Wednesday, October 31, 2007

MOSAIC MIAMI: The Voice of Truth

While I'm still working on the audio upload (it's Homecoming week at the University of Miami, which means lots of late nights and little free time for Sonny), here are the written notes from the sermon* I gave October 28, 2007.

* = thanks and acknowledgement to Compass Community Church for the overt stealing of a few ideas...although, since I was on the Creative Team at the church at the time, I'm technically just stealing from myself...


MOSAIC NOTES – 10-28-07: the Voice of Truth


Pet lovers: show of hands. Who all here has a pet? We have two: Cricket (adopted, 1994) & Maggie (adopted, 2000). I love allegories, I love telling and hearing stories, and anything that has a deeper meaning just gets me pumping. Funny and humbling to me just how many times God has used these two little mutts to illustrate the ways He works in my life.

Ashley and I are “those” dog owners. We give voices to our dogs. Cricket, despite her age, still speaks like a puppy and we speak to her in baby speak and she answers us in baby speak. “Time go nite-nite.” “I go sleep.” Seems just natural to me to talk to her like this, but it sounds a little ludicrous to anyone who hears us speaking to them. Maggie sounds like the dog from OVER THE HEDGE “Play?” But still kid-like in her voice.

I could go on for hours over the lessons I’ve learned from these two mutts, but one struck me the other day while walking them. Normally, when I walk them in the morning, I talk to them – partially to wake myself up, but also to tell them “no, don’t chase the lizard, “no, don’t eat that” or something else that starts with “no.” This one morning, I didn’t speak while we were walking. Don’t know why, just didn’t. Was walking Maggie & Cricket at the same time – because of her age, Cricket “goes” more often than Maggie, so I’m usually standing like this [image] when Cricket stops. Was stopped with Cricket, staring off at nothing, when I looked down, because I felt Maggie standing on my leg. She’d some back and was standing on hind legs, one paw in front of the other on my leg, ears back, looking at me with this sad puppy look on her face, like “Daddy? Why are you not speaking to me?” I looked at her and asked something like, “What is it, baby girl?” Really genuinely concerned because she looked so upset. Soon as she heard my voice, she knew that I wasn’t upset with her, wasn’t ignoring her, or anything like that - she simply just wanted to hear me talk to her – she got that “YEAH!” look – dogs smile; those of you with dogs know this – and she took off to sniff again.

Cricket? She’s learned through the years that sometimes when I’m quiet, it’s because I’m angry. Frustrated @ work, life, etc. – but she internalizes it and thinks I’m angry at her. Until she hears my voice, reassuring her that everything is okay between us – she looks a little timid. When she hears my voice talking to her, she gets excited. In that same “BLEAH!” happy face/run that Maggie gets. It wasn’t enough that Maggie heard my voice; Cricket needed to hear it as well, directed at her.

Oh, to be sure there are plenty of times that they do hear my voice and will completely ignore me, just trotting off in their own little world (“Hey – there’s food on the floor!” “Oooh – what’s this dead thing I found in the grass, and what does it taste like?”). But I’ve discovered that whether it’s me saying NO or just talking to them, they need to hear me. Or, at the very least, feel the sound of my voice. I love these two critters with all my heart, but I know in my heart of hearts that they don’t really understand one word I am saying to them. There associate certain sounds (“NO!”) to an action (what Ashley calls my “angry daddy” voice), but they don’t comprehend the words coming out of my mouth. They take reassurance in the SOUND of my voice.

Mark 4:23 (NIV): If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.

Kevin last week gave us a pretty much break-neck comprehensive overview of “How do I know Jesus is who He says He is,” a fast & furious look at Christianity and the Way. One of the next most common questions is “How can I understand God’s will in my life?” How do I know God is speaking to me? Or, conversely, we often complain that we don’t “get” God’s voice, that we don’t hear Him/feel Him speaking to us.

I know NOTHING about babies, but I have learned that you talk to them in the womb. They grow accustomed to the sound, to the resonance of your voice. [STRIKE DRUM] If your hearing is fine, you can both hear and feel me strike the drum. If your hearing is fine, you can’t separate the two (hearing/feeling).

Sound travels in waves, in cycles… in fact everything in life can be boiled down to cycles… our days are cycles, our years, the season, are cycles, our breathing and even heart rates have rhythms that are cyclical.. we even call it a life cycle… so everything moves in cycles… these cycles are in the form of waves…waves all have a certain frequency… resonance occurs when one set of waves overlaps an original wave…sympathetic vibration occurs…. The secondary waves connect with the original wave and are amplified and become greater than they were originally…

So if culture resonates with us… that means there has to be something inside of us… an original wave to connect with..

Culture Resonates an Original Source… God is closer than He appears or sounds – those stories, songs, personalities all connect with the original source wave of God inside of us… in whose image we are created…

Resonance – hard to explain… even harder to see… it is undeniable that we can feel and hear it

Something within us resonates to know our origin… to know if there is something out there bigger than us… to know the what the why and the how of our existence… We can look back at these verses in Acts and see that as well…

Acts 17:22-27 (NIV): Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

Paul knew about this resonance… Vs. 22-23… In every culture, in every society, man has created objects of worship – something bigger than themselves to worship… even if they didn’t exactly know what it was… this need for something bigger impacts us in every way… it is the biggest influence on how we deal with our past, how we live in the present, and how we face the future… Paul knew about this resonance when he spoke there at Mars Hill…

Paul knew who God is… Vs. 24-25… It wasn’t enough to just recognize the resonance… that happens all day everyday without God having any part or being any part of the answer… think about this… when you see the commercials that you see on TV… does it occur to you that they use this resonance to sell you things? They use emotions to get you to buy stuff… emotions that make us cry, that make us hungry, that make us lustful, that make us thirsty, and even emotions that make us laugh…

Without knowing the original source of the resonance, without understanding the original wave, the resonance has no meaning… it is much ado about nothing… So Paul tells the philosophers who this unknown God really is… this chord struck that makes you search any and everywhere for meaning and hope… He didn’t offer a debate.. but straight up told them how it was… He told them that he knew this resonance, and he knew who God is… And better yet, Paul knew what we need to know about resonance & God…

Paul knew what we need to know about resonance & God… Vs. 26-27… God did this so men would seek him… So that we could know that He is closer than we sometimes think He is or feel He is, He put a part of Himself inside of us… we are created in His image and resonate when we connect with His original wave in culture…

John 4:23-25 (MSG): It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.

So – how exactly do you develop this inner discernment (there’s a $3 “church” word for you) to sync up your own spirit to the resonance of God?

But before we begin – understand that nothing in the Bible is quick and easy. Your salvation came at a price, and God never said that the struggles in this world would be simple or easy to overcome. Quite the opposite, actually:

Ephesians 6:13 (NIV):
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Let’s start with asking God for guidance.

How many of you have been guilty of either driving around during the holidays and praying that God will give you a good parking space, or when you do find one that’s not in the next county, you immediately think of this as God has blessed you with a close spot to the door? Or there’s been a time when you go into a store and that certain something you’re wanted for a while (not something you need, just something you want) is suddenly on sale – and in either of these instances, you’ve remarked about how good God is? Yes, it is possible that God wants you to have that PS3 or plasma screen TV. HiDef Halo tournaments or viewings of LOST in our house may just be the path of salvation for someone. Not that I’m speaking from a want in my own life, you understand… Yes, it is possible that God wants you – and only you – to have that prime spot for shopping the day after Thanksgiving. But what about the times we ask for something – deliverance from a situation, a disease, or a huge problem in our lives – and we feel like those requests go unanswered – while we see and hear the celebration of the people who have saved 15 percent or more on their car insurance. Doesn’t God consider HIV & AIDS bigger than who gets voted off THE BACHELOR? Or who wins a sporting event?

I’ve heard it said that the single most dangerous prayer is “God, use me.” Because oftentimes we have an idea about HOW we want to be used, and that’s what we’re asking for God to do – use us in the way WE see fit and not the way HE might see fit. We need to be prepared for the fact that if/when we pray this, you’re opening the door for a world of possibilities – not all of them what you might classify as good. When Isaiah said “Here am I – send me,” I don’t think he was prepared for everything that was going to be said/done in his lifetime, and that he’d be THE prophet that would speak a lot about who Jesus was, what he was going to undergo, and what signs would point to the Messiah.

Or, we ask God for a confirmation, but then tell God exactly what that confirmation must be. For example, you might tell God, "If You want me to be a missionary in China then make such and such happen. If such and such doesn't happen then I will know that you don't want me to go to China as a missionary." We might call this a “cop out,” but the Bible calsl this "throwing out a fleece."

Judges 6:36-40 (NIV): Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised - look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

God does honor fleeces sometimes, but at some point He will probably require you to begin listening inwardly for His voice and He will probably stop honoring the fleeces that you throw out. Whether or not you choose to throw out fleeces is up to you, but at least keep this point in mind when you do so.

The clincher is that our prayers don’t go unanswered. We might not like the answer sometimes, because God will say “no.” You might think your prayer falls on deaf ears, but in reality, it’s God simply stating that the time is not right – YOU are not ready – for this to be answered. It is being answered, according to His will. In His time, in His manner.

To me, God does not sound like George Burns or Morgan Freeman. Or even Jim (Passion of the Christ) Caviezel. Ashley will joke that I’m the one who will stop and just be amazed by a sunset (she’ll never see a sunrise) or the look of the moon in the sky. It’s not that I look up into the sky and hear God, but I definitely feel His presence when I look at nature.

Fire + water = God speaks through both (burning bush/rushing wind).

Romans 15:13 (NIV): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In order to hear God better, we need to get to know God better. Read Bible. Duh. “It’s too confusing.” Well, yeah. Sometimes it is. But the reality is that a lot of times we don’t struggle with the Bible, but with the clock. We live in such a fast-paced society that it’s not just our sins that are killing our souls – it’s our schedules.

Psalm 46:10 (NIV): Be still and know that I am God.

Philippians 4:7 (NIV): And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Voice of God: some people say if they could just HEAR God speak to them then they would either believe or they would not sin. Really?

Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV): The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Genesis 3:8-11 (NIV): Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

Here were the only two people on the planet at the time, with no other distractions (no kids, no peer pressure, no TV competing for their attention, no sin to entice them) – they heard God, but did they listen?

Think about this when you speak with a friend/spouse – you can hear what they’re saying, but are you listening to them?

Look to the left, now look to the right – you’re looking at the face of God – listen to the voices of the people around you – wise counsel – the whole cultural resonance bit? Yeah. You can’t disconnect from the culture or from the people around you – God is not only in that person sitting next to you, but in the culture of the people around you. It’s why God speaks to my quasi-hippie-heart through nature, environment, through issues of social justice and equality – through the hearts of the people closest to me.

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV): As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

Most of us probably won’t have a mountaintop experience with Christ where we literally hear the voice of God speaking to us (Matthew 17:5) nor will we ever have a burning bush just spark into being (Exodus 3:2-5).

In Exodus, when God called Moses, the verb used is qara – means “the enunciation of a specific message.” God was speaking directly TO Moses FOR a specific purpose. One way to know God is speaking to you is that when He speaks, there’s a reason behind it. When we speak to God (pray) it’s for a specific purpose, most of the time to ask for something. God speaks to us with a directness that we might not understand, but there’s a purpose behind it.

Deuteronomy 4:15 (NIV): So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire.

Bono: “Love your neighbor” is not a suggestion; it is a commandment.

Hebrews 13:1-2 (NIV): Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

But the voice of truth tells me a different storythe voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"Out of all the voices calling out to meI will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
- “Voice of Truth,” Casting Crowns

Monday, October 29, 2007

Do I REALLY sound like that?

Yep. The recording yesterday worked fine. The audio is pretty good, and only the first, like, 30 seconds of the message is missing.

Audio link to go up sometime in the next 2-3 days, once I make it through some of the Homecoming activities planned around here.

Some people might wind up getting a copy sent to them in the mail, though...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Teaser Trailers a-plenty

Previously on 24:

Holy COW, but this season is going to rock...

And for the people who care about such things, here a few "teaser" notes about my sermon this Sunday:
  • U2
  • To me, God does not sound like George Burns or Morgan Freeman.
  • HiDef HALO tournaments or viewings of LOST in our house may just be the path of salvation for someone. Not that I’m speaking from a want in my own life, you understand…
  • Genesis 3:8-11 (NIV): Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

Expect the full notes and/or a link to the audio recording (!) early next week...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

As if one trip to the pulpit wasn't enough...


So, this coming Sunday (October 28, 2007), I have been asked to Mosaic Church here in Miami.

I keep trying to come up with some kind of cool phrase that sums up what I'm feeling right now, but nothing's coming to mind. Maybe it's because I'm in a little bit of shock; maybe it's because I'm thinking to myself "What the heck am I going to talk about THIS time?" (I have a few ideas rolling around already; one that seems to fit all but perfectly with what Kevin spoke about this morning); maybe it's because I can't really wrap my mind around the fact that I'm going to actually be doing something that I enjoy.

Maybe it's because I need coffee. ...hey, I've only had three cups today. Give me a break.

And yes. We WILL record this message, because the ususal tech gang WILL be in town this time out.

However, I draw the line at video taping the message. Only because I have friends (and I'm looking at YOU, Mitchell and/or Bryan) who would take great delight in turning anything I tape into an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. ...which would, of course, flatter me beyond words. But I'm just not going to give you the pleasure. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Snippets and random thoughts

Nothing of any real substance in the ramblings below; but since this website has started to become more and more frequented by visitors, I figured what the hey - it can't kill me to put a few thoughts down.

* While in spite of the physical distance between us, I will actually be able to HEAR the snickers from some of my friends when I state that I've recently begun reading a book that I voluntarily bought this past weekend: Just Married: What Might Surprise You About the First Few Years by Margaret Feinberg (she who might be more well-known to some of you as the author of twentysomething). Now. Those of you who'd care to mock my decision to read from a female perspective some creative and down-to-earth ideas about how to keep my marriage to Ashley fresh, fun, and full of life...please step forward so that I can smack you upside the head. And then return home so that your respective partners and spouses can smack you as well.

* I've been on some kind of kooky return-to-the-1970's-via-DVD's kick as of late. Between The Challenge of the Superfriends and the live-action The Secrets of Isis -- it's like I'm seven again. I'm also beginning to wonder how in the name of the Almighty that I made it out of my childhood without being MORE socially awkward than I was. I well remember sitting in my PJ's watching these shows (and more; God is keeping me from going just completely nuts and buying up 67,000 DVD's of these collections) on Saturday mornings, all the while eating my Captain Crunch and being mesmerized by the flickering images on the 19-inch TV in the dining room. Why have I been watching these cheese-laden shows? Beats me. Lord knows that the writing on some of the episdoes was HORRIBLE, but there's something charmingly sweet about the innocence of these shows.

* As part of the weekly Life Group at Mosaic, we've been reading/studying the book of Acts. It's neat, because we simply read a chapter in a book of the Bible and then we talk about it as a group - what it means today, drawing parallels from our culture and the culture of the time, and the subsequent completely random and seemingly unrelated tangents that we find ourselves talking about within seven minutes of the conversation starting. While some of you might find this about as exciting as peeling a potato, it's actually...refreshing to sit and just read one chapter of one book and try to look at it as freshly as you possibly can. This week, we're discussing chapter nine, and I think I found about six-seven things in this ONE chapter while reading it this morning that I'd never discovered before. Don't presume that because you may have heard the story told in church before or that you may have had to read the verses aloud as part of a -- pardon the phrase -- "Bible study" that you know the story in question. For those of you who think you've lost any appeal of freshness or desire in reading the Bible -- don't start with something like Genesis and try to read through the whole Bible. Go read the book of Proverbs. Or Philippians. And if possible, don't go it alone. Remember that these stories were told aloud and studied in groups before we all were given little bound and printed copies of them.

* Ashley and I have started a home gathering called "That Thing @ 8:00." We're hosting a group of college kids in our apartment every Sunday night for a study on the Bible, life, coffee (you KNEW that I had to sneak that in here somewhere), and the struggles we ALL go through. This is something we felt pressed to do (and a friend of mine in Athens also suggested this as an idea for me and my ministry-driven self), and after we were approached by a student living in our building (within the same WEEK of our first talking about it)...well, God's got good timing. What can I say?

* This is just a little query to any and all who DO read this page - if anyone DOES log in to see this page -- either through a Google search for my name, Hebrew phrases, or childhood games -- I'm actually interested in learning who all DOES read Ye Olde Kangaroo. So, if you wouldn't mind shooting off an email to the address at the top or by leaving me a and my blogging self would appreciate it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Isaiah 61: redeemed & reclaimed

All: This is NOT going to be the "Sonny's-thoughts-on-preaching-for-the-first-time" blog entry. That's coming later. This is just going to be the outline of the sermon I gave this past Sunday. ...yes. I said "sermon." It's about time I owned up to this.

So, get comfy, 'cause this is kinda in-depth. Grab some java, or another beverage of choice and read on. NOTE: sadly, the recording devise malfunctioned, so there is not an audio copy of this available. ...which SUCKS, because I know that I went into greater depth and detail than what this poor outline shows. Some things from this were cut, other things were added. Oh - and the running time of the sermon was 42:01, in case anyone cares about such stuff. :)


MOSAIC NOTES – 10-7-07: ISAIAH 61 – redeemed & reclaimed

Kevin first asked me to speak a few weeks ago. He knew exactly how to sway my opinion and get me to agree to this by asking me while we were in Starbucks. I would ask that you bear with me as this is my first time speaking to “BIG KIDS;” I’m much more accustomed to speaking to a high school youth group or college age – so, if I start to lapse into slang, or throw out some arcane pop-culture reference, someone please just remind me of my age. It’s always a nice slap of cold water in the face to bring me back to reality.

While I have been studying about what to say and how to say it, there have seriously have been moments where I wanted to just stand up here and talk for an hour about something pointless – like the history of cartoons or something else nonsensical. Mainly because it’d be something I’d be comfortable with and I doubt that anyone would call me on the finer theological point of Bugs VS Daffy, but also because this subject has hit a little close to home. While I’ve been wondering about why I am supposed to say what I want to say today – I’m finding out that the message is as much for me as a speaker as is for you guys as listeners.


We’ve been studying Isaiah 61 @ Mosaic for last few weeks – in-between Sundays a few weeks ago, I was listening to a Podcast that used a turn of a phrase that really hit me, and this is where we’ll launch today’s lesson from. Last week we wrapped up detailed study of IS 61, so I’m not going to re-hash or repeat – much – of what’s already been covered. This is kind of a “bridge” before the next series.

Please understand that I am not a fan of clichés or catch-phrases; things like “three point sermons” or “five points to salvation” really bug me, because last time I noticed, God could not be quantified. However, this comment really challenged me to begin to re-think how I personally saw redemption and grace: God makes all things new, not all new things.

Couple of things about me personally – I’m from the South (MS/GA), but never been really stereotypical – not so much a “good ol’ boy” – only really understood Legend of Ricky Bobby through cultural lens and not from first-hand experience.

I was raised to appreciate the “nicer things” in life – roots aren’t so much in the home w/fridge on front porch. Used to want to exclusively shop in stores like Pier One/Crate & Barrel/Pottery Barn (because CLEARLY, for example, wooden spoons are BETTER if they’re bought from a high-end market). This was the culture I was immersed in, and no matter how much we try to shake it, we always view our lives through the cultural lenses we’re given.

To illustrate history of culture – we had room in front of house no one ever used. EVER. It was the first room people saw when they came to our house, and it was used as a display room. Shut off by large glass doors – as a kid, I used to crack the doors open and put my bare feet on carpet just to see if mom would notice. The kicker was that my grandparents had same kind of room in their house. So, this was not just my mom being weird – she came by it honestly. These rooms had china cabinets, and the “good” furniture in them – I can’t recall EVER using that room in grandparents’ house. Even after they both died and we were getting ready to sell the house – felt weird to go into it to clean it out.

Once I graduated college, I wanted my apartment to look like it did in the catalogs or store floors. Pristine. Immaculate. Not really lived-in. Now? Feel sort of weird in expensive stores like ones mentioned. Not just b/c can’t really afford the stuff in there (no debt), but it’s so shiny. So new. Not earthy; no history to it.

Ever walk through a store w/really expensive BREAKABLE stuff w/a kid? Do you have that terror-filled moment like at any second, the bag of Skittles they ate last week will kick back in and they’ll just go nuts? Don’t you feel like you have to monitor them the whole time? How I feel now. Like I am afraid I will hit the shelf and something will break and the store manager will escort my ragamuffin self out. Not that I will go on a rampage like bull in china shop and intentionally break all kinds of stuff in these stores, but the shininess, the newness, the expense of it all intimidates me a bit. Not reflective of what I need in my life now/at the stage I’m in. I have grown past the “need” for the nice stuff, and have a deeper understanding/appreciation for the earthiness of life. Life is meant to be lived, not studied. Apologies to all the sociologists in the room, but it’s true.

Although it’s been a bit of culture shock moving from GA to Miami, I finally don’t stare slack-jawed at all the palm trees. Since I work at the university, the biggest comparison for me have been culture among students @ Univ of Miami, which is sort of similar in some ways to students @ UGA. For the most part – and although this is VERY stereotypical of the student body – thankfully not the ones I am fortunate enough to work with – but the newest/best/most $$ seems to be prevalent – (FOR EXAMPLE – TALK ABOUT my saggy-roofed & dirty Jetta VS immaculate Hummer on the highway @ red light).

JETTA: to look at it, wouldn’t know that it’s kind of new – wrecked over ago – VW commercial “Safe Happens” – new windshield, hood, front grill, bumper, etc. Only about $300 shy of being totaled. Wouldn’t take ANYTHING for that car – has character – I can see the newness of it and not the wreck that it was only a little over a year ago – I really can’t remember what it looked like beforehand (dents in hood, cracks in windshield, them the wreck) – God’s the same way – takes & recreates that which some would say has no worth or intrinsic value & sees the true value in it.

ISAIAH 61:3-4 (NASB): To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting so they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; and they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.

God makes all things new, not all new things. This is sometimes difficult for us as Christ followers to “get.” We’ve been talking about in this in Life Group about the book of Acts – specifically in Ch 1 – how the people who were closest to Jesus (physically) for three years just didn’t get what He was talking about a lot of times (from the restoration of the kingdom – they thought military, He thought holy). The Twelve had the luxury of the benefit of not having the Spirit of God (the comforter) with them yet. How is it we sometimes don’t get the true essence of what the Bible says? Or that we buy into the misinterpretation that we’ve been told & sold throughout the years?

One of the reasons it’s hard to understand – we want a new start – new life – want to literally interpret 2 Corinthians 5:17 (compare NIV to MSG) – in Greek, the “new” is Kainos – means “qualitatively” new not “out of nothing” new. Many of us want, at the moment of salvation, to be able to take the life that existed beforehand and forget it. For example, if you were a murderer before your conversion, you might want to be able to think that everything you did before salvation can be erased. In God’s eyes, yes. He can and does make all things new, meaning your salvation – your spirit – is restored to that moment in time when sin didn’t exist in the world. You have been made new by the blood of Christ. But – your life is not a new thing. You’re not “Sonny 2.0,” where your life before did not exist. This isn’t like the FBI Witness Relocation Program, where you’re given a completely new identity and there are no ramifications of your life HERE.

Eternity has been secured, but the reality is that we can’t escape our lives here on earth.

2 Cor 5:17 (NIV): Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2 Cor 5:17 (MSG): Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!

Take a closer look at a couple of key words found in verses in Isaiah: IS 61:3 – oil of gladness. Oil is SHEMEN in Hebrew - richness. In the midst of a passage talking about dealing with the oppressed, God is offering richness. Not RICHES, but richness. Something full. There might be something deeper there – we look for the literal, but God grants us more than what we normally would look for.

IS 61:4 – devastations. Word used is Shamem – the word used to describe Tamar after she was raped by Amnon (II Samuel 13:20). It is something so horrible that it can leave a person speechless. (Job 21:5)

Imagery in this passage is just immensely powerful – richness in the face of a people who’ve lost everything, and few words have a more commanding emotional gut-check than the word “rape.” But God is willing to state He will raise up and rebuild after a devastation like that.

Many of us have been there – some of us have hit walls of desperation, some have truly had those moments of where we feel stripped of our worth, our dignity, our essence of who we are. Sometimes it’s the circumstances of our lives that spiral out of control, sometimes we’re the architects of our own undoing. And we need to own that. Regardless, life can devastate. Life can tear us/wear us down.

No matter how together we think we might be – no matter how much of a veneer or façade we have on our life – we are all, in some way, broken.

Weren’t just born into sin and then kept in a bubble until salvation then isolated from the world after being saved – okay, some were (for example, Donald Miller tells the story that it’s possible that you CAN exclusively go to a Christian elementary, middle and high school, go to a Christian college, work for a Christian business, and exclusively eat Christian food at Chic-Fil-A). But for many of us, we have a very rich, very detailed storyline – that to negate and ignore the history of your life is a slap in the face against the redemptive powers of Christ.

"No one is beyond redemption. A converted terrorist wrote half of the New Testament. We have a God that loves evildoers so much he died for them. Can we look into the eyes of people we don’t like, and see the image of the One we love?" - Shane Claiborne

Ref: woman caught in adultery – today, might not be that big of a deal in society, but to the culture of that time, where women had little to no value socially, was very much a big deal – ever notice how the Bible never states if she was the married party in this or not? To Christ it didn’t matter – John 8:10-11 (MSG). Jesus stood up and spoke to her. "Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?" "No one, Master." "Neither do I," said Jesus.

Cool thing – word used for condemnation in Greek (katakrima) has two meanings: when Jesus asked “Does no one condemn you,” He meant in the present tense, the here and now. When He said “Neither do I condemn you,” he meant in an eternal sense. Reference part of passage where Jesus stood up. Others picked up stones, while Jesus picked up the woman. Saw value in her as a child of His, and reclaimed & redeemed her; saw true value in her where others simply saw a whore.

One of most beautiful prayers – PS 51 – taken from a broken spirit, a true prayer of redemption – v. 10: “Create in me a clean heart oh Lord my God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (MSG – God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week out of my life.)

Words key in that verse: clean heart. In Hebrew, clean meant “Tahowr” (taw-HORE) – ritually and ethically pure – people who were found to be unclean because of who they had been with or because of what they’d done had to be purified (ref: Good Samaritan, and why the Priest and the Levite did not stop)

To be purified – cleaned – in Jewish culture was not just a one-time deal – in battle, soldiers had to be purified after each battle – much like we do after each battle in our lives – not enough to just ask for forgiveness the day you commit to Christ; must make a conscious effort to be ethically pure in our lives. Salvation doesn’t just happen, it is happening.

Ps 51:12 (NIV) – Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and grant a willing spirit to sustain me.

Originally wanted to call this “God is Green,” mainly because my church/cultural lense makes me knee-jerk think that I have to come up with a catchy or marketable title. However, "green" evoked a sense of recycling to me. VERY much a proponent for environmental issues, but WE are not recycled: we are reclaimed. Restored. In recycling, the original form is not recognizable in the finished product. Recycling is the reprocessing of materials into new products. Restoration is the process of bringing an object back to its original state. Spiritually, we might not INTERNALLY resemble to person we were before, but we still EXTERNALLY resemble that person. God makes all things new, not all new things.

Among the many reasons Ashley and I felt drawn to this church was the facilities. We meet in older building, restored to use. (Used to meet in a warehouse across the street from a beer distributor in Athens, GA.) Like the furniture here: restored to and for a greater use. Heard the comment Mosaic was “progressive” for its use of couches. Kinda had to laugh – not only b/c these couches aren’t really what I think anyone would call progressive, but also because this just layout evokes and illustrates the commitment to community/shared living – shared life – template of what the church is supposed to be about.

Not that Mosaic is the church – has its flaws – but it’s living the idea of redemptive theology in life, in theory and in action. And we’re challenged to take these lessons out into the places that need to hear them the most.

Grace is a renewable resource. Never run dry (never thirst). Living water (ref. John 4:10, 13-14) Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The challenge is can we operate and live our lives based on the hope and the promise of restoration of the destruction of our lives, living life like we ARE restored, and as an agent of restoration in the lives of others.

IS 61:4 (MSG) - They'll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage. They'll start over on the ruined cities, take the rubble left behind and make it new.