WONDER // THE END OF FEAR

"Don't fear God any longer. He came as a baby, lived as a man and died the worst death to give you the best life." Pastor Josh Kelsey

THE END OF FEAR // Travis Shafer

This week Pastor Josh spoke about the birth of Jesus and the spiritual shift that accompanied His arrival. God could’ve easily brought Jesus down from Heaven with trumpets and chariots—but instead brought Jesus in the most helpless human form: a baby. In the same way, God could’ve fed the 5,000 by showering milk and honey from the sky in a dramatic display, but he chose a child’s lunch provisions. When Gideon had 22,000 members of his army in Judges 6 & 7, God could’ve delivered a victory with every soldier unscathed. Instead He chose to weaken the army, repeatedly, down to 300 men. Why?

The answer is simple: God doesn’t see weakness as failure, but as opportunity. People are quick to claim accomplishments, so God uses weakness to make His presence and providence undeniable. A humble, weak, and struggling human with even a little faith is a better leader than the self-sufficient guy who seems to have it all together. God highlights our weakness not to embarrass us, but to showcase His strength. He won’t force you to come to Him with blaring horns and clanging cymbals, but He’ll catch the eye of the faithful and the watchful by working directly through their weaknesses.

Jesus, the only person with the right to be prideful, humbled Himself—and in weakness was born as a man, in weakness died on the cross, and in resounding and timeless strength was resurrected. With such humble beginnings, God wasn’t reluctant for Jesus to be born in a manger, but in fact, had chosen that from the beginning.

Jesus will inhabit whatever space is made for Him—in a barn, in a church, in a heart, or in a conversation. Don’t be discouraged or fearful of your weakness, but have faith to see how God will step in with His strength.

WONDER // VULNERABLE GOD

reflectionsvulnerable.jpg.jpeg

VULNERABLE GOD // Jurien Huggins

This past Sunday, Filmore Bouldes preached on leadership and what that really looks like from God’s perspective. Jesus was the child of promise, someone of incredible importance. His life and His words showed that He lived within His Father’s will for Him to be a Son—that was where all His power lay, in His sonship. In all things, Jesus would refer to His Father’s word, His Father’s will and His Father’s purpose for His life. He never held tightly to His own strength but sought after that sustaining connection with His Father. At the end of His life, on the cross, in Jesus’ final moment of weakness and vulnerability, God’s fullness was truly revealed. God showed us through Jesus’ example as a leader that everything that we are, even our weaknesses, can show others who our Father is. 

This made me think about the people in this community who have cast off so much so that God’s glory, His compassion, His strength and love for us could shine through. I think that every child wants every other child to know how amazing their parents are—this wonder of the Father showed in Jesus, and it shows in us and everything that we do here.

AMBITION // AMBITIOUS PRAISE

praise.jpg.jpeg

AMIBITIOUS PRAISE // Joy Seaboch

It took me a long time to start writing this. I wanted to think of a way to sound good. To sound like I am really tuned in with exactly what God is whispering in my ear at all time, but it was in the middle of tossing back and forth about how to sound “good” that God hit me in the face with a giant fish. Well, that’s what it felt like in my mind—no sweet whisper, but a big old “Joy, look up already!” I laughed to myself for a bit thinking of how selfish I was (no fish pun intended). 

The sermon this Sunday was centered on praise, and in writing this, I completely missed it. I think that is really easy for us to do. We have a task and the first thing we do is look at how we can accomplish it to the best of our abilities. But, what are we without God? What power do I have without the Holy Spirit in me? We are called to praise God every time, everywhere. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep and even the middle parts when you’re sitting eating your 3pm bagel because it’s just been one of those days. Who am I to think that this writing has anything to do with me? Pastor Josh said, “Your eyes may have moved away if you are not abounding in thanks.” And he was right! My eyes were not set on those things that are above.

So what to do differently? Praise. Simply praise. What really stuck out to me was the phrase from this past Sunday: Praise is the overflow of faith. It is impossible not to be overtaken with praise when focused on the Creator of our very lives and everything good in this world. Your faith is not complete without praise. Ain’t that the truth?! What good were my words if they did not begin with praise to the One who allows me to write them? 

So today I praise God for hitting me in the face with that fish.

AMBITION // HEAVENLY RICHES

HEAVENLY RICHES // Shaumbé Wright

I never step on a stage without being aware of the journey that's brought me here. In the years that I've played church music, worship leading has been my greatest source of happiness and fulfillment but has also been an idol in and of itself. That was certainly unhealthy and left me in a place where I had lost my first love—Jesus, grace, and the brotherhood of believers—in favor of status, title, and working to carve out the place in the kingdom Jesus had already secured for me. Moving to New York, finding C3, and investing in individuals there, has been the most refreshing reconstructive journey that I never anticipated.

It's the greatest honor and blessing to serve with my friends here at C3. Being able to offer up my loaves and fishes—the message Pastor Josh preached last Sunday—alongside the family that has flocked around me so quickly has seriously affirmed the drive I have to invest in my city, do everything I can to partner with God in the renewal of all things, and edify others in speech, thought, and action.

The most exciting thing about it is: none of us are doing it alone. My loaves and fishes are few, and can't keep this machine rolling, but the beauty of all God has provided is this: for every shortcoming you or I bring to the canvas, the picture God is painting is completed by the complementary color offered by someone else.

And the cherry on top: the success of our endeavors isn't predicated on our work, skill, or execution. Everything that God is doing in our church, He is doing. We just get to show up and see Him move. How exciting is it to keep breaking the pieces of bread we bring only to see God multiply them over and over?

 

My heart is full in this family.

AMBITION // CALLING THE UNWILLING

CALLING THE UNWILLING // Kelyn Mock

This past Sunday, we saw in Exodus 4 that God has an ambitious plan to save the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, and He wants His plan declared through Moses. And so it is with us: God has an ambitious plan for C3 Brooklyn, a plan for all of His children to be saved from the bondage of the world into the freedom that only He can provide through our generosity and sacrifice. With a plan so grand it is easy to find ourselves having excuses—and these excuses are nothing new because we see that Moses has all the same excuses and objections that you and I still make today.

This was my story for the past year. I found myself between jobs more than I would like to admit and took a pay cut greater than my bank account was comfortable with. I made every excuse in the book to blame my financial “weakness” as to why I was unable to fulfill my Vision Builders pledge. I became unwilling to sacrifice more than I already had or what I thought I had. I failed to do it on my own and attempted to accomplish “the desire of God without the power of God,” as Pastor Josh put it. I never let God into my financial situation past my tithe, and in turn I never gave Him the chance to show His power in my weakness.  

Like Moses, I was placing too much emphasis and importance on who I am, what I can do and what I can’t  do—and not enough emphasis on the fact that if God commands me to go do something, that He promises to be with me, He will enable me and He will empower me to accomplish exactly what He has called me to do.

Matt 28:20 says, “Lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”

Pastor Josh was landing the plane on his message when I felt the Lord say to me, “Kelyn, what you have to know about me is that the will for your life will never be trumped or thwarted by your weakness or unwillingness.” Man, I am so thankful that God will meet me in my unwillingness to show what He is able to do through my willingness to sacrifice my comfort.

We serve an ambitious God with an ambitious plan, so as we step out in faith into Vision Builders and Vision Sunday, may we be a church where God’s glory shines through our willingness, weakness and sacrifice.

AMBITION // COUNT THE STARS

COUNT THE STARS // Katie Eberle

The ability to hope and the vision to dream are such beautiful gifts from God. That He designed us to be unique and ambitious in our talents, gifts, and the dreams we chase after shows how much our Father loves us.

Sunday's message was a fresh reminder of the beautiful plans that our Creator has for us. Ambition, when reframed and brought back to its truest and God-intended form, reveals that our lives are meant to seek Him, His purposes and His commands to love and serve others.

In Genesis 15, when God brings Abram out of his tent and shows him the heavens and the stars, God reveals that He has an intention that is far greater than what Abram could imagine. He pulls Abram out of the enclosure he’s created around himself through desire and wanting, and reminds him how much more He has in store.

At times, I find myself surrounded by the collection of ambitions, aspirations, and goals  I’ve stacked up for my life. No matter how hard I work or how fast I run, without Jesus breathing His direction and purpose into these desires, I bump into the ceiling of this tent I’ve built around myself. My path forward becomes blurry and my abilities watered down. Rather than staying confined, God gently beckons me to step outside. He calls me to lift my eyes, to live freely as a citizen of heaven, and to trust in His eternal faithfulness. He has designed me for Him, and I know that striving for anything without Him will not yield. 

While reflecting on this, I pictured a generation pulling down the walls and limitations of self-seeking ambition and instead standing united under the open sky and stars that represent His promises, in awe at the beautiful design our Creator intends for our lives. A generation believing with all our hearts that God's plans are infinitely better than if we stay inside the tents of our own striving. As Ps. Josh said, we can be a people that advances beyond worldly desires, that stands strong in the promises of our Heavenly Father and reclaims our desire to build and serve the kingdom of God.

MOTEL // ETERNAL TALK

ETERNAL TALK // Jordan Labbe

The innermost parts of us — from our brains to our souls and spirits — are powerful tools God has given us to experience His glory. There is an internal dialogue that takes place in the mind, influencing our thoughts and the lives we lead. We also have a capacity for an eternal dialogue — a constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit where we are impassioned into expressions of praise. Through our worship we are equipped to fight against a mindset of slavery, which produces shame and condemnation, and step into the freedom of His love. Just as David exclaims in Psalm 103 and 123, we have this incredible ability to call upon our freedom, Jesus, at any moment!

I am a witness of the outcome that praise brings. Every time I choose to look towards heaven with eyes that are expectant and a heart that is eager to worship with all that is within me, I am overwhelmed by an outpouring of His steadfast love. It is through this surrender that I am able to see who God is, and see who I am through Him. 

I’ve found myself in the fray of wind and storms that try and pull me towards isolated ways of thinking and living. But God has given us this promise — that when we seek Him, we will find him. As Pastor Josh reminded us, seeking the heart of God is how we discover and let our soul know who we are — eternal beings destined for eternal love. And we can no longer live lives that are led by fear or consumed by our own insufficiencies. When we fix our eyes on Jesus and remember the redemptive work of the cross, we are found anew in identity and purpose. We are revived by the river of everlasting love. Our hearts are ravished into a transformed life, by mercy that stretches as far as the east is from the west. How blessed we are, that Jesus is our God, and we are His beloved! The Lord is compassionate, merciful — and deals with us not according to our iniquities but according to His abounding love.

Think of what would happen if the thoughts we entertained, the words we spoke and the relationships we cultivated were all done with a remembrance and reverence of God’s love towards us! This is why we lift our eyes time and time again and position our hearts to receive.

It was David’s greatest mistakes that revealed who God was in his life. I’m so encouraged by this truth — Christ’s strength is revealed in our weaknesses, His presence re-defines us. This bold decision to make our internal dialogue with an eternal God gives us the ability to live a life transformed, redeemed and with a perspective of heaven. 

MOTEL // CITIZENS OF HEAVEN

CITIZENS OF HEAVEN // Janice Kertcher

Our culture depicts heaven as angels with harps, or lions and baby sheep hanging out together in a meadow.  The concept of heaven can often feel so abstract and yet God is calling us to switch our thinking from the temporal (earth) to the eternal (heaven). We don't often equate the words 'heaven' and 'citizenship', but that's precisely what Pastor Josh did this Sunday. 

To know we are citizens of heaven is a call to not identify with our earthly belongings, walk in the authority we have as ambassadors, live in unity with others and have peace knowing we have a Heavenly Father who has made heaven accessible to us by His grace. Our citizenship of heaven does not depend on whether or not we've got all of our spiritual and practical ducks in a row. Instead, God has chosen to make heaven available to us through grace, His unmerited favor. 

Knowing that I am a citizen of heaven pushes me to think beyond what I see in front of me — to accept that I will never fully be satisfied with this world because I was not meant for it. If I'm honest, keeping my thoughts on eternal things rather than temporary things can be a bit of a challenge for me when I'm focusing on what I see instead of the unseen. Accepting that I am a citizen of heaven means finding my identity not in what I do or what I have, but Who I belong to!

MOTEL // Fear Runs, Faith Clings

REFLECTIONSFAITH.jpg

MOTEL // Brian Brister

Sunday was incredible. 

My friends know that I overuse that word on the regular, but it's the most perfect word to describe all that happened this past Sunday in the life of our church—we launched our third location! C3 Downtown became a reality with standing room only at The Bowery Ballroom.

From the beginning of even just talking about it, it simply seemed like the next logical step for our church. However, I didn't give much thought about what it would actually feel like to be in a new location until the week before. All throughout the week, it would hit me that we were launching, and I would freak out with excitement all over again. Saturday evening, the team was talking about how it felt like Christmas Eve as we prepared to lean in to the vision of C3 by launching our new location. That feeling was so real. 

I could barely sleep Saturday night because I was so excited about all that God was going to do in the lives in this city. As we met for the morning huddle, it was amazing to see the excitement on everyone'a faces—and to realize that everyone was feeling the same way I was. I love that we have a great worship team that ushers us into the presence of God and that we have a wonderful creative team who creates next level content every week to enhance the experience, but more importantly, I love that every team grasps hold to the fact that our mission is people and that, above all, our goal is to create a welcoming environment for people to experience God's love for the first, second or one thousandth time. 

Pastor Josh kicked off our first message at Downtown by sharing a bit of the history of C3 Brooklyn, and it was so good to hear a bit of our past to align our hearts and propel us into the future. We can find the beauty and love of God in everything. His voice is in the sunrise and sunset, in the pages of our Bibles or in the whisper of the wind. God is there for us in every situation, and this is the eternal purpose of our lives: to love God and love people and to direct people to Christ by the lives we live.

I've teared up multiple times out of sheer joy of what was happening and all of the lives that are going to experience God through this new location. We truly are a church for the people of New York City. It's just the beginning. 

DRIVE // CENTER

CENTER // Shantella Patterson

When I think of the word “center,” I immediately think “heart.”  My heart is small in size, but it plays an essential part in keeping me alive by pumping oxygen and blood through my veins.

Earlier this year God revealed the word “love” to me.  The issue I was facing wasn’t about me not loving others; it was about me not yet recognizing the love that God has for me. I had always been able to see God’s grace and love for everyone else, but I felt excluded from it. It was time for me to finally and truly accept God’s love for me and the truth that I am chosen and forgiven. It was time for me to realize that the fear, guilt and shame that I felt were not from God, and that the lie that I had believed that I wasn’t good enough or that I was broken kept me paralyzed from fully receiving God’s love. I began to see that the key to truly receiving the grace that God has extended to me is to surrender to it.

This Sunday Pastor Josh shared an amazing message about keeping God at the center.  When we keep God at the center of our lives, we walk in freedom from the lies of the enemy.  Living a life fully surrendered to God allows us to grow and flourish, not just as individuals, but also together as a church.  We cannot know our true selves until we know Jesus. The picture of the vine illustrated the growth and impact that we have on this city together as a community. Keeping God at the center of our lives keeps our eyes focused on Him and not ourselves, allowing us to see Christ’s continuous grace. Doing so has an impact not only on my life, but on my church family and the community.

DRIVE // THIRST

reflections-thirst2.jpg

THIRST // Chris Farace

At this past Sunday’s Bushwick service, Pastor Josh spoke about when Jesus encountered the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda. Comparing the man’s physical state to the state of a human spirit with sin and without Christ, he explained that it is Jesus who calls us out from our spiritual sickness—but it's up to us to respond, get up and walk.

I've found in my life that as humans, we love the idea of trying to fix ourselves and paying for our wrongs through legalistic and self-condemning actions. In the man’s case, the only way to receive healing was to drag himself to the pool, to be the first there, to regard the sabbath, etc., but for us, it's trying to justify and make up for wrong which more often than not results in us feeling far from God, isolating ourselves from Him and the community He's placed us in. The truth is that Jesus has empowered us to walk free from this paralysis by surrendering to His loving and graceful ways—and responding to His call to get up and walk confidently in Him, regardless of how we feel or think we need to justify ourselves.

As a teenager, Holy Spirit once told me, “I am never further away from you than the closest I've ever been to you.” This has always challenged me when I feel like I'm further from God because of my actions and reminds me that because of His unconditional love and grace, He's always right there with a smile on face. I can walk confidently before Him, not being bound by sin but being free and empowered to live out the life He has called me to live.

It is truly up to us. He has called us to not only encounter Him daily—but to encounter a life full of love, joy, peace, fulfillment, passion and desire. He’s freed us from sin, healed us from spiritual paralysis, showered us with His love and calls us to get up and walk the life that He has destined for us confidently with Him by our side.

DRIVE // STRONG SURRENDER

STRONG SURRENDER // Makenzi Koyen

Whenever a new season approaches, I think it’s natural to sit down and reflect. We ask ourselves questions like, “What am I doing?” and “Where am I going in life?" We always want to know our purpose and make sure we’re on "the right track.” Lately, I’ve been asking myself, how do you stay on the right track once you’re on it?

Something that really woke me up this past Sunday was when Pastor Josh said that “Purpose is discovered in surrender.” I’m thinking, ok great, done—but what does that look like? He continued to say, “The way to be strong is to give up; give up on your own efforts and you will be strong in His purpose.” This was a huge perspective shift for me, because so often we think that “giving up” is a sign of weakness, when actually it’s what makes you stronger. When we choose to surrender to our God and His purpose for us—when we choose love, power and a sound mind and we don’t give into fear—all the crazy parts of our life seem to look smaller. We allow for our spiritual maturity to grow because we’re holding onto less and less each day. 

God is not leaning on us, and He’s not in a rush—therefore we don’t need to lean on others to fulfill our life nor be in a hurry in order for our life to be significant. It is significant because of Him. 

Sunday evening, I brought a friend with me to church and she gave her life to Christ that night. I remember thinking that if I had not chosen the spirit of love that day, or if I had allowed my current circumstances to be at the center of my life and rule over my emotions, I don’t think I would have invited her to come with me, and this revelation of her faith would never have happened.

How many other people in my life have I walked by and not seen what God was trying to show me because I was wrapped up in my own situation or because I was in a rush? It became clear to me that when we don’t surrender to God and His purpose, we will easily overlook what He has done in us and what He wants to do for others through us. I don’t want to keep walking through life blindly. I don’t want to keep allowing the enemy to confuse me with images that make it confusing and fill my spirit with fear. I want to see clearly. It’s that simple.

DRIVE // WHAT'S DRIVING YOU?

WHAT'S DRIVING YOU? // Courtney Maddox

This Sunday Pastor Josh spoke from John 11 when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It was the first message kicking off our new Drive series—a life driven by purpose. In John 11, Jesus performed His last miracle before His final moment on the cross. What struck me most was the fact that Jesus had been performing miracles left and right for people He hardly knew at all up until this point. He healed the blind, lame, sick, proud—and did so continuously with love.

So when Martha and Mary, two of Jesus’ best friends, told Him their brother Lazarus, who Jesus loved so much, was sick, Jesus was expected to do what He always did—move immediately and rush to Lazarus’ side to heal him. Well, that didn’t happen. Jesus heard the news and stayed where He was. He waited. Two days before making the 2-day journey to see him. So at this point, Lazarus was really stinky dead. How often do I pray to God and ask Him earnestly to move because I know that's what He does? Isn’t His purpose to heal and love me? When I pray and ask Him for help because I'm struggling, I expect the miracle to happen quickly. I expect Him to answer.

But that’s not how God works. He is patient and loving and moves when the miracle gives Him (not me) the glory. Think about it: Jesus’ very best friends, His crew, His fam, they 100% knew that if Jesus healed all these random people, He would most certainly move even quicker for them. But He didn’t! Not because He wasn’t aware of the situation at hand, but because there was purpose in His timing. Sometimes I really do find myself in a “God is real only if He does this for me personally” mindset. It is hard waiting on God to act when I see Him making moves in other people’s lives. But when He does act in His timing, He receives all the glory! And teaches me that His purpose for my life is better than anything I can come up with on my own.

HUMAN // FULLY ALIVE

 
IMG_9771.png
 

FULLY ALIVE // Henry Lopez

The message this Sunday really blew me away. I felt inspired and convicted at the same time. Pastor Josh preached with so much passion about the unconditional love Jesus has for us. We can come to Him just as we are, even though at times I feel like I’m not doing things correctly. None of us are perfect, and Jesus already knows this. I thought it was significant how Pastor Josh broke down the meaning of being, “the salt of the earth.” I didn’t understand it at first, but now I see how crazy it is that basically God is making us living preservers of His grace to everyone we encounter.

I was actually really nervous about getting baptized on Sunday, but in the best way possible. I wanted to take things to the next level in my relationship with God. If it was good for Jesus to do, it's ok for me—and it was surreal to seeeveryone else taking that step too. The vibe in the room was so powerful and I could feel the chains falling off of people as they were lifted out of the water. And so I’m excited to learn about our Creator and find my true identity in Him. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a marathon, not a race. This world can be very confusing without the Word and the guidance we receive from it. It’s such a blessing to have a family like C3, with Pastors Josh and Georgie at the core, to learn it with.

HUMAN // RICH TOWARD GOD

reflectionsrich.jpg

RICH TOWARD GOD // Mariah Story

Greed is never something that is easy for us to admit. Actually, finding the humility admit our own greed to ourselves can be the hardest part. It comes in so many forms that it can be difficult to identify at times--because it doesn't always look the same. Greed is considered an intense and selfish desire, especially when it comes to wealth or power. And it's easy to think that greed doesn't apply to us because we often see it is as only having to do with money, but it goes so much further than that. We can be greedy with our money, our time, our relationships, or maybe even our belongings. However big or small it may seem, greed is an issue that needs to be dealt with because it's a heart issue.

I have never really felt greedy when it came to money, so I was one of those people who felt it just didn't apply to me. But as Filmore was preaching Sunday evening, the Lord started to reveal areas in my heart that I needed to take a step back, re-examine and re-align. The closer I looked from a different perspective, the more I saw greed in other areas of my life. I realized that I can be greedy with my time, because sometimes I just don't feel like there is enough time in the day to get everything I need to done. And maybe too much of my time lately has been focused on me and less on others. I realized I can be greedy even with what I choose to give my attention to. When things seem to be going wrong, it's easy for me to pay more attention to myself and my problems instead of on others and how I can encourage them. Sometimes I might give my attention to some people in my life, more than others—the list goes on.

But here is the beauty I am seeing in all of this—even with all the things in my heart that I see wrong, it's still through a lens of love. It's the reality that God loves me so much that He wants to change me from the inside out, to make me the best possible version of myself. And having a soft and pliable heart gives Him the groundwork to come in and transform the soil of my heart. Out of the overflow of that will always come generosity. 

The Bible calls us to be a generous kind of people because we serve a generous Father. When we hold Jesus on the throne of our hearts, our deepest desires will naturally be to see God's desires fulfilled in our life and greed won't even have a place to take root.

HUMAN // THE POLITICS OF JESUS

REFLECTIONSBEATITUDES.jpg

THE POLITICS OF JESUS // Mike Akins

Jesus’s whole life was contrary to what people believed it would be. The promised Lord and King who would someday overthrow standing governments came as a child born in the lowliest of ways, raised in an insubstantial family and town. Because Jesus was a prophet who was more lamb than lion in all earthly appearances, many questioned His claim to the throne. 

Even in His life here on earth, Christ displays what is to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Within the sermon on the mount, Jesus speaks of the Beatitudes, a picture what the people of His Kingdom will look and act like. Jesus says that they will be poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, pure, peaceful, and persecuted. These are characteristics the Israelites clearly did not expect that the people of a new and powerful kingdom would look like, but intrinsically these are the characteristics that make us human. Our claim to a seat at the King of King and Lord of Lords' throne comes from our realization and revelation of our reliance on Him.

This is where I struggle often. It reminds me of when I played soccer in high school, and we had a two-month conditioning and tryout period. Then, after being selected, I would have to continue at that pace in order to keep my starting role. I had to consistently perform at a high level so I would be seen and sought after and loved. But the Beatitudes that Jesus announced on the mountaintop trump this way of thinking. We can all tend to feel like we need to prove ourselves as spiritually sound and strong to really be a part of this "supernatural" Kingdom, but here we see the opposite. God invites us to bring the "natural" into the equation so that He can then supply the “super." By humbling ourselves and realizing our need for Him, we are invited into so much more than we could ever accomplish on our own!

HUMAN // SHAMELESS BOLDNESS

PRAYERREFLECTIONS.jpg

SHAMELESS BOLDNESS // Paula Lark

He is my friend, He is my Father, He is good, and He is unlike anything that this world could offer me. I think because of how I learned to respond to my earthly father, I have always had a hard time talking to God about what I needed. I grew up learning that if I needed something, I had to work for it. Love came through my actions, and what I could do. So through that, I grew to always be silent in my needs, and I tended to work through it all on my own.  But while we might learn to be timid on earth, that is not what our heavenly Father wants for us. 

My heavenly Father flips what being a father looks like around. I can come to Him knowing full well that He will meet me, that He is waiting for me every morning, every second of my day, saying, “I love you Paula, you can talk to me about anything, ask for anything. Seek me, and you will find that I am good—and the plans and thoughts I have for you are good. I am your peace, and I am your rest. Everything you need is in me.” 

I thank God that He is transforming my prayer life from silence and anxiety to praise and thanksgiving. I now come to Him because I know that He is good and that all that I need is in Him. So when I speak with Him, I am drawn to first praise Him, to thank Him, to worship Him, and through that, I receive His peace and rest. I can ask Him for things not out of a place for worry or fear, but from a place of faith and belief that He wants to move in my life and in others even more than I do.

HUMAN // FOUND IN CHRIST

FOUND IN CHRIST // Tyler Shick

Tears are incredible.

The human body produces, on the most basic level, three different types of tears—not surprisingly, for three distinct purposes.

They’re more commonly referred to as Basal, Reflex, and Psychic tears.

Psychic tears, otherwise known as ‘emotional’ tears (crying or weeping), have a completely unique chemical makeup than the others which includes, most notably, the hormone Leu-enkephalin, a natural painkiller.

I experienced Psychic tears this past Sunday morning as I sat and listened to two of the greats in our community, Nathalie David and Samuel Nicolosi, recount stories of tragedy and great suffering in their lives. I was overcome with emotion as Samuel, a dear friend of mine, exposed his deepest wounds to the congregation. Through his accounts of identity restoration, he took the Church on a journey into the heart of a loving Father and vividly affirmed in us that Jesus keeps absolutely no record of his (or our) wrongs.

Nathalie then re-lived for us, with such courage and grace, her darkest moment and how, just a few years prior, her first-born son had passed away in the hospital moments after birth.

Absolutely devastating circumstances.

With remarkable strength and confidence, she went on to say that she knew this story—this tragedy—was divinely meant for her to live out. That she was to “[use her] story to truly build the stepping stones for someone else to experience God.”

It’s wild to think that the tears that Samuel and Nathalie cried during those times of distress, heartbreak and pain have not gone to waste. Not a single tear was shed in vain or into the ground, never to be seen again.

Although Psychic tears scientifically serve a purpose (they literally makes us feel better), God, in true redemptive fashion, uses them for an even greater purpose—to heal others. He takes the ocean of our shed tears and distills them down into a potent healing agent for others to experience and share in. He turns our testimony into an antidote for someone else.

Another way to look at it is that our tears are like seeds, with the fruit that they eventually bear being hope, purpose, relief and perspective for others that are walking through the very moments that we have survived.

Wiping away Psychic tears upon hearing the stories of Samuel and Nathalie, I found myself flushed with comfort and peace. The burdens I carried into service now felt lighter and worry’s grip loosened. As I left Sunday my faith was strengthened, my hope in Jesus affirmed and my commitment to His Kingdom solidified. That's the power of testimony.

That's the power in our story.

HUMAN // FORGIVENESS

relfectionsforgiveness.jpg

FORGIVENESS // Elizabeth Grzebielucha

This Sunday, Dr. Robi said, “We must reconcile our past to get on with our future.” How do we do this though? Sometimes the hurts that have happened to us are overwhelming and can derail us from the path we have ahead of us. There is something in the pain we hold on to or that we find identity in, so it’s hard to let go. As Dr. Robi put it, we “nurse, curse and rehearse” what has happened in out lives. Sometimes it is all that we have known, all that we have seen for so long that there is comfort in the dark place of holding on. But this is not the place we are made to live in. We are made to live in the light and without that weight on our shoulders. 

We cannot change the past but we can look forward to the future. God has given us forgiveness just for that—to heal our souls and bring us back to Him. As humans, we were extended grace when Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins. With forgiveness we can extend that same grace to other people, not for their benefit but for our own. As we hold on to the hurt in our hearts we are only holding ourselves back from living fully how we were intended to live, as a reflection of God our Father. 

Forgiveness is a choice to pick up our own hurt and immerse it in the love of Jesus, to choose to say, “This day, I will no longer dwell or meditate on the bad.” It is a sacrifice of our own right to take revenge and to let God take care of it. It is trusting that God will do as He has said that He will. Lastly, forgiveness is a gift that has been given with no strings attached, which speaks more about the kind of God that He is than who we are. 

We all have baggage that we have been holding on to, but this Sunday it struck me that it’s time to accept our own forgiveness and move forward to forgive others. Now we can let go of the hurt that has been put in our lives, and with the help of Jesus Christ, we can live in the freedom of God’s grace. 

HUMAN // HEART'S SOIL

HEART'S SOIL // Michael Bruce

Preaching on the parable of the sower, Pastor Mark walked us through each area a seed might fall onto, and how important it is to transplant those seeds into the fresh, good soil when we see them, whether that be our friends, family, or work colleagues. He described how root systems grow in a pot, and eventually a plant becomes so large that the pot itself can no longer contain it. We have to break the pot—or better yet, let others break it for us—in order to enable more growth. The best person to break the pot is the person sitting next to you.

The thought of someone breaking the structure I’m currently growing in frightens me, but I realized that if that pot never breaks, no future growth can take place. And this scares me even more, the idea of never growing. If we don’t allow ourselves to grow, then we will remain constant, only producing the exact same fruit time after time. 

To be long-lasting fruit bearers, we must continually be breaking our spiritual clay pots, allowing for more revelation and wisdom to come in and take hold in our life. With the complete access of the Lord through the cross, we gain the ability to grow in Him eternally.

As I live out this message in my daily life this week, I’m challenged to evaluate the people I allow to come along and break my pot for additional growth. I never want to stop expanding my root system. I’m ready to go out and break some pots and see how impactful that type of growth will be on our city.