Isaiah::6-11

October 16, 2017

A number of years ago I went and participated in a Jazzercise class. 

Are you unfamiliar with this blend of jazz and exercise? It's dance exercise where a person from the front shouts our encouragement while modeling and describing the moves you need to perform as well. 

Making exercise more enticing for me by pairing it with dance is like trying to make dental work more appealing by pairing it with doing your taxes. No and thank you. 

I remember walking into the space with the expectation of humiliation. It wasn't a matter of wondering if I would be embarrassed by much more when

Instead what I experienced was incredible grace and a lot of fun. I was welcomed and encouraged not to worry about keeping up or getting it all right. The woman leading the class called out my name a number of times with affirmations that I was doing great. By the end of the class I felt included and safe in that space. 

Now, this is a bit of a spoiler, but there isn't even a single bit of jazzercise in the book of Isaiah. But what it does include is the description of being in a space where you're certain you don't belong. It's something that many of us have experienced and some of us experience with alarming frequency. 

What's so amazing about the story that we look at in this message is that this space is the presence of God and the word delivered is that you do actually belong. 

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Isaiah::2-4

October 9, 2017

The other day I overheard some men working on a house talking. I didn't hear much of it, but there was one line I heard very clearly. 

"Surrounded by beautiful women all day. Now THAT would be the life."

THE life. It would be THE LIFE. The pinnacle of all existences would be to have a subjective measure of beauty assigned to a gender and then you get to have these individuals in your general presence for 12ish hours a day (he didn't say all night). 

While I heard some authority in his voice when he spoke, I'm not sold. 

Now, to take this man's sexist and objectifying words literally would be a mistake, right? He was just making an off-hand remark. It was a joke. Nothing to be taken too seriously.

But isn't this how the worst lies we've created as a culture stay in circulation? We make comments here and there about what a great life would be and we don't examine them or dispute them because they aren't meant to be taken seriously. 

"There's nothing I wouldn't do for 1 million dollars."
"When I win the lottery I'm just going to sit back and let everyone else work for me."
"Have you seen her? She's way out of his league."
"I need a caramel frappucinno."

None of this would really be a problem if we didn't structure our lives and time around the pursuit of these lies. Our schedules and mental energy can be built around being in relationship with the right kind of people, making the right amounts of money and holding the right kinds of positions. We go to sleep under the blanket of these expectations that are kept alive by jokes and little comments. 

So, what happens when these expectations build up from individuals to whole societies? What happens when we build a world of lies about what we exist for and what the best life looks like? Things can get really dark in violent and overwhelming ways and we can see a bunch of beautiful and culturally successful people gripped by anxiety and depression. 

The book of Isaiah isn't calling out people for having too much fun and not being religious enough. It's about addressing the lies that have so gripped people that they chase the parts of life that have proven time and time again to create bondage and suffering. God's created us for something so much greater than we claim in our jokes and off-handed remarks. How do we hear that call again, repent and seek after what God created us for? 

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Isaiah::Context & Background

October 2, 2017

If you walked through a mall in the 90's or 00's you know all about Abercrombie & Fitch. They were the clothing store that were absolutely everywhere and some shirtless teenage boy was probably outside ready to spray you with cologne. The inside of the stores had massive posters of scantily clad models and the lighting theme featured the equivalent of one 20 watt bulb somewhere in the store.

You would probably bet that this clothing store started in the early to mid 1990's, but you'd be off by a full century. 

Abercrombie and Fitch was actually a premiere outdoor clothing retailer started in 1892. Some of their most famous customers were Ernest Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt up until they declared bankruptcy in 1977. 

What the whole store started as with David Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch became something very, very different  as time went on. Now, change is the result of time and nothing stays the same forever, but can you imagine Teddy Roosevelt walking into an Abercrombie & Fitch today? 

Sometimes people, organizations or whole nations drift from their origins to become something very different. 

That's exactly what the book of Isaiah is all about! We're going to start a new series that takes a look at this book and the theme of being called back to your true identity. I encourage you to join us if you feel like you've drifted away from yourself. If you started a journey going in one direction and today you're in a much different (and not better) place. It will be good to be reminded of who we are and the call to become ourselves again. 

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Core Values:: Advocacy

September 27, 2017

This week Insil Kang brings a message about how we can partner with those treated insignificantly by systems, individuals or indifference. 

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Core Values:: Prayer

September 22, 2017

 

One of my favorite games is the zoom in and zoom out game. 

The fun of the game is always found in how foreign everyday items look when you zoom in so far you lose all context and perspective. What you are looking at isn't something obscure or hard to identify, but a shift in your vantage point changes everything. Something you should know on sight becomes totally alien. 

I think this is a good metaphor for the spiritual journey. There's a kind of living and engaging with this world that can encounter the power of a loving God who created and remains in all we see and know. The coffee shop I sit in while I type this doesn't change in substance one bit, but my perspective on what's going on with the people swirling around me sure can. 

We all have things that will fill up the rest of today. Those who are interested in how the story of Jesus impacts the events and people of our day don't have different days, but how we engage those days should change. It's not a change in substance, it's a change of perspective. 

There are certain things that we can do that help us maintain a larger or zoomed out perspective on people and events. Prayer is one that I think needs greater levels of engagement and practice. Taking our frustrations, hopes, dreams, joys and sadness to an eternal place resets all the finite events that make up our days. I think this can change everything because we are powerless to control the circumstances of our day, but in prayer we are empowered to engage well with these uncontrolled circumstances. 

If you're frustrated, confused or uninterested in prayer I invite you to come join us this Sunday. I think there's something powerful for you in the act of prayer you may not have experienced previously. 

 
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Core Values:: Intentionality

September 14, 2017

This last week I was in Grocery Outlet buying whipped cream and bacon because yolo

While I was walking down the aisle with one eye on my children and one eye on sales prices a man started speaking in my general direction. I say general direction because he was facing a pre-packaged rack of ribs. 

"I've never see ribs this cheap. This is a great deal. This is a GREAT deal."

At the second "great" he turned and locked eyes with me. There was no confusing what was going on. He wanted confirmation that this was an exceptionally great price for ribs and I was his man. 

Now, I want to be the kind of person who can help out a stranger in a time of need. I just taught on the Good Samaritan last week. Nobody had been robbed or beaten, it was just one man looking for agreement over reasonably priced butchered meat. 

I couldn't do it. I mumbled "pretty great" while pretending that my boys were a danger to themselves or others and I ran after them. 

This week when we're going to be having the exceptional Harriet Congdon leading us through our core value of Intentionality. This is stepping into relationships a step beyond what is known or comfortable. While you could make a case that this man wasn't someone in my community that I needed to engage seriously, what I felt when he started talking is common with people much more familiar. 

We're overwhelmed with our own lives and circumstances and taking on anyone else's burden feels impossible. So what do we do in those spaces? How do we balance self-care with other's care? What's the step beyond that God is calling us into with our relationships? 

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Core Values:: Diversity

September 5, 2017

So what kind of person are you?

Because there are clearly 2 types of people in this world.

Type 1:: When you go to a restaurant you have been to before you immediately order the thing that you've ordered every other time you've been there.

Type 2:: When you go to a restaurant you have been to before you immediately look through the specials or new menu items to see if there's something fresh you can try.

Now, I'm normally a type 2, but I can see the appeal of that type 1 life.

There's something so disappointing about branching out of your comfort zone and feeling like things were so much better and safer with what you already knew. You bought the hype of the new lettuce and dill pickle wrap when a burger would have safely hit the spot.

What's interesting about people is that different times and emotions can cause us to lean towards adventure or comfort. Sometimes we want to get a little crazy and branch out and other times we want the power of the known and predictable. There are better cups of coffee than Starbucks to be found when you travel into other cities, but there isn't a more predictable cup of coffee to be found.

This week we want to talk about that push and pull of adventure and comfort with something more important than food and beverage choices.

People.

We are often drawn to consistency and predictability in our relationships. We want people who come from similar places with similar backgrounds and experiences. Finding out you share a common interest as an acquaintance is a GAME CHANGER. We have something to talk about or something in common to fall back on if things get awkward.

The problem is that these comfortable relationships (while good and necessary) can also unintentionally reinforce our experience as the only experience. We struggle more and more to understand people in media, news, work environments who come from different places and their words feel more and more foreign to us.

This Sunday we want to talk about our value for diversity by exploring all the incredible benefits God has in store for us when we intentionally step into stretching spaces relationally.

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Core Values:: Curiosity

August 28, 2017

Jesus consistently spoke against the kind of faith that was certain it was right at the expense of people on the margins. Jesus invited the disciples to see people, the world and God from a different angle that was far more inclusive and grace-filled than they had previously known. 

How is it that this movement can be marked by some of the more religiously certain and judgemental folks we all know and work with? At least part of it is stepping away from the wonder and mystery Jesus was inviting us into and trading that for a religious certainty that makes us feel right and safe. 

This message is all about Cascade's core value of curiosity, which is seeing that there is more that we don't know about God and the world and stepping into that mystery with questions and a willingness to learn. 

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Cascade Launch Sunday with “Science” Mike McHargue and Jonathan Martin.

August 22, 2017

Cascade is a church. 

Churches are not new, uncommon or especially different from one another. 

So, why should you come to Cascade this Sunday or any other Sunday for that matter? 

That's exactly what we want to talk about and we're throwing a party tomorrow to have that conversation. 

Cascade was started with an eye for people who don't feel comfortable in church anywhere else. It exists to welcome in your friends, co-workers and family members and all of their uniqueness. We got started to create a safe space for uncomfortable conversations. We don't all agree and we celebrate that fact. 

Ultimately what we do share is a curiosity and a love for the story of Jesus. God showing up in our daily realities to be with us and to lead us more fully into ourselves. We are saved, redeemed and restored by this crazy God and man walking and living with us on a path through death and onto new life. 

What's unique is you don't have be all the way aligned with that previous paragraph to belong. Come experience something before you have worry about believing it all. 

Take a listen to hear our heart for doing church and if you're far away from Portland, take a listen to be encouraged in your journey of faith from two of the best communicators around. 

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Power of Paradox:: The Spirit or The Flesh

August 7, 2017

Of all the similarities I have with my Dutch grandfather the sweet tooth is the one that has haunted me the most. 

It's incredibly rare to ever feel like ice cream isn't an option. It doesn't matter how much of any meal I've had, ice cream always seems to be the best way to wind it down. 

During the really dark days in our house when we don't have any ice cream on hand I start scavenging and making the poorest of choices. Currently I could not tell you the location of the chocolate bars my wife purchased for making s'mores. They have been hidden from me.
I've previously been banned from getting into the chocolate chips that we use for baking.
My children have a small stockpile of granola bars and fruit snacks at all times. My wife can't figure out how they eat through so many of these items in a week. I could tell you, but it would make me very sad.

If it has sugar in it I will probably start thinking it's a good idea to eat all of it around 8:00pm

I've tried so many times to mentally reason through making better choices that don't involve eating all my children's fruit snacks.
It isn't healthy to eat 12 packages of fruit snacks.
My children will cry when they see that they don't have any fruit snacks.
There's no good answers when someone discovers this pile of wrappers.  
This won't actually make me feel full. 
I will be actively sick in t-minus 45 minutes. 

There seems to be a very active divide between my brain and my body. There's this drive to eat even when my brain is screaming to stop. 

And there is language in the Bible that seems to support this reality when they talk about the Spirit and the flesh. In Galatians 5 it says;
     "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is         contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so         that you are not to do whatever you want. "

But what is the flesh and what is the spirit? Is the flesh the sugar monster within me and the Spirit the eye of God watching me gorge myself disappointedly? Is it possible that a surface reading allows us to pull apart two things that are actually inextricably linked? What is the flesh all about and what is the Spirit all about? Is there a war raging inside of each and every one of us?

Welp, I think you should show up this Sunday to hear more of the conversation. There are deep waters here and it may help us to think of ourselves as needing alignment of two complementary parts of ourselves, and less a civil war to be won by one side or the other. 

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