Anniversary Sunday: 60 Years to Celebrate and More in Our Future

bbq-1-1537565On Sunday we had a great celebration, that our church has been here 60 years. We have been blessed with 6 decades of change and influence in our community and partnering with change in people’s lives.

And so we celebrated, we threw a party, we had a BBQ and bouncy castles. But more than that I also shared on Sunday where I believe we are headed for the next 60 years. And what I believe is this: that the future that is coming is greater than anything we have seen before. That we will be saying, “Who could have seen that coming?”

Because while I know lots of people like to talk about the end of the world, the difficulties of the church, and how the future is dark – that isn’t how Paul talks. Instead, Paul believes, like I do, that there is always good and grace on the horizon. So on Sunday we opened up this passage of Scripture from Ephesians 3 which says, “By his mighty power at work within us, God is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or even to hope.”

God wants to do more in our lives that we have ever hoped, dreamed, or even imagined. The words there translated “infinitely more” means literally vastly more than more. God has vastly more than more in store for you. 

And this is something I have believed about this church from day one and still believe it is true. 

When I came here to be the lead pastor, we had to preach for a “call”. Which basically is a terrifying process where you preach and then everyone votes on you afterwards. Just a small bit of pressure…but it obviously went well.

But this was the verse I preached then. That I believed regardless of whatever happened in the vote, that God had good things in store. And I still believe that. That while lots of people like to pronounce doom and gloom; God is pronouncing life, love, a better future than could ever be imagined. This is your future, and this is mine.

So on Sunday we simply closed with having people state it aloud. To actually say, “God has infinitely more in store for me than I could ever hope or imagine”. Because there are lots of other voices that are saying different things, but I think we need to listen to the Spirit’s voice. The Spirit that says, I have infinitely more in store for you than you could ever hope or imagine. And that…that is good news.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaGod’s got more in store for you, me, and this church.

Teaching Points:

  • If you don’t appreciate the markers you reach, you often stop reaching them.
  • “Who could have seen that coming?”
  • The future that is coming is good.
  • God’s love is so beyond us that we cannot grasp it, but we can experience it.
  • Because when you trust in the future he has for you – you find it.
  • Listen and trust in the future God has for you.
  • Your dreams are too small for God, God’s got bigger in store for you.
  • Are you willing to let God loose in your life?
  • Your future isn’t dependent on you but on what God has in store for you.
  • “God has infinitely more in store for me than I could ever hope or imagine”

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? When you look into the future do you see hope or difficulty? Do you believe that God might have infinitely more in store for you? Are you willing to let him loose in your life? What might that look like to trust in his voice? What next step might you take? Who can you ask for support as you continue to follow him?

Challenge for the Week: Trust in God’s voice

Being a Leader ~ Finding a New Grip for Shaky Hands

248245_9652I was reading through some of Hebrews today, and I came across this verse that spoke to me so clearly. I felt like God was reminding me of what my calling is as a leader. I think in many ways this is the essence of leadership. It’s found in Hebrews 12:12-13:

“So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame will not stumble and fall but will become strong”.

The reason that this spoke to me is that so often as a leader, I do have tired hands and shaky legs. Sometimes uncertainty grabs me. Sometimes disbelief haunts me. Sometimes I wonder if I am strong enough to follow the call that God has placed on my life. I don’t often question the call, I question whether I’m able to pursue it.

But that’s why I love these verses. These verses don’t pretend that leadership is easy. These verses don’t pretend that we don’t struggle, worry, doubt, or have tired hands or shaky legs. These verses know that in purusing God and his calling, there will be moments of difficult, doubt, and decision. And the decision that this verse calls for us to have is to take a new grip, to stand firm even on shaky legs.

This verse reminds me that God is with me, like he is with you, so take a new grip. Don’t give up. Stand up on those shaky legs, get up again, move forward again, trust again, and don’t give up. And that as we refuse to give up, as we take a new grip (even though our hands are tired) as we stand firm (even though our legs are weak) and move forward we will help others find strength and follow God.

I guess what this verse really reminds me of is this: being a leader doesn’t mean your hands don’t get tired. Being a leader means you don’t give up, and you find a new grip with tired hands. Being a leader means sometimes God needs to remind you, that regardless of whether your hands are tired and legs are shaky, there is a calling still to pursue. And it’s worth pursuing.

So take a new grip today, a new stance today, and let others find strength as you follow.

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

 

Finding God’s Purpose for Our Church

Plattsville_Missionary_ChurchThere is an old Chinese proverb that says:

If your vision is for a year, plant wheat.

If your vision is for ten years, plant trees.

If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.

I think it’s really true and quite deep. A vision that lasts a lifetime must be centred on people. That’s what we really ended up exploring on Sunday. How Jesus Christ changes people. How he changes lives, and how he invites us into doing the same thing.

On Sunday we talked about Jesus’ mission and vision for life found in Luke 4. Here he states and shares what he is here to do. He is absolutely clear he is here to free people, to provide healing, to provide restoration, and to set things right again. In short, he is here to change all of life, in the here and now. Jesus is about changing lives in the present. And he is still about doing that today. And he actually invites us into changing lives with him. Becoming like Jesus means participating with Jesus in what he is doing.

So on Sunday we discovered our foundation for the next series. Our deep desire and goal is this: to be changed by Jesus, and join Jesus in changing lives.

Our goal is to first have our lives absolutely transformed by Jesus Christ. You can’t share something you don’t have. So we first need to experience life, transformation, and change before we can ever begin to share that with others. Our deep desire is that anyone who joins with us will not remain the same. That through Jesus Christ being active in our church each person would experience lasting life change. They would find restoration, healing, hope, and new life.

But if that transformation just remains with us it will turn stagnant and bitter. As a church we are also equally called to share life with others. We are called to change lives with Jesus. That “with” is important because it recognizes that God is already active in our friends, family, and communities. We aren’t bringing Jesus with us into relationships. We are discovering where Jesus is already active in relationships and starting there. Through our commitment to serve, to bless, to give, we believe we will see change. We see change happen only when we are living life like Jesus Christ ~ with a posture of grace, openness, willingness to enter someone else’s world, and most of all humility.

That is our deep deep hope. I could care less about us being the biggest or best church in the area.  I care a lot about being the church to the area. We are not content to run nice services if those services don’’ send us out into the community seeing life change in our friends, family and neighbors.

So this is what we want to be doing, and in all honesty, it’s what we’ve been trying to do for a while. Now we simply want to become more intentional, because as I said in my last post: you don’t drift into making a difference. Making a difference starts with making a decision and that’s what we did on Sunday. Making a decision to be changed by Jesus, and to partner with him to change others.

So that’s our decision about where we are going. But maybe for you today it’d be worth making a decision of your own. Why not take a moment and ask him how today you can join in what he is doing. And then why not do this each and everyday. Because my guess is if we do that we will not only be changed by Jesus, but changing others with Jesus.

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Being changed by Jesus, and changing lives with Jesus

Take Aways…

+       Where is your life headed?

+       If you don’t plan where you are going, you’ll end up going nowhere

+       Churches and Christians in general have a vague idea of what we are called to do.

+       That people who do great things, set out to do great things

+       You don’t drift into making a difference

+       Vague direction leads to a lack of action

+       New life isn’t coming it’s here because Jesus is here

+       If it’s not Good News for everyone, it’s not Good News for anyone

+       Jesus is here to change all of life

+       The Christian life isn’t a self-interested one

+       Being changed by Jesus, and changing lives with Jesus 

Adult / Group Discussion Questions

What direction is your life headed? If you were to answer the question, “Jesus is leading me (where)…” what would you say?  What has Jesus already changed in you? What freedom, restoration, and hope has he given in you? What do you think he wants to change in you? How might he do this, or what is he asking you to do?

How is your life having an impact and changing others? Are there those in your workplace, family, or neighborhood God is calling to leave an impact? Do you have any ideas how you might do that?

Are there people you can journey with over the next few weeks? How can you make that happen?

Who should you invite to church, or to journey with you discovering how Jesus wants to change us, and change lives through us?

Discussion Questions for Young Families            Talk with your kids about what Jesus is about: us being changed by Jesus, and changing lives with Jesus. Ask your kids how Jesus has changed them. Really listen to their answers. Ask them how they might help change the lives of their friends. And then help them do it. 

Challenge for this Week Commit to the Journey, Journey with Others, Invite Others on the Journey

 

Finding the Right Destination: Vision, and Direction

On Sunday we are launching a new series at the church.1145632_61514054

We are going to be asking a key question:

Where are our lives headed?

This is important because if we don’t examine our destination, time can slide by and we can end up saying, “How did we get here”. The point is that if we want to have an impact in this world, it comes by aligning the direction of our lives with God’s direction. Because my honest belief is this: we don’t ever drift into making a difference. So we need to examine where our lives are heading, and live with intention.

So we have been wrestling, asking, and discerning where God is leading us? What has he been birthing in us? What are we called to do?

And these are crucial questions for everyone of us to be asking. Because we don’t drift into making a difference. Vague intentions often lead to a lack of action.  Jesus though came with a clear mission, and vision of what he was going to do. He summarized it in the “Good News”, he lived it out and shared it with everyone. Jesus had no ambiguity in what he was doing. This is what we are going to be examining on Sunday what Jesus’ calling was, and still is. Through this we can discover how we fit into Jesus’ calling on earth.

So I think it’s important for everyone to be asking the question, “Jesus, where are you leading me?” And this is what we are doing on Sunday, just corporately as a community. 

So that’s where we are going on Sunday. The question I have for you is simple. Where is God leading you? In life? In your church? In work? In your family? Where is he leading you?

It is too easy to continue on a direction, without thinking about the destination. So talk with God about where he would have you go, about the next steps, about what he would have you do. Because the essence of faith is to follow, but to do that we have to be led. So why not spend some time with Jesus talking with him about following, and being led. And come Sunday that’s what we are talking about too.

transformations

How to Launch a Vision

So on Sunday we talked about the practical steps Nehemiah takes to see his vision start to come to fruition. We see the steps he takes that leads to action, progress, and development. We came away with three steps:

  • Deal with reality
  • Share with clarity
  • Own your responsibility

Nehemiah begins by dealing with reality. He shows up in Jerusalem and doesn’t assume he knows the people, place, or process to build the wall. Instead he waits and inspects the wall before going public with the vision. Because a vision shared prematurely dies quickly. A vision that isn’t connected to reality doesn’t succeed. So he adjusts his plans and figures out how to the build the wall not in theory but in practice. So he first deals with reality before sharing publicly.

He then shares his vision, but he shares it with clarity in 4 steps. He says what the problem is, what the solution is, why it needs to be done, and why the timing is right. Each of these steps leads to clarity and then commitment on behalf of the people. He shares that the problem is the walls are burnt and down, that the solution is to build the walls, that it needs to be done because they are a disgrace, but it’s the right time because God is with them at this very moment. So they all agree and begin to build the wall.

The last thing Nehemiah does is he owns his personal responsibility in the vision. He consistently speaks of “we” rather than “they”. He doesnt’ show up and give the city officials the plan, resources, and letters and then say “Now you build the wall”. No, he knows that if God has given him the vision, he is to be part of carrying it out. Too often people get a vision and then expect their church, their pastor, or their little committee to program it, run it, and own it. The truth is we need to personally own and be responsible for what God gives us. We can’t expect others to risk or give more than we are personally willing to give or risk.

So with Nehemiah we see him deal with reality, share with clarity, and own his personal responsibility. And when he takes these steps his vision launches and begins to succeed. So in our own personal visions, dreams, or desires there is a lot we can take away. We need to deal with the reality of where our family, business, or ministry is at. We need to share with clarity why change needs to happen. And we need to own our personal part in the whole vision. Those are the steps Nehemiah takes, and I believe there is wisdom in following his model. Because at the end of the story Nehemiah gets the wall built, a people restored, and a future is renewed. And I think we’d all like to live a life with that type of legacy and meaning…

Adult Discussion Questions: Has God given you something to live for? If not yet, how can you find out. If so, what is the reality you are dealing with? What is the problem, the solution, why it needs to be done, and why this is the right timing? How have you seen people’s visions “compete” before? How can we ensure our personal visions don’t ever compete but complete God’s overall design? How much are you personally willing to give for your vision?

Challenge This Week: Deal with Reality – Inspect the Walls of your vision