the religious leaders of the day. Jesus turned the expected on its head. If the predictable was right-side up, then Jesus turned things upside down.
Those expecting the Messiah thought he would come as a mighty king. Jesus came as a baby in a feed trough. They expected a conquering military leader; Jesus came proclaiming love for the enemy. They expected the Messiah to overthrow the government and reveal the wrongs within it.
Instead Jesus turned the prevailing religion upside down and revealed the wrongs within it. They expected a Deity from on high to come and proclaim salvation from the skies. Jesus came a homeless man walking their dirty streets. Shocking. And he still surprises today.
Oftentimes we wish to make Jesus tame or comfortable for us. We wish to fit Jesus into our culture or our norms. We want to let him have a part of our life or a portion of our heart. But Jesus is different. He doesn’t work that way. Jesus requires full devotion. He is not content being a part of your life. He can’t be squeezed into your busy schedule the way you want him to be. He calls us to a completely different way of life. It is the life we have been looking for, but it feels upside down to the world around us.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives in rapid-fire succession an outline for how those who choose to follow him are to live and believe. It was a countercultural message then, and it is a countercultural message now.
Week 1 Recap - Happiness Redefined
Sunday was National Star Wars Day! May the Fourth be with you!
We kicked off the Upside Down message series with Jesus' teaching from the Sermon on the Mount, often known as The Beatitudes, in Matthew 5:1-12. These next few weeks will show us how Jesus' teaching and way of life turned the world upside down. Jesus invites us to change our worldview, and live differently. In The Beatitudes, Jesus specifically changes how we understand happiness (or blessing). Often, the people of our world/culture see happiness and success in terms of material wealth, fame, influence, and power. The more you have of those, the happier you are. But Jesus turned that notion upside down. Instead, he said the hopeless are happy (or blessed); the poor in spirit are happy; when you are persecuted for God, you're happy...read Matthew 5:1-12 to get the whole list. Because Jesus was different, and often didn't meet the expectations placed on him, then we too should live differently. Will you live differently for God? You don't know what's possible for God to do through you until you try!
Week 2 Recap - You Can Change The World
On Mother's Day we had a great time at Clair Church! The kids gave thanks for their moms by making crafts as gifts. And during worship we had a special prayer time for mothers of all types all over the world. This week's message continued the Upside Down Series, which is encouraging us to live differently.
This week, we focused on Matthew 5:13-20, where Jesus asks his followers to be Salt of the Earth and Light of the World. Jesus asks us to stand out and be different, not in an awkward way, or a self-centered way. Jesus is asking us to change our lives, but not in a self-help, personal improvement type of way. No, instead, Jesus is asking us to live differently so we can change the world.
The problem is we become unsalty, or we hide our light. There are typically, 3 ways we become unsalty. First, we're tired. We are busy and distracted, and we carry our burdens around and don't deal with them. In fact, we'd rather pretend they're not there. But we keep going in a hurry. Then, like a little child, we get tired, cranky, irritable and rude. We say or do something we shouldn't. We end up standing out for the wrong reasons. But Jesus said, "Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) Find rest. Be salty salt.
Next, besides being tired, we are unsalty because we are hurt. We are wounded and have scars and pain. So we live in reaction to the hurt. We seek easy comforts, or we take our hurt out on others and create more hurt and pain. But Jesus, He healed people. Jesus faced more hurt and pain than a lot of us: betrayed by a friend, arrested and put on false trial, mocked, tortured, whipped, forced to carry his own implement of punishment, nailed to a cross, crucified, pierced in the side, died and buried. And yet, Jesus chose to heal. He was a "Wounded Healer." He didn't let his hurt stop him from choosing to do good in the world, and to heal others.
And lastly, we are unsalty because we are afraid. You can tell when you're afraid because you're worried. Worry takes up a lot of our attention. Worry zaps our focus. Worry can destroy you. But Jesus regularly said "Do not be afraid" (Luke 12:32, John 14:1,27) and "Do not worry" (Luke 12:22, Matthew 6:25). With all of these encouragements to not worry and not be afraid, Jesus reminds us of the promise of God, our inheritance: THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. Why worry, when you know the God of the Universe has given you a palatial inheritance...more than you could ever ask or imagine. You have the kingdom. Do not worry and do not be afraid.
So, be salt. Be light. You (we the Church) can change the world! This is not just self improvement of being healthier, thinner, wealthier, fitter, etc. This is changing the lives of people everywhere!
Week 3 Recap - A Higher Standard
This week, we listened to Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:21-37. We heard him say that thinking bad things is as bad as doing bad things. Jesus wants us to be "righteous" or "holy" and live life differently. At first, we think this is impossible. We see the list of rules and expectations to live up to and realize, "I can't do it." But still, Jesus calls us to a changed life, a life lived for God, a life of being Salt & Light in the world...so that people will know God and God's love. I hope you ask with me, "Jesus, how in the world am I supposed to do that. I'm not perfect like you."
Fortunately, Jesus is the answer. Jesus is not inviting us to keep a checklist of religious rules and requirements that we meet perfectly. Jesus sums up the passage simply saying, "Let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No' be 'No.'" What Jesus is asking of us is to be consistent, be authentic, be real, be who God is shaping and forming you to be. Let your heart be true to God. Instead of following rules, be ruled by Jesus--in every aspect of your life. Too often, we pretend. We act like everything is "ok" when it's really not. We act all religious, when really we would rather sleep-in (or anything else) than do church stuff. We act like we are a good person, because we're not a bad one, and we do some good things here and there. We convince ourselves that the good out weighs the bad, so we are "ok." But Jesus, raises the standard to holiness.
How do you become holy? Spend time with The Holy One. Let Jesus Christ rule and reign in your heart. Let him transform and shape your will, your desires. Pray everyday and every moment and in all situations that Christ would be at work in you and through you. Holiness, that higher standard, is possible; because "with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). Because "I can do all things through Christ..." (Philippians 4:13). Jesus Christ will make you holy by God's grace, let Jesus rule you.
Week 4 Recap - Love The Ones You Hate
This past Sunday at Clair Church, we read Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:38-48. Basically, Jesus says to Love the ones you hate. Seems backwards, doesn't it? Like who in their right mind would do that? If you hate someone, you do bad things or at least think bad things toward that person, right? But Jesus, like he has all throughout Matthew 5, challenges us to live differently (Upside Down).
Loving your enemies and those who do you harm is not the easy, comfortable, or natural thing to do. Usually, if someone is mean or hurtful towards us, then we want to get them back. If someone hates me, I'll hate them back. If someone gossips negatively about me, I'll spread rumors about them...etc. But Jesus knows the truth: Hate doesn't Heal.
Healing comes through Love & Prayer. Love your enemies and pray for them. That's God's way, The Jesus Way. It's different from the way we are used to in our culture, but it does bring hope and healing and makes heaven a reality here on earth. That's what God wants to see: heaven on earth. Do you want to be a part of that? Then love your enemies and do good to those who hate you and try to harm you. That's Jesus' invitation.
It may be weird, but being a follower of Jesus is like that. After all, our main symbol, the cross, is a form of capital punishment (odd piece of jewelry for people to wear), and the good news starts at a graveside with an empty tomb! Usually, cemeteries are associated with grief, loss and pain; but God begins the message of hope and joy in a cemetery. So take courage knowing that Jesus is alive. The same power that gave Jesus life and raised him from the dead, will give you power to love the ones you hate.
Here's a video of the sermon in case you missed it: http://youtu.be/x1FZfBt2IIQ