Call it an odd sort of day for church. Odd because between the Compass class, sermon, and Koinonia group, I'm having a tough time putting a digest of my thoughts together. Not sure exactly what to chalk that up to, but perhaps the process of putting a few ideas down in pixel form helps.
The sermon by Joel was part of a self-improvement series, this time launching from Hebrews 12:15:
See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
This was a similar launching point for Marcos Witt's most recent Wednesday sermon. But whereas Marcos' sermon focused more on forgiveness of others, Joel's focused more on forgiveness of ourselves and discovering the ability to change bad habits and negative traits that sometimes keep us from leading a Christ-like life. I may go back and pick up the CD of the sermon later to see if there's any extra thoughts I might want to add to this, but for now, I'll leave the link to the summary of Marcos' sermon since it's a rather close approximation.
Likewise, the pre-service Compass Class was a tough one to digest. We're still on a series called "Hearing the Voice of God." But about all I can note from the class was that we had about 10-15 Bible passages strewn together in the cource of a 40 minute message. That's a bit much and left any hope for context a bit of a tough reach. Not to knock the group leader we had for the night. She's done bang-up work before and is definitely a warm and inviting speaker that's worth getting excited about listening to when you know it's her week to teach. Just an off night, I suspect. But there's ample material to put together a few of my own thoughts on the matter throughout the week.
The Koinonia group was a bit unique, even though it was good to see one of my favorite MVPs again (as well as a few of her friends who frequent her table). The message was from the devotional chapter: "Don't Give Up On Yourself." Easy material to relate to (Psalm 40:1-5 is a good starting point for this topic), but we spent much of the time we had witnessing to one of our table-mates that I think we all felt the need to lift up in particular. As for my own thoughts on the matter, there's no shortage of points in time where I can see where I have given up on myself and those where I've very clearly not given up on myself, often asking for God's help in pressing forward. I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to guess which times worked out best and which ones were the longest-suffering, most challenging times to overcome.
Thinking back to the time we had McNair Wilson at Koinonia, I remember part of his segment covered God going over his plans for the universe. We all know about the big things he's done in the past - created the universe, created the suns and the stars, created life as we know it, and so on. But sometimes we stop there and don't realize that God has a plan for us and without that work getting done, His plan is incomplete. That's often a point I tend to make about how easy it tends to be that we see God in the big things in life, but there seems to be a hangup in seeing His work in the little things in life as well. Yes, it's easy to sense God's majesty when we see something like the Grand Canyon, or a beautiful mountain landscape, or some other natural creation. But sometimes it gets lost on us that our ability to overcome some of life's little difficulties are also part of God's work.
By way of a sports analogy, it's like looking at a list of NFL running backs that have broken records in rushing yardage, only to recall the 30 yard runs, the 40 yard runs, and so on ... but forgetting that there were plenty of 2 and 3 yard runs in there as well. And there were even a few rushes for loss of yards. Same athlete, though. The beauty and the grace that exists in those highlight reel runs is the same beauty and grace that exists in those plays that even the athlete himself would like to forget about. The same athlete that gets tackled for a loss of yards one play might well have given up on his ability and not been able to make that breakout 50-yard run the next play if he's given up on himself after one or two bad plays. Giving up on yourself does just that for our everyday lives ... even if we don't have 50 yards to run to get somewhere. One bad moment, one bad day, one bad whatever ... those moments don't define you as long as you let yourself be defined by God's plan for you.