Tag Archives: confession

Advent: Making Space for God

Yesterday at church we moved into the Advent season with an interactive message that had us reflect on John the Baptist’s call to “make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23).  We littered our stage area with random “stuff,” blocking sight-lines to our worship team and speakers.  Then we sought to use John’s life and message as a template for how to prepare the way for Jesus through an often cramped and cluttered season.

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We talked about the importance of confession and repentance; two actions that help us de-clutter and throw off (cf. Hebrews 12:1) all the distractions that prevent us from beholding Jesus (cf. John 1:29).

We invited people to come forward, take an item from the front, and remove it.  Our goal was to make straight paths together.  Our aim was to create space for God.  Making space for God is not easy.  But when we clear out the distractions that interfere with us beholding Jesus, we encounter him in new and life-giving ways.  Perhaps most importantly, when we create space for God, He fills our emptied spaces with more of His presence, love, grace, and power.

As the Advent season unfolds, here are a few resources you may find helpful as you seek to create space for God in your life.  As you use them, may God fill the spaces you open up for Him (however meagre) with new life and new hope in Jesus.

A daily video series that the 24-7 prayer movement has produced for this Advent season looks incredible! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1_0WFGKEr8&feature=youtu.be&list=UUJuxgOp1QBXfb-qFQONAtiA

A local pastor Chris Schoon is writing daily advent reflections here: www.muddiedprayers.com 

I wrote a series of daily devotionals for Advent last year. Here’s the first: http://meredisciple.com/2013/12/first-week-of-advent-sunday-december-1st/  (Just search “Monday, December 2nd”, “Tuesday, December 3rd”, etc. for the subsequent days on my site)

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Confessions From A Passive Priest

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

In the Bible, the Old Testament priests were  meant to be mediators between God and his people.  A mediator is someone who bridges the gap between two people.

In the New Testament, Peter writes that as God’s people we are all being formed into a “royal priesthood.”  Many Protestants find that title a little odd, or even suspicious.  After all, Jesus is our high priest (Heb. 3:1; 4:14; 6:20), so through him we no longer need someone to be a bridge between us and God, right?

Right.  But as Christians, we are called to be a royal priesthood in the sense that we are to bring God’s love, grace and beauty to the world, and bring the world’s pain, evil, and suffering to God.  As Jesus’ royal priests, Christians should be people who are known for bringing the healing, forgiving, gracious love of God to the world, while bringing the chaos of the world to God.

I spoke about this recently at church (the sermon “Saving Grace” at www.grindstonechurch.com), and I’ve been reflecting on how passive I’ve been for much of my Christian life as a “priest.”  I see how I’ve been willing to be that bridge between the shalom of God and the world’s chaos, but I don’t tend to actively look for opportunities to mediate God’s grace and love to the world.  In other words, I’ve been a very passive priest.

It’s a lot more comfortable and convenient to be a passive priest.  You get to serve on your own terms and in your preferred environment–your preferred “temple.”  After a while you’ve come to identify the places in your life where it “works” for you to give and love, and subtly make others rearrange their needs accordingly.  You become a priest, but only in the most formal sense of the word.

Being a part of Jesus’ royal priesthood, however, involves a radically different vision for your life.  That’s because Jesus’ preferred environment–his preferred “temple”–isn’t the church or specific religious place where the “real” ministry happens; it’s the whole world. So Jesus tells his priests to go into all of the world (Matthew 28:19) and invite others into this priesthood.

When I think about that vision, I feel ashamed at how far I live from that calling and mission.  I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly I sidestep opportunities that would propel me into places that would demand I dig deep with God and others.  I’m embarrassed to admit how quickly I retreat into “church work,” and label my cowardice “ministry.”

How do I move beyond this heart and mind-set?  How do I change?  I don’t know.  I really don’t.

I’ll just keep looking at Jesus.  I’m keep studying him, reading about him, and meditating on his life and message.  I’ll keep the author and perfector of my faith ever before me.  Because as scary as it is, the more I fix my eyes on Jesus, the more I sense God forming me into a royal priest who strikes out everyday to bring the shalom of God into the world, and bring the brokenness of the world back to God.

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Changes, Changing, and Change

October is shaping up to be a month of change, and all the changes so far have been necessary and good.

First, there’s been a change to the site. As you can see, Andy Montgomery has totally redesigned www.meredisciple.com and the new changes are fantastic. I’m very excited to take advantage of the new format and try out some new things in the future.

Second, I’m going to be changing how I blog. Self-disclosure doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’ve tended to blog on ideas or topics in a somewhat abstract way. I’ve done more teaching than sharing. That’s my preferred form, but I want to push myself to be a bit more candid and vulnerable in my writing, and not so polished and careful. I think that’s a dimension that I want to develop within every aspect of my life, because for different reasons I hesitate to really share the inner workings of my heart. Sometimes that’s because I assume people don’t care, but most of the time it’s because I’m concerned that if I do, I’ll lose credibility. Whatever my hesitations have been, I’ve definitely come to see the need for me to be more transparent and unguarded. This month I’ll be taking some new steps in this direction, some of which will express themselves through meredisciple.com.

Finally, Change conference. I took part in the Change conference this past weekend, and it was a very different experience going to a conference without students or leaders joining me. I was tasked with leading a focus group of about 30 people for 1.5 hours in the afternoon, but had the rest of the day open. I took in the main sessions (led by BlueTree and Jarret and Jeanne Stevens), and got the chance to connect with some other leaders, and was encouraged by how many people were taking the spiritual development of emerging leaders seriously within their churches and ministries.

A few things I learned from being involved with Change conference 2010:

1. There are a lot of gifted, passionate leaders out there whose work will never be seen or appreciated by the masses, but their influence on the lives of students is incalculable. I felt very humbled to hear their stories and found myself genuinely inspired by their love for Jesus and the courageous lengths they were going through to follow God’s call on their lives.

2. Regardless of the particular context, the concept of discipleship to Jesus is being taken more seriously by more and more youth pastors. It’s very encouraging to see and hear leaders who are thinking beyond “youth ministry,” and taking risks to try something–anything–that forces them and their students to engage Jesus in a more transformative way.

3. I really love my job. I can’t really pin down what sparked this realization for me, but on the drive home, with all the conversations and experiences of the day colliding in my mind, I remember thinking, “I just love what I do.” I know how rare a gift that is, and for some reason the Change conference gently reminded me how passionate I am about helping students embrace their place within God’s kingdom as agents of change and influence.

4. I really love my family. Being at Change also helped me realize just how much I increasingly dislike being away from my family. Being at Change was great, and being invited to lead a workshop was exciting, but I thought a lot about my girls throughout the day. My two daughters are at an age when they seem to change overnight, and I hate missing a moment with either of them. And I really feel like Heather and I are in a great space at the moment, and I really miss when I don’t get to spend focused time with her.

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