Reflections on the Students' Retreat

Submitted by Desert's End C… on Sat, 11/01/2014 - 08:48

 

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!

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

Temporary Pleasure or Eternal Treasure?

Submitted by Desert's End C… on Sun, 09/14/2014 - 08:00

A guest post by Isaac Lucero.

“Too many. Way too many.” I say this as I look at the box of supplements in the fridge. Yikes. It looks like a supplement warehouse in there. To be clear-these were not my spouses’. They were mine. And they were out of control. How did it get this out of hand?

As I look at my own sinful indulgences, I find it extremely difficult to avoid the word hypocrite. There is no real need for it to have gotten so extreme. How can I justify so much time and money spent on something for superficial reasons? 

I obviously cannot, and it had spiraled out of control. Earlier in life, I believe the supplement use was reasonable and did not consume my heart. But it had now become an idol in my life, stood in the way of my walk with God, and hypocrite was the word I was now facing. I indulged my appetite for athletic supplements and what they did for my body while following and sacrificing for Christ took a backseat.

Taking an honest look at yourself can be frightening. Challenge yourself with some basic, possibly painful questions. What do I spend my money on, what do I do with my time, and what things do I think about the most? You can probably find the answers to all of these questions without doing too much homework. 

Jesus exposed the rich young ruler and uncovered his true heart when he was asked to give up what he valued most (his possessions) for God’s Kingdom. Jesus chose to cut right down to the core of the problem and asked him to give up what he valued most for what matters forever.

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

(Matthew 19:16-22 ESV)

The young man went away sorrowful, because he could see what the true cost of following Jesus would be. Giving up what he truly loved was simply more than he could bear.  The story could have had a different ending had the rich man repented for his sin and began to obey in faith. But this was asking too much. 

If you feel like God is asking too much from you, don’t just feel sorry and walk away. Repent, continually pray for strength to let go of this sin, and do what is right in God’s eyes. Following Christ can involve hard decisions, but considering the eternal good that we gain by following him can help us to leave behind our idols.