Thursday, January 23, 2014

gods at war- Part 1

This week at Wednesday Night Worship we began a series called "gods at war" based on the book by Kyle Idleman where we will look at the idols we deal with.  We opened the night with a worship set that included "Like A Lion" (Crowder/Newsboys), "God is Able" (Hillsong), and "Here For You" (Passion).

I began the message talking about how the previous week we looked at having big dreams for what God wants to do in us and through us.  The inevitable truth is that we will encounter ups and downs in our spiritual walk this.  However there is a problem that exists when we encounter a "spiritual high" then shortly after life returns to normal, and we have another "spiritual high" and then back to normal again.  We all experience this spiritual roller coaster in our lives from time to time.  Why does this happen and how can we change it?

We discussed the following scenario:  what if you had a terrible cough and went to the doctor for relief.  He runs tests on you and discovers that you have lung cancer.  Instead of treating the cancer though, he decides to give you a prescription for cough medicine.  It helps you feel a little better, but inside the cancer is eating you up.  The problem is the cancer, the cough is only a symptom.  We all are dealing with our own problems and struggles, whether it is emotional pain from a past experience, or a sin problem that we continue to run to.  The things that we deal with are only symptoms of the true illness in our lives which is idolatry.  Sometimes the subject of idolatry seems irrelevant to us today.  However, idolatry was the number 1 issue in the Bible.  It was so serious that it was 1 of 4 sins that had the death penalty attached to it in the Old Testament.  When we look at Scripture it is evident that there is a war going on inside us- gods or idols are at war for the throne of our hearts.  Sometimes we do not even recognize them as idols because they are not bad things until we make them idols in our lives.  Every sin that we struggle with is a result of our idolatry.

We read Joshua 24:14-15 where Joshua is at the end of his life.  Previous to these verses, Joshua has recapped the history of Israel.  Here he gives his listeners a challenge and an option to decide who they are going to serves.  The gods that they have turned to in the past or the One True God that has delivered them and been there for them.  Joshua knew that they struggled with this because he knew we have all been created to be a worshipper.  We all will worship someone/something.  It is necessary that we understand this about ourselves because we are not immune from idol worship.  We asked the following questions in order to help us identify the gods that are at war for our heart:
1)  What are you most disappointed with?
What we are most disappointed with in life often reveals where we have placed our hope.  Where we place our hope reveals our gods.
2)  Where do you go when you hurt?
Where we go for comfort creates honest moments of worship in our lives.
3)  What do you sacrifice your time and money for?
The word "serve" appears 7 times in Joshua 24:14-15.  Who or what we serve is revealed by how we spend our time and our money.

We took some time to list on a dry erase board the idols that teenagers deal with today.  They listed:  phone, internet, relationships, money, school, sports, sex, shopping, etc.  I then connected each of these as a branch of a tree.  I drew the tree roots to form the word "SELF" because all of our idols are rooted in the fact that we seek to please ourselves most of the time.  However when we become rooted in "GOD" (I changed the word self to God), He prunes the idols in our lives by destroying them, allow the possibility for the fruits of the Spirit to be  produced in our lives.  It is not simply good enough to try to replace the idols in our lives, they must be destroyed or they will continue to battle for the throne of our heart.

Joshua uses the phrase "choose this day."  The verb tense used here is not simply a reference for a past choice.  Instead he is saying "I chose, I choose, and I will keep choosing to follow God."  Too often in our lives we chose Jesus for salvation and think that we are good enough.  Instead we must choose daily to make Jesus Lord of our lives.  Joshua 24:23 he says to "put away or "throw away" the gods/idols in our lives.  If we do not destroy and throw them away, then we are just treating the cancer with cough syrup which the cancer inside us continues to destroy us.  So the question we must ask ourselves is "Who will we choose?"  Will we choose the idols that fight for the throne of our heart or will we choose to allow God His rightful place on His throne.  We closed with a time of reflection asking God to reveal the idols that we struggle with.  I reminded the students that my prayer for us this year is that God will wreck our plans, and that may mean that God removes the things in our lives that we really enjoy because we have allowed them to become idols in our lives.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

WNW 1/15/14- New Year's Dreams

We had our first regular Wednesday Night Worship of 2014 last night and it was a great night.  We opened the night with a short worship set that included "Salvation is Here" (Hillsong United) and "Burning in My Soul" (Brett Younker/Passion).  We then got right into the message for the night.

I began by talking about how we all have an idea of what we want this year to look like.  Whether or not we make resolutions or goals for the year, we all want it to be better than last year.  I have big dreams for what I want this year to be like, and I want the students to have big dreams as well.  I love how Jon Acuff says that "If nobody is laughing at your dreams then you're not dreaming big enough."  While we must not have unrealistic dreams and aspirations, sometimes we set the bar way too low.  

If you have not taken evaluation of your life and the past year, especially your spiritual life then now would be a great time to start.  I challenged the students to consider the following questions:  1) Do you like who you are becoming?  2) Is God pleased with who you are becoming.  Honestly, these are questions that we should not only ask at the beginning of each year, but we should ask at the beginning of each day of our life.  So as we think about evaluating ourselves and dreaming about the future, it is important the we do it wisely.

We read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31.  I gave a brief history of the writing of this letter by Paul.  I shared that Corinth was a city that was filled with immorality, and sadly some of the believers were allowing the immoral culture to flow into their lives in the church.  So Paul writes this letter to address these matters.  I believe that as we think about having big dreams for what God wants to do in us and through us this year, we must take the wisdom from Paul and apply these three necessary steps in working toward these dreams.  

1)  Release the Past
I love this quote by Pete Wilson:  "Your past is not your past if it is still impacting your present."  Too often we hold on to the past and keep reliving past pains ands failures, which holds us back in moving forward in life.  The truth is that you cannot and will never move forward as long as you hold on to the past.  This is true in the why Paul is addressing the church at Corinth.  They were trying to move forward, yet were holding on to their sinful lifestyle.  For some people releasing the past may mean forgiving someone who has hurt them in their past.  For others it may mean forgiving themselves for a mistake.  What it is, unless you release it, you will continue to be hindered by it.

2)  Believe In Yourself
In verse 26 Paul tells us that God has called them out and has used them, even thought they are ordinary people.  God chooses the weak and lowly to accomplish His will. This excites me because He can and wants to use ordinary people like me.  Because of this, God receives all the glory!

3)  Dream With Christ In the Center
I believe this is the most often forgotten part of the equation.  Often we do fail at our dreams/goals/resolutions because we lose sight, we get too busy, or simply because life happens.  However, I believe more often than not, we fail at the goals because we never attempted to include God in any of it.  It was all simply for our own glory and we maybe never consulted Him in the first place.  Paul says in verse 27 that God chose the foolish things to shame the wise and the weak to shame the strong.  He is saying that there is nothing wise or strong apart from God.  Our dreams apart from Him are foolish and weak, and will fail.  But when we seek God for our dreams, He gives us dreams that line us with His plan for us.  

I closed the message with a challenge to spend some time dreaming big on what God wants to do in and through each individual this year.  I shared that my prayer for the students and for myself is this:  "Lord wreck our own plans this year and give us dreams that are completely disproportionate to who we are, so that You receive all the glory."  I then had the students take some time to write out the things they believe God is calling them to do and dream this year.  Then they sealed it in an envelope and addressed it to themselves for me to mail them in a year.  We closed by singing "Forever Reign" (Kristian Stanfill) and "The Lord Our God" (Kristian Stanfill).  I am excited about what God is going to do in all of our lives this year and the dreams that He is placing before us.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I'm Still Here

It has been nearly a month since my last post but for the few that keep up I am still here. Even though we are two weeks into 2014, I am still processing 2013 and thinking about the next year.  You may think it is too late to still be doing this, but I believe it is an area that most people fail at.  God is doing a great work in me and I am very grateful for that.  I hope to soon begin writing on here regularly and even hope to make a few posts in regards to what God has done in my life over the past year.  Today I wanted to share with you what spoke to me during my quiet time.  As I was reading this morning in 1 Corinthians this morning, verse 1 of chapter 8 stood out to me as Paul write "but love edifies."  In life we cannot control the actions of others, however we can always respond with love.  We may deal with discouragement and brokenness all around, but we can build up others with our love.  I hope today you will choose to edify others with the love of Jesus.