Crew Season

“My very first experience with crews began just 2 weeks after starting at New Life. Crew season was just beginning and I was very, very new to the New Life Church. When I was first told about crews, I remember thinking, “that’s not for me...I just took the leap to come to Church; that must be for the veterans.” I was scared of the intimacy that a small group would bring. I felt inadequate and as though I would be exposed as the “new guy” or the “rookie.” I prefered the anonymity that came with sitting in the back and flying under the radar. I was not going to budge on this…. until my wife decided that we should check it out. So we took a leap, and joined a crew. Of course I decided to grab the back seat against the furthest wall and thought, "I will silently observe from here."  And wouldn't you know, the leader of the crew sits right next to me! What are the chances? There I was feeling as though I was front and center, slowly edging my chair away and back further into the corner, little by little. In hindsight, I can’t say how thankful I am to have joined that crew! As the weeks progressed , I was able to go deeper into the Word and began to be comfortable praying out loud and with others. It’s now been a couple of years, and I can still say that I “do life” with a good number of my first crew family.

I can say through experience, that yes, crews are for me. Being in a crew was something that was once scary and intimidating. Now, I lead a crew and look forward to crews with every new season.The experience is something that has built lasting relationships, helped me grow deeper in my faith, and helped me to experience a deeper relationship with God.” -Richie

“I didn’t need any new friends. And I definitely did not need to open up or be vulnerable with a group of seemingly strangers. So why in the world was I sitting at home texting a crew leader to see if she had room for one more? Sometimes my voice shakes when I speak, groups of strangers tend to take up all of my energy, and I am a social sweater. But still, my fingers kept texting without the full consent of my conscience, and I walked into the first crew: nervous, a bit twitchy, and already starting to sweat in anticipation of being with a group of unknown women. Turns out, Jesus wanted to reveal some lies I had been hiding behind for years. He wanted to show me the beauty of vulnerability, and the power of community. He wanted to replace social anxiety with a confidence and ease that comes from Him alone; He wanted to challenge me to trust Him, and step more into who He originally created me to be.” -Jill

We are made for community; to stifle that integral part of us is to deny how God originally created us to do life-together!
We’re not meant to do this alone.
We’re not meant to fend for ourselves and fight battles alone.
We’re meant for life and community.
We’re meant to build together, tear through some dark nights with one another, laugh at the joys life brings together.
I don’t know what Jesus wants to do with you this crew season. And you won’t either until you step out and show up.

Don’t do life alone. It’s better that way.

The Gospel Effect

I was at the altar on Sunday when I looked down on the ground and a sparkle caught my eye.  I found myself gazing at many sparkling specs that were strung across the dirty carpet. They were very miniscule in size in relation to the large expanse of space in the sanctuary, yet they caught my eye.
It reminds me of how we can catch the eye of God in this unclean world He placed us in. We are not insignificant, we are not merely specks, we are His children. Just as the light reflected off the specks to create a beautiful sparkle, so we too must reflect God’s glorious light in hopes to bring His perfect beauty into this world. This is completed through the spreading of the gospel.

The gospel is defined as the “good news,” which is the fact that God has saved us sinful humans from an eternity away from Him by giving us a savior in Jesus, who has died for us in order to give us eternal life. The gospel is for everyone, however not everyone is ready for the gospel,causing different reactions and thus the “Gospel Effect.”  You can’t go with Jesus and stay where you are in your thoughts and actions. Following the teachings of the gospel and spreading the gospel demands action; it is not just an accumulation of knowledge.  The gospel is not to be seen as religious or moral superiority, behavior modification or merely bad people becoming good. Rather, the gospel is true repentance, the dead coming to life, and truly good news (not simply good advice).

We have all been bound by the shackles of our failures, but we must realize that we are set free and already redeemed. When we let Jesus come into our lives, our hearts undergo a transformation leading to the lifting of the veil that once clouded our worldly vision, causing us to see things clearly. This new vision can be difficult for others, and may scare those who are not ready for such a change in their lives. We fear what we don’t understand, we don’t like what we can’t control and we don’t like to be exposed. However, God will expose us in order to heal us, not to harm or condemn us.  

There will always be opposition to the spreading of the gospel because:

  • The gospel challenges the religious traditions.

  • The gospel confronts lifestyles contrary to God’s will.

  • The gospel demands action outside of our own comfort zones.

Today we see increasing moral relativism and legalism, spreading like a virus, in opposition to the teachings of the Bible. In an age of speaking up for tolerance, the world is becoming increasingly intolerant of the Christian worldview. This is evident from the removal of the Nativity scene from public places, and saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” Even a “Christmas Tree” is referred to as a “Holiday Tree,” slowly purging Christian influence out of society.

So let us not conform to the world, but rather be transformed by the grace and love of God. Let us stand up, speak up and be unafraid and unashamed to spread the truth that is the Gospel.Let’s worship God daily, learn from the Bible and demonstrate the gospel tangibly, through our daily actions and interactions with everyone. For today might be that day when one more person may be ready and receptive to the gospel, and accept Jesus into their life.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT)

Suit Up

When you wake up in the morning, what do you put on? 
Think past clothing for a moment and look into the spirit. There’s a war going on, and your opponent knows you well. His goal is to isolate you, and numb your mind. He offers plenty of quick fixes for your life, and he wants to keep you busy so that you completely miss God altogether.

Pastor Nancy said something really powerful recently. She said, “when the enemy attacks, you can either back into a corner and die, or you can run at that thing.”

So, let me ask you again, what do you put on? If we are going into battle, we cannot afford to start the day empty handed. We need to be strong in the Lord if we are going to walk in victory. A weak spirit cannot bear the weight and honor of God's armor.

Watch out for the things that steal your strength:

-       Arguments and debates

-       Laziness

-       Too much time in the wrong company

-       Love of money and career

-       An unequal yoking with an unbeliever

-       Ungodly entertainment

Everyday we have a choice. We can either allow these things to come into our lives and make us weak or we can can rise up in the spirit, put on the armor of God and tell the enemy not today!

Wishful thinking isn’t going to win the war. God didn’t save you to make birthday cake wishes; He called you to make bold prayers. There’s a battle going on, and He has equipped you to fight! So when you get up in the morning, don’t listen to your doubts and worries! Instead, put on the belt of truth which protects you and gives you strength. Guard your heart with the breastplate of righteousness. Don’t put on frustration or anger, but walk in the shoes of the Gospel of peace. Hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Strap on the helmet of salvation to protect your thoughts from lies. And grab the sword of the Spirit – the word of God. You are a soldier in the army of the living God. There is nothing that can stand against you and win. So don’t give up! Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep fighting. Breakthrough is coming!

“You must wear all the armor that God provides so you’re protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious.” – Ephesians 6:13 TPT

Behind Enemy Lines

She said she was going to stop reading her Bible.
Whenever she was very consistent in reading, or setting time apart to pray, everything in her life started to go wrong. “I know it seems backwards, but when I just pray a bit here and there, things seem to go a lot smoother in my life.”

Of course it was backwards; it was also a total lie she had been cunningly fed. We’ll fall for anything and any lie when we haven’t grasped onto how much God loves us, and how much He’s for us. Ephesians 6 says we’re fighting in a war, but not one where we can see our enemies. This is a war of a dark world, against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen. Honestly, it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, except it doesn’t end in a few hours.

Because, if you are immersing yourself in God, you have become a threat to the enemy. Images of warriors play in my head; a swarm of holy avengers in the spirit ready to battle for ourselves, our families, our communities.

The enemy has tactics he uses against us in this great war, and like in any war, both sides study the other. Knowing his tactics and the sweet lies he will suggest to us will help us know his moves and fight back against them.

He will try to isolate us from one another, and cut down our lines of communication with God (ever wonder why it feels so hard to pray sometimes?). If we’re isolated and no longer in community with one another or God, we’ll easily start looking for a quick fix. Quick fixes might look easy, but never fix anything! Quick fixes are dead end streets. If he throws the tactic of busyness on us it gives us less time to take inventory of our lives, or take note of what’s really happening in and around us. Numbing us desensitizes us to sin and mediocrity. So, do entertainment, Netflix binges, and endless scrolling on our phones give us a quick break in our day, or is it being used to numb our minds?

Sweet lies the enemy loves to whisper to us?

No one understands you!

Well, nobody is perfect.

JUST DO YOU!

You really need some time for yourself.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a few Sundays off. Nothing wrong with not serving either.

You deserve this.

You can take a load off. It’s just this one time.

He seems to really try to shout these lies to us when we’re tired, angry, stressed out, or sad. So, check your emotions, and be aware of a familiar voice with an unfamiliar spirit. 

The enemy might be working, but God is working too! Smarter, fiercer, and with eternity in mind. God has given us authority, so take it! Doubt your doubts. Never stop praying or being in community with God’s people. Suit up, put on your armor, (Eph. 6:13-18) and fight back!

Well Built

Any architect knows how critical the foundation of a building is to its structural success. The foundation determines how the rest of the structure will be built and how well it’ll support any additions made to the structure. A solid foundation provides an anchor for the building, keeping it stable and secure when storms hit. Without a solid foundation, the building won’t last very long.

When you begin to look at this building principle through spiritual lenses, you’ll see that this translates into our everyday lives. In Luke 6, Jesus teaches us the difference between a foolish builder and a wise builder. The foolish builder hears the Word of God, but doesn’t apply or obey God’s principles and instructions. As a result, the shaky foundation won’t hold up when storms come. A wise builder not only hears the Word of God, but puts it into practice. Lives built on the foundation of obedience and trust in who God is stand unscathed in the midst of life’s storms. 

Have you ever wondered what your life is truly standing on? What are you counting on for security and stability in your life? If everything on the surface was stripped away, what would remain? We’ve got a ton of seductive choices to build our lives on: money, relationships, feelings, careers, power, influence, possessions; the list goes on and on. And sure, some of them may work for a while, but hard times will come. Then what? An unshakeable foundation is key when the world around you is falling apart.

Life is a process of building. Typically, when you build something, you want it to last. Who wants to redo something they’ve put time and effort into building? Jesus’ teaching is the blueprint and when we pursue Jesus and put His words into action, we’re constructing something that will endure and stand the test of time. Not only will it last but it won’t be destroyed when tested. We’re not building on the firm foundation of Christ if we aren’t doing what He said to do. 

How to build your life on Jesus:

Decisions - Filter every decision through Jesus (Proverbs 3:5-6). 
Family – Place your family under the authority of Jesus (Joshua 24:15). 
Relationships – Don’t team up with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-15).
Finances – Honor Him with your finances and He will give you everything you need (Matthew 6:33). 

In order for us to weather the storms and survive the tough times that will inevitably come our way, we must be built on a strong, unmovable foundation. Jesus is the rock-solid foundation we can build our lives on. As long as we’re rooted and grounded in Jesus, when the winds blow and the earth quakes, He will hold us steady and we will not be shaken. No storm that comes our way will threaten our life when we’re built on the Rock.

Just Do It

I have a confession to make. 

There are a lot of things in life that I almost never feel like doing. I never feel like going to the gym. I don’t always feel like going to work. I don’t always feel like taking out the trash, and I find it extremely difficult to say no to fries and cupcakes. I don’t know. Maybe you can relate.

Interestingly enough however, the more I give into these desires, the more I’m faced with the reality that we shouldn’t go through life living by our feelings. If we lived by our feelings we wouldn’t have any money, we’d be extremely unhealthy, and our lives would be massively unorganized. But that would be a terrible way to live our lives, so most of the time we just do whatever we know we need to do even when we don’t feel like it.

This ability to do the things that we don’t feel like doing in our everyday lives is something we must learn to apply to our relationship with God. The truth is, a lot of the time the breakthrough we are so desperately seeking is directly connected to our obedience. So, in the same way we manage to take out the trash and go to work when we don’t feel like it, we must learn to be obedient to God even when we don’t feel like it.

Sometimes this looks like doing something you don’t want to do, like forgiving someone who hurt you or surrendering a certain area of your life to God. However, sometimes obedience only requires persistence. This might mean that you just have to keep praying, keep serving, keep reading your Bible, and keep showing up. Either way, if we want to live lives of breakthrough and blessing, we can’t allow feelings to get the best of us.

In 2 Kings 5:9-15 we learn about a man named Naaman who traveled over three thousand miles to visit the prophet Elisha in search of healing. Upon his arrival, Elisha sends a messenger to tell him the word of the Lord. In order for him to be healed he must dip himself in the Jordan River seven times, but Naaman wasn’t satisfied and went off in a rage.

Why didn’t the prophet come out to see him? He came all this way. Why was Elisha telling him to bathe in the Jordan River? There were better rivers where he came from! This journey was not going as planned, and Naaman was letting his feelings get the best of him. He would’ve went home the same way he came were it not for the people in his life who talked some sense into him. And when he did as God said, he was healed.

Like Naaman, we may not always want to do what God tells us to do. Things don’t always turn out the way we plan, and there will be days where we just don’t feel like it. In these moments, we must be careful to not let our feelings get the best of us or cause us to miss out on God’s blessing. He doesn’t ask us to do things because he wants us to live miserable lives; he asks us to do things because he knows what’s best for us.

So, if he’s asking you to do something, don’t rationalize it. Just do it. You may not have traveled three thousand miles, but you’ve come way too far to go back now.
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Be Happy by Securing Your Life

There comes a time where we have that sleepless night. That night where our “to do list” runs through our heads, or perhaps wondering how we might pay that bill, or how we can make that other person understand what we are thinking, going through, or how they hurt us. Maybe we are tossing and turning because hurtful things were heard or spoken and we became offended, or did the offending. How can we feel secure and at peace?

The answer to this is to join the rest of us sinners who have come to the table with Jesus. We are there with the lost, the found, the chained and the free. We have come to be redeemed and take our place beside our Savior. When we arrive, we can learn from the ultimate mediator, Jesus. He went to the cross on our behalf, bridging the gap between God and all of us sinners. Jesus led by example, and was the ultimate yokefellow. He teaches us to be that yokefellow here on Earth. To bring people together, help them to reconcile their differences, and to ultimately bring them to the Father so they can understand and experience His love and grace. "For, there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity-the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (1 Timothy 2: 5-6 NLT)

Close your eyes and think of the word “security.” What images does that provoke? Do you think of being in your home, with windows and doors locked to keep out the bad guys? Do you think of your money being locked away in a bank vault? Maybe it’s the image of the local police on patrol keeping you safe. These would all be accurate and some of the more common images. But do you think of security as knowing who you are in Christ, and what that means in your daily walk? Can you see the chains being broken, the walls being torn down and Jesus removing His robe in order to wash your feet and cleanse you of your sins?

Spiritual security is found in Jesus. We must acknowledge His love and know that He is sovereign, and that we can depend on His sustaining grace to see us through any circumstance or situation. Remain firmly anchored in God, embrace His will, remain God centered and watch Him move the mountains and make a way. When we can be secure in our relationship with God, we also can be secure in our relationships with others. We can freely forgive others, as we have been forgiven. We can let go of the past rather than continue to bring it up when it benefits us or provokes others-the same way that God has forgiven us and washed us clean when we ask Him and turn away from our sins. God does not remind us of how we have wronged Him in the past, He just continues to show us His mercy and love us.

A final thought to help make you feel happy and secure is to know that God is for you! All your faults, failures and sins are forgiven, for God has called your name, and shed His glorious light in your darkness. We are reminded of this here:

“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6-7 NLT)

Whatever, Be Happy

A few months ago, I left my house to do my usual Target run. However, this time was a little bit different because I was driving in my newly purchased car. As I took it all in – the new car smell, Bluetooth connection, the sunroof – I couldn’t have been happier. In that moment, I started to reminisce about all the wonderful things I had in my life, and then I heard it-that ever so familiar voice-so quiet, yet so loud at the same time. As I raised the volume of the music in hopes to drown it out, I heard it again. “If you didn’t have all of these things (the car, the house, your marriage), would I still be God?”

Yikes!

What about you? If the thing you are waiting for never comes, if what you are praying for never happens, would God still be God? Will you still be able to rejoice in Him if you never get that job or that home? What if you never take that trip or your healing never comes?

Whatever happens, will you still be happy?

Happiness isn’t found in things that are temporary. Sometimes, we get what we want and we’re still not happy; we want more. And suddenly our rich and satisfying life, the life promised to us, isn’t so satisfying. We attach riches to possessions, and happiness to things that are fleeting.

Paul tells us, “whatever happens… rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:1). True happiness and satisfaction comes from a genuine relationship with the Lord. In order to walk in this freedom, we need to have a higher perspective. Think BIGGER! Lift up your FAITH! There is more to life than just a good reputation and material possessions. In fact, these things make us lose focus.

So, let’s refocus!

Have new values. Stop holding onto things that you could lose. Learn to be content, and don’t forget about what really matters. “Everything is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Have new vigor. Press on and forcefully advance. Keep your eyes on your race, and don’t let yourself become complacent. Happiness and laziness are not the same thing. Forget the past and look forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).

Have new vision. We are citizens of heaven. Don’t live for this world; fix your eyes on the next one, and do everything you can to redeem things here because it will echo in eternity. Wait eagerly for His return (Philippians 3:20).

I know sometimes life can be unpredictable, but what a perfect opportunity for faith. Stop letting fear rob you of eternal joy. Whatever happens, rejoice in the Lord!

Happiness is a Group Project

It all started with a bottle of bubbles.
They were being blown into the air swirling all around a two-year-old who had never before experienced the very simple wonder of soap and water. Whooooooooa! she slowly yelled jumping to try to catch them. She was soon laughing hysterically every time they were blown in her face, and her joy contagiously spread to the adults around her. She laughed, they laughed, and the joy continued to grow, bouncing back and forth between them.

Happiness starts in the mind, but continues as a group project. We have the power to affect one another deeply. We feel each other’s burdens and empathize with wounds and scars; we’re able to come together to share in a person’s joy. Paul’s letter to the Philippians speaks about our collective joy and making it complete by continuing in the vein of community and the spirit of God.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. -Philippians 2: 1-5

Being in relationship and community with others will really shine a light on what it is in our own lives that would keep us from truly being one with each other: our selfishness, our pride, our consistent need to look out for ourselves. But Paul lays it out plainly-we have to have the same attitude as Christ if we are really going to be in community and live out this great happiness group project together.

Jesus never thought of Himself as too great for anyone; he made Himself a servant to everyone. But, He certainly was no doormat either; He knew full well who He was and rested confidently in that. We are to do and believe the same things. His humility was a rebuke to pride; our humility will usher in happiness.

Our Group Project:

1.      We are to prefer one another (Romans 12:10).

2.     We are to edify (or build!) one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

3.     We are to bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

4.     We do not judge one another (Romans 14: 13).

5.     We are to admonish (or encourage) each other (Romans 15:14).

If we are to take this project seriously, and believe we are better together then Sundays together are priorities! Serving with one another on ministry teams is a privilege, serving our community together brings us closer to the heart of Jesus.
Are you in?

Be Happy

Happiness.

It’s a universal longing. There’s nothing wrong with wanting happiness because, despite what some may think, God wants it for us too. Happiness is in God’s nature and He has a strong desire to see us happy. In fact, He wants us to be happier than we can possibly imagine. He wants us to have the kind of unshakeable happiness the Bible calls joy. But sometimes this doesn’t come packaged the way we imagined.

The Apostle Paul’s life was colored by horrific experiences. He willingly and even gladly suffered many hardships: he was beaten, shipwrecked, tortured and even jailed for sharing the Gospel. Yet what was Paul’s response to this while in jail? Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice(Phil.4:4).

Now let’s take off our Christian masks for a second and be real here. Rejoice? In prison? No, I’ll rejoice when I’m lying on a beach somewhere. But not Paul. How does he do it? After everything this man endured, he still prayed and sang praises to God. We find him bragging about being in prison for Jesus! How many times have I acted like my entire world was falling apart because I didn’t get my way, and yet here’s Paul preaching happiness in prison. How does he rejoice and stay encouraged while facing some of the worst circumstances?

Paul knew a secret that few people know. He knew the secret to happiness. Except it wasn’t a secret; it’s written in plain sight in his letter to the people in Philippi. This letter was written by Paul while he was imprisoned, awaiting possible execution, and yet the book of Philippians mentions the words joy and rejoice more than all of the letters Paul wrote.

The world needs to hear this! 
People are doing everything they can to be happy and it’s still elusive to most because they’re looking for it in all the wrong places. We have more suicides and drug usage than ever before because people aren’t happy.

Paul’s heart and passion come through loud and clear in this letter. It’s about perspective and Paul wants us to have an eternal perspective. He teaches us that happiness isn’t dependent upon our circumstances. True joy and happiness come from a solid and unchanging source – Jesus.

Paul’s prayer and secret to happiness:

Grow in love and knowledge of Jesus. If you understand who Jesus is, you’ll understand what happiness is. When Jesus is the focus, happiness is inevitable.

Grow in understanding (moral discernment). Discern between what’s vital and what’s trivial. When you take your focus off of Jesus, everything is trivial. The things that try to rob us of our happiness don’t matter in light of eternity.

Be filled with the fruit of salvation which produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Bring much glory and praise to God. When we live in this way, we’re pointing people to Jesus and the glory of God is made fully alive.

You have two choices in life: you can be tossed around by your circumstances and let them dictate your level of joy, or your joy can be found in Christ who is both sure and steadfast - an anchor for our souls. Let’s challenge ourselves daily to tap into this joy in all circumstances.
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