“Where are you?”
This is a deeply profound question in the context of our spiritual life with God. God looks beyond the physical when he asks Adam and Eve in the garden, “Where are you?” He is inquiring about their hearts. God wants to know what is going on with them spiritually. God knows they have sinned against Him. He desires them to understand what is going on in their own hearts.
We have done a lot of house projects over the years. Some were small projects and others major remodels. Each time we approached a project there was excited anticipation of the final product. We longed for something beautiful, lasting, and most importantly - finished! One thing I learned about remodeling is that there is ALWAYS something unexpected below the surface of the project.
As humans, we are in awe when God enters into our lives and commands our full attention engaging our intellect, imagination, and emotions. God captures our hearts, minds, and souls when He draws us to Himself. The result in our lives is faith in Him. This faith story is revealed to all in the act of baptism. Baptism brings out in the open which once was only in our hearts.
We all love hearing people’s stories. Where they came from. What they like to do for fun. How they decided to go into their particular field of work. What God has done in their lives. Stories are amazingly unique and powerful. But we also all have a singular story that unites each of us as humans.
Sometimes in life there is a perfect storm of events. That has happened at The Rock this week. A group is headed to Mexico to build houses. Others are going on vacations with their families. Paul Duncan is in Italy writing the next great Italian pop song. This has led us to make the hard decision not to have a service at The Rock this Sunday. We are encouraging people to worship with other churches or get together and worship with one another in homes. We will be back strong on July 28th!
Often times we are confronted by Jesus with things that are contrary to our modern thinking. For example, “So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16) Modern thinking dictates that we should put ourselves first. Another one that stands out to me is that the world says our faith should be private and personal. Jesus prays in John 17:22-23; “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Our faith is to be lived out in community. In these upcoming weeks at The Rock we see that in a couple of important ways:
As we celebrate the 4th of July barbecuing, beaching, and watching fireworks I am struck with two ways we are blessed with citizenship only by God’s amazing grace. One is a citizenship we share with our fellow Americans. The other is a citizenship shared by believers in Jesus - a heavenly citizenship!
Lori and I are traveling to the Covenant (Evangelical Covenant Church) Annual Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska this week. Please pray for 2 things…
A mantra of many Americans is “Work hard, play hard.” Working hard is a virtue if not taken to the extreme. Playing hard can be enjoyable if not done sinfully. The problem with this life philosophy is that it has nothing to do with rest. And rest is what many Americans are woefully lacking! We need more rest physically, mentally, and emotionally. But what we need above all of these is spiritual rest.
A true sign of unity among Christians is if they are able to worship together. It sounds simple, but over the centuries it has proven difficult. We need God’s help to allow us to get out of our comfort zones and be freed by the Holy Spirit to worship in spirit and truth with those who are different from us. We have been blessed at The Rock to worship with our friends from The Harbor Covenant Church in the past. This Sunday we have an opportunity to worship with The Harbor at their facility!
John Lennon recorded the song “Imagine” trying to comprehend an ideal world where we would; “Imagine all the people living life in peace.” The sentiment of the song is good. The theology is not. This kind of world is impossible without God. The only time our world has been pure, good, and peaceful was when God first created the universe. We see this in Genesis 1-2.
Church can become routine. Like any activity that we do week in and week out, church can occupy the same category as weekly staff meetings, Taco Tuesday, Survivor night, spelling test day, or TGIF. One more activity to do and accomplish. But church is much more. Church is where we meet the God of the Universe together!
A great joy of being a part of a community of people is conversation. Genuine conversation allows us to express our opinions, respond to others, and simply enjoy one another’s company. Conversation produces better communal thinking. We engage with one another in a way that allows us to grow, change, and become better. Does this sound impossible in a day and age of social media rants, one-sided opinions, and win-at-all-costs mentality?
The “prosperity gospel” has seeped into our lives. The idea that God’s plan for us is to be financially prosperous, physically healthy, and generally happy is the summary of this “gospel.” What sounds great has led to damaging spiritual thinking in all of our lives. It is hard to avoid. We see it in the way we pray, the way we respond to trials & difficulties, and in how we view sickness & suffering. It is tempting to think that God has let us down.
A number of poeple at The Rock are reading Francis Chan’s book, Letters to the Church, in small groups. We have found his book challenging, convicting, and oddly comforting. Challenging in that it makes observations from the Bible that confront the ways we do church. Convicting in that it exposes some ways church is more about tradition and cultural expectations than what God desires. And comforting in that we have discovered there are things being done at The Rock that reflect the Bible’s design for the church.
How we start something in life is important. Getting off to a good start in a new job feels good. How we nourish a new-born child makes a difference in their future health. A good start to a season for your team sets them up for a playoff run. Equally important is how we handle life if something goes wrong.
Many of us watched in horror as Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was burning this last week. There are multiple reasons we felt sad and helpless that an 800 year old building halfway across the world was burning. One was a magnificent structure of artistic, historical, cultural, and religious significance was in danger of being destroyed. Another was the feeling of loss that a building built in order to point to the holiness and splendor of God was in peril. I think Easter week speaks to both of these issues.
Preparation is the key to success! This sounds like a motivational speech given by a teacher, boss, coach, or even before a big night out. We all want to be prepared for important moments in life. For the big test. For the meeting with a key client. For the championship game. In fact, it is some of our nightmares to be unprepared and unable to succeed in the moment we are called on to execute. God prepares us in the Christians life for success in many ways.
I’m at the Pacific Southwest Conference Celebration conference in Walnut Creek this week. It is great spending time with people from our denomination. What is even better is spending time in worship with people at The Rock.
I’m envious of those who follow the Boy Scout Motto to “BE PREPARED which means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.” Many of us live our lives responding to life’s issues, problems, and crisis on the fly rather than being prepared for anything at any time. The Apostle Paul addresses this specifically at the end of the book of Ephesians.