How We Change: Time

This Sunday we are wrapping up our series on “How God Changes People.”  For this series I have borrowed a phrase from Henry Cloud that reminds us that transformation of the human heart requires grace plus truth plus time.  

Something profoundly indelible happens when we are known to the core of our being with all our faults and all our blemishes and all our scars and all our brokenness. We are known, yet we are completely loved and fully accepted.  When we experience that kind of acceptance, we call it grace.  And when we experience that type of grace, it changes us.
If you want to change, you need the power of truth in your life, because truth defines reality. Truth shapes us, guides us, protects us, reveals to us, and it frees us. Truth is a powerful agent of change.
This Sunday we are going to wrap up this series of messages by reminding ourselves that even with grace and truth in our lives, transformation does not come quickly. When the Bible describes spiritual transformation, it uses organic terms: the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.  Or when Peter writes, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)  Or when the Psalmist reflects about the godly – “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (Psalm 1:3; NLT)

This stinks,  because we live in a world that worships speed. We are a multi-tasking, instantaneous-downloading, real-time updating, “I get angry when my computer takes longer than 3 seconds to do anything,” microwave culture. We want instant results and instant change. But despite all our technology and all the innovations and all the breakthroughs, there are some things you just can’t shortcut.  The transformation of the human heart is one of those things.

How We Change: Truth

Imagine picking your car up from where you took it for a tune-up. The technician says to you, “This car is in great shape. Clearly you are an automotive genius to take great care of your car.” 

Later that day, your brakes don’t work. You find out you were out of brake fluid. You could have died. You go back to the shop, and you say, “Why didn’t you tell me?” The technician said, “Well, I didn’t want you to feel bad. Plus, to be honest, I was afraid you might get upset with me. I want this to be a safe place where you feel loved and accepted.” You would be furious. You would probably say something like, “I didn’t come here for a little fantasy based ego boost. When it comes to my car, I want the truth.”
Or, imagine this scenario: You’re at a party. Afterwards, your spouse or your good friends says to you, “Once more, I was struck by your natural charisma and superior intellect.  They are continually amazing. You correctly intuited that everybody at that party would rather listen to you pontificate out of your brilliance than to have to come up with something to say themselves.” How mad do you get at that comment?
When something matters to us, we do not want illusory comfort based on pain avoidance. We want truth. Except when it comes to ourselves. When it comes to me, I’m not sure I want the truth. Winston Churchill wrote, “Men occasionally stumble on the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

We are in a series of messages about how God changes people. The series is based on a phrase by a guy named Henry Cloud who said, “Transformation requires grace plus truth plus time.”  Last week we looked at the fun part of transformation – grace.  This week we will be looking at the more difficult part of transformation – truth.

How We Change: Grace

A few years ago, I used to frequent one of those factory outlet stores.  The prices were cheap and for good reason – most of the clothes were deemed “slightly irregular.”  

I was never quite sure what “slightly irregular” meant and quite often could not figure out how the clothes were different than “regular” clothes. Besides, I figured, it kind of described me – I’M often “slightly irregular.”

When it comes to the human race, we are all “slightly irregular"-- in need of being changed in to something better.  There is a mind that will not open. There is a mouth that will not shut. There is a backbone that won’t hold firm. There is a stiff neck that won’t yield. It is true of every one of us. We are our own worst enemy.  Many of the problems in our lives have been brought about by our own poor decisions and selfishness – greed, anger, lust, lack of self-control. We are in desperate need of a better version of ourselves.   But how does that happen? 

This Sunday we are starting a series of messages about how God changes people. Henry Cloud said,“Transformation requires grace plus truth plus time.” This Sunday we are going to look at the first book of the Bible and how God’s grace is concretely expressed from the very beginning of time. 

Epic: Elijah

This Sunday we are wrapping up our series of messages called “Epic."  We are having conversations with folks in our church about an Old Testament story that has been meaningful to them.  This Sunday, James Stewart and Serena Hicks will be talking about a wild and crazy character from the Old Testament: Elijah.  

Elijah was a hot-headed fiery prophet but also probably was a bit bi-polar.  He would go from great highs to suicidal depression.  He performed some amazing miracles: called fire from Heaven, raised someone from the dead, and saved a widow’s life with perpetual oil and flour.  But he also struggled with insecurity and depression.
Elijah is a complicated person, but his story tells us a lot about the things like: what we give priority to in our lives, how we treat the vulnerable people around us, what it means to trust God, how to deal with depression, and how to be a spiritual person in a noisy and busy world. 

Epic: Joseph

If you are unfamiliar with this story in the Bible, it is a story about sibling rivalry, about how we dehumanize each other, about revenge, about being unjustly accused, and about forgiveness and reconciliation.  But more than anything else, it is a mirror of God’s story – a story of a stubborn dreamer in shalom and a foreshadowing of a God who will suffer on behalf of someone else in order to save them.  

There is a reason that this story has survived for thousands of years.  I hope you can join us on Sunday as Amanda and I try to scratch the surface of the depth of this story.

Epic: Ruth

We are also starting a new series of messages this Sunday called “Epic."  I am having some conversations with folks in our church about an Old Testament story that has been meaningful to them.  This Sunday, Matti Stewart and I will talk about the book of Ruth. 

If you are unfamiliar with this short story in the Bible, it is about a woman whose husband dies and her attempt to rebuild her life with her late husband’s mother.  It is a thought-provoking story about loss, about God showing up in the darkest points in our lives, and about what it is like to be an immigrant in a strange country. 

If nothing else, I am sure Matti will keep us all entertained with her unique perspective on life!

Under The Hood: "Organic"

Every now and then in human history, there is a revolution that rises up with new ideas and new ways of seeing the world.  People begin to buy in to the new ideas and it starts a movement.  

The movement is not very organized at first; it is usually just a handful of passionate people who believe in a great vision of the future. Nevertheless, the movement grows, gains ground, and things begin to change for the better. 
At some point, someone in the movement observes, “We have put a lot of effort in to this movement.  We need to find a way to preserve the gains of the past for future generations.”  It is at that moment that a movement starts to become an institution.  Almost every institution in our world finds its roots as a radical movement. 
Institutions are not all bad. Institutions often find systematic ways of continuing the actions of a movement even though the spirit or ethos of the movement has died.  Every healthy organization needs elements of both movement and institution: people who think about the future, and people who honor and preserve the gains of the past. 
Jesus did not start an institution; he started a movement.  His followers made it in to an institution, which is why you hear so many people in our day admire the life and teachings of Jesus but say, “I am not really in to organized [institutional] religion.”  Turns out, most people do not want to join an institution, but a movement is inspirational.
We have been in a conversation about what drives us.  For every group of people there are unspoken agreements for how the group will collectively act. These unspoken agreements are based on the values that we have.

At CrossPoint, we want our values to be things like love and simplicity.  This Sunday, we are going to look at what it might mean to capture the ethos of the Jesus movement.  How do we avoid becoming just another religious institution that is a tribute to the past with no vision for the future?  We call this value being “organic.” 

What is Under the Hood?: Simple

Totem poles are an important part of the cultural heritage of the Native people of the Pacific Northwest.  They are more than just beautiful art, they represent characters or stories or symbols about a village’s cultural beliefs. A totem pole may have an animal that embodies the ethos of that community – an eagle, a salmon, or a bear, for example. 

Elders in the village would communicate the values to the younger generation using the totem pole. “We must be wise as an owl, cunning as a fox, strong as a bear, and as resourceful as a badger,” they would say. 

As new people would come in to their community, the elders would tell them the story of the totem pole -- “The salmon on the pole – he doesn’t give up; he swims upstream even though it is difficult, until he reaches his goal. That is who we are: people who persevere and grow stronger through our struggle.”
The totem pole is an outward expression of what is “under the hood” – what drives a community.  

We are in a conversation about what drives us. Last Sunday we talked about how love is the foundation of everything we do.  This Sunday we are going to look at valuing simplicity.  It turns out, it is simple to make things complex, but a complex task to make things simple.  Keeping things simple is an important way of understanding our faith, of how we do life together, and even how we make financial decisions.