Looking Back, to Look Forward: Searching For God’s Activity in 2014

759550_28993899On Sunday we sat and shared stories of what God has done in our lives. We essentially tried to practice this Psalm 77:11-12 corporately. We read this there:

Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.

That verse is such a powerful reminder for us. As I reflected over the past year I realized ways I hadn’t seen God moving. Because the truth is that sometimes we only see God moving in hindsight. During the midst of difficulty, the busyness of life, we can actually miss seeing God move. But as we pause, reflect, and remember we can see how God was moving. This is why this practice of pausing, remembering and sharing isn’t just a good idea – it’s a crucial idea. If we are going to be able to follow God into the next year, we should know of how he moved in the past year.

We ended the service with a simple but practical challenge: share a story of how God moved this past year. That’s it. Just share some of those loving acts. It didn’t need to be big – just real and honest.

For some of us the only thing we can share is that we are still here. That God got us through. For others we have reasons to celebrate – people have kicked addictions, found new hope, or seen miracles. The point is that sharing the things God has accomplished brings us hope and brings God into our present.

So I think the challenge is still a good one for all of us this week. Share with a friend, your kids, your spouse, your neighbor the good God has done. Spend time taking a long look at the loving things God has done, and then share it. Because who knows, this might be the way that God does something in your present, as you share how he moved in the past.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to take a long loving look at God’s acts.

Teaching Points:

  • Sometimes we only see God’s hand in our lives in hindsight
  • How has God been active in your year?
  • Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts Psalm 77:11-12
  • Remember what God has done, and share what God has done.

Adult 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? What was funny? What are some of the things God has done in your life in the past year? Do you believe it’s true that sometimes you only see God in hindsight? How come? Who should you share your story of God’s activity with?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Ask your kids one question and then really listen: what did God do for you in the past year? Spend time listening and sharing stories.

Challenge for the Week: Remember what God has done, and share what God has done.

A Long Look at Your Loving Acts

1434528_82656078This Sunday we are going to be having people share stories of what God has done in their life in the past year. This is a really important practice to have. Sharing stories transform people. It brings people into our lives, and share our lives with them.

And looking back and remembering what God has done is crucial to moving forward in faith. Without looking back, we can often miss what God has done, we can miss how he moved.

So we are going to take some intentional time and pause, remember, and share. In essence, we are going to try to practice Psalm 77:11-12 where we read this:

Once again I’ll go over what God has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts.

This is the perfect time of the year to give a long loving look at God’s acts. To actually sit and ponder all he accomplished this year. Before moving forward into next year, we need to remember and reflect on what God has done this year. But that is just the first step, the next step is to share with others what God has done. To actually lay out on the table what God is doing.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday, but whether or not you join us I think this practice has value. Why not sit and give a long loving look at the acts of God in your life this past year. And then best yet, share those with someone, because when we do that we not only remember how God moved in the past, but give him space to move in the present.

Spiritual Top Ten Lists

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On Sunday we looked at the top ten lessons that I thought God had taught us this year.

I think this practice is really important. I think taking time to review and reflect on how God has been faithful is so key to being able to follow God. To follow God deeply, we need to remember where he has led us in the past, so that we might get a glimpse of where he is leading us in the future.

So I’d encourage you to take time today, and review you’re year. What were the special highlights, the memories, the occasions you celebrated? And as you reflect on those things remember what happened around those times. How was God active? What was he teaching you? When was he faithful? When did you wish he was more present? What was challenging? What gave you hope?

I think reflecting and remembering is part of following. So do that today. And if you’re interested here are some of the questions we walked away with on Sunday to help us reflect and remember.

  1. How has your trust in Jesus grown or struggled this year? How come?
  2.  How faithful have you been to Jesus this year? What do you need to do to be faithful to Jesus? How faithful has he been to you?
  3. Have you experienced the presence and fullness of Jesus this year at all? When, where, and how?
  4. Have you left God’s side and moved away from him at all this year? If so are you willing to go back to God and let him accept you?
  5. Is God in control and directing your life – or are you?
  6. Did God have your attention this year? Does he have your attention now?
  7. What new thing did God get started in you this year?
  8. Who have you shared your story with this past year? Who are you called to share your story with in the next few weeks?
  9. Have you been a person of grace? How can you show God’s grace?
  10. What direction does God have for you – for this upcoming year?

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to reflect and remember how God has been active in our lives.

Take Aways…

10 Big Questions to Explore:

  • 1. How has your trust in Jesus grown or struggled this year? How come?
  • 2. How faithful have you been to Jesus this year? What do you need to do to be faithful to Jesus? How faithful has he been to you?
  • 3. Have you experienced the presence and fullness of Jesus this year at all? When, where, and how?
  • 4. Have you left God’s side and moved away from him at all this year? If so are you willing to go back to God and let him accept you?
  • 5. Is God in control and directing your life – or are you?
  • 6. Did God have your attention this year? Does he have your attention now?
  • 7. What new thing did God get started in you this year?
  • 8. Who have you shared your story with this past year? Who are you called to share your story with in the next few weeks?
  • 9. Have you been a person of grace? How can you show God’s grace?
  • 10. What direction does God have for you – for this upcoming year?

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?

What are some of the biggest things God’s taught you this year? Spend some time working through those questions – and then take time to share your thoughts with a spouse, friend, or small group. We learn best together, so take some time and review and share with others.

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Why not take some time and ask your kids – what did you learn this year? Let them give you all the answers they can come up with. Ask them what some of their favorite memories were from this year. And then be sure to ask them about what they learned about God. Spend time reflecting and reviewing together and also plan for this year. Ask them what would they like to do – and they why not try to make it happen?

Challenge for this Week: Review and Reflect

The Long View

In my office I have a picture of early Toronto hanging. It’s probably 3 feet by 5 feet. It’s a really cool piece, that was my dad’s. Here’s a picture of it.

But if you look closely you’ll see how lots is similar to today, but lots have changed. City Hall’s still there, but there is no CN tower. There are fewer skyscrapers, and no Air Canada Centre. Lots have changed, or to put it better there has been lots of growth in Toronto’s core.

Pictures take a moment and freeze it so you can see what was happening in that specific moment. I sometimes wonder if you could take a picture of my life today what it would show. Or better yet if you were to have taken a picture of my life 5 years ago, capturing all my thoughts, dreams, fears, and desires, what would have grown and changed since then?

That picture of Toronto catches not only where it was, but serves to function as a grounding for seeing growth.

We can do the same sort of thing in our life. Either through journaling, practicing the Ignatian Examen, or simply pausing and reflecting we can discover the growth and change in our own lives. Life slips by quickly, but at a steady pace, that we often miss the changes that have happened over time. We might not notice how dramatically we’ve changed, how God has been faithful, how he’s been focusing on certain parts of our lives. So I’d challenge you take the long view of your life. Sit, grab a coffee, and look back to see where you’ve come. Celebrate the changes, and let go of the mistakes.

And take a picture of your life where it is now. Journal where you’re at, make a short video sharing your space, or simply tell a close friend. And then in a year review it, look at how you’ve grown, and where you changed.

Make a practice of looking back so you can see where you’re going…