So, I Started This Book…

January 19, 2011 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

We as a staff at the Grove Church are always reading a book together.  We rotate who picks the book, and discuss it every week.  We just finished “It” by Craig Groeschel (I would like the record to reflect that I spelled that right, first try, no help).  Miller picked that one.  It’s talks about the intangible qualities of healthy churches that don’t have anything to do with style or structure.

I enjoyed that book.  Would you like to know why?  It’s because I do pretty well at most of the things that Groeschel is encouraging us to do.  I’m not perfect and I’m not great at all of them, but for the most part, I get a pretty good grade for being a part of the kind of church that he is describing.

“Wow, thanks Cloften.  I really wanted to read a blog post where you talk about how good you are at something.”  Settle down, I’m still getting there.

Rachel picked the book that we are reading now.  “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan.  I know that this makes me super lame, but this is my first go at a Chan.  (Yes, that means I haven’t read Crazy Love.  Yes, I’ve heard that it is really good.  Yes, I will try and read it.  Man, you guys are really aggressive in my head.)

So, the book we’re reading now is about the Holy Spirit.  I have read the first chapter, which we are discussing in mere moments. The premise of the book is that Western Christians have forgotten about the Holy Spirit.  We may know a lot theologically about him, but we do not experience him.  I already don’t like this book.  Would you like to know why?  For the opposite reason that I liked Groeschel’s book.  20 pages in and I’m already super-convicted.

Do I rely on talent or the Holy Spirit?

Is God’s presence or power in my life evident?

Does the ministry I lead have momentum and enthusiasm or is God’s Spirit moving?

Am I in tune enough with the Holy Spirit to even answer that question?

Is “in tune” a hyphenated word or two words?

These are the questions that I’m asking myself already, and I’m one chapter in.  In all seriousness, I believe I’m going to enjoy this book and what God has to say to me through it.  Hopefully you will enjoy periodic ramblings about it.

P.S. Get the book.

Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #2

Can the sequel ever match the enthusiasm of the original?  Godfather II was really good as was Empire Strikes Back, and The Two Towers.  However, for every Dark Knight, there is a Teen Wolf II, so we’ll see.

Setup:  Someone is having a hard time overcoming an obstacle of some kind.  They are wanting to have victory over sin, make a change in their life, but they can’t.

Response:  “Well, you just need to let go and let God.”

First of all, I am not a huge fan of quippy.  None of my sermon points ever all start with the letter C, and they certainly do not spell a word.  (In order to blog you need to Believe, Love, Obfuscate and Google.)  That by itself is enough to make me want to punt “Let go and let God.”  I prefer “Go heavy or go home.” 

Secondly, what does that mean anyway?  That is the problem with the overly quippy expressions, to make it short and cute, you sacrifice depth and meaning.  I can only assume that what is being encouraged is some level of passivity and release.  I need to stop working, and let God do the work. 

Let’s break this down.  God is the one that changes people’s hearts and gives the strength to overcome obstacles.  God brings healing in your marriage, restores relationships with your kids, breaks you free from addictions, etc.  Galatians 5 makes it clear that we need the power of the Holy Spirit to live the lives that God has called us to.  There is a battle going on inside of us and we are often on the wrong side.  So, we need to “let God” change us and lead us.

There is even a smidge (love that word) of truth to “let go.”  Luke 9:23 says we need to deny ourselves.  However, what is said next is “take up your cross and follow me.”  “Let go” is completely passive, but there is nothing passive about taking up your cross and following God.  Being totally dependent on God still means that we need to pray and read his word so he can speak into our lives. 

There are specific commands that God gives us, choices that we have to make.  I can just walk away from temptation.  I can stop yelling at my kids, putting down my wife, gossiping at work, looking at inappropriate websites.  I have my part.  When “letting go” encourages helplessness, we have gone too far in believing that everything depends on God.  This can be convenient blame-shifting.  (Before you get to0 mad, know that “God helps those who help themselves” will be coming at some point.)

Make no mistake, you desperately need God in your life.  If you do not let God change your heart and learn to depend on him, you will struggle.  However, if you think that you can just sit there and your life will change, you will struggle just the same.

We have to trust in a God that gives us the strength, courage, and motivation to make the changes in our lives we so desperately need to make, but we have to make the right choices to pursue God and do what is right if we want to have real victory.  (See, that’s not quippy at all.)

Who you are not what you do.

I met with a group of guys this morning. We are meeting every Wednesday morning. We call it a leadership class, but it is not what you would necessarily expect from a leadership class. We have spent the entire fall talking about our spiritual life and how that provides the foundation for everything in our lives. Our relationship with God is not a piece of our lives but it is the driver for everything in our lives.

Anyway, we have been looking at Galatians 5 for the last couple of weeks. What I was struck by today is what Paul describes as the “fruit of the Spirit.” What he says next is what Paul believes is the primary evidence/result of God’s Spirit in our lives. He could have said anything: “The fruit of the Spirit is church attendance, serving, tithing . . .” “The fruit of the Spirit is working soup kitchens, feeding the poor, . . .” The fruit of the Spirit is not stealing, not drinking, not having sex outside of marriage. . .” “The fruit of the Spirit is speaking in tongues, performing miracles, healing, . . .”

All of those things are things that we do, but the result of God’s Spirit in us is who we are. God is interested in transforming our character, not in simply altering our behavior. It is when God changes our character that then our behavior really changes. Our behavior does not change our character.

(Expect more on this)