You've been invited to #EasterAtRelevant, or maybe you've seen it posted on Facebook or Instagram.
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You've been invited to #EasterAtRelevant, or maybe you've seen it posted on Facebook or Instagram.
I am a homemaker, A stay-at-home-mother, housewife, manager of domestic affairs, whatever you may call me; I get the privilege to stay at home and raise 3 beautiful boys, it’s not easy but it’s worth it.
I say that I get the privilege to stay at home with them because I believe that there is power in the way I think about it and speak about it; “it” being my job as a mother and a wife.
Lately, I’ve been getting frustrated due to the fact that things don’t always go my way. That’s where negativity and frustration decided to creep in my life.
This past weekend we had an opportunity to join up another ministry in our area to support efforts to provide fresh drinking water to the residents of Flint, Michigan.
What an honor, to come to the aid of thousands of individuals who have received the short end of the stick due to the gross neglect by the powers at be.
As a small church plant, I knew good and well that we would not be able to supply 1 million bottles of water or maybe even a fraction of that in one weekend. I mean we could, but it was unlikely.
Should that have stopped us? Absolutely not.
Folks let me be honest. Church planting is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life! The ups are way up and the downs are way down. But God has taught me some real important lessons. So in this post, I want to share how this journey has really impacted me. How it has impacted me personally; grown me, and is still growing who I am.
Church planting has caused me to realize that no matter how hard I work, I am still ultimately, not in control.
This past year has been incredible to say the least. Almost one year ago we started preview services at Freedom Community Church. This was only step one. These preview services were monthly. It was a time for a group of diverse individuals who barely knew each other to begin to dream. Many of the individuals putting together these monthly gatherings had known each other less than 6 months.
But we had a dream--to raise up a faith community that had one simple mission: to lead people to freedom in Jesus.
Have you ever been frustrated, looking for your keys, while you’re late for work, and haven’t had the chance to have breakfast or your coffee? Or how about having a looming deadline, and your kids won’t go to sleep, and all that stands between you and the deadline is a quick proof reading and hitting the send key?
What about this; being at your wits end in that relationship, feeling under appreciated, and feeling as though you are holding the weight of that relationship.
Aren’t those situations the worst?
For interested parties, here's a video of us doing church announcements a few months back (stay tuned for the bloopers and you will quickly realize that we are much better as unscripted speakers!).
Anyway, [one] Sunday we had a guest pastor, Robert Trice, who spoke on what he would preach if it were his last message.
Without getting too philosophical, it got me to thinking.
What's keeping you from reaching your true God-given potential? Scripture says this, "Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)
We talk about legacy at Freedom and what it means to leave something positive behind for our family, our community, and our world.
How excited do you get when you hear a story about a young person being the first in their family to graduate? Or a non-profit celebrating an anniversary of helping people for "X" number of years? Or a country gaining precious freedom from oppression?
I've been doing some soul searching over the past few weeks. Because, if I am honest, I've not been as motivated to pursue greater in many areas of my work like I’ve done in the past.
Have you ever been there? Those times that you feel as though you've lost your mojo? Where you feel like you are maintaining and not thriving?
It might be that you are suffering from a bout of the "complacency virus". It's an annoying little bug that creeps in and before you know it, it's affected your work, your life and your spiritual growth.
How do you respond to disappointment? I ask this because disappointment is inevitable in life and I'm learning that how you respond makes all the difference. There was one major disappointing factor that I was not prepared for. The truth is, this should not have caught me by the surprise. But it did.
In my city. The place where I am raising my children. The place that I feel called to spend the rest of my ministry career, if it is in the Lord's will... I was hit by a menacing racial slur.
Did your mother ever tell you this, “if you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”? Even if your mother never told you this, I bet you’ve heard it from others and have probably repeated it yourself. I am self-aware enough to admit that I talk a lot. Especially when I’m passionate about something. If you know me personally you know this fact is true!
Right now this nation—this world looks like it's gone to the birds! Every time you turn on the TV there is some sort of injustice. Some aspect of debauchery. Some sentiment of hate, ill will, political rivalry that honestly contributed to making me physically sick this weekend.
Let me be real.
I was disappointed and disgusted to the point that I wanted to either speak out or disengage. Honestly, none of those options would have been helpful.
So, I turned to Facebook (yes you guessed it).
I’d had enough. People were going to hear what I had to say and I wasn’t going to hold back any punches. I was going to put in my two cents, forget that, I was about to withdraw my account and throw in all the cash!
But every time I typed a post, something caused me to delete it before I hit “post”. What was it? It was the conviction caused by a simple proverb written by the wisest man who ever lived.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Proverbs 25:11)
The word that I was about to speak was not going to be served on a silver platter but on a platter of frustration, anger, and disappointment. Thank God that the Holy Spirit in God’s grace held me back from speaking in that vain.
Why do I share this?
I'll end with this.
You'll hear and read a lot of opinions in the news and social media. Some things you will agree with, others you will not. As you consider your response, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6)
My son finally fell asleep. I could clean, get a head-start on supper, read my library book, or just mindlessly scroll through my Facebook newsfeed. Yes!
But first, coffee.
I stood up from the couch and peeked over at my baby, still snoozing by the window. I tip-toed toward the kitchen for my mug, silently applauding myself for being so stealth, and turned the corner. I narrowly missed stepping on a singing bear next to the couch. I slowly and easily stepped up to the kitchen floor and crossed the breakfast area toward the cabinet when, SCREEEEEEEEECH!
WHEAAAEEEEEAAAAAAAA! The baby started wailing as if someone pinched him. As I ran to pick him up, I heard, “Mama? Mama? I need a drink!” A tiny tip-toe on just the right spot on the wood floor of my kitchen was all it took to get things wild and crazy in my house.
What if that’s all it took by God to get us moving?
What if a simple nudge in the right direction was all we needed to serve and honor Him with our full potential? For me and many others, it takes much more than a gentle push to wake up from our sleep.
More than once, God has made his desires clear to me, only for me to stubbornly ignore them. Whether it was inviting a friend to church, helping someone in need, reading my Bible more, shedding some of the sinful baggage to which I cling so tightly, or spending more time in prayer; God has given me direct instruction and obvious insight to His will for me.
So often I find more selfish ways to fill my time. I procrastinate and get to His calling when it’s more convenient. He wants more from His children than just commitment. He wants some follow-through.
When God wanted Jonah to preach in Nineveh, stubborn Jonah acted a lot like I do and ran in the opposite direction.
God was persistent and ended up sending a gigantic fish to swallow Jonah to wake him up. Ironically, it was in the belly of the fish where Jonah begs for help. Had he gone where God was calling him in the first place, Jonah would not have been hanging out in a fish gut!
Christians often take the long way around and ignore the initial nudge, then ask for God’s assistance when we find ourselves in a tough situation.
Just like my sleeping baby, it is easy to get warm and comfy where we are in our relationship with God. Salvation is awesome because from it, we receive rest, peace, and assurance. But salvation does not end once we receive freedom. That is where it begins!
Ask God where He wants you to go, then go! The path may not be easy or practical, but His will for us is perfect. Just going is oftentimes much easier and more rewarding than running in circles, avoiding His calling.
Wherever you are on your path, submit yourself to His will and lean on His word and promise of peace and grace. He has called us to His purpose, and while we do His will, He will refine and renew us.
If you've visited Freedom or talked to one of our team members about why Freedom is being established, you will hear some version of one of two statements:
Both statements are a part of who we are and what our mission is. They sound good. They may even resonate with you. However, statements like these often get lost in translation.
I want to clear the fog as to what we mean when we say we want to lead people to freedom in Jesus.
After all, this is why Freedom exists.
This is what it means to lead people to Freedom in Jesus:
We want to create an atmosphere where people can have an encounter with Jesus. Whether it's at church, in our homes, or in our workplaces, our goal should be to stay ready for those God is drawing to us. By removing any barriers that will distract from God using us, we can become agents of hope and change in the lives of those around us.
Many people carry around burdens of condemnation, pain, fear, disappointments, or even pride and arrogance (often sadly coming from other misguided Christians) that keeps them bound up. They sometimes don't have a clue how strong these chains are in their life. Leading people to freedom in Jesus means openly and willingly sharing the good news of the Gospel of Jesus that brings about new life through repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior.
When we say we are leading people to freedom in Jesus we mean exactly that, to lead. We're not pointing and directing, but we are walking alongside them and leading by example. None of us are perfect. In fact, we are all far from it. But We are partners on the journey, walking this life of faith by discovering the joys and richness of Christian community and the depth and breadth of Scripture together.
Finally, leading people to freedom in Jesus means encouraging others to do the same. When someone is open to an encounter with Jesus and has been set free by the power of the Gospel, the natural result is to share this good news and invite others on the same journey.
Leading people to freedom in Jesus begins with us. Have we found or are we finding freedom in Jesus? Are we growing in faith deliberately daily?
I heard a great quote the other day:
You cannot show what you've not seen and you can not lead where you've not been.
Are you personally finding freedom in Jesus?
As we often say "God is doing a new thing in and around us." He has invited you and I on this incredible journey to lead people to freedom in Jesus. That is why we exist.
We want to see people have an awesome encounter with Jesus that will set them free from chains that are holding their lives back, begin to walk in vibrant faith, and invite others to do the same.
Our greatest defeat in life is not our loss to others, but our loss to ourselves. It is the enemy's favorite game--to pit self against self--to watch us struggle in our weaknesses, drown in our fears, accept mediocrity, ignore our purpose and vision, and bathe our thoughts in negativity and regret. Our failures become our ball and chain. Our wrong choices become our identity. Our past becomes our keeper.
Hear this... self defeat is the greatest defeat.
A few people come to mind when I think about self defeatists...
Moses. He told God He wasn't good enough and questioned why in the world He would want him [Moses] to go and tell anyone anything. (Read more in Exodus.)
Naomi. The pillar of hopelessness. She told everyone God gave her a hard life and even changed her name from Naomi, meaning pleasant, to Mara, which means bitter. (Read more in Ruth.)
Me. There was a point (actually a few points) in my life when joy couldn't bloom because I'd allowed the weeds to take over. Sure, I kept trying at life, but always with the false knowledge and understanding that the work wasn't good enough, that no one would love me, that I would never be excellent, and that because of my past, I wasn't worthy of anything good anyway.
Self defeat can be deceiving if we've lived in it for long periods of time. We become awfully comfortable with mediocrity and we believe the lie that tells us we're okay. Except we're not. We're missing what God has to offer us. We're missing out on tremendous joy.
So, how do we fight self defeating thoughts and attitudes?
Brothers, Sisters, I get it. If you are wallowing in self defeat at this very moment, you are not motivated to do any of this. The last thing you want is change, right? I understand. But there is no greater joy than discovering or remembering what God has planned for you.
The greatest victory is not victory over others, but rather victory over ourselves for the glory of God.
Have you ever had a day when you felt off and you didn’t know why? I’ve been having these a lot recently, so after a few weeks of trying to figure it out on my own, I finally asked God. He’d been waiting patiently, of course, as He does for me from time to time. (to time to time… I’m not a very good “ask for help”-er.) He said, “Invaded.”
And I said, “Huh?” (Profound, I know. He gets me.)
He said, “You feel invaded.”
“By what exactly?”
“Everyone, including me.”
I never want God to feel like He’s invading me.
I want Him to have free reign to guide me and teach me, and yet here I was feeling interrupted and encroached upon by my very best friend, teacher, Father, and Creator. But I was also feeling the same with everyone else. Further reflection revealed two things:
Turtles are solitary creatures until it’s time for the baby making, and then they socialize and figure it out, but generally they prefer to be alone. When they feel violated, threatened, or afraid, they pull all of their vulnerable pieces into their shell and wait for danger to pass.
I was a turtle.
The past six months have been trying, to say the least. You don’t need details to understand, but, in short, my heart had been broken repeatedly. Forgiveness was offered, but the memories and the fresh sting were still very real and present. Trust was broken, relationships were severed, and my stress was skyrocketing. I knew all of these things were weighing on me, but I still felt like there was something else that was off. There was something happening internally that I couldn’t keep ignoring--the invasion.
I began to pull all of my vulnerable pieces inside my shell.
Once I was safely tucked away, the only thing I could do was digest. And even though I felt protected from people, I had also shielded myself from Jesus. I wasn’t letting anyone in. I became over-analytical (another favorite pastime of mine), unhealthy, and discouraged.
In order for a turtle to move, it has to be vulnerable, extend its soft pieces into the soil, stick its head and neck out, and push forward. It’s the same for us. We can’t grow inside our shell. We can’t move forward or backward or around in a circle until we get out of our comfort zone and allow something to happen. It might be bad, and that’s the risk, but it might be extraordinary, and that’s the gift.
“You feel invaded,” He said.
But He didn’t say it in a caring, empathic tone. He was not invited to my pity party, nor was He interested in attending. He was, however, interested in His daughter and why she was allowing herself to rot in a shell when He had given her so many gifts that were now going to waste.
“Are you done yet? Let me in,” is really what He meant. I extended a shaking paw and allowed my Father in, and He began to arm me.
The enemy loves to make us believe that he is in control. He makes us question each other, doubt each other, and hurt each other. He helps us make bad choices and revels when we really muck it up. He loves to see us in pain and in bondage and wrapped up “safely” in our turtle shells. He cultivates fear and then waters it and makes it hover over and suppress us.
But God arms us. His protection is physical, mental, emotional, environmental, and spiritual.
I have love to offer, joy to spread, and inspiration to share, but I can’t do it from inside my dark shell. He reminded me of that.
The invasion of others is inevitable.
Someone will hurt you. Someone will lie to you. Someone will betray you. People don’t always respect healthy boundaries. But God will protect you. God will heal you. God will remind you of truth. Because someone else will love you. Someone will be honest with you. Someone will honor you. They will respect your healthy boundaries, and in doing so, will allow you to feel safe in coming out of your shell.
Are you feeling invaded? Pray this with me today:
“Father God, I desire to have healthy relationships with myself, with people, and with you. I know that my shell is false safety and I want to fearlessly use my gifts for you. I receive your protection today. Your peace is my serenity, and I will allow it to guide my relationships, my decisions, and my thoughts. Invade me with Your presence, God. You are all I need. Thank you for teaching me, Lord, and for transforming my fear into faith. I love you, Jesus. - Amen.”
Why do you do what you do? What’s your end goal? Have you ever thought about this? A lot of us get up everyday and go to work. Then we come home, do a few things, then go to sleep. We then get up in the morning and start the routine over and days go by. Weeks. Months. Years.
Maybe your work looks different.
For you it looks like getting up in the morning and getting breakfast for the kids, changing diapers, helping with homework, and cleaning up around the house.
The average person spends about 99,117 hours at work in their lifetime. That’s A LOT of time. It’s even more saturated for a stay-at-home mom or an entrepreneur. Something has to be driving that desire daily.
What is it for you? Is it money? Is it a sense of accomplishment? Is it being the best mom ever? Is it necessity? At the end of the day, the only question that I believe will really matter is, “What’s the point?”
Here’s how I look at it, If I am going to spend close to 99,117 hours or close to 51 years (some of us have significantly less time left in this scenario) at work, I better know why. If I don’t know what’s driving me, two things may happen:
I will keep working towards an unidentified goal and never reach it or I will become cynical and resentful of my circumstances.
I’ve seen this happen to creative entrepreneurs who get stuck in the “development” part of their business; to parents who overwork and under appreciate their kids; and to employees who stay stuck in a job they hate.
Look at what the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote as he reflected on his work:
“I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me, and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 ESV)
Life moves so fast that sometimes we can lose sight of why we do what we do.
Jesus left us with the Lord’s Supper as a reminder of the price He paid for our sins and the assurance of the new life we have in Him. For Christians, we are renewed daily by God’s grace at work in our lives through Jesus. We also need to have a practical reminder of why we do what we do.
I want to leave you with this challenge. Write it down.
Write down why you do what you do and place it somewhere where you can easily access it.
When times get rough in your work, your kids get out of control, or you have one of those days you ask yourself, “What’s the point?” Your answer will be right there to keep you pressing forward.
As we prepare to launch Freedom this weekend, a lot of plans have been going on behind the scenes. Team meetings, updates to websites, marketing materials being ordered, worship team preparing and a lot of prayer! We serve a great God so we’ve been doing our best to make sure that the experience people have with Freedom is a great one.
With that said, it was a bit frustrating when our door hangers arrived from the printer and we discovered something was wrong! How in the world could this happen? By the time those door hangers were ordered, they had gone through 4 levels of proofing.
How could we miss one of the most important things, on one of the most important promotional pieces, about our most important day?
The answer is very simple and completely true.
We’re not perfect.
It’s no wonder that on the “10 Reasons” list we have on the back of our door hangers #4 is stated: “There’s no perfect people allowed.” Sounds a bit snarky but we absolutely stand by it.
We know there was only one perfect Person who’s ever lived and His name is not Bob, or Sue, or my name or your name. His name is Jesus. That’s why #1 on our “10 Reasons” list states: “Jesus is a big deal around here.”
None of us can compare to Him and at Freedom, we have no problem conceding to the fact that we are not perfect. Neither do you have to be to be welcome here. We are real people, with real challenges, who’ve discovered that the real solution is found in one Person.
His name is...Jesus!
So let me just say this: if you are looking for the perfect church, Freedom may not be the one for you. We’ve just proved it.
However, if you are looking for a group of genuine individuals who are on a journey to grow their faith, love across boundaries and strive to make a tangible difference in our community then we’ve got a seat waiting for you and consider yourself invited.
If you received a door hanger you've probably figured out what the mistake is. Don’t give it away. We’ve got a fun way of revealing it this weekend as we launch Freedom Community Church, Sunday, March 15 at 10AM. We meet at Eastside Connections School, 315 N. 14th St. in Niles.
But remember, no perfect people allowed.
As we met as a staff this week we spent some time looking at Psalm 119:103-105, 160. We reflected on how important the Bible is to our daily lives. The writer of this psalm writes these beautiful words "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth" (Psalm 119:103). I was convicted. I've read that verse so many times but it really impacted me in a significant way.
We all have favorite things we love to eat. For the writer, I assume it was honey. For me, admittedly its burgers and fries. I could eat burgers and fries every day, no questions asked! Give me a hot, juicy burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, ketchup and mustard and you will not get a complaint from me! How much better for my health is God's word.
How much more should I look forward to hearing the timeless truths that will provide a "lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105).
We closed on verse 160, "The sum of Your word is truth, and everyone of your righteous ordinances is everlasting" (Psalm 119:160 NASB). The writer of The Message, a paraphrase of the Bible puts it this way:
"Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth. Your righteous decisions are eternal." (Psalm 119:160 The Message)
Are the words to the Bible tastier than a well done, burger with a side of greasy fries to me? Are they so vital to my life that without them I stumble or stub my toe as in a dark room filled with my kid’s toys (parents will get that one)? Do I understand that kings have never been able to destroy these words and that they will continue to endure till "kingdom comes"? Maybe I am not the only who's taken back by what the writer of Psalms says.
Maybe it's time to look at this sacred text with new lenses. Not just as a meal that’s tasty for the moment but fades to a memory soon after. But rather, as a never ending buffet of timeless truths that will satisfy, direct, equip and transform your world moment by moment until eternity.
Photo Credit: USA Today In the past few months, weeks and especially the past few days we’ve seen our news media, Facebook and Twitter timelines flooded with one major story, Ferguson.
No this won’t be an opinion piece about wrong or right decisions. I’m not even going to share what I think was done right or what was done wrong.
The reality is that right now, we have opposing sides who see things very differently and understandably so.
Racism and injustice has long plagued our nation. The glorification of violence and crime against others has also plagued our nation. Look through the history books. Look at TV shows and film.
So what do we do? Live in silos and keep “them” over there, while “we” stay over here? Absolutely not. That’s what has caused what we are living through and experiencing now.
I was watching a news report about Ferguson that showed two images. The first was a police officer getting his head chewed off (figuratively speaking) by two individuals in an extremely intense moment. The second image was that of these same individuals with the police officer embracing in an extremely touching moment.
What happened? What made the difference?
May I offer this suggestion?
It’s something we talk about a lot at Freedom. It’s actually one of our four core values, the others being the Gospel, Discipleship and Legacy.
What do we mean when we say “we value intentional community.”
Intentional community for us is founded on coming to a simple conclusion: That which connects us, is much stronger and richer than which divides us.
From the beginning of time we learn that man was once intimately connected with his Creator. But disobedience lead to the first separation (Genesis 3:6, 8-9). Then pride and envy (Genesis 4:6-8). Then greed (Genesis 13:10). Then racism (Exodus 1:9-10). Then religion (Matthew 9:10-11). Amongst other things.
Yet one Man, was able to break through all of these boundary lines to restore unity between man and his Creator and between man and his fellow brother/sister.
Yes, that was Jesus.
He broke through the ultimate separation, time and space to enter into our messed up, degenerate world. He didn’t find it condescending to come down to our level. He didn’t find it burdensome to meet us where we are. But rather, it was His passion to come and restore this lost unity (John 3:16, Philippians 2:6-8).
What makes it even more amazing is that we were the ones who were wrong (Romans 5:6, 8). Yet He pursued restoration and gave it to us as a gift (Ephesians 2:8). That is good news. That is the Gospel.
Remember the two images I mentioned above? One picture intense with anger. The next picture intense with understanding. The reason is, both parties decided to put their differences aside and get to know each other. They decided to engage in intentional community.
David Anderson, shares this African proverb in his book Gracism: The Art of Inclusion:
When I saw him from afar, I thought he was a monster. When he got, closer I thought he was just an animal. When he got closer, I recognized that he was a human. When we were face to face, I realized that he was my brother.
Sometimes our boundaries are racial. Sometimes cultural. Sometimes political. Sometimes economical. But in order to break through each barrier, it always has to be intentional.
Jesus intentionally pursued you and me because He valued us. Now He sends us to intentionally pursue others regardless of race, culture, economics, political standing or position on the Ferguson case (Matthew 28:19-20).
How do you do this practically?
You change your table of community.
You intentionally reach out across the divide. You begin to engage intentionally with individuals who don’t look like you, live like you, or know what you know. You learn their struggles, their hopes and their dreams. You become a friend. Then you will become family.
That’s what we are doing at Freedom.
We are intentionally fostering a community where individuals are encouraged and able to engage in intentional community.
A community where we realize that what connects us is much stronger and richer than what divides us.
We are broken, undeserving, sinful people, who are being loved and pursued by a perfect, sinless, all deserving Savior. Through Jesus we find restoration not only with God but with each other so we can love across boundaries (Galatians 3:27-28) and make a unified, tangible difference in our community, region and world (Ephesians 2:10, Matthew 5:14-16).
Learn more about changing your table of community in this great video for someone who is living this:
Check the update at the end of the post below! Wow! Who would have thought that what began as a late night conversation between my wife and I (which my wife totally shrugged off at the time) would be coming to fruition in just 5 days! I don't know if you've heard but this coming Sunday, October 12, we are having our first monthly preview service with a series called Built for More. You maybe wondering what a preview service is.
Its a full worship celebration, almost identical to those we will have when we officially launch in March, just 6 months from now. The only difference? These services will be once a month on the second Sunday. The preview services dates and time can be found here.
So we, Team Freedom, want to give you 10 reasons why you should attend a preview service?
There you have it! 10 reasons why you should join us for our preview services starting October 12 at 10 a.m. inside Eastside Connections School!
Here's the address: 315 N 14th Street, Niles, MI 49120.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
We had an awesome time! Here are some pics >> First Preview Service