Wednesday – Change It – Originality

I know a PHd student who asked this question on Facebook: “How do you cite Facebook?”

Researchers like her live and breathe citations. It’s critical that they learn how to quote someone properly. There are whole books written about referencing sources properly.

Good teaching in Jesus’ day was the same. Rabbi Hirschel says this. Rabbi Hillel says that. At best, a good teacher might come up with some creative parallel, paradox or new insight into those ancient words.

But to say something original, that was risky. Maybe you could get away with it at end of your career, or maybe after you’d died, people would say it about you.

The Jewish people have such a long history – to make up your own stuff was as if you thought you were better, and could ignore the past.

If you did, people would ask, “Who is this guy?” In this case, he was Jesus, a carpenter from a small town. He never went to the advanced schools of Judaism. Lucky he was literate.

He was not where you’d expect original, profound teaching to come from. You might expect teaching that was original and trite, or profound and dated, but not original and profound at once.

Yet, everyone, even his enemies, saw this profound, original teaching in Jesus. They said the same as these crowds. “He teaches as one with authority” meaning he wasn’t quoting the great teachers of the past, like other Jewish Rabbis always did. He just taught, and people recognized his words as good and true, despite his lack of citations.

He hadn’t followed another rabbi, he just gathered a school of students around him.

He doesn’t need to cite, because he is the source of all truth. He is called the “Word” of God – the “Word” being a Greek concept of the truth with personality.

Question: How is Jesus different from other teachers in your life? What did he teach that no one else said before, or has ever improved upon since?

We meet for coffee every Wednesday night at Starbucks in the Chapters Store in Ajax, in Durham Region just East of Toronto. Maybe we’ll see you there?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Tuesday – Study It – Originality

We’re looking at the final section of the Sermon on the Mount this week:

“When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29 ESV)

Jesus’ teaching is widely thought of as being the greatest and most original human teaching to have ever existed. No one is quoted more than Jesus. Many people, even those who are not Christians, have the greatest respect for Jesus and try to live by his teachings.

A friend of mine once proudly quoted to me: “Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘a house divided against itself cannot stand’” I had the joy of telling him that Lincoln was actually quoting Jesus!

When I began a Masters degree – I read through the grading structure – what constitutes an A, B, C, etc. Description of an A+ was “Profound and Creative – Strong evidence of original thought.” This is a rare thing indeed – someone who can come up with completely original ideas, rather that simply quoting, or worse, stealing the work of others.

Jesus dared to do this – in the Sermon on the Mount, he regularly started with, “I say to you.” or “I tell you.” Whenever he says “they say” and quotes another religious teacher, he is about to say they’re wrong!

He was acting as if he could just say these things under his own authority, as if he was the source of all wisdom, knowledge and morality. Because he was! But they didn’t know that yet.

Question: Reflect on all that Jesus has been teaching and what we have studied in the Sermon on the Mount through the last several months. What has amazed you about his teaching? What has confused you?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Monday – A New Idea – Originality

Think back to your last experience of school. I’m sure it involved some good teachers, and some not so good teachers.

Soemtimes we like teachers or not for trite reasons – fun, easy, etc. But think about the content – who could really teach?

I remember two kinds of bad teachers. One who didn’t care. He taught the curriculum, nothing more, nothing less. One day he didn’t show up, and the students didn’t mind at all!

I also remember one who tried really, really hard. But he didn’t actually know the material, so he had no credibility. The smart kids were always proving him wrong.

But what about good teachers? What about the ones where they explain something, and it clicks?

Now, imagine a really great teacher. Somebody who comes up with something new and original, and explains it well. This is rare indeed.

I recall my favourite professor at university, who joked at the beginning of his course, “I’ve you’ve read my book, sorry, I only have so much material.” But that was okay, since it reall was his material. He wrote the book because it was his authoritative, original content, and he shared it in compelling ways.

Question: Who was the best teacher you ever had? What did they teach you? Why were they the best?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Thursday – Act On It – Foundations

Spiritual real estate agents will tell you to build your life on their teaching, but you need to know if it’s sandy or solid.

I’d encourage you to do a spiritual home inspection.

That’s the point of the entire Sermon on the Mount: Don’t just look at the outer appearances…religious membership or observances. Your following of certain rules or teachings is like the house on top of a foundation.

Instead, look at the foundation of the whole thing, get under the house and knock some floor joists, check the concrete for cracks.

In life, check your heart and motivations. If your life is in danger of crumbling because someone dies, you get sick, a relationship ends, a stock price falls, a job gets lost, or whatever, then you’ve built on sand.

Our problem is often when we start with the house – investing so much in a beautiful house that can fall over at any point.

The proper way to build is to start with a plumb, level foundation, which equals a plumb and level house, made of individual materials that are plumb and level. It all starts with the foundation.

Thankfully, Jesus says building life on rock is as simple as hearing his words and living them out, intentionally choosing to follow his way of life, making him your foundation.

Then we can build our view of the body, money, career, sexuality, health, relationships, etc. on the basis of that foundation, rather than trying to fit together things that don’t belong.

This foundation in life will eventually transform all aspects built on top. But it starts with heart, the foundation.

Challenge: If you’ve never intentionally decided to follow Jesus, to build your life on his foundation, invite you to pray for that today. If you have said those words, but know you haven’t followed through with action, pray this as well.

Gracious Father, I realize that you already know me and that you love me. You love me so much that your Son Jesus died for me. I want to make a fresh start with you, to put you at the very centre of my life and to follow you from now on.

Please forgive me for all those things in my past that have come between us. And help me to turn away from whatever would keep me from following you faithfully and consistently in the future. Please help me to grow to know and follow you more and more each day. Help me to grow into the person that you desire me to be. Amen.

Then, please tell me! You can get in touch through our web site or mobile app. If you aren’t able to do that, do tell another person in your life who you know is trying to follow Jesus.

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Wednesday – Change It – Foundations

Yesterday we saw one truth from Jesus’ story about foundations in life: that we all build on one foundation or another.

Truth 2: Difficult times will come to all.

We are all subject to the same rains, winds. Both houses face the same problems, but their foundations are differently equipped to withstand such pressures.

IF built on sand, then great was its fall.

If my identity is based on a stock portfolio, then when the market drops, my life falls apart.

If my identity is built on my physical health or beauty, the moment I get older, or get a bad diagnosis, I’m shaken. I can’t be who I thought I was forever.

If my identity is on my kids becoming what I expect, I can ride high when things are good. I can be proud of their accomplishments, and so on. But that good life is easily shaken. If they make bad choices, don’t choose a prestigious career, I’m done and can do little to fix the situation.

But if my identity is not on kids, but on God, following Jesus to him, then it’s built on rock. Then if my kids make bad choices, my identity is not shaken. I will be heartbroken, but by knowing who I am and that my foundation is on a solid rock, I will be able to reach out a hand to help them while they sink in sand.

If my stock portfolio drops, I will be able to live on, knowing that I’ve invested in eternal treasure, and didn’t wrap myself up in that financial identity to the point of unnecessary risk.

As my body begins to age or sustains injuries or illness, I can see it all in perspective. My life is built on my relationship with God, and my body is meant to serve that purpose. I’m not here to serve my body.

We’ll see tomorrow how that looks in practice.

Question: How can foundations in life crumble? What kinds of winds or rains expose their sandiness?

We meet for coffee every Wednesday night at Starbucks in the Chapters Store in Ajax, in Durham Region just East of Toronto. Maybe we’ll see you there?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Tuesday – Study It – Foundations

This week, we’re looking at foundatinos in life.

Jesus spoke to this in his conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount which we’ve been exploring. This is our second last week on this theme!

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27 ESV)

Truth 1: We all build on something in life, and that makes all the difference.

Both guys in this story want the same thing – a house. And they build one.

What’s different is location, location, location.

Just for fun, I recently toured an open house that’s double the price of my own. The house has some premium finishes, sure, but not enough marble and granite to double the price. The price difference was because of the location…the land is what’s most valuable.

Are you happy with where you’re building life? We build on all kinds of things: Career, Kids, Sexuality, Power, Control, etc.

We can build some beautiful homes on those foundations, but it’s all for nothing if the foundation crumbles and all that beauty falls down.

The foundation in life is the number one decision, upon which all other decisions are dependent. If your foundation decision is about debt reduction, then you’ll sacrifice other things to pay down a loan. If it’s your kids, then you’ll sacrifice travel and independence. These are just examples, of how the foundation impacts other areas of life.

Question: What do you think is the difference between a sand and rock foundation in life? Give some examples.

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Monday – A New Idea – Foundations

In 2009, an entire 13 storey building toppled over in China, killing a construction worker, and leaving homeless hundreds of new tenants who thought they were about to move in to a brand new building.

What’s striking about the images is that the building looks modern. It’s not visibly dilapidated.

The contractors did all the visible parts right, but cheated on the invisible foundation underneath it all. It was eventually visible to everyone, as the beautiful building on top crashed to the ground destroying lives.

You can find the story and pictures here:

The foundation is critical. One architectural web site I visited reminded me that a good foundation carries the load of the building above, including its people furnishings, furniture and more.

IF it’s plumb and level, all the other building materials can be, as well. And that makes the tradespeople happy.

They summed it up: the foundation is the most important work and the basis of everything that comes after.

This is true in life, as well as architecture.

Question: What is the most important thing in life? Did you choose this? Why?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Thursday – Act On It – Knowing

So far this week, we’ve seen that Christian faith is not about just the words you say, and not just about deeds you do.

If it were, then Christian faith would be like trying to get to know a celebrity – you would either be guessing the right passcode to get through their mansion gates, or you’d be trying to hop the fence.

It would be easy to know about the celebrity, and never really know them.

But thankfully, God is not like a celebrity who keeps a safe distance from his fans.

In Jesus, God came to earth. He didn’t have to, but he passed through those gates into our world and made it possible for us to know him personally.

God took on human flesh, clothed in the way people were clothed in first century Israel, and spoke their language.

We can actually know God, who came to earth in Jesus, and is active today through his Holy Spirit. Even though Jesus died and rose and since returned to heaven, we can still know him by studying his words, communicating with him in prayer, and with the community he calls his body on earth – the church. Like the one we are forming in Ajax in Durham Region just East of Toronto.

The saying is true: it’s not about what you know, or do, it’s about who you know.

Who you know, will then affect what you say and do.

Words and deeds are important, but are no substitute for the full picture of life in God’s kingdom given in the Sermon on the Mount.

It’s about actually following who you say you follow. Inviting him to transform life…not just saying he does.

The aim is to have him transform our hearts, so they look more like his.

How do we know? That’s what Jesus has been teaching all through the Sermon on the Mount. He’s been describing what God’s heart looks like, and wants your heart to look like, so that it transforms the rest of your life. The health of your actual heart matters – blood passes through to all areas of the body.

An unhealthy heart means unhealthy life. No matter how healthy you appear, you aren’t healthy if your heart is hurting.

God wants to transform the heart of our lives, so all other areas of life get healthy.

And he warns us that starting with our words and actions will result in failure.

It starts with openness to Jesus…a willing submission to his will.

Challenge: List some ways to intentionally get to know a new friend, neighbour or colleague better. Now list ways you can intentionally get to know Jesus better. Pick one from each list and try it today.

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Wednesday – Change It – Knowing

Yesterday, we saw one misunderstanding of Christian faith – that’s it’s just about saying the right words to go to heaven.

Words can be faked, spoken out of fear or manipulation, or we may be afraid of their power. So it’s tempting to say Christian faith is not at all about words, and only about good works.

You may know people like this – I knew one who said they didn’t need to be part of a Christian community, or church, simply because she was a nurse who cared for sick people.

People regularly quote St. Francis of Assisi, who the current Roman Catholic Pope named himself after, as having said something like “Always remember to preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

But it’s a misquote, he probably never said it, and probably didn’t belive it. Neither did Jesus.

That’s why this is the second misunderstanding of Christian faith Jesus wanted to confront. Jesus says he’ll send away those who say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?”

It seems these people did amazing things in Jesus name. They performed many of the same deeds as the disciples.

They would prophesy – speaking God’s truth. They were casting out demons, and doing other mighty works – miracles! But these things aren’t enough.

For example, with the miracles, it seems God could do great things through people like this. But that didn’t make the person great, and it’s apparent they considered themselves great because of their deeds.

The problem is their dependence on those great acts. They plan to show up at heaven and explain all they’ve done. Like a celebrity stalker showing up at the celebrity’s house, to tell them how great their imaginary relationship is, and all the things he’s been doing to earn her love. No thank you. I don’t know you.

Something is missing. It can’t just be words, can’t just be actions. We’ll see tomorrow what it is.

Question: If Christian faith was just about doing the right thing, how would this contradict what Jesus said earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, or elsewhere?

We meet for coffee every Wednesday night at Starbucks in the Chapters Store in Ajax, in Durham Region just East of Toronto. Maybe we’ll see you there?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Tuesday – Study It – Knowing

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)

We’ll look at two misunderstandings of Christian faith.

One is that Christian faith is all about words you need to say. The other one says it’s all about deeds you do.

We’ll look at words today.

Jesus says people will come to him and say, “Lord, Lord”

Those are good words. Lord denotes respect and honour for Jesus.

There is a connection to God’s name in the Old Testament. They even say it twice – this is no lazy acknowledgement.

But the motivation for saying these words is wrong. They are using good words like a password to get through the gates to heaven.

We’ve had several hacking attempts on Redeem the Commute, where computers try to guess our password with enough attempts. Guessing the password may get you in, but it doesn’t mean you belong in the admin section of our site! Guessing the passcode to a celebrity’s home doesn’t mean you know them.

Some act as if knowing the correct password gets you into heaven. Some think there is a particular prayer you have to pray, and that’s all that matters.

That’s a misunderstanding because it makes it seem as if a magic, superstitious incantation is all God needs from us. That would mean we can do what we want – we could believe that we’ve already bought our ticket to heaven, so who cares what we do until then! But this is not true.

It would also mean Christians could manipulate people to make them say words out of fear that they don’t understand or follow through on.

It would also lead to some ridiculous deathbed confessions…where we could try to get people to say those words before they die, or people could delay saying them as long as possible until they were at death’s door.

Now, it’s indispensable to say Jesus is Lord. To avoid those words is to say I don’t want to live in his kingdom, heaven, where he’s Lord. Verbally confessing Jesus is critical. But that’s not all there is to following Jesus.

Tomorrow, we’ll see another perversion of Christian faith. Then on Thursday, we’ll see what Jesus taught it was really all about.

Question: If Christian faith was just about saying the right words, how would this contradict what Jesus said earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, or elsewhere?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Monday – A New Idea – Knowing

We’ll look this week at the difference between knowing someone, and knowing about someone. We’ll use celebrity stalking cases to illustrate this.

One person was obsessed with Sheryl Crow, sneaking backstage to meet her and calling her his “spiritual twin.”

A pizza delivery man was convicted of stalking actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Like many stalkers, he tried to reach her by going to the home of her parents.

One was stalking Mel Gibson…claimed that god told him to pray with Gibson, and that’s all he was trying to do.

Another was obsessed with tennis star Anna Kournikova. He decided that if he took off all his clothes, swam across Biscayne Bay to her house, climbed up on her deck and shouted, “Anna, save me!” he’d win her heart. He executed the plan perfectly except for one tiny mistake — he swam to the wrong house, was arrested and sent to a psychiatric institution.

This would have been terrifying for the real people being stalked. But despite that we are tempted to laugh, because the stories are so far from reality we know.

What they have in common is that these people think they know these celebrities, and can help them, love them.

Some will memorize every stat about an athlete, an actor’s every appearance in film and television, and obscure facts.

They know all about someone, but don’t know them, even if they think they do or should.

We asked people on the street if they ever met someone famous, and if that person was like they expected.

Question: Have you ever met someone after years of learning about them? How was it different? What’s the difference between knowing about someone, and knowing them?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Thursday – Act On It – Influences

We’re exploring who has influence on our spiritual lives. We’ve seen four tests to identify a negative spiritual influence.

The good news is that Jesus is the one teacher who satisfies the tests he’s just laid out.

Attractiveness. Long before his birth, Jesus was described in this way by the prophet Isaiah: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

People chose to follow him because of his teachings, and his claims about himself, that were far from superficial.

He taught with authority of his own, regularly hinted at his identity as God. This apparently had nothing to do with the way he looked, the tone of his voice, or the size of his hairdo. No one mentions it int he Bible. It has everything to do with the truth of his words.

Consistency. He made bold claims, but Jesus was absolutely consistent in living them out. Scour the Sermon on the Mount, and see if you can find any occasion where he contradicts his words.

He said to pray in secret. While praying to his Father, he went away, sometimes to a garden, to be alone.
He said to turn the other cheek. While being arrested, told his friend to put down his sword and let it happen.
He said, love your enemies. While hanging on a cross, said “Father forgive them”.

His words were also consistent with God’s word throughout centuries.

He told us in the Sermon on the Mount he was the fulfillment, not rejection, of the Old Testament law. God hadn’t changed his mind, God wasn’t wrong, God was fulfilling his purposes in Jesus.

He regularly quoted the Old Testament law, and then got right to its core – the heart change that went beyond fearful obedience.

His words are consistent with the lives of his followers. He never promised we’d be millionaires, drive Cadillacs, or never experience pain or sorrow in this life…like some false teachers will claim to get your money or devotion.

He did promise that he’d bring about a kingdom far better, and invited us to follow him there, taking up a cross.

He was definitely not short lived. He is still worshipped today. Jesus rose from the dead, and still lives today, both reigning over the universe and living in the hearts of those who follow him. 2000 yrs on, the words of the Sermon on teh Mount are revered the world over…and have brought life to those who’ve not just revered them, but lived by them.

The Church exists because he and his teachings were not short lived, but of eternal value. By following him, our lives can be transformed

Motives. After all his teaching and healing, he died on the cross for us. There was no benefit for himself, except that he would close the separation between us and God. He had our best interests at heart.

If you have found teaching of false prophets lacking, urge you to test Jesus. Not just those who claim to represent him, for good or ill, but test Jesus himself. Read his words, if find him attractive not in a flashy superficial way, but rather find that he satisfies your deepest yearnings.

Invite him to be your teacher, become his disciple. Then experience his risen, eternal life and its transformative power in your life, consistent with all he taught.

If you’ve never experienced that, and you’ve been accepting less, then my hope is that you’ll try the real thing.

Contact Ryan to learn about what that could look like in your life!

Challenge: Who has been a positive spiritual influence in your life? You should spend more time together, set up coffee, phone call or lunch with them! Who can you influence in the same way? Set up time with them, too.

Cast: Redeem the Commute