Jul 09

The story is told about a man who spoke
with the Lord about heaven and hell.

The Lord said to the man,
“Come, I will show you hell.”

They entered a room where a group of
people sat around a huge pot of stew.
Everyone was famished,
desperate and starving.

Each held a spoon that reached the pot,
but each spoon had a handle so much
longer than their own arm that it could not
be used to get the stew into their own mouths.

The suffering was terrible.

"Come, now I will show you heaven,"
the Lord said after a while.

They entered another room, identical to the first -
the pot of stew, the group of people, the same long-handled spoons.
But in this room there was a joy unlike anything the man had ever seen. In fact the man began to get caught up in the laughter with the Lord. There was even singing, and the people celebrated for long hours. They lost track of time.

“I don’t understand,” said the man.
“Why are they happy here, when they were miserable
in the other room and everything was the same?”

The Lord smiled. “Ah, it is simple,” he said.

"Here they have learned to feed each other."

Pride thrives in hell, because it assumes everything exists for me, to serve me, to benefit me.

When pride takes hold of a culture, it might work for you in the short-term, but in the long run everyone starves.

—-

Listen to the full sermon Pride & the 7 Deadly Sins.

Story above “Heaven & Hell, The Real Difference” told by Ann Landers in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Jul 08

Why were these these particular seven sins picked as the most deadly? Some of these sins seem so small and trivial compared to sins like ethnic violence, racism, sexism, racial violence, murder, and adultery. So why these seven?  Two key reasons:

1) Clustering Effect - These vices seem to collect around one another. Show me a person who has given in to greed, and I would not be surprised to find them an enthusiastic practioner of lust and gluttony as well. And I don’t think I have ever known envy to not also be strolling, hand-in-hand, with anger.

2) Generative Quality - Their seriousness is not so much within themselves but in their ability to spawn even more serious offspring. They are generative meaning their reproductive capacity. They are most fertile of the sins. All those sins that we so easily spot in other groups of people and institutions are first rooted on the personal level in our hearts.

Listen to the full sermon on the 7 Deadly Sins & Pride.

Jul 07

All the church fathers did not all agree which seven or eight sins should make the final cut (Evagrius Ponticus, Pope Gregory I and Thomas Aquinas being the key authors). Sometimes two would be combined, or one left off. But one thing they all agreed on was that pride is the root of them all. There was no ranking with these sins, except for pride.

Pride can be a confusing term in our contemporary culture. It is often considered a virtue -a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people.

It is only through the Bible and the example of Jesus that we learn that pride is a sin.

Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 This is what the Lord says:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
    or the strong boast of their strength
    or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
    that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
    justice and righteousness on earth,
    for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

In other words, if you are gonna boast, if you are going to have pride, this is the kind of pride you should have. Be proud of the one who made you. Who rules with justice and righteousness.

Then in the New Testament we see that Jesus confronts the pride of the religious and political leaders.

Matthew 20:25-26

25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”

Jesus redefines greatness in terms of service and not power rooting it in his own example of how he lays down his life for us.

Here is a more Biblical definition of Pride - the natural love for myself magnified and perverted into disdain for others.

Pride appears in the Bible as one of the oldest sins. The serpent appealed to the pride of Adam and Eve. It was the pride of Cain that led him to resent Abel so much that he killed him. Pride built Babel’s tower. The serpents promise “You will be like God….” is repeated over and over throughout history.

Thomas Aquinas notes, pride is virtually an unavoidable sin. Tell someone “Jesus wants you to be good, to do the right thing, to work for justice,” and pride says, “I’ll take over from here.”

Listen to the full sermon on Pride & the 7 Deadly Sins.

Early in the Christian faith the desert fathers identified seven capital sins or vices that so easily beset us. In recent history these sins have been treated as a matter of light-hearted humor. The list has been reduced to a convenient or catchy rhetorical device in popular books, films, and advertisements.

And yet these vices can be so destructive and even deadly because of their generative quality. When left untreated these sins lead to even more deadly ones.

Over these next seven weeks we expose these vices and cast a vision for living life in Christ.

Week 1 - Pride - the natural love for myself magnified and perverted into disdain for others

Week 2 - Wrath - the love for justice perverted into bitterness

Week 3 - Sloth - indifference toward my neighbor, myself, or my God

Week 4 - Envy - rejecting the good life God has given me for an obsession with what God has given someone else

Week 5 - Gluttony - the excessive consumption that deprives another human being of a life-giving necessity.

Week 6 - Lust - the handing of control over my body and mind to illicit cravings

Week 7 - Greed - the desire to possess more than I need because of fear or idolatry

Listen to the series online at The District Church or on iTunes.

May 27

We just started a new series at The District Church called No Fear in Love based on I John. On Sunday we talked about sin and the power of confession.

It is through confession that our souls find freedom. And yet the temptation to hold back and act like we have it all together is strong.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

The challenge is to not simply confess our sins in a generic sense, but to find healing and forgiveness in our lives by confessing very specific sins. Things we have done or not done that have failed to honor God and His will for our lives.

The following questions are ones that have been asked during confession times throughout this history of the church. I pray God uses them to speak to you.

1) Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am?

2) Have I trusted in false teachings that seek to make a substitute for Christ?

3) Have I broken a vow or promise that I have made?

4) Have I kept in confidence what has been confidentially shared with me?

5) Have I shown Christ like love to my family, my friends, my coworkers, my spouse, my roommates?

6) Have I cared for my body? Or have I done things or put things inside that do not treat it as a temple of the living God?

7) Have I spoken ill of anyone?

8) Have I permitted sexual thoughts about someone with whom I am not married?

9) Have I desired what belongs to others?

10) Have I worked to support making my local church stronger? Through my giving, my serving, and through my words?

11) Have I been merciful to the poor?

12) Have I trusted in Christ alone for my salvation?

Romans 10:9If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I John 1:7-9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

You can download the full version of the sermon called The Power of Confession at The District Church or on iTunes.

May 19

On Sunday we finished our series called “How Do I Know” where we spent four weeks talking about discerning God’s will as it relates to relationship, family and work. I preached the “faith & work” message and talked about why finding “Proximate Satisfaction” in our work may actually be a good thing.

You can download the whole message here.

Here is a prayer from Oscar Romero that I used at the end of the message

"The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying 
that the kingdom always lies behind us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith, 
no confessions brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness,
no program accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

That is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise. 
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well. It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”

Apr 21

(Michelangelo Caravaggio)

Scripture

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of John’s Gospel

30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”               - John 20:24-30

Reflection

“Unless I see the nail marks….I will not believe.” We all have our “unless” statements. Unless, I get that job. Unless, she says yes. Unless, God provides this… Then I will believe.

Typically our “unless” statements relate to putting a specific time-frame when God must speak or act.

We all have our “unless” statements. Even on Easter Monday. Doubts can still remain even after God has spoken so clearly to us.

Sometimes it’s not enough to hear that God spoke to someone else. You need to hear God speak to you. You need to experience Him for yourself.

Jesus tells Thomas “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The author of Hebrews says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Prayer

In what area can you ask God to increase your faith today? Where do you need the ability to walk by faith and not by sight?

John writes this gospel so that “you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

I pray God would give you the gift of faith today to believe, and that by believing you may have life in his name!

Apr 14

Here are some worship songs that I hope minister to you as we lead into Easter:

Hosanna – Kirk Franklin

Sweetly Broken – Jeremy Riddle

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – Fernando Ortega

Jesus Paid it All – Kristian Stanfill

Dry Bones – Worship Central

Christ is Risen – Matt Maher

Forever – Kari Jobe

Salvation is Here - Hillsong

God is Able – Hillsong

Your Grace Finds Me – Matt Redman

You are Here (The Same Power) –Hillsong

I Will Rise – Chris Tomlin

This is Amazing Grace – Phil Wickman

Apr 13

 

“See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
  and on a colt, the foal of a donkey…

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

                        - Matthew 21:5,9

Mark Labberton, who preached at The District Church last weekend, shared the story of when he was reading a children’s book to his 4-year old son Sam. It was the story of when Jesus enters into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. After they were finished reading Sam started rubbing the picture of Jesus on the donkey’s back and said, “Jesus is in my heart, right daddy?”

“Yes, Sam, I’m so glad that you know that!” Mark replied.

Then Sam put his hand on his heart, looking quite puzzled, “But where is the donkey?

Mark responded, “Oh don’t worry Sam the donkey is there too…the ass is always at hand!”

Mark makes the point that even if we have Jesus in our heart we also have a donkey.

The donkey of pride, of self-interest, of prejudice, of greed.

And that’s the problem. That’s why we so desperately need Good Friday and Easter.

Paul says it this way: “For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate to do…For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing…Who will rescue me from this body of death?” – Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24

Holy Week begins today. It’s the biggest week of the year for the local church. The week reaches a climax in showing why we should and can take the “donkey seriously.”

This week is so important in impacting how we view God. And specifically how we view Jesus. Because how we view Jesus will have everything to do with how we experience Easter next Sunday.

And how we respond to Easter will impact whether we have any hope of taking on the donkey.

PRAY

“Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts! He is the King of glory!” – Psalm 24:10 

  • For God to give you a deep awareness of your need for Christ.
  • For God to be preparing hearts to be raised to new life this Easter.
  • For God to resurrect the dreams of those who have lost hope.

PRAYING FOR THE COMING GENERATION

That many who are now young will soon become passionate followers of Christ; that during their lifetimes they will hear and respond to God’s calling on their lives; that they will endure suffering and overcome evil and bring forth God’s promises; that they will give Christ whole-life worship.

Prayerwalk your city and think about people who will live there in years to come. Pray for the generation that will be dwelling in your city on the day Christ returns.

 

Apr 12

 “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. - Zechariah 2:10-11

What a great promise that many nations will come to be joined with the Lord. This has been fulfilled at the day of Pentecost and has continued to this day. It will one day be fully true in Heaven where people from every tribe, nation, people, and tongue will be gathered before the Lord worshiping!

As we approach Palm Sunday tomorrow we are reminded of the people gathered from many nations that were gathered in Jerusalem for Passover. We remember how they welcomed Jesus during his triumphal entry into the city.

Jesus may not have fit the expectations of the kings and leaders who typically rule our nations. In fact, his ways are likely nothing like the ways of the people who have had authority in our lives before. But this is what makes his presence in our lives so important.

PRAY

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11

Pray for God’s presence to increase in your life. Pray that you would experience more and more the joy of God drawing near to you.

Pray for God’s presence to increase in your neighborhood and city. Pray for those to be welcomed who have yet to follow Christ.

Pray that our city would be transformed by the peace and joy that comes from God’s presence.

SONG

I love this song by Rita Springer called Resting:

"Resting in your presence,
is all I that I want Lord
Sitting in your presence,
It’s all I that I ask for
I want to be more like you

Waiting in your presence,
is all that I long for
And staying in your presence,
This is all I that want Lord
I want to be more like you”

PRAYING FOR REFUGEES

“God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.” – Deuteronomy 10:18-19

For safe, legal immigration and for conditions to improve in homelands so that extended families will be united; for Christians to open homes and hearts to them; for the gospel to be conveyed clearly in word and deed; for those desiring to return to homelands to be granted asylum and repatriation; that God would open the way for those desiring a new home to be settled.

Pray for the Evangelical Immigration Table as they seek to advocate for immigration reform consistent with biblical values. Pray for the upcoming Pastors for Reform event coming up in Washington, DC, that God would use that time to ignite hearts to help churches personally demonstrate and publicly advocate for policies that reflect God’s heart to welcome the stranger.

@aarongrahamdc

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