Church Without Walls: Neighbors

Growing up, my parents moved a lot and I remember living in several houses in Lodi, California; Sacramento, California, and Winnipeg, Canada.  When we lived in Canada, there was a house on McGill Ave that I remember most vividly.  There was a kid named Greg across the street whose parents had a pool table.  We had a lot of fun with that pool table until one summer day we scratched the felt on it.  His parents didn’t think too highly of that and our dreams of being pool sharks ended.  

Since I graduated from college in 1988, I’ve lived in seven cities and seventeen different houses or apartments.  I’ve had good neighbors and some really bad neighbors.  Some made lots of noise, smoked various substances, or their houses and yards were messy.  

Living next door to the house full of partying college students was probably the worst neighbors I had. 
I am still Facebook friends or stay in contact with many of my former neighbors. They are great people who I care about deeply and miss. 
“Neighbor” is a powerful word. There is no word quite like it. There is beauty and kindness in that simple word.  When you hear the word neighbor, who do you think of?
Jesus had a lot to say about neighbors and how to relate to them.  As we continue our conversation, “A Church Without Walls,” we are going to reflect on our neighborhoods and what Jesus has to say about them.

Church Without Walls

Soren Kierkegaard, the famous Danish Christian philosopher, grew up in the countryside surrounded by farms that raised geese (among other animals).  Each spring he would watch as a new gaggle of goslings was hatched and began to be fattened for the table.  Over the course of their short lives these geese would gorge themselves at constantly refilled troughs of grain until they were so fat they could hardly walk.  Kierkegaard imagined that they believed their lives to be perfect, as every need they had was in abundance. 

When autumn came, the truth became apparent.  The wild geese that had spent the warm summer months in Denmark would gather in preparation for their southerly migration.  

As they assembled to fly south they would circle in the skies above the farms, calling out to any stragglers to join in their flight.  At this point the farmed geese would lift their heads from the feeding troughs and look into the skies, heeding the call of their wild cousins.  For the first time in their lives they would become animated, running as best they could around their enclosures and attempting to fly.  Of course, their gluttonous diet and life of luxury meant that they were far too fat to get airborne – but that did not stop them from trying.  And then, as quickly as the commotion had started, the wild geese would fly off and the fattened farm geese would watch them briefly before returning to their grain to continue eating their way to their deaths. 
This Sunday, I am going to take a few weeks to think together with you about what it means to be the church together.  Are we farmed geese or wild geese?  Are we meant to feed or  do we feed in order to fly?  What does it mean to “leave the walls of the building” in order to serve the world?  We will be looking at the New Testament to give us insight to these questions.  It should be a fun journey!

Five Words to Change Your Life: Yes

There is an online article called “The Most Dangerous Word in the World.” It’s about the power that the word no can have over our minds. It’s written by a researcher, Andrew Newberg, who is a specialist in spirituality and neurology. This is part of what he and his coauthor write:

"If I were to put you into an MRI scanner…and flash the word ‘NO’ for less than one second, you’d see a sudden release of dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing, and communication.

In fact, just seeing a list of negative words for a few seconds will make a highly anxious or depressed person feel worse, and the more you ruminate on them, the more you can actually damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings, and emotions. You’ll disrupt your sleep, your appetite, and your ability to experience long-term happiness and satisfaction."*

All this from exposure to negativity and, in particular, the word no.  Of course sometimes we have to say no to make space in our lives for more important things.  However, we cannot live on a diet of no. It kills the spirit. We were made for yes.

Sunday we are going talk about what it means to say “yes” – to God and to the people around us.

Five Words to Change Your Life: Sorry

A couple weeks ago, the 2018 Major League Baseball season kicked off.  If you follow MLB, my guess is that you have high hopes and expectations for your team this year. But the reality is that in spite of all the blood, sweat, and tears in the next few months, 29 of the 30 teams playing in April will not win the World Series in October.
One of the aspects of baseball that makes it unique (and beautiful) is its focus on failure management. Failure is an inevitable part of baseball – not just for teams, but for individuals. In what other place in life can you fail 7 out of 10 times and still be considered a smashing success?  In baseball, if you can manage your failure that much as a batter, you will be a raging success.
Twenty three times in the past 140 years, an MLB has a pitcher thrown what is called a “perfect game”—a game with no hits or walks. That may seem fairly common, but that breaks down to about 1 in every 20,000 games. Therefore, to be successful as a pitcher also means to learn to manage the inevitableness of failure.
When it comes to our lives, nobody likes failure, but there is another side to failure that we experience in life we will be talking about this weekend.  It is more powerful than that feeling of failure or temporary setback, nd when you experience this in your life, it can set you back weeks, months, or even years.

Researchers have found the single most often expressed emotion in daily conversation is love: A child to a parent, a friend to a friend - expressions of caring and affection are more common than anything else that we say.

But the second most commonly expressed emotion on a daily basis is regret: “I wish I had shown up on time. I wish I’d spoken up. I wish I hadn’t eaten that. I wish I’d been saving my money. I wish I’d asked her out. I wish I hadn’t asked her out.”
We are continuing our conversation on Sunday called “Five Words that Will Change Your Life.” This Sunday, James Stewart and I will be having a conversation around the word “sorry.”  How do you deal with regret in life?  How do we reconcile with people that we have hurt?  Are there areas of our lives that we need to say “sorry” for that we aren’t even aware of? 

Five Words to Change Your Life: Help

We are continuing the series that we started on Sunday called “Five Words to Change Your Life.” The idea is this : Every week, we will look at just one word and how God can use that one word to change your life.
This Sunday’s word is really a prayer. It is a confession of need. It is the word help. Sometimes we pray it for ourselves. Sometimes we pray it for other people.
Years ago, when I attending seminary in Kansas City, I was a member of an inner-city church called Seven Oaks Church. I really loved the people of that little church.  Once they even asked me to preach when the pastor was on vacation.  It was the first time I ever preached at a church where people talked back to you while you are preaching, I learned that when the sermon is going well, people will say a lot of different things. If it is going well, they’ll say stuff like, “Yes, yes, yes!” or, “Well, well, well!” or “Preach it!”
But if the sermon is not going well, you can tell because people will say, “Help him, Jesus!” As a preacher, you do not want to hear, “Help him, Jesus!” I do not want to hear that prayer, because sometimes I am in a position where I need help, but I do not want to admit that I need help.

There is a bunch of reasons why we often do not ask for help: we do not want to look weak or we do not want to be in debt to somebody for helping us out.  Sometimes I don’t even realize I need help, or I’m afraid if I ask somebody for help, they’ll take over, and I’ll lose control.
Sunday we will be looking at the story of Jesus first miracle: turning water into wine at a wedding.  This story will help us think through the “help” that we need in our lives and how to ask for it.

Five Words to Change Your Life: Wow

n the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers who study hundreds of drivers found we actually take longer to leave a parking space if we know someone is waiting for it than we do if nobody is waiting at all. There is something inside of us that says, “This is my space.”
If drivers are in a desperate hurry picking up kids or late for an appointment and they give a little honk, researchers discovered that we make them wait four times longer. This is such a common human instinct that it has its own name: territorialism.

This happens in other arenas too. If you are at a restaurant, the longer the line of people waiting for a table or the more crowded the restaurant, the longer people linger at their table.
This is a big problem when it comes to making space for God in our lives:  We have so much going on and jealously guard the boundaries of our lives that we do not have time to examine the condition of our character. We don't have time to put the kind of time that is needed into a soul friendship, to serve, to give, or to volunteer.
This Sunday, we are starting a new conversation called “Five Words to Change Your Life.” Everybody is busy, so every week, we will look at just one word God can use to change your life. It will be a season in which we make space for God.
This Easter Sunday, the word is “wow.”  We are going to talk about what it is like to live in the age of cynicism, what children can teach us about wonder, and how the first Easter was all about “wow!”  It is going to be a greatSunday!  I hope you can join us!

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.