and guide us; shouldn’t we let Him? After all, we were designed to grow in our relationship with Jesus. Shouldn’t we just let that happen naturally? That’s a quick description of the organic school of thought. I actually agree with almost all of it. I do believe that God is at work in each and every one of us in very unique and personal ways. However, I also believe that when left to just figure this out completely on our own, we have a tendency to go a little wild in our growth.
This is exactly what we seek to do as a church with our dream of becoming A Place For Everyone. We want people to Experience The Love of Jesus, Find Life-giving Relationships and Pursue their God-given Purpose, so we intentionally create environments and opportunities, which are seedbeds for the organic growth God wants to do in them in a very personal way. We intentionally craft environments for those who are far from God and for those who are a whole lot closer to God. It’s not just a newbie that needs to freshly experience Jesus’ love. Everyone of us needs to be experience Jesus’ love constantly. It’s not just a rookie that needs life-giving relationships. We were created to be in community. And it’s not just someone who’s just started asking Jesus questions who needs to find their purpose. Each of us is on a dynamic journey, and we need to allow God to lead us down His paths. Perhaps that might happen with no systems or processes, but that has not been my experience. Nor has it been the path of the church…ever. Paul had perhaps the most organic experience with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and yet he is one of the biggest proponents of instruction and guidance on this path of organic growth in Jesus.
Believe me, we want everyone’s relationship with Jesus to be real, authentic and personal, but we don’t believe systems and processes restrict that. If done right, these systems and processes will promote that organic growth.
“We need a new cat!” Okay, now if you know me, you know I would never utter those words! I’m just not a cat guy. Those words actually come from a story, that has stuck with me through the years, and goes something like this. There once was a church where every Sunday before the service began, someone was designated to go and put the church cat on a leash in the front of the church. This was done every Sunday for years. Then one day, the poor cat died. After giving it an appropriate burial, someone went out and bought a new cat, and they continued the tradition. A newcomer to the church asked why they did this. No one seemed to know. It has always just been our tradition was the reply. But now everyone was curious. There happened to be one elderly member of the church who had been there since the beginning. They asked her why. She replied, “Well, that original cat was ornery and would run in through the door when people were entering and would cause a horrible ruckus. Finally, someone made the wise decision to leash him out front during the service. Problem solved!” Too funny! The cat had no value to the service, and yet, it had become a tradition, an essential part of their worship that meant…nothing.
That story has always led me to ask “why” questions like, “Why do we do what we do the way we do it?” So today I’d liked to answer one of those questions., “Why do we preach/teach the way we do at Brooklife?” Specifically, why do we sometimes teach in an expository manner and sometimes in a topical manner? Great question! First, let me define the terms. Pure Expository teaching is when you work through a book in the Bible. Some would go so far as teaching their way from Genesis to Revelation. The goal would be to not skip anything but teach exactly what the original author taught in the order they wrote it. Topical teaching is more based on dealing with the specific struggles or needs of the congregation and then finding biblical passages that address the topic. Topics could vary from marriage, family, finances, spiritual growth, sexuality, etc.
Secondly, why do we use both styles? Because I believe we need both approaches. I think there is incredible value in working through a book of the Bible. It gives historical context and context within the book. It is incredibly insightful and gives a depth you just cannot get cherry picking throughout Scripture. But, its weakness lies in that it doesn’t address today’s biggest needs as often as I believe most of us need them addressed. That’s where the topical messages come in. They help us work through concepts, which need God’s direction, that might only get addressed a few times in the whole Bible. Think about this. We all believe in good marriages, but how many times is marriage addressed in the Bible? Not nearly as many as you would think! So, we intentionally discuss some topics on a regular basis to meet our real needs.
I believe that a good balance between the two styles helps us gain a fuller understanding of what God revealed to us through His Word and helps us deal with the real problems we face every day. In both styles, we always are seeking out God’s truth and love and how it applies to our every day lives of creating places for everyone. We desperately need to understand God’s truth so that it can transform our lives, because we know He loves us desperately and is guiding us to the absolute best for our lives.
As promised, here is our first online leader training! I hope you will take the time to watch it as I explain what I believe is the biggest problem effecting America’s church today. It might surprise you what it is, but it is very distressing. Each of us working to lead others well in helping them to overcome this obstacle will move them to a much better chance of living out the “Well Done!” life God has called each of us to!