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.

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!