Eyes Glazed Over

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting my family and my wife’s family in Houston and introducing them to our four month old daughter, Evangeline. On Sunday we attended church with them (luckily, they all attend the same one) and I was excited to visit their youth area and see what a regular Sunday morning looked like for them.  I look forward to visiting other churches because it’s rare for me not to have responsibilities on a Sunday morning, and it’s also great to glean new ideas to make my own ministry more successful back at home.

BoredMrBeanI was able to take a tour of their youth department and get lots of ideas on things that we might be able to do in our new building. However, one thing that caught my eye was the students and their behavior in Sunday School. Don’t get me wrong… they weren’t bad or disrespectful, and the leader was doing a great job teaching, but the students just seemed… like their minds were somewhere else.  We’ve all seen that glazed-eye look, and have probably sported it ourselves during a message or two on Sunday mornings.  Can I get an amen?  (Sorry, Dad.)

Initially, it didn’t strike me as significant or bother me; after all, it was Sunday morning before noon and they WERE middle and high school students. But the more the I processed it, the more I wondered if our students look at me that way on a regular basis… eyes glazed over and not engaged. Then I thought about how we, as adults, look to the speaker on Sunday mornings because this can’t be a youth-only problem. I know even the best speaker in the world armed with the best lessons, illustrations, and tricks to keep students engaged will still see the “bored face” from time to time. I came to the conclusion that no matter how good the material or the speaker is, it comes down to the individuals who are listening and whether or not they value what’s being taught.

In ministry, it’s easy to see the reality of the battle that Christians face on a daily basis, and it’s a privilege to help people fight it every day. But even pastors are susceptible to that glazed-eye look. It’s so easy to go about our days overwhelmed and forgetting that Christ should be at the center of all things when we have distractions like bills, deadlines, dates, or relationship issues. It’s hard to keep God at the center of our thoughts.  As an adult, it’s easy for me to wrap my mind around the fact that all the different areas of my life are connected to each other: my relationship with God, my job, my family, the Tuesday morning breakfast at Strasburg High School, the baseball game in Bennett, the quick trip to King Soopers. But so many students don’t have a grasp on this concept yet… everything is compartmentalized. School is separate from home which is separate from church which is separate from friends, and so on.

I believe that the American church consistently fails to realize how real God is. I don’t mean to imply that we don’t believe in God, but I would submit that we don’t often think that God takes part in our every day, normal lives. I think this is true for just about every teenager I know. The more I’ve talked to our students and heard what they’re concerned about, what their days look like, and the things that they think, the more I understand that this whole “God thing” is just one part of their lives. Not something that is their life.

Ephesians 6:10-17 tells us about the armor of God. And it doesn’t tell us to sometimes put the armor of God on, or to wear it every other day, or even on Sundays from 9am  to 12:30pm.  No, it tells us that we should put it on so that we maybe ready for the day of evil when it comes, that we might be able to stand our ground. Older believers know that evil can come from any direction at any time and that we should have our armor on at ALL TIMES. It’s how we can hold on to the truth and reality of God and His plan for our lives so we don’t believe the lies of Satan. It’s so much easier to keep on your armor when God is at the center of your life, not just a part of it.

If we don’t live our lives with God at the center, keeping our armor ready, we will become distracted. Slowly, our eyes will glaze over and we’ll become more worried about how we look, what others think, our pay check, our grades, our health, or our family.  And trust me, these are all areas that Satan loves to whisper lies into; areas that can be twisted and made hard and turned in on themselves.Armor of God But if we make sure Christ is the glass that we view every part of our life through, then suddenly, the message on Sunday morning isn’t boring… and even that trip to King Soopers becomes a little more meaningful. The things learned on Sunday at church or Wednesday at Youth Group mean so much more because they touch every part of our lives and strengthen our armor as we learn and grow. Our family is expanded and there is grace. Bills become something we trust God to provide for. Jobs become an entrance point for us to love others. King Soopers becomes a place we can encourage someone we bump into… and so much more!

But the key is keeping God at the center, and using our armor to keep him there.

My challenge for us all, adults and students alike, is to remember that this “God thing” is not just an every-now-and-then or a most-of-the-time thing. But instead, that we realize how critical keeping our eyes on Jesus is, in every area of our lives. If you’re an adult with a teenage son or daughter, I encourage you to help them realize that their relationship with God isn’t something that should be compartmentalized or ignored. Share your wisdom with them, and be compassionate as they discover some of the lessons you’ve already learned, so that they can begin to keep God at the center of their life as well and be ready when the attacks come.

– by Hunter Headley
MVF Youth Pastor
HunterFamily

It’s Not About the Number

Welcome_feet
WELCOME TO OUR HOME! Come in and let me show you God’s love, and how the resurrection that we are celebrating today changes lives!”

That is the message that 1,212 people on the Eastern Corridor of Colorado heard Easter weekend when they came to services at MVF. It was incredibly inspiring to be serving with such an exceptional group that were willing to give of their time to set up a welcoming environment, park, greet, refresh, inform, direct, love, teach, and worship with their friends and neighbors. It was very evident that fellowship has nothing to do with what town you are from, your background, your bank account or that our church meets in a school. Fellowship has to do with genuine smiles and conversations, concern for others and everyone coming together to celebrate the Good News that Jesus went to the cross for us and three days later beat death!

This weekend was not about the number 1,212. It was about welcoming our community into our house and showing them how God has changed our lives and those of our families. How broken marriages, addiction, hate, anxiety, and abuse can be transformed and healed through Christ. How we are not a family of perfect people, but instead a group of sinners that meet each week to learn about love, grace and forgiveness. It was about the father that filled out a connection card because his daughter wants to be baptized, and the young lady that wanted to be contacted because she had questions about the message.

Our community sees the changes in our members’ lives, and they want it for themselves. This weekend was just a glimpse of what Sundays will look like when we move into the new building. Sure, some will come out of curiosity and that’s ok. Others will come because they are seeking. Are we ready to welcome them into our house?

Romans 12:9-13 (The Message translation) says : “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.” I see these attributes in our Church, and I’m thankful to be able to serve our community with you!

Nikole.jpg
Written by Volunteer Coordinator
Nikole Armbrust

One Thing…

The family and I had the luxury of spending a few days on the western slope this past week visiting friends of ours that we’ve known since Aimee and I were teenagers. The husband has been in ministry on and off over the past 20 years, and was recently hired as the worship pastor for a church in Delta, Colorado. This new job was something that the husband has been wanting for many years but it meant moving away from family, friends, church family, and activities/clubs that the children were involved in. The wife was finding it extremely difficult to adjust to having moved so far away from the life that they had come to know and love in the city. I believe she’d even say that she was angry with the move and how it was affecting her and one of their girls.

Fast forward a year and a half, and the wife is sharing with me and Aimee some encouraging counsel she received from another friend. This friend of hers simply told her to find one thing to be thankful for each day. On the surface this seems trivial but she continued to share how it had truly been changing the way that she regarded their situation and how it had actually helped her to appreciate this new season in life.
thankful

Are we thankful in ALL situations? What about those who’ve lost their marriage, their job, or their home? How about those of us who are grieving the loss of a family member, hae received a challenging health diagnosis, or are struggling with infertility? Even in the midst of such awful situations, we still have much to be thankful for.

Track with me as I share the story of a man who had every right to be embittered and ungrateful—but wasn’t:

At any moment the guards would come to his cell to bring him before the governor for his final trial. The cold, hard floor was where he laid his head each night, not knowing if it would be his last. Every move was hindered and challenged by the cumbersome chains connected to the manacles that mercilessly dug into his ankles and wrists.  Living in solitude, beaten multiple times, and unjustly accused, this man would had every reason to complain about how his life was going, but the words from his mouth were instead filled with thanksgiving and praise.

The man was the Apostle Paul—someone who mastered the art of thanksgiving, even when faced with extreme hardship and tribulation. Even as he was imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19b-20, NIV)

Being thankful was an everyday occurrence for the Apostle Paul! One that shaped his thoughts and actions, making him a joyful person in all circumstances. This is something we can all work on: being thankful regardless of the situation!

Here are a few things I think we can be thankful for…

Adversity

It’s entirely natural to try and avoid situations that are difficult or affect me in a negative way;  however, I will face adversity multiple times throughout my life. It’s during the times I face trials and persecution that Christ said I will not be separated from His love (Romans 8:35). Not only does He promise to love me, but I will also be drawn closer to Him: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)

God knows everything I’m facing and desires for me to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness,  even during adversity and heartaches, “giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV)

Possessions

At times, I catch myself wondering whether I have enough—or if life would be better if I just had… (fill in the blank). However, it’s truly liberating to just be thankful for what God has given me!  After all, everything I have is from Him. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3a, NIV)  “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.” (1 Chronicles 29:12, NIV) This list could include, but is certainly not limited to a home, clothes, work, transportation, health, a loving pet, etc.

Relationships

How often do I take the relationships in my life for granted? Or get angry because someone isn’t doing exactly what I expect them to? Instead, I need to be thankful for my friends, family, spouse, children, and relatives… and for those relationships that have carried me through trials. I’m also thankful for the relationships that have challenged me and held me accountable. I should continually let the people in my life know I appreciate them and am thankful for the difference they make in my life, “I thank God every time I remember you.” (Philippians 1:3, NIV)

God’s power in your life

I simply can’t navigate this world without God’s power, and there is nothing I can do and nothing that happens to me without God allowing it. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20). ”This is what the Lord says — the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it…” (Isaiah 42:5, NIV)

Salvation

This one is a no-brainer and should be on my lips daily! To be granted salvation through Christ’s sacrifice, especially because it’s undeserved, is the ultimate gift. How can I not be thankful when God has given me so much to look forward to?!  “…and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” (Colossians 1:12, NIV)

So, I’m committing to finding one thing to be thankful for each day, no matter what my circumstances are.  Are you with me?

Missions & Outreach Pastor Ryan Dwyer
Ry_Aimee

Retro-Reflectivity and Other Important Science-y Terms That Teach Me About God And Make Me Sound Smart

Back when our boys were young, we used to save all winter to pay for a family pass to Elitch Gardens. We’d go several times a month in the middle of the week when it wasn’t so crowded. Lots of sunburned shoulders and noses later, I have fond memories of those hot summers waiting in line with my family and trying to convince our youngest son Trooper to finally ride a roller coaster. There’s also a not-so-fond, green-tinted memory of my discovery that I could no longer handle rides that spin. (Note to friends: Never get on a Teacup ride with Donn Headley!)

I have also never forgotten the time we were waiting in a line when I happened to notice a woman’s t-shirt ahead of us. She was leaning on the railing and I could see the front of her shirt; it had a picture of the moon on it and wording across it that read, “Be the Moon.”FullMoon2010

I immediately rolled my eyes, categorizing it as a new-agey shirt and pointed it out to Donn. Then she turned around. The same picture and wording was on the back, but it read, “Be the moon… reflect the Son.” I ended up talking to the woman and telling her how much I liked her shirt and how I had initially misjudged it.

That phrase, “Be the Moon… Reflect the Son” never left me. I remembered from science class that moonlight is really just reflected sunlight. What an easy way to remind ourselves that we are supposed to reflect God’s image to those we come into contact with. It was God’s plan from the beginning that we look like him… he tells us in the very first chapter of the very first book of the bible: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness… (Genesis 1:26)

Not only are we made in God’s physical image, we are supposed to look like him in how we live and treat those around us too… our spiritual image should reflect him. If you’re like me and can more readily point out your flaws than your strengths, the fact that we should be living our lives in a god-imitating way… well, it’s daunting at best… and more often than not, terrifying when I see how short I fall on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m good on all the big stuff; I haven’t murdered anyone or anything like that. But…

It’s the little things that get me. Those ugly thoughts that come to me that I (hopefully) don’t speak aloud, the “Bless Her Heart” kind of gossip that I pass off as Christian concern, the little white lie to the police officer who pulled me over for speeding, the slightly disrespectful way I speak to my parents, the too-friendly relationship with a member of the opposite sex at work, the old friend I refuse to reconcile with… all of these things knock the shine off of my reflection of God.

I can’t reflect God on my own, even though I’m made in his image. I can try to say the right words and do the right things, but they always fall short. Y’all, I’m so low sometimes I can’t even picture what the full image and likeness of God looks like because mine has been so obscured by my sin! It’s during these times that I need to remind myself that I have the perfect picture of someone truly reflecting the image of God: it’s Jesus. Be the moon… reflect the Son makes a little more sense now.

It was actually difficult to pick from the list of verses that tell me to imitate Christ, but I’ve settled on these described in 1 Peter (Hang with me… it’s worth it!) :

shining

As I was doing some research for this posting, I came across a phenomenon called Retro-Reflectivity. Retro-reflectivity refers to the reflection of light back towards the source from which it originates. (Do I sound smart yet?) So, basically, this is telling me that if I imitate or reflect Christ in my every day life, it shoots the glory right back to God,*** which is where all glory originated from in the first place and where all glory should be returned.

I can worship God with the very way I strive to live my life. And I have a book full of examples to imitate. I have been given everything I need (2 Peter 1:3; Click the Link… don’t be lazy!), in the midst of my imperfection, to be like Christ and give glory to the Father. Which is pretty much the point of everything, right?

***Because, Science.

You’re Invited to Dinner

table7I can’t count the number of times that I’ve had people ask me what I do all week!  It’s always a fun question to answer, because I wear quite a few different hats at any given point.  But as a worship arts pastor one of the most enjoyable projects I have during the week is planning and preparing for our Sunday morning worship experiences.  The only thing I enjoy more would be actually worshipping with the MVF congregation! There are hours and hours that go into just the planning portion: praying over what different aspects will be encouraging to our people, giving appropriate opportunities for passionate praise, allowing quiet moments of confession and communion, researching and choosing scriptures that reinforce the prayers that we’re going to sing, and identifying subtle nuances in content and tying them together while also paying attention to musical style and key changes to remove as many distractions as possible.  On top of my personal preparation, I also have 6 to 7 other musicians that I’m responsible for resourcing.  The hours in a week that go into communicating, practicing for rehearsal, actually rehearsing, then polishing anything that needs attention between rehearsal and a full run-through on Sunday morning…well, in many respects this process of planning and preparation could be likened to someone passionately preparing an elaborate five course meal for an intimate group of friends they value dearly.

Planning & Preparation…it’s such a huge part of life.  Whether the task at hand is substantial or insignificant, planning and preparation permeates everything we do.  We wash clothes and dishes, buy groceries, make sack lunches for our kids, keep a full tank of gas in the car, take showers, get dressed, try to eat healthy, maintain our equipment to bring in a harvest, get that presentation ready for the board meeting, write a blog post, and the list could go on and on.  Everything we do or don’t do in life points to some aspect of planning and preparation (or lack thereof). 

Not only is it a part of everything we do, but these are often determining factors for how well we do something.  In general terms, if you’re planning for success in life, chances are you’re taking the time to count the costs and make the necessary adjustments to meet your goals.  Even scripture recognizes this as a logical approach. 

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Luke 14:28

Now, admittedly, some people are just floating.  They’re just taking life as it comes, and they shouldn’t expect anything much different than what they’re experiencing this very moment.  (I’m going to assume for the purposes of this post that you’re not one of those people!)

So what does this have to do with you? Why am I writing a blog post about planning &
preparation?  Well, I’ll just be right up front and tell you. The reason I’m writing this post is in order to challenge you to plan for something different.  To prepare for something different!

I’m personally extending an invitation to dinner and I’m asking you to make this meal a priority.  I’m asking that you plan and prepare to attend.  We have two meals planned this week.  One starts promptly at 9am and the other starts promptly at 10:45am antitusquoted they’re both on Sunday morning.  I, along with my team, am planning a full course meal that’s going to take us all week to prepare.  Every aspect of the experience will be intentional from start to finish.  So my question is…what will you do this week to plan and prepare for your arrival to this meal?  Will you arrive late, making all the same excuses you made last week with no intention of planning or preparing for anything different?  Or will you arrive on time like you would to any other event you plan to attend?

Proverbs 16:3 says,“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

Commit to the Lord that this Sunday (and subsequent Sundays) you’re going to arrive on time and be as prepared as possible to worship the God of the universe.  Ask Him to establish your plans, and commit to the necessary changes.  Our team can’t wait to host you! 

Perfectly Chipped

I’m a girlie girl. I like pink. A lot! I also like to have my nails painted.pinknailpolish_hand

A perfectly manicured hand…a perfectly orchestrated life. It can only be achieved for a short time. Eventually, the chips will come. Get close enough and you’ll see them. I don’t like chips in my nail polish.

Somehow, it feels like I’m chipped…flawed. And I am. I just don’t like to admit it.

I have 2 choices when I need to fix chipped nails. I can cover up the chip with more polish and hope it won’t be noticed, or I can take the time to remove the polish and start fresh. A ‘cover up’ doesn’t last as long as a redo; it just buys me a little more time before having to put the work into a whole new manicure.

Why do we work so hard at covering up our chips and striving for a perfect looking life on the outside, settling for quick fixes and cover-ups rather than taking the time to get to the heart of the matter and deal with the root issues?  Why is is so difficult to admit we’re wrong, seek forgiveness, and take steps to right it?  Why do we focus more on the loss of what God is asking us to lay down or ‘give up’ when we know that we’ll gain so more with Christ than we ever could apart from Him?  And when it all gets to be too much, why do we struggle in reaching out for help?

Could it be that we’re choosing

  • Pride over humility
  • Selfishness over selflessness
  •  Trusting in myself rather than trusting in God?

I meet each week with a group of gals who get REAL with their chips…their flaws. They’ve tried to cover them up too many times. They know it just won’t work anymore so they take it all off, strip it all down, remove the chips… one finger nail at a time. They have courageously decided to reach out for help. The risk of staying where they are is greater than the risk of letting others in. They share to expose the darkness and stand in the light. They know that healing comes only when they stop covering up. They share so others can love on them and encourage them. They share because God’s grace is this amazing gift that removes the stain of sin in their lives. They share because His mercies are new to them each morning. They are some of the bravest women I’ve met. I see God showing up in their weaknesses.

God’s perfect and complete grace, abundant for all life’s chips and flaws.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses,so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”                                                                 -2 Corinthians 12:9

Grace is the fingernail polish remover for life’s chips. I don’t see a shortage of polish remover coming anytime soon. And, thank goodness there will never be a shortage of God’s grace.

A fresh manicure of grace beats a cover-up anytime!

jodi2
-Jodi Ross
Director of Women’s Ministry

Something More

I know we normally don’t get too deep in our everyday conversations, but with some subjects, it’s critical. For this post, I’d like to ask you an important question: Do you believe in a Creator God who is fighting for your soul?  Maybe I should break it down a little more.  Do you believe in God at all?  Do you believe there is a war for your soul?  Maybe I should back up more and ask if you believe you even have a soul?  I’ve had several conversations with people lately that have only confirmed my suspicions about the age in which we live.  My theory can be summarized like this: Many people claim they want the truth, but only if it aligns with their thinking and desires and only if it doesn’t affect their way of living. Why is this?

I think it starts in our deepest intellect.  We know there’s got to be something better than just this empty life: we’re born, we breathe in, we breathe out, we die, and we become dust.  In our hearts we want something more and our being cries out, “Please don’t let this be all there is!”  And though society theorizes that we are basically good from birth, we know better than that lie.

On one end of the spectrum, ten minutes of the evening news will confirm that mankind is capable of committing the worst of atrocities against the rest of creation, including our fellow man.  This evil leads us to put more weight into the thinking that there is nothing more than this life and when it’s over, that’s it.  On the other end, we’re struck by heroic stories of people helping others, caring for the less fortunate, loving the unlovable, or even sacrificially giving their lives for another.  It’s these moments that give us a twinge of hope… that mankind can be saved and that there is more to this life.  We know it can’t be both; either this life is all there is, or there’s something else at work, something beyond this hurting world.  We’re hesitant to admit there’s more because we innately know the ramifications – and that we don’t have all the answers.
godshapedhole

I believe there’s a spiritual thirst in all of us.  We may not recognize it as such, but it’s so persistent that we’ll try to fill it with anything and everything: drugs, sex, money, possessions, relationships, identity, beauty… you name it.  Let me quickly drop some truth on you as it relates to this issue: this spiritual thirst cannot be filled by anyone or anything other than the Creator Himself.  St. Augustine of Hippo likened this to a “God-shaped hole” in our hearts.

I’d wager that even those who ardently disagree with the fact that God exists might be trying to displace their thirst with academia, which ultimately gives them nothing more than a misplaced feeling of superiority.  They end up approaching every discussion on spiritual matters thinking they are smarter than everyone else and trying to persuade those around them to agree with their way of thinking.  Anyone who disagrees is simply wrong, and (at it’s kindest), silly for believing in such nonsense. It’s as if truth itself can be replaced if people can be convinced that it’s foolish to believe there’s a real god who cares about them. The truth may be that they’re just trying to convince themselves- as if stating their position over and over will make it true.

Believe me, I get it.  Many of us hope against hope that God isn’t real because we know what it means if He is.  We want to live how we want to live without consequences and without accountability.  BUT, if there is a Creator God, then there has to be a design, plan, or preferred method for living, which might go against our desires and addictions.  I have come to find this spiritual thirst will remain just that until we lean how to fill it – and better yet, WHAT to fill it with. In the book of Acts, the Apostle Paul is in Athens and is curious about all of the altars to a myriad of different gods; he’s especially interested in the altar dedicated to an “UNKNOWN GOD.”  The people in Athens were just as lost as we are in this day and age, seeking a God that didn’t require a change in their belief system or lifestyle.  In Acts 17:24-27, Paul speaks truth into this scene that is so relevant for our culture today:

““The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

So is there a God who loves you and fights for your soul?  Charles Spurgeon wrote, “With thine whole heart seek him, and he will be found of thee: only give thyself thoroughly up to the search, and verily, thou shalt yet discover him to thy joy and gladness.”  I know there is a Creator God who gives us life and the very air we breathe.  He desires for us to seek Him and promises we will find Him if we seek with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13). I believe that all men are inherently not good (Romans 3:10, Ecclesiastes 7:20), and the fact that we see any good in our fellow man points to the fact that there is a Good Creator who loves us and pursues us.  I believe there is a struggle for our souls. A war within that must be won (Ephesians 6:12).  But it’s only won when we discover the One who created us, loved us, came to us, died for us, and rose again so we could be forgiven and live eternally with Him (John 3:16).

There is more to this life, whether we say we believe it or not.  The question I really should have asked is, “Do you believe it?”