Getting Dressed for Success

Getting Dressed for Success

ENCOUNTER:  Read Colossians 3:1-17

It takes a brave and mature soul to be quiet and reflect on what might have to die in order to more fully run after Jesus.  This passage of scripture helps spur us along.  There is quite a list to choose from:  Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying.  

Would you be willing to simply be quiet for a second and ask God what on this list is a little too rooted in your life, what is some habit or sin that is feeding your flesh and squelching the Holy Spirit?   

I love this passage of scripture because if you read it closely, Paul gives us a picture of how to move forward in the process of sanctification.  It is a three part process.  And it is very similar to the process you already have in place every morning.  

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Is your brokenness leading to devastation or redemption?

Is your brokenness leading to devastation or redemption?

Encounter:  Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Looking hard at the relationship between David and Absalom this last week highlights the deep dysfunction and brokenness that mark many of our lives.  It does seem that there are several ways to deal with this sort of chaos when it breaks into our lives. We can:

1)  Pretend it isn't there.  Actually, what is worse than pretending it is there is being totally oblivious to the fact that we have food all down our shirt as we go on with our normal lives.  Every one of us has been a victim of our context, by others, and by ourselves.  This has caused us to live with a limp, and to pretend it isn't there is just foolish.

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Spitting On The Kryptonite

Spitting On The Kryptonite

WHEN IN PURSUIT OF THE HEART OF GOD AND THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE IT BRINGS, THERE IS GREAT REWARED AWAITING THE PERSON WHO ENDURES – WHO PERSISTS.

And at first glance, those “rewards” seem pretty obvious when observing the life and experiences of Joseph (Genesis 37-47) – especially in 41:41-49 where Pharaoh makes Joseph second in command and chief operating officer over all of Egypt.

But a more careful reading of the story reveals even deeper and more valuable “rewards.” These aren’t the kinds of benefits that add to Joseph’s financial wealth or political clout but those that contribute to his personal character.

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Leveraging our doubt for spiritual formation

Leveraging our doubt for spiritual formation

If we are honest, most of our faith formation ended at 12.  For those who have grown up in and around the church our brains are full of bible stories, veggie tales, flannel graphs, and Noah's Ark wall paper.  We know the basic gospel and love that Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!

But the second adolescence begins, our wires get crossed and our brains get consumed with trying to figure out who we are and who we can make out with.  Developing our theology, deepening our intimacy with Jesus, and being shaped by the Holy Spirit get put on the back burner, sometimes for the rest of our lives.

Most of us have a childish faith.  Jesus does call us to have a child like faith, but that isn't what I am talking about.  I am talking about the childhood faith that is housed in the body and mind of an adult.  What stunts our growth is that by the time we reengage our faith in early adulthood, we bring significant questions and doubts that are no match to the flannel graph stories of our childhood.

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Thank God for OLD WOMEN!

Thank God for OLD WOMEN!

When I reflect on my own spiritual journey, some of the most significant markers have been by some old women.  It started with my aunt was the only spiritual influence in my life when I was a child.  She took me to camp, took me to Vacation Bible School, and prayed with me often.  Her investment opened the doors for Jesus to grab a hold of my heart and launch my walk with God.  

Over the years I have had several other women come into my life and be used by God in huge ways.  The one I would like to share with you is my dear friend Marti Burger.  She works at the denominational offices in Chicago and was the head of youth ministry for our denomination for many years.

When I think of where I am where I have come from in both my professional, and personal development, Marti Burger, single handedly, got me here.  Professionally, she saw a diamond in the rough and took a chance on me for some denominational leadership when nobody had any clue who I was.  And with every little opportunity for leadership I was given more opportunities to grow and develop.  Everything I get to do outside of our church and all the writing I have done is because of her encouragement and coaching.  

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An unusual leader, a reluctant warrior, and an unlikely hero.

An unusual leader, a reluctant warrior, and an unlikely hero.

ENCOUNTER:  Read Judges 4:1-24

I know, I know.  But I couldn’t resist this picture that a friend sent me from a “tongue-in-cheek” Lego rendition of Bible stories.  If you haven’t read the whole passage above and therefore you can’t imagine what is happening in this crazy picture, I can’t wait for you to read and reflect on this unusual passage!  And if you can’t, for the life of you, figure out why I would post this picture, then you missed an awkward laugh we had on Sunday morning as part of our study time in this PG-13 passage.

While we shared an uncomfortable chuckle over the gory details of this text,

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THE PROBLEM WITH QUESTIONS

THE PROBLEM WITH QUESTIONS

Voltaire encouraged us to “Judge people by their questions rather than their answers.” I think he was on to something. Sometimes it’s the questions people ask that stay with us and lead us into our greatest discoveries, isn’t it?  Francis Schaeffer’s great question of the late 70s was, “How should we, then, live?” The end of one of my favorite movies, “To End All Wars” concludes with the question, “At what price mercy?” And what lover of God could bundle biblical history’s most profound questions without mention of the one God askes in Isaiah 6, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

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"Who am I, that God would take notice of me?"

"Who am I, that God would take notice of me?"

ENCOUNTER:  Read Psalm 8:1-9

“... what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?” v. 4

Psalm 8 is a perfect example of what we are talking about in our new series, (Extra)ordinary.  This psalm is an expression of that huge existential question that all of us ask on some level:  “Who am I that God would engage with me, delight in me, and desire to walk with me?”  And added to that we ask: “And why would God pick me, out of all people, to be one of his agents of change and blessing in the world?”

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We're not done with the Lord's Prayer

We're not done with the Lord's Prayer

ENCOUNTER:  Matthew 6:9-13

“This, then, is how you should pray...”

We have enjoyed preaching through the Lord's prayer over these last couple of months.  I hope you were able to be a part of not only the preaching, but the worship experiences each Sunday during this season of Lent.  (If you missed some sermons you can always watch online.  Link here to go to the sermons page on our website.)

It is our hope that at the end of this season, you won’t be “done” with the Lord’s prayer and move away from it just because our sermon series is over. 

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Spiritual Warfare 101: "Deliver us from the evil one."

Spiritual Warfare 101:  "Deliver us from the evil one."

ENCOUNTER:  Matthew 6:13; Ephesians 6:10-17; 1Cor. 10:13

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood ...but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

“And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

It is kind of a brutal awakening to stop and reflect on the reality that scripture describes in the above verses regarding what is happening in the spiritual realm every day in all of our lives. I very much want my life and relationship with God to be roses and sunshine, happiness and peace.  But whether I like it or not, we are not fully at that place yet in the epic story of our universe. 

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Forgiving others is the "Physical Therapy" our soul needs to be fully healed

Forgiving others is the "Physical Therapy" our soul needs to be fully healed

ENCOUNTER: Read James 5:13-16

Confession and forgiveness are central to our spiritual formation and to our own healing.  So often we simply intellectually ascent to this idea of forgiveness, that we actually miss the entire cost, process, and benefit, of the daily work of forgiveness.  

Yes, Jesus died on the cross to pay the debt of our sin.  It is an incredible gift.  For those in and around the church, we have been inoculated from the power of what this really means.  All of the ways we have violated God and others, all the ways we have crushed and ruin others, that debt has been paid.  

Even more, we now have access to the incredible power and spiritual wealth of Jesus Himself so that we then have the power to forgive others.  

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Do I want His way?

Do I want His way?

ENCOUNTER:  Matt. 6:10; Psalm 86:11

“Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

“Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”

If you heard my sermon on Sunday, then you would understand the picture above. (If not, you can link here to view it when you get a chance.)  The thing about the sunglasses story is that...

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What's in a name?

What's in a name?

ENCOUNTER:  Matt. 6:9; Exodus 3:11-15

“Hallowed be your name.”

“Tell the Israelites, ‘Yahweh has sent me to you.’”

In the Bible a name describes the person, place, or object and indicates the essential character of that to which it is given.  So when God talks about his name, or when the people in scripture use certain names to call on God or talk about God, we are learning about the character (and characteristics) of God.  Therefore, one way to get to know God better is to study his names in the Bible.

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Yes, you can beat it!

Yes, you can beat it!

Encounter:  Read Psalm 43

I love Lent because it is the one season of the year where it is actually ok to be sad, to be broken, to grieve.  Lent is about dying and death.  It is about ashes.  We are dry bones in desperate need of life, live given to us through the Holy Spirit.  We are mourners, people who are keenly aware of our sin and rebellion and the death that it causes, who are in desperate need of forgiveness and grace.  

It is during Lent that we can own the ways we have fallen short, own the ways that we are still in process.  And if we look too deep down that well we can get lost in despair.  And like Casey Affleck's character in Manchester by the Sea, we can come to the conclusion that we just can't beat it.  Our flesh, our brokenness has gotten the better of us.  

But as followers of Jesus Christ, we know that this is not the case.  Like the end of Psalm 43 says, "Why is my soul so downcast, why so disturbed with in me?  Put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him my Savior and my God."

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Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's thinking of yourself less.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's thinking of yourself less.

ENCOUNTER:  John 13:1-17

“After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciple’s feet...” v. 5

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” v. 15

Jesus, the divine Son of God, the savior of the world, said this about his ministry: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (Mark 10:45).  This is the unique and definitive message of Jesus; he humbly came to lay down his life, in love, for the whole world.

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Lessons from Jesus (and a man called Ove).

Lessons from Jesus (and a man called Ove).

The Fredrik Backman novel, A Man Called Ove, tells the story of a recent widower who is determined to end his life after the death of his beloved wife but keeps being interrupted by curious neighbors whose funky ineptitudes challenge him to, among other things, reconsider the grudges he holds. Ove is carrying anger against so many people that one wonders how he can get up in the morning (usually before the sun, and always to check on a catalogue of things for which he really isn’t responsible). The objects of Ove’s various grudges and, therefore, potential recipients of his forgiveness include: his former best friend, a pregnant but loving immigrant neighbor, a mangy cat, anyone who left their bike in the wrong spot or drove their car in a restricted area, cancer, a vicious little white dog and its snarky owner, a Spanish tour bus driver, God, and even Ove himself.

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Busy...in the right direction.

Busy...in the right direction.

Apartheid, Colonialism, The Crusades, Slavery, the persecution of Jews in retaliation for crucifying the Lord.  Can we agree that the Church has always known how to be active in the “name of Jesus”?  I think so.  What we CAN’T agree on as easily is the idea that she has been equally adept at the right activities when claiming to have God’s support.  In other words, the Church has always excelled at being busy, but it’s sometimes succeeded at being busy “in the wrong direction.” I wonder if there were times when, thinking she was making Jesus applaud her activity, the Church wasn’t actually causing him to weep.

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What does it mean to be generous in our Theology?

What does it mean to be generous in our Theology?

ENCOUNTER:  Read John 4

There is this strange thing that is common to all humans.  We LOVE our friends, and HATE our enemies.  But because we want to feel justified, we don't come right out and say we HATE our enemies, we get swept up in a more subtle and destructive sin.  The sin of dehumanization.  We "other" people, and by "othering" them we no longer have to consider them.

This is not new.  Many people feel it more acutely right now because their political person just left or just got in, and the sin of dehumanization is the number one way in which the political parties are fighting these days.   What is heartbreaking is when the church gets caught up in this tactic. 

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