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making the connection | July 30, 2017

July 26, 2017

It was a dark & stormy night… but seriously, it was dark and stormy as the disciples made their way across the Sea of Galilee. Somewhere between three and six in the morning, things got a lot spookier. A figure was seen in the distance walking on the water. Now, take a moment to imagine how you’d feel if thunder and lightning woke you up out of a dead sleep at three in the morning. Your adrenaline would be pumping, right? What if, on top of all this, you were to open your eyes and see a figure you didn’t quite recognize or expect? I don’t know about you, but I’d jump out of my skin. Jesus seemed to think this was a perfect time to teach the disciples about His true identity and the role of faith. Maybe there’s something like a “dark and stormy night” in your life that Jesus wants to use to teach you about faith in Him. Peter helps us see how to respond in the midst of scary situations.

In Matthew 14:22-34, we read how Jesus was walking on the water and approached the disciple’s boat saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” The words “It is I” can also be translated as “I am.” Jesus is telling them who He really is. He is the one who created seas and storms. He is God. Peter’s response to Jesus is a little shocking. Still not seeing Jesus clearly, Peter says, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.” The Lord calls back to him, “Come.” Nothing about the circumstances had become safer or less scary. Jesus didn’t make the sun rise and the storm cease. In our lives, He wants us to trust Him in spite of threatening circumstances too.

Peter trusted Christ and stepped out of the boat. He didn’t let fear of danger or failure keep him from obedience to Jesus’ calling. Though he began to sink, his trust in the Lord’s ability to save and protect grew. Jesus caught and saved Peter. Then the storm stopped. That night the disciples worshipped the Lord like never before.

Christ can use difficult or ominous situations in our lives to help us see Him, respond to His call on our lives, step out of our comfort zones, actively trust Him moment-by-moment, and bring us deeper in our worship of Him. If you want to have a ripple effect for God’s sake, you’ve got to get in the water. Stop allowing the safety of the boat and threatening conditions hold you back from His call. –Nate Metler

making the connection | July 23, 2017

July 20, 2017

As a kid, I used to enjoy tossing stones into the perfectly still lake we were staying by while on vacation. I would sometimes try to count all the ripples it created. I soon discovered that I could not keep up with the multiple ripples the stones created.

A few years ago, I looked up John and paid him a visit. He had a profound impact on me as a typical, ornery high school boy. He lived out Jesus to me in a way I could understand and wanted to replicate. Not long before I left for college he encouraged me to invest in others for the purpose of helping them see Christ more clearly and follow Him more wholeheartedly. I knew how much I appreciated what John had done for me and the impact his life had in my walk with God that I eagerly looked forward to seeing how God might use me.

As John and I enjoyed several meals together I shared with him how grateful I was that he had taken time to intentionally pour into me. I shared story after story of students and adults that God had allowed me to have a season of time with. As I flew back home that weekend I couldn’t help but think about where my life might have tracked out if it weren’t for John choosing to follow God’s prompting in his life to pursue me and show me in everyday life what living as a Christ follower could look like.

What a ripple effect! God desires for all of us to make our lives available for His plans and purposes. And when we follow His lead we can look forward to seeing God create a ripple effect through our lives. You may be thinking, “What could I ever do for God of significance?” That’s the wrong thing to focus on. Leave that part up to God and remember, if anything of spiritual significance is to happen He has to be the one to do it. Our focus should be to trust that God wants to use us in our circles of influence to love people with His love. As we do this, over time, we will see God using our faithfulness to Him to make a difference in people’s lives. Don’t get tripped up on the size or scope of what you are doing. Just stay focused on what He makes you aware of. Keep in mind, no deed done for God is too small or insignificant.

Is there someone in your life that clearly had a “ripple effect” on you? Let them know that… Give them a call this week, send them a note, or post a thank you photo of them on your social media with a story of their impact on you (#therippleeffect)   Scott Nieveen

making the connection | July 16, 2017

July 13, 2017

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

When we talk about baptism, we say it is an outward symbol of an inward transformation of faith. It’s about declaring to the world an identity-shaping truth. Our faith in Christ has changed reality for us. The change happens from the inside out. After Jesus was baptized, God the Father spoke from heaven the words we see in Luke 3:22. When we publicly declare our faith through baptism, we are saying, “I am new in Christ” and “What God says about Jesus Christ His Son, is true for me as well.” We are His, we are loved by Him, and He is well pleased with us.

One of the challenges to understanding baptism is that it isn’t about what we do. The outward act of getting baptized and the water are not creating a change for us. They are symbols. Nothing we could do would earn the gift of salvation in Christ. Baptism is a public pledge to trust in Christ’s death and resurrection. Going under the water represents our dying with Him. Coming up represents our new life in the risen Lord. The symbolic act of baptism mirrors our inward pledge of faith in Him.

Baptism is a symbol of our freedom and our relationship. We declare our freedom from sin thanks to Christ’s work on our behalf. No longer are we slaves to sin and death. Through faith, we have a new and personal relationship with the God of the Universe. He is always with us. We have Him listening, guiding, and giving us hope in every circumstance. We are also saying our family includes the body of believers, the church. Baptism is the celebration of new life. The church celebrates on earth echoing the celebration in heaven. Jesus says in the story of the Prodigal Son: “We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:32)
 –Nate Metler

making the connection | July 9, 2017

July 6, 2017

Think about how different churches are from each other. Some celebrate communion every week, some maybe once a month. Some use wine, others juice. They perform baptisms differently. Some sprinkle, others dunk. And they may or may not baptize infants. Churches can be particular about what translation of the Bible they do or do not use: King James, NIV, ESV, The Message, etc. Music styles differ between churches as well. Some prefer electric guitars, drums, and modern songs, while others prefer pipe organs, choirs, and hymns.

These differences shouldn’t really be a problem, but far too often we get hung up on them. We care more about the things that can divide us rather than what unifies us. And, unfortunately, we’re good at tearing other Christians and churches apart because of these differences. You probably don’t have to think too hard to remember negative things you’ve heard Christians say about churches or other Christians.

But what do you think could happen if we stopped focusing on the differences between our preferences and just focused on the essentials? Maybe the rest would sort of follow along and sort itself out. Wouldn’t that be refreshing? In order for that to happen we need to know what’s essential, what our main thing needs to be. Paul points us to the answer in his letter to the Ephesians:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all… So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. (Ephesians 4:4-5, 11-16, NIV)

There’s a great phrase that speaks to Paul’s point: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity. Let’s relax a bit on the non-essentials. And let’s focus on the essentials: in Christ we are one body. And He is building us up “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” – Sarah Neel

The Ripple Effect

July 5, 2017

Have you ever thrown a rock into a body of water to watch the ripples expand in different directions? Is this a picture of your own life? When we give our lives to Christ are we hoping to just get into heaven, or are we wanting to make waves (in a good way)? Regardless, all ripples create some type of reaction. What type of ripple effect are you having on those around you? Join us for this new series to learn how each step of faith we take writes more of our story, and how our story can ripple into the lives of others, literally changing history.

Join us on Sundays at 9 and 10:45am (with children’s programming for infant through 6th grade).

 

Freedom

June 28, 2017

This weekend, across our country, we will be celebrating. We will grill out, play games, and watch fireworks to celebrate our country’s independence – our freedom. As a backdrop are the stories we’ve been told of our founding fathers, courageous leaders, and the men and women who have served and sacrificed. And although we’ll celebrate, we must also remember that freedom is never free – it always comes at a cost. While we won’t be grilling out or shooting off fireworks, we’d love for you to join us for great coffee and awesome worship as we explore the keys to lasting freedom.

Join us THIS Sunday, 9am and 10:45am, as Scott Greene teaches the sermon, Freedom.

making the connection | July 2, 2017

June 27, 2017

One of the greatest privileges we have in America is the freedom we are given. And when used in light of the Golden Rule, (treat others as you want to be treated) freedom can be a great thing. However, oftentimes people can express their freedom with mostly selfish interests in mind.

Jesus was about freedom as well, but it’s found in a different way than just having freedom to choose what you want. Jesus knows all the things we could focus on in our lives. And some of these things might seem like the freedom we actually want, but rather lead to unhealthy dependence and not being life-giving.

In John 10:10b, Jesus said “my purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Jesus wants to help every person discover the life they can have as a follower of His. The key in this is realizing that true life cannot be found apart from Jesus. Oh sure, you can find lots of versions of life that will work OK… for a while. But in order to find true life, peace and contentment – this kind of life is only found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it (Matthew 10:39). I love to be in control of my life and steer it toward my desired outcomes. However, when I have trusted God with my best in mind, I have experienced His freedom and love. When I face things in life apart from God and in my own strength, I might end up accomplishing something, but I am often left feeling tired and alone. God’s design is for us to join Him in His plan using the abilities and personality He has given us. He has daily roles for us to play in each other’s lives, but we have to take our focus off of achieving our goals and consider the needs of those around us. This is hard because it means we have to die to our selfish desires and put other needs ahead of our wants.

So, how about you? In what area of your life do you need to trust God’s lead more? Do you really believe He has your best in mind – that following His plan will ultimately be life-giving?

Talk to God about your responses to these questions. Ask Him to help you have more faith and belief in His goodness and that He wants to bring you a rich and satisfying life.

­– Scott Nieveen