Where is God Taking Us?

1243996_56375506On Sunday we dreamed together where God was taking our church. Our dream to is to be changed by Jesus, and to change lives with Jesus. But what does that look like in the future?

To answer that question I shared seven little signposts that point to where I believe God is taking us. I think these little signs help us get a picture of the future God might have for us. And I asked the church to dream with us, and to see if these are the signposts to our future. Here are the seven signposts:

Signpost #1: Be the Church to the Area

The point for us isn’t to be the biggest or best church in the area, but to be God’s church to the area. I could care less about being cool and hip, I want us to be faithful. The point isn’t for us to be a giant church, but a church fulfilling God’s calling. The point is that there is no competition in God’s kingdom; that we will seek to bless the community.

Signpost #2: Creating Disciples Over Decisions

The point is that for a long time the church focused on getting people to make a decision about Jesus, rather than becoming a disciple of Jesus. I think God is asking us to flip this around. That we would focus on creating disciples, over people simply making one decision about Jesus. Being a disciple isn’t about making one decision to follow Jesus, but a daily decision to follow Jesus – and that needs to be our focus.

Signpost #3: Everyone has a place, and everyone has a role

As I look into the future I see a church where everyone has a place and a role. That we are all serving as the church (not necessarily in the church building or programs). But that each and everyone would be using the gifts God has given us to build up each other, and bless the world. The truth is you cannot follow Jesus and spectate.

Signpost #4: Our Church is a Family

This point is that our church resonates and continues to adopt the metaphor of church as a family. This doesn’t mean you need to have a family to attend, but that when you join us you gain a family. That we would be committed to one another, care for one another, and journey together. Like all family we will be dysfunctional, and there will be difficulty, but we will get through it together.

Signpost #5: Locally Grounded and Globally Focused

I think the days are gone where you can just focus on overseas missions, or local ministries. I believe we need to do both. That we need to be locally grounded, in our communities and neighborhoods and bringing transformation; and also globally focused partnering with people long-term all over the world to bring life.

Signpost #6: Going Deeper with Jesus

I believe a focus in our future is depth with Jesus. Shallow following of Jesus doesn’t change us, and it doesn’t change lives. So I think we will continue to have a greater focus on deeply following Jesus and taking the next step from wherever you are at.

Signpost #7: Gracious and Generous

And last, but not least, I believe our calling cards in the future will be grace and generosity. That we will build bridges through our graciousness and generosity. That we will be committed to being a people of grace and gift.

So as I look into the future that’s where I see God taking us. This certainly isn’t the end of the conversation, it’s just the beginning. But my prayer is that God might have us dream together to find his dreams for us.

 

 

Teaching Notes

Big Idea: God, where are you taking us?

Teaching Points:

  • God, where are you taking us?
  • Without a vision the people perish – Proverbs 29:18
  • A vision isn’t just a vision statement
  • Without a picture of where you are headed your life will likely run off course
  • To be changed by Jesus, and to change lives with Jesus
  • Signpost #1: Be the Church to the Area
  • The point isn’t for us to be a giant church, but a faithful church.
  • Signpost #2: Creating Disciples Over Decisions
  • Being a disciple isn’t about making one decision to follow Jesus, but a daily decision to follow Jesus.
  • Signpost #3: Everyone has a place, and everyone has a role
  • You cannot follow Jesus and spectate
  • Signpost #4: Our Church is a Family
  • Signpost #5: Locally Grounded and Globally Focused
  • Signpost #6: Going Deeper with Jesus
  • Signpost #7: Gracious and Generous

Adult Discussion Questions:

Where do you think Jesus is taking us as a church? Which signpost most resonated with you? Are there any you’re not sure about? What signpost might you add?

Discussion Question for Families:

Ask your kids one question around the table this week. “What do you think are God’s dreams for our family?” and let the discussion begin.

Challenge for the Week: Dream with us – and pray about where God is leading us.

Dreaming with God

1136764_21619849On Sunday we are looking at an exciting question: “Where are you taking us God?”

Because here is what I believe – God has a trajectory for our lives. This includes your personal life, and our corporate life as a church.

I believe that God has plans, desires, and even dreams for us. So on Sunday I want to dream together and ask the question, “God what is your vision for our church? Where are you leading us? Where might you be taking us? What might be in our future?”

And this is so important because simply by asking this question you get drawn closer to someone. You might even have experienced this, that when you first started dating someone the thing that drew you close was dreaming about your future together. Getting married. Having kids. Whatever. And one of the things I’ve noticed is that when marriages start to struggle, they’ve stopped dreaming together.

And what is true in our dating lives, and marriages is true with God as well. As we dream together we grow closer to God, we listen better to God, we share ourselves and ask him to share himself.

So come Sunday I’m going to share seven signposts to where, I think, God is leading us, and I’m going to ask you to dream with him.

And so before then why not ask God this question, “What dreams do you have for me and my church”. You might not be part of our church, that’s fine, but what dreams might God have for your church? I think we need to get into the habit of dreaming with God because if we ever want to find his future for us – it starts by dreaming with him.

Jesus Has the Final Word On Everything

1356537_26838575This Sunday we are looking at one of my favorite passages. It’s a passage that reminds us of why we can have hope no matter what we are facing. It’s a passage that grounds our lives in Jesus Christ.

So today for my post I don’t want to give you a lot of thoughts. I’d like to let Scripture speak to you. So the following is Ephesians 1:19-22. Here’s what I’d ask you do.

Slow down.

Read it quietly or aloud.

Read it a few times.

And let God speak to you through it.

We believe that Scripture can reveal God’s word and direction for us. So why not do that with this piece of Scripture.

“I ask God to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, endless energy, boundless strength! All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.

The beauty is that Scripture is true. Jesus does have the final word on everything, which means anything you are facing is not the end of your story. God has more for you, and he has the final word on everything.

Fearful Futures, to Trust in God’s Control

829311_28468256On Sunday we looked at how in reality we control so little of our lives. Most of the time we move through life like we have great control over the outcomes of our life: friendship, career, marriage, parenting, future, health, etc. The truth though is that often we don’t have control, and when we get reminded of that fact we move from Plan A to Plan B.

Plan B times in our lives is when we realize we aren’t sufficiently in control to make our desired future come to pass. It’s when we realize the plan and promises of God that we were moving forward towards seem further away than ever before.

This is when fear comes in. Fear fills the void of our lack of control. When we don’t have control fear starts to take a grip on our lives.

And on Sunday we looked at how fear must have gripped David. David wanted to be king of Israel. David was promised to be king of Israel, but David is in a “Plan B” time of his life. It doesn’t look like he will be king. Saul, the current king, is trying to kill him and David is just trying to survive.

So after being on the run for months, David and his men are hiding in the back of a cave as Saul and his men hunt from him. They are full of adrenaline, scared, and anticipating what might happen. When all of a sudden the most unusual thing happens. Saul the current king comes into the cave alone, and doesn’t realize that his enemies are right there hiding in the shadows.

David’s men quickly tell him, “This is the moment. This is your time. Here is an opportunity from God. This must be how you become King.”

And David faces a decision. He can kill the king, something he knows isn’t right, or do nothing and stay in this “Plan B” place. He can kill the king, walk out of the cave and become king of the entire nation and only one person would die. That’s it. It’s simple, straightforward, and immediate. He could kill Saul, walk out with his men, and take charge and lead. He could regain the control in his life he’s lost. He could stop having to hide in caves just to survive. And he needs to make this decision now.

Or of course…he could trust in God.

See the decision for David to kill or not kill Saul is really a decision about trust. Will he trust in God, or trust in his fear that this is the only time and way he will become king. Will he trust in God’s plans for his life, or trust in fear that says take control of your life and make this happen. David is placed in a place of tension choosing where to place his trust: in fear or in God.

And David chose to trust in God. That God will get him to become king, but not through regicide hiding in a cave. God will be faithful to him, even though David has no idea how God will accomplish his promises.

Fear tempts us into trying to take back control. God asks us to trust that he is in control.

So on Sunday we ended with the main point that when we are in the “Plan B’s” of life we can either trust in fear, or trust in God. And fear will always drive us further from God. Fear casts out God of our lives, and leads us into difficulty every time.

So we ended by asking two simple questions: Is there any area of our lives that are being driven by fear? And do we trust God?

First, if fear is driving something in our lives, we need to recognize it and challenge it. And we challenge fear, not be debating or entering into a discussion with it. We challenge and root out fear by trusting in God. 1 John 5:18 says that perfect love casts out fear. Love is the antidote to fear. So we overcome fear, by trusting in God, and his love. We choose like David to not believe in fear, but believe in God.

So we ended the service with one clear and simple challenge. That whenever fear grips our hearts this week, to turn to God and focus on his love and his promises that we do not need to fear, but can trust in him. So may you this week experience all of God’s love, and see fear loosen its grip on any part of your live. Because we get out of our Plan B’s of life not by following fear, but by following God.

 

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: We need to choose to trust in fear or to trust in God

Take Aways…

  • The fact is this: we are not in control as much as we think we are
  • the natural and normal response to a loss of control is fear.
  • “When life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it was going to turn out, you may think you’re losing control. But the truth is, you never had control in the first place” Pete Wilson
  • A decision made out of fear will never be a good one.
  • Two options: To fear and grasp for control, or to trust and let go of control.
  • A bad option when things are good seems like a good option when things are bad
  • Whenever fear asks you to make a decision it is the wrong one
  • But that’s one way we can identify the devil’s voice: it always plays to our fears. Jonathon Martin
  • Fear casts out God in our lives. Jonathon Martin
  • Is there any area of your life – being driven by fear?
  • Do you trust in God?
  • Trust in God and his love, and get rid of fear

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? What was new?

When have you been in a “plan b” in your life? How has fear gripped you in “plan b” times? What areas of your life are filled with fear right now? Can you relate to the temptation David faced to force things on his own? When have you ever had to make a choice like David’s? How can centering on God’s perfect love for you, help to cast out fear of your life? How can you trust in God deeper this week?

Discussion Questions / Actions for Young Families

Talk to your kids about fear, and how it can grip us. Talk to them about what makes them feel better when they are scared (parents, friends, God, etc). Share with them how when we get scared focusing on God and his perfect love for us can help us to get rid of fear. That God is always there for them. Share from your own life how God’s love has helped in a time of fear.

Challenge for this Week

Trust in God and his love, and get rid of fear

Is fear driving your future?

Spooky old photoOn Sunday we are looking at the topic of fear. And here is the truth: fear grows when we feel we are not in control. The less control we have in our lives, the more fear takes hold.

And this can happen all over the place. We lose our job, and fear is in charge. A friendship breaks down, and fear directs our decisions. Our Plan A’s turn into Plan B’s and fear has a heyday.

The point is this when we lose control, fear grows.

The problem is that we aren’t ever really in control. I mean I know this is not a fun thing to say – but we actually control so little in our lives. We live with the semblance of control. We plan, prepare, and proceed if we are in control. But things shift, the economy changes, a phone call from our doctor, a friendship fails…and we find out we aren’t in as much control as we thought. That’s when fear fills that void.

But that’s not the only way it needs to be. The options aren’t pretend control, and fear. There is a third option. One of trust that we are going to look at on Sunday.

But before we get there I think there is a good question for us to ask today:

Is there any area of your life that fear is driving?

Because fear is subtle, it is hidden often just below the surface, but it so often drives our decisions, thoughts, and lives. So spend some time asking that question and reflecting on it. Because here is the truth: a decision made based in fear, is rarely the right one. So on Sunday we are going to look at how fear drives us, but also how we can live free of fear. Because there is a beautiful promise in 1 John 5:18, “perfect love casts out fear”. So we are going to work this all together, where hopefully we can leave with less fear, more trust, and most importantly, more hope.

Morning Prayer for Times of Transition and Change

1427667_31525848This was my prayer this morning:

God there is much before me, and much unknown. But you are also before me, help me to find you, and find your way.

Today is my first day without my friend and co-pastor Dave here at the church. He’s been called up north to continue his really wonderful relational ministry there. That leaves a large hole, or many different holes here to fill.

So as I was praying this morning and looking forward I realized that there is a lot of unknowns before not only me but also the church right now. What if we don’t find the right person? What if I make mistakes as I lead? What if in the transition I unintentionally hurt someone or miss something? There are a lot of “what if’s” whenever things change.

But as I prayed I realized something – even though a lot is unknown, there are a lot of potential pitfalls, and mistakes will surely be made (we are all human after all). One thing is sure. God is also before us. God is also leading us. God is also with us.

So even amidst change, transition, and uncertainty – I don’t believe we need to be fearful. Instead I think our call is simply to remain faithful. Faithful to God, and faithful to one another.

Because I really believe one thing is certain ~ God is before us. And if we look for him we will find him, and find his way for us.

So whatever today you might be facing, whatever uncertainty wonderings, or difficult futures I think the point is the same for you. God is before you, search and find him, follow him and he will get you through. The way may not be clear now, but the calling is: finding God and following God.

So may you do that this morning, and maybe even pray my morning prayer with me:

God there is much before me, and much unknown. But you are also before me, help me to find you, and find your way.

Amen.

Broken Pasts, Limited Futures, and New Life

1310598_43430592On Sunday we explored the story of Moses but looked at it from a different angle. We looked at it from a failed past angle. Moses was surely thought to be the man to bring salvation to his people. His story from the very beginning seems  destined for greatness. He was miraculously saved in an ark, grows up in Pharaoh’s court, and seems to be a man of limitless potential whom God will use to save his people.

Fast forward to when he is older, and ready to step up and be the hero. The story in Exodus 2 jumps to his moment when we think he will save his people. But what ends up happening is that Moses makes a rash and impulsive decision and kills an Egyptian burying him in his sand. This leads to Moses fleeing from Egypt leaving behind his destiny to live in the desert.

It’s at this place that we catch up with Moses, a man whom we must assume has many regrets. He was raised in the lap of luxury, and is now a man alone watching sheep as a shepherd in the desert. My guess is that if we were to ask Moses what his future was like he would say dim. That he would assume that his past is limiting what God can do with him in the future. That even though he once had potential his failures define his future.

But what I love about God is that our past is never ever wasted with him. That our past never defines our future. Our God can even transform our pasts into new futures for us.

So God comes to Moses and says, “go to Pharaoh and speak to him and save your people.”  This is amazing because Moses is probably the only Israelite person in the world who can actually get to Pharaoh. It’s like you or me trying to get a personal audience with the President of the United States – it’s just not going to happen. But Moses grew up in the court, Moses might have even grown up with the current Pharaoh, Moses knows the ins and outs of political landscape. He can get to see Pharaoh.

And so Moses thinks that his future must limit God, but God wants to use Moses precisely because of his past. His past doesn’t limit God, but actually allows God to do something amazing through him.

And I think this is true of all of us. Our pasts with God are never wasted, instead God can use them, transform them, and build on them to accomplish something amazing through us. Through Moses and his checkered past God saves all the Israelite people. And through us no matter what our past is like, God can use us as well.

The question is this: do you believe that God can use all of you?

Do you honestly believe God can use all of you?

Because this story points to the fact that your past doesn’t limit God. Your poor decisions, awful events, hurtful encounters doesn’t stop God. In fact, God can use your past to bring about a new future for you and for others.

So the question is “do you believe that God can use all of you, no matter what you’ve done? And if so are you willing to be used?”

We ended up on Sunday with the challenge for each of us to carve out some time and go to God and give him all of ourselves. To offer to him all of us, broken pasts and everything, and invite him to use us. I think it’s the right way to start. Moses encounters God in the burning bush and everything is changed. So today why not go and encounter God and discover that he can change and transform your past and your future. Because that is how great our God really is.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Your past is never wasted

Take Aways…

  • We don’t drift into making a difference
  • One of the single biggest obstacles to finding God’s future is often our past
  • We have an assumption that God works best with perfect people
  • Moses is gifted with amazing potential
  • In Moses we see someone with unlimited potential, falter and fail
  • We end up rehearsing and regretting our failed decisions
  • For many of us decisions in the past decide and determine our future
  • Our God can change the past
  • We often feel like our past limits God’s future for us
  • God chooses Moses because of his past, not in spite of it
  • Your past is never wasted
  • Will your story be one of regret or transformation?
  • Do you believe God can use all of you?
  • Give God all of yourself

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?

Have you ever deeply regretted a decision? What happened? How come you regretted it? Have you ever felt like you were destined to do something important? In the sermon could you relate at all to Moses regretting an impulsive decision?

What in your past have you wished you could let go of? How might God be wanting to redeem and use your past for his good? How might God want to transform your past, so that you might transform others today?

Do you believe God can use all of you? Share your thoughts on this question.

Plan a time to spend with God giving him all of your past

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take sometime to talk with your kids about how with God he heals our past. Ask your kids if there has ever been a choice they regret or something that really hurt them. Talk to them about how with God he can heal our hurt pasts. Talk to them about how we can go to God with all we have in us and find peace. Spend some time with your kids praying, and bringing to God anything they have.

Challenge for this Week: Give God all of Yourself

Can God Transform Your Past?

794034_32889557I’m going to say something, that while it’s not true, many of us believe: our past limits God.

For whatever reason in Christianity we have this unwritten assumption that God does his best work with perfect people. That people who have failed less than us, made better choices than us, who are closer than God to us – have more potential than us. And while we might not ever say it that bluntly we assume that God would rather use someone who didn’t have that messy past: that affair, that moral breakdown, impulsive decision, lack of courage, whatever.

The point is that we think that somehow the wrong and regretful decisions we have made limit what God can do in and through us.

That’s the assumption I really want to honestly examine on Sunday. Does our past really limit God? Is our past something we need to overcome to be able to be useful to God?

What I think we’ll discover is something really unique, shocking, and subversive. God wants to use us, because of past not in spite of it.

But before we get there on Sunday why not spend some time honestly reflecting on your life. Are there encounters, decisions, or things that have happened to you that you feel disqualify you or limit your future? Does anything from your past have a hold on what could happen? Does that relational blowup, decision to dropout, moral failure, wrong choice, or just missed opportunity still determine some of what you believe God can do in and through you?

If so, simply start to recognize the places and things that you believe might limit God’s working in and through you. Bring them with you on Sunday, and we’ll see what God might do with them. I’ll give you a hint: even though it seems impossible…God can transform our pasts into a new future.

New Futures and New Hope for All

1224442_75255610On Sunday we explored one of my favorite stories, the calling of Abram and Sarai. What happens is God comes to this couple Abram and Sarai and changes their future. In the story the line of Abraham is coming to a close. Sarai is barren and the future for their family is closed. They are in a dark and difficult place. But this is when God chooses to act.

God calls this couple, this unlikely pair, these people to a new future that would change the world. From the outside Abram and Sarai are not people with lots of potential, or promise. These would not be the people most people would choose to change the world with. But thankfully God chooses a different sort of people – not put together perfect people – but broken and barren people so his goodness can be seen. He uses ordinary regular people like you and me.

And God gives Abram and Sarai a new promise and a new future and they believe it and start to follow it. Through this belief God changes the world. Through their following God changes their future. Through their hope God changes them.

This was the point for us – that we follow a God who can change our futures. Your future is not dependant on your age, gender, education, race, finances, or anything else. Your future is dependent on God; the same God who gave a new future to Abram and Sarai and wants to give us one as well.

So we ended with inviting everyone to begin to hope. To hope in a new future, one in which depression, addiction, purposelessness, anxiety, or boredom doesn’t rule. One in which God sets us free for what he has for us. We challenged one another to start to hope and to start to follow. Listen for God and start to follow him like Abram. I have no idea how your situation and future will change. I know though who will change it – God. So begin to hope and trust him and see where he might lead. Because God is in the business of giving a new future and opening up closed ones. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s something that gives me hope.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea God changes our futures

Take Aways…

  • God is involved in real peoples lives, with real struggles
  • This family begins its life in a situation of irreparable hopelessness. Walter Bruggeman talking about Abraham.
  • God is in the business of changing already pre-determined fates
  • They are called to leave behind their country, family, and father’s household
  • Abram lives in a world where life cycles, and repeats, and is destined
  • We base our futures on our past rather than the promises of God
  • Abram goes forward with “eyes close” – John Calvin
  • Your future is not determined by your birth, education, race, gender, skill-set, finances, health, or your parents, Your future is determined by God.
  • I don’t know how our futures change, but I know who changes our futures
  • We follow the God of the limitless future.
  • Start to hope and start to follow
  • My God is a God of new futures

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?

Have you ever been tempted to believe that your future was set? How come? What future might God be calling you to? Do you have a sense of the next steps to take? How can you ensure that you don’t lose hope in God’s future? Who can support you as you walk towards God’s future? Who can you support?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Take sometime to talk with your kids about how with God the world is open. How their future’s are open because of what God wants to do in and through them. Ask them what they think God is calling them to do in the future. Listen really listen, and then no matter how big, decide on one step to take to get them there and take it.

Challenge for this Week: Start to hope and start to follow

 

Closed or Open Futures?

739385_87460520On Sunday we are going to look at a pretty important topic: our futures.

When you are little your future seems so wide open doesn’t it? I remember all the things I wanted to be and believed I could be when I was little: police officer, fire fighter, astronaut, pastor (yep it was there when I was little), and of course, professional video game player.

The point is that when we are little our future seems often open and limitless. Yet as we grow older our future seems to shrink. We no longer think we can do certain things, we base things on “reality”, and we often end up settling. What ends up happening is the future that was wide and exciting becomes closed and predictable. Or worse, closed and unchangeable.

How often have you heard someone say: They’ll never change, I’ll always be depressed, no one will ever like me, I won’t amount to anything, or that dream will never come true. How often have you thought that?

That is a future that is being closed and shut down. Our goal on Sunday is to break open those closed futures. It’s to widen the possibility of what God can do. It’s to let hope break into our hearts. Because whether you know it or not we follow a God who creates new futures all the time. We follow the God of limitless future and possibilities. So on Sunday that’s where we are going.

But this weekend, why not let your heart dream a bit? Why not hope for change? Why not start by preparing for Sunday, asking God what future do you have for me? And then if he tells you…to actually believe it.