Monthly Archives: May 2016

Reaching Out To God

Hope in the Dark

I remember one day realizing I had a tendency to want others to show me a great deal of grace, while at the same time having very little grace for others. My immediate response to this discovery was to try to flip the script: less grace for myself, more grace for others. The longer I’ve thought about it, though, the more it seems to me that grace doesn’t have to be–and shouldn’t be–an either/or reality. Because while many of us operate as though grace is a resource in limited supply, there’s actually more than enough to go around. This theme of grace is at the heart of the story of Jonah, and it is as worthy of attention and reflection as it’s ever been. May these videos and the accompanying reflection questions draw us more fully into God’s economy of abundant grace.

I Am Here

Questions for reflection on the “I Am Here” Video:

1. Think about a time when you felt all alone, when it seemed even God wasn’t anywhere to be found. What was that experience like? How did it feel? How has that experience shaped your life since?

2. When in your life have you been most aware of God’s presence with you? What were the circumstances? In what ways did you sense God’s presence? How has that experience shaped your life since?

3. Our world is full of people who feel alone, who feel as if God isn’t anywhere to be found. Sometimes this is obvious, other times it’s not. Take some time to think about someone you know who might fit this bill. What is a specific way that you can embody the faithful presence of God for them this week?

Grace: Past, Present, Future

Questions for reflection on the “Grace: Past, Present, Future” Video:

1. As you reflect on your life to this point, take several minutes to recount the various ways you’ve experienced God’s grace.

2. In what ways is God showing you grace right now, in the present?

3. In the video, John Perkins says that the promise of God’s grace in the future ought to make us a little adventurous. What is something adventurous you have thought about doing in service to God’s kingdom but have perhaps been too cautious to do? What would a first step toward adventure look like?

Hope in the Dark Playlist

If you haven’t already, take some time to check out this carefully curated playlist of songs that reflect upon the major movements and themes of the story of Jonah.

Running Away From God

God is love. That realization can be both profoundly comforting and deeply disturbing, depending on the where and the what and the how of our lives at any given moment. And even when we stop running and can begin to receive God’s love, the comfort comes with an invitation, an invitation to reflect and to share that love. These two realities–God’s faithful, loving presence with us and God’s desire that we embody that same faithful, loving presence with others–were at the heart of Jarrod’s sermon. I hope that the following pieces for reflection will invite you into further contemplation of this love that is at once both gift and invitation.

God Is For Us

Questions for reflection on the “God Is For Us” Video:

1. Have you encountered the “do-it-yourself” mindset in church? How
has that mindset played out?

2. When have you struggled to believe God is for us, for you? Why do you think that has been a struggle? How might that struggle be able to shape you moving forward?

3. When have you known deep down that God is for us, for you? Why do you think you felt that way? What might your experience of that sense of being beloved mean for the way you live your life day in and day out, for the way you carry yourself, for the way you interact with others?

Can’t Outrun Your Love

Take a few moments to listen to this adaptation of Psalm 139 by Ellie Holcomb, and then quietly meditate on the limitless love of God.

Exilic Living

Questions for reflection on the “Exilic Living” Video:

1. In what ways are you challenged by the idea that we’re not meant to get rid of or expunge enemies but to love them?

2. What are the places, who are the people, that come into your mind as you reflect on this idea of loving enemies, and what would it look like for you to love them?

3. If loving enemies is “the most distinctive work we could do in the world,” how would that impact your day to day rhythms, routines, and interactions? What is one step you can take to begin to do this “most distinctive work”?

Hope in the Dark Playlist

As we spend the next few weeks reflecting on the story of Jonah, I thought it might be of benefit to those of us who enjoy listening to music to be able to soak our hearts and minds in music that tracks with the major movements and themes of the story. So check out this carefully curated playlist below and see what difference meditation on these themes makes in your life.

A New Heart

Over the last several weeks, we’ve been reflecting on the ways in which the resurrection doesn’t just transform Jesus, it transforms us as well, every part of us, from our eyes to our ears to our hands to our mouths. And yet even more than resurrecting our senses, we long for God to resurrect our hearts. With this longing in mind, I invite you, by yourself or with a small group, to allow the following videos, questions, and quotes to guide your heart and mind this week in longing and praying for God to transform you to the depths of your being, to give you a new heart.

To begin with, we’ve got to come to terms with the ways in which our hearts are desperately in need of God’s resurrection power. And yet for so many reasons, some of which the following song articulates so well, that is such a hard admission to make.

“I Haven’t Either” by Andy Gullahorn

Questions for Reflection on “I Haven’t Either” Video:

1. What are some of your “I haven’t either” moments?

2. Reflect on a time when you witnessed the power of confession. What made it powerful? How has it impacted your own practice of confession?

3. What would it look like for confession not to be an occasional practice but a basic part of the posture of your life?

When we finally discover the courage to admit our heart’s neediness, it can be a challenge to know how to articulate our need, how to cry out for help. Psalm 51, our text for the week, gives us a good place to start.

A Clean Heart

Question for Reflection on “A Clean Heart” Video:

1. What word or phrase stood out to you as you watched the video?

2. Why do you think that word or phrase stood out?

3. What is that word or phrase asking of you?

Another option when we’re convicted and in need of words is to turn to the words we prayed together this morning. Perhaps these are words you will want to pray on a regular basis as a way to bring yourself back to a basic awareness of your need for God to resurrect your life. (You’ll notice I’ve retained the communal language in the prayer, because I’m convinced that even if you’re by yourself when you’re praying it, you are not alone. The communal language serves as a reminder that we’re always part of a community of faith much bigger than ourselves, in which our struggles and God’s gracious transformation of our lives are shared parts of the journey.)

Prayer of Confession

Have mercy on us O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out our transgressions. Wash away all our iniquity and cleanse us from our sin. Forgive our desires to have our own way in all things, no matter who it hurts, no matter what it costs. Forgive us for being dishonest with you, ourselves, and with others. Forgive us for our failure to see our sin for what it is.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and the impatience of our lives. We confess to you, Lord.

We confess our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our taking advantage of other people. We confess to you, Lord.

We confess our harsh judgment of others who have our same struggles, and our envy of those who are more fortunate than ourselves. We confess to you, Lord.

Please accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done: for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty. Accept our repentance, Lord.

Most holy and merciful Father, we confess to you and to one another that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed, by what we’ve done and by what we’ve left undone. We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart, mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. Have mercy on us, Lord.

Restore us, Father, and let your anger depart from us. Accomplish in us the work and the joy of your salvation. Create pure hearts in us. Help us resist temptation in the future. Help us to rise above our weaknesses and to grow stronger as Christians. In the saving name of your Son we pray all of this, Amen.

Here’s another way of articulating a longing for God to give us new hearts.

“More of You” by Colton Dixon

Questions for Reflection on “More of You” Video:

1. In what ways do you struggle with making your castle tall?

2. How might God be inviting you to empty yourself of yourself?

3. In what specific ways might your life look different if your heart were made new by God filling up the spaces emptied of yourself?

Finally, after confessing our need for God to make us new, to give us new hearts, we rest in the assurance that God’s love will never let us go. And because of that faithful presence with us, God’s love is indeed making our hearts whole and new.

“Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go” by Robbie Seay Band

You are loved by a God whose love will never, ever let you go. May this love and, more importantly, this God fill you this week, that you may experience the joy of living life with a brand new heart!