I shared a little bit about prayer in last week’s email & this week would like to continue that thought a little but also provide some clarification regarding spiritual disciplines as a whole. I’m not proud of this fact, but I have on numerous occasions attempted to guilt trip people into praying more, going to church, reading their bible more, sharing Jesus with others, etc. as duties or obligations for what a spiritual life looks like. But these & other spiritual disciplines aren’t duties or obligations that we HAVE to do, but rather gifts to us that we GET to do!
Jesus said it this way in Mark 2: “The Sabbath was made for us, we weren’t made for the Sabbath.” We aren’t indebted to the sabbath, the sabbath was given to us as a gift to rest, reflection, relationships & renewal. (Ooh, those all start with R, I could work a sermon around that). I often hear people say or churches advertise things like: “do _____ in order to get closer to God.” My personal view of the incarnation (he is in all & through all) tells me that we can’t actually get any closer than we already are & yet there is a relational aspect at hand to where we FEEL closer at times. I used to believe, & even teach, others that God moves away from us when we stray or fall short; thankfully, I don’t believe or teach that any longer & instead believe just the opposite, God actually draws near & even runs to us! But part of discipleship & sanctification is to willfully draw near to him & the result of that is often FEELING closer to him.
Either way he loves us & is near us but why not take advantage of the gifts he’s given us like corporate worship, prayer, holy communion, meditating on scripture...to maximize the reality of his love & proximity. The sabbath along with spiritual disciplines were given not as nasty tasting medicine that we have to take in order not to get sick, but as beautiful gifts to optimize our health. Let’s receive & embrace those gifts with thanksgiving. Hope to see you & worship with you this Sunday.
Much love to you all, Pastor Chris.
If I’m being honest, I don’t pray for you guys individually or for the SPV as a whole nearly as much as I should. I’m human, & just like a good ‘ol typical human, I often find myself thinking & worrying about my own issues & concerns more than others. I’m not proud of that but it’s true & it’s also something I pray about, asking the Holy Spirit to mature me in that area. But when I do pray for you, I find myself the majority of the time praying this same prayer that the Apostle Paul prayed for & over the church in Ephesus: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
1) that you would be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit
2) that you would be rooted & established in love
3) and because your foundation is love, you /we would be able to grasp how great the love of Christ truly is
4) to know that Christ’s Love is greater than knowledge (knowledge & correct theology is good but Christ’s Love is greater & more important)
5) that you would be filled with the fullness of God
So while I pray that over you, it might also be fruitful to exercise your own faith & to declare, confess, receive & walk in agreement with those 5 points (you can unearth more than 5 points in that text by the way but I tried to keep it simple). I’ll admit, I have doubts as to whether any of us, this side of the new creation, will ever be able to fully grasp how wide, long, high & deep the love of Christ actually is but let’s die (& be resurrected) trying!
Much love to you all, Pastor Chris.
PS much of that is also our aim & focus each week as we gather for corporate worship on Sunday mornings. Grasping the depth of Christ’s love is reflected in the prayers, the worship, the messages, Holy Communion as well as our fellowship with one another. Join us!
I have REALLY enjoyed living in Florida these past 15 years, & not to complain, but the one thing I truly miss about not living up north is.....fall. I’m not mad at God or hating on Florida but seriously Lord, you couldn’t have worked in some cooler temps in September & October & caused some leaves to change colors? If it weren’t for Labor Day & the start of football (continue to pray for my Buckeyes) I’m pretty sure summer would roll right into Thanksgiving without me even realizing it!
But...we do have Labor Day & football (thank you Jesus) and the biggest shift that takes place this time of the year actually happens in the church calendar as summer vacations end, kids & teachers go back to school, & we all (hopefully) start to settle back into worship, service, & community. In a few weeks we’ll start a brand new series called “The Real Jesus”, make a push to invite new people, join a small group, & settle back into some routine & consistency that many of us lost over the summer (& that’s not a dig, I wholeheartedly support summer vacations & adventures!). So if you’re reading this & you’ve been away for awhile, there’s nothing like a fresh start. And please know, this isn’t about “getting God back into your life”, the Spirit of God is an amazing travel companion & has been with you the entire time (“where can I run from your presence oh Lord...you are right there with me...”), rather, it’s more about getting the routine & discipline of corporate worship, community, service of others, generosity, holy communion, outreach...back into our lives.
So let the change of the season begin! Even if the Florida weather & the leaves on our trees don’t cooperate.
Much Autumn love, Pastor Chris
I’ve joked in the past about doing a sermon series on my least favorite bible verses. I know, I know, that sounds sacrilegious but that’s a better title than, “Jesus’ most annoying statements”, right? And just because it’s annoying doesn’t mean it’s not right, I mean, he’s Jesus, he’s always right, but if you’re worried about something the most annoying words you can possibly hear in that moment are, “don’t worry” (Mt. 6). And yet it’s a pretty safe bet that most of us are worried about something at this very moment, I know I am, & as annoying as those words are to hear they are also medicine to the soul & guess what, medicine tastes bad most of the time.
Jesus’ encouragement/commandment to us to, “not worry” isn’t a snarky jab lacking empathy, it’s an invitation to something better. And the, “better” isn’t just simply tricking your mind into thinking positive thoughts rather than negative ones but his invitation is this: “seek first the kingdom of God” & allow the things you & I are worried about to be overshadowed by our preoccupation with the Lord & his purposes. Jesus promises when we do that, his provision will be made known to us & that’s where faith comes in. It seems ridiculous but sometimes I actually forget that this life journey of following Jesus requires faith. So seek first the kingdom, don’t worry, have faith, & receive the goodness & provision of the Lord, even when doing so seems annoying at first glance.
Much love to you all, Chris.
This will sound like a controversial statement but I assure you it is very sound theology: not everything in the OT accurately represents the heart & character of God. One of those OT concepts, & probably the most damaging thing I was taught growing up in church, was that, “because God is so holy he cannot be in the presence of sin.” That one little statement (& continued emphasis) caused me to believe that any less than perfect action on my part (losing my patience, cussing, an impure thought...) would immediately cause the presence of God to depart from me until I repented. The Holy Spirit was like a yo-yo in my life & without realizing it I had adopted a faith that was overwhelmingly rooted in my works, behavior, & obedience rather than God’s grace, Jesus’ faithfulness, & the constant (& precious) indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Seeing the Incarnation, Jesus coming into the world as fully God & man, in a fuller light was a game changer for me. God chose to come to us, “in a land of deep darkness (a light has come)” so that overwhelmingly convinced me that God not only can be in the presence of sin but actually runs towards it! And if Jesus/God incarnate ran towards the sin of the world then maybe, just maybe he doesn’t run away from me after every little (or big) mistake I make. And maybe, just maybe, he is kind to the broken-hearted (what is more kind than being WITH someone when they are down or wayward?). That little epiphany (see what I did there?) caused the theological dam to break in my life & I started seeing the Abba revealed in Jesus as running toward the wayward son (prodigal son story) rather than refusing grace until he groveled & repented for hours. I now see that Jesus is the kindness of God that provokes us to repent. Because I know he is gracious & merciful I am now so much more interested in knowing & modeling him more.
So what does all of this mean? His presence is real & you can trust it/him. We need his presence, your friends, relatives, co-workers, kids, etc need his presence...& he’s even closer than we think. If you needed to hear that then drink it in & if you already know that then be a herald of that good news!
Much love to you all, Chris.