We’re continuing our conversation from last week about our desire to grow, as a community, and as individuals, in our impact.
Growing…in Formation…in Generosity…in our sense of Community…will always lead to us making a greater impact!
How do we define Impact?
What kind of dent or difference are we making for God and for good, at home, in our neighbourhood, at work, in our city, in our world?
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For any church community…or follower of Jesus…of human for that matter…we make an impact in 3 ways…
How we LIVE…SERVE…SPEAK
LIVE in such a way that convinces others that God is real and present.
Fredrick Neichze, a philosopher and cultural critic, who lived in the mid-late 1800’s was an advocate of atheism and agnosticism. He was well known for one of his written pieces, Madman. About a man running in the streets shouting, God is dead, God is dead. One of the many lines was this very interesting one, “And you killed him, because you live like he doesn’t exist.” A serious critique of Christianity, wouldn’t you say.
Ghandi, in less dramatic style, said this once to the church, “I like your Christ, I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike Christ. If they were, all of India would want to be a follower of Christ.” Also, quite the critique, don’t you think?
They were both saying the same thing: Live like Jesus, and people might just see that God is ALIVE. If you don’t, you Christians are hurting the cause.
In 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9, Paul is grateful that this early and young church are, one, imitators the gospel (living out their faith for people to see) and two, loud with their lives (his words are in fact, and the message rang out from them).
So, don’t just talk a good talk…live a life that backs it up!
SERVE in such a way that shows others that Love & Grace are alive & well.
Anytime we give, serve, contribute, fill a need, help a hurt, feed an empty stomach, … We are being Jesus to others.
It’s in Matthew 25 that Jesus days, if you’ve done this to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me…
this is what makes dent in our world
this is what makes difference in our city
this is what helps others see the love and grace of Jesus
Jesus will only be as alive to others as he is alive in us and through us!
SPEAK in such ways that communicate Jesus is alive and is worth following.
I recently came across some info that says there’s a decline of religious and moral words. Words to describe faith have declined over the course of the 20th century. According to Google Ngram, 74% of words associated with faith were used less frequently over the last century. Words like, grace, mercy, wisdom, faith, honesty, righteousness. And…words like love, patience, gentleness, have become rarer too. Modesty = 52% less. Kindness = 56% less. Thankfulness = 49%.
Why bring this up. Well, I believe that it’s our responsibility to provide language and words for good conversation to take place.
For this we look to Colossians 4:2-6… Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Pray (talk to God about people before you talk to people about God)
– Pray to be clear, to be wise, to be graceful
Be wise when talking to people about God
– don’t waste opportunities
– don’t manufacture moments
– but please, don’t waste them either
When you do open your mouth to speak, remember that it’s a conversation, never a speech.
– 2 ways: Listen & Talk (in that order)
– Full of Grace & Salt…or…put another way, Thoughtful & Tasty
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If we wanna make an impact? If we wanna make a difference?
It’ll happen in the way we LIVE, the way we SERVE, and in how we SPEAK.
I guess now all we have to do is simply live out our faith…take advantage of the opportunities to serve…and when the moment arrives, speak, with gentleness, respect, grace, and a touch of salt. Who knows what God can do through us? Let’s try and see what happens.
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We also had the chance to interview Michelle Little this past Sunday. We do this from time to time at The Village; take a few moments to hear someone’s story through a live interview.
Here are a few things that came from the interview:
Michelle is a camp director, a mom, a wife, and a wonderful person who’s trying to become all that God has called her to be
Michelle is passionate about helping young people, kids and teens, discover how amazing it is to follow Jesus, and how that will help them in every area of their life. She’s also very excited to help them become future leaders.
She sees camps like Mini Yo We as a partners in a child’s development, both spiritual and physical.
We talked about her journey of formation, the people that helped her along the way, and how this inspires her to do the same for others.
We heard about her patience in waiting for what she thought was her and God’s dream for her life. How she almost gave up on it. How it eventually felt like the exact perfect time for it all to come together.
She affirmed our greatest church community value, that it takes a village for any of us to become who God is calling us to be.
Why does she follow Jesus? Because he makes sense. Because he is worth every inch of our heart, and every moment of our attention.
If you get a chance to chat with her, she’d love to tell you more.
Why do we think that we have to be loud to say something…that we have to be loud to get the attention of others?
My Grandfather used to say that if you throw pots down the stairs they’re loud and clanky, but that’s because they’re nothing inside. However, when you turn a light on, you hear nothing, but everything in the room changes – the light says so much with very little volume.
We can say so much with who we are, how we live, how we love…and yes…even with what we say…and how we say it!
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This week we continue our winter series : GROW-ing
So far we’ve talked about Formation (so important) & Generosity (important and & fun). We’ll eventually end with Community. But today we land on IMPACT.
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Can a church, be a church, without the expectation of growth & impact? Can we say we’re a church, but then have no expectation or desire to increase, both in number and in impact? I’m pretty sure the answer is no.
And what does or should that even look like?
Brian McLaren said, “The gospel is like a good song, it sneaks up on you, then it sneaks into you.”
You can’t hear it without it changing you, without it making an impact on you.
It’s not a song that can stay on your personal playlist…you gotta share it.
What does it mean to make an impact in our world, our society, our cities, our neighbourhood?
We often share our mission statement, which goes like this, “We are discovering what it means to Love God, Love Others, Make the world better.”
As a community, this involves what we do collectively:
Being Jesus (with skin on)
Where do we start?
Making an impact must involve pointing people to Jesus.
If we believe that Jesus points us to God, then we must, in some way, point people to Jesus. And be as creative in doing that as possible.
The Bible Says…
Preach the gospel & Make disciples
Share the gospel, and share your lives
God so loved the world that he gave
You are the light of the world
I’ve always found that 1 Peter 3:13-17, gets us to the heart of what it means to live an impactful life.
Let’s dig into this text, shall we…
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Peter gives us a really healthy template for what an impactful life looks like. More than that, how to share our faith with integrity and authenticity.
Do Good (always)
I love how Peter starts us off in this section…
Who’s going to harm you when you do good? Actually, that may happen…but even it does, don’t let it stop you. (HA)
I have a contact card…are contact cards still a thing?…oh well. There’s a line on it that I’ve borrowed and paraphrased from Galatians 6:9. It goes like this. Don’t stop doing good things.
Doing good will always be part of our mission. On days when it’s easy. And on days when it’s hard.
Christ followers have an incredible contribution to make to society in which they live, by breaking the cycle of people returning evil for evil.
A few verses earlier Peter says, Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called…
You can’t go wrong with doing good – it’s like planting seeds and believing for a good return – it’s also like laying the groundwork for God to get people’s attention.
(look at this old paraphrase of this same text) …we do good, and even suffer for it, in order to unscramble God’s word and declare in witness and deed his love & salvation for a disoriented & disjointed world… (I LOVE THIS)
Keep Jesus at the centre
If the first thing Peter says sets the stage for others to experience Jesus, this next thing sets the stage for us to be effective in our witness…
In your hearts, revere Christ as Lord (NIV) Worship Christ as Lord in your Life (NLT) In your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy (ESV) Keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master (MSG)
In your hearts = at your core, in your centre. Simply saying, keep JESUS at the CENTRE.
The greek word (revere) used is hagiazo = which also means, “set apart”
Jesus, I set you apart, as master, lord, ruler
Also means you’re acknowledging Jesus as HOLY = he’s God, I’m not.
And he makes me Holy (I can’t do that on my own)
Peter talks about holiness a lot in his letter
If I want my witness to be effective? If I want my life to make a difference? If we want our church community to make an impact?
JESUS has to be at the CENTRE
JESUS has to be LORD
JESUS has to have my heart…our heart
Live a questionable life
Now we move to the fun stuff…
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
The word for answer is the word ‘apologia’ which we translate as apologetics = defence, reason, response, rationale.
Two things about this are important:
We must have some response ready
We must live a life that invites questions
Be ready. Be prepared. To answer or engage in dialogue.
But more important than that is, live a life that begs the question.
What a shame it would be to follow Jesus, and not to stir up as many questions from as many people as possible. (that’s a waste of faith)
Where will the questions rise from?
Your Hope…especially when it’s hard to hope
Your goodness…especially in the face of evil or struggle
Your generosity…especially when you’re not in a season of abundance
Your kindness…your love…your help…your attentiveness…
Here’s the thing: It’s impossible to have Jesus in you, without some of him leaking out of you.
Be gentle, respectful, and authentic.
Peter ends so beautifully. He reminds us that how we share faith is as important as sharing our faith.
With gentleness. With respect. With authenticity.
If you only want to be right or theologically correct, then that’s all you’ll be.
But always remember that your love, your grace, your posture of humility, will speak louder than any words you use in your conversations about faith.
Basic principal to remember: share the gospel with the spirit of Jesus. Lovingly meet people where they’re at.
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As we take this home, think about these few things…
Who are you praying for? – talk to God about your friends, before you talk to your friends about God
Who are you being attentive to? – Do you listen more than you talk?
Who are you inviting? – 82% of people say they’d go to church if they were invited. 2% of Christians invite their friends to church. A little bit of a disconnect there!
Are you/we making our church community a safer, warmer, more grace-filled, excellent, and intriguing place? – People will inevitably belong, before they believe. Let’s always be making it easier for our friends and neighbours to belong, and let the Holy Spirit encourage them to believe.
When you have nothing to talk about, you talk about? THE WEATHER.
When you have something to talk about, we still talk about? THE WEATHER.
The weather is the easiest thing to talk about? Why?
Because we have no control over it
We can’t get blamed for it
We can’t escape it
What’s not so easy to talk about? MONEY!
You may have heard this before – that some married couples will never talk about Religion, Politics, and…MONEY. They vow that it helps their marriage! Those three things have caused many arguments, but the weather, that’s a safe topic.
Out of the three, money is by far the most divisive. It has broken up many relationships.
If I were to ask, does money make you happy? you’d probably say, no.
If I were to also ask, would a little more money make you a little happier? you may say, YES!
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This week we continue our winter series :
We’ve been talking about and will continue to talk about Spiritual Formation, Generosity, Impact and Community.
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Today we continue with GENEROSITY, but will move into some practical thoughts on giving and stewardship.
Last week we walked through 2 Corinthians 9, which deals some important things about generosity:
It’s about investing, not losing.
It’s about a decision, not the dollar
Everyone wins with generosity
God’s mission is resourced through generosity
2 quotes we want you to remember:
“The kingdom that Jesus preached & lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity”
“It’s the decision, not the dollar, creates a giver!”
We said that this week we’d get into the nitty gritty of it. Well here we go.
Why even talk about this? Why talk about money?
(and please know that we don’t talk about money too often around The Village)
Generosity is a theme through out scripture. You can’t miss it. If you do, you’re reading with blinders on. Money, gifts, possessions, time – it’s all there. God gives – God calls us to give. God loves – God compels us to love.
The bible talks about money a lot. Directly 800 times, indirectly, more than 2000 times. That’s a lot.
More than 1/3 of Jesus’ parables include references on money or possessions.
Why do you think that is?
Because what we own, make, spend, keep, and owe, is connected to a deeper place – our heart.
Jesus says (Matthew 6) You can’t serve both God & Money.
Mammon, the word for money in this text, refers to property and wealth as a god…as an idol. It was a Chaldeon word for both god & money.
Jesus’ point is clear: don’t turn money into what it was never supposed to be, a god, an idol.
We joke about the term, “almighty dollar”, but we are well aware of it’s power.
Jesus is warning us to be careful not to let money give you orders or boss you around.
You’ve probably heard this… “Money makes a wonderful servant, but a horrible master”
Who has ever felt like a slave to money? Either by choice or by circumstance?
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This is why stewardship is so important – using wisely, what’s been given to you. Using what you have – your time, gifts, skills, land, opportunity, and MONEY, well.
The reason we even use the word ‘steward’ is because we have come to the understanding that everything we have comes from God, and in light of that, we ‘steward’ the gifts of money, time, and opportunity, that we have been given to us.
Psalm 24:1 is the bases for this, “The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
As people who are discovering what it means to follow Jesus, this is the worldview we start from. This is the lens by which we see the world.
If this is true…that what we have has been given to us, then we are responsible to ‘steward’ it well.
Here’s the best way I know how to steward finances: 80-10-10. This works! Many Studies, Psychologists, Financial planners, all agree that this works. People without faith in Jesus have even come to know that this works. Live on 80%, Save 10%, Give away 10%. It’s good math. It’s good human ethics.
But…if we believe what Psalm 24 says, then we must turn these numbers around: 10 – 10 – 80 Give Save Live
I GIVE…so that it’s not all about me
By giving first, I invite God back into the equation.
By giving first, I remove the chance for selfishness to creep in.
By giving first, I’m grateful for what God gives me.
By giving first, I’m living with open hands instead of tight fists.
So you’ve figured that part out. Which means you’ll probably ask this next question, How much do I give?
YES, 10% is either a great place to start or a great place to strive for.
There are some really good biblical principals that encourage this (Mal 3, Lev 27, Num 18, etc)
It works – it’s good – but it is an OT law. Do you follow every other OT law? Hmmm.
Paul says, decide in your heart what you will give.(2 Cor 9)
Think about it. Pray about it.
Be strategic and thoughtful about it.
Which means your giving might be even end up being more, depending how God is challenging and directing you.
Here’s the thing, I really think that giving 10% to the local church is an act of trust, of worship, of gratefulness, of community. And I also believe that if you do this, you will continue to experience God’s provision, and will continue to see all you have as God’s gift to you.
BUT…if you’ve never done this; if you’ve never given 10% of your income away (at the beginning of your budget), I want to encourage you to start somewhere, and see what God does, in and through you. If you’re at 0%, start at 3%. If you’re at 2%, try 5%. If you’re used to giving, but aren’t so consistent with it, commit to 10% at the top. It’s amazing what God will do.
Andy Stanley offers a two-fold approach: form a basic plan with a willingness to consider spontaneity when opportunities arises!
I SAVE…so that it’s not all about now
Canadians save less today than 10 years ago. 0.8%, down from 1.4% (this will eventually effect consumer spending and economic growth).
People spend almost $5000 a year in impulse purchases – that’s almost a full TFSA limit.
Seth Godin Talks about the $37000 latte.
$4 a day on an afternoon coffee or snack
10+ years of this + the credit card high percentage debt = $24000
saving that same money with 7% over 10 years = $13000
I’m not telling you not to buy coffee, but if you’re buying coffee and not saving, something’s wrong.
If you’re buying stuff before you save, that’s not right.
If you’re wasting money without knowing where it’s going, and not saving for your future, it’s simply unwise.
Proverb 6:6-8 says, Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.
There are lots of ways to save. Just like giving, you have to be strategic and decisive about it.
I LIVE…on the rest, as a mature & responsible neighbour, friend, parent, and human.
Proverbs 13:7 One pretends to be rich, but has nothing. One pretends to be poor, but has great wealth.
Proverbs 22:6 has been quoted at baby dedications, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Funny thing is that the verses that follow are about stewardship & generosity.
(7)The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender. (9)The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor. (16)One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.
Why not try talking about the 90%? We (rightfully and sincerely) encourage conversation about the 10% of giving off the top. However, if we’d be wise and intentional about the rest, the 90%, we’d have no problem giving away the 10%.
Many are unable to be generous because they have yet to develop a sustainable plan for what we decide to keep.
Simply put: Live below your means. You have 3 choices: above, within, below. Which one do you think is best?
TAKE IT HOME
Giving takes TRUST
Saving takes SMARTS
Living on less takes GUTS
All 3 of these…honour God.
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Bonus Material: (sign up for our Sunday Financial Health Classes)
– Make a budget and when doing so, put giving at the top, before any other expense.
– Start with something. If 10% sounds crazy, start with something smaller for now.
– Pray about this. Ask God what he thinks you should give. We ask God for all sorts of stuff. We ask God for wisdom in all areas of our life. He is faithful to lead and direct you in the process with gentleness.
– Create a rhythm and routine. Give weekly or monthly or every time you get paid. Make it a first thing, not a last thing. Use our Canada Helps partner to make it easier. Or use an envelop system if you like to give cash or cheque. This helps you to be committed to what you’ve decided to give.
– Be open to God’s voice in your life. Be open to opportunities to help, to serve, to give. In the end, as much as your giving is helping (the local church, a charity, a neighbourhood need, etc) others, your giving is actually helping you to become the person God is shaping you to be.
– Those who don’t save are saying that they don’t care about their future.
– Those who don’t save are thinking selfishly about today, without any thought for tomorrow.
– Yes, there are seasons where saving might feel impossible or is impossible, but don’t let that be the norm.
– Save for: 1 – emergencies, 2 – retirement, 3 – future purchases, (4 – education if you have kids)
– When you get a deal on something, save the difference.
– When you finish paying something off (car, furniture, loan), keep saving some or all of that money.
– If you’re buying $5 coffees, but aren’t saving, that is not good. Buy cheaper coffee and save the difference. That goes for any small luxury.
– It’s not that you shouldn’t enjoy going out or vacationing or nice things. Please do. But, if you’re spending money on those things and not saving, then you’re doing it wrong. Save first, use what you have left to spend & enjoy.
– All we will say here is this: create a budget, and stick to it. It’s amazing what we can live on when we create healthy parameters to live within.
When you think about generosity, who comes to mind? Think about a name or person.
For me that person was my Dad, who would’ve been 80 years old this past weekend. (He passed away 14 years ago)
Doesn’t that person, in some way, make you smile? Why? Because generosity brings a smile to our face, and a sense warmth to our heart. Not just when we’re the recipients, but also when we are the dispensers.
Some stats came out this week about the richest people in the world in regards to their generosity. Some give away a fair bit, others, not so much. I won’t mention all the ‘low’ ones on the list, but one pops out – Jeff Bezoz, Amazon, who gives away, only, 0.1% of his annual income. This pales in comparison to Warren Buffet & Bill Gates who are in the 30-40% range.
Ironically, a “Christian Leader”, during this same time, spoke out in saying that poor people don’t contribute as much to society, because they give so much less. Terrible. Stats actually say that those with less income give (percentage wise) more than those with more income.
The more you have, the harder it is to release it? A certain lifestyle is not easy to keep up?
x What spurs on generosity?
We continue our winter series : GROW-ing
Today we land on GENEROSITY.
Generosity is a theme through out scripture. You can’t miss it. If you do, you’re reading with blinders on. Jesus talked about money, as much or more that he did about faith & hope. Why? because it’s tied to deeply to our heart. We see generosity in the form of money, gifts, possessions, time, etc.
God gives – God calls us to give
God loves – God compels us to love
“The kingdom that Jesus preached & lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity” (NT Wright)
Even though we know this, for some reason, generosity spurs on a few feelings: Two of which are difficult to swallow: Selfishness & FEAR (the biggest obstacle in giving)
Jesus wants us to grow in our generosity.
to and for needs
to and for others
and yes…to and for the local church (remember, as the church receives, it’s called to give away)
Next week, we’ll dabble in stewardship: what we do with the money & resources God provides.
(That will be fun. Nitty Gritty. Practical.)
Paul, when writing to the early church in a city called Corinth, takes some valuable paper space to talk about generosity. (2 Corinthians 9:6-15)
In essence, this is a sketch of what it means to be God’s people.
Generosity isn’t just about nice quotes & sayings that make it on a Starbucks cup with your name on it. Generosity is connected to how we see God, the world, the church, and ourselves, and others.
There are some valuable things we can learn from Paul’s words. Let’s dive in.
1 – Rules of harvest, gardening and farming, apply to finances & giving.
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. ” (9:6)
Just like planting seeds, there is a correlation between what we give and what we get back. But, be careful that you don’t see this as a way to get rich. That is NOT what this is about. (by any means)
What Paul is trying to say is that generosity is about investment and not loss.
Farmers who plant, never think about the seeds they lose, but about the crops they gain.
No farmer would ever pray “God, please give me a crop, I’m not sure I’m ready to sow any seed though, but I’m trusting you get involved. And I’m holding on to my seed, just in case.”
That would never happen.
Giving & Generosity are opposite of that prayer. They would go more like this, “God, I’m going to plant these resources that I have, and trust that you will make them grow into more than I could ever imagine.”
When Paul says, plant generously and you will reap generously, he’s comparing our giving to how we plant seeds. The more we plant, the more that will grow. If you are generous in your planting, you’ll have a generous crop.
2 – Generosity is always a choice & a decision.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (9:7)
Lowell Berry, a successful business person…in fertilizer (of all things)…was known to be generous…at home, at church, at work, everywhere. Someone asked him why he gave so much and how he gave so much. When he was 12 years old, he decided to give a portion of anything he earned. He only started earning money after college. But his decision came so many years before.
The decision, not the dollar, creates a giver!
Paul gives a few instructions:
make a decision and stick to it
don’t do it with resentment/reluctance
give with a smile
3 – Everyone wins when we’re generous.
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (9:8-11)
In a nutshell, Paul is saying that when we are generous, everyone wins.
God is the one blessing & providing
We’re on the receiving end of this
We’re also on the giving end
God provides for the one giving and the one receiving
God blessing us, so we can in turn bless others
This all results in everyone being thankful!
the one giving
the one receiving
the one who’s been blessed
the one who’s blessing
Everyone is saying thank you
4 – Giving & Generosity aligns our life with God’s mission & agenda.
Simply put, as we said a few weeks ago, our generosity, money, gifts, time, effort, words, everything…is what resources God’s mission on earth.
Know this…God’s mission is a commitment to helping the poor, helping the broken, helping those who are discouraged, helping those who are lost. When we give, when we serve, when we’re generous with time & money, all that stuff gets done. And…we get to take part in a plan that is so much bigger than our single life or single bucket of seeds.
Who doesn’t want that level of significance? I do. I hope you do to.
When we’re generous, we get to be part of that.
Don’t leave it for others (my dad, your _____) Let’s join this adventure. You and Me and Us.
Unless we open our palms & let the seed fly, we will never know what fruit God might bring.
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What does that look like for our church community?
Volunteering…everything we do…every way that we serve is about…
– making people feel at home here
– helping people discover Jesus
– loving, serving, caring, listening, …
What does this look like for me?
What seeds are you planting with your generosity?
If you don’t know where to start or don’t think you have it in you, look back at a time when someone was generous with you…invested in you. That, along with a conversation with Jesus, will get you started.
That’s an exciting place to live. Let’s live there together!
Growing happens over a period of time. After a while, you look back and say, “WOW…look at how this grew, how you grew, how we grew, how this project came to life, etc.”
Sometimes, more often, growing is like the stock market. If you’re fixated on the one drop, you’ll get depressed really quickly (if you even care about it at all), but then you click the 5day or 1month or 1year or 5year view and notice that even though there were some difficult and crummy days, there has also been…STEADY GROWTH.
I posted a photo of our son this week on social media. He turned 17. An old friend, who we haven’t seen for a while said, “WHAT???” He saw a 17 year old giant, but he never saw the growing pains, the increments, the daily and weekly stuff that comes with raising our awesome some Jake.
Have you seen this 10 year challenge on social media the past few weeks? No one really knows how it started and why it caught steam. But it did. Post a photo from 10 years ago beside one from today. Simple right? Some are favourable, others, not so much 🙂
While all this was going on a friend posted… “Who cares what you looked like 10 years ago, how have you changed as a person?”
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As we talk about GROW-ing, we can’t ‘not’ talk about change. In me, in us, in my heart, in my life. We have to focus on ‘becoming’ who God wants us to be…as people…as community.
CS Lewis once said, “of all the awkward people in your house or job, there is only one person who you can improve very much.”(YOU)
As people who are figuring out how to follow Jesus, change comes from you or me actually doing something about it.
We must add formative practices to our lives for there to be any real spiritual formation in us!
Last week we ended by encouraging some practices that will help us continue to become the people and community God is calling us to be.
Practicing Prayer…Solitude…Rest…Reading Scripture…Listening to God…
Let’s include community practices as well.
Worship, table conversations, small(er) groups, etc.
“Let him who doesn’t pray expect to be consigned to the whims of his own mind, will of her own ego, and the direction of his/her own thinking”
Eugene Peterson once said, “a changed world begins with me…and a changed me begins with prayer”
This gets us back to HEART & MIND. If we want to see growth in other areas of our lives, it will always start inside before we see it outside.
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Today we focus on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. 3:14-21
Let’s read it, dive in, and see where we land.
What’s going on in this prayer? What is Paul getting at? Rather, where is Paul taking us? Where does he want us to land?
the WHAT of prayer…
For this reason I bow my knee
Pray is about surrender
Surrendering to the God who ALL of us come from
It’s listening to God’s voice
It’s responding to God’s invite
This reminds me of a question I read a while back, “Do I measure the impact of my prayer by how often God does what I ask or how often I do what God asks?” (Tim Day)
What else is happening in prayer?
God gives us strength in our inner being
By God’s Spirit
Inside of us
What does prayer impact? My insides. My heart. My mind. The things that make me, well, me.
Why is this important? Because any growth that happens in us, will always start IN US!
So many people seek results in their lives…health, work, relationships, wealth, sports, etc. Before you see any thing change in your external situation, you first have to address your internal condition.
The WHAT of prayer is about our surrender to God, and to what he wants to do in us.
the WHY of prayer…
“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”
We pray, that through faith, Jesus makes a home in our hearts.
As followers of Jesus, we want to look more like Jesus, great idea…BUT…we don’t always take the time to pray that Jesus would take residence in us…I mean truly take over.
That’s why, as Paul continues, he prays that we would be ROOTED & ESTABLISHED in LOVE. Both words that express going deeper than what we see on the surface.
He even prays that we would comprehend and grasp this LOVE of Jesus. Depth, Length, Width, Height of LOVE.
“Together…with God’s people…”
I love this line from Paul. Indicating that we will best figure this out, together, and not alone. So add to your personal practice, community practices. Church, smaller groups, coffee conversation, around the BIG table, over the phone or text, etc)
These lead us to be filled with fullness of God – JESUS.
The seeds planted in prayer, in worship, in spiritual formation, will become more than we ever could imagine them to be. So, if we can trust that God makes things grow, we will, in prayer, in work, in good deeds, plant the seeds of the Kingdom…and watch God do his GROWing work.
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Back to practices of prayer, scripture, solitude, community…
These are what get us to where Paul is taking us.
He gives us the big picture of prayer, but we must then create and collect a toolbox of spiritual formation, which includes personal practices & community practices.
“When you boil it all down, each spiritual discipline is simply a slightly different way to offer our bodies to God as a living sacrifice” (R Foster)When we, as a church…when I, as a pastor, encourage these practices, it’s for one simple reason, because God wants us to grow, and this is how it’ll happen.
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Some end goals for our spiritual formation journey at The Village…
Follow Jesus (Discipleship)
Live a life that lights up the world
Become people who pray
Become people who lead friends to Christ
Become more acquainted with scripture
Love God, Love our neighbour, make the world better
This book, which has now become a Netflix show, has simply taken off. It’s so popular. A small, overpriced, hardcover book, is flying off the shelf.
Because people are desperate for their clutter to disappear, and many of us have no clue how to make that happen. So in comes Marie…the Tidy-up genius.
The episode I watched had something amazing happen in it: Marie paused…quieted everyone… and proceeded to take a few moments to be silent. The family wasn’t sure how to react or respond to this. What Marie was trying to do was help this family realize that their home ‘can’ be a place of peace if you simply allow it to be.
We don’t realize how much we simply need to stop, pause, be silent, and rest. It’s counterintuitive and counter cultural, but boy does it work.
For the next few weeks we’re going to try and unpack those things a little more. Expand on the bite size portions we gave you last week.
What do we mean by GROW-ing?
– GROW & ING
– Now & Later. Present & Future.
– We wanna see some immediate fruit, sure, but we have to ensure that growth is continual…ongoing…
The word GROW leads us to think of size, impact, accomplishment, achievement, success, arrival – all good stuff.
However, for a church community, and for a follower of Jesus, for any of that to happen, we have to experience growth inside (heart/mind) before we see it outside.
For the first part of this series, we’re going to focus on the heart & mind.
Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
Pure heart = focused, intentional, right minded…
Paul said, put on or have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:5)
If we can think like Jesus thinks, we are led to live like Jesus would live and love like Jesus would love.
Here’s the thing: If our minds & hearts can stretch and grow, inevitably, our lives will too.
Lets back track, intentionally, to the scripture text that started our year off with a few weeks ago. Romans 12:1-2.
Before we do, it’s worth noting that around this time of January, 20, 21, 22, is when people start giving up resolutions. By now they’ve either formed a new habit or have failed miserably at introducing something new into their life.
It takes 21 days to create a habit…
If you did start something new…have you succeeded or have you failed?
Have you developed a new healthy habit or have you fallen off the map?
We ask this question because in Romans 12, you may remember, is where Paul challenges his initial readers and us, that in order to live God’s best life, we have to:
– Let go of something
– Embrace something
The challenge is to keep going, move forward, and grow where it matters most, in our minds/hearts.
Let’s read it…as a reprise from two weeks ago.
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
4 things to focus on:
Our everyday consists of…
Being ‘ON’ for work
Dealing with a good or bad boss
Getting tired with tasks at hand
Trying to be disciplined, failing because of our lack of discipline
And so on…
You may recall these words from the NIV version of Scripture, “offer your body as a living sacrifice…holy & pleasing to God”. These words would confuse and mess up anyone that was used to a sacrificial system. Why? Normally, sacrificed things were dead or ceased to live when they were sacrificed. Paul says, May you be “LIVING SACRIFICES”.
Place your life, your everyday life, before God. Everything in it. Every part of it. Our fears, our anxieties, our hopes, our dreams, our confidence and our doubt.
Embrace what God has for you/me
After we’ve surrendered, now we’re ready to receive and to embrace. Paul says, that in our act of embrace, of receiving, we are actually worshiping God.
Surrender and embrace is an act of worship. In worship, we surrender and we embrace; we give up what we don’t need any longer, and hold on to what God is offering us instead.
Not sure what’s harder, the surrendering or the embracing? That moment you realize that what you thought was important, isn’t that great, or that moment you jump in, with two feet, totally abandoned to who God is?
Difficult? Maybe. Worth it? Definitely!
Don’t just fit in without thinking
Speaking of difficult, this next challenge Paul puts before us may be the hardest to both discern and avoid – Fitting in.
These seeds of surrender & embrace lead to something so beautiful: Living a life that is not stuck to or pressured by the culture around me.
don’t be well adjusted to culture (msg)
don’t get squeezed into it’s shape (ntw)
don’t be conformed to the pattern of this world (niv)
NT Wright says…don’t let others set the pace for you…set your own…work out what sort of person you should be…or what sort of people we should be.
Many of us get stuck on the expectations of others. And it is a dangerous place to live. Paul’s challenge is this, figure out what God expects: that will be your sweet spot, that will be your success;, that will your best life.
Here’s the formative part of Paul’s challenge…
He tells us to surrender…to embrace…to be careful not to conform…
But this final word is about how the values of Jesus and the power of the Spirit can grow in us:
Be Transformed. Be changed.
Fix your attention on God, and you’ll be changed from the inside out.
How? Paul says, by the renewing of your mind.
important for two reasons
God works on our insides to effect what comes from out of our lives
God cares about our minds…he wants us to think through things and ponder on things, and figure out how we can best love him and love others and make the world better.
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This leads us to the questions we ended with a few weeks ago:
What do we need to let go of this year?
What do we need to embrace this year?
Better yet, what are you holding on to that is holding you back?
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How do figure all this stuff out? Surrender? Embrace? Not conforming? Being Transformed?
Implement these practices:
– Reading Scripture
– Listening to God
We must add formative practices to our lives for there to be any real spiritual formation in us!
Here are a few suggestions for you/us:
– old school bible/notebook
– online tools (sacred space, you version, daily office, get on an email list or app notification, etc.
– plan, set aside, book in time, for these important things to happen
– (more on this next week/post)
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Think about Marie Kondo and her gift of Tidying Up your life. She comes in, analyzes what needs to go, helps you believe it has to happen, removes the unnecessary and space filling items, and then allows you to invite the things that actually need to be there to help your life be the best it can be.
Our minds and hearts will grow…by getting rid of the stuff that’s in the way – adding the things that nurture our faith – and watching God work in us.
PRAYER (read this one line at a time, spending a few seconds thinking about what you said/prayed, and listening to what God might be saying to you)
I place my ordinary life before you God (every single part)
I embrace God’s best for me (what is that God? lead me there)
I acknowledge where I have fit in without thinking (this is a moment of confession, so may God’s spirit help me see where I have failed or where I’ve conformed to who I am NOT)
I fix my attention on God (take a minute to embrace God’s very real presence)
I invite Jesus to be planted deep inside of me, transforming me, changing me, renewing me.