Retreat follow up: Listening and Testimony

10410687_10204621063662396_8360415594539527457_nWe just returned from our annual all church retreat at the wonderful Lakeside Bible Camp on Whidbey Island (morning mist on the lake pictured). We spent the weekend exploring and practicing the life rhythms of Listening and Testimony. If you were not able to make it to the retreat and would like to listen to the sessions we will have them up on line at this link soon. There were a lot of great things shared at over the weekend and some of you may have things that you want to share from the retreat or in response to the retreat. This blog would be a fantastic place to share those things. Here is an image that Lauren Heerschap had during the Sunday morning session.

“I want to share an image that came to mind before and during Greg’s sermon on Sunday at the church retreat.  As I prayed before the sermon, the American Sign Language sign (ASL) for “trust” came to mind.  I have taught ASL, and when teaching this sign I describe it as grabbing onto a thick rope with both hands on top of each other and then pulling down. See video: http://www.handspeak.com/word/search.php?wordID=trust&submitword=Find

As Greg was teaching, I thought about this rope.  The Lord reminded me of a rope swing from my childhood.  The rope was so thick that my hands could not clasp all the way around it, and it had a big knot at the bottom that you could sit on. Kids would run way back with the rope, and then hoist themselves up to straddle on the knot and swing out over a cliff with the beach below.  You had to trust in the strength of that rope.

Our church is like that rope – made from myriads of fibers – each of us individually is weak by ourselves, but when we are bound together, by the Holy Spirit, we are very strong, and can carry others.  God is calling us to reach up and trust Him, and reach out into our fellowship, to each other, for strength.  We can take risks (like swinging out over a cliff) when we trust each other, and trust God.”

Many blessings and please share your thoughts and responses from the retreat!

Rhythms Sermon Series: Recreate

Last Sunday we looked at the Biblical reality of recreation, and how it is not only ok for us to pursue recreation and play but that it is a gift that God gives us and one of the ways we behave most like him. To listen to the sermon follow this link.

Here are the connection questions from the sermon for further reflection.

1. What is something you enjoy doing?

2. How often do you to this?

3. What allows you to do this, and what keeps you from doing this?

4. Do you sense any kind of connection with God when you are able to pursue this? If so please describe that connection.

Rhythms Sermon Series – Slow

We spent this last Sunday, October 26th, exploring a biblical and life reality of slowness. Here is a link to the sermon if you missed it or want to go back and listen to it again.

Each week end our sermons with some questions for further reflection. Here are the questions for this mornings sermon:

1. What did we explore this morning that resonated with you?

2. Do you feel like your life is moving too slow, too fast, or some mix of the two?

3. How do you respond when your life feels too fast?

4. What is one thing you could realistically do that would help you slow down?

We used a clip from a documentary television series called “The Long Way Down.” You can find it for rental on Hulu, or at Amazon.

Here are also a couple of good books that I can recommend for more insight on this topic:

Slow ChurchJohn Pattison, C. Christopher Smith

In Praise of SlowCarl Honore

Rhythms Sermon Series- Sing

We spent this past Sunday talking a bit about why we sing. It’s a profoundly unique act, especially since we live in a western culture that doesn’t place a huge priority on singing as a cultural norm.

If you missed it, you can listen to it here.  (Launch the media player and select the sermon. You can also download it for later.)

We also had a clip of a song that you can get on iTunes here.

And a video clip of the piece “Sleep” by Eric Whitacre that you can watch here.

And as an extra goodie, here’s an article that talks a bit about how our brains react and respond to music. Fascinating stuff.

Lastly, we ended with some singing and some questions to respond to as we sang together in light of some of the things we explored.  Here are the questions in case you want to revisit them.

  1. As you sang, how you feel, physically, emotionally, intellectually? How did you respond?
  2. As you listened to others around you while you sang, what did you hear?
  1. We hit on a few big points on what singing does.

– it unifies our whole person. Our bodies, intellect, and emotions are all brought into conversation when we sing. We connect with something deep inside of us, in almost a primal way when we sing. We use our bodies to make the tones, our intellects to process the words, and our emotions make what we sing matter.

– it makes us look outside of ourselves. When we sing, we cannot make pure tones.  Even our individual voices are collections of tones, overtones, and harmonics.  When we sing together, we listen to ourselves, each other, and the space around us, as well as the Song that is the Triune God that we are singing along with.

– it unifies us as a collective of individuals, walking together with Jesus.  A couple weeks ago, we talked about worship, and used the illustration of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit playing together to create the song- the rhythm section if you will.  And we are invited to play with them, to improvise within the context of the song, but to sing and play along.  When we sing together, we join in that song as the communal body of Christ that is the Church.

What of these points hit you? What did you find fascinating and want to explore more? What bothered or unsettled you? Where does the conversation go from here?

Blessings, friends, as you wrestle, explore, and discover.

Rhythms Sermon Series – Celebrate :: Rejoice

This weeks sermon from our Rhythms series was on the practice of CELEBRATION & REJOICING

If you missed it you can listen to it HERE and below are the reflection/connection card questions to ponder.

CONNECTION CARDS…

As we end I’d like to invite you to pull out your connection cards & invite the worship team forward.

We are at the SO WHAT component of our time. What do we do with this? How do we incorporate this rhythm into our day to day life? What does this look like?

Think about something important to you that had once been lost but then later was found. How did you react? My guess is you celebrated! You rejoiced. You told people. Just the other day my daughter Gladys found her mp3 player that she had gotten for Christmas. She had been looking for it for months. When I walked in the house that day she screamed from up stairs DADDY I FOUND IT. She came running down to show me and was singing and dancing and you couldn’t help but join in!

QUESTION:  What if we celebrated more openly our foundness and our carriedness?

When we get lost driving someplace and eventually find the place we are looking for. We are more prone to help others find it and not get lost too. Right maybe a bunch of people you know are trying to get to a wedding out in the middle of nowhere say like Woodinville or Everett and you finally figure it out. You then started texting or calling your friends making sure they don’t turn left, but right or that they follow this road vs. that one. You want to help them not be lost too.

QUESTION: What if we shared with others the turns we made in our life towards God and finding him and the difference it makes?

When you are at a party that is incredible where the food is perfect, the setting is beautiful, the people are interesting, the music is moving, etc. and you know that others could be there YOU WANT TO INVITE THEM.

I remember a couple of years ago back at our previous building we had a public indoor play space that we ran for the community and quite often Dave Matthews son came with the nanny which was cool. But one day Dave brought his son. He stayed for like 2 hours and you initially wanted to start taking pictures and telling everyone to get over here to see and participate in this. And this was just to see someone kind of famous. It wasn’t even a party.

QUESTION: What if we who have experienced the celebration and the rejoicing of the party that God has for us actually told others about it and even better invited them to check it out?

As we end I’d like to ask you to answer a question or two on your connection card…

  1. What part of our conversation did you connect with most? The idea that we are all lost, that God is not mad at us, that God is pursuing us, or that the party is for everyone who is lost [which is everyone] and it is happening right now and why?
  2. What’s keeping you from turning towards God and experiencing being found, carried, and celebrated?
  3. Who might you be called to invite to this party?

New Summer Sermon Series – MATTHEW

page6_picture0_1354831145Starting this week we will be launching week 1 of our 9 week series in the Book of Matthew. We could not be more excited about it. We hope you’ll invite your friends and family to join us for its beginning.

Along with this we have created a way for us to dive into the texts we are looking at BEFORE Sunday through an ancient practice of lectio divina [sacred reading]. Click HERE to download a copy of the summer @ home devotional to start today.

We are excited to see the wonderful ways God challenges our faith as we dive into this gospel of Matthew.

Grace and peace,

OneLife Staff

Encounters With God – Philip & The Ethiopian Eunuch – Acts 8:26-40

philipandethiopianeunuchToday we looked at a story in the Bible that I think often gets glanced over.  It’s a story we may have heard and may have even read it, but also may have missed it.  This has been the case for me preparing for it.  It’s a story that has more of its content somewhat hidden in it deeper below the general read.  Today we looked at another encounter with the Holy Spirit and it involves Philip & The Ethiopian Eunuch as found in Acts 8:26-40.

There’s a lot of very interesting things in this text so in summary I’ll just point to some of the points and lead us towards our connection card questions.

Context…

As a reminder again we are now in a stage in the life of the church where the followers of Christ, the disciples, are trying to spread the good news.  So they are going to these dense population centers which is what one would naturally want to do if you were trying to get the word out to the biggest amount of people as possible during this time.   The Holy Spirit speaks to Philip, a little known disciple/apostle, and Philip is told by the Spirit to go on the dessert road on down to Gaza, and Philip says OK and goes, and heads down to Gaza.  Now Gaza at the time was the city that had been destroyed about 100 years earlier and would not be rebuilt for another 30 years after this moment, which means that Philip was being sent to a city that effectively no longer existed.  It was basically a ghost town and with that it was about 50 miles away southwest of Jerusalem.  Which means it’s about a solid two day walk.  In other words, the only reason Philip would go here is because he’s listening to the Spirit.

So first off we saw that is something interesting about how the Holy Spirit works.  Sometimes he will plant in us and give us a vision or an idea or some hunch or inclination that we are to go somewhere and to do something that maybe doesn’t make a lot of sense in the world.  And then the really funny thing that the Holy Spirit likes to do sometimes is that he basically says go there and you are like gosh I got to go to Gaza and then you realize about half way through that it has nothing to do with Gaza its actually about the road on the way to Gaza.

The person that Philip is led to we are told is a Ethiopian eunuch and he serves in the treasury of the Queen of Ethiopia.  Now what do we know about this Ethiopian?

1st  We know that he is what we might refer to as a God – fearer – which is someone who ISN’T Jewish because he is from Ethiopia and probably wouldn’t be Jewish.  But he somehow finds the Jewish religion and the Jewish description and discussion of God very appealing and so he went to worship in Jerusalem.  And what we also know is that this eunuch acquired somehow one of the scrolls of the Old Testament which was the scroll of Isaiah.  As a God-fearer he’s reading it out loud on his chariot.

2nd Thing we know about this Ethiopian is that he is a eunuch.  And there really is no delicate way to describe a eunuch other than to simply say that he has been castrated.   What’s interesting about eunuch’s in the ancient world is that sometimes more often then not they were voluntarily castrated.  We learned that there is a reason for this.  And that is that in the ancient world especially in Ethiopia, which is where this person comes from, Nubian Kings were considered the offspring of the sun god.  And because they were the offspring of the sun god it meant that they were too holy to do any of the actual work of the king.  Very convenient right?

Which left the actual work of ruling to the Nubian Queen.  So she actually had to do all the work and as a result she had a lot of servants.  And what happened was if you were going to be welcomed into service to the Queen and if you were a man you would be castrated so you were not a threat to her power in any way shape or form.   Now these eunuchs would then because of the loss of certain body organs their hormones would begin to change the way they looked.  They’d take on more feminine attributes and in fact many eunuchs began to even dress more and more like women and more feminine.   Eunuchs are considered a 3rd gender and as a consequence they don’t fit in many places and they are not highly regarded.  The same would be true of eunuchs of the ancient world.  And just like today if you don’t quite fit into a category that culture tries to put you in you often sent out into the margins of society.

And this whole story about what Philip does with this eunuch is really really interesting because in the book of Deuteronomy 23:1 it says specifically that eunuchs will not be accepted into the assembly of God.  It literally says…No one who has been emasculated by crushing or cutting may enter the assembly of the Lord.  So with a strict prohibition that says a eunuch will not be allowed in the assembly of God it is very very interesting that Philip is sent by the Holy Spirit and goes converts this person and then the man, this eunuch, says “what would prevent me from being baptized?”  The answer is simple…well you’re a eunuch you don’t get to be baptized.  Sorry.  Being a eunuch is not exactly something you can undo or repent of anyways so you’re kind of done… right?  But that is not what Philip says instead Philip basically says nothing is stopping us.  I’ll baptize you… Here I’ll baptize you right now.   And Philip by the power of the Holy Spirit went and baptized an Ethiopian which means he welcomed him into the kingdom of God even though scripture says not too.  AND HE NEVER ASKS THE EUNUCH TO CHANGE ANYTHING

Then things get even more amazing with this text…See 2,000 years later this very day in this area of Ethiopia roughly 65% of Ethiopia is a considered a Christian country.  65% and of that the vast majority of that percent are native indigenous Christians of Ethiopia a part of an Ethiopian Christian church.  Not western transplants, not missionaries that came from somewhere else, AND they trace there origins back to his very eunuch. What that means is the Holy Spirit not only went out of his way to send Philip to some random place to interact with this eunuch, to give him the gospel, which then converted him, and then he became the carrier and the catalyst that gave birth to an entire new world of Christians and followers of Jesus in Ethiopia.  TALK ABOUT A MOVEMENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Now there is something else the storyteller is doing here.  He mentions that the eunuch is carrying the scroll of Isaiah.  This is a very important scroll because the scroll of Isaiah in chapter 56 says something fascinating that would be very very relevant if you yourself were a eunuch.  It says this…Isaiah 56:3-5 And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.” For this is what the Lord says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant—to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.  This is the story.  This is a direct contradiction of Deuteronomy 23:1 and what this shows us is that in the Bible itself we have the story of a God who begins with a narrower covenant and then constantly helps his people and his children widen and expand and evolve and unfold that covenant until it’s bigger and wider and wider and it includes more and more and more people.  So that you understand that the original covenant that God gave I’m pretty sure not any of us in this room would be included in.  And yet as this covenant begins to unfold throughout the story of scripture more and more people get included and that means that WE ARE INCLUDED.  THIS IS SO GOOD!  So the story of Philip with this eunuch is the same story.  It’s an amazing story of an unfolding wider embrace of “the other” by the ever-loving God.  It is the Holy Spirit reaching beyond all the barriers and boundaries and things that are not appropriate and all the categories that seem to make sense and he goes, YOU KNOW I’M NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN ANY OF THAT.  I ACCEPT YOU JUST AS YOU ARE.  I’M NOT ASKING YOU TO BE SOMETHING DIFFERENT.  I’LL START RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE.

The truth of this passage…THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT THIS PASSAGE – IS THAT IT TEACHES US THAT GOD EXTENDS LOVE TO ALL WHO ARE THIRSTY NOT JUST THOSE WHO ARE WORTHY.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit…

1.  Moving us to places we would never go to on our own

2.  Talking to people we would never talk to on our own

3.  Giving us courage to do things we wouldn’t try to do on our own

4.  Giving us compassion to those we normally don’t have compassion for

5.  Helping us accept our own stories & the stories of the other in a way that shows Gods love

With all of this we wrestled and pondered some other questions… but you get the picture at this point.  This is a powerful story that speaks of the amazing grace, love, acceptance of God and the call and invitation to us by the power of the Holy Spirit to love others in the same way.

TO MAKE THIS PERSONAL HERE ARE SOME CONNECTION CARD QUESTIONS…

1.  What have you found yourself demanding of yourself that God does not?

2.  What have you found yourself demanding of other people that God does not?

3.  How has the grace, love, and acceptance of God effected the way the Holy Spirit is moving to expand his covenant towards others in your heart?

 

 

 

 

2014 Summer Calendar

ImageHey all,

We are very excited for you to get our new 2014 Summer Calendar.  This we not only are we highlighting events that we have planned as a church BUT we are also highlighting awesome events put on by our community that would be great to check out!  Lots of great activities for everyone to enjoy from BBQ’s, to movie nights, to concerts, camping trips, and more.  Click HERE to download it now!

Encounters With God.09 – Stephen & The Holy Spirit

the-stoning-of-stephenAfter Jesus died and the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, which we looked at last week, it took a while for the followers of Jesus to settle down and get organized. As we saw last week with the birth of the church, this movement began & the church was growing & big things were happening. The group that is gathering with the disciples and following Jesus is growing to the point where they need to appoint leaders to help care, support, train, and disciple these new followers.

One of the big problems that came up early in the game was how to take care of the poor, especially the widows who couldn’t support themselves. The apostles decided to appoint a group to handle this side of things, and one of the ones they appointed was Stephen.

And it is his story and his encounter with the Holy Spirit that we looked at on Sunday.

In Acts 6.5 Stephen is listed in a group of others who were chosen to take up a new leadership office called deacons. Stephen is listed as a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.  In Acts 6.8 he is mentioned again, so just 3 verses later and he again called a “man full of God’s grace and power.” And that he “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” No one else in the list gets any extra mentions like Stephen.

This story is so FULL of information, but at it’s most basic Stephen by the power of the Holy Spirit is able to have courage to speak truth about the problems of power and injustice to the most powerful people of his time – the Sanhedrin.  And through the text we see a bunch of echoes of Jesus’s story as Stephen says and does many of the same things he saw his Lord do in his lifetime.

This is a story of someone who is by the power of the Holy Spirit able to confront injustice with courage and who is insistent to love, and pray for the enemy.  To be willing to show compassion grace, love, and forgiveness on those who are brutal, corrupt, unjust, and even abusive to others.  To people at the very least that are against you.

And when ever I read a story like this I wonder to myself.  Could I do this?  If these believers back then could do this why couldn’t I?  Could I?  Do I love my enemies?  Do I pray for my enemies?  Am I courageous enough to speak truth to my enemies?  Let alone am I willing to forgive my enemies?  To get at the application and ponderings for this text we looked at and wrestled with two main questions.

The 1st question is this…WHO IS YOUR ENEMY?  Noting that an enemy can be a lot of different things…

  • Could be someone far away – like a leader of a rogue nation
  • Could be a political enemy
  • Could be someone who has personally betrayed, injured, or harmed you
  • Could be someone who has injured, betrayed, or harmed someone that you love and you become allied with that victim and that becomes your enemy
  • It could be a bully at your school
  • It could be a teacher that seems to have it out for you.

Could be something even simpler then that…                       Could be even less personal…

  • An enemy could be the person sitting next to you that doesn’t have the same theological views that you do
  • It could be a person who doesn’t approve of the church you attend [lets hope not]
  • It could be someone who doesn’t share your political persuasion
  • If you are on wall street your enemy is occupy wall street
  • If you are in the tea party you may say your enemy is the government
  • If you are in the government you may say your enemy is the government…or whatever
  • It could be the neighbor that doesn’t take care of there yard next door to you

The problem is that we tend to think of enemies more like this story.  People who are out to kill us.  Extreme situations.  But enemies come in all shapes and sizes.  We have to understand this before we can get to the next question.  WHO ARE YOUR ENEMIES?

  • your spouse can become an enemy
  • your children can become an enemy
  • your parents can become an enemy
  • your inlaws
  • your co-worker
  • your boss
  • a random shooter that enters a room and starts gunning at people

We all have enemies.  Who are your enemies?

The 2nd question then, in light of this story, is to answer what does it mean to extend love to your enemies?  When you have your enemy/enemies in mind…what does it mean to show love, grace, and forgiveness to that person or persons?

The only way Stephen is able to pursue justice and have the ability to speak the truth in love and actually have a heart of grace, love, and forgiveness in him while being stoned to death is by an encounter with the Holy Spirit.  THIS IS A DANGEROUS SPIRIT OF LOVE THAT WE HAVE IN US…  The ability to love our enemy is the hardest and highest virtue in the Christian faith and that is why so few of us do it .  To love our enemies is HARD.  It’s one thing to love our neighbors… which we aren’t great at…  But to love our enemies…that is REALLY HARD.

I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER TO THIS FOR YOU.  What I’m saying is that we have to be able to wrestle with answering the question what does it mean to love our enemies, because it is going to look, feel, and be expressed and shown in different ways, in different ways, in every situation. AND NO ONE FROM THE OUTSIDE CAN TELL YOU WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU TO LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.  It is a condition of your own heart as moved and convicted by the Holy Spirit within you.  It is our willingness to orient ourselves to God and ask the question…  “God you know who my enemy is, how do I go about loving them, in light of the situation and all the people involved?  What do I do that best expresses love in this situation?”  

I think the best way to start with all of this is to do what Stephen did as he was about to die from being stoned and that is that he prayed.  He prayed for his enemy, he placed these wrestlings before God, and was informed & empowered by the Holy Spirit to respond.  May we as OneLife Community Church learn from this as well.

CONNECTION CARDS…

1.  Do you pray for your enemies? Yes/No Explain

2.  What are the barriers that get in the way of you extending love to your enemies?

3.  How might the Holy Spirit be moving you to extend love for your enemies?

Pentecost conversations & ponderings…

Acts 2:1-4. When the day of Pentecost came. Pastel & pen. 26 May 2012.Yesterday we are looked at the story of Pentecost as found in Acts 2. It’s a day that Christians across the world celebrate. Pentecost is not as well-known or as popular as Christmas and Easter, though it commemorates a historic event in Christian history. In many ways, Pentecost is considered as the birthday of the church.

So lets look at the text found in Act 2:1-13

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

One of the interesting things about this passage is that it’s on this day that God sends the promised Holy Spirit.  Pentecost was a Jewish holiday that came 50 days after the Passover.  For over a thousand years Israel had been celebrating this holiday established by God after he brought them out of slavery in Egypt.  It was a celebration of the hope of God’s salvation.

Interestingly – Jesus’ death and resurrected coincided with the Passover.  In hindsight it is easy to see that the whole purpose of the Passover really pointed to Jesus.  The victory over death that came from the resurrection of Jesus, not only freed his followers from the slavery of death, but it also ushered in a new kingdom.  In other words, the Passover completely describes the victory of Jesus. [but that is another sermon for another time]

HERE IN ACTS 2 THE COMING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT COINCIDES WITH THE DAY OF PENTECOST.  This is the backdrop that God choose to give here in Acts 2.  Pentecost was this wonderful joyful celebration at the end of the harvest.  It was a response from the people praising God for the fruit or the harvest that came to God’s people in the land that God promised.

DURING OUR SERMON…we made a number of observations that come from this story…1. about Jesus being the literal fruit of the kingdom of God 2. that in pentecost the barrier between us and God has been broken, 3. that the barrier between humanity is also broken -connecting to the tower of babel story, 4. that the intent is that this story is bigger then us that it is intended to go from the church out into the community and world.

IMAGES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT…we also spend time looking at four images of the Holy Spirit as a way to ponder what it looks like to encounter the Holy Spirit today in our everyday living.  Those images where breath, wind, water, & fire.  In looking at these images we took time to ponder if we had ever experienced the Holy Spirit in any of these ways.

CONNECTION CARD QUESTIONS…

This story ends with two responses seen in verse  12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”  In other words some responded with wonder and interest and the other of scoffing and disbelief?

1. When it comes to the Holy Spirit in your life how do you respond?  With wonder and interest or disregard and disbelief?

2.  What role [if at all] would you say the Holy Spirit plays in your daily life?

3.  Of the four images of the Spirit [breath, wind, water, fire] which have you experienced the least and which have you experienced the most.

LISTEN TO THE SERMON…if you’d like to hear the entire sermon click HERE