Hope is Here

Reading my weather app this morning I almost dropped my phone. A week from today it is projected to be 51 degrees! That’s a near 80 degree swing when you count windchill. Just the sight of that number, 51, in print was enough to brighten my day. With the simple scroll of the thumb I saw two digits that provided the endurance to plow through yet another ridiculously cold day. Spring will be here soon. Never early but always on time.

The Christian belief of hope functions much the same way.

Life is hard. There is no way around it. And for many people it feels darker than it has ever been. Employment insecurity, family issues, financial stress, and destructive habits seems to block out the promises of God in our day-to-day lives. Pile on top of that the fact that this weather (cold) and this time of year (dark at 5:15) produce greater amounts of depression, and you have a formula for a hopeless outlook. Our future feels like it is shrinking. Every conversation becomes a turf war, and we see no options to increase our optimism. Anyone been there lately? If so, you are running low on hope.

Hope is the intentional habit of believing God’s promises to endure when we would rather mail it in. Hope is not a trite Hallmark card. The hope of the world is Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is waiting to take full responsibility for your life, bringing courage and optimism even we have had enough. If you feel you have had enough, it is time for Jesus.

Jesus Christ offers hope through the forgiveness of our sin. Through his death on the cross, any shame and guilt we carry is a self imposed prison from which he is ready to stage a jail break. Jesus Christ is our hope forever. In him we have the confidence that even death cannot keep us down – if we trust in him. Jesus Christ is our hope in the cold and dark moments we each might be facing this very moment. He is the promise that no matter what we face, we do not have to face it alone. God is with us, and God is for us.

This week I hope you actively seek opportunities to stretch your trust in God. Weekly worship is a minimal threshold. Even the week we had to cancel worship, I could feel my temper and frustration grow. This was not an accident. Habits like prayer, reflection, Bible reading, service to others, or inviting others to worship is a good place to begin. But whatever you do, do not allow yourself to remain in that cold, dark, dead place that our soul will always leans towards. Lean towards Jesus. Spring, and the promise of his resurrection are on the way!

See you Sunday at 9:30 or 11. Extend some hope to someone in your life with an invite to join you at worship this week!

Keeping Track of What Matters

Do you keep a journal?
I started a diary last week, though it’s more of a 21st century journal. Basically, I use an app on my iPad that amounts to a Word document. It is nothing revolutionary, but I have found myself writing at least five entries a day. It is easy for me to pop open my iPad and begin writing after a meeting, after worship, to express a prayer, or remember a relevant thought for the newsletter. But this simple habit that is only a week old has opened my eyes in a new way. Looking back over one week of entries I see how often I acknowledged where God was working – working in me, in others, through conflict, and even in the mundane matters of youth sports and snow removal. When I cultivated the habit of reflection, I was much more aware of what was already going on. I will admit I often lack in this area, at a cost to my faith.

Over this past year people have expressed to me in a variety of ways their desire to know God. In matters of family, finances, personal conflict, and work load, you and others want God’s wisdom and direction. These are righteous desires. Yet, what I find myself often saying to folks is, ‘God is not the problem’. You are. I am. We all are. We all feel like we lack God’s wisdom and direction if we do not cultivate the habits of listening, reflection, prayer, and worship. We cannot speed date our way to knowing God. We ought not be shocked that we feel as if God is distant when the habits of the heart that belong to him are not lived.

But as I was reminded this week, and I know it from my own failure, a personal relationship with God is a cumulative experience. The more we listen, worship, and study His word, the more we begin to see his work all around us. It’s not as if God withdrew himself from us – ever. We are the ones who withdraw, wanting God on our terms, then blaming Him when we aren’t trained to see Him. Yet there is good news. REALLY good news. It doesn’t have to stay that way.

Today is the perfect day to begin to see God at work all around you. In prayer and worship, reflection and scripture, journaling and talking to a friend- these habits of the heart wake us up inside and give us eyes to see what God is already doing all around us. You do not need to wait on an iPad app to draw closer to God. You simply need to give God a willing heart that is seeking him in intentional ways.

One of the intentional ways we open ourselves to God is weekly worship. This Sunday we continue in our series “It’s (Not) Personal.” We will build off the powerful message we heard from Roger Jenks last Sunday and explore what it means to be our created-in-the-image-of-God self when we could potentially meltdown. I look forward to seeing you this Sunday at 9:30 or 11 AM.

Since there is actually no snow forecasted (at the moment) for Sunday, why not invite a friend to come with you?
Geoffrey Mitchell
Lead Pastor

Just Can’t Catch a Break?

I have asked God, “why does it seem to snow every Saturday night?”
We can have a cold but bearable week, then come Saturday the snow starts to fall. And as we all prepare to gather for worship Sunday morning, either setting up microphones or dressing a herd of children, what is on our minds and hearts is snowplows rather than grace and growth. I hate to even mention it, but there is MORE snow forecast for this weekend. As the wind chill dipped to -35 last weekend I asked myself, would I go out to church first thing in the morning of a messy snow if I was not preaching? And of all the days, why does it hit every single Sunday?
In the religious tradition I grew up in we did not talk about spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is the reality, as Marissa describes, “no good deed stands unopposed”. It is more than a mythical devil in a red suit trying to make you trip in life; there are real spiritual powers and principalities that are working against the good work of God in this world – from the beginning of time. We all know from experience this is true. Just when you feel you are making progress have you ever felt like something or someone went out of their way to slow you down?
Maybe you have taken some steps to follow Jesus. Prayer is more consistent. Generosity is growing. Communicating in your family is starting to actually take place in a healthier capacity. Then all of a sudden, almost out of nowhere, something happens that not only slows all that down but puts you back further than you were before. “Just when I feel I am am making progress something happens that wants to make it worse.” I hear that all the time as your pastor.
Now I do not think weather is necessarily the devil incarnate (maybe ice and snow on my driveway is, but you get what I am saying). Yet, I do believe we are at a critical time in the life of our church and in the spiritual life of people who have come to faith at Big Life C.C. In ways large and small, each one of us will have something apply pressure to us, to attack us, in an attempt to move us away from Jesus, away from mission, and away from others who need us… especially in the framework of being part of a new church. That is a simple reality in the work we do. If you are moving towards Jesus, make no mistake, something is trying to and likely succeeding in moving you away from Jesus.
So what do we as believers do about it? Our solution is not to apply more of our own will power and work ethic. Our hope and strength is trusting in a God who will go to battle for us with a power bigger than our own – every day long. Will you join me in prayer this week for all the ways that good work stands opposed in your life and in the life of our church?
We pray God’s courage for those confronting an ethical question at work. We pray God’s words for those facing conflict or thinking of inviting someone to worship. We pray God’s provision for those wanting to trust Him with their money. We pray God’s energy for those who are bothered by the hassle of weather as they are trying to seek God through worship. We pray conviction for those who do not want to join the habits of gossip and putdown going on all around them. We pray tenacity for business owners who are believing the petty voices telling them their made a mistake starting this company. We pray for you in choosing to move another step closer to God through difficulty rather than to take the easier course and move back away from God.
What is it for you? Where do you need God’s strength to deal with the attacks coming your way? Your struggle is real. Feel free to drop me an email and leaders in the church will take the time to lift you up before God in prayer.
Ephesians 6:10-12
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Geoffrey Mitchell
Lead Pastor