Today I want to open with a quick question for you to think through. How is your Christianity working?

I don’t think there is anything more frustrating that when you buy something, bring it home, and it doesn’t work. My neighbor bought a new snowblower last year. When I snowed eight inches, he was pretty excited to fire that thing up. The only thing was, he started it and the belt broke. All he could see was eight inches that he would have to move with this back. I helped him. That’s so frustrating.

I remember a couple of years ago coming home from our summer vacation. It was freakishly hot and humid. I turn on the air conditioner. Started unloading the car. Starting sweating. I checked the vent and sure enough, it was blowing warm air. So frustrating. So defeating.

Real quickly, how is your Christianity working? Are you noticing that as you walk with Christ, you soul is healing? Are you getting victory over depression, over fear, over anxiety? Is Christianity working for you?

How many people do you know who tell you, I grew up and church, left and I’m never going back? You ask why that is and they tell you, it made no difference in my life. Or, they tell you the people in the church hurt them somehow. It seems like, for many, their Christianity didn’t work for them. Kinda like the air conditioning blowing hot air.

For you, today, right now, is your Christianity working for you? As time passes and as you attend church, are there things in your heart that are growing that shouldn’t be growing? Are you noticing that unforgiveness is getting worse? Is your fuse getting shorter and shorter before you blow up in anger? Is your heart getting harder, not softer? And for years, you have ignored them and pretended that everything is fine. Are you stuck with feelings of guilt, feelings of defeat or hopelessness? Maybe as you continue to attend church, you also continue to muscle through life, but the deeper things of the heart don’t seem to change, in fact, they are growing.

Jesus said in John 15.

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. – Jesus NLT John 15:5

Imagine how confusing that had to be for the disciples around Jesus to hear. What does that even mean? How do we remain in Jesus? Jesus is right here in this room and I have to remain in Him. What fruit do I produce? We are trying to make it through today and Jesus is talking about my producing fruit. Very confusing.

The Apostle Paul said something similar in Galatians 5.

When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. NLT Galatians 5:22-23

The point of what Jesus is saying is that He wants to transform us. We remain in a relationship with Him. As we intentionally slow down to decompress from this life with God, we experience God planting those things in our hearts. Things we can’t create or produces. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. As we walk into life and all the relationships around us, those things come out of us into others. That’s the way it’s supposed to happen. We experience God transforming us and that shows up in our relationships.

It’s about deep transformation.

Let me ask you more detailed questions to see if your Christianity is working.

  1. After years of attending church, are you noticing that those qualities are growing in your soul? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Are the people who are closest to you noticing that those things are growing in you?

  2. After years of attending church, is it normal for you, does it bring you joy, to show people around you how awesome or how beautiful they are? What would your spouse say? Would they say, you are their number one fan who builds them up?

  3. After years of attending church, are things growing in your heart like; anger, bitterness or depression?

  4. After years of attending church, are you stuck and doing nothing about it? You feel defeated and hopeless.

  5. After years of attending church, are you walking with hurt from past relationships?

  6. After years of attending church, do you have unresolved issues from your family growing up?

  7. After years of attending church, can you say, “Jesus has transformed my life?”

Many people attend church, but over time, still wrestle with these real issues and they growing inside us. The problem is that church attendance, worship, bible studies, aren’t enough. They are great things but they aren’t enough. We need to go deeper. We need to give God access to our souls.

Kim part with kids. Tootsie Pop.

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop? A lot! A tootsie pop is a lot like our lives. Everyone sees the wrapping on the outside but the good stuff is deep – deep down on the inside. To get to the good stuff deep inside, it takes a lot of licks.

For God to transform you, you need to go deeper with God. Our relationship with God is real. It’s not about pretending everything is okay when it’s not. Going to church, youth group and other things are important but what matters most is giving God access to our hearts. To do that, we spend time with God and we ask questions like, how am feeling right now? What is going on in my life that makes me feel that way? Are the following things growing in my life? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It’s important to journal these things and pray that God would help us. It’s also important to talk about these things with your parents, your youth pastor and others.

When you see a Tootsie Pop, it looks great but the good stuff is in the center. Your life may look okay on the outside but for God to transform you, you need to go deeper and give God access to our hearts.

I want to do two things before we end for today. I want to conclude my talk on Christianity and then invite Jami to come and talk about what reading this book has meant to her.

I asked you the question, how is your Christianity working? I ask you that because I want you to get real about your relationship with God. Has Jesus transformed you?

Christianity, this relationship with God, is not about your disciplined pursuit of God. It’s not about your effort, your struggle, your activity to get God. Christianity is about God’s relentless pursuit of you. God did all the work. Jesus died. The hammer of justice fell on Jesus. Jesus was resurrected. Jesus did all the work. Christianity is about us intentionally slowing down and enjoying God pursuit of us.

If you believe that Christianity is about your disciplined pursuit of God, weird things happen in your life. You are hard on yourself and you are hard on those around you. You feel like you could always be doing more for God. You struggle with feeling like you are a mistake, a burden, maybe worthless and you are not allowed to make mistakes.

If you believe Christianity is about God’s relentless pursuit of you, transformation happens. You can relax in what Jesus did for you. You slow down to enjoy God’s pursuit of you. Things begin to grow in your life like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You aren’t as hard on yourself and others.

Please hear me today when I ask you, how is your Christianity working for you? Have you been transformed or are you pretending everything is okay when in reality the wrong things are growing in your heart? For transformation, we have to go deeper. That’s what this new series is about.

Jami part.

I am very excited to talk briefly this morning about the book we’re going to walk through together this fall in our upcoming series called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”. This is a book written by a man named Peter Scazerro (who is a pastor of a growing church in Queens NY) and he discovers through his own personal experiences how emotionally and spiritually wrecked he really was even as a pastor. This book walks you through step by step how to become emotionally healthy while growing spiritually in your journey with God. Because the truth is…you can’t have one without the other.

You are not capable of growing deeper in your faith and into your God given identity while you continue to have a rollercoaster of unhealthy emotions that you’ve never dealt with or overcome because you keep pushing them aside or burying them in hopes that they’ll just go away. We’ve all been there! And we all know those emotions that bring out the worst in us, always have a way of resurfacing when you don’t talk about them or deal with them.

In this book, you will learn how to recognize, approach and overcome emotional unhealthiness and learn how to deal with those feelings head on so that you can remain in a healthy state of mind during life’s hard times that we’re all sure to walk through.

So I have to say, when Ken and Sam gave me this book to read to prepare for this series in hopes of giving some feedback, I was a little overwhelmed at first. Lol

I’m going to be completely honest, I’m not much of a “reader” and my husband and I have three daughters who keep us very busy with school and sports schedules and everything in between. So, when they said those two- four letter words to me READ and BOOK, I was like, oh boy, what have I gotten myself into??! And boy was I right! I was NOT prepared for how much the words in this book would speak to my heart!

Just as Sam talked about last Sunday, the most important thing we can do (esp in the busy world we live in today) is SLOW DOWN and make time for God. Because like he said, that’s where it all starts. We all have busy lives and it’s so easy to occupy ourselves focusing on the noise of life and not taking the time to listen to the silence and feel God’s presence.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I feel God tugging at my conscience during the day saying to take a few minutes and spend time with Him, it’s usually always during those times of pure chaos!! And I find myself thinking there’s no way I can stop what I’m doing right now! BUT when I obey that feeling, that’s when I seem to be aware of God’s presence the most! It’s almost like my reward or something.

That’s when I hear him whisper to my heart words I’ve been longing to hear and He opens my eyes to things that I would not have seen otherwise had I not taken that very moment to pause. Those moments remind me of the truth in God’s perfect timing. And this book is also the very proof of those moments as well.

I’m so glad that I decided to make more of an effort to tuck my girls into bed a little earlier at night in an attempt to make that time for God and to read this book. And for me, it took all but the 1st chapter before I was hooked. I’ll never look an iceberg the same way again! I’m a very visual learner and the cover has a picture of an iceberg on it which now speaks a thousand words to me every time I see it. Right off the bat on the 2nd page it shows you exactly what to expect from this book and what the iceberg represents. Which to me is, most people live every day of their lives only experiencing the tip of the iceberg of themselves and their God given identity. Only knowing that 10% of the iceberg that lies above the surface. Which is the same 10% that other people only see of you as well. Never experiencing or knowing the other 90% of themselves that lies below the surface that remains untouched by Jesus- your emotions.

Full disclosure, and I’m embarrassed to say, that my husband Travis and I have been attending MRC for 10 years now and this is NOT the first time we are walking through this series together. I think this is the 3rd time now? But this is honestly the 1st time I even picked up the book to look at it. Not exactly what your pastor wants to hear I’m sure! Lol

But in reality, I am so thankful that I was able to have that time to walk through some disappointing moments in my life and experience some hard times BEFORE reading this book. I don’t think it would’ve had such an impact on me had I read it before now.

And I’m so thankful that God and my pastors didn’t give up on me and somehow knew that I needed to walk through this series one more time so that this time I would listen closer and experience the transformation that God has planned for me and for all of us!

So for anyone else that is also hearing this series again, but hasn’t yet experienced or felt the impact from it, I pray that this is your time to slow down and pick this book up to read it. And that the words connect to your heart like they did mine. Once you start to understand the importance of addressing and embracing your hurt feelings, bitterness, anger, jealousy- whatever it may be…the sooner you start to become emotionally healthy and then those feelings turn into forgiveness, courage, empathy, joy and love. Which will ultimately impact everyone around you.

We can all come to church, serve, pray for others and do the right things…but when you’re doing it as an unstable emotional wreck…none of that really matters bc your emotions are holding you back from growing deeper spiritually in your relationship with God.

I really do hope that you all decide follow along with us as we walk through the book this fall. And I hope it pushes you to connect with God more at home throughout the week bc there’s something amazing that happens when you read the words for yourself in a quiet place and you’re undistracted and can become vulnerable which allows God to come in and bust the hard exterior of your heart and rebuild it with His love and mercy so that you can pour that onto others around you.

We end with this; how is your Christianity? Is it working for you?