New Series: Love the 330

In his book, Visions of Vocation, Steven Garber writes,

Always and everywhere, this is our challenge as human beings. Can we know and love the world at the very same time? Knowing its glories and shames, can we still choose to love what we know? Is there any task more difficult than that? Think it through. From roommates to parents to siblings to friends, from neighborhoods to cities, from countries to cultures to continents—once you begin to really know what a person or a place is like, can you still love them, can you still love it?

It’s no secret that there’s a lot not to love in the 330: drug use and overdose death is at an all-time high, there seem to be fewer good jobs than ever before, and feeling “stuck in Ohio” is too-often our reality.

That being the case, it’s easy to trash where we live, find it disappointing, and to even seek to find a way out of the Valley. But to belong to the people of Jesus is to have an entirely different kind of relationship with the 330—to love it. 

Our vocation—our calling—as the people of Jesus is to see the 330 exactly as it is and to love it just the same. There’s a kind of realism that Jesus calls us to, a realism that, without filter or rose-colored glasses, sees our Valley as it is. At the very same time, He calls us to see it with the optimism of the Gospel—for what it could be if we invited Him to make us people who bring Heaven to Earth.

In our four-week series, Love the 330, we’ll discover what it means to be people who live in this place, at this time, with love. We’ll explore the ways we can lay down what is precious to us for the sake of our city, and be reminded that being invested in our community’s Common Good is a holy endeavor.

Love the 330 is a series at both our campuses, starting August 13.

 

The Prayer of Examen

Talking with God

Prayer Practice No. 1 — The Prayer of Examen

No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. —John 15:15

More than anything else, prayer is about being in an active, ongoing relationship—or friendship—with Jesus. If you remember that prayer is about ‘friendship,’ you’ll suddenly find yourself remembering how every friendship you have ever had was marked by specific habits and ways of communicating.

Being a friend sometimes means talking; sometimes it means not saying a word, but sharing times of easy silence together; sometimes you share a special place (a forest or an ocean beach, etc.) with a friend; sometimes you share music; sometimes it means acting for your friend – being of help; sometimes it means listening to the friend when they want to give or show or teach or guide you in something.

When we think about prayer, many of us think about “saying prayers” or learning new “techniques” of prayer. But the truth is, prayer is about doing whatever is necessary to deepen our friendship with God—and then making sure to set aside time daily to do that. Learning specific “habits” and “techniques” has this goal in mind: giving us practical steps to grow our friendship with God. Often, these “habits” are a lot older than we are, handed down throughout the history of the church, from one friend of God to another.

The Practice: The Prayer of Examen

The prayer of examen is a prayer practice developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), first outlined in his book, The Spiritual Exercises. The prayer of examen helps us reflect on our day and see where God may have been present in ways we didn’t first see. This practice is “a rummaging through a day’s experiences, looking for God.”

Each day in this coming week, set aside ten or fifteen minutes at the end of your day (but before you are too sleepy to make yourself attentive to the practice) to practice the Examen.

Before You Begin

Before you begin, set aside anything that will intrude on this focused time of practicing – it’s a good idea to turn off the TV, and put away your phone. Have great respect for how challenging it can be to be fully present only here, only now, and for the sake of this prayerful practice.

Open by inviting the Holy Spirit to help guide you this practice. Pray like this: “God, I want to make myself completely available to you – Father and Son and Holy Spirit. I want this designated amount of time to be governed completely by what You want for me. Give me the Light I need to see, and in seeing, to understand.”

Step One: Replay the Day in Your Mind

Notice where God has been active over the course of the day. This is a process of active remembering. Find some moment, however simple it was or brief, when you felt grace in your life. Where did God “show up” for you?

Step Two: Name the Strongest Feelings You have Experienced in the Last Few Days.

This next step of active remembering is aimed not at “what happened” but it is about recognizing when in the past few days you have felt most strongly moved in your affections, or emotions.

Which affection in particular was activated strongly? Give a name to that particular feeling: joy, depression, anger, delight, contentment, hope, shame, regret, confusion, disgust, compassion, doubt, gratitude, etc.

The main goal of Step Two is noticing your strongest emotional reactions to particular things, and wondering with God about those reactions. Ask, “Why did I feel that so strongly?” or, “Does this strong reaction reveal my faith in God, or a lack of it?”

Step Three: Share Just One of those Strong Affections with Jesus.

Be honest with Jesus about what “caused” this strong affective response in you, and try to name accurately which particular feeling it was that you felt.

Ask Jesus whether He ever felt this same thing, and the way that you felt it, when he lived and moved and had His earthly life among us.

God may bring to mind a passage from the Gospels, to a scene in Jesus’ life in which He reacted as you did. Read that text to yourself and explore Jesus’ affective response. Like yours, or different?

Explore through the strong affection you experienced the value that corresponds with that feeling.

Step Four:  Thank God for Being Present to you in this Practice and for Helping you Grow in your Friendship.  

*  *  *

The Prayer of Examen — in Brief

Replay – What happened today?

Rejoice – Where did I feel grace today? Where was God particularly present?

Repent – Where did I feel emotional pain today? Where did I sin?

Resolve – To live differently tomorrow, if need be. And sleep with gratitude.

The Holy Spirit: Where We’ll Go from Here

Dear Regeneration Family,

This weekend, we concluded our four-week series on the Holy Spirit with a panel discussion that, I pray, was helpful in clarifying questions and experience we have when it comes to the Holy Spirit. That said, I know that when we answer some questions, it opens us up to others.

Someone said to me yesterday, “The downside of having the panel at the end of the series is that I don’t have closure.” That makes sense to me; we had a great introduction to all of this that went into a new direction at the end of the series.

My hope here is to give us a few reminders and a sense on where we’re going, together, as we seek to interrupt people’s lives with the love and grace of Jesus.

Remember that when we speak of the Holy Spirit, we’re speaking of God; we believe in one God Who eternally exists as three persons. The missionary Father sent the missionary Son who gives the missionary Spirit to us, so that God’s presence would be with us wherever we go. Jesus said,

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to us as a way to share His own presence with us, and made it clear that the Spirit won’t go where truth isn’t. Jesus even said that the Spirit would seek only to glorify—that is, shine the spotlight on—Jesus. When we seek to know the Spirit, we really seek to know the One whose greatest desire is to help us know Jesus more intimately.

There were a lot of words thrown out yesterday—prophecy, spiritual gifts, slain in the Spirit, tongues, interpretation, words of knowledge, spiritual warfare, prayer language. These are words we’re not always comfortable with, but we have to remember that our discomfort puts us in the global minority. In most places around the world, the miraculous and supernatural are just part of how the world is, part of how business gets done.

What we’re trying to do as a community is shift our worldview—not to align with the rest of the global people of Jesus (though that’s not the worst goal), but to align ourselves with the worldview of Scripture, which teaches us that the miraculous really is part of our daily lives. We’re trying to have an openness, an expanded radar of sorts, for the Spirit of God to work the miraculous among us.

Keep in mind, friends, that the Spirit is already working the miraculous among us. The Spirit raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and raised us with Him into salvation; it is the Spirit who gives us rebirth (theological term: regeneration!) from sin; it is the Spirit who helps us know and understand Scripture; it is the Spirit who dwells within you, helping you to live a life that is obedient to Jesus.

Frankly, you are already experiencing the miraculous. The life-change I know many of your are experiencing is living proof of the power of God, through the Spirit. More specifically: it is the gift of the Father, accomplished by the Son, applied to our lives by the Spirit. The Spirit is not extraneous to the work of God, but the agency by which God does all things in your life!

So, back to the words: tongues, prayer language, prophecy, and more. What is our next step, as a community? On the one hand, nothing significant—we’re going to do what we’ve been doing, but we want to do it with an eye on what the Spirit may also have for us. That can be as simple as something we experienced in worship together a few weeks ago: while singing a particular song, I felt a strong leading from God to read a passage of Scripture, so I did, and then we kept on going as usual.

We simply want to have an openness to God’s Spirit, and allow Him to lead us as He always has. Put simply, here’s what’s not changing: we’re still focused on following Jesus, together, as we make disciples and invite more and more people to know Him and His Gospel. We’re still focused on being a loving community, a learning community, and a community that serves one another and our city.

What is changing is that we’re opening ourselves up to the possibility that there might be more layers to how we do this. What if, as we care for one another, we feel led to pray specifically for miraculous healing for someone among us? What if, as we serve the city, someone among us feels compelled to share with them a word from the Lord? What if we paid closer attention to the more spiritual aspects of our work, remembering the words of Paul who told us that “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places”?

Simply put, we’re doing what we’ve always done: taking God at His Word, and believing that what He says is true. We’re standing in the tradition of the church which has always confessed, taught, and lived that there is more happening spiritually than many of us are aware of. We’re living into the very reality in which Jesus lived!

In the next few weeks, we’ll see if we can’t put together a time for Ken and Marion to lead more training on what they shared, so we can expand our biblical categories for what we heard yesterday. Always remember that you could meet with me, or any of our panelists, to wrestle through your questions. For the readers among us, a few books:

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

Defeating Dark Angels: Breaking Demonic Oppression in the Believer’s Life by Charles H. Kraft

As always, know how dearly I love you and long for each one of you to know more of Jesus.

Together for the Gospel,

Kyle

moving on up.

Regen Vision Movie from Regeneration on Vimeo.

At Regeneration, our mission is simple: we exist to interrupt people’s lives with the love and grace of Jesus. Since 2014, we have gathered almost every Sunday night to worship Jesus, hear His Word, and build an authentic, life-giving community.

But here’s the thing: of the 210,000 people in Trumbull County, only 19% of people have a life-giving relationship with a church.

This spring, we want to do our best to make that number a little bigger.

In April, Regeneration will begin to meet at 11:15 am at its present location, Otterbein United Methodist Church.

As we’ve built this community together, we’ve realized that a key obstacle we face is the time we meet. Those who gather with us have two key commitments, according to demographic data:

  1. Family, meaning that given the choice between church and a family event—which often happen Sunday afternoon and evening—people will choose family every time. 
  2. Religious Faith, meaning that people are still looking for a church experience at the “traditional time,” Sunday mornings. 

If we’re going to be a growing community that effectively interrupts the lives of those in our circles of family, friends, and co-workers, we’ve got to be willing to sacrifice anything in order to get them into the room. After all, the most important person in the room is the person who isn’t here yet. 

So, what does this mean? A few things…

  • On March 5 and March 19, we’ll have two “preview” services at 11:15am to help our staff and our teams get a sense of how we can make Sunday mornings happen. We’ll still have evening services throughout March, focused on training and developing our leaders and community members on this switch. 
  • On April 2, we’ll jump into Launch Month, to launch our new worship time and experience together.

Here’s what’s going to change: the time. That’s it. A lot of us love that Regen is relaxed, authentic, and warm—but it’s the people that make it that way, not the time. What is going to change is our ability to reach more people and invite them to give church another chance.

In the days ahead, we’ll be sharing how you can be a part of this new launch and season in the life of our church—for now, join us in praying as we seek to share the love and grace of Jesus with those we love.

Advent Reading #2: Light in Darkness

Today is the second Sunday of Advent—the yearly celebration that invites us to look back to Christ’s first coming in a manger, and forward to Christ’s second coming in glory.

That the season of Advent comes to us in December is no accident; in fact, its location in our yearly rhythm serves to make the experience of Advent that much more powerful. As the days grow colder, and the nights grow longer, we light candles on the Advent Wreath to push back the darkness with warmth and light.

The Advent tradition invites us to acknowledge the darkness in our lives and our world. In 2015, there have been 335 mass shootings in the United States; France was just recently wracked by terror and violence; Syria is in the midst of an ongoing civil war, which has created the greatest refugee crisis in recent history.

While these events make news headlines, what is so often forgotten is the sheer weight of sorrow in our daily lives, and the overwhelming weight of smaller injustices in our community and around the globe.

Against this backdrop of darkness and despair, the Advent Wreath is more than just a religious symbol: it’s a declaration to the world that our King is coming, and when He does, He will come with a sword, by which He will make all things new. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes,

The coming of God is truly not only a joyous message, but is, first, frightful news for anyone who has a conscience. And only when we have felt the frightfulness of the matter can we know the incomparable favor. God comes in the midst of evil, in the midst of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And, in judging it, He loves us, He purifies us, He sanctifies us, He comes to us with Grace and Love.

Put simply, Advent reminds us that this isn’t how the world was supposed to be, and that humanity is still plagued by sin and death. It reminds us that our King is coming—a King who says to us,

“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Each week we light a new candle, and in accumulating the brightness, we signify our hope in the coming light of Christ that will ultimately extinguish every force of darkness—in heaven, on earth, and below the earth. Lighting these candles, then, is no mere act of religion or sentimentality; it’s an act of war against those forces of darkness that hold sway in our world.

By lighting the candles, we declare ourselves to be people of hope, who believe that though so much has yet to be put to right, there is a Coming King who will end the reign of darkness and usher in a New Kingdom of Glorious Light.

By lighting these candles, we enact our faith in the words of John:

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

– – –

How long, O Lord, must we suffer under evil and darkness? Shine Your light on us this day, that our lives would point to the coming dawn of Your glory, by which the world will be healed and your people set free through Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. Amen.

Advent Reading #1: ‘Hopefully Doing Without’

Today is the Sunday of Advent, the yearly rhythm through which the church remembers and re-lives the eager expectation felt by the people of Israel as they waited for their Messiah.

Advent is a Latin word which means “the arrival,” and Christians have inhabited the Advent season for centuries as a way to bear witness and give name to the ways we’re still waiting for Jesus to work in our lives.

While the Gospel of Jesus declares that sin and death no longer hold eternal sway over those who belong to Jesus, sin still taints our daily lives. We suffer disappointment, loss, and grief; we find our dearest relationships strained by conflict, misunderstanding, and frustration; even our bodies suffer greatly under the weight of exhaustion, age, or illness.

After Jesus’ first arrival in the manger, He lived a perfect life and died a sinless death. When Jesus rose again to life and ascended into heaven, He promised a second Advent—a second arrival through which He would usher in a New Heavens and a New Earth, and would make all things right and new.

Paul, writing in Romans 8, says:

For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.

Advent is a yearly reminder of the many ways we are still waiting for God to move in our lives; that there are corners and spaces in each of us that need healing, need hope, and need a Savior. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that our whole lives are an Advent season, eagerly waiting for Jesus to return, to make all things new.

In Advent we are invited to wait—to live with unmet desires and unfulfilled longings—until Jesus returns. We do without, yes, but we do so hopefully, knowing that Jesus always keeps His promises.

– – –

Renew in us this day, O Lord, the hope of the new heaven and earth in which you will reign in light and we will live in peace; meanwhile, may Your Kingdom come and your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Coming King. Amen.

Inhabiting Advent: Must-Have Resources for the Season

This weekend, we began the Advent season at Regeneration—one of our favorite times in the church year. Advent literally means “the arrival,” and is celebrated by the church yearly as a way to refocus on what Christmas is all about.

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Shout out to Jenna for this awesome snapshot of our service on November 29! 

Celebrating Advent daily, in-between Sundays, is the difference between a good Advent and a great one. With that in mind, here are a few resources to consider:

He Reads Truth and She Reads Truth

HRT and SRT are smart-phone apps that offer really great, really readable devotionals year round. This year, both HRT and SRT are exploring Old Testament passages to show how Jesus is the Truest and Best King. You can download the app to your phone via the App Store or Google Play.

Living the Christian Year by Bobby Gross

This is one of the best books on Advent, and the Christian year in general—offering historical background to each season of the Church year, and excellent devotions and readings in each season. (You can find it on Amazon.)

God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer is one of history’s most profound Christian writers. In this collection of his reflections on Advent and Christmas, there is a raw honesty to his words, often penned in prison, that fills each page with bright hope. (You can also find this at Amazon!)

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Whatever you do to inhabit this season, don’t forget to check out Regeneration each Sunday night at 6 for our series, Christmas Is.