Sermon on the Mount | Salt & Light | Matthew 5:13-16 | Week 2

June 11, 2018

We're in week 2 of a series we're doing on the Sermon on the Mount.  If you have your Bible, open to Matthew 5.  This is a picture of a man by the name of Michael Carroll.  Michael Carroll, at the age of 19, won $14.4 million in the lottery.  He was a garbage man at the time, just happened to play, and happened to win.  Over the next decade of his life, from 2002 to 2012, he bought mansions, he bought cars, he bought drugs, he bought a number of different things.  In the course of those ten years, he mowed through $14.4 million and found himself living on government assistance, unemployed.  Now, today, he makes $511 per week working as a butcher.  Which begs the question:  When we find ourselves in the midst of blessing, what do we do with it?  When we find ourselves "at the top," how do we use our resources?  Most people would act similarly to Michael Carroll.  If we find ourselves in the midst of flourishing, it should be used for us.  We should drink every little piece of that down and it should go to serve to make our lives better, whether it's being popular in high school, or whether it's as a nation winning a war.  When we do find ourselves at the top, we tend to think it should be used for us.  Which is exactly what Jesus begins to address in the Sermon on the Mount.  

If you were here last week, you heard these eight blessings that Jesus gives.  These eight statements of wisdom, of grace, of mercy, of invitation to live a life different than anyone had ever seen on the face of the globe.  He made these declarations---sort of crazy-sounding statements like, when you're poor in spirit (which nobody then and nobody now wants to be) you're blessed.  When you find yourself meek---sort of at the bottom of the pile, that pile is actually flipped on its head in the kingdom of God and you're blessed.  When you're persecuted, there's blessing.  Regardless of what situation you find yourself in, if you're in the kingdom, you're blessed.  Jesus's words were dangerous, because you had people who had never heard blessing before.  You had people who were used to the social structures and the political structures and the relational structures, where there's certain people that were always on the bottom.  Jesus says to those people, you're blessed.  The reverberation of that would have gone off of this mountain---this Sermon on the Mount---and gone into culture and into society at large and the question is what happens when it does?  Jesus says in Matthew 5:11-12 that one of the things that happens is you're going to be persecuted.  You want to flip the social societal structures on their head?  It's not going to go well with you so just be ready for that, Jesus says...  

Sermon on the Mount | Blessed | Matthew 5:1-12 | Week 1

June 4, 2018

We are starting a new series that we'll be in all summer, where we're going to be exploring one of the most impactful, significant, beautiful messages ever given.  It's called the Sermon on the Mount, and you can open your Bibles to Matthew 5, where you'll find it.  

Over the last few weeks, throughout our nation, we've been in a season that we affectionately refer to as graduation season.  In graduations, you have a few pieces of pageantry, right, where it signifies that a person is moving from one season to another, from high school to beyond high school, and college to beyond college.  We had a preschooler that graduated and he's moving into kindergarten, which is a pretty huge accomplishment for him.  But along with the pageantry, there's also typically a speech.  There's some words said and it's intended to be motivational, sort of Chris Farley motivational, right?  Like, you can take the world and you can wrap it around your hand and put it in your pocket. . . . .that type of a speech.  I started to wonder, "Why can't I remember any of the speeches from the graduations I've been involved in?"  They were so magical and inspirational [at the time].  I can't remember any of the ones I've been involved in...  

Ethos | Roots | 2 Peter 1:12-21 | Week 7

May 30, 2018

If you haven't been with us, let me catch you up on where we've been the last six weeks. We started by talking about our mission as a church, which is to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  We started exploring these values that we want to shape us over the coming months and years that we have together.  The value of presence of God---that we'd be people who pursue the presence of God, who experience the presence of God, who soak in the presence of God.  That we would be people who believe that Jesus has come, not just to save us so that we go to heaven some day, but to heal us and lead us to wholeness TODAY.  We believe that we are a people designed, and wired into our being is that we're people of habits and practice and disciplines that would help, by God's grace, shape us to be more and live more in the way of Jesus.  We believe that God has intended us to live together as family, as a community of faith.  We have different gifts, different passions, and different backgrounds, but God has planted us together in this body of faith, that we would be more together than we would be as individuals added up together.  Last week, we talked about the invitation that God's given us to join him in the world.  He is on mission.  The end of the story is not just that you and I are saved, but that his world is renewed.  He invites us to link arms with him as HE is on mission in this world.  Finally, on this Memorial Day weekend, it just so happens (it lined up perfectly) that we're going to talk about the fact that we want to be a rooted community.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate our history and Memorial Day.  In 1868, the United States started celebrating the people that have gone before us to give the ultimate sacrifice of their very lives to lay a foundation of freedom that we now stand on and are incredibly grateful for.  Amen?  If you're a student of the Scriptures, you will, as you read through the Scriptures, come to see that God constantly reminds his people to be intentional about remembering.  He brings them out of Egypt.  They pass through the Red Sea.  He passes over them and commands them to be a people who celebrate the Passover --- Do not forget what I did in passing over you and bringing you out of Egypt. (Exodus 12)  After their wandering in the desert for forty years, they pass through the Jordan River, and as the Jordan River is held at flood stage, people go back into the middle of a dry river bed and they pick up rocks and make an Ebenezer, a memorial.  God told them that every time you pass by that stone structure, you retell that story.   Because you'll forget... 

Ethos | Renewal | Jeremiah 29:1-14 | Week 6

May 21, 2018

If you're new with us, we're in a seven-week series called "Ethos."  We're looking at the values, dreams, and hopes we have together as a community of faith, as we seek to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  This week we're talking about renewal, next week we're going to be talking about roots, the last in our series.

A few weeks back, my wife took our two boys to a mother-son event, so I got the chance to take my daughter out for a little daddy-daughter date.  We went out to dinner together and came back to the house to watch a movie of her choice.  She picked the newer "Beauty and the Beast."  We were having a great time watching it together.  About three-quarters of the way through the movie, the boys and Kelly came back home so we stopped the movie and everybody went to bed.  We stopped it at this very tension-filled moment, where the Beast had told Belle that she was allowed to go and help her father.  He released her from the captivity she was in.  So, you have Belle, who's free, then the Beast, who it seems like, is going to keep on living as the Beast for the rest of his existence.  I thought, what a terrible story that would have been if that's where the movie ended.  If the movie ended with Belle being freed and she's happy to go and do what she gets to do and back to her normal life, and the Beast is still the beast.  There's something in us that wants the Beast to be redeemed, isn't there?  There's a reason the movie doesn't end in that place...

Ethos | Family | 2 Corinthians 13:11-14 | Week 5

May 14, 2018

I want to invite you to close your eyes and to pretend the year is 200.  You live around the Mediterranean; you've decided to follow the way of Jesus.  Against the advice of most of the people in your life, you've joined this sort of rogue, rag-tag band of the Jesus way followers.  It's Sunday morning and before you go to work, you head to church.  You get your family ready, you walk through the dusty streets, and you enter into the "sanctuary," which happens to be an apartment building.  You sit around with a number of other believers.  The Way is growing so the room is jammed packed.  You open with prayer and everybody starts to pray around you.  Then you move to the greeting time.  As you stand up, you look somebody else right in the eyes; they're following the way of Jesus too.  You plant a big kiss right on their lips!  {Okay, open your eyes.}  So that's pretty much the way that it went in the early church.  Can you believe this?  We might have an easier time recruiting greeters if we bring this back!  

The early church was known for what they called the "kiss of peace."  Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, wrote that everybody in the church participated in this custom.  Cyprian, another early church father, in 250, was exiled on an island, and here's what he writes:  "There is nothing which could give me greater pleasure or more noble delight than at this moment to be kissing the lips of those who have confessed Jesus as Lord."   The dude is probably starving, right? He hasn't seen his family, and what he's longing for is to kiss another follower of Jesus.  This is strange!  This is different!...  

Ethos | Practice | Matthew 7:24-27 & Luke 6:40-42 | Week 4

May 7, 2018

We're continuing our series called "Ethos."  Ethos is a word that means the aspirations, the dreams, the hopes, the values of a community of people.  Over the last few weeks, we've been exploring who we are as a church, as a community of faith.  When you walked in today, you got the 'subtle' message that the reason we exist is to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  {I believe it's ten feet tall on our wall.}  We want to be all about Jesus and inviting people to Jesus and calling people to walk in his way.  

If you have your Bible, open to Luke 6.  We're going to continue that journey that we're on, this morning, and try to tease out, as a community, what are the things that we hold valuable, what are the things that motivate us, what are the things that drive us, and how do we plan on living this Jesus life out together?...  

Ethos | Wholeness | Mark 1:21-28 | Week 3

April 23, 2018

How many of you like scary movies?  I love scary movies; I grew up watching scary movies.  My wife and I, on date night, many, many times have gone to the theater to see a scary movie.  I don't know, it's something really interesting.  One of the most well-known scary movies of all time is a movie that came out in 1973 with a little actress named Linda Blair.  The name of the film is called "The Exorcist."  The film cost $8 million to make, but since 1973, it's made over $1.2 billion, through box office, DVDs, all those sort of things.  Isn't that interesting?  It's pretty wild and scary.  Normally, when talking about a film as an illustration, I would show you a clip from the film...   I do want you to see what this girl looked like.  She's a little possessed girl who did some crazy stuff.  I didn't want to show you an actual still [shot], so I've hand drawn a representation of what she looked like.  {Shows stick figure with Ryan's head!}  Now THAT, friends, is scary!!  

Why do scary movies hold such intrigue with us?  Why do scary movies freak us out?  I think part of the reason is, psychologically, we watch a movie like this and our brain sort of imagines....     If the writers and actors do a great job, you can get sucked into the story and start imagining that you're there.  Or you take it one step further and you start saying, "What would it be like if this really happens?"...   

Ethos | Presence | Exodus 33:7-23 | Week 2

April 16, 2018

Ethos is the series we're in.  We started last week, and we're going to be talking more about who God has created us and shaped us to be uniquely, some of our values, and our mission.  Last week, we said the reason that we're here, the reason that we gather on a Sunday morning, is to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  We want to help people become apprentices, or learners, or disciples of what it looks like to live more and more in the way of Jesus of Nazareth.

Today we're moving into our very first value.  I was watching my news feed this week and there was something that kept popping up over and over and over again.  It was the hearing Congress was having with Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook.  Did anybody see the highlights of this?  A few parts of it were a little bit comical.  Congressmen and women asking Mark Zuckerberg, "Let me get this straight.  Facebook is free?"  He's like, "Yeah, absolutely free."  "100% free?"   You could almost see them going, "Oh, we've got you backed into the corner now, buddy."  He's like, "Absolutely free."  They're like, "Well, how do you make money?"  {Gotcha!}  He's like, "Well, Congressmen, we run advertisements."  Their minds were like BOOM! this is a completely new, revenue-generating model!  Right?  What they really asked Mark Zuckerberg was how much is Facebook following people?  How much do you hear?  Mark, where are you guys?  When people sign up, do you get access to them at that point in time, or are you in more places than just that?... 

Ethos | Kingdom Apprenticeship | Matthew 4:12-23 | Week 1

April 10, 2018

Over the next few weeks, we're going to be talking about what type of community "that brand new world" starts to give birth to.  What type of community it starts to form.   We're calling this series "Ethos."  Ethos is a Greek word that means values, the character of something.  It also means things that we believe and things that we dream about, things that we hope for, things that we plead with God for.  Over the next eight weeks, we're going to take a step back and go, God, who are you shaping us to become, and what are you shaping us to do, and what are the things that we hold dear, and what are the dreams that we would say, collectively together, we have about the way that you would use this little community of faith to make a massive difference in your world?  That's where we're going over the next few weeks.

I thought we would start where Jesus starts.  That's never a bad idea, right?  To ask so, Jesus, where do you start?  Jesus, what are you up to?  Jesus, how are you at work?  We're starting with a pop quiz.  What did Jesus talk about most?  If we were to read through the gospels and take a note every time Jesus talked about a theme, what would he have talked about most?  A.  Love    B.  Heaven/Hell    C.  The Kingdom of God    D.  Money    Interesting.  We have a pretty wide-swath of answers.  Let me let Jesus answer that question for us.  If you have your Bible, open to Matthew 4:12-17.  In Matthew 4, Jesus is just coming on the scene.  If you know anything about the gospel of Matthew, Matthew wants to walk us through the birth narrative---tells us how Jesus was born and focuses primarily on Joseph and the courage Joseph had to have.  Chapter 3 is Jesus's baptism.  Chapter 4 is Jesus getting led out into the desert to be tempted by the enemy.  Half way through chapter 4, Jesus comes on the scene to publicly begin teaching and ministering to people, and listen to what he says:  When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.  Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali----to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordon, Galilee of the Gentiles----the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."  From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near..."  

4 Days that Changed the World | Dawning of a New Day | 1 Thess. 4:13-18 | Easter Sunday

April 3, 2018

Sometimes when we gather for Easter, we sing songs about life and resurrection, and it can feel a little bit like we're telling an incomplete story.  We all know that, in the end, it's coming, SOMEDAY, but TODAY there's some stings, aren't there?  Life is awe inspiring, and it can be awful.  Life is painful, and it's powerful.  Life can be holy in one moment and harrowing in the next.   That's the life that we live, isn't it?  We have these moments of bliss and then we have the reality of brokenness.

If you've ever been on a vacation and if you're anything like me, I'm a time guy.  I always want to know how many days until the vacation, how many days are we going to be on vacation, and then once we hit halfway point on the vacation. . . . .anybody with me?  I start doing a time clock in my mind of 'this is great but it's going to end.'  Halfway point, the day is great.  Next day, it clicks over and 'oh no, it's ending!'  The beauty of being there is sort of overshadowed by the reality that life's coming again.  It's temporary.  I think so much of our lives carry with it that in the shadows we hear this voice saying, "It's good, but it's temporary."  It's good, but eventually you'll have to say good-bye.  It's beautiful, but eventually you'll breathe your last breath...  

4 Days that Changed the World | Divine Descent | 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6 | Week 4

March 26, 2018

We are in a series that we've entitled "4 Days that Changed the World."  That's not some sort of spiritual hyperbole, this is the most talked about week, most written about week, most debated week, in the history of the cosmos.  On Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered into the streets of Jerusalem, you start a clock ticking from there. One week.  It's about .06% of Jesus's life and it's roughly 33% of the gospel narratives.   Do you think they thought this was important?  Just a little bit.  

Two weeks ago we talked about what happened on Thursday.  On Thursday, Jesus reimagined for us and taught us what love really looks like.  He shed his outer garment and got down on his hands and knees and he washed his disciples' feet.  It's this picture of what you do when you have power.  You don't use it to oppress people and keep people down.  You actually leverage your power to lift others up.  Last week, we saw that on the cross, on Friday, Jesus offers us forgiveness.  He takes on our forsakenness and that he says it's finished. . . .you're reunited with the King of kings and the Lord of lords, God Almighty.  If you weren't here last week, I'd encourage you to hop online and watch that video, if you can...

4 Days that Changed the World | Good Friday: What happened on the cross? | Week 3

March 19, 2018

As a youth pastor, I can remember telling my students a fictitious story about a father and a son.  The father was a draw-bridge operator.  His son was with him at work, down climbing around in the gears, having a good time.  A train was coming.  The drawbridge was up.  The father had to decide:  Am I going to crush my son, kill my son, and save everybody on the train?  Or, am I going to let my son live and everybody on the train die?  It's a very emotional story and one that stirs the human heart.  The punchline was that this was a picture of what happens on the cross, and God decides to kill his son, so that we, humanity, on the train might live.  It's emotive.  It stirs a response.  But is it accurate?  Is that what's going on on the cross?  Ever since there's been a cross, there's been discussion.  Paul would say:  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God [to save].  (Romans 1:16)    The reason he's saying 'I am not ashamed' is because there were some people who were ashamed.  There was shame to be had.  The cross was as much about shaming someone as it was about killing someone.  

Jesus's cross wasn't the only cross people had seen.  It's the cross we talk about, but there's this story that Josephus records.  He was a Roman historian.  He wrote that in 4 B.C, when Varus, one of the governors of Rome, propped 2000 people on crosses. . . . .ONE day, outside the city of Galilee, and he crucified them all in ONE day.  People in Jesus's day would have understood the shame of the cross.  They would have understood the pain of the cross.  They would have understood the cross in a far better way than we do.  They would have struggled just as much with Paul's statement that the cross is the wisdom, and the power, and the glory of God.  How could something that was so shameful be so glorious...

4 Days that Changed the World | Downward Mobility | John 13:1-17 | Week 2

March 16, 2018

From the moment Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, at what we refer to as the Triumphal Entry or Palm Sunday, to the time he rises from the grave is about .06% of his life.  Not a lot of time.  But if you read through the gospels, that one week encompasses 33% of the gospel narrative.  It's one-third of the story that the gospel writers tell.  If you put it all together, this one changed the world.  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John felt compelled to tell us about it.  From a lot of different angles and a lot of different ways to recount that week, and specifically these 96 hours----Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday---of that week changed the world.  

There's a way that the world works.  If you watched the Academy Awards last week, you know this way.  Here's what it looks like:  If you're beautiful, if you're wealthy, if you're famous, then people cater to your every need.  They put out, literally, a red carpet for you.  The more powerful you are, the more prominent you are, the wealthier you are, the more people you have to cater to your every need.  I read an article a while back about the way celebrities use their assistants.  Christian Bale has an assistant who, as he walks down that red carpet, actually smells his armpits to see if he has B.O.  Madonna has an assistant that wakes up every hour (six times during the night) to get Madonna a cold glass of water.  She also has somebody who goes into the restroom before her with Lysol and disinfectant, and wipes them down from top to bottom before she uses it.  Mariah Carey, who is a notorious diva, has somebody who holds her drink for her while she drinks out of the straw.  She has somebody who washes her hair for her.  She has somebody who walks in front of her so she doesn't trip while wearing her high heels.  That's pretty impressive!  Ceelo Green has somebody in his entourage who is responsible for dabbing the sweat off of his brow.  Can you imagine being THAT dude?  Where do you sign up for that?  Or, Prince Charles.  Prince Charles has somebody who irons his shoelaces before he puts them into his shoes. . . . .and it shows!  He also has somebody who undresses him after his day and puts him in his pjs before he goes to bed.  Prince Charles walks in, falls down on his bed, somebody takes all his clothes off and puts his pjs on.  Frank Sinatra had a butler who wash his boxers (his underwear), by hand, and followed him around to straighten his toupee in case it got off...   

4 Days that Changed the World | The Turning Point | John 12:20-36 | Week 1

March 7, 2018


We are starting a new series today that we are calling "4 Days That Changed the World."  Sometimes a walk has a way of changing things.  I did a wedding yesterday --- those doors in the back of the worship center opened, and a bride walked down the aisle to be received by her groom.  Anecdotally, it was a 'Cook' marrying a 'Hunter.'  By the end of the wedding, it was two had become one.  Some walks change everything.  March 21, 1965:  Martin Luther King, Jr., and a number of his civil rights workers with him, left from the city of Selma, Alabama to march to Montgomery, to fight for the right for African-Americans to vote.  They'd been turned back two times already, but this time they had the backing of President Johnson.  He had given his support to the march.  Instead of having armed guards there to turn them back, they were there to protect the marchers as they embarked on a 54-mile walk.  When they got to Montgomery, Dr. King gave one of his most famous speeches.  It was summarized by the phrase "How Long, Not Long."  In that speech he said, "Like an idea whose time has come, not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us.  We are moving to the land of freedom."  On August 6, 1965, African-Americans were given the right to vote in this country.

Some marches change everything.  It was March 29, AD 33.  Jesus of Nazareth got on the back of a colt to ride into Jerusalem.  We call it 'The Triumphal Entry.'  It started the clock ticking on a week that has changed the world that we live in.  Maybe in more ways than we recognize, that week changed everything!  The reason you have Sundays off as part of your weekend?  It's because Jesus rose from the grave on a Sunday.  It used to be that followers of Christ, until Christianity was the religion in the Roman empire, would go to church before work, early in the morning, before the sun came up, to worship, then go to work.  Because Sunday was just like every other day in the week.  THIS changed everything!  We now have a weekend.  It changed more than that.  Over the next few messages, we're going to wrestle with these four days, these 96 hours that changed the world.  My hope is that over the next week, the Spirit of God invites you into this story to know it better, but maybe knowing IT better, we would be known.  That we might not just regurgitate it and the facts of what happened. We're going to wrestle with questions like:  Why did Jesus die?  Why did Jesus have to die?  Who killed Jesus?  Who did Jesus "pay off" for the debt of sin?  What was that all about?  Please come back.  We're going to wrestle with a new type of influence. . . .an influence of love.  We're going to talk about 'he descended to the dead' or 'he descended to hell.'  What does that mean?  On Easter morning, we're going to celebrate the fact that what Jesus does on Easter morning changes definitively the world we live in.  It's a march that changes everything...."

Postcards from the Edge | A Letter to Independent People | Rev 3:14-22 | Week 8

February 27, 2018

Good morning.  We are on the last Sunday of an eight-week series, where we've been studying the letters that Jesus writes, through the Apostle John, to the churches in the book of Revelation (chapters 2 and 3).  This final letter is written to the church at Laodicea.  Open your Bible to Revelation 3:14.   As we've done in each letter, we've given the church that Jesus is writing to a title.  I've tried to summarize who they are, their ethos, their DNA as a church.  This letter I'm entitling as the letter to "Independent People."  Some form of independence is really good. When my kids move out of my house, my hope is that they're independent, which means they don't come back and live with me again.  If they do, they'll be welcomed back with open arms and rent to pay.  But some forms of independence aren't that healthy.  Some forms of independence actually prevent us from getting where we want to go.  I saw a Pepsi commercial a while back that I think summarized it well with a little phrase that you'll hear repeated throughout the commercial --- I'm good!  {Commercial shows accidents and injuries to someone, but they're "good."}  Have you ever been there:  Your arms are full of grocery bags and someone says, "Hey, can I help you take those to the car?" and you respond with, "I'm good."  Or maybe, if you're married, and men you may be able to relate to this, and you're sharing with your spouse the ailment you're trying to walk through.  She says, "You should probably get that checked out.  There's a whole branch of professionals that deal with sickness."  Most guys respond with. . . . ."I'm good."   {My wife says, "Then don't complain about it anymore, if you're not willing to go and get it checked out."}  Or. . . ."Do you need help with that problem in school that you're wrestling with?"  "I'm good, I'm good."  The marriage is sorta getting on the rocks, but. . . . ."We're good."  I think all of us have something in us that we rely on and in moments of trepidation, in moments of fear, we resort to that and we go, "I'm good."  I'm a hard worker. . . . .I'm good.  I know how to make money. . . . .I'm good.  I've got this web of relationships; we've got a strong family; I've got people that care about me. . . . .I'm good. 

In 1875, the British poet, William Ernest Henley, wrote a famous poem.  At the end of it, he wrote this stanza: "I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul."  Essentially he goes, "I'm good.  I'm good."  If you're familiar at all with the Biblical narrative, the story that as followers of Jesus we would say that we find ourselves in, in the very beginning of the Scriptures, you have this incident between Adam and Eve, who God creates perfectly and places in a garden, naked, in order to be in relationship with Him.  There's a serpent that comes in and says listen, I know God said you can't eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but you should eat from that so that you can become like God, knowing good and evil.  The relationship that Adam and Eve are designed to have with God is one of dependence.  One where they run to Him, one where they go to Him.  This movement towards this tree is a movement of independence.  God, we don't need you.  God, we can figure this out on our own.  God, we're good, thank you very much.  

Postcards From the Edge | A Letter to Weary People | Rev 3:7-13 | Week 7

February 20, 2018


William Cimillo, on March 28, 1947, woke up and went to work like he did every other day.  He was a bus driver in New York City.  This day was a little bit different.  William started out on his normal route, and instead of making his first stop in New York City, he just kept driving.  He went to New Jersey and had a sandwich in a café for lunch, then he just kept driving more.  Driving and driving.  Eventually he got to Washington, D.C., in his RTD bus.  He got out, took a look at the White House and decided to keep going.  He traveled down the East Coast, from New York City to Hollywood, Florida, where eventually he ran out of money and gas.  He went for a night swim, camped that evening, and in the morning called his "former" employer.  He told them where he was and what he needed.  They sent the FBI to come and investigate---it was a state bus.  No one was able to drive the bus, so William had to drive the bus back to New York for them.  He did.  By the time he got there, word had spread about his little meltdown.  He was so popular that he was too popular to actually fire, so they had to keep him on staff.  They asked him what had happened, and he said, "I was just tired of it all.  I felt like a squirrel in a cage, just running around and around, and I guess it got the better of me."  I think he was greeted with such fanfare when he got back to New York because EVERYBODY has thought about doing the same thing.  Haven't we?  We've been on our way to work or an appointment and thought, "Heads: California, tails: Carolina."  Right?  It's just too much.  

I think a lot of our lives we feel like....{Ryan blows up a balloon}....we're full and life's good.  Sometimes, because that's the case at points in our life, we expect that it'll be the case at every point in our life.  But we all know that that's not true, don't we?  There's things that we walk through that sort of take the air out of us a little bit.  Some of you, in the last few weeks, have gotten a diagnosis from the doctor that you weren't hoping to get and. . . . .{Ryan releases air from the balloon} it's taken the air out of you.  Some of you in this room are single parents.  You're working and holding together a family {Ryan lets out more air from the balloon}, and it feels like you're on life support.  Like the waves are beating against your boat and when is it going to stop.  Some of you have some things that have happened in your past.  Maybe it's abuse or maybe it's bad decisions you've made, and anytime you let your mind relax, instead of disciplining yourself not to think about that. . . . .{Ryan releases more air out of the balloon} that's what you think about.  I don't know about you, but it can feel like {Ryan releases remaining air out of balloon and it's deflated} the life that we were suppose to live that is full, and meaningful, and vibrant, is elusive.  We live in a day and time where we are more disconnected from the things that fill our soul than any generation in any time has ever been.  We are entertained, but we're not enriched.  We're busy, but we are not full.  Our schedules are jammed packed, but our souls are on life support.  We can look at a picture like that and go, "That looks about right."  Especially after a week like, as a nation, we've walked through.  We can go, "It feels like we're running on empty."  It's a condition we would call weariness, or a tiredness of soul, not just body, but soul, where we know that if we cut things out of our schedule, it doesn't solve the problem.  If we go on vacation, it's still there...."

Postcards from the Edge | A Letter to Stuck People | Revelation 3:1-6 | Week 6

February 13, 2018


The words from God to this nation were "keep going."  But they were words that were built on a story.  They weren't just said in a vacuum.  See, this nation of roughly 2,000 people found themselves in a valley, and they heard those words from God, but BEFORE that, they'd seen the hand of God.  It was God who'd led them out of 400 years of slavery into freedom, but he led them to this place where they were on this peninsula.  Water surrounding them on three sides.  Miraculously, the Red Sea parted and they walked through on dry ground.  But he didn't stop there.  Every morning when they woke up, there was a little bit of bread they called manna that was lying on the ground, just enough to get them through the day, and the next day it was there again.  Sometimes, quail came in, so they got a little meat in their diet, but not regularly.  They had just enough.  They were in the wilderness and walking through the desert and they had no water and God told Moses to hit a rock with a stick, and the rock turned into a well and water just started flowing from it.  They'd seen unbelievable things:  their clothes didn't wear out, their shoes stayed good, they saw God's gracious hand of provision all along the way.  He said to them, "Keep going.  Keep going.  You're out of slavery, you're in the desert, but I'm leading you to the Promised Land.  Don't stop here."  

They were sent to spy out this land.  A land that they found was flowing with milk and honey.  They brought back grapes for people to taste.  Evidently they were amazing grapes!  They said, "Yeah, there's milk and honey.  It's unbelievable!  It's wonderful!"  God said, "Keep going."  But they said, "There's also giants in the land."  I don't think you understand, God, or maybe you do, but we're sort of like grasshoppers and they're sort of BIG and if you really wanted us to keep going, you should have made us a little bit stronger.  So they stopped.  A people created for the Promised Land found wandering in the desert for 40 years.  Because God wouldn't force them to take that step.  He gave them every resource they needed; it was right in front of them and they said, "No, thank you."  People created for the vast horizon, for the expansive landscape, for the milk and honey of the Promised Land, SETTLED for the desert...."

Postcards from the Edge | A Letter to Apathetic People | Rev 2:18-29 | Week 5

February 6, 2018

"Do we have any foodies in the house?  I've changed, dramatically, the way that I've been eating the last couple of months, but for some reason I've become addicted to watching travel food shows, where people go to other countries and eat what I can't eat right now.  My favorite new show is called "Somebody Feed Phil," about a guy named Phil Rosenthal, the creator of "Everybody Loves Raymond."  He travels around and experiences the cuisine from all of these different cities from around the world.  What's really interesting is that he bears a remarkable resemblance to an older Ryan Paulson.  {Shows picture}  

He (Phil) goes and explores all these different cultures and different foods.  I love that too.  If I'm traveling and I go to a city, the first thing I do when I get to my hotel is to open up my favorite app, which is YELP.  I look to see 'what is this city known for?'  A lot of larger cities are known for food or drink.  If I say Chicago, what comes to mind, food-wise?  Pizza.  Hot dogs.  New York?  Pizza.  Seattle?  Coffee.  Philly?  Philly cheese steaks.  Highlands Ranch?  {Laughter. . . . Chick-fil-a}  

Have you ever thought what your city was known for?  Have you ever thought about what your family was known for?  Have you ever thought about what your church was known for?  In the last several weeks, we've been in this series called "Postcards From the Edge," and we've been journeying through Revelations 2 and 3.  These are the seven letters to the seven churches from Jesus through John to the churches and to us.  We've been learning some real unique things about those cities.  Our hope isn't that we have just a bunch of knowledge about these cities, but that we could learn about the city and the church and figure out what does God want to say to the church at South today....?"

Postcards from the Edge | A Letter to Misdirected People | Revelation 2:12-17 | Week 4

February 2, 2018


Over the Christmas and New Year holiday, my family and I had the chance to get away and we went up to a cabin in the mighty metropolis of Hot Sulfur Springs.  My whole family was there and we had a great time.  We had planned this pancake breakfast for New Year's Day.  There was no shortage of texts messages back and forth about the kind of pancakes we were going to eat.  Oatmeal pancakes.  Banana pancakes.  We got up on New Year's Day with sleep in our eyes and deprivation in our souls because we had stayed up past midnight.  We made the pancakes and were keeping them warm in the oven.  We started putting them out when someone in my family asks, "Did anybody bring the syrup?"  Here's the question: What do you do when you have a pancake breakfast prepared and you forget the syrup?  Here's three options:  1) You try to make syrup out of something else.  2) You don't eat the pancakes.  3) You eat the pancakes plain.  {Ryan has congregation discuss it.}   In my opinion, number three is the only non-option.  You CANNOT eat pancakes plain.  They taste disgusting!  You don't notice it when you put syrup on it, because syrup makes it all better.  It covers a multitude of sins.  The only reason we have pancakes is so that we can get syrup into our mouth!  

I want to talk to you about syrup this morning.  About the one thing that changes everything---with it everything falls into place and without it, nothing else matters.  Open your Bible to Revelation 2.   You'll remember that we're starting a series and journeying through the first few chapters of Revelation, where Jesus is writing, through the Apostle John, to specific churches in his day.  He's giving them encouragement, he's writing to the context that they're in uniquely, and he's got a word, both of commendation, of correction, of instruction for the churches he writes to.  Listen as he begins these letters with a letter to the church at Ephesus:  To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:  'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.     Remember, last week we saw Jesus lifted up, we saw Jesus reigning above, we saw Jesus advocating for, and we saw Jesus walking among the churches, and John wants to reiterate that as he writes to the church at Ephesus......"