Reset

For some reason there are times I feel like I find myself needing to hit the reset button on my relationship with God.  Do you ever feel like that?  In the past I’d handle this need for “reset” by reading a good book or taking some time off and getting some good ‘ol rest in.  When things have gotten really bad I would look for a good retreat and get a way for a bit to recharge my batteries.  In fact in the past I’d look for a good house I could stay at for a weekend and maybe sneak a way for a day or two at the max.

Lately I’m feeling like I need something more.  I can’t tell you I fully understand why I need this kind of reset.  I just know it’s time to reinvent my relationship with God.  My desire for deeper connection and dependence with God is growing, therefore my relationship with God needs to grow as well.

When I say “relationship with God” I’m talking about the rhythm of my spiritual life that I am accustomed to.  Similar to the rhythm of life you live as you wake up everyday, get ready for work interact with family, friends and make time for meaningful relationships. 

The rhythm of your life seems manageable leaving you the ability to interact with people, make time for fun events and backyard barbecues.  When you are in this kind of rhythm of life things just seem to roll along and life is good.  Then something, somehow, sometime gets introduced that causes the rhythm to beat erratically or maybe you miss beats.

At any rate things just aren’t the same and you start to feel like you’re struggling in your rhythm… that’s because you are.  It’s the same with your relationship with God.  Maybe you used to have a quiet time every day at a certain time or maybe you enjoyed singing at church or listening to messages but for whatever reason things aren’t getting you to that place where you feel you are in a deep relationship with God anymore.

There is a lot to say on this topic of resetting.  My purpose in scratching the surface is to introduce the topic for those who are ready to go on the journey of reestablishing a deep and meaningful walk with God.  Here are some steps to consider to begin to reset:

First:  Talk to God.

There are a few fundamental things required to effect change in any relationship you have in life.  Two specific things are 1) communication and 2) transparency.  Like any realtioship you continue to invest in the level of transparency and communication must change when the intimacy level rises.  Interestingly it is our desire for growth and depth with God that necessitates our need to be more open with God, more honest with Him.  To do this we must spend tiem talking to him and practicing this new kind of language.  You can liken this to the relationship between a parent and their children.  When the child is a baby it doesn’t need much more than hugs and food.  As the child grows and desires to know it’s parent and vice versa, both the parent and the child must find a new way to talk to each other so they can experience the beauty and depth of close relationship.

Second:  Make an appointment.

If you have ever been on a date with someone you’ll notice that you had get a “date” on the calendar.  You set a time and you had expectations to share a bit of yourself.  The point is that spending time with someone you care deeply for is not just “good”, it’s necessary.  If you don’t’ take the time to sit in the presence of the other involved with your relationship you end up “neglecting” the one you love.  Setting an appointment with God helps to ensure you are not neglecting your relationship with God.  Start by setting a weekly time or monthly time where you can just be.  When I’ve done this in the past I’ve ended up falling asleep….  That is what happens when we go to long outside of the presence with God.  We end up needing rest so God allows us to get rest.  Once the rest is done, it’s time to.  Speak without talking.  Learn to quiet your mind long enough to hear the subtle nudging of God in your life.

Third:  Get help.

100% of the time all of us need someone to find someone to help us grow in our relationship with anyone.  This is simply because we need others to help us understand these new places of depth and commitment.  In business this looks like a business mentor, in relationships or on your own this looks like a therapist.  In your spiritual life this looks mainly like a mentor, disciple or spiritual director.  These people are skilled in the way of knowing and listening to God so much they can help you learn how to listen to God like they do.  You can get a book and read it… but if you have the opportunity to spend time with someone you knows God intimately you would be blown away to see how they can help you develop the skills necessary to hear and talk to God.

There are more you can do, but it is good to start simply and to go slow.  I like to go to the beach or go to the woods and sit and take in the beauty of God’s creation.  It helps me to experience Him in new ways.  When I’m feeling overwhelmed I typically need to find an office space or room in a quiet house where I can allow myself to rest.  A huge part of hitting the reset button is giving yourself the grace to start slow and move slow in your relationship with God. 

I hope this is helpful for you as you begin your journey.  Know the Lord loves you and you only need turn to Him and cry out in humility and he will be there to help you along the way.

The Church

People are important.

The “C”hurch is more than a building, band or great message.  The Church is the people of God who gather together to worship God and love each other through prayer and sacrifice.  This concept is a difficult one for us in Southern California.

I don’t know about you but there was a time in my life early on in my ministry where I asked myself the question “why should I go to church?”  I had at that time experienced much pain and confusion in my relationship with God and the purpose of of gathering together with other believers had gotten lost, at least in my mind. 

I’ve been to house churches and did the whole “Sundays with my family is church” thing as well.  I asked God to reveal to me his purpose for the Sunday morning gathering as a church. What did I learn? I learned that a genuine relationship with God awakens our need for the Community of believers.

At some point we must recognize that we need people and they need us.  Together God uses us to show love, help those in need and prayerfully see the miraculous happen through changed lives.  I believe in a God that still works this way.  He works through His church and I look forward to sharing this message in full.  You can listen online at www.orchardcc.org, we have the message posted on Wednesdays at the latest.

 

 

Preparing Your Heart For Christmas

Right around the Christmas season things begin to happen in a flurry.  Life seems to get faster and faster as we race toward the things we love most about December.  The time we have with our family, the songs we get to sing once a year, the holiday smells fill the air with aromas of vanilla, pine and sweet cinnamon.  Christmas time is an incredibly cheerful idea.

For others the season evokes a sense of instability.  Some if not most have suffered horrible memories and anguish throughout their lives and when they see the happy, joy filled memories depicted on television and their friends facebook pages they are forced to reflect on their painful past.

No matter which family tradition you come from or what your past experience is, all have need for the thing Christmas hopes to bring.  A faith in our fellow human being to be better towards each other, caring for those in need and aspiring toward a better future.  Love between people shared regardless of whatever is in their past.  A hope that causes us to wonder about the absolute way God can intervene in the world, a wonder that forces to dream of a world of possibility.  That is the hope we expect Christmas to bring.

God knew we would need this hope. He presented it to us in a baby named Jesus whom was born by a virgin in a stable because there was no room at the Inn. (Lk. 2:6-7).

About two miles away from the stable some shepherds were tending their flock.  The night the baby an angel went to the shepherds in the field and in the dark night which can easily represents our own darkest nights the a bright light surrounded them and darkness was turned to light.  In the sky the sound of heralding angel filled the void with the words “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Lk. 2:11).

Then the angles of Heaven break forth cutting the dark and silent night with glimpse of what it looks like to sing praises from hearts filled with the joy, the hope, the love and the faith that Jesus brought to earth that night.  They sang “Glory to God in the Highest” and they mentioned something else significant for the shepherds to hear and something significant for us to hear today.  They sang their song and told this to the angles “peace on earth and goodwill towards all people.”

This is the hope that Christmas brings.  That in the midst of the craziness of life and the consumerism that gets shoved in our faces and the keeping up with the jones’ mentality that we deal with… Peace on earth can be found…  Goodwill toward all people can be achieved.  This is not some fairy tale someone dreamed up but the truth that God came down and offered to us something significant.  He offered us wonder in the form a baby.  A peace offering in a turbulent time.  A sign that God is not done with us.  A truth that all heaven and earth rejoiced because Jesus touched down in Bethlehem and brought with Him the faith, love and hope we need.  Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and goodwill to every man, woman, boy, girl.

The peace on earth and goodwill toward all mankind was given to us through Jesus Christ.  He invites us to take an honest look at our lives in the mirror and when we see the parts where we all know we fail, where we see our own pride and selfishness to turn from it and turn toward the hope that came that night to the shepherds in the field.

Jesus came to us as a baby and took on the sin of the world when he willingly went to the cross.  He paid a heavy price for the sin of this dark world, yours and mine alike.  He proved he had the power and authority to forgive and over life and death when he raised from the dead on the third day.  When we put our trust in Jesus we are saying to ourselves and to him that we are willing to believe that he is God, that he can forgive us for not being perfect.

It all begins with a willingness to turn from our own selfishness and pride.  It begins in our hearts and for some of you tonight it is beginning right now.  You are beginning to believe that there is something more to the Christmas story than just a baby.  You like the shepherds are beginning to believe that Jesus is the Lord God come down to truly save us.

I invite you to join me and trust me when I say you can put your trust in Jesus tonight.  He came to bring you a peace that will blow your mind.  You won’t be able to explain it.  He came to show you a love that will break your heart because it in you begin to experience how far he is willing to go to forgive you.  He came to invite you to trust, to have faith and to find hope in him that will change your life forever. 

This happens in a relationship with Jesus and it can start right now if your willing to take a risk right now.  I want to invite you to in your own words talk to God, maybe for the first time.  In this silent moment I invite you to tell the Lord that you are willing to trust Jesus, the baby, the savior, the king, the Lord.  Tell the Lord you are willing to turn from your self and turn toward him and ask him to help you trust him.

10 things that will help you share the Gospel:

 I had the great opportunity to spend half a day learning and discovering some truths toward understanding how better to share the Gospel in the community that surrounds the church.  I learned several things as I spent time in prayer and heard from different speakers throughout this time.

Sharing the Gospel can be enigmatic or mysterious at times because as the world changes we have to change the ways we share our faith.  To make things a bit more clear I thought it would be important to start simply by explaining what the Gospel is.

The word Gospel is a transliterated word from the German word "Good-spell" that simply means good news.  When people reference the word Gospel they typically mean the good news that humanity can have hope.  This hope is that people can have a live a life in relationship with God.  This relationship with God is possible through a faith in Jesus.

Lots of people don't even know they need this kind of hope.  They live life day to day just trying to maintain or find a normal pattern of life often finding themselves running in an rat race.  When anyone is on a rat race it is hard to get their head up to see that hope is even possible.

The journey for those of us who have found hope in Christ to share this good news needs to begin with a heart to help expose people to the truth that they can find the hope they need and that all is possible in Christ.

 

1)  The Christian Church in America lives in Exile.

Dr. Bruce Humphrey's from Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church shared on how the church in America is very different than it was in the post WWII or Boomer generation.  The challenge for church leaders today is to live an interact with the people in our cities as though we aren't the dominant voice.

2) God will take us to places we may not want to go.

The question then becomes "How will you respond to where God brings you?" Will you love the place God brings you?  Do you love the place you are? Too many times we either a) wait for where God is going to take us or b) don't realize that God wants us working where we live.  This is a good reminder that God wants His people to be His representatives wherever they are.

3)  God's Spirit is at still at work.

There are times we think it can be difficult to reach out and share our faith with people outside of our spheres of influence.  What we fail to remember is that God wants to reach people more than we do and has already began working in and around us in others to prepare them to hear the great Gospel we have.  Our job is to be ready to share our Gospel with our words and deeds.

4)  Do something in your community.

I've heard it said several times "showing up is half the battle".  One of the things that will help Christians share the Gospel will be to show up in the community that you live in and contribute in a meaningful way.  This may mean you give up more of your personal time on Facebook or watching premium cable but can have a significant ripple effect in your community.

5)  Be a positive force where you live.

It is so easy to get irritated and upset with the negative things that happen in our neighborhoods and cities.  Communities of people need to deal with the negative issues in order to create safe and healthy environments.  Communities also need to hear about the positive things that are happening as well.  The brain processes negative information more than twice as strong as positive information.  The need for positivity in our world is critical for the development of healthy communities which then create in roads towards sharing the Gospel.

6)  Learn about the resources your community offers.

There are many needs in the community you live in and some needs are greater than others.  In many cases there are organizations and people your community that are equipped to handle the easier and more difficult cases you will encounter.  Knowing the organizations that are equipped to help people in need will help embolden you towards sharing the great hope that comes with knowing Christ.

7)  Welcome people into your midst

It is easy to stay inside our own circles and informal clubs we build around ourselves.  We all too easily insulate ourselves from the world around us because... well life is easier that way.  The best way to share God's hope is to carry with us an attitude that welcomes other people rather than reaches out and keeps people out.  You have to exercise wisdom in all situations, let reemphasize that, you must exercise wisdom when sharing your faith.  You must also represent God's heart by being one who welcomes people into your midst.

8)  Figure out how to get involved with your city's recreation program.

One of the things we as Christians regularly need to overcome is the simple fact that because we so easily insulate we fail to develop relationships with those outside the church.  One of the easiest ways we can develop relationships with people is by plugging into the recreation programs your city offers and taking the opportunity to build authentic relationships as you interact with others through volunteering.

9)  Earn the right to be heard.

It is easy to assume that because you have good news that others want to hear it.  Sometimes when we take the approach that we must share good news with people it can fall on deaf ears as we've not yet earned the trust necessary to communicate it.  It is wise for us to take the time to build real relationships with people in a way where we earn the right to share the critical message of the Gospel of hope.

10) Pray.

Everything we do must be bathed in prayer.  The best way to share the Gospel is by talking to God and asking for his help.  Whatever we do we must always be wiling to talk to God and ask him for his help.

There are probably many more ways that would be helpful in sharing the Gospel but in my time listening and learning about a variety of ways of reaching the community these are the ones that stood out.  Feel free to comment below.