Tuesday, March 06, 2007

“A New Beginning And A New Experience”

I think we, as a church, are on the edge of something new.

  • Can you imagine what it would be like to be a part of a faith community – that God was doing amazing things in and through?
  • Can you imagine what’d it be like to be a part of a growing influence that touches Palo Alto, the Peninsula, and Silicon Valley with God’s love?

I really believe that’s God’s going to do something new in and through us, through this. We’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs as a church and individually over the last two years.

When we usually think of trials and problems we think they’re a sign that something’s wrong. But what if they’re actually a sign that something’s RIGHT?

A guy named Neil Cole, who has started over 700 small organic churches in 32 states and 23 countries said something in his book called, “Organic Church” that I want you to hear. In a section titled, “The Church That Is Growing Will Face Opposition” he said this…

“Jesus said that we would face resistance as the church starts to grow. He identified the antagonism as what comes from Hades. Wherever the church is alive and growing, hell is opposing it.”

“One sign of a healthy church is that she faces hostility from hell. A preached once said, ‘If you wake up in the morning and don’t run into the enemy head on, then maybe you’re going in the wrong direction.’ Ed Silvoso rightly points out that ‘the Bible doesn’t say to ignore the devil and he will flee from you.’ We must stand firm and resist the enemy.”

I think that some of the opposition we’ve felt in this and some it that some of you are going through now is because the devil knows if we succeed as a church, YOU will be different, your friends will be different, and the people in Palo Alto and this area will be different!

So he wants to do whatever he can to get us to give up and quit!

But something happened at the end of last year, when we as a church were running low on finances to afford to meet somewhere. We prayed and we moved back into a house.

That when something changed. Something happened in us over the last 13 Sundays we’ve been meeting like this.

I don’t know how to describe it, but I’m different and you’re different. You see God took the things the devil wanted to use to discourage us, and get us to give up, and God used them to put us in a new direction.

It’s more in the direction that I think He had for us from the beginning. We just didn’t know it!

I just read an article in the ezine “Serve”. It was called “Kindness to Go!”

“I’ve discovered an amazing thing, fresh vision doesn’t usually come during zippity do da times when everything good is happening, or when there is positive forward movement and things are good. Fresh vision usually comes during times of crisis.”

”At times vision is developed when we have hit a wall, when we have to dig deep, rethink and go back to the drawing board. For example:
Israel faced a major crisis, the King had just died, What to do?, what to do? Isaiah dug deep, prayed and cried out. Then Isaiah saw the Lord, and was propelled inward to deal with his stuff and into outward-ness as the question was asked, ‘Who will go for me?’, ‘Here am I send me,’ was the answer.”

I feel like that happened to us. We hit a wall, got a new vision, and by going this new direction we are beginning to answer God’s call “Who will go for me?”

We’re going and expanding by doing these new groups.

Remember in Matt. 13:31-33 where Jesus said?

"The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. 32It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants and grows into a tree where birds can come and find shelter in its branches."

33Jesus also used this illustration: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast used by a woman making bread. Even though she used a large amount F74 of flour, the yeast permeated every part of the dough."

The mustard seed was planted. The yeast spread throughout the dough. These groups are in a way planting and spreading us around the Peninsula.

But, I think they’re more than that!

This new form that’d we’re morphing into could be revolutionary in your life. These groups could become the most practical experience with the church you’ve ever had. I’m not exaggerating!

How or why can it be revolutionary?

Personally designed for where you’re at and your needs
The leaders are going to be able to design the group to fit your and their own needs.

It’s going to be a chance to walk with Jesus and know him more personally.

Interactive – from passive to active mode

You’re going to be able to pray for any needs people have, and talk about life, what God’s teaching you, laugh, pray, think and live out God’s Word.

Application – we’ll begin living out more of what we believe.
I believe we’ll begin to live out the truth that we know more. I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again… The key to success in any area of life is not found in the complicated steps, but in the simple, obvious and basic steps! These group will help us to do this together and inspire us to do them on our own in our everyday lives!

There are two main goals that we have in doing these groups. It comes from a thought and passage so simple and obvious that I’m almost embarrassed to tell you it.

But, I’m praying that the Holy Spirit hits you with the power of it when I say it.

Our two main goals are inspired from John 3:16. But before I read it to you, I want to remind you of something. This is obvious but it hit me when I read this verse the other day.

When we usually hear this verse we think about it as a simple statement ABOUT God and his love. But that’s not what it is! It’s not a simple statement ABOUT and his love! It’s a simple statement FROM God about his love.

The person saying these words I’m about to read is Jesus! He’s telling these words to Nicodemus after he just told him that flesh can only produce flesh. The only way to see and be a part of the kingdom of heaven is to be born again.

And in the middle of telling him about what he means it’s like he suddenly reveals the truth heart of God. He looks at him and says in John 3:16….

16"For God so loved (I so loved) the world that he gave his only Son (I offer myself), so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.

Our two main goals for these groups that comes from this are:

  1. Our goal is for people in your group to grow. Grow as a Christ-follower. Jesus loves you. He wants you to know him more in your mind and in your experience. He wants you to love him more – love him with our lifestyle.
  2. Our goal is for your group to grow. We want more people to know Jesus. We want to show with our actions to the people around us that God loves them. I want us in these groups to begin praying for friends we want to Jesus.

But all this revolutionary change isn’t just going to happen when you show up together next Sunday. It’s going to take is a commitment from us in 2 basic ways:

  1. A commitment to personally seek Jesus more and help others to know him. . Like Brett said last Sunday, if you want to more of an aroma of Jesus to the people around you then you need to fall more in love with him!

  2. A commitment to be with this group of friends for the 8 weeks and see what God does in you and them through the process. Be with them physically, but also really be with them. Come with the purpose to enjoy it. Come with the purpose to give and get something out of your time together.

These groups will to be self-serve and do-it-yourself. That means that you make it as good as it is. When you help the leader, when you participate, when you suggest ideas, then you’ll see growth!

In this new mode of church, there are some things I want to encourage you to try to live out over the next 4 months. We need to try and live them out individually and together in our groups. These are things that I think will help that revolutionary change happen:

· Incarnational: Being Jesus’s hands, feet and voice on your own and together. I did that donut outreach for a reason to show you how easy and fun it can be! For $.6.75 and 20-30 minutes of your time you can show someone’s God’s love! I want to encourage you to come up with ways to do this on your own. I want to encourage you to do this with a friend or two. Over the semester I want to encourage your group to something! Be creative. Make it simple and cheap.

· Outward focused: These groups aren’t about just growing us, but about helping Jesus to show someone else he loves them. I want you to be praying on your own and as a group about friends, neighbors, or co-workers you can invite. Think about who you really wish was a part of your group and start praying for them.

We might meet in public places. Coffeehouse, park, ?
Read from “Organic Church” 2nd par. P. 23 – ending top of p. 24

In Luke 5:31-32 of the Message Paraphrase: It says, "Jesus heard about it and spoke up, 'Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I'm here inviting outsiders, not insiders-- and invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out." ***That’s why we want to be outward focused, cause when we are we’re like Jesus!***

· Connection – knowing God and the people in your group more. I’ve already talked about this, but I want to make sure you understand something…

I don’t expect or even want you to become best friends with everyone in your group. It’s not even realistic! I just want you to get to know them and appreciate them more. I want you to let your self be known more by your group! I want you to go from just knowing that person’s name and few facts about them, to knowing more of their story and who they ARE!

Focus on doing that and letting people know you more and just and see what happens! You might end up with a new close friend out of it. You might just learn to appreciate and understand someone more.

· Communion as common meal – The early church shared communion and it wasn’t just a cracker and juice. It was a FULL meal!

It was having a meal together and with God to remember what Jesus did! It reminds me of what Jesus says in Revelation 3:20-22, “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends. 21I will invite everyone who is victorious to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. 22Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

Maybe you’ll have a meal together as a group on one of the Sundays – maybe a breakfast or a lunch. Don’t just have a meal, but somehow do it in a way to remember and celebrate Jesus or what he’s doing in your life. Maybe you’ll have a meal with just a few people from your group that you have over and you have a chance to talk, and laugh and celebrate what God’s doing in your group’s life.

· Knowing (living) God’s word – I want to encourage you on your own and in your groups to focus on knowing God’s word more in your heads and figuring out more how to live it in your lives! Take these next 4 months and really digest God’s word. Feed on large amounts of it and talk about it together!

· Praying for each other and others – I believe that God wants us to begin to pray and believe him for more things in our lives and in the lives of people we know.

I believe what I’m about to tell you is a prophetic word for us and those of you who know me know I DON’T talk about "prophetic word’s" like this ever…

In John 4:46-54 there’s a story…

46In the course of his (Jesus’) journey through Galilee, he arrived at the town of Cana, where he had turned the water into wine. There was a government official in the city of Capernaum whose son was very sick. 47When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea and was traveling in Galilee, he went over to Cana. He found Jesus and begged him to come to Capernaum with him to heal his son, who was about to die.

48Jesus asked, "Must I do miraculous signs and wonders before you people will believe in me?"

49The official pleaded, "Lord, please come now before my little boy dies."

50Then Jesus told him, "Go back home. Your son will live!" And the man believed Jesus' word and started home.

51While he was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news that his son was alive and well. 52He asked them when the boy had begun to feel better, and they replied, "Yesterday afternoon at one o'clock his fever suddenly disappeared!" 53Then the father realized it was the same time that Jesus had told him, "Your son will live." And the officer and his entire household believed in Jesus. 54This was Jesus' second miraculous sign in Galilee after coming from Judea.

This is the prophetic part… I believe that we each need to go to Jesus and beg and plead and ask him to speak life over and into this church.

We need this whole thing needs to be bathed and covered in prayer. We to get together different times and pray together about this - for our groups, for Palo Alto, etc…

God has put this prayer focus on my heart and he’s put it on Ioannis’ heart.

But, you know what? I don’t want to set some prayer times up. I don’t want to ask you and convince you that it’s important to come. That’s the old centralized way to do things!

I’m praying that God has and does put it on some of your hearts to do this on your own. I praying and believing that God has and will cause some of you to make these times to get together and pray happen on your own.

I’m believing that God will cause some of you to want to talk to people about doing this. That’ll you’ll get groups together to pray – whether it’s just a couple of you, just the people in your group or it’s people in our church as a whole!

But, it will have to be something God puts on your hearts and that you act on if it’s going to be the kind of prayer that helps us see the Holy Spirit move in and through us in a new way!

Close With This
-Pray and then pass out the commitment cards and have people sign them. Have them pass them back up front face down.

-Pray for Brett, Dave and Georgianna

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