F1RST - #1 "A Prayer for Life to the Fullest in Jesus"


We’re in a series called F1RST on Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The gospel is that Jesus is the resurrected and reigning King of the World – the implication being He’s to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:18). This week were focused on Paul’s opening prayer at the beginning of the letter – a prayer for life to the fullest in Jesus.

Paul’s main idea here is that to live a full life, we don't need a supplement to Jesus. Instead, when Jesus is truly first, life is truly full. Paul shows us what life to the fullest is and how it works.  


What does life to the fullest look like? Paul says there are signs. A full life is fruitful and growing. The idea is that when the gospel fills a person or a community you will know it because it will bear fruit and grow. Paul’s language is drawn from agricultural. What’s the takeaway from the botanical language? The gospel’s power to bear fruit in a person or community’s life is both a comfort and a challenge. It’s a comfort because fruit-bearing is both gradual and organic. It’s slow and takes time, but is also real and natural. It’s a challenge because if our lives are not bearing fruit, we must ask ourselves “What is my life filled with?” Paul’s organic language here is also an echo of Genesis 1. God’s original purpose for humanity was that they live life to the fullest by bearing fruit and growing – not just in the sense of reproduction, but cultivating relationships and the world in a way that filled the earth with God’s glory. Paul is reminding us that the gospel is re-creating us into the kinds of people that God intended all along.  


The reality is our lives often don’t feel full. Where do we turn when our lives are empty; when we’re not bearing fruit? Paul says that Christians are “being strengthened.” That critical. There’s a huge difference between being strong and being strengthened. Paul is praying for a strength that comes from outside of him and us. That’s one of the keys for a full life and something that makes Christianity unique. All other approaches to life say that it’s the strong who are full and the weak who are empty. The gospel says it is only through weakness – only through admitting and embracing weakness and looking for strength outside of ourselves that we find fullness. The gospel says strength is found in another – in God.

Where is God’s strength needed most in your life? Paul is praying for endurance and patience. Typically, we need endurance for hard circumstances and patience for handling hard people. Why? Because hard circumstances and hard relationships are when doubts arise in our hearts that maybe we’re not living a full life. But Paul’s logic is revolutionary. Fullness isn’t somewhere else; instead it’s right in the midst of tough times and tough people. Our default setting is to pray that God would take us out of hard circumstances and change hard people. Paul’s focus is to pray for our own hearts – that we would have endurance and patience through God’s strength.


How can your life show the signs of fullness? How are we strengthened for difficult situations and difficult people? Paul says it’s by giving thanks. That sound too simplistic, doesn't it? How does it work? The choice isn’t between giving thanks and not giving thanks. Rather, the choice is between thanksgiving and its opposite = coveting, complaining, criticizing, and comparing (4C’s). Those are habits of the heart that drain us and empty us of life. The 4C’s erode our ability to see what God is doing in our lives, the lives of others, and the world. In effect, what we’re saying is that Jesus is not enough – we’re entitled, we deserve more or better.

What do we give thanks for? Certainly we can give thanks for the blessings that God has chosen to give us – health, home, meaningful work, relationships. But Paul has something even more powerful in mind. At the heart of biblical thanksgiving is grace, a gift I receive that I don’t deserve – that I’m not entitled to. Grace is the reality that Jesus took what I deserve so that I can receive what He deserves. We can give thanks because even though I was once disqualified, Jesus has qualified me. Jesus was delivered to death, so I could be delivered and transferred into His kingdom. Jesus was a ransom for sin, so I could be redeemed out of slavery to sin. 


1.      What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      If there’s time, read through the entire letter to the Colossians as a group. How often does Paul talk about “fullness” or being filled? Do any of those passages add depth or better understanding of this week’s sermon?  

3.      Why is Paul’s language of “bearing fruit and increasing/growing” both a comfort and a challenge? Where are some areas in your life where you’ve seen fruit? Where are some areas where you sense God’s call to bear fruit? Pray for that.  

4.      Christianity claims that it’s not the “strong” who can live life to the fullest, but the “weak.” How is that possible?  

5.      Where’s a situation or relationship where you need strength? How might the gospel be applied?

6.      Our hearts are prone toward entitlement – we deserve more than what God in Christ has already done for us. What are some practices you have to draw your heart back to gratitude for the grace of Jesus that we don’t deserve?

7.      As a group, pray for the situations, relationships, needs of each other. Perhaps you can include language from Paul’s prayer into your own – asking God to show and strengthen us with the fullness of Jesus.   

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS US - #7 "The Questions of Easter"

READ – Luke 24:36-49

Easter is here! Christianity encourages both asking our questions about God and our being questioned by God – and the resurrection of Jesus (the center of Christianity) is no exception. Luke’s account of the resurrection is unique – the story in this passage is only found in Luke’s gospel. It’s also based on eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1-4) which accounts for all the remarkable detail and oddity of the story – e.g. Jesus doesn’t come to confident, unwavering disciples, but doubting, disbelieving people, not providing them with profound sage wisdom, but asking if they have any snacks. These details seem incredibly odd – unless they’re there because they really happened.

Here Jesus leads his disciples from uncertainty to open minds, to understanding, and to participation in his mission. No matter where you are on the belief spectrum (uncertainty-curiosity-understanding-engagement) Jesus’ questions here are for you.


Look at how Jesus addresses the disciples’ doubt. We see at least three things about how Jesus led them through doubt. First, doubts are expected. Jesus surprisingly, shockingly appears to the disciples – and they’re freaked out. But notice Jesus’ reaction to their reaction. Even though he had told them explicitly that He would rise from death, He wasn’t harsh or dismissive of their doubts. He seems to have anticipated them. Resurrection wasn’t easier for 1st century Jews to believe than it is for us. They were predisposed to find the resurrection of one person in the middle of history as not only unbelievable, but unwanted. Second, doubts are questioned. Jesus draws out their doubts to help the disciples get underneath them. That entails that Christianity is a thinking faith – Jesus wants his followers to have an examined, studied, reasonable faith. It also means that underneath our doubts, we have beliefs. In fact, we can only doubt something on the basis of other things we don’t doubt. To doubt the resurrection, means that you are placing faith and trust in scientific verifiability. We need to be open to doubting our doubts, being skeptical of our skepticism. Third, doubts are addressed. Jesus provides evidence to the doubting. He showed them and invited them to reach out and touch his physical wounds and flesh. What evidence do we have? We have the testimony of eyewitnesses of events they claim to have seen and participated in. This testimony and mission came at great cost to these eyewitnesses – often resulting in suffering and death. Why die for a lie? What did they gain? Also, the disciples lacked any interest in the tomb of Jesus. Burial places and tombs of religious and political leaders often become shrines – but no one to this day knows the exact whereabouts of Jesus’ tomb. Jesus’ resurrection accounts for this lack of interest.


Jesus second question (“Do you have anything to eat?”) addressed the disciples disbelief. Disbelief is similar to doubting, but also different. Whereas doubt tends to be more intellectual, disbelief is more emotional. The disbelieving disciples thought that Jesus resurrection was just too good to be true – they disbelieved for joy, the text says. How does Jesus respond? With a question about food. Why? Jesus’ entire ministry seemed to at some level be centered on food – especially in Luke, Jesus is constantly going to a meal, at a meal, or leaving a meal. He’s eating a lot, to the point that people are starting to call him a drunkard and glutton. Feasting was one of Jesus’ favorite things. So in asking the disciples about food, Jesus is pushing their disbelief to its limits. He’s saying: “Could your joy be something not to distrust, but the thing that leads you to truth?” By eating broiled fish, Jesus is saying that our greatest earthly joys, desires, longings and treasured relationships will carry forward into a new creation, a resurrected, bodily existence. As C.S. Lewis said: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

What are some implications? (1) Christianity is a historical faith. Christianity stands or falls based on what happened in history – specifically, Jesus’ literal, physical rising from the tomb three days after his crucifixion. That means that at the heart of Christianity is not a set of practices, but news of victory. Something to be believed, not primarily something to be done.  (2) Christianity is a wholistic faith. God cares about our souls and our bodies. He cares so much that He will resurrect and recreate them at the end of time. The resurrection means that Christians and the church should engage in efforts to minister to people spiritually and physically. (3) Christianity is a feasting faith. Christianity is about joy around the table, delight in community, a party with God forever. Do you want that? Only believe.


1.      What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      We all at various times and in various ways have pockets of doubt and disbelief – Christian or not. How did this sermon minister to you specifically?

3.      How might you engage with someone who was skeptical of the resurrection? Where would you begin? Why?

4.      The resurrection of Jesus is so rich and multi-faceted that it provides endless resources for our life in this world. What is one way that resurrection makes a difference in your life today?

5.      What is one thing that might change about your week or this season of life if you boldly believed in the resurrection of Jesus? How could it impact your relationships, family, vocation, spiritual life? 

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS US - Sermon Study Guide #6 - What Is Your Name?

READ – Genesis 32:22-32

Holy Week is here! Our series through Lent will take us all the way to Easter Sunday and a question that Jesus asks His early followers soon after rising from the tomb.

This week we’re listening to God question Jacob in the bizarre account of Jacob wrestling with God by the Jabbok River before his encounter with Esau, his older, twin brother.  Jacob is a pivotal character in the Bible. He’s the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, and the father of twelve sons who become the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. Genesis 32 is the account of when Jacob is renamed “Israel.” God’s renaming is destiny-shaping not only for Jacob, but for a nation.


Even though this story is strange, you cannot spiritualize it. Some modern readers attempt to read stories like this in the Bible as if it was a projection of some deep psychological or archetypal truth. There might be some value in that. But it’s not what the Scripture intends – this was a real, bodily wrestling match in the dirt and mud of the banks of the Jabbok River in time and space history. We know that because Jacob left permanently disabled as a result of the fight. It’s important that we read this story as literal history because it shows us a reality of what God is like – He’s a wrestler. He doesn’t fit in our box – and that’s a challenge to both progressives and conservatives. God is not merely a God of tolerance and love, but He’s also not a God who rewards the “good” people and the socially put-together. Instead, He’s a God that pummels us. That’s evidence that the Bible is true because nobody would choose to invent a God like this.

Jacob learned several things wrestling with God. First, he learned that wrestling God (and any relationship with God) requires all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. In a wrestling match it takes everything you’ve got – there can’t be any compartmentalization. Second, wrestling demands your focused attention. You must read your opponent’s moves, be aware of their stance, and your own body and limitations. Third, wrestling is all about challenge – you must oppose the moves and positions of your opponent.

How do we wrestle God – how do we go toe-to-toe with the Almighty? First, read the Bible. Second, God-centered prayer. Third, church & community. Fourth, the sacraments.


Jacob was wounded in his wrestling match with God. But he was already wounded long before he met God by the Jabbok. In fact, Jacob’s life was full of generational patterns of sin, lies, and relational dysfunction, and it was having historic consequences. Jacob hadn’t dealt with his past – he hadn’t been able to fully admit who he was and how the past still had a grip on his present. His ‘wrestling’ with Esau had marked his whole life. Can you imagine what he must have been thinking and feeling before he met the mysterious wrestler in the night? Jacob was thinking he was about to faceoff with his ultimate opponent, Esau. And it’s precisely in that moment that God tackles him. Jacob needed to see that Esau was not his main problem. Your main problem is not your main problem. Who or what is your ‘Esau’ – the person or situation that’s making you anxious, insecure, or fearful? Do you know that they are not your main problem? Your main problem is you are a sinner who is grappling for independence from your Creator. It’s never ultimately about Esau.


Who wins the fight? The story is ambiguous. In fact, it’s so ambiguous there’s a contradiction in Genesis 32:25. After wrestling all night, God is not prevailing against Jacob. So God – with a mere touch – severely injures Jacob and the fight is essentially over. Who won? Both God and Jacob. Who lost? Both God and Jacob. What is happening? God is showing Jacob that the way to win is to lose; the way up is the way down; the last will be first; the way to victory is through defeat. See if God had come with absolute power, He would’ve won, but lost – He would have lost Jacob by destroying him. But instead God gained a son. Jacob loses in the sense that he is marked and scarred by a permanent weakness to his hip. How is that winning? It was a win for Jacob because even though he was physically made weak, spiritually he was made strong. Think about it. In any fight, you are fighting for independence from your opponent. At first, Jacob must have been fighting to get away from the mysterious man – but once he realizes Who it is, Jacob begins wrestling for dependence.  He begins to see that God is the blessing he’s been searching for; God is the strength that he needs. Jacob’s entire life was marked by a search for blessing. And it made sense, he had essentially been living under the negative verdict of his father’s name for him, “Jacob,” which meant “liar, cheat, heel-grabber.” Jacob was the second favorite, the liar, the nobody who wanted to be blessed by a Somebody. He finally realizes that God is the blessing. If he has God, he has everything; if he loses God, it doesn’t matter what he gains, he’ll have nothing.

Why did God touch and wound Jacob’s thigh? The “thigh” actually comes up at several points in the story, but also the “thigh” had a particular significance elsewhere in Genesis (24:2, 9) and Exodus (1:5). The “thigh” was a euphemism for the area of the reproductive organs. In the ancient world, by “swearing on the thigh” you were swearing on your descendants, the offspring of your thigh. What God is saying to Jacob by wounding his thigh is: “You are receiving a touch that will leave you crippled, but one of your descendants will receive a strike that will crush him.” It was prophetic. Jesus was a descendant of Jacob’s thigh who eternally had the blessing and birthright and favor of His Father, and even though He lived a perfectly just and moral life, on the cross He forfeited the birthright, endured the curse, and the Father’s smile became a frown. Jesus did that so that liars and losers could be made winners. Jesus was crushed, but through His death He conquered. He won by losing. He lost so that you could win, was defeated so you could conquer, was made weak so you could be made strong.


  1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

  2. What’s something God has been showing you about Himself or Christianity that surprises, shocks, or provokes you? In what ways do we try to fit God into a box? How can we repent?

  3. Wrestling involves all of you, focused attention, and challenge. How are you doing as a follower of Christ – are you compartmentalizing your faith? not giving God the attention He deserves? not allowing God to oppose and challenge are ways of believing and behaving? What might change look like in these areas for you?

  4. What’s the big problem in your life right now? Who or what is the Esau? How do you think this story in Genesis 32 invites us to look beyond Esau to our central problem in life? How can dealing with our ultimate problem give us courage in the face of lesser problems?

  5. In Christianity, the way to win is to lose, the way up is down, the last will be first. Why is this so challenging for us? What are resources within Christianity to live more fully into the reality that when we are weak then we are strong?

  6. How do you see Jesus in this story?  

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS US - Sermon Study Guide #5 - What Are You Doing Here?

READ – 1 Kings 19:1-18

Lent is a season for self-reflection and examination. We go (or should go) to the doctor for regular checkups on our physical health. Lent is a tool to examine our spiritual health. It’s a season to let God ask us some questions about who we are and what we’re doing.

This week we’re hearing God ask Elijah (and us) about our times of depression, despair, and burn out – which we all deal with in some shape or form, if not now then sometime in our life. It’s important to see that 1 Kings 19 follows 1 Kings 18 – chapter 18 is the highest point in Elijah’s career (his confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel). 1 Kings 19 is a description of the lowest point in Elijah’s career. He’s on the run, a hunted man, completely disillusioned from his expectations for success and revival in Israel.


1 Kings 19:3-4 describe Elijah’s journey into the wilderness. What’s going on? He’s not going on a sabbatical – he is literally quitting, giving up, throwing in the towel – even suicidal. Elijah is at rock bottom. That shows us that the experience of depression and despair is part of the spiritual journey – no one is immune or exempt from this experience. Elijah is one of the most important prophets in the history of Israel. He’s an exemplar of righteousness and faith, and yet he experiences hopelessness and burn out. That should be encouraging. Seasons of depression are not a sign that you are a weak person, a faithless Christian, a spiritual loser. The wisdom of the Scripture and the Christian tradition says that these dark nights of the soul are to be expected.


How does God meet Elijah in depression? First, we see that God meets Elijah in Elijah’s full humanity. Notice God doesn’t come to Elijah with a pep talk or moral advice. Instead God gives him food and lets him nap! Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is order takeout and take a nap. The Angel of the LORD also meets Elijah with a touch. In despair we often need the physical presence of another – God created us with bodies and meets us in all our physicality. The Bible doesn’t reduce our problems to the spiritual, psychological, social, or physical – rather it acknowledges that we are complex, embodied beings. And God is concerned with every part of us.

Second, God meets Elijah with gracious persistence. God asks Elijah the same question twice, “What are you doing here?” That repetition is important. God is communicating to Elijah that what Elijah is doing here is not the same thing as what God is doing here. Elijah was where he was because he was done, at a dead end, exhausted, and burned out. But God is there doing something else. He was where Elijah was allowing him rest, showing him who he was and who God is, preparing him for what He would do next in Elijah’s life. When we are in the dark night of the soul, it’s important to ask, ‘What is God doing here?’

Third, God meets Elijah with His glorious comprehensiveness. God meets Elijah in a low whisper. That doesn’t mean God never works in hurricane winds, earthquakes, and fire – but God is showing Elijah (and us) that we shouldn't reduce our conception of God. He doesn’t work with us in a one-size-fits-all approach. God can’t be predicted or controlled. He does the unexpected and meets us with what we need, not what we think we need.


God leads us through despair by giving us (1) a word of rebuke, and (2) a word of grace. God’s rebuke comes to Elijah was that his own plan and timetable led to his despair, not God. God shows Elijah that His plans are beyond and bigger than Elijah – they’re global and cosmic in their scope. God wanted to release from Elijah the burden and pressure of living like Elijah’s plan was ultimate. When we see that what God has done, is doing, and will do is far greater than us it frees us in unimaginable ways from the burden of living like it’s all up to us. God renews Elijah through a low, quiet whisper. What’s going on? First, don’t miss that as the winds, earthquake, and fire pass over the mountain, Elijah is hiding in a cave. Many scholars think this may be the same cleft or cave of the rock that God hid Moses in when He passed by Moses to show him His glory. In the New Testament, stones and rocks like the one Elijah is hiding in are described by the New Testament writers as pictures of Jesus. Jesus is the cave, the rock that shields us from the blast furnace of God’s holy presence, absorbing our sin and God’s justice, so that we can receive the low, quiet whisper of God’s mercy and grace. God is showing us that in times of despair, we need to hide ourselves in Jesus. The still, small voice is also the quiet ordinary way that God comes to us – not usually through the miraculous, spectacular, and extraordinary, but the powerful, ordinary word of the gospel. See Elijah was high when he was successful, and depressed when he failed. We all need a word that humbles us in our success and lifts us up in our failure. The gospel says that we are such big failures that the Son of God had to die for us, but at the same time we are so loved that Jesus chose to die for us.


  1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

  2. Is it encouraging that a spiritual giant like Elijah went through seasons of depression and despair? How does that challenge your notions of spiritual health?   

  3. Have you experienced seasons of burn out and despair? What was it (or is it) like? How do you feel like God used that in your life – what do you think He was doing there?  

  4. God gives Elijah dinner and a nap. Christianity is not about escaping our bodies, but glorifying God through them. How does this story of Elijah help us see the deep connection between our soul and body? What role does your physical well-being play in our spiritual health?  

  5. We’re often looking for God in the wind, earthquake, and fire – but often His ways are much more ordinary. How does God meeting Elijah in a low, quiet whisper go against a lot of our Christian cultural expectations that God will always work in extraordinary ways? Are you challenged by that? How important are Scripture, the sacraments, prayer, and church in your life?

  6. How did you grow in your awe and appreciation of the gospel through this sermon? How is that changing you?   

QUESTIONS GOD ASKS US - Sermon Study Guide #4 - Is Not This What It Means To Know Me?

READ – Jeremiah 22:1-5; 13-17  

Many times people come to the Bible looking for answers. That presupposes we are asking the right questions. Thankfully, often in the Bible God draws near and asks questions of people (e.g. Adam and Eve, Cain, Abraham, Hagar, Moses, Elijah, Job) not to get clarity for Himself, but to offer people better self-knowledge and knowledge of God.

This week we are looking at a question found in the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah: “Is not this what it means to know me?” It’s a question that gets right at the heart of reality – isn’t this what it means to be in a true relationship with God?  The “this” that God is referring to in Jeremiah 22:5 refers to King Josiah’s practice of administering justice and righteousness in his kingdom – he took care of the poor, oppressed, and needy. Those words, “justice and righteousness,” is really a phrase that uses two words to describe one idea. In the Old Testament, “righteousness” was relational and meant to be in a right relationship. “Justice” was the practice of putting to right those things that were wrong. It was a relational and public concept. Perhaps the best modern equivalent we have is “social justice.” In the Old Testament it involved rescuing the oppressed, not exploiting the immigrant or refugee, guarding innocent life, the fatherless, and widow.  


God’s question is directed at the audience identified in 22:2 – the king, the officers, and the people at the gates. These were people who had access to opportunity, influence, resources and enjoyed the comforts of life. This question is directed to those living in affluence, luxury, and comfort. Who is that question for today? If you’re living an ordinary, suburban, middle-class life in Orange County – don’t try to dodge or deflect this question. The question is for you.


You should let this question do its prophetic and penetrating work. It’s meant to be uncomfortable, to challenge, to shake us up. That’s what prophets do. But from there it’s important to ask to follow-up questions: (1) Do I really know God? (2) Do I really know the poor and oppressed? To help answer the first, do you see that God’s delight in justice and righteousness is not a side hobby, but something that’s central to His character? Do you know this God of the Bible? In any healthy relationship, you should know what delights the other person. God is no different. He delights in setting oppressed people free, righting inequities, befriending the marginalized. Answering the second question is tough for us culturally – many of us live in places designed to isolate us from poverty and injustice. We can read statistics and scan social media – but Scripture is calling us to be in relationship with those who are robbed, exploited, oppressed, neglected, and brutalized.


We need change both at the intellectual level, but also the motivational level. It’s not enough merely to know injustice exists, our hearts need to be drawn to see, and feel, and act in ways that right relationships and right wrongs. For king Jehoaikim, his problem was with his eyes and his heart. He only saw and was motivated by things that profited him, his comfort, and his legacy. When Jehoaikim saw the poor, he saw himself above and distanced from them. When we see the poor, who do we see? A change in our vision and motivation will only come when we (1) see Jesus in the poor, and (2) see ourselves in the poor. Jesus is the coming king that Jeremiah foresaw who would bring righteousness (Jer 23:5-6). But He was surprising in that He was the king who became poor to make the poor rich (2 Cor 8:9). He also invited His followers to see the poor as Jesus himself (Matt 25:31-46). Secondly, Scripture offer us resources not to serve the poor out of a guilt-complex (I’ll do this to fix myself) or god-complex (I’ll do this to fix them), but out of grateful posture that knows that in our spiritual bankruptcy and poverty, Christ emptied himself to cure, rescue, and save us.


1.       What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?

2.      Social justice is hot right now. Honestly, where are you with issues of justice in our culture? Are you apathetic, skeptical, passionate? Why do you think you feel the way that you do about justice and righteousness?  How is Scripture shaping your thinking when it comes to injustices in our community, nation, and world?  

3.      What do you think is most challenging for a follower of Jesus living in Orange County to actually live out God’s invitation and call to justice? Doing justice often doesn’t factor into the ordinary ways we view discipleship – we tend to think of growing in Christ in relation to church, Scripture reading and memorization, prayer, small groups. These are all good things, but how is our discipleship stunted if we leave out a public expression of justice?

4.      What’s been your relational experience with “the poor?” How has God changed you through that relationship?

5.       How does the Gospel change both our thinking and feeling about the oppressed and poor?

6.      Trinity OC has a Compassion Team that has been doing some amazing work on connecting our church with opportunities to partner with others in working for justice in our community. Ask a pastor or elder for more information about how you can get involved in following Jesus’ call on this area of your life.