Month: July 2018

Middle School Mission Trip to Guatemala || guest blog by Jay Baer

As one of the middle school directors, I work closely with 7th and 8th graders. I have been so overwhelmed with God’s goodness this year and would like to share some highlights of our most recent mission trip with middle school students. We couldn’t have done it without  your support and generosity!

Guatemala Mission Trip

A dozen youth and four leaders served in Guatemala from June 20-27 on our second youth mission trip to this area. As the leader of the trip, I was surprised time and again that most of these moments looked nothing like what I expected, they were even better! God showed up in big and amazing ways on our trip.

On the third day of our trip, we ran a Youth Camp in Nebaj for about 115 teens from the local public school. This was the first program at Mountain Springs Camp’s soon-to-be-completed meeting facility. A team of students and leaders helped lead worship, a leader taught the story of the Good Samaritan, and another team guided students in a craft. We were able to explain the gospel in a way that crossed language barriers and brought four students to faith in Jesus for the first …

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Look to the Son || guest blog by Ryan Lewis

Monday. 5:30 AM

You hit snooze twice, hoping that 18 more minutes of sleep will give you that edge you need to conquer another day. But 5:48 finds you stumbling into the kitchen and wiping up drops of your spilled coffee, just before getting yourself dressed for the day and searching for the keys you swear you left on the counter. You rush off for another day, blink, and then fall into your mattress at night and do it all over again.

But there is an incredible thing that happens when we can clear away this debris of a frantic American middle-class lifestyle and simply be with the Lord … even just for a moment. When we connect with God our priorities shift ever so slightly. Once you spend a few more moments with the Lord every day, your life actually begins to right itself, giving you the life and energy you need to conquer what is set before you. You think clearer, you are more in touch with the wisdom of His spirit, and your very countenance begins to change as you surrender your chaos to the one who is holding it all together.

The new song we shared …

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Where Hope is Found || guest blog by Connie Milchling

David, as a shepherd-turned-king, had a rich and rewarding life. Then his son made a very bad choice that adversely impacted everyone in the family. Have you ever had that happen? Has someone in your sphere of influence chosen poorly, leaving you to deal with the mess?      

David found his way through this experience, and we’ll discover how he did it as we work our way through one of his heart-wrenching Psalms that has this in the center, “Find rest, o my soul, in God alone, my hope comes from him.”  

Want to discover where hope is found? That’s the question we will explore week two of our four-part series on the Gift of Hope. Join us Monday evening, July 16 or Wednesday morning, July 18, to dig into God’s Word and discover that hope is closer than you think!

Learn more or register today!

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Reflections on Loving Your Enemies || guest blog by Chris Smith

This week we have been reflecting on Jesus’ command that we are to pray for and love our enemies (Matt. 5:44-45). Jesus’ words are as disruptive now as they were two thousand years ago, challenging the status quo way the world operates. A prayer for one’s enemies is disruptive. Loving action is really disruptive. And yet this is the Jesus Way. This is the ethic of the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated on earth; the way we as his followers are called to walk in and live out.

I recently finished reading NT Wright’s book The Day The Revolution Began. Toward the end of the book, Wright highlights two different shootings – Charleston in 2015 and the Amish school in 2006 – as striking examples of how forgiveness was extended by communities who had embraced the Jesus Way. His reflection is worth noting:

“These incidents, widely reported, strike secular journalists and their readers as strange to the point of being almost incredible. Do these people really mean it? It is clear that they do. The forgiveness was unforced. It wasn’t said through clenched teeth, in outward conformity to a moral standard, while the heart remained bitter. Forgiveness was already a

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Forgiving Enemies – Really!

Stories to Help Us Learn How to Forgive

Sometimes we need a story to help us learn to forgive. We need to see and hear the struggles of real people who have wrestled with evil and come to grips with forgiveness. I want to recommend four resources to you.

ONE: The first one is the classic movie, Les Miserables, and the story of Jean Valjean. I am assuming you are familiar with this beautiful story. Jean Valjean is welcomed by a bishop, enjoys his hospitality, and then steals his silver. Valjean is caught and returned to the scene of the crime. One word from the bishop, and Jean Valjean will spend the rest of his life in prison. Instead, the bishop forgives and blesses. That moment is the moment of redemption for Jean Valjean. Watch this scene and then watch the entire movie to see how Valjean lived a life for the sake of many others.

TWO: There is a documentary by PBS on forgiveness. It explores the stories of terrible things done to innocent people and the struggle for forgiveness. Here is the promotional to whet your appetite. These people struggled with great evil.

This is not a …

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Turning Enemies Into Allies

Over the years, I have had a few people who were enemies. In most cases, I was not the initiator of their enmity. I was surprised by it. However, in most cases, unfortunately, I responded to them likewise. You don’t win when you become an enemy to your enemy. Abraham Lincoln said, the only way to defeat an enemy is to turn them into a friend.

Sometimes that is not possible. So, how about turning them into a civil and polite acquaintance? I was able to do that in several cases. We aren’t friends, but we are civil, kind, and polite to one another. Peaceful coexistence is often a real option. I have a friend who has that relationship with a former spouse. It works out well – most of the time.

But there is another spiritually rich way to view an enemy. The authors of The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership recommend using the idea of ally for anyone who is acting as an enemy to you. An ally is a person who helps you become more self-aware, helps you discern blind spots and personal weaknesses, gives you the opportunity to grow in relational skills, and I would add, …

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Tough Love & Boundary Setting

Protecting Yourself and Others From Those Who Would Hurt You

In addition to the radical love ethic toward enemies (the FIRST WORDS), there are two more exceedingly important pieces of guidance. This guidance is also in the Bible. Because they are closely related, I’ll describe them together.

You can and must (1) practice tough love and (2) draw boundaries against enemies as part of tough love. When enemies are hurting people you love, and even yourself, you do not need to endure it. You may endure it in the redemptive ways Jesus teaches in Luke 6:27-37, but when threatened, you can also respond with tough love that defends those being harmed. You can also draw protective boundaries to prevent the abusive person from harming others.

Jesus displayed tough love against the Pharisees (see Matthew 23:13-39 for his stern words against them). When the enemies of Jesus tried to trap him with theological arguments, Jesus turned the tables on them. Jesus overturned the money changers at the Temple.

The Apostle Paul spoke strongly against false teachers and apostles who were ruining the genuine faith of the gospel. These people were also smearing Paul’s name and credibility. He responded vigorously against their …

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Difficult and Not Tried

Loving Our Enemies

The Sunday message on disruptive prayer for enemies centered on the radical and difficult words of Jesus in Luke 6:27-37. Read those words right now. There are 16 instructions (commands) from Jesus about dealing with enemies. Two of them are repeated, so there are 14 different instructions that revolve around loving our enemies and doing good to them. This section ends with the instruction to forgive our enemies.

I closed the message with the words of G.K. Chesterton (a favorite author of C.S. Lewis).

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting (lacking), it has been found difficult and not tried. The Christian ideal on loving enemies has been found difficult and not tried. It is time we start trying it. Start believing it. Start living it. Start praying it. Start desiring it. Start following Jesus, who is our Way, our Truth, and our Life.

And yes, it will be hard. The disciples, on another occasion, complained to Jesus about how hard his teachings were and wondered how it would be possible. Jesus’ response was, “With man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” This includes loving our enemies in the way …

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The Mystery of Prayer

It’s Above My Pay Grade, and Probably Yours As Well

There are a number of core beliefs I have about prayer that, originally, I was planning to share during this Sunday’s message. By the time I was done a first draft for the message, I realized it was way too long in content. So I cut out the section on these core beliefs about prayer. However, they are worth knowing, so I’m providing them here for a little extra perspective.

When it comes to prayer, I have certain core beliefs. They could also be called presuppositions or starting point assumptions. Decades ago, after serious study and experience, I came to the place where I deeply held to these core beliefs. I no longer question them. I do learn more about them. But I simply work out of the reality of these beliefs when it comes to prayer. Any prayer. Especially the disruptive kinds of prayer we are talking about in our series. Here they are.

ONE: God is. That is, he exists. The God who exists is a Person, not an impersonal force. The personal God is strong and powerful. The personal God is loving, kind, gracious, and merciful. The …

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When Hope is Lost || guest blog by Connie Milchling

Hope. It’s a word you will be hearing frequently this month through a new mid-size community starting this coming week. We are beginning a new mini blog series by guest blogger, Connie Milchling, to kick off this community (that she is leading). It’s our prayer that your soul is refreshed and we spark something within your heart, mind, and soul to connect with Jesus, our true source of hope.

As we read through the account of Paul, as a prisoner on board a ship en route to Rome, there is a verse tucked away in the recesses of Acts 27 that simply says, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.” 

Have you ever felt that way? Like the storm of life is relentlessly raging? The sun and stars are failing to shine? You’re starting to think the only choice is to give up hope of ever being saved? You’re not alone! The Psalmist shares this distress when he cries out in Psalm 6:3, “My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long?” 

What do we do when hope is lost? That’s …

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