When I was living in New York City, last winter I gave a message there around Christmas time, and I will likely give a rendition of it sometime here… but one story I told to them was of my family having just moved to Brooklyn, and me asking Milly if she loved our new town. I told her, “its amazing here! There is a great school for you to go to… Its so close to the city… There are so many coffee shops for mommy and daddy… there are
so many toy stores and even more parks to play in!” and she responded, “yeah, and so many tiny rooms!”
Because she and her sisters together shared a bedroom the size of a walk in closet… really it was a closet off of Dawn and I’s room. The space in New York, it is just so limited. For Dawn and I especially, it was challenging… it was very hard to find separation from the kids… even most coffee shops were not really set up to study in. Our commutes were on packed subway cars… so we kind of had to “master” this art of creating through the chaos of our lives. I say master it, but we got no-where near mastering it. I would say, “we somewhat achieved the art of creating through the chaos that was our lives.” When I found myself on the train without kids (which was rare) I would right away, sitting or standing, get out my iPad and either start reading or writing. I would use evernote and I would write for my entire commute when I could, trying to drown out the noise. When I would get home, it would be the same thing… constant noise. Constant needs, and all in this semi-claustrophobic environment.
It made me start to question… I am living in New York, the creative epicenter of the universe… in fact I live in Brooklyn which is like, most writers top choice of anywhere in the world that they would prefer to write from… and I kept finding myself in the same, asking the same question:
Where is the space?
And at first I just figured, oh, “its in Detroit.”
And then I got here and rode the momentum for the first couple of months only to find myself still feeling a bit trapped at times. Still feeling so limited in what I can do even though I know what God wants to do in my life.
I realized that the same limitations that were put on my life in previous cities I have lived in have not been lifted merely because I moved into a place where physical space is cheaper and more attainable. There are real, genuine, super natural things that come against us, that try and eat away our time, eat away our lives.
Our flesh is naturally distracted and easily discouraged. Staying the course is difficult.
1 Timothy 4:14 tells us, “DON’T NEGLECT THE GIFTS THAT ARE INSIDE OF YOU! It says, rather (2 Tim 1:6), to stir them up, or to fan into flame the gift that God gave you.”
But how do you fan into flames your gifts and passions and the God given areas of your life when you have to get up every morning and be at work by 8am? You have to be in class all day, and work a night shift to pay the rent, get home in time to do your homework and get a half a nights sleep before doing it all over again?
How do you fan into flame your gifts when you life itself distracts you from life in Jesus Christ?
We are going to read a fascinating account in Genesis, of Isaac. Isaac is the son of Abraham, he is the one who Abraham at one point almost sacrificed… he put him on an altar before the Lord but then the Lord stopped him. Well, this account is much after all of that. And Abraham, his father, had gone before him and had dug all of these wells… but the Philistines were were jealous and wanted to destroy them, so they went around and they plugged up all of the wells so there would be no access to water.
Suddenly, people would be dying of thirst… of dehydration, because they couldn’t get to the water that was right beneath their feet only a few feet down.
How much of our lives are like that? Everything we need, it is right there. It is right in front of us, or right below us, and yet we don’t do what it takes to actually get it? All it takes is digging. The water is there.
And that is where we will pick up first, in Genesis 26:12-20:
“And Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. The Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy. 14 He had possessions of flocks and herds and many servants, so that the Philistines envied him. 15 (Now the Philistines had stopped and filled with earth all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father.) 16 And Abimelech said to Isaac, “Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we.”
17 So Isaac departed from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. 18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water that had been dug in the days of Abraham his father, which the Philistines had stopped after the death of Abraham. And he gave them the names that his father had given them. 19 But when Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of spring water, 20 the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, “The water is ours.” So he called the name of the well Esek, because they contended with him.
He named the well “Esek” because they contended with him… The word Esek literally means contention. They saw that there was something good… something that Isaacs men had worked for, and when they saw that it was good they fought for it.
As soon as a little success came, he felt pushback. He felt opposition. Isaac has to be thinking here, “man God, I am trying to do what you say. And as soon as it seems like there is a little fruit, I get attacked.” Here they are, taking away from me that which we have worked for.
Its never easy!
“21 Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that also, so he called its name Sitnah.
The word “Sitnah” means enmity.
It means it will not connect. Everything he is trying to do is failing.
Everything that they were trying to do was not working.
Evelyn Underhill is quoted as saying:
“We mostly spend our lives conjugating three verbs: to Want, to Have, and to Do. Craving, clutching, and fussing, on the material, political, social, emotional, intellectual—even the religious—plane, we are kept in perpetual unrest: forgetting that none of these verbs have any ultimate significance, except so far as they are transcended by and included in, the fundamental verb, to Be: and that Being, not wanting, not having and not doing, is the essence of a spiritual life.”
Perpetual Unrest as a result of us wanting, having, and doing.
You are a child of God. Who has an amazing and beautiful plan already written for you to walk in. And as you try and walk in that, you have to let God create the space for you that it will take to live that calling out. It all comes back to trust.
God has an amazing plan for our church. I believe he has an amazing plan for my family, and for your family, and for our relationships to grow and for our impact to be expanded in our city, but if we constantly try and grab onto the things that are within our reach, God will never make room for the things that are out of our reach.
Genesis 26:22 “And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.”
He kept pushing. He kept moving on. he kept digging more wells! and at the first sign of a little success, came opposition… It looked like success, then it looked like failure. You think you are out of it, then you are right back in it.
He kept going, and digging more wells, and even after overcoming the the opposition, now there was this feeling of enmity… this feeling of rocks beating against each other but no progress being made… this feeling of, “everything I am doing is not working. There is no progress, there is no forward motion.”
But he keeps going. And then look what happens. They name the third well Rehoboth saying “NOW! The Lord has made room for us!”
The word Rehoboth means SPACE. That well represented God creating space in his world for his people, and them setting up shop right in the middle of it.
23 From there he went up to Beersheba (well of the oath – founded by Abraham)… 24 And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.” 25 So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.
This is pretty amazing.
Look at what Isaac did differently the last time, as you look over the progression.
There was opposition.
There was enmity.
Then suddenly, there was space.
and when he got up to Beersheba, the well of the oath from his Father… he did something different before digging a well.
This time, first, he built an altar. Then he dug a well.
The water was under him the whole time. The water was there everywhere they went, but at the well of the oath, he built an altar. He called upon the name of the Lord, and THAT IS WHERE he pitched his tent, and then built the well.
We are in a series on the fruit of the spirit, and we just finished “peace.” We talked about the word “shalom” – how it means wholeness, and about what we can learn from the Hebrew word picture because its just so incredibly fascinating. The letters are sheen, lamed, vav and mem and the picture you get for sheen is teeth, to consume or destroy the shepherds staff, lamed, symbolizing authority… vav is the hook that connects something to something or establishes something and mem is the crashing water and it represents chaos. In order to find wholeness, you have to destroy the authority that is establishing chaos in your life… The spiritual authority, we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood and we need to make that clear.
You will never, ever experience the shalom of God if you don’t make room for Jesus to fill you. You will never be complete if you are empty.
And if you are having trouble in your life making space or Jesus, or making space for your gifts and your calling and the things that you believe you were created in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:10) to accomplish, look what does Isaac finally does… He builds an altar.
And at an altar, there is a payment, being made on behalf of something else. Something has to be killed in order for something else to find life.
What is taking up the space in your mind? In your heart? In your life?
What is filling the space?
What needs to be laid on the altar to create space in your life for what Jesus wants to do? What has you bound and maybe you don’t even know it?
What is taking your time?
Psalm 31:10 says “my times are in your hand;”
We need to be like David, and place our times into the hands of Jesus. Time is a most valuable asset, and we will waste it if we remain distracted and never create space for the spirit to move in our lives.
There is water below you. What you need, its right here. The space you need in your life, its here. God knows what he is doing. He knows what is best, he gave us the amount of time we need to accomplish the work that he has created us for, and he is in the business of creating space… making room for the people who seek him.
Nine years ago, when I was interning in the youth department at //spyn where pastor Chilly is now the youth pastor… It’s kind of crazy, I was an intern there right as pastor Chilly and some of you guys really were just beginning this church in Detroit, and now he leads //spyn and Dawn and I are here. I worked alongside Johnny K, under the leadership of Pastor Ricardo.
Every morning at 8am we would come in, and for an hour, we would have what we called “No Agenda.” We just prayed. We came in with no tasks to talk about or specifics to pray about, we just prayed. And it was one of the most fruitful, creative seasons of my life. Every morning, before we dove into anything practical, we created space for it. And Jesus moved big time.
So that is what we are going to do tonight. We are going to create space, right now, for Jesus to work in our lives.