Sermons / Media

Yesterday in church, pastor John discussed “The Call to Spiritual Formation,” which was a great continuation on his sermon last week titled “Forming Your Spirit.” Using the scripture Matthew 28:18-20, John talked about how Jesus does not call us to be converts to Christianity, but to be disciples of Christ. Jesus calls us to enter into a process in which we become like Him – to spiritual formation. But what is the difference between a simple convert and an actual imitator of Christ? If you think about it, converts never change the world. They have a lot of talk, but not much substance. But imitators of Christ have both the talk and the lifestyle to back it up. Imitators of Christ are powerful people because they show the rest of the world what it can look like to really be a Christian – to live in this world without being of this world. They make a tremendous impact with their lifestyles by simply being who they are.

There is one very big thing that hinders us from becoming the disciples that we desire to be. It’s called the Human Condition. The Human Condition often causes us to spend our lives struggling to be our own master and lord, achieving our own goals and monitoring our own performance. Even after we become Christians, it’s easy to become the focus of our own lives, and we fail to place God at the center. So should we quit aiming for the goal of spiritual formation? No way! If anything, we need to aim with even more intensity, with a completely different mindset about it.

How Do I Allow God to Form My Spirit?

“Christian spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others” – Dr. Robert Mulholland

There are four things to consider here:

  1. Spiritual Formation is a process. It’s not an instantaneous experience; it’s a lifelong process of growth into the image of Christ. The gradual aspect of spiritual formation moves against the grain of our instant gratification culture. We have been conditioned to expect almost immediate returns on our investments of time, energy and resources. Paul says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” So, we are “saved,” but we are also “being saved.” This process is not limited to just discipleship – it’s what life is all about. Every event of life is an experience of spiritual formation. Every action taken, every response made, every relationship, every thought or emotion allowed is part of spiritual formation into some sort of being. We either allow God to shape us toward wholeness in the image of Christ or we choose toward a horribly deformed image of humanity. The question is not whether or not we undertake spiritual formation, but what type of spiritual formation are we already doing?
  2. Being Conformed. The very thought of being conformed means that someone other than ourselves is in charge of the forming. This is not a comfortable thought. We are the ones that like to be in control. We are the ones that grasp, shape, and control things around us. We have extreme difficulty in abiding, waiting patiently, trustingly, perseveringly, to be shaped by God, according to God’s agenda. Ultimately, spiritual disciplines are not something we choose for ourselves – this is the problem we have with our individualized, privatized form of religion in our culture. We think that spiritual disciplines are something that we take on. But, in actuality, spiritual disciplines are things that God thrusts upon us. If we are left alone to form our own spirits, we will ultimately choose things that we can handle, things that fit our personality. However, genuine spiritual disciplines intrude into our lives at points where we are in bondage to something that keeps the image of Christ in us deformed. Cod uses difficult and uncomfortable situations to free us from bondages that keep us deformed from His image.
  3. The Image of Christ. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. It says that we are being transformed into the image of God. Spiritual formation takes place at the points of our unlikeness to the image of Christ. At those points, God confronts us and challenges us to respond to consecration to God there. When we respond, God graciously works to conform us to the image of Christ. Scripture comes into the picture here. This is why it is so important to read the Bible daily. But we must not read it to “master it,” we need to read it in order for it to conquer us. We don’t need to read the Bible for information, but for formation. We need to sit before the text and ask, “God, what are you saying to me?”
  4. For Others. The fourth part of spiritual formation, and possibly the most difficult, is accepting the fact that it is inseparable from our relationship with others. Our culture, which is all about self, tells us that spirituality is a private matter – that it is simply between us and God, and that others play a very secondary part. But if you read through 1 John, you’ll find that our depth of relationship to God is measured by our relationships with others. Are we, in our relationships with others, becoming increasingly Christ-like? If our spiritual journey is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ, then the journey should bring us to greater and greater Christ-likeness in our life with others.

I had an amazing time at Dry Gulch USA Summer Camp August 2-6 with a group of elementary students from San Marcos Community Church.

The Dry Gulch staff added a time at the start of camp for sponsors and children’s pastors to pray over every single child at camp. The prayer time was powerful and anointed. As the week progressed, I could see how the Holy Spirit was using those prayers over each of our children that were at camp.

The theme for camp was “What a Friend.”

Recap from John 14:6:

1. Jesus is the way. Jesus carried our burdens. He carried them all.
2. Jesus is the truth. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are, but Jesus did not give in. Jesus knew the truth about temptation. The truth about temptation is, temptation is always a trap. We can beat temptation with God’s Word.
3. Jesus is the life. Jesus is the only Friend who will never break a promise. He never lets you down. God wants us to have friends, but Jesus is your best friend.

Every student that went to camp came away knowing Jesus as their friend at a whole new level. Burdens that had been carried by these students were given over to Jesus, our burden bearer, and students experienced more freedom in worship.

Last but not least, we just had some good ole fashioned fun! Dry Gulch is a fun place with incredible activities for these students. The camp is always improving and adding to make the camp experience more fun for the kids.

I am excited about taking more students to Dry Gulch next year. I will be signing up for 2010 camp in November. Be looking for information about summer camp at the end of October 2009.

-Miss Pam, SMCC Children’s Pastor

SMCC will be starting a ministry for the “twentysomethings” in and around the San Marcos area, focusing on that step after high school where many people begin to ask the all-important question, “Now What?” Our first meeting will be on Sunday, September 13 f rom 6-8 p.m., where we’ll begin the first of twelve DVDs from Focus on the Family’s “The Truth Project.” These DVDs discuss what it truly means to follow Christ in today’s day and age and explain how to look at life from a biblical perspective. We are very excited to start a post-high school ministry, and we hope you can join us! We will be meeting at 205 Mitchell Street, Apt #4, right here in San Marcos. The Pursuit to follow Christ is anything but trivial – see you there?

Pursuit

Yesterday at service, Pastor John talked about “Forming Your Spirit.” He used three scriptures, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1, and Matthew 7:16-20 to discuss how we should be “imitators of Christ.” But why is it that we often become imitators of much less? By employing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and spending time with God on a daily basis, we can truly follow Christ and form our spirits into Christ-likeness.

Spending Time With God:

Spending time with God should be leisure time. It must be a time when we are absolutely at peace – this is why early mornings seem to work best for most people. It’s a time to turn off the cell phone (yes, really), and truly meet with God. This time should be free of stress, emotional issues, legalism, and other distractions to be a time when we can simply lay aside all the pressures, guilt, shame, disappointments, and simply allow God to be our rest. Here are some pointers:

  • Meet with God in the same place every day: Find what works best for you – you might want to just sit in your living room or on your porch, or just go for a walk.
  • Meet with God at the same time every day: Meet with God at a specific time. With our busy schedules, it can be really easy to push God-time out of the day. Mornings usually work best.
  • Develop a routine: It can be helpful to have a plan of action when you meet with God. It could start out with some Bible readings, then move to thanksgiving, then worship, journaling, intercession, and praying over the day. It’s your call, but good habits are healthy.
  • Allow for flexibility: Stick with your routine, but go with the flow. God may want you to change up the agenda once in a while. Just remember the purpose: experiencing God – not checking off a “to do” list.

Learn To Pray:

There are four main stages to prayer: talking at God, talking to God, listening to God, and being with God.

  • “Talking at God” happens when we use recited or pre-written prayers, or even the Lord’s prayer. It’s kind of like when a child learns to pray – but it can also be applied to mature pray-ers.
  • “Talking to God” is a more comfortable prayer when you actually have your own words to speak to God. You speak from your heart, and it is a result of a more personal relationship with God. Since this stage of prayer may not always be positive, journaling might be a real asset.
  • “Listening to God” is a more mature approach to prayer because you are simply listening for God’s voice. God wants to share in your struggles and celebrate your inner victories. When He speaks into your heart, you can hear His direction and guidance for your life.

Be Prepared for Times of Dryness:

If you’re going to commit yourself to spiritual formation, you must be prepared for times of spiritual dryness. During these times, it is not that something bad happens, but rather that nothing happens at all. You might say, “I just sit there by myself with no sign of the presence of God. But there are a few points that we need to remember:

  • Prayer is an uphill climb. It involves hours and hours of slow uneventful inching. It demands the type of spirit that chooses the difficult path – the road not usually taken.
  • Prayer is a discipline. Professional athletic training may take hours, just so an athlete can perform for only a few minutes. Many musicians practice 8-10 hours a day for a much smaller amount of time on stage. But when we pray, we are training for the greatest event of all – the moment we meet Jesus face to face! It’s going to take time, effort, and commitment.
  • Prayer is a relationship. Various relationships in our lives resemble our relationship with God. God is our parent, our spouse, and our friend. And as we know, relationships have a tendency to go up and down. Guess what? That’s ok! Even in times of dryness, as we press into Him, we come to find Him to be more than we ever expected.
  • God is maturing us. Through dryness, God is growing us up. It would be nice if our prayer times were exciting and faith-filled like they were when we were first saved, but our relationship must grow. Sometimes He silently calls us to come into a deeper relationship with Him that includes some dryness.

It was great to see everyone at the church last night for our special showing of “Flywheel.” We all had our fill of popcorn, and the movie touched a lot of hearts. The movie night marked the beginning of a three-week break from Wednesday night meetings as we prepare for the upcoming Fall season of new ministries and Mini Churches. We’ll start back up on Wednesday, September 9.

In the foyer In the Movie

Come out to SMCC tonight at 6:45 p.m. to watch the movie “Flywheel.”  It’s basically about a car salesman who will do whatever it takes and say whatever he has to say to get people to buy his cars. But once he sells a car to a local pastor, his life begins to change. You can find out more about it on their website, or watch the trailer. Chris and I watched the first half of it this morning, and I must say we were very enticed. We’ll be serving popcorn and sodas for only $0.50, and it will be the perfect chance to hang out with some fellow church-goers. So come on out to 2200 HWY 123 in San Marcos, TX at the church building. See you there?

I’ve been reading through Ephesians lately, and I must say that it has been quite encouraging – especially Eph 3:16-21.

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

These verses have not only given me something awesome to pray over myself, but I think we can pray for each other here at SMCC in the same way. As a body of Christ, it’s important to seek the Lord in our quiet times, and if we prayed this over the church daily, I wonder what would happen??