Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Strive for the Narrow Door – Part 1 of 4

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In the lead up to the parable of the Narrow Door, Jesus gets away with something I almost never do. He doesn’t answer the man’s question. You can read the account in Luke 13:22-30 (CLICK HERE to read it)
The man asks Jesus, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” What do you think was behind that question? I wonder if he is thinking about his odds of being saved.

Monday, August 22, 2016

3 Ways Pokemon GO Provides a Good Example for Christian Life

I will start this blog post with a confession: I have played Pokemon GO. I am not a hardcore hunter of Pokemon by any means, but I have a few in my Pokedex. I will also admit to you that my son and I have specifically gone out driving for no other reason than to hunt Pokemon.

Unless you completely ignore all popular culture and never go to a popular park in your city, you have undoubtedly encountered Pokemon players — people walking through often beautiful spaces such as parks or cities with their faces firmly directed at the screens of their smart phones. These people (the ones playing Pokemon GO, at least) are engaged in three main activities:
  1. Hunting Pokemon
  2. Battling in Pokegyms
  3. Replenishing or gaining new supplies at Pokestops
I think there are some striking parallels between Pokemon GO play and the practice of the Christian faith.

1. Christians Look for Opportunities for Good Works

Real Pokemon GO players have their phones on all the time. Kelly and I were at Cooper’s Hawk doing a wine tasting. I looked at the counter in front of the couple next to us and what do I see? Then gentleman in his late 50s or early 60s has his Pokemon GO app running on his phone.

The scriptures tell us that we are re-created in Christ Jesus for to be a positive and redemptive presence in the world.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)
I think that the way Pokemon GO players keep their phones on all the time can be a good model for Christians to go through each day with our feelers out, looking for opportunities to do good works.

2. Christians Are Prepared for Spiritual Battle

Part of Pokemon GO entails going into Pokegyms and battling other Pokemon. Part of the Christian life is battling evil, a battle that takes place both in the world and inside ourselves. But just as a Pokemon who is unprepared for battle will not do well, so a Christian who doesn’t develop the disciplines and attitudes to engage spiritual battle will likely not do well. Responding to hate with love is not easy! 
Paul writes, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” — Ephesians 6:11 (ESV)

3. Christians Need to Stay Spiritually Charged

Pokestops are the places where Pokemon GO players can get more Pokeballs, along with a host of other things that help them play the game. Christians, too, have spiritual habits that feed the spirit. You could even call them “Godstops” in our lives.\

We pray.
“Pray without ceasing,” — 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)
We study the scriptures.
“Rightly handling the word of truth.” — 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)
We gather for worship and encouragement.
“Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other…” — Hebrews 10:25 (CEV)

Pokemon GO is just a game. But the structure and focus of some people's Pokemon GO play offers a good example to those of us who practice the Christian faith. Imagine going for a walk or drive for no other reason that hoping to find a good work you could do!

What other games, video or otherwise, might offer good examples or parallels to the life of faith?

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Don't Chase the Wind (sermon audio and video from Sunday, July 31, 2016)

In this message, Pastor John ties together lessons for life from Solomon, Jesus and Paul. Solomon, who achieved basically every earthly dream -- money, sex, power, property, security, reputation -- found it empty. Jesus warned us that life does not consist of possessions. And Paul points us the right way by reminding us to set our minds on heavenly things.

VIDEO - "Don't Chase the Wind"

Monday, July 25, 2016

Let God Crack Your Brain Open... Regarding Racism (Audio, Video)

This is the audio and video of the sermon I preached about spiritual growth and letting God crack our brains open. I used racism in our country as an example because my brain has been being cracked open. After the Dallas shooting deaths of five policemen, I overheard a hotel worker saying to her coworker, "Too bad he didn't get more." I was floored. My mind was cracked open.

I encourage you to listen to or watch this sermon. I also encourage you to listen to the podcast linked below. It is an excellent and grace-filled conversation about the racial divide we face. You will not be disappointed that you invested the time in this podcast... and you just might have your brain cracked open a little bit.

VIDEO - click on the picture for YouTube video

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How to Not Accidentally Teach Your Kids to Lie

Every parent wants to raise his or her children well. When I have explained the possibility of accidentally teaching children to lie, I have seen parent's face light up with recognition. I have seen people place their palms on their cheeks and say, "Oh, my..."

So, how can you accidentally teach your child to lie? Here's a scenario. It may be a little dated for the age of caller ID, but it makes the principle clear.

Mom is in the middle of doing something that mom wants to do when the phone rings. Eight-year-old son picks up the phone and answers it politely. "Hi, Mrs. Jones." Mom's head jerks around and she waves to get son's attention. Then she silently mouths the words, "Tell her I am not home," while waving her hands in front of her to indicate to her son that he should pretend she is not home. This is because, of course, mom does not want to talk to Mrs. Jones for some reason. 

Is this a harmless lie? For mom and Mrs. Jones, it likely will have zero repercussions in the long run. But is it harmless for her son? Not remotely. Let's dig into this a little deeper.

Mom thinks this is a harmless white lie. She doesn't want to talk to Mrs. Jones right now. If son does this, it would not bother mom too much. After all, she does it.

But son has learned a different lesson. Son has learned a broader lesson because son is watching mom for principles for life. Son has learned from mom that small lies are acceptable when the truth is inconvenient or difficult. Son will later on apply this lesson to his communication with mom. Son will ask mom if he can go to the movies with his friends. Mom will say OK and ask what movie son is going to see. Son wants to see an R-rated movie that mom doesn't want him to see. The truth is difficult and why should mom get to decide what movie son gets to see? After all, son is 15 years old and should be able to decide for himself what movies he sees! So son tells mom he is seeing a PG-rated movie that is playing at about the same time in the same movie theater. Son reasons that it's not a big deal because he is not killing anyone or stealing anything. It's a harmless lie because the truth would be inconvenient or difficult... for him.

By telling small lies for her convenience, mom has taught son that this is an ok way to handle life. The problem is that mom only considered her values and priorities about what's ok to lie about but son picked up the principle of lying for convenience. Now that son is older, mom's "petty rules" are quite inconvenient to son's sense of fun so son lies to mom. Son's priorities are different so son applies mom's principle of lying for convenience to his own priorities and values. Mom finds out son lied, punishes him and then in her private time wonders how she raised a son that would lie to his mother's face. But the truth is that she unwittingly taught him to lie to her.

This principle also extends to other leadership relationships. A supervisor who asks his employee to fudge data on a report to a manager has unwittingly taught that employee to lie to him. A mayor who asks her assistant to lie for her has taught her assistant to lie to her.

So what's the solution? The solution is to not lie. "Tell her I'm busy right now and I will call her later" accomplishes the same thing as "Tell her I'm not home," and it has the benefit of being truthful. "I'm busy" is true even if you are busy relaxing on the couch and don't feel like talking. Why we feel compelled to tell "little white lies," and how they damage relationships is a topic for another blog post.

Alternatively, mom could ask son to lie for her and then explain why it's OK in this case but not OK to lie to mom. Good luck with that.

John Rallison blogs on life topics at

Saturday, June 25, 2016

What Are You Called to Do? (Dig Deeper Vidcast/Podcast Bible Study)

As we continue our series on life in ordinary time, one concept to bear in mind is the idea of "vocation." We all have callings in our life. The scriptures tell us we are made by God and re-made in Jesus Christ for God's good and creative work. Contemplate this for a few minutes in this edition of Dig Deeper. Pastor John ends with one three-levelled process for considering if you might be being called to do something or stop doing something.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Release - Letting Go of the Past and the Future to Live in the Present (sermon audio/video/printables)

Things we have done or things that have been done to us can feel like a weight we are dragging through time. Worries over the future can feel like breathing stuffy air under a blanket. True freedom in Christ is found by living in the present — letting the past go as forgiven and redeemed while entrusting the unknowable future to the hands of the loving creator of all.

Sermon Handout PDF
Audio (stream/download/podcast)

YouTube Video