Monday, February 24, 2014

Culture Making - All In #5

Here is another "All In" sermon, by Joseph Barkley:

Romans 12:9-13
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
I looked up how to change culture once (because that seems like a good thing to do). I didn't really expect to find an answer, or thought it might be something like, "appeal to the good in people and they will change." I was surprised to find that one of the most proven ways to change a culture is to convince everyone that their peers are doing the desired behavior, so you should too, lest you feel left out.

Essentially it's saying, "everyone else is doing it," with the "it" being a good thing instead of bad. Isn't that funny though, considering we've all been told our whole lives to ignore that impulse -- staying on the proverbial bridge when everyone else is jumping?

I guess the desire to fit in is pretty powerful, although I hate to admit it. Someone said (my internet research came up with different sources), "All of us are born originals, but most of us die copies." That's so true, but here we are being told that changing a culture begins with copy-making.

So here's a sermon about changing and/or creating culture, and the principals outlined below are all about love. Jesus said in John 17:20-23 that the world would know He is sent by God by the way Christians love each other:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
So do the same principals of culture changing apply to this kind of culture? "Everyone else is loving one another, so you should too!" Maybe. If we entered a community in which others genuinely loved each other, I suppose it would be infectious.

But maybe love is even bigger than that, and rather than a behavior change, love produces a heart change.

Can one man change a culture by convincing others that everyone else is doing what he is doing? Maybe. But can one man change a culture by loving others in a way no one else is? Definitely. I'd rather change culture that way.

  • Culture is the way we describe how living things behave and interact
  • We become accustomed to and maybe even addicted to our culture
    • Changing culture requires drastic change
  • We can create a culture of genuine love
    • "Love must be sincere..."
    • This teaching on love comes right after teaching on spiritual gifts
    • A community that is supernaturally gifted won't make a difference without supernatural love
    • Love can't be an act or have a mask on
  • Genuine love purifies affections
    • "hate what is evil, cling to what is good"
  • Genuine love asserts family
    • "be devoted to one another in love"
  • Genuine love honors liberally
    • "honor one another above yourselves"
    • "outdo one another in showing honor" (ESV)
    • Our words our incredibly powerful, and can be used to build up
  • Genuine love actively shares everything
    • "share with the Lord's people who are in need, practice hospitality"
    • This may be something that isn't natural, though we may enjoy it
    • Assess what we have to contribute, and actively seek out ways to do that
  • God must be the center of the community
    • "...never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, always serving the Lord..."
    • He's saying don't be spiritually lazy
      • Could happen in a culture of genuine love
      • Christian community is not an ideal to strive for
        • The temptation in such an awesome community is to worship the community instead of the Creator
  • Genuine love is weird, but it is a cultural distinction that the world needs to see
    • Jesus said the world would know He is real by the way we love each other

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

To Each for All - All in #4

Here's the fourth "All In" sermon by Joseph Barkley:

It's based on Romans 12:3-8:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
There's a lot of good stuff in here, so I'd encourage you to read the notes below, because it's too much for me to comment on. I will say that, in speaking of spiritual gifts, this sermon is a bit of a wake up call...

I think it's the tendency of my generation to put a lot of effort into finding what we're supposed to do, or what God wants us to do. I count myself in this number, as I still find myself questioning my career path even six years after graduating college, asking what I'm good at and what I might enjoy doing. I think the important thing to remember here is found below: what we do is not who we are. My identity is found through knowing Christ, not in a job. That's a tough pill to swallow when most of our lives are designed to set us up for a career, but all over scripture you'll find that God is more concerned with who we are than what we do.

So think about investing more in your character than your career, and see where that takes you. I'll try to do the same.

Here are some notes:
  •  We are stronger when all of us contribute
    • We aren't complete in and of ourselves, but we do add value to the whole
    • "Each of us has one body with many members...we each form one body..."
  • The family of God will outlive governments and societies
    • We are part of an eternal, unstoppable movement and initiative of God
  • There is something God wants to do only through you
    • You have a gift from God, for everyone
    • God wants to give through you
  • The more God gives us, the more we have to give up
    • God is a giver
  • This all begins with Jesus
    • He unites us
  • Every follower of Jesus has the Spirit of God within us, desiring to move through us
  • "God has given EACH ONE of you a gift..." (1 Peter 4:10 - emphasis added)
    • Your spiritual gift is a God-given ability to make a God-sized difference
  • A partial list of spiritual gifts:
    • Prophesy: truth-telling
      • Notice things that others don't see
      • Innovators, creatives, artists -- reporting from life outside of the box because that's where they live
      • Exercise this "in accordance with your faith"
        • Needs to be in line with scripture
        • Needs to be according to your measure of maturity
    • Serving: those who run to meet the material needs of others
    • Teaching: those who are anchored in learning and can explain what God has done
    • Encouraging
      • Encouragement should be specific and timely
      • Exhortation: suggesting next steps and assisting in progress
    • Giving
    • Leading
      • Most leaders use this for their competitive advantage, God calls leaders to serve
      • Strategists who help other people succeed at their gifts
      • Godly leaders will help the group through the tough times
    • Merciful: the word here means "caring for impairments"
  • Some need to find their gifts
    • Online tests can actually be helpful
    • Paul writes to the Romans, who he doesn't know, with a general list - as if they are supposed to figure it out as they go.
      • Figuring this out is a process
    • Questions to ask yourself
      • In what ways have I been productive in influencing others' lives?
      • What gives you joy?
      • What do other believers reflect back at you?
      • What do you think your knack is?
    • You need to give your gifts back to God, trusting that He will remake you so that God can have a supernatural impact with your life.
      • Giving God what you're good at
  • Some have found their gifts, but aren't using them.
    • Gifts need to be developed
      • This happens in community
    • God isn't just growing our capacity, but our character
  • Three ways we misuse God's gifts
    • Letting gifts define yourself
      • "Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought."
      • You are not defined by what you do, but who God has told you you are
      • Do not mistake your gifts for your identity
      • Do not mistake your gifts as your job or your calling
        • Your calling is to serve
        • "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." - Matthew 20:28
        •  Jesus' spiritual gift was not to hang on the cross
        • There are 1000 people willing to do great things for every one willing to do something small
        • God got fishermen to preach to thousands
    • Use your gifts to serve yourself
      • You're not succeeding unless those around you are benefiting from your work
      • Some people create need so they feel useful
      • Community around us helps block us from being proud and selfish
      • The leading motivator of your spiritual gift is the glory of God
    • Keeping your gift to yourself
      • If you withhold your gift, it either becomes destructive or you lose purpose
  • As God matures your faith, you will become less attached to your gift
  • Our capacity to contribute is way more with God

Monday, January 27, 2014

Free Your Mind - All In #3

All In #3, by Joseph Barkley, can by found here.

I don't want to write too much, because these notes below have a lot of good information from the sermon - please read and consider them. I will say, though, that as I revisit this sermon, something feels missing...

Renewing your mind is a bit of an abstract concept, and even though Joseph gives some practical insights below, applying ideas that aren't concrete or fully understood seems like an empty practice. Sometimes depending on Jesus as a person even seems too abstract to accomplish, but what God's been teaching me lately is that scripture is where to begin on this.

If you're struggling with something, lack direction or feel like you're missing out on Jesus as a person, go to the bible. Really study, deep and thoughtful. Ponder the words, whether you understand them or not. Pray about them. God will show up. I promise. I'm going through it now, and it's funny how simple it can be, but also how easy it is to ignore God's word in your life (as if there is some kind of enemy keeping you from it...hmm...?).

Romans 12:2 - "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

  • Worship = a fixation on something that re-orients our lives; a way of responding that is all in
  • God wants to change your life
    • Think about the gravity of that principle -- He doesn't just want to add to life, He wants to alter your existence
  • God urges us to be different
    • Say "no" to the world
    • Say "yes" to God's principles
  • Two reason to do this:
    • " will be able to test and approve God's will..."
      • God wants to give us an increased capacity to know what He's thinking
    • " will be transformed"
      • Same verb used here for the transfiguration of Jesu
        • Jesus revealed the glory of who He is
        • God will reveal who you really are -- there is a version of you you don't even know yet
  • This is more than just saying no to sex, drugs and rock-and-roll
    • We could clean up our behavior and never be changed
  • To change your life, change your mind
    • Changing our mind involves changing our thought patterns
  • Three thought patterns that we're born with with:
    • Autonomy: we can do what we want, when we want and we are not accountable; we are alone in the universe, left up to our own devices
      • Our culture really reinforces this
      • This leads us to demand God to explain Himself to us
      • We want to be the arbiter of our relationship to God
    • Desire: what I want must be what I need; what I want is who I am
      • This says that anything else is oppressive and restrictive
      • It's destructive to be slave to your desire
      • The loneliest moment is when we get everything we want and it's still not enough
        • Ecclesiastes 2:11 - "But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless--like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere."
      • What desire do I have that God must deliver to prove that He loves me?
        • Could even be a good thing..."she noticed that the fruit looked good." (Genesis 3:6)
        • What we're really saying is, "I want that thing more than God."
      • This eventually leads to disappointment...what we want isn't always what we need
    • Moment: What we do right now does not have any lasting effect on the future.
      • This says that my action or inaction today won't matter long term
      • God wants us to be present, but also make the most of the present
      • Today will one day be your this the story that you want your future self to be able to tell?
      • You know that your present will one day be your past, so why not create a different past for your future by changing your present?
  • If these thought patterns are taken together, there is nothing you cannot justify
    • God wants to save us from this delusion
  • How do you change your mind?
    • God's provided everything we need to change our minds
    • Practice dependence on God
      • Ask God to make your mind newer
    • Celebrate what God's already done
      • God's already given His Son, so why not trust Him?
        • Never get over this
    • Take control over education
      • Everything we consume is education
      • Stay in scripture every day
      • Be an active participant in the patterns of today -- engage with culture (converse, challenge, see beauty in)
    • Expect a journey
      • This is an ongoing process
      • This takes time...but God wants to spend time with us
        • God is on time -- you are right where He wants you
  • Transformation begins on the inside 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Dispelling the Worship Myth - All In #2

That's an interesting title for the second sermon in the "All In" series, isn't it? In here, Joseph says some things about being "present" in worship. Lately, living in the present moment is something that has been coming up a bit in my life, so I'll write about that...

I listened to this quick video, which talks about how often "today" is used in the bible...
  • 2 Corinthians 6:2 - "For God says, 'At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.' Indeed, the "right time" is now. Today is the day of salvation."
  • Matthew 6:11 - "Give us today our daily bread."
  • Genesis 24:12 - "Then he prayed, 'Lord, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.'"
  • (Here's a search on it if you want more.)
So much of our lives are about tomorrow (the next job, retirement, buying a house), and I'd wager that a lot of our prayers are similar. But God is here, right now; active today. How does that affect you?

The other day I was trying to put myself in the mindset that God is taking care of me right now. In that place, I literally don't have to worry about anything because God is real, and has promised to take care of me. Try and exist in that moment - where God is literally holding you in His hand. You are sustained, right now, because of God. That's beautiful and freeing.

I have been pretty stressed this week with an overload of responsibilities and activities outside of work; so much so that I woke up this morning with a headache just trying to figure out how I'm going to do everything I need to do. On the way to work, I was thinking about how there was literally nothing at that moment I could do to help me finish any of those things, and so what was the point of worrying about them? This isn't a reckless abandonment of responsibility, but rather existing in the moment, because that's all I have.

Here are some notes from the sermon, based on Romans 12:1.

Romans 12:1 - "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship."

  • What does God want in response to His gift of grace?
    • Worship
  • God is only honored with a particular form of worship.
    • There is "true and proper" worship - holy worship
  • What is "holy worship?"
    • Holy = set apart; anything that is in line with God's particular way of life
    • Worship = fixation that determines your behavior
    • 3 characteristics of holy worship
      • Worship that honors God is conscious
        • "true and proper worship" or some translations have "reasonable"
        • Deliberate, calculated; the head and the heart
        • Present - aware, immersed
      • Worship that honors God is comprehensive
        • "offer your bodies" - our most valuable possession, everything!
          • You are letting go of control and entitlement
          • This is saying that nothing is off limits to God
          • God wants our dreams, our pasts, our futures, everything...trusting God's mercy for our past and His hope for our future.
      • Worship that honors God is continuous
        • "living sacrifice"
        • Worship doesn't just happen at church or in moments - it's perpetual
  • Life is like a big arrow made up of a bunch of little arrows
    • Worship is asking God to align all of the little arrows (conversations, events, etc.) to orient the big arrow towards Him
  • Is worship a normal part of life or the anomaly?
    • Are worship events the rare thing?
    • This doesn't mean adding more church events
    • If worship is the anomaly, be patient -- it's an entire life change
  • God wants what He paid for, and giving that up to Him is really aligning our lives with where it fits anyway

Note: This was written some time ago, so present tense items are not actually present tense, which is ironic in a way, given the subject matter.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Something Worth Everything - All in #1

It's been a while since I've posted. The holidays slowed me down a bit, and I've also been surf blogging for! Check out the blog here.

Now, back to sermons and such...

Here is the first in a series from Joseph Barkley at Ecclesia Church...ALL IN! It's a study of Romans 12, and this first sermon is a quick summary of Romans 1-11.

Joseph talks about how there are certain things in life you can't do halfway, like cartwheels or backflips. I would add dropping into a vert ramp (watch Jason do it in this video at 4:27).

I remember dropping into that same vert on a skateboard -- it took me about an hour of staring over the edge in fear. It's especially scary because you can't do it halfway or ease into it. You either drop in and roll to the other side, or you fall -- all or nothing.

All or nothing is a scary concept, but isn't that the way to live? As the Avett Brothers sing, "One foot in and one foot back, but it don't pay to live like that. So I cut the ties and I jumped the tracks, for never to return." That really resonates with me, as I want to make sure my time here is well-spent. Given the choice, wouldn't you pick a risky and fulfilling life over a comfortable one? It's dangerous, but as skateboarding has taught me, things are more fun with a little danger mixed in.

The sermon can be found here:

Here are some notes:
  • The Christian life is not meant to be experienced halfway
  • Is the Christian life just a checklist of things to do and not do?
    • Is this all that God wants from us?
  • A survey of Romans 1-11
    • Paul means "small" in Greek - insignificant
      • Makes sense considering Paul's change from a person actively opposing Christianity to promoting it
    • The church in Rome was started by some unknown Christians
      • Their faith was famous (Romans 1:8)
      • This letter is Paul arming the Roman church with information on how what God was doing through them relates to the rest of the world/culture
    •  Lots of "-tions"
      • Condemnation: we all deserve judgement
      • Predestination: God chose us before the world began
      • Glorification: God will see us through to the end, until we become the people He knows we can be
      • Propitiation: God's wrath has been satisfied - He is not angry anymore
        • He was angry at our separation from Him because of, and the destruction caused by, sin
      • Justification: We are not guilty
      • Redemption: Everything is forgiven
      • Regeneration: We are reborn - a new creation
      • Reconciliation: We are not enemies of God, but friends
      • Adoption: We are more than friends, we are children of God
      • Sanctification: the ongoing work of God in our lives to grow us more into Christ's likeness
    • Ch. 1-3: Bad news first - what humans are like
      • We are born with a destiny of death in sin
      • There is nothing we can do about it
      • We are born a little out of place - we have a soul that longs for more than we can provide for ourselves
    • After this...God knew about this, and was willing to do what we couldn't do to fix it
      • The cross does this, which is only received by faith
        • You have to trust that this is's not the cross + __________.
      • This begins to unravel everything we thought we could get out of life
    • In light of this faith, our new nature begins to take shape
      • Romans 6:18 - "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness."
      • We have been freed from our old destiny - Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
      • Paul says most of the time he feels like a failure
        • The well-worn ruts of our old direction
        • This is a new war within us, and our tendency is to fall back towards modifying behavior
      • The answer is "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." - Romans 8:1
      • As you trust God more, you can have complete peace because this is not going anywhere.
    • This is available to everybody
  • "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship."- Romans 12:1
    • God wants complete surrender - your whole self, all in.
    • John 12:24-25 "Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal."
      • Love God with all your heart, soul, strength
    • In view of this complete surrender, we are no longer entitled to anything in this life
  • We have a tendency to trade "all-in" for rituals and behavior.
    • We become afraid that God will ask us to do something weird (live in a hut in Africa and never get married)
    • God is a father, the best Father, so we can trust that He knows and does what is best for us
    • "All-in" also is way better than anything we can get in life
      • We are not asked to give up, but trade up
    • We have given ourselves to something (a dream, relationship, identity), so why not give everything to Someone who knows us and how precious we are?
  • Be honest with God, who is asking for to Him about that.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Live Inspirationally

Here's a sermon by Jason Jaggard (I wish I could link specifically to his sermon, but I don't think I can -- so you'll have to scroll down) about living inspirationally.

Philippians 2:12-18
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
As I read that scripture, what stands out is " is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Have you ever wanted to do God's will, but just can't seem to get it together? Or feel as if there is some barrier between what you do and what you want to do...who you are and who you want to be?

It's like how Paul puts it in Romans 7:15 - "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." If you read the rest of that passage, Paul goes on to explain the tumultuous conflict inside. After a series of back and forth, he gets to the end with, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Apparently we need God...a lot; just to do what we honestly desire to do. And I'm feeling that right now in life. But that takes trust. Try and get to the bottom of yourself and ask -- do you trust God to handle your life, marriage, children, career, money, business? It's tougher than it seems. But God is faithful and won't leave us.

There's the struggle; but that's part of a life that can only be explained by God (see below). And that's a life worth living.

Here are some notes from the sermon:
  • Scripture is an echo throughout history that says, "God cares."
  • Philippians is a letter to people who are doing okay
    • Sometimes we're not in a high or low spiritually, but just going along
    • This can be the hardest place to hear God's voice
  • "Work out your salvation..."
    • The word "salvation" can have negative connotations these days
    • Salvation is used in different ways
      • God saving (like saving King David from his enemies)
      • God forgiving us (more spiritual sense)
      • God protecting us ("you are my rock and my salvation")
      • In this verse, "salvation" is a process, not a specific event
        • It's a partnership and relationship
  • We are designed to inspire people
    • "Inspire" means to breathe life into
    • Jesus is the most inspirational person to ever live
    • "Working out salvation" means becoming an incredible human being
      • Having more integrity, more compassion, less bitterness, etc.
      • Matthew 5:14a - "You are the light of the world."
  • Culture says that God just wants to take all the fun stuff away from us
    • The truth is that He is the best giver
  • "...with fear and trembling."
    • There is a fear that traps us...
      • A life of fear clips off the highs and the lows into a manageable middle
        • But you miss the highs...
    • This is a different kind of fear
      • This is to go places in your life that require God to exist for you to be successful
  • Working out your salvation with fear and trembling means living a life that cannot exist without God
    • This journey requires a choice
  • God has "plans to prosper you..."
    • In your character
  • There are some things God loves doing for us, but most things He loves doing with us
  • "Grace is more than just the forgiveness of sins; grace is the opportunity to become like Jesus." - Deitrich Bonhoffer