Sunday, September 30, 2012
First off, thank you so much for being a part of God's ministry to the college-aged at WEAG. I am so blessed by your participation in our community and am even more blessed by your graciousness in allowing Jeremy and I to lead you in it. Secondly, thanks for taking the time to check out this blog post! This post is kind of a prep for the sermon that I'm going to preach this Tuesday in our "Spiritual Unrest" series. I want to present some ideas for y'all to be tossing around in your mind before you get there on Tuesday and also I'd love for you to respond and talk in the FB and Blogger comments. Let's talk about this stuff! Ok, soooo here goes the blog, haha.
Like I said above and Jeremy said last week, our new series on Tuesdays is "Spiritual Unrest". Jeremy and I decided to do this series because it sounded like everyone we were meeting up with during the week for lunch or coffee were experiencing a "spiritual funk" of some sort. We all struggle with that to some degree, but it sounded very widespread. Luckily, God has given us 4 main tools in Scripture to combat that and to give rest to our souls. Those 4 things are His Word, His Church, His Son and His Spirit. This Tuesday I'm preaching on His Church.
The first question my sermon raises is how do you define "church"? Take a second to think about before reading on, what is your primary definition of that word? Of course it has many definitions, especially depending on how literal or contextual you wanna be. But I believe the most important definition of "church" is simply "the meeting up of believers to intentionally live out the Christian life together." If that's your definition of church, than church no longer is just on Tuesday or Sunday mornings. It's Monday afternoons when two Christians meet up for lunch and talk and you can imagine all the other scenarios.
To add to that definition, I believe intentionally living out the Christian life demands authenticity and time. So the next question becomes: Are we (you and me) authentically and intentionally meeting up with other Christians to live our our faith?
Something that I've realized over the past year at Eighteen22 is that Tuesday nights only partially serves that definition of church. We have come to determine that the purpose of Tuesday nights for us is the celebration of the Gospel together with our peers. This does not replace the celebration of the Gospel with our multi-generational church body, it supplements it. So with that goal in mind we structure and plan Eighteen22.
So honestly, that means there isn't as much time for "church" in the definition I've given above. Yes, "church" as I've defined above does happen on Tuesday nights and we do set aside time for it. That's what our dinner time and hang out time after the worship service is for...but not everybody comes/stays for that.
For this reason is why we've found a new passion for small groups and Bible studies at Eighteen22. We NEED to set specific time aside to do the authentic meet up part of church. Because that's where Gospel-inspired change can be discipled and shaped. But there are problems with that. A lot of us Eighteen22ers are honestly busy. We have school schedules, work schedules, serious relationships, family situations that make it difficult to make time for anything else. Is it really worth it re-arrange my life for another kind of "church"?
On Tuesday, we'll have several testimonies in addition to my own on why we believe it is. The main text I'll be preaching from will be Hebrews 10:24-25. Take a look at it sometime before Tuesday night. And PLEASE feel free to comment on this blog or if you can't, back on FB. Let's wrestle with this together. To all my Eighteen22 homies, I love y'all, pray for y'all everyday, and am SO thankful for you.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
First, the insight: The reason why the majority of us were so moved by the Spirit that night as opposed to other nights was because there were no distractions keeping us from Him, let me explain myself. Anthony and the crew work pretty diligently to make worship an experience; the lights, the music, the lyrics, the lyric graphics, the transitions, the keys. And in it's best form, the experience we create by worship invites and prepares us to receive the Holy Spirit and experience God in a unique way. But at it's worst, all of the same things that enable worship to do that, can sometimes be a distraction. This normally comes as individual fault or struggle of the worshiper. There are countless times i've found myself not really listening or watching for God, but just being a spectator to the band. This normally also comes out of just things becoming negatively habitual, that's why we switch up the order of service every now and again, to keep it fresh enough to keep us from routine.
But last week, our routine was utterly and unexpectedly altered. The best part about it was, we all knew that it was a "God moment". None of us could control the power going out, heck, we didn't even know what caused it! (a snake apparently bit into the power lines...random I know). All that we knew was God did it, and that he wanted something for us through it.
Now to my encouragement: Eighteen22s persistence in worship and obedience to the Spirit's leading is remarkable. There was barely a pause in worship (kudos to our worship team last week) and yall barely stopped singing. You continued in the attitude of worship even when confusion came into the picture. Not only that, the prayer time that followed after those couple acapella songs moved my soul. Unfortunately, I wasn't as in the moment as most of you, because I was gettin info from the higher ups on official protocol and such, but I was in and out and was soooooooooo encouraged by the prayers being shouted to our God. It's funny, I've always felt like our group didn't enjoy or respond well to "open prayer" in that style, but that night proved me so wrong. People who i've never heard pray, prayed that night. It was an incredible blessing to my soul and the places you are at with God. Also, props to Jeremy for doing it sermon by candlelight! Such a priceless moment, and thanks to everyone who instagramed it for our picture archive, haha.
Now, my challenge: We should not dwell on this moment, but appreciate it for what it was and move forward. This might sound harsh, but the temptation to say things like "man, why can't every week be like that night..." or "we need to try to recreate the feeling we had that night again..." aren't the kind of language that "spurs one another on towards love and good deeds" as the Apostle Paul encourages us to do. What we need to do is to simply remember that night, and cherish it as a moment God moved in our midst. Maybe, at the most, we refer back to it as a sign of encouragement. If you're feeling down about God or Eighteen22 as a whole, you can say to yourself: "I know God is real and is working in my life, because this one night at church the lights went out and..." or "I know God is doing something in this community, that night when the lights went out showed it". These kind of words encourage us, and build each other up in my opinion.
For Biblical evidence of this, look to the moment in Matthew to Jesus' transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13). Jesus does this miraculous sign, brought freakin Moses and Elijah back to life! Peter, like any good Jew wanted to make a moment to remember and commemorate the moment. And what did Jesus say? "Don't tell anyone what you've seen until the Son of Man is raised from the dead". Basically, here's what Jesus was saying: Yes, you've seen a miracle, another bit of evidence for you to use to prove that I am who I've said I am. Be hype on it, but don't let that distract you, keep moving and keep following me. I believe that's what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in this moment.
So we move onward. Strengthened, encouraged, astonished, blessed, and amazed by the power of our God. Will we have a more stripped down service again in the near future, yes. Will we try to repeat verbatim what happened last week? No. If you look closely to Jesus' miracles, he never does two miracles exactly the same. If we remain hungry for God the way we are now, The Spirit will move among us again, just as powerfully and just as evidently.
Eighteen22, I am so blessed and proud to be among your leadership. God has taught me so much through yalls witness, more than maybe any of us will ever know. Thank you, let's keep chasing after God together. Amen?
Saturday, March 31, 2012
So I've taken two social work classes (sooo wish I could take more) and self-awareness has been pounded into my head. The more and more I thought about it, the more I got kinda uncomfortable. The saying "ignorance is bliss" really applies here. I don't really want to look myself in the eye and pull out all the darkness inside my heart to confront it. That's really messy, and difficult. But I understand also how humbling and freeing it will be...so i'm gonna try to take at least the rest of this year (if I actually follow through with it, haha) to become "self-aware". Scripture I believe also calls us to become self-aware. The Psalmists often pray for God to make them self-aware: "Search my heart Oh Lord, and show me the sins that plague me". Paul encourages (or maybe commands) in 1st Corinthians to "evaluate ourselves" before we take communion, and to confess whatever sins we need to before we accept the bread and wine. The Apostle John in 1st John encourages us to "confess our sins to each other" and James the brother of Jesus says a similar sentiment throughout his epistle. Sooooo, without further ado I guess here I go.
It goes further back and bigger on this topic also. I'm always that guy at parties who takes the rudely big plate of everything before everyone has gotten some, and the list could go on. I especially remember being soooo selfish with things when I was living with my parents. I always thought the things I was doing or wanted to do were the most important in the house, so I would wail, complain, and justify until my parents couldn't take it anymore and would let me do whatever I "needed" or was asking. I now see how all that is just so wrong.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
That story breaks my heart, mostly because at one point I was just like his judgmental girlfriend. I remember having relationships in high school where I looked down upon and really mistreated people because they weren't as "religious" as me, and I know almost for a fact that I've ruined those people's view of Christ because of it. What was wrong with me? Did I really think that looking down on someone because they aren't as spiritually mature as me is actually spiritually mature? Do we actually think that abruptly and bitterly ending relationships with non-Christians is the best way to interact?
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Anyway, thanks be to God for being here 22 years, and I pray that every year following is again filled with stories and memories of how good He is. Amen
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because like slaves we servilely fear punishment, nor to do good because we hope for rewards, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by some business- like arrangement. On the contrary, disregarding all those things for which we hope and which have been reserved by promise, we regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful and consider becoming God’s friend the only thing worthy of honor and desire. This, as I have said, is the perfection of life.
- Gregory of Nyssa