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Reflections

4 Reasons to Apologize

4 Reasons to Apologize

There was a time I sat down with someone and did something I thought I would never do in a million years. I apologized.

Not Every Day is Good

Not Every Day is Good

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.  

Capacity is Not Determined by Size

Capacity is Not Determined by Size

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.

I Surrender All... Or Do I?

I Surrender All... Or Do I?

I witnessed something the other day, and it reminded me so much of this sketch. My grandma gave it to me years ago, and I love it, because it’s a gentle reminder, for me, to let go and let God. I saw a grown woman lean into her mother’s chest for a hug. The mother stroked her hair, and they stayed like that for a long while. It kept choking me up so I had to turn away, but I couldn’t help my staring. It was so beautiful. The woman’s face looked just like the lamb’s face, calm and at rest. A God moment, for sure. How wonderful that a grown woman can still lean on her mother for comfort and love like a child.

Isn’t this what God desires from us?

4 Lessons From Church Planting

4 Lessons From Church Planting

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. 

Holy Competition

Holy Competition

I used to think I was competitive, but circumstances in my life made me do some re-evaluation and I realized that I had wrongly confused my driven nature for competitiveness. I love to win. I love to earn As in school, but at the end of the day, my strongest competitor is me. I don’t like to compete with others, and this truth made me feel “less than.” You know some competitive people. You may be one of them! And here’s some good news, God actually encourages competition. But probably not the competition that you’re used to. God loves competition that brings Him glory. He loves competition that removes us from our comfort zone and forces us to be better...for His glory. He loves competition that brings us joy...for His glory. He loves competition that is edifying and peaceful and kind.

The Trouble With Worry

The Trouble With Worry

I think there is a leak in our kitchen ceiling. I keep staring at it, waiting for it to collapse. One of my biggest phobias is a collapsing ceiling which may be weird to most, but I fear this because I've lived through it. When my oldest son was a year old, we had just moved back to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina from Arkansas. 

My husband was deployed to Afghanistan, so we moved into base housing a little early to get it prepped for his arrival. Shortly after moving in, I noticed that the ceiling in our dining area was sagging just a bit. I kept an eye on it for a few days, and it seemed to sag more and more each day. A crack appeared in the seam where the sheetrock was connected. That crack kept getting bigger and bigger, and soon, the entire thing fell through and water poured into our house!

A Steadfast Spirit

A Steadfast Spirit

I sat in the church pew at VBS, telling a friend that all she had to do to be saved was to “go to the alter and pray.” I felt bold and confident. Then, I felt scared. Terrified. I realized that I, too, needed to pray. I needed salvation.

I was eleven years old, and I didn’t really know what I needed to be “saved” from, but I knew that I needed to move. So I moved. I prayed with a VBS volunteer and cried as I asked Jesus into my heart.

The Example

The Example

I’ve been meditating on this scripture this week as I have been exploring ways to be more like Jesus in my home with my children. As they become more aware of my actions and my attitudes, I want to be sure and set an example that is pleasing to Jesus. I also want my children to know that it’s because of Jesus that I am choosing different behaviors and attitudes.

But how?

Ask God, and He provides, right? Right.

Your Last Message

Your Last Message

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 Motivates Your Response?

What Motivates Your Response?

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.

Two Words Will Change Your Life

Two Words Will Change Your Life

[This post was originally posted by Christine Mwenya at mutamwenya.com] There are two words that have stood out in my life as of late. I have heard them used while someone was sharing their testimony and I know I've heard them in a sermon or two.

But recently I read those two words in the Bible and they had an impact on me—more powerful than ever before. You see, reading those two words for myself changed my life.

For my devotion I was reading Ephesians 2:1-10. The first section of the text (vs. 1-3) is very dark. There's mention of death, sin, disobedience, lust and wrath.

But, the second half (vs. 4-10) flips-the-script.

There's talk of mercy, love, grace, heavenly places, kindness and riches.

And here, smack-dab in the middle of the two sections are those two words that make all the difference..."BUT GOD".

These two words make darkness and hopelessness disappear and leads to light and life.

See, in my life, "but" was usually followed by excuses that covered up my disappointments and failures. But as you see in the text, when God steps in darkness changes to light.

They said my marriage wouldn't last...BUT GOD

There was no money to pay the bills...BUT GOD

The trial was too hard to overcome...BUT GOD

I didn't know what my next move would be....BUT GOD

My friends had turned their backs on me...BUT GOD

I wanted to give up....BUT GOD

Today, I am thanking God for inserting Himself into my story for His glory. I am tired of the excuses of my past. The only "BUT" I want to hear, is that of God.

Oh yeah, I didn't want to write this post...BUT GOD!

Wake Up

Wake Up

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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!

I froze.

Waited.

Waited.

Yep.

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.

  • Maybe you’re just beginning to hear the little creaks in the floor as God is gently asking you to get moving on His mission.
  • Maybe you’ve been running for a while and you’re exhausted and frustrated.

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.

The Greatest Defeat

The Greatest Defeat

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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?

  1. Discover His identity. Whose are you? Do you know God? Do you understand His power? Are you in close relationship with Him? If not, this is where you start.
  2. Discover your identity. Ask God who you are to Him as you read scripture and spend quiet time in prayer. He will reveal who He made you to be--your gifts, talents, purpose, all of it. When His truth becomes your truth, everything changes.
  3. Speak truth. Safeguard your mind by speaking truth over your negative thoughts. Affirm yourself with scripture and other positive declarations.  By loving yourself, you are no longer telling God that He somehow made a mistake with you. Your heart will be open to new opportunities in relationships, in your career, in your church, in your community, and beyond.

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.

 

What's the Point?

What's the Point?

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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.

We're Not Perfect and We Proved It!

We're Not Perfect and We Proved It!

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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.

Sum Total: Truth

Sum Total: Truth

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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.

Ferguson & The Case For Intentional Community

Ferguson & The Case For Intentional Community

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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?

Intentional community.

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).

Here are some great resources by David Anderson as you begin to see how to engage in intentional community: Gracism: The Art of Inclusion & Letters Across the Divide

Learn more about changing your table of community in this great video for someone who is living this:

10 Reasons You Should Show Up

10 Reasons You Should Show Up

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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?

  1. It's probably 5 minutes from your house...everything is around the corner in Niles.
  2. You like free coffee. We won't judge you if you come back for seconds, or thirds...well maybe...kidding.
  3. You work a lot! Come enjoy some down time.
  4. You've been meaning to find a new church anyway.
  5. Are you new in town? So are we. You'll fit in great!
  6. We love kids and our Freedom Kid's team is willing to take good care of yours while you have fun with the big kids.
  7. Our service is short and straight forward.
  8. You don't have to be perfect and have your life altogether to be accepted.
  9. You know you are built for more. So we are kicking off an awesome teaching series to lead you to living out your full potential!
  10. We love Jesus, we love people and we love seeing people find freedom in Jesus.

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!

Update:

We had an awesome time! Here are some pics >> First Preview Service