“Vintage Faith: Following into Love”

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called “Vintage Faith: Thriving in Every Season of Life.”

Balance. Security. Comfort. 

We long for these things, but are we looking for them in healthy ways? The self-help industry may share practical tips, but too often the results are short-lived and superficial. Discover genuine freedom from “being” rather than the trap of “doing.” We can become motivated by love rather than obligation while setting better boundaries and living with fewer resentments. 

Next Steps:

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

“Vintage Faith – Following Into Love” Next Steps

Message Video:

Message Notes from John Burke:

You know our world needs us to become who God created us to be more than ever. With so much darkness, as people of faith we need lead and influence toward God’s will and ways—but we have to thrive to help others thrive.

That’s why we are in this series Vintage Faith–looking at the Spiritual Journey through all the seasons of life. 

When we let the God of Love into our lives, and He dwells with us—at the very center of our beings.  We call this Dwelling 1: New Beginnings. But it may not feel like the Source of Love, Joy, Peace, Light and Life is in us because we begin in the outer dwelling, where that Light gets filtered out.  But still, God gives us glimpses of His presence and guidance to woo us toward his light. We said reading scripture and learning to pray daily are good practices in this season. 

Then we find ourselves in Dwelling 2: Failing Forward. We’re bombarded with temptation, falling, feeling condemned, this season can feel like failure, but God’s teaching us to spiritually walk, failing forward.  Like a baby learning to walk, falling is a part of learning to walk.  But the nonstop temptations defeats and little victories of Dwelling 2 might not feel like spiritual growth, but it is. God’s teaching us how to overcome temptation by depending on God’s power within us. Remember, the journey through these stages or dwellings is not linear—we may live for years in one before growing into greater intimacy, we may go back to a former dwelling for a bit before move closer to the center—but God is Doing things in every season to help us move into deeper and deeper intimacy and cooperation and love. Understanding how is critical.

Dwelling 3: Good Disciples

The 3rd Dwelling we’ve called Dwelling 3: Good Disciples. The word Disciple, just means follower/ student/ apprentice.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. – John 8:31-32, 15:8

Dwelling 3 is a season of actively following Jesus as a student/apprentice and that feels really good. Many Christians live and camp in this Dwelling, sometimes for decades, and most spiritual formation taught is focused on these first 3 seasons or dwellings. In this 3rd dwelling, the intense spiritual battle that raged in Dwelling 2 has largely ceased. We feel victorious. God taught us how to overcome. It’s not that we are never tempted, or never sin, but those addictions or sin-patterns that enslaved us, we can now resist—it’s not an overwhelming struggle. We don’t really want to go back to those things because life with God is better. We are experiencing new freedom following Jesus–increased joy, peace, love in our lives. We’ve learned a lot about God’s character and will from reading and studying the Bible, we’ve learned a lot about God, and want to trust God.  Prayer is a regular part of life, as is church and spiritual community, like being in a smaller group for spiritual growth—finding trusted Spiritual Running Partners as we call them.

Tom Ashbrook, who writes about these Ancient Dwellings says:

“As you and I mature in the third dwelling, we become fully convinced that life with Jesus is the only way to live. We’ve experienced in many specific situations the truth that Jesus will lead us faithfully if we follow biblical teachings. A scriptural worldview and moral values have replaced worldly ones … we try to avoid committing even minor sins—not to be good, but because we’ve seen enough evidence that God’s ways are better—we want to follow God’s will.”

– Tom Ashbrook in Mansions of the Heart

In this season, our prayer life becomes richer, more balanced and personal. 

In the first 2 seasons we prayed for things, for needs, for help overcoming—it was mostly about us.  In this season, prayer expands, like:  ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

  • Adoration – taking time to just adore God and reflect on what is good and true about God, it’s the start of a greater intimacy with God. 
  • Confession—hopefully we learned in Dwelling 2 as we explained last week.
  • Thanksgiving—thanking God in prayer, and throughout the day increases as we realize every good thing comes from Him—thanking God recognizes His gifts of love and is an act of love toward God. 
  • And Supplication – praying for others, asking in faith on behalf of others or ourselves, interceding for needs. 

And as we broaden our prayer life, it increases our experience of God.  Our spiritual Eyes start to open obey God’s will, we see God answer prayer (definitely not all prayers, but some, and those answers teach us about God’s will and ways).  A genuine experience of this hidden God happens more and more as we trust more and more.

What’s God Doing? 

God is inviting us into friendship and partnership in his work. 

Jesus said, You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…. John 15:14-16.  

This is a fruitful season of doing good. In this season of willing obedience to God, friendship with God grows as He brings you into what He’s doing.  He’s gifted you, uniquely created you, and the God of the Universe likes to partner with you to work together restoring and healing this broken, hurting world.

The Apostle Paul says, As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 Cor 6:1. 

Do you realize that God invites you into business with him—as His co-worker and friend?  In fact, the Bible gives another image of this:

In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12:5-8.

In this season, we realize that Spiritual Growth also comes from serving and ministering to others out of our connection to God’s Spirit.

What Can We Do? 

  • Ministry and service.
  • Discover your gifts
  • Start trusting God to guide you in using them in cooperation with Him.  You’ll experience more of His pleasure as you see Him working through your giftedness. 

We all are given gifts by God’s Spirit to use not just for ourselves, but Like I just read in Christ we…form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We are learning God’s intendency—we need God and each other to become all God desires. 

Do you know your spiritual gifts? If not, I am doing a Thrive Workshop called Advance–learn your strengths, gifts, temperament— you’ll receive coaching to explore avenues Service that make you come alive and serves others–sign up Gatewaychurch.com/Thrive—we have lots of online Thrive workshops to help you in this season, check it out). 

My growth took an exponential leap when I first started leading a small group—helping others grow. It’s incredibly fulfilling, and we can’t really grow deeper in the love of God without letting Him lead us into His cooperative work of ministry. Scripture addresses those stuck in Dwelling 3: 

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the actual words of God.  Hebrews 5:12.

There’s a time for learning in Dwelling 1& 2, and we never stop learning, but at some point taking in but never giving out is like eating but never exercising—it leads to spiritual obesity. Teach others, serving others, is part of growing as we see God work in and through us.  Now, over time, doing so much for God can also be used against us.

What Evil Does

Evil tries to replace God with “doing for God” –we can lose that first love, become proud, overwork, burn out.

Ashbrook says: “A difficulty that we often encounter in third dwelling…is that work “for” God can too easily be equated with relationship “with” God.”

Jesus said to those in this Dwelling, I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance…But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Revelation 2:2-4.

Have you done a lot for God, but lost loving connection?

Sometimes God creates within us a “holy dissatisfaction” to draw us closer.

Evil gets us busy for God, disconnected from God, and God in love may allow dissatisfaction or disruption of how things are “supposed to work.” It feels frustrating, even disillusioning, but He’s trying to help us move toward deeper love in Dwelling 4. 

Evil will try to focus this holy dissatisfaction externally—so you don’t look to God, but blame others—”it’s your church’s fault—it’s not deep enough, doesn’t meet my needs. 

It’s funny, but this is a common criticism against all churches at this point of growth. This holy dissatisfaction is God drawing us closer, and no teaching or program at church can do that, but evil distracts us by blaming others, encouraging us to seek external solutions. When what we really need is solitude and abiding—quiet and learning a deeper listening.

Ashbrook says, “Two primary tactics used on us [in Dwelling  3] are pride and distractions. The enemy will attempt to convince us that we are really important, mature, and better than most (“After all, look at all the great work you’re doing for God”).”

In daily life, the enemy tells us how important we are to keep us so busy we get tired and frustrated. Anything to distract us and keep us from Solitude and Abiding.

Teresa tells us that, although there is a prayerful communication with God in the third dwelling, but we have yet to find any real spiritual joys in prayerful intimacy with God. These are to come in later dwellings, but God may give us a taste to draw us to want more, or give us a holy discontent that makes us want more—otherwise we may stay here indefinitely.

Teresa says: “I have known some souls and even many…who have reached this state and have lived many years in this upright and well-ordered way.”

Looking back on my journey, I probably lived in Dwelling 1 for 1-2 years, in Dwelling 2 for 2-3 years, but I spent the next 15 years in Dwelling 3.

What moves us forward? God’s disruptions which leads to dwelling 4.

Dwelling 4: Finding Love

God in love will disrupt our confidence in the “if/then” paradigms we’ve created. 

If I’m following Jesus and doing ministry and avoiding sin, then…things should…  When they don’t, it throws us off. But God is removing props and attachments (even religious ones) we’ve held onto for security or identity, but they block His Light, and keep us from moving closer to Him.

Teresa talks about this difficulty that comes between the 3rd & 4th Dwelling:

“After these years, when it seems they have become lords of the world, at least clearly disillusioned in its regard, [the Lord] will try them in some minor matters, and they will go about so disturbed and afflicted that it puzzles me…It’s useless to give them advice, for since they have engaged so long in the practice of virtue they think they can teach others and that they are more justified in feeling disturbed.” 

– Teresa of Avila

I had been in ministry a decade when I got the clearest I’d ever heard from God—led us to come start Gateway Church.  I also find that sometimes such clear communication, is also so we don’t give up when tests come.  I’ve told the story, but for those new–we started Gateway in Great Hills General Cinema theater. With a contract signed, all our money spent promoting our opening Sunday, Los Angeles General Cinema called to say we couldn’t hold church in their theater—our contract didn’t matter, the manager had no authority to sign it. We were devastated—I tried for a week to get them to change, no luck. I’m on my way out the door to a last-ditch prayer meeting of our core, and my phone rings. It’s a pastor I knew in Cincinnati wanting to connect someone to our church. I told him we may not have a church and explained why. He said someone at our church is in the Movie business, I’ll talk to them. The next week I go for one last begging session with the local manager and he says “You guys have good connections.” Why? “You didn’t hear? The President of General Cinema in New York called the Los Angeles office and said ‘Let the Austin church meet.’ So you’re good to go.”  We praised God for leading my Pastor friend to call that night. We started reaching people far from God. I thought we were bullet proof. 9 months later they needed our theater to show The Spy Who Shagged Me. We got kicked out by Austin Powers—the movie.  That began 2 years of moving to 6 locations, sometimes with only 4 days notice, once we changed times or locations every week for 6 weeks.  We kept reaching people and losing them.  Instead of Come As You Are, it was Come If You Can Find Us. But it was a brutally painful season for me because I didn’t understand.

What’s God Doing?

Like Teresa said, [the Lord] will try them in some minor matters, and they will go about so disturbed and afflicted.

For me, I really got frustrated with God, and I got honest in my prayers with him. And that honesty revealed attachments blocking my movement toward God’s love. I began to realize that my identity and value was still very tied to succeeding and accomplishing—He was trying to give me a new identity that’s not circumstantial.  But I had to let the old die. 

As I did this over the course of a year—I got to a new peace.  And I started to practice daily surrender, not seeking my will, but God’s will only—and in that surrender I found a surprising joy.  A joy that filled me at the strangest times and in ways, so good, I wanted nothing else.

Jesus spoke of it: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” John 15:5, 9-10

This is Dwelling 4—Finding Love – it’s a far deeper love and joy than I’d ever experienced. I knew God was love, and yes, I loved God, I’d been a pastor 10 years, but this was exponentially better. 

So much so, it radically altered my prayer life. I had always been ancy praying more than 30 minutes and it felt like work, but now to spend 1,2,3 hours walking and talking with Jesus like a close friend—it was wonderful.  I always came away more filled up—it wasn’t work, it was life-giving.

Oswald Chambers says it this way: “Once you taste God, and nothing but God will ever do again.” That’s been my experience, but I didn’t realize the trials were for a reason– God does in You as trials drive you to solitude and surrender. And like Jesus said, learning to stay connected to God’s Love, willing in love to do His will—not only produces joy—it’s the only thing we have to do.  The rest, God grows within us like fruit naturally grows if a branch stays connected to the Tree.

What Can We Do?

Solitude, learning to be alone, in nature or other places and learning not just to pray at, but also listen to the Lord, that’s one practice.

But Silence is difficult—it forces us to face what’s inside that blocks God’s Light. Wounds, fears, idols, false identities—things God wants to cleanse from us so more Light can come.

That year after I started a regular solitude and daily surrender, my kids came running in one Saturday screaming “Fire”.  There was a fire in the easement behind our house. I went out to put it out with Joe, who lived across the easement. I hadn’t talked to Joe in 2 years. Joe asked “how’s that church thing going?”  I told him “Great, except we keep getting kicked out of facilities.”  He said, “Funny, I just became the CEO of a retirement manor that bought a Jewish synagogue. We’re tearing it down next month, but just this week I started feeling bad about that.” I said: “You should feel bad, let me look at it.” It was amazing—right on Mopac, perfect for us. I told Joe we can pay $3000/mo. He said “No way the Board will do that—we’ll save many times that in taxes by tearing it down.”  But miraculously they did it for 1 year, which extended to 2,3,5 years we grew from 200 people to 2000 people before they tore it down. 

God knew, even His timing for our church, He kept us from signing another lease so He could bless us. But what He did in me, stripping away false identities, drawing me to His love was even better.

Out of that came another Practice you can try. John started waking up each morning saying, “Okay God. You’re God, I’m not. Today I want to let go of my agenda, and I want Your will done through me.”

Jesus said If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

So the one thing he focused on all day was trying to stay connected, in ongoing conversation, remembering His love and radically willing to listen and respond to His promptings to love God.  You may have heard of this before. It’s our 60:60 experiment. Reminders every 60 minutes for 60 days to stay connected to God who is with us.

When I do this, I have found God doing things in me I could never manufacture for myself—fruit.

I needed lots of reminders because I naturally forgot that God is always with me, and I’d get busy, worried, stressed and forget to even ask God what His will might be. 

But over that next year, I got better at it, and I was amazed at what started to happen in me. No kidding, I started experiencing something I hadn’t in 15 years of being a Christian.

  • An ability to experience the moments of life with my kids and wife, enjoying them and being present.
  • I lost a lot of worry about what people think of me because I was experiencing being so loved by God it changed everything.
  • And this joy—an unexplainable joy—I wanted others to find this love.

I wrote Soul Revolution because I can’t teach enough in 30 minutes to see how it works, but it’s not just praying every 60 minutes, it’s a perspective shift. But here’s the idea you can try. We’re all in the habit of ignoring God most of the day, so we need something to interrupt us to remind us to stay connected—like a branch to a tree—and fruit grows naturally. That’s all we have to do, nothing else.  Every 60 minutes set an alarm to go off on your phone or watch to interrupt you—we have a Soul Revolution App that does that and gives you a verse and prayer to meditate on—but the idea is not to beat the Muslims 5 prayers a day with 12 or 16, but when the interruption comes, to stop and recenter “God you are here, you love me, I want to stay connected to that love and guidance—how well did I listen and respond last hour? Help me listen and respond more this next hour.”  The more willing to respond, the more you experience God’s love and guidance.  Try it—Solitude and Staying Connected.

What Evil Does

“Distraction is a major scheme of the enemy against us, as we fall in love with Jesus. Evil attempts to keep us from recognizing God’s touches, through busyness and cluttered thoughts. Specific attacks are directed against our efforts at [solitude] contemplation and silence.”

– Tom Ashbrook in Mansions of the Heart

Again, these Dwellings are not linear, we may experience the Love and Abiding guidance for a short while, then dwell in the 2nd stage again before Dwelling 4 becomes a more permanent way of living. But like Jesus said, “Stay connected to His love, you bear much fruit. Listen to Brian’s experience—he’s now a leader at our Central Campus, but years ago… 

His 3rd DWI-Driving While Intoxicated landed him in mandatory recovery, where he decided to give God a try.  He started praying and thanking God nightly, then someone invited him to Gateway and he came to faith in Christ. During our 60:60 experiment Brian recalls How God produced fruit: “As I experimented with staying connected, I experienced peace and joy as a way of life. That was probably the biggest gift of all because I used to be angry, depressed, isolated, fearful, and often hopeless. Knowing peace was huge.  Fruit is also a former porn addict who now sees the beauty of a woman’s soul rather than just a selfish thrill. I experienced this fruit one morning about two months after the first 60-60. While connecting with God, I realized that I was no longer looking at porn. It hit me–I had never even made a conscious decision to stop–God just took the desire away as I stayed connected. Fruit is a hunger to read the entire New Testament after that first 60-60 and coming to a conviction on my own about sex outside of marriage—I found Jesus’ view of women changing my view to see a woman as valuable, spiritual creature to honor. Fruit is a former alcohol abuser who no longer needs the crutch and realizes crutches just hold you back. Fruit is learning how to know and be known in community rather than isolate. Fruit is standing on top of Mt. St. Helens taking in God’s creation. When I was a work-alcoholic, I never enjoyed nature. I was always imprisoned in an office, or in a bar after work, or in bed hung over. Fruit is being able to go on for hours and hours about all the ways God has guided me, walked with me, giving me more joy than I could ever have imagined. I experienced Jesus words as truth.” You stay connected to His love, fruit grows naturally.

So let’s do an experiment right now. Let’s just pretends it’s the top of the hour.

  • Your alarm goes off of the app goes off and it stops you mid thought right in the middle of working on an email.
  • Just pause.
  • Just pray: “God I need you. Help me stay connected to you. You are the vine and I am the branch, and I need.”
  • Now just consider: how close have you been in your heart and mind to God over the past hour? Are you in tune or have you been distracted? Did you sing wholeheartedly or did you skip the songs? Did you find yourself letting your mind wander or were you coming back to God in your mind?
  • And now to get ready for the next hour, just pray something like: ‘So God help me stay more aware of you this next hour.’

Go ahead. pray that right now in your heart.

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