So last night was our first Wednesday-night-small group, and it was awesome!!! Brandon talked us through some announcements, gave us an intro to GJM, we watched some promo videos, I talked about religion, and then we split into small groups. In small groups we got to have some good conversations. I'm excited to see where this series takes us, spiritually and relationally.
One thing I think will be tough for us, especially where it concerns Christianity, is separating religion from spirituality. Buddhism operates under the premise the self awareness is more important than following rules and obeying traditions. Sometimes in the church we get caught up with "religion," and all of a sudden rules become more important than grace. Our Associate Pastor, Alex Shanks, said something really profound to my high school youth group once; He said, "Sometimes, people confuse God with religion, and end up turning away from them both." The point he was making, is that God is not religion.
Christian author Timothy Keller has said that religion tells us: ' I obey, therefore I am accepted,' but the gospel says, "I am accepted therefore I obey.' So the gospel, the kind of life Jesus came to teach us about, is RADICALLY different to what religion tries to do. That is why in Galatians Paul says it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). What religion has tried to do, is create an atmosphere or a community of believers and beliefs, that will hopefully help us live our lives to the fullest. If religion ever stops doing that, then we need to change something, take it farther.
I believe that we can be those kinds of people. The kind of people who take Jesus' message of freedom and show it to the world in new and compelling ways. My prayer for this series, is that we will begin to reclaim what it means to be Christian. Surely will never get it right 100% of the time, but if we stop depending on our abilities, God will step in and empower us to be more and more in tune with His kingdom.
Grace and Peace,
ps. If you have any lingering questions from last night about GJM, religion, or how two goofy people like Brandon and I ever got the authority to teach kids, ask em' here!!!