Many times throughout history The Church has been known strictly by the things it's against. We want to be known by the things we are for. We Are For Our Neighbors. One of the best ways we can show this is by loving our neighbors through acts of service.
And they lived happily ever after…
Except they didn’t.
Like so many married couples, Heather Phillips was left picking up the pieces of her life after divorce. It was a small town that belonged to him, not her. And the upsets kept coming, as the resilient Davie County native lost her job.
It was a difficult time, filled with prayer and tears. With the help of her mom, Heather moved back to her home state of North Carolina. The tender hearted beauty decided to put love on the backburner and just try to sort out the surprising turn life had taken.
Instead of solace in isolation as she planned, Heather found love on Match.com! Heather and her handsome husband Eric blended their families with a June wedding in 2015, each gaining three more amazing children for a total of six kids.
This is the part where happily ever after was supposed to kick in again, and it did! For the most part.
“I had everything. A great husband, 6 beautiful children, a great job. But there was one piece of the puzzle missing,” Heather revealed. The dimples framing her contagious smile deepened as she cooed sweetly at a baby sitting nearby.
She and Eric had talked about attending church. They just weren’t sure where to go, but God made the decision easy for them.
“Mom, I found a church!” her youngest daughter, Morgan, told her one day. A friend had invited her, so the family decided to check it out.
Heather remembers every moment of that first church service with such clarity. The sermon was about growing ones faith and Tita Cockrell sang Amazing Grace. The gorgeous x-ray technician cried through the entire service, realizing that Renovation Church was exactly where she needed to be and God was the missing puzzle piece.
This self-described homebody is not one to venture outside of her comfort zone, but she jumped right into church, joining Ross and Diana Trifoli’s Missional Community Group (MCG). An MCG is basically a small group of people from church who get together once a week with the purpose of diving a little deeper into the sermon. They pray together, eat together, and grow in their faith together.
“When I pulled up to their house the first time, I wasn’t even nervous,” Heather shared, still surprised about her lack of fear. “I posted on Facebook that night that I don’t like to go out of my box but I felt so welcomed. Like it was family.”
Sincere, authentic, and fearless describe this cheerful softball mom well. While many would shy away from sharing their past and their pain, Heather embraces it, fearlessly recounting the difficult details that led her to the cross. She is a living testimony that even in the darkness, God has a plan and He does not fail us.
Her youngest daughter made the decision to dedicate her life to following Jesus during a fall church camp called DNOW. Mother and daughter were baptized together by Pastor Joey Todd on November 6, 2016.
“I can honestly say that I was looking for complete happiness and it’s there now. I can feel it in my heart,” Heather stated, eyes wide with sincerity and awe at God’s faithfulness.
It has been said that happiness is circumstantial but joy is from the Lord. Heather’s joy is infectious, and her story is a beacon of hope to those who feel like a piece of their puzzle is missing. God is still at work, even in the darkness, and Heather’s very life is proof.
God is within her, she will not fall - Psalms 46:5
Welcome to the final week of 21 days of fasting and prayer! At this point, no matter what type of fast you’ve chosen, you’re likely to have realized how much you’ve had to rely on prayer to get you through this far [and that is the point, right?]
New to the 21 day challenge? No problem, just hop on over here to get the full introduction and our weekly guides.
So friends, here’s to hoping that God uses the last few days to bring you inspiration, encouragement and the opportunity to celebrate how you’ve drawn closer to him during this time!
Below is the WEEK 3 GUIDE:
READ: Psalm18:1-2 "I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."
REFLECT: How has be the Lord proven to be your rock, shield, and refuge?
PRAY: Father, you are my strength, my rock, and my fortress. When trial or trouble comes my way, when it seems the world is up against me, I can trust that you will deliver me. Thank you for shielding me from the enemy. Help me to rest and find refuge in you and you alone. Amen.
READ: 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."
REFLECT: Has their been a time when you were able to comfort someone because of your own experience with grief or hardship? If so, what was that experience like and how did God use it to encourage you and the person you were comforting?
PRAY: Father you are the Great Comforter! Even though you had the power to overcome every affliction, you chose to endure it all so that you could comfort me through every difficulty in my life. Give me the courage and the opportunity to share with others the comfort you abundantly shared with me so that you are made known through it all. Amen.
WEDNESDAY: SERVANT LEADER
READ: Philippians 2:5-8 "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!"
REFLECT: Why is it so important that Jesus came as a servant leader? What does this tell us about God’s character?
PRAY: God, how grateful I am for your steadfast love and pursuit for me. You have extended the greatest example of humility and love through your son Jesus. Help me to do just as Christ did, by displaying my devotion to you in always putting others first. Amen.
READ: Isaiah 40:28 "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom."
REFLECT: What would you like to PRAISE the Creator for today?
PRAY: Lord, thank you for being the ultimate creator, full of majesty and wonder. You have created the earth and everything in it and yet nothing can make your grow weary or tired. Help me to see your hand at work in all things and to take time to praise you for your sovereignty and everlasting love daily. Amen.
READ: Exodus 15:26 “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
REFLECT: In what areas has the Lord recently healed you physically, mentally, and spiritually?
PRAY: Father God, you are the Great Physician, and I ask for healing, whether mind, body, spirit, or in all of these. I believe You will give what is best. Thank you for your goodness, kindness, and love in all things. Thank you for healing the deepest parts of my soul so that I might find hope in you. Amen.
READ: Colossians 1: 21-22 "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation."
REFLECT: What behaviors alienated you from God before you knew him?
PRAY: God, once I was far from You but in your infinite grace and mercy you didn’t leave me without a way to be reconciled. You have stopped at nothing, even giving your son, so that I can come to you without blemish and free from accusation. Thank you for your endless love! Help me, today, to never look back at what I once was but only to look forward at who you’ve called me to be. Amen.
READ: John 4:42 “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
REFLECT: When did you believe that Jesus was the Savior of the world? Who is Jesus to you today?
PRAY: Jesus, thank you for being the savior of the world. I no longer have to be a slave to sin and darkness but instead can experience the hope and joy in your salvation. Thank you for loving me enough to be the payment for my debt of sin. Today, I want to declare that you are Lord and that I am yours! Amen.
It's already week 2 of the 21 days of fasting & prayer. Whether you've selected to simply pray and follow along with the weekly guides or you're going all out (fasting, praying AND following along weekly) - God is at work.
You may not see it yet but He's already bringing together all the details on something he desires to teach you through this time. So hang in there - because he's just getting started!
Below is the WEEK 2 GUIDE and if you're just jumping in, you can still catch up on week 1 here.
READ: Psalm 23:1-3 "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul."
REFLECT: How does your soul need refreshing and reminded that you lack nothing with the Lord as your shepherd?
PRAY: Father, you are my guide, my shepherd. When life feels overwhelming or like it is too much to handle, remind me of your gentle presence and desire to refresh my soul. Thank you for quieting my heart and mind so that I may fully focus on your protection and guidance. Amen.
TUESDAY: HIGH PRIEST
READ: Hebrews 4:14-16 "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."
REFLECT: How is Jesus empathizing with you in your weakness right now?
PRAY: Lord, thank you that because of your empathy in our weakness, we can approach your throne for the mercy and grace we so desperately need. Help me in my temptations and let me hold firm in my faith. Amen.
READ: Psalms 19:14 "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."
REFLECT: Are your words and heart pleasing God right now?
PRAY: Father, you are my redeemer, constantly lifting me out of my sin and brokenness. Help me to speak and have a heart postured towards pleasing you in all I say and do. Give me words to speak to those around me who need to know of your redemption. Amen.
READ: Psalm 18:19 "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me."
REFLECT: How has God rescued you lately?
PRAY: Lord, your delight in me brings so much joy. As we all sometimes falter in our identity, what a gift it is to know that you, our Creator, take such pleasure in us. Thank you for rescuing me and taking me into a spacious place. Amen.
READ: Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."
REFLECT: In what situation do you need God to fight for you? How can you be still in it?
PRAY: God, so often life can feel like a battle with others, with the demands, or with all the pressures. My first response is many times to try and fight on my own. Help me to step away from the war and allow you to fight on behalf. Teach me to have a stillness in times when I feel as if I have to move. Amen.
READ: Hebrews 13:6 "So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?"
REFLECT: How are other’s opinions making you afraid right now?
PRAY: Father, you’ve called us to a life lived with others and in community. Sometimes, our hearts can try to please those around us instead of you. Show me how my fear of people is keeping me from obeying you. Help me to walk in step with your desires for my life instead of the opinions of others. Amen.
READ: Psalm 16:7 "I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me."
REFLECT: What do you need instruction from the Lord on in your life?
PRAY: Lord, thank you for speaking truth into my heart, even as I sleep. Show me the way I should go in my life on _________________. Instruct me through your word. Place people in my path that can offer wise guidance and teach me to be eager to hear all your counsel. Amen.
It’s day 1 of the 21 days of fasting and prayer and believe us: God is ready to move! He wants to do something in and through you during this collective time of prayer as you seek clarity and grow to know his character more deeply.
So maybe you’ve never been a part of fasting or prayer. If not, the terms “prayer and fasting” can be a little intimidating. Questions like, "Where do I start? What do I read? What should I pray for?” are all common. But don’t let that stop you from jumping in!
In fact, we’ve made it easier to be a part of the 21 days of fasting and prayer. Simply follow the outline below for week #1 as a scripture, reflection, and prayer guide for each day. We are excited and anticipate God to do an incredible work among us as we, as a church, seek Him in a fresh way!
READ: Ephesians 2:14 ”For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
REFLECT: How is Jesus your peacemaker today?
PRAY: Jesus YOU are the ultimate gift of peace. You came to break down walls and make us whole. Help me to rest in your life-giving peace today. Amen.
TUESDAY: BURDEN BEARER
READ: Psalm 55: 22 "Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken."
REFLECT: What is your burden in life today?
PRAY: God you know every concern and every heavy load. Yet you have pledged to carry it all for me. Thank you for helping me to lay down these burdens so that YOU sustain me.
READ: Psalm 139:16 "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."
REFLECT: What does your story look like?
PRAY: Father, it is you who created me and it is you actively writing my story. Every day, every circumstance [good and bad], every part of who I am was formed for you and for your purpose. Thank you for reminding me that my story is linked to your story. Amen.
READ: 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 "So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God."
REFLECT: How is God providing for you today?
PRAY: Everything I am and everything that I have belongs to you, God. Thank you for faithfully providing every need and graciously giving me more than I ever need. Help me to boast only in YOU. Amen.
FRIDAY: MIGHTY ONE
READ: Zephaniah 3:17 "The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing."
REFLECT: What is God saving you from today?
PRAY: You are the mighty One. No matter how my foot may fail, you save me. Even when I have fallen, you rejoice over me, you quiet my fears and worries, and you sing over me! Mighty Savior, I promise to trust in you! Amen.
READ: John 16:33 "“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Romans 8:31 "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
REFLECT: What do these verses say about what our response should be to trials and setbacks?
PRAY: Lord, YOU are the great conqueror who has overcome sin and death! You triumph over all and in you I can have full confidence. Thank you for reminding me of your power and the safety I can only find in you. Amen.
READ: Romans 8:26: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
REFLECT: How is the Holy Spirit helping you in your weakness today?
PRAY: Holy Spirit, thank you for shielding me and for guiding me. No matter what my prayer needs, thank you for knowing what I need even when I don't and interceeding on my behalf. Today, may I rest in knowing that I can always rely on you as the great Helper. Amen.
As soon as Pastor John started speaking, Jack knew God was speaking to him directly through the sermon that day. He jotted down notes in his iPhone, writing the four points of the sermon. The last sentence he wrote wasn’t from Pastor John. It was straight from God. “It’s time to take the next step…”
As a mom, I often wonder how other moms do it. It’s a fragile balance to be a mother, wife, daughter, sister, and friend. As a self-professed overachiever, I take that already extensive list and make it even longer and harder to accomplish.
So why do some moms feel crazy?
Let me explain. We try to do it all and that’s impossible. It often leads to funny moments of forgetfulness like these:
- I once went looking for my phone, feverishly toppling over bags, rummaging through drawers and my daughter’s toy boxes for 10 minutes, only to realize I had been on the phone, complaining I couldn’t find it, the whole time! [Imagine what my sweet friend must have thought about me!]
- A dear mama-friend told me that life was so crazy for her, she recently found lettuce in her freezer and the remote control in the pantry.
- I have been guilty a time or two of letting loads of laundry sit in the dryer, only to finally remove it when someone complained about not having socks or underwear.
- And what about proudly having dinner ready on time, then sadly watchingit burn as you clean up your potty training toddler’s poop?
You get the picture. We can’t do it all — not alone, anyway. And we feel crazy when we try. Yes moms, we are crazy. Crazy to think we can fulfill roles that a culture has created. Foolish to try and live up to lofty expectations, most of which we have seen while scouring Pinterest for a new craft or scrolling down our mid-day Facebook fix.
No matter what season you are in, if you feel like you have lost your mind or can’t measure up, Jesus knows.
Here’s what makes me crazy [and I bet it does for you too] — When I operate in my own abilities rather than relying on Christ’s capabilities. Maybe crazy for you, means tired. As in, YOU NEED REST. And in that context, then, yes all moms actually feel crazy. Jesus wants to quiet the crazy restlessness in our hearts. So what does he say about it?
In Matthew 11, something pretty incredible takes place. Jesus both sets himself apart from the pack and gave everyone a pass on trying to achieve perfection, something that ONLY He could do. Sounds like nothing that mamas struggle with, right?
Here is Jesus, after finishing instructions to his disciples, he began a series of teaching in each of their hometowns. He has seen the unrepentant hearts, the brokenness, the futility of the people for which He so desperately longs to save. He has seen their toil and the daily shackles they have placed on themselves as a result of following false teachings that preach on rule-keeping.
He says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28-29
There is tenderness and majesty in those words. He declares HE is capable of more than anything. He has clear-sighted compassion for the heavy, burdened, weight on every soul—Both yours and mine. Christ the Consoler says, You don’t have to be what the world says you should be. Only, come to me and I will make you who you will be.
Being a mama can make us feel crazy, but it doesn’t have to. Silencing the crazy starts by surrendering expectations that cloud the truth. Today, may this truth echo: Come to me and I’ll give you rest. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Think about it: What crazy expectations, not reflective of God, have you placed in your life? What can you ask Jesus to take over or altogether remove from your plate?
Pray: God, our great comforter—Today I surrender those areas in my life of lofty expectations. Thank you for your grace and mercy in revealing to me the areas that aren’t reflective of you. Will you guide me to rest in you? In your name I pray, Amen.
- Emily Ondish
“Peggy-licious!” boomed Renovation Family Ministry Pastor, Joey Todd, as he greeted Peggy at Port City Java in Hampstead, on his way to another meeting. Peggy laughed in good nature, shaking her shiny brunette locks. I’m sure that’s exactly what she wants everyone to call her and will be thrilled to have a silly nickname on record for to all to see. Honestly, Peggy likely won’t care. While her demeanor is gentle and kind, her laughter is quick and her sense of humor sharp. She is exactly the kind of person you feel safe leaving your child with.
RenoCity is the area where children ages 6 weeks to 4 years old spend Sunday gatherings, learning that their friend Jesus created them. As you drop off your child, you’ll meet Peggy. She is at the computer, printing name tags and security tickets, making you feel secure that your child is in good hands. Her faint southern accent and sweet smile immediately put you at ease, and you just have a feeling she’s a really good mom, without even knowing a thing about her.
She is in fact a mother of two, and works in clinical research. Married to Chris in 2008, they parent six-year-old Paisley and four-year-old Owen. Peggy-licious was blessed to lead a life surrounded by faithful, Godly, examples, attending a private Christian school in her youth and even meeting her handsome husband on a mission trip to Ecuador through their church. Her husband had attended the same church since he was a child, and they settled happily into their lives there.
However, God had something different in store for the Sellars family, and they didn’t have a clue about the adventure awaiting them.
Renovation Church began taking shape at the same time the Sellars were determining which school to send little blonde Paisley to. “We were planning to send her to a private Christian school, but then I was like, wait a second!” Peggy realized that if she sent her to a private school, Paisley would only be the light for those kids. “If I send her to Topsail, she will be the light for everybody! The whole Paisley-school thing is where God has shown grace to us. He’s got our baby girl.”
Marveling at the way God used little Paisley to begin their new adventure, Peggy explained how they realized they wanted to be really involved right here in the community they lived in. It was a defining moment for their family, and it all started with trusting God to care for their child, wherever she attended school.
“We were scared to send her, but I felt like it was being obedient to God to send her. And now I’m just like, Thank You Lord!” she said with a knowing smile, noting that simply stepping out and trusting the Lord when they didn’t have any control over the environment, was a huge leap of faith.
The Sellars family has jumped into serving at Renovation without regrets. Chris serves on the Safe Team, ensuring our kid’s ministry environments are secure. Peggy served at the check-in station for six months straight without attending a Sunday morning gathering herself.
“I never felt down or out or upset because I couldn’t go to the service, but now that I have been able to go, I didn’t realize how badly I needed it. Now that I can go, I’m like, oh my gosh, this is so good for my soul,” she said with appreciation for the new two service model. How good it is to feed the souls of the volunteers as well!
The significance of Peggy’s role at Renovation never struck her until recently, when she attended a church conference focusing on the long-term impact of investing in Kids Ministry. While reading all the statistics about the children and their various backgrounds, she realized she was making a difference that went far beyond just serving as a volunteer. It was more than helping parents as they dropped off their children.
“Even just smiling at someone and having a good attitude about it matters. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. No matter what the background of whoever, we are here to show the love,” she said with joyful conviction.
Peggy certainly shows the love. She reflects a heart of joy and service, no matter where you find her. When God presented her with this new adventure, Peggy-licious jumped in with both feet, absolutely fearless in trusting the Lord with her family. Experiencing and serving in the groundwork of a church plant has been a blessing to the Sellars family. But Peggy’s sweet smile has been an even greater gift to those of us she faithfully greets at RenoCity check-in, every Sunday morning.
Death defying heights. Rugged terrain. Obstacles along the course marked out. Every true adventurer knows there is no such thing as a pain free, problem free journey. The question becomes: what keeps one traveler dedicated to the trek yet another stumbling back down the way he came? As we learned in this week’s message from Pastor Joey, it’s all a matter of what you put in your pack.
Fear. Doubt. Confusion. Those rocks can weigh even the most experienced thrill seeker down and make them about face on the adventure of a lifetime. Trust. Direction. Faith. That’s what someone willing to go the distance loads up on as he sets out.
Meet Paul. Once a guy best known for persecuting the early followers of Jesus, his journey with Christ began in a dramatic way on a road to a town called Damascus. His conversion was just a prequel of the adventure that laid before him. On his way to condemn followers of “The Way”, he hears a voice. Not just any voice mind you, but the voice of the very One he was seeking to silence: Jesus. Subsequent blindness and instructions from Jesus on how to regain not only his physical sight but also his spiritual vision led to a miraculous healing and one man’s adventure story began. The one-time Jesus-hating, Christian killer would eventually find himself smack dab in the greatest quest he had ever known: a chosen instrument to proclaim the gospel. [Acts 9:1-17]
Paul was living the high life before this transformation. He was among the educated elite, a Pharisee. A “Hebrew of Hebrews” with Roman citizenship. He had a pedigree that made his contemporaries drool. Surely a guy with his credentials could expect his mission to be a breeze, right?
Instead of a first class trip, Paul found himself on the roughest ride of all. There were the many beatings, imprisonments, and being shipwrecked a time or two. Not to mention constantly on the run like a fugitive, hatred from his own people and those he was sent to share the gospel with, as well as hunger, thirst, and just about every dilemma you could imagine. [2 Corinthians 11: 23-28] It’s amazing how quickly your accomplishments and background don’t matter when you get invited on this adventure. Circumstances don’t seem to take note of your education, family history, place in society or religious elitism.
Paul had a choice. He could have said, it’s too much. This journey isn’t worth it. He could have stopped getting on the boat for every subsequent voyage. He could have changed his tune about this Jesus fellow and settled back into a life on top instead of becoming an easy target for the masses. But giving up would’ve meant giving up on the thing that mattered the very most: Christ himself and the Gospel plan that reconciled him with the one true God.
Instead of stocking up on a good dose of fear, Paul took a different approach and attitude on his adventure. With a steady hand from a prison cell, he penned these words to the church at Philippi:
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. [Philippians 4:11-13 NLT]
Want to know the secret of a true adventurer? A consistent trust and belief that whatever lies ahead on the course can be handled not through the sole might of the one on the journey, but through the strength given to them by Christ alone. Paul learned how to be content. An essential truth every one of us must remember.
This adventure is a lifelong journey and hurdles, pain, and problems will just train our spiritual bodies and strengthen our faith in Christ. All it requires is a willing participant up for anything. Are you up for whatever is ahead?
Here’s something to think on: What would you do if you were absolutely confident that God was with you?
Pray about it: Lord, teach me the secret of living in every circumstance. Help me through whatever hardships and obstacles I face as I rely wholly on you and the journey you’ve set before me. Amen.
Inside each of us is a desire for adventure. A yearning for a life story filled with twists and turns, a touch of danger mixed with awe inspiring heights, mastering heroic feats where the unassuming become brave.
No two adventure stories are the same and neither are any two adventurers.
There are those who are bold and daring and those who are meek and timid. There those whose story take an unexpected plot turn and those who start off with what seem to be insurmountable challenges.
Adventurers come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, from every imaginable background, but they all come looking for the adventure of a lifetime.
Every so often comes along a brazen trailblazer, ready for anything, prepared to go to the ends of the Earth so they can live out a story that will captivate generations to come.
Meet Peter. Peter was the kind of guy who when a seemingly ghostly haze across the lake called him to step out of the boat, onto the water and walk, he did. [Matthew 14:22-29] He was the one jumping head first into the journey Jesus invited him on. So much in fact, that at times, Christ had to ask Peter to dial it back.
When guards came to take Jesus away to his death on the cross, Peter drew his sword and sliced off the ear of one of them. I’m not leading a band of thugs, Jesus cried as he healed the guard’s ear.[John 18:10-11] Later after Jesus’ resurrection, as Peter, John and James sat alone with Jesus on a high peak and watched Christ’s face transfigured. It was a true mountaintop experience of his faith adventure and Peter’s response was, Let’s set up camp here forever. [Luke 9:28-33]
He was an all or nothing kind of guy. Peter was up for whatever pursuit Jesus was taking his crew on. Bold. Daring. All in. Yet faltering.
You see, Peter had fully committed to the journey. He wasn’t, in his mind, wavering at all the obstacles that laid ahead. He was sure he would plow through them as they came. But then he heard a cock-a-doodle doo and found himself backsliding on all the promises he had made and denying knowing Christ. [Matthew 26:69-75] Just proof that even trailblazers lose their way sometimes.
You may be the kind of voyager who has truly taken the plunge into following Jesus.
Ready to go, wherever He may ask. Always on the lookout for the next big adventure He has for you. And then suddenly, you find yourself backed in a corner you never expected to be in.
Perhaps circumstances have caused you to veer off the path or maybe, fear has started to well up inside you as the fingers of the crowd surrounding point out you are one of them, one of those Christ followers.
Jesus knew Peter was going to hesitate when the adventure got scary and He knows when you’re knees are going to quake too. But Jesus didn’t dwell on how bad Peter was going to fail. Instead, He was more concerned in telling Peter who Jesus was making him into in spite of all his weakness.
When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.” He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.” [Matthew 16:13-20 The Message]
If you can say with certainty like Peter who Jesus is, then He will without a doubt tell you exactly who you are, not based on how you might trip along the way, but on His plans for you.
If you’ve said yes to this adventure of following Christ, He is ready to use your life as one of the many rocks in the building of His church.
A rock. Strong. Hard. Immovable. That is how Jesus describes those bold trailblazers who may at times get lost along the way, but that shamelessly join him on an adventure of a lifetime.
Here's something to think on: Are you a bold and brazen trailblazer like Peter? When have you found yourself faltering under pressure or circumstances?
Take time today, to pray this: God, make me bold on this adventure. Give me a desire to be all in like Peter and help me to follow you when this journey gets hard. Amen.
Growth can be exciting and even sometimes overwhelming. It can bring about great clarity or great confusion; it can engage people or enrage people; it can serve as catalyst for exponential reach or exponential setbacks. To continuing growing as a church, it’s important for us to understand and know how to properly respond to GROWTH.
One of the greatest challenges for any new start up company, organization, or even church, is the ability to grow in a healthy way. The ability to move from simplicity to complexity. In fact, we can see the reality of this challenge in the growth of our personal family dynamics. When a couple unites together in marriage they have the simplicity of the honeymoon phase. This is when a couple begins to work out what it means to enjoy, serve and love each other. “Let the adventure begin!” they’ll say.
Time will pass and growth will be desired. Therein, the joyous announcement of a new addition comes. This next chapter for a growing family brings excitement yet complexity… and it doesn't end there. With it comes the possibility of more kids, pets, school, homework, practice for sports, time with the in-laws, you name it! The simplicity experienced initially in the honeymoon phase is replaced by the complexity of family growth and demands. The responsibilities of a growing family can hit you like a tsunami unless you understand and properly respond to that growth.
The early church experienced the same tension and pull of a growing family. The book of Acts gives us great insight on how the first church grew in a healthy way. It’s a great blueprint for moving from simplicity to complexity and it allows us the ability to keep the mission front and center.
In Acts 5, the numeric growth curve is off the charts. “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women…” (Acts 5:14). Believers were multiplying rapidly and they weren’t exempt from encountering all the natural challenges that come with growth. The ability to move from simplicity to complexity was essential for the mission of reaching every man, woman, and child!
Here’s what we can learn from the early church as they thrived:
The early church grew both large and small (at the same time). See Acts 2:46. While placing an emphasis on both the gathering of believers in the Temple courts, they also encouraged the gathering of believers in homes, around the dinner table, where they knew true community would take place. We celebrate as a church family during our Sunday gatherings but we have to place an emphasis on authentic community that takes place in a home environment to grow on a deeper level. That’s why we will have Missional Community Groups launching in our near future.
The early church equipped and appointed new leadership as needed. See Acts 6:3. The leadership of the early church equipped and empowered people to carry out the vision. They knew it couldn’t be done by a few who did it all. They kept the duplication of leadership in mind as they appointed and invited others to join with them in the task of bringing others to Christ. We know that all believers can help in reaching every person with the message of the Gospel when they own the vision of living on mission. Which is exactly why the church has to be in the business of developing and reproducing leaders.
The early church got it—they needed a simple strategy that allowed the church to grow (increasing complexity) in a healthy, effective way. Through it, they engaged and equipped; they reproduced and served people wholeheartedly; and most importantly, they reached people... by the thousands. This is our hope too—It’s why we do what we do to reach our community for Christ.