The Church On All Cylinders

There is nothing more amazing than the local church when it is firing on all cylinders.  

This Sunday we began a series based around the themes from the book “{w}hole” by Lisa Whittle.  The book is amazing and I highly recommend you get your own copy.  If you are a Pastor or leader in your church I highly recommend you consider teaching a month on these concepts.

After the service as I spoke with various people I noticed a woman patiently waiting to speak with me.  I ended the conversation I was in and said hello.  What happened next rocked my world.  

She began to share that she has never gone to church because she’s been extremely skeptical of Christians and religion.  She detailed to me a lifetime of abuse she has endured.  One of the people in her life that hurt her trusted Christ two years ago and experienced a “radical transformation”.  She said that this so-called transformation only hardened her own heart toward God as she believed this person was faking this life change.  A little while later she had a child.  The experience of becoming a parent got her thinking about “What if there really is a God who really is a father in heaven?”  Still she resisted for another year and a half.  Her husband had even visited Captivate a year ago and she refused to attend.

Fast forward to this past Sunday…she had rejected many invitations to church but for some reason she felt that this Sunday was the day.

In tears she detailed for me how she was treated with honor by our VIP team from the parking lot to her seat.  She said that she felt at peace with leaving her child in the care of our kids teams.  She loved that we were so focused on Christ and down to earth with one another.  She didn’t notice any pretense or judgement from our people.  She felt genuinely loved by our people and she said that she kept up with the entire message and realized that she was caught up in her own ‘role’ issues.  She trusted Christ as Savior this Sunday!

The story got better.

By this time my new friend is in tears and apologizing for blabbering.  I assured her that I was gaining more than she knew from her story.  She went on to say that she went up to our connection table to inquire about an upcoming event with Lisa Whittle.  She informed our VIP team member in charge that she couldn’t afford the ticket and wanted to see if her name could be put on a list.  During the service I made the announcement: “If you can’t afford it, please let us know.  We will find a way to get you in.”  I also announced “If you want to help others to go, buy tickets for those who can’t afford one.”  Well, she couldn’t afford one and while she was explaining this to our connections person, a woman behind her in line spoke up and said “I’ll buy your ticket for you.”  

Again this woman broke down as she recounted this story!  She told me “I have never felt loved like this.”  

Later when I found out who bought her the ticket I went to thank them for being Jesus to her.  The lady who bought the ticket said “I just felt compelled to help.”  I shared a small part of the woman’s story and this Good Samaritan said “I had no idea… I thought she was a regular attendee who I didn’t know.”  We were both blessed in that moment that God had worked so mightily for this woman.

The reality is that this woman’s life was rocked by Jesus this Sunday.  She met Christ, she was loved by Christ’s people and she was blessed by a great act of love from a complete stranger. 

I’m so excited that Captivate Church exists for people like this woman.  I’m so excited to know that she now has a very different picture of what the local church can be.  I’m excited that she will get to meet and hear Lisa Whittle at the beginning of next month and be surrounded by a room full of Christian women who are all pursuing Jesus and filling their holes together.

This type of story completely humbles me and makes me eternally thankful for Christ and HIS local church called Captivate!

————————

We have a few tickets left for our Sunday event, March 4, 2012,  with Barna Books author and Proverbs 31 ministry coordinator, Lisa Whittle.  If you’d like to check out this exclusive event and consider joining us, check it out here: http://captivatechurch.com/#/events/lisa-whittle

Giving God Attention

Yesterday I talked about the questions that most of us have about God in those days when our relationship with Him seems to be about as close as two sides of the Grand Canyon.  When we find ourselves having drifted from God we tend to feel that our response should be to try to get His attention.  The truth is that His eye never leaves us.  We have his attention but does he have ours?

I have found that in my  life I am a type-A, driven and passionate follower of Christ.  I can get so carried away working FOR God that I neglect resting IN Him.

I had a mentor ask me last year “Tally, if you just woke up, relaxed and went to sleep without ‘accomplishing’ something for God, would you feel that you’ve honored Him?”  I said “No”.  He told me “Tally, that’s a problem.  You should be able to rest in God just as much as work in Him.”  

I’ve found in my own life that I do not need to get God’s attention, I already have it.  The reality is that in my hurried way of living I mess up when I avoid giving him my attention.  Fasting is a practice that forces that issue and brings me to a heightened state of awareness for the things of God.  Like putting on a pair of glasses that help me see properly, the fuzziness goes away and clarity comes when I fast.

There are numerous books on fasting and this post is not exhaustive.  What I will say however is that I used to think “Only spiritual giants fast.”  In reality, anyone can fast and anyone can reconnect to God through Christ in this way.  Here are a few simple suggestions to help you get your feet wet.

1.  Start by fasting from something other than food.

The practice is to simply get you thinking about God more often.  I know many people who find that they have time leaches in their life that distract from the things of God.  You may want to fast from television or Facebook (gasp!) or maybe your favorite radio stations in favor of bible-on-CD.  Whatever you do, just fast.

2.  Give yourself attainable goals.

There is nothing like trying to jump that grand canyon when all you have to do is find the bridge.  To think you’re going to go from desperatelack of God in your life to being some super spiritual hero overnight… it’s spiritual suicide.  Instead of saying “I’ll fast for 40 days.”  Maybe you start with 4.  Find a time period that will stretch you but not kill you. Each time you fast in the future you can stretch it out.

3.  Fast for a purpose.

Why are you fasting?  Are you praying for something specific?  Do you need clarity?  Do you need passion for the things of God?  Make sure you know what the point of your fast will be.  When you’re frustrated from missing your favorite television show or candy bar, it’s important for you to know WHY you’re fasting.  Fasting blind is simply being blind.  Don’t do that.  Fast with a purpose and ask yourself from the beginning “How will I know that God answered?”

4.  Keep it private.

The bible is clear that we shouldn’t gloat about our spiritual practices.  The only thing worse than a Christian who’s drifted from God is the Christian who constantly trumpets their own holiness.

5.  Let others in.

I hear you now.  “Hey, did you just say to keep it private? You’re an idiot and a hypocrite.”  First I will say to you… “Calm down cowboy.”  Secondly, bringing in a few people to your fast is for a purpose… to support and encourage you, not to be arrogant in your fast.  When you’re first starting out you should grab a spiritual mentor and say “Hey, I’m going to try this.  It’s going to be tough.  Will you be willing to encourage me along?”  Let them know what you’re praying for so they can join you.  Let them know what you’re fasting from so they can encourage you and possibly help you out.  As you get more comfortable with fasting you may not need a group around you or friends to help you along… but if you’re starting out it’s always a good thing.  Last year our church did a ‘Daniel Fast’ and we fasted together.  It was both a personal blessing and a community-wide blessing.

So there you have it… there are a few ideas for you to get started.   God is good and He will be faithful to answer.  

Remember, you don’t need to get God’s attention but rather give Him your attention and I am certain that you will have the fulfilled spiritual life that you’ve always wanted.

Some Books For Further Reading:

http://www.prayerforallpeople.com/fb.shtml

 

 

Getting God’s Attention

As I talk to people about their relationship with God the conversation tends to drift toward whether God is ‘there’ or God is ‘listening’ or whether God is ‘speaking’.   In essence, people want to know that God is still paying attention.  The unspoken heart cry is ‘Is God there and does He care?’.  Often people believe that the problem is that somehow they don’t have God’s attention.

The truth of the matter is that this type of spiritual thinking puts us at the center of the master plan. Ultimately this type of thinking leads us to being the beginning and end of faith.  The reality is quite the opposite.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. – John 1:1-4

As you can see in this passage, Jesus, not us, is the center of our faith.  We were created by Him, for Him and our life is through Him.  Jesus is the center of it all.

So that brings us back to our question.  Do I need to get God’s attention?  No.  He is never unaware of you or your condition.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:29-31

God is aware.  He’s aware of the sparrow and he’s most certainly aware of you.  So if our goal is not to ‘get God’s attention’ how can we bridge the gap?

Flip the script.

When I’m feeling empty in my faith and I’m not ‘feeling’ Jesus like I once did it is not that God needs me to wave orange flashlights around like I’m directing a 747 on a runway.  I don’t need to ‘get God’s attention’, I need to GIVE GOD MY ATTENTION.

Tomorrow I will talk about a practice I have incorporated into my life that has been helping me refocus when I sense a mission-drift occuring in my heart.  For now though, I leave you with a passage that reminds me of the truth that God is incredibly aware and present in my life.  He’s there for you.  He’s near you today.  Read and meditate on this passage:

Psalm 139

English Standard Version (ESV)

 1 O LORD, you have searched me and known me!

2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.