Do you love Jesus, or your theology about Jesus?

It is the deconstructive work that is painful because we have learned to emotionally invest , not in Jesus, but in our theology. A good test to determine whether Jesus or our theology takes precedence is to discern the degree to which we are willing to unlearn something and learn something new about Him. Michael Hardin

Ooh that one hits home. The truth is our theology is never perfect, but are we actually open to having it be changed by God? Are we actually willing to unlearn something, to learn something new? Christ

As I look back on my life as a Christian, pastor, and theology-nerd the amount of stuff that’s changed is dramatic. The question though isn’t how have I changed, but am I willing to continue to be changed by the prompting of God’s Spirit and Truth? Because one thing is for sure, I don’t have it all perfectly together. And I need to invest in Jesus, not in my theological thoughts about Jesus. And the difference between those two things can sometimes be wider than we think.

But what about you? How have you changed and grown in depth with Jesus? How has your theology changed? How is it changing? 

Because one thing is sure, we all need to become more like Jesus and that process involves change and it never ends. May we be open to that process and to the prompting of God’s Holy Spirit to conform us more and more into the likeness of Christ.

Finding God on Your iPod: Finding Your Way Through Darkness and “No Longer Slaves”

A few Sundays ago we changed up our schedule. I strongly believe that God’s Holy Spirit can prepare and prompt you well ahead of time. By that I mean that planning and preparation are pretty important to me, and I believe God uses those.

But I also believe in listening to the Spirit in the moment as well.

So I have this little rule – plan for everything you can – and listen and change as you God’s Spirit leads in the moment.

So that’s what we ended up doing a few weeks ago. I had a great sermon planned, but in light of some significant health challenges our church was facing it didn’t feel it was the right one. Instead, the church leadership felt we should share on why difficulty happens and why it’s happening right now in our church.

So here is the audio of what I shared. I don’t have teaching notes like normal, or blog posts pre-prepped but I think that’s okay. Because when God’s spirit is moving, the only option you have is to follow it. Hope the audio is helpful.

God’s Like a Child Waiting to Be Found

764984_78439510I read this the other day, and it just struck me with how true it is. Shauna Niequist writes this:

What writing teaches me, over and over, is that God is waiting to be found everywhere; in the darkest corners of our lives, the dead ends and bad neighbourhoods we wake up in, and in the simplest, lightest, most singular and luminous moments. He’s hiding, like a child, in quite obvious and visible places, because he wants to be found.

And I just so believe that. I mean deep in my bones believe that. That God want’s to be found. That he is part of all areas of our lives, sometimes in these obvious and amazing places waiting to be found.

  • What if rather than assuming God is hiding from us, he wants to be found by us.
  • What if rather than assuming God is only in huge mountaintop experiences, he is all around us?
  • What if rather than assuming that only mystics and spiritual gurus can find God, that God wants to be found by everyone? Even us ordinary people with jobs, cooking, and kids?
  • What if God isn’t far out there, but right with you.

The question then is are you looking for him? Because I believe like Shauna writes, that God’s hiding, like a child, in quite obvious and visible places, because he wants to be found

The Holy Spirit that Brings Challenge Not Just Confirmation

Holy-Spirit-15788I want to talk about the Holy Spirit, and theology in a moment. And to do that I want to use a quote from Michael Hardin.

Just a heads up though before reading further. This next quote is both true, and also challenging. And if it doesn’t challenge you, then read it again, pray, sit, and it soon will.

Here is what Michael Hardin says about the Holy Spirit, God, and theology:

If all the Holy Spirit does is to confirm your personal theology, it probably isn’t the Holy Spirit. The work of the Spirit is to conform each of us as persons and together as a people into the image of Jesus.

And this is just so true, and disturbing at the same point. It is obvious none of us are Jesus, none of us are Christ. We each have areas that need to be remade, transformed, or shaped into being Christlike.

And Hardin raises the point that if all the Holy Spirit does is comfort you, confirm your view of God, and counsel you, it probably isn’t the Holy Spirit. Because part of what the Holy Spirit does is to challenge you to conform to Christ. This means dying to parts of yourself, this means being convicted of sin and changed.

The point is that if the Holy Spirit isn’t doing any challenging or convicting, we’re probably just not listening enough…

The Valley of Dried Bones and FreshWind

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn Sunday we looked at an amazing passage in Ezekiel 37, the valley of dry bones. The valley in this vision from Ezekiel is a place of death. It’s a boneyard, or a graveyard where all life has vanished. And God comes to Ezekiel and asks him “Can these bones live again”. And Ezekiel says he doesn’t know, that it is up to the Lord.

The beautiful thing about this passage is that it is up to God, and God shows what his desire is. His desire is to give life to lifeless things. His desire is to renew dry and death filled things. His desire is to resurrect out of a boneyard new life and new spirit.

So in the story a wind rushes and Ezekiel sees the bones comes together, and God’s spirit fills them. His breath, his life, his Spirit, his wind flows into the bones bringing a freshness and a newness. This was not an act that happens at the end of time, but an act in time. God brings healing and a fresh wind to people in real life dry and dark circumstances.

We ended looking at how God did that years ago with the Israelite people but that he wants to do that with us today too. Because God is in the business of brining life to dry bones. God is in the business of rejuvenating broken spirits. And the amazing thing about this decision of God is that it is unilateral. If you read in the passage God continually says “I will do this…I will do this…I will do this”. God acts because that’s God’s desire.

So on Sunday we left everyone with one simple challenge. If it’s God’s desire to fill us, to send forth his life, Spirit, wind, and breath – then simply breathe deeply. Breathe deeply asking God to fill all of you and trusting he will. I gave them this impossible challenge, to each time you breathe this week,  remember and picture God filling you. And yes the challenge might be impossible, but that’s the beautiful thing about God. Sometimes the impossible happens and life flows into dry bones.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: God wants to breath new life into you

Take Aways…

  • The life of faith is one of change
  • Dead souls do not produce the same stuff as living ones do. Michael Gungor
  • “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”
  • You are in the valley of dry bones, when no hope seems possible and no change is on the horizon.
  • God will give new life to prove he is truly God.
  • God wants to breathe it into us
  • My soul cries out / My soul cries out for you / These bones cry out / These dry bones cry for you / To live and move / ‘Cause only You can raise the dead / Can lift my head up. Gungor, Dry Bones
  • Breathe Deeply
  • God is in the business of filling

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it?

When have you ever felt to be in the valley of dry bones? What did it feel like? What made you feel that way? Was anything of a help in that time?

What were you picturing as we read the story? When we read the story what emotions filled you – hope, numbness, desire, intrigue, wonder, doubt? What brought on those feelings?

As you were breathing do you believe that God was filling? What helps you to believe that, and what is a block to believing that? How might God want to fill you even now with new breathe and life? What did you think of this quote: Dead souls do not produce the same stuff as living ones do. Michael Gungor. If God breathes into your soul making it alive what might he want to produce through you?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take sometime to talk to your kids. Talk to them about what you love about them. Talk to them about their wonder, their awe, and why having a “wide-awake” soul is a beautiful thing. Ask them what they want to create, maybe read the story of Ezekiel and ask them to draw, or paint it. Talk to them about never losing their wonder, breathe, and life in their soul.

Challenge for this Week: Every time you breathe remember God

Dried Out Old Bones…

645124_49603802Have you ever felt dry?

I mean brittle, burnt out, scorched, barren, soul-dry?

Do you know what I’m talking about where you just feel so empty, and done?

Come Sunday we are going to be looking at one of the most important stories that first recognizes that followers of God can get dry. We can get brittle, we can get bleached, and broken. But more importantly, come Sunday we are going to look at how to find life again.

Sometimes the most difficult thing in the world when you are dry and feeling tossed aside is to find life. But I think that’s exactly what we need in the dry, barren, and desert times. We need new life. We need new spirit, we need even a rejuvenated soul.

The question is how do you find it? Well to give you a hint as to where we are going it doesn’t have a lot to do with us, but a lot with God.

So that’s what we are looking at come Sunday, because God wants to pour his life into us so that we have wide-awake souls. Michael Gungor writes this, Dead souls do not produce the same stuff as living ones do.

And he’s right. Our souls need to be alive if we are going to be able to change our lives, change our communities, and change our world.

So come Sunday we be finding out how to find life. But before we get there why not listen to this amazing song by Gungor that is all about our topic. It might even give you a hint what passage we’re looking at. I’ve included the lyrics below too. Listen and reflect and if you’re in a bit of a desert or dry place why not invite God into that place. Because he’s the only one who can bring life to a valley of dry bones.

Learning to Leave the Desert

1412359_51543500How do you leave the desert?

I mean honestly. When your life is feeling dry, distant, and you feel alone – how do you leave that place? When you feel like you are wandering around in circles, when life has passed you by, when you look back and regret decisions wondering – how did I end up here? How do you leave “here”? How do you find a place with life, hope and grace? How do you leave the desert?

I don’t know if you’ve been there but I have. I have been in a place that once was good but got drained of life and was draining me. I have been in a place where all of a sudden I felt alone, distant from God, and wondering where I was. I have been in a desert staring at the empty world around me wondering how I will ever find my way out. And maybe you’ve been there too. It is a difficult place to be. The trouble is that life seems to take us to the desert.

The question is how do we leave? How do we find new life again? How do we find hope again? How do we find a land flowing with milk and honey?

That’s what we are exploring on Sunday how to leave the desert and find new life. We are going to be exploring a pretty well known passage with some pretty not-so-well-known conclusions.

Come Sunday we’ll explore how to find your way out, which not so surprisingly, begins with God finding you.

But that’s Sunday, what about today? What if your desert is so difficult, and oppressive that you can’t wait till Sunday to start leaving it?

Well I’ll give you a hint of where we are going on Sunday. It doesn’t begin with you. It doesn’t begin with you forcing or finding your way out. It begins with God finding you and leading you out.

So today why not make yourself easy to find. Why not take some actual time, sit in space with God, ask him to direct, and to wait on him. Give him time to speak to you, give him your attention, and wait patiently on him. This, of course, isn’t easy, but it’s a lot easier than languishing in the desert.

So come Sunday we’ll explore how to find your way out in more depth, but it does begin with God. So no matter how your life has been these past few weeks, days, or even years why not let yourself be found by God. Don’t fill your weekend so full of noise, business, and stuff that he can’t break through to you. Sit still, stop, and listen. And who knows maybe God will show up in a burning bush and lead you out…

Prayer Thoughts, and Tips

Today I want to share a short post on prayer; a few things I’ve learned that have helped me grow closer with God. Here are a few suggestions in no particular order:

1)    Give God Space:  At one point in my life my relationship with God seemed to slide but I couldn’t discern why. It just seemed as if we weren’t close anymore. As I reflected, I realized that while I hadn’t done anything overt to distance myself from God, I didn’t give him any space in my life. I listened to my iPod in the shower. Listened to the radio in the car. Had music playing while working, and cleaned the house with the TV on. I was asking God to speak to me, but I realized I hadn’t given him any space to speak. My entire life was filled with noise, with stuff, with things happening. What I’ve started to realize is that for God to speak I have to leave space in my life and day for him. I need to give him my attention and that has changed our whole relationship.

2)    Pray in the Morning:   I really don’t believe there is one time in the day to pray, but I have found, for me, that prayer in the morning is crucial. Brother Andrew said, “If we do not actively seek God early in the morning, it will be very unlikely that we meet him later in the day.” I have simply found this to be true in my life. If I rush past God in the morning the chances of me slowing down in the day aren’t great. So even though I have a thousand other things I’d like to do in the morning, I know the most important thing is to connect with God.

3)    Pray all the Time, Not Just the Mornings: I know this sort of contradicts my last suggestion, but well…life is complex. Here is though what I noticed in my own life a few years ago. What I noticed was that I prayed to get it done, to get it over with, or to put in my time. I prayed in the morning so I could get on with the business at hand and forgot about God the rest of the day. It was as if being present for a moment in the morning was enough for the whole day. Now I know better. I need God all throughout the day. Now my morning prayer is often a prayer to help me discover where God is acting throughout the day. And this has made all the difference.

4)    Don’t Give Up:  Ready for a confession? Not every conversation I have with my wife is scintillating and life changing. But she has had a tremendous influence in my life and changed me in so many ways. I think something similar happens with God. Not every prayer time is amazing, deep, and energizing, but I know it does change me. The point is to not give up, and to keep in the rhythm of prayer. Prayer is often called a spiritual discipline and this is true. It does take some discipline. So now, when after I’ve prayed and I feel a little frustrated, I remind myself it’s not about how I feel but continually being in the relationship that brings about change. That’s true in my relationship with Krista and even more true in my relationship with God.

So I hope those help you. But what have you learned? What would you add?