November 1st, 2014

Reflections on the Students' Retreat

Desert's End Church Community

 

As I was thinking over the DE-Students retreat this past weekend, three words came to mind: Teamwork, Vulnerability, and Unity.  But the question isn’t so much, “Do we understand what these words mean?” The question is, “Are we actively implementing these truths to our lives?” 

There is always something to look forward to about going on a retreat… the road trip, the sleeping bags, the brisk mornings... and the endless food, of course! Since midterms, I have become the stereotypical stressed-out college student, so I found myself eagerly looking forward to the retreat. Finally, the much-awaited day arrived, and we all met at ASU on Friday afternoon to go up to Flagstaff. After stuffing the cars within an inch of their lives and loading up Mrs. Lilia’s hands-down, amazing burritos- we set off. Upon arriving at the cabin, we made ourselves at home with a roaring fire, toasty s'mores, and some flannel pajamas. With the retreat officially underway, we gathered in the family room, brought out the guitar, and began to sing and pray. If that doesn’t properly kick-off a retreat, I don’t know what does.  

When thinking of the word, “Team,” my brain automatically switches to basketball mode. A sports team is a collection of people all uniting together for a specific purpose. Romans 12:4-5 says, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

You know what hit me this weekend? The church is a team. What makes an effective team? Commitment. In Christian society today, this is not common. It’s easy to boast about the love of God, but are we committed to love each other for the long run, even when disagreements pile up? When the going gets tough and our church makes decisions we aren’t proud of, how do we respond? Do we pack our bags and head off to find a more “holy” church? You won’t find one. The goal of the Church is to deepen faith and to bear with each other’s burdens. But we will never reach that deeper faith if we aren’t committed to each other and to the work God has for us together.

Vulnerability is a word not many people like to use in our society. To many, being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. But to Christ, vulnerability is a sign of strength. On Friday night as we sang worship songs something changed in us. As prayers began to be spoken, the words were not merely aired to sound spiritual, they were praises to our King mixed with cries from desperate hearts. “God, I am so broken, how can you love me?” “God, you are our God, and with You I can face the world!” were just a few of the phrases prayed. And while some may read these phrases and not think anything of it, something was happening within our college team...

The masks were falling.

Many people find themselves in this trap of ‘playing Christian’: Go to church, smile, look happy, pretend your life is perfect, and leave feeling more exhausted than when you came. Being the pastor’s kid, I had a mask where I tried to be perfect in every aspect. How could the church love me if they truly knew who I was, or what I had done? Better play it safe and not let anyone truly see who I am. But as we were praying in that living room, I looked around and saw tears. Ones were crying because of the brokenness of their flesh, yet rejoicing in the redeeming, healing, and acceptance found in Christ. We could stand before God together, because we knew we were His. I looked down at my song sheet and was struck by the third verse of Before the Throne of God Above:

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb

My perfect, spotless Righteousness

The great unchangeable I AM

The King of glory and of grace

One with Himself, I cannot die

My soul is purchased by his blood

My life is hid with Christ on high

With Christ my Savior and my God

My soul is purchased by his blood. I am freed of my brokenness, and I can gladly throw down my mask. Because. Jesus. Died. Hallelujah!  

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:11-12

Unity is something we strive for in the Church: unity in our marriages, unity in our families and our jobs. But from this weekend, I have learned 3 things about unity and the body of Christ:

  1. Unity requires commitment.
    You must be committed to your church and the work God has for you there: serving the body of Christ isn’t a suggestion, it’s a command.

  2. Unity requires vulnerability.
    In order to effectively be the body of Christ that He wants us to be, we must bear with each other’s burdens. Part of that is being honest about the struggles in your life.

  3. Unity requires Jesus.
    While this may seem obvious, it cannot be stressed enough. In order to be the people God wants us to be, our relationship with God must be our foremost priority. As we seek Him more and more, our love for the church will grow, and the desire to serve the church will expand as well.

I love our church and I love seeing God break down walls to draw His people to Himself. I know it’s hard to follow Jesus and that it’s hard to be committed to the body. But we’re in this life together and until God directs otherwise, I want to be committed to Desert’s End Church Community with all my heart!

This is a guest post by Gracie McGeehon. She blogs at Bold & Thirsty.

October 13th, 2014

Overcome the World

Desert's End Church Community

 

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4, ESV)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4, ESV)

Jesus makes two statements of fact. First, that you will have tribulation. Pain. Trial. Hurt. Suffering. It is both inside you and all around you. You are born into a broken earth. No amount of insulation or self-medicating will shield you from the difficulties that every religion in the world attempts to explain.

Second, "I have overcome the world". Jesus the God-man stooped to the level of man, to the level of death, to the level of the curse, and overcame it in love and righteousness. The holiness of the Christ could not be held by Hell. Acts 2 illustrates this. He was "crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men", but "God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it".

The first truth is easy to believe. No one needs to be told that no one is perfect, and that this place is painful. But it is reassuring that Christianity does not dismiss the reality of suffering as an illusion of our minds. But the second truth–that takes the victory of faith to believe (1 John 5:4). And, of course, it changes everything. The tribulation is no longer the main character, but a supporting role. There is a champion, a hero, a hope. I don't put much hope in the human race, except where the spiritual lifeblood of Jesus is transforming hearts, minds and communities. Is that a fact? No. That's a promise.

September 24th, 2014

The Power of a Thought

Desert's End Church Community

A guest post by Jen Smith

Have you ever thought about your thoughts? What they can make you do? What they can make you say? How they can make you feel?

I've been learning a lot about my own thoughts when it comes to my marriage. I see my sin much more clearly in my marriage. My words, my actions, my facial expressions, and my attitudes have all, multiple times, shown the darkness that can come from my heart. And what I have realized is that in those times when I have a bad attitude toward my husband and I have given him the "I'm disappointed in you" look, my thoughts are not where they should be.

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 3:8, ESV)

Do you ever read that verse and think, "man, that's a great verse", and tuck it away into your good intentions verse box? What I mean is that I have read that verse and thought about how I should apply that to my life but it never really gets much past that. I struggle with it because it seems too daunting to try and think about every thought I have everyday and figure out if I'm thinking of something praiseworthy. But I have finally discovered a good application of this verse in my life and hopefully you can use it too.

Think back to the last time you were frustrated with something or someone. Now, try to recall what you were thinking. More than likely, you were not thinking on what was true, noble, right, etc. I am just as guilty. My thoughts are a battle ground that need to be taken captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). But that battle is not always easily won. When I get frustrated with my husband, it's because I have let my thoughts wonder down a road where I am dwelling on his wrong doing or his sin (or what I think is sin). And last time I checked sin is not on that list of things to think about. Instead I need to think about how faithful my husband was that morning or how thoughtful he was the day before. I need to remember that he is not the sin that I see coming from him now; he is a forgiven child of God battling sin just as I do. And when I start thinking on those things, like the great mercy the Lord has shown and the wonderful husband he has given me, I start being thankful for him instead of frustrated at him. When I start to control my thoughts, my emotions suddenly start to change also.

But even in that effort, it can still just come from good intentions. Without the grace and power of Jesus Christ in my life, I will never be able to take control of my thoughts. Especially when I am in the moment of frustration, that is the time when I need his grace the most so that I am not just responding out of emotion. For me to think that I can control my thoughts on my own is arrogant. I must be in prayer for my thought life in order that Jesus might be king and victor over that battle ground of my thoughts.

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