Church Blog
A New Image of Sin
By Andrew Mills
December 15, 2017
Images, metaphors and pictures help us to understand things. In essence, language can form our ability to think, and can give us the ability to think new thoughts.
 
I think when it comes to the word “sin” having some renewed metaphors matter. Some clearly biblical metaphors are ones like disease, debt, infection, among others. But, one biblical metaphor that helps me is this: weight.
 
When the Bible talks about sin, it sometimes does so in a way that refers to it as a weight that drags us down, slows us down and stops us from moving forward.

Sin then isn’t just “bad things we do” (although it certainly is that); it's also a weight that stops us from doing the right things, from having the energy to pursue the Jesus-like things and from having the freedom to do the healthy things.
 
The author of Hebrews puts it this way, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)
 
In this passage, the author isn’t talking about sin in a guilty or condemning way. He isn’t saying, “Woe to you sinner.” Instead, he is talking about sin in a really pragmatic, real and helpful way...

Sin is a weight that stops you from getting where you need to go.
Sin is a heaviness that drags you down and slows you down.
Sin is a burden that causes us to trip and stumble.
 
I think this is a really healthy way to think about it. Having sin in your life doesn’t mean you’re a bad person; it means you can’t be the person you are meant to be. It means that we aren’t running the race as we were supposed to. It means we aren’t able to more fully enter into the life that God has for us.
 
So, as the author of Hebrews says, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” And, I think that’s worth doing.
 
The author goes on to tell us how to do that. He says, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” (v. 2a)
 
For me, when it comes to the reality of sin, this is the way to think about it: it's a weight that keeps us from the finish line of life. And, we overcome it by throwing it off and by keeping our eyes on Jesus Christ.

Sin then isn’t just something to feel sorry or guilty about; sin is something to throw off so we can run faster and further with Jesus.

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December 08, 2017
 
You might be jealous after this post, but I have to say it: I have great neighbours. And no, you can’t have them. They are all awesome, each of them in their own unique way. So, let me tell you about some of the things they have done for me...
  1. Shut my car door about 30+ times when our kids leave them open.
  2. Drop off Halloween candy that is extra.
  3. Make up treat bags for our kids when they are gone on Halloween.
  4. Lend us every tool imaginable, because I own zero tools.
  5. Talk to us at our fence, showing genuine interest in our lives and well-being.
  6. Let our kids eat all the apples they can off their apple trees.
  7. Take out our garbage when we are on vacation.
  8. Give us road hockey equipment for our boys.
  9. Drive down the street slowly, knowing our kids are out there.
  10. Don’t get upset with the noise.
  11. Let me repeat that last one, don’t get upset with the noise.
  12. Wave and make a big deal out of our kids.
Now, this list doesn’t have anything “huge” on it - meaning that each of these things is a simple action, but one that carries immense impact. And, what happens when you combine all these little, yet amazing actions? You end up with an awesome neighbourhood. You end up with a place and people you love. You end up with neighbours you are proud to live with. All because of these consistent, real life actions.
 
I write all this not to make you jealous (although maybe you should be!). I write all this to challenge us to one thing: What actions can we take for our neighbours? Because when people start to take these actions, it can change the feeling of a place. We love our home and neighbourhood because of how we are loved.
So, what can you do to spread a little love in your neighbourhood? Take a look at the list and pick one, or do your own thing. What I know is that when we act like this, houses are changed into homes, and subdivisions become neighbourhoods.

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Rethinking Evangelism
By Andrew Mills
December 01, 2017
 
Today, I want to dive into something that is both obvious, but also crucial for sharing Jesus. And, it surrounds two facts...
 
1) I believe that Jesus Christ is absolutely worth sharing with others.
 
2) Our culture has shifted and changed, so where that sharing starts needs to change.
 
And, here is what I mean by this...
 
Decades ago, there was a lingering “Christian” consciousness in our culture. What this was often called, in more academic studies, was “Christendom.” What this meant was that purely by being born into Canada, the United States or England, etc., you were raised with, at the very least, a basic understanding of Christianity, and perhaps even shared certain Christian values. Of course, people were free to reject Christianity or to disagree, but, in general, there was a familiarity with Christianity.
 
If you were to graph it in terms of (a) meaning "zero understanding or readiness to accept the Gospel" to (z) meaning "deciding to follow Jesus," people were simply closer to where the "x" is below, being ready to follow Jesus because of the cultural familiarity.
 
(a) ------------------------------------------------x--------- (z)
 
My dad would often tell me that when he was growing up in high school, everyone in his grade 13 class went to Sunday School. And, this was just north of Toronto. That is no longer the case because our culture has shifted.
 
Today, people are far less likely to have a base knowledge, or any knowledge, of what Christianity is or why it matters. Today, on the same graph, our culture might be better represented as this...
 
(a) --------x------------------------------------------------- (z)
 
After a sermon recently, I had a new guest share with me that they really liked my “TED Talk.” This is because they had never seen or experienced what a sermon is, since this is no longer something of which we are culturally familiar.
 
I bring all this up to say something radically obvious: If it’s a different culture, we need a different approach. Since people no longer have a cultural understanding of Christianity, what worked decades ago won’t work today.
 
In previous generations, the primary approach was to tell people about Jesus and then bring them to church. And, while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, I believe our starting place has changed, so we need to change.
 
We need to demonstrate the love of Jesus and bring the church to them. We need to reach out and share the love of God in tangible ways, being the people of God (the church) to those around us. And, this may take a while, because people are in a different place.
 
So, when it comes to sharing Jesus, I think the starting place has shifted. I think it now begins with demonstrating the love of Jesus, so that we can share about Jesus. I believe that the way we will see people be changed by Jesus isn’t to just invite them to church (although, that’s a good thing!). We also need to faithfully love those around us over the long haul. That’s the new starting place.

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Lessons from Eating Candy
By Andrew Mills
November 24, 2017
 
 
A couple months ago, someone left me some Dutch Drops in my church mailbox. This is something that looks like candy. It comes in a wrapper, and when I opened it, I thought they might be a Dutch version of wine gums. But, the taste was, well, different than Wine Gums.

If you’ve never tried them, I have a few in my office that you’re welcome to try, because I believe to experience them correctly you need to taste them. There are some things that only experience can teach you.

 

Mark Twain said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” I agree this is also true with Dutch Drops (or "droppies," as they are more commonly called). They are black licorice that makes the black licorice I’m used too taste like strawberries. By that, I mean it is the saltiest, strongest, darkest, licorice I’ve ever had. And, I’ll say this, I was not prepared for the strength of taste that they are. My face contorted in ways I didn’t know it could.

So, why do I write all this? Why does this all matter or what does it mean? Well, because I think that experiencing and embracing other cultures (through tasting things like "droppies") matter and is Christ-like.
 
To follow Christ well necessitates engaging and encountering other people’s cultures, food, tastes, customs and perspectives.
 
To follow Jesus means engaging in the world of other people, because that is exactly what Jesus did. In the Incarnation, Jesus fully adopts and enters our world, our culture, our habits, and our tastes and particularities. And, if Jesus does that for us, I think we should do that for others. We should stretch ourselves to join and understand others in the world in which they live. We should open ourselves to others and experience the world that they inhabit.
 
Practically, this might mean eating some "droppies" if you're with a Dutch person; it might mean having goat if you’re in Ethiopia; or it might mean learning to love Nascar, even if it's something you never grew up with or experienced.
 
The point is, to follow Jesus means stretching ourselves to experience life from someone else’s perspective.
 
That’s why I’m happy someone left these “candies” for me, because they wanted me to understand their culture. And, I now have tasted something I have never had before and I’m not sure I need to have a lot of in the future.
 
So, I write all this to remind us of one simple fact: Following Jesus is stretching. It means encountering other people’s culture and worldview. Because, Jesus enters our world, so we should be willing to enter the world of those around us.

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November 17, 2017
Have you ever noticed that the "church" loves to pay attention to the “big sins”? Do you know what I’m talking about? How online, in the news and in the pews, people love to call out people for the “big sins”? Of course, what counts as a "big sin" changes with the times, but it's often and usually a sexual sin of some sort.
 
Now, obviously “big sins” are sins that matter and need to be rooted out. And, even that classification of “big sins” and “little sins” is problematic, but I think you get what I mean.

The reasons we love to focus on “big sins” isn’t because we are “standing up for truth,” but instead we are guided by judgment, pride and sin itself. (see Paul’s exposition on this at the beginning of Romans 2)
 
While there is a lot to unpack in that previous paragraph, I want to look at something else. I’d like to focus in on how we shouldn’t be focusing in on the “big sins,” but rather the “little sins.”



 
Because, what so many deep, wise and mature Christians have shared throughout the centuries is that our temptation to look at other people’s sins obscures us from what we should be doing, which is rooting out sin in our lives.

When we are busy looking at other people, we are neglecting the myriad of ways we neglect God daily.

The truth is, if we pay attention to the "small sins" in our lives, then they won’t lead to the "big sins." Most often, really disastrous choices are made with a bunch of small, poor choices first.
 
Mechthild of Magdeburg, a 13th century mystic, writes this...

“What hinders spiritual people most of all from complete perfection is that they pay so little attention to small sins. I tell you in truth: when I hold back a smile which would harm no one, or have a sourness in my heart which I tell to no one, or feel some impatience with my own pain, then my soul become so dark and my heart so cold that I must weep greatly and lament pitiably and yearn greatly and humbly confess all my lack of virtue.”
 
Do you see how practical that is? How everyday that is? That we need to be paying attention to our smiles, our bits of sourness and our impatience because that can turn our hearts cold and dark.

Mechthild’s point is that if we ignore those moments, we can never move toward spiritual completion, and focusing on other people’s "big sins" just misses the point. Instead, we need to reflect and act on the little ways we disengage from God and others throughout the day.
 
So, I write all this as a reminder that while our world loves to focus on the "big sins," our Saviour reminds us to focus on our own planks, junk and sin that loves to hide in the everyday moments of life.

And, that’s the starting place to really walking and following with Jesus: Looking at Him and our own lives, not at others.

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