Today has been a roller coaster of emotions, as I announced publicly at Cityview that I am responding to God’s call to plant a church in the UBC Campus Community. God has blessed my family over the past 16 years with your friendship and partnership in Vancouver. Starting early this morning I replayed the stories of many people who have seen Jesus lifted up and their lives transformed by the Gospel at Cityview. Thank you for praying for us and for being a part of our lives. If you would like to hear more of what I shared, listen to the talk that will be uploaded later in the week at www.cityviewchurch.ca In the meantime, please pray for Cityview and for my family as we go through this transition. Our last Sunday will be July 18 and in September we will give our full attention to the UBC Campus Community.
Have you ever found yourself in a thought-loop unable to get your mind on something else? Really its worse than the time I was unable to find my way out of Oklahoma City. Around and around I drove for what seemed like an eternity trying to find the way out of that city and head back towards Fort Worth. I was trying to leave but couldn’t find the way.
The problem with a grudge though, is that we aren’t trying to leave. We harbour, nurse, feed our offendedness with rationalistic reasons for why we are right to feel the way we do and to keep holding onto it. Before we know it a root of bitterness and resentment has turned into a habitual way of relating in relationships making us over-sensitive, proud, and very self-righteous. I know, I’ve been there.
As we have been reading through Mark in our journey with Jesus at Cityview I have been surprised at the way Mark correlates Jesus’ teaching with Jesus’ activity. This pattern is evident in the text associated with Palm Sunday.
A. Jesus enter Jersusalem as a triumphant king and proceeds to the temple where he looks around. Mark 11:1-11
B. The next day, Jesus examines a fig tree for fruit, and finding none, judges it. 11:1-17
C. Jesus returns to the Temple and clears the Court of Gentiles, and announces that the redemptive purpose of the temple is not being fulfilled: Is it not written, “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?” But you have made it a ‘den of robbers.’ Mark 11:13-19
D. The chief priests and teachers are deeply offended and begin to seek in earnest a way to get rid of Jesus.
E. The Disciples observe the withered fig tree and Peter is astonished.
E. Jesus addresses two concerns He has for the Disciples:
1. Faith-full prayer/conversation with God.
2. Forgiveness in prayer of any people with whom they might hold an offense.
I believe Jesus recognizes a challenge for the disciples that will keep them from realizing their full redemptive potential in His Kingdom. In the course of the ministry with Him, Jesus’ disciples will run into confrontations with people. The Kingdom of God and the Gospel of Jesus confronts what is wrong in the world: unbelief, abandonment to the flesh, idolatry, misuse of God’s gifts, and the abuse of people. The disciples had just accompanied Jesus on such a foray and I believe it would have been easy for them to hold “something” against the people who were now planning Jesus’ death.
An enemy thinks the world would be a better place without you. And clearly these enemies of Jesus were headed down that path. However, Jesus would have nothing to do with holding a grudge, planting bitterness, and nursing resentment.
In the future, these disciples of Jesus confronting a world of unbelief and opposition at times to the Gospel would discover that the world would not change as quickly as they might have hoped. The now-but-not-yet nature of the Kingdom of God meant that they must look forward with faith in a good God who does complete what He says that he would complete. Even Israel in celebration of the Passover where called out in this week to persist in their faith that God would prevail. They must not retreat into despair or un-believing doubting prayer. I do not believe the issue here is whether or not the disciples believed God could do something miraculous. The real issue was in doubting the fundamental nature of God as one who cares. Faith-full believing prayer maintains the revealed character of God in His Word as fundamentally good. It is this quiet confidence and faith then that allows us to engage the sovereignty of God with faith in prayer. His “no,” “yes,” or “wait” can be accepted and trusted.
And it is this observation that brings us to the first problem with a grudge. We want to believe that a grudge or resentment is first and foremost a problem between me and the person, or me and the company, or me and that race of people, or me and individual in the past. But Jesus makes a grudge or sensitive offendedness to a first and foremost a problem between me and God.
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25
The first problem with a grudge toward a person is that it is a problem between me and God. If I am holding something against another person and believing that they owe me, it is a problem between me and God. And it is such a problem that I will not be able to fulfill the full redemptive purpose of God for my life. Jesus tells me that God refuses to bless this course of action in my interior world. A grudge will cause me to be as lifeless and fruitless as the fig tree Jesus examined the day before this teaching. A grudge will cause me to be as cluttered, busy, and void of the redemptive purposes of God as Israel was in the Court of the Gentiles. A grudge, you see, is actually an persistent act of unbelief and treats the Gospel of Jesus’ grace, God’s unmerited choosing, as something small, trite, and of little consequence. God will not bless grudge keeping, bitterness, and nursed resentments. Unforgiveness keeps me from fulfilling the redemptive purposes of God and limits my generosity, kindness, compassion, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, joy, peace, self-control, and love.
What to do?
Well we can’t wait to forgive until the other person changes. To pray is to change. If I am in conversation with God I am the one called to forgive. Choose over and over to say, “This person owes me nothing.” I entrust them to God. I entrust myself to God’s grace in the Gospel of Jesus. God has abundantly blessed me…I can afford to extend such grace to others…even to others who wish ill of me. Jesus has shown us how, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Our challenge is that because most of us who are habitually confronted with our ability to keep a grudge rarely enter into that pain because of our commitment to Jesus’ mission, we fail to make the connection between grudges, grace, and our experience of God’s power. Our experience of such pain derives mostly from unmetabolized pain in our past and/or from the irritants that accompany daily relationships common to us all.
When we stand praying and God reminds us of a offense we are holding onto, he is inviting us to a new level of living and relationship in the Kingdom of His Son, Jesus Christ.
It is possible that unforgiveness can become such a mountain in our soul that we are not sure we will ever be free of it. The 70 times 7 challenges to forgiveness have shown me that forgiveness is sometimes a process of growth and experience of Jesus grace. Thankfulness for the other person(s), Surrender of myself to God, Interecssion for God to bless the other person(s), and then finally imagining what the full redemptive work of Jesus’ grace could look like. On the later, let me paint the picture I have: Seated at the banquet table of heaven we raise our glasses to toast Jesus, the King of Kings, but instead he begins to toast us…he makes his way to me and blesses me, toasts me, welcomes me to His table as a loved and cherished son…a tear slips down me cheek and Jesus reaches out to wipe it away…I turn away and find that beside me is one who was an enemy, recognition crosses our eyes in an instant, and all I can think to say is, “Jesus is awesome isn’t He?”
I enjoy Open Table. When we share the meal and time together as brothers and sisters in Christ on Thursdays at Cityview for our community meal I get really excited about what Jesus is doing in our lives. Plus we have really good food! This week we prepared ourselves for the Lord’s Supper by reflecting on the compassion of Jesus. Its really a bit surprising. Our cultural disposition is quite accusatory towards those who preach. But when it came to compassion that’s exactly what Jesus did.
You see compassion is to be moved toward another person by the reality of their condition. In this case Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake with his tired and hungry disciples seeking a quiet place. But instead of quiet they found a crowd. Jesus “saw the large crowd and had compassion on them because they were sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”
Obviously Jesus was an entertaining teacher; he taught through the day and past dinner. But more than that was going on. He recognized that the most desperate hunger of the crowd’s souls could only be met by truth, by Him, by the good news of His Kingdom. So he taught them. The truth could set them free. Now before you shut Jesus and the church off, see what happens next in the account from Mark.
The disciples, probably being really hungry themselves, recognized that the crowds of people where in a desperate situation for food. They were away from the towns and villages and the families that had spent the day with Jesus were now very hungry. The Disciples wanted Jesus to send them away. This is not compassion. The disciples were not moved toward the people. Rather, once they recognized the condition of the crowd, the disciples wanted to be done with them. I love what happened next.
Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd. When they protested that it would cost eight months of wages, Jesus told them to see “what they had.” In other words Jesus told them go find out what this community had. When they came back with five loaves and two fish, Jesus took this community offering and fed them all. They collected twelve baskets of leftovers. Now that’s hard to believe. And in case you are wondering the disciples had a hard time accepting Jesus’ authority of nature as well. Just notice that even within the next twelve hours they were astonished that Jesus had this kind of authority.
My observations here are about the compassion of Jesus. 1. He was moved towards people because of their condition: their interior world was lacking truth, specifically the truth about Him and the Kingdom; so, he taught them. 2. He was moved towards people because of their condition the physical reality of hunger; so, he had his disciples gather what was already present in the community and share it beyond what one would have thought possible.
I believe Jesus was nurturing the spiritual motives necessary for His disciples to be a movement: Complete trust and dependence in Him and compassion for the lost. If we are to join Jesus in His work we must ask the Holy Spirit to nurture these motives in us. Otherwise, we will keep our mouths shut in a culture that is suspect of truth proclamations and we will run away from people whose needs exceed what we have in our pockets. Two aspects of our ministry of the gospel of the Kingdom that must be held together tightly: proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus’ grace and the sharing of our community’s resources in the name, power, and character of Jesus. Clearly Glenn Beck is not the first to struggle with Jesus’ ability to hold these two realities together, nor will he be the last.
Sixteen years ago Ellen and I were still two and half days away from Vancouver. We were driving across the continent to plant our lives here because of a vision of people transformed by Jesus Christ loving this city and the world. We were excited, hopeful, and probably a bit proud–even over confident. But, we were warmly welcomed by our new friends in the core of Gladstone, which became Cityview Baptist Church. Over the years I have looked back often at the picture I have of one of our first Sundays together and I have treasured the faith we all had that God was going to do something! I am astonished with the trust they give us as young 25 year old hopefuls!
And God has done something. I rejoice now in the hundreds of people we have been able to share the Gospel and life with in this City. I have been blessed with neighbours and friends who have immensely enriched my life. One of the things that has remained true of Cityview is that we are a people willing to risk and try new things. Confidence is helpful. Trust is essential. And listening to Jesus and discerning His direction is the way. I have always sought for us to individually and corporately wrestle with discerning Jesus’ voice. He is Lord…not me!
This year the Strategic Leadership Team at Cityview has taken another big step in our vision of creating communities of devoted followers in Vancouver and around the world. They have given me time to invest in people in the UBC Campus Community. We are convinced that God loves the students and people who live, work, and play there. And we have heard God’s call to join with other faithful people like Rich Carruthers, Suzanne Perry, and the students in Born for More to plant the Gospel in the diverse communities that together form UBC.
Our vision is to see a network of house churches or simple churches meeting in homes, coffee shops, and community gathering places because of the transforming work of Jesus and His Gospel of grace in our lives. Currently I am spending two and half days a week in the UBC Campus Community getting to know people, their patterns of life, their hopes and dreams, and their spiritual journey stories. As well, I am sharing the Gospel and including people in our community of faith.
This week I was so encouraged by a text from a friend. “Hey Craig…you still making trips out to UBC? I want to encourage you – I think that’s the coolest thing! Reminds me of soldiers that go into foreign area to do recon…” So my response was thanks…and you should come out with me! Now I know that you all can’t come out with me, but do pray for us. Pray the Luke 10:2b prayer…that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up workers for the Harvest. We have seen the Lord answer this and we are looking for new disciples of Jesus who will grow in faith and become part of the team.
After 16 years I have had to ask myself, why do I have to keep complicating my life? I have often done “two things” the whole time we have been here. It’s just the way the Lord has wired me and my family up and the way Jesus has invited me to be a part of what He is doing. I have said all along that our call to Vancouver has really been a call to follow Jesus. I wish that kind of life for every one of you.
“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24
We are continuing our series at Cityview through the New Testament Challenge with this week’s message, The Challenge of Servanthood. My published outline is below.
New Testament Challenge: The Challenge of Servanthood
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:5-7
The Big Idea: God’s servants serve without demanding special status.
Text: Philippians 2:1-30
1. Humility and engagement are characteristics of the Christian servant.
A. Our walk with Jesus begins with humility.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10
B. Our fellowship with each other requires humility.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
A. Hopeful, obedient activity in response to God. “If you have any…”
B. Hopeful activity in response to the interests of others.
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also the interests of others.” 2:4
Jesus perfectly models the combination of humility and engagement God desires to bring out in His people.
See Philippians 2:5-8
Jesus did not strive or compete for domination. Vs. 6
Jesus pursued the way of a servant. Vs. 7
Jesus humbled himself accepting the world’s contempt. Vs. 8
Jesus acted in obedience to His Heavenly Father. Vs. 8
Jesus served even unto death. Vs. 8
2. Christian servanthood cooperates with the Holy Spirit to lift up Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father.
We serve under our exalted King. See Philippians 2:9-11
“…it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his
good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
3. Christian servants work together to infiltrate our generation with the word of life.
“…so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…” Philippians 2:15-16
Our Cityview’s Olympic Plan:
Today, let’s commit to pray, serve, speak for and with those in
our circle of influence who are lost without the life of Jesus Christ. On the ALPHA sheet write down their names. At the end of the service turn this in and our team of intercessors will serve by praying for them.
4. Complaining and arguing destroys the effectiveness of our service in a world separated from God.
Do everything without complaining and arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault…” 2:14-15