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New Year Devo // Week 2

Posted by on Jan 12, 2020

New Year Devo // Week 2

WEEK 2 / Jan. 12-18

“Jesus’ Baptism”

Read Matthew 3:13-17

Read through this passage, keeping in mind the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus, who as a child grew up as one who was conceived out of wedlock.

Ponder these questions with the Lord in prayer, journaling your responses:

  • What must it have been like to grow up among the whispers, condemnation and ridicule of others?
  • What do you think God’s words, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased, “ meant to Jesus?
  • How do you think they made him feel?
  • What are the words you long to hear from God? Spend some time listening for the still small voice of God.

Pondering where your God may lead you in this coming year, pray this prayer as a reminder of God’s purposes for you:

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for nothing. I shall do good, I shall do His work.

                                                (Cardinal Newman)

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New Year Devo // Intro + Week 1

Posted by on Jan 5, 2020

New Year Devo // Intro + Week 1

INTRODUCTION:

“START WITH JESUS”

Four weeks to reconnect and reset our relationship with Christ

Welcome to a new year!

The fresh hope of potential, growth, success… there’s something special about a chance for a clean start. Anything and everything seems, at the very least, possible. This is why almost half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year. The problem is that when we find ourselves setting goals, we aim too low… or to a height we can never realistically achieve… or maybe in the wrong direction altogether. 

So that’s why, at the very beginning of 2020, I invite you to start with Jesus by embracing the spirit of new beginnings together with Christ’s offer of abundant life. I’ve created four devotionals for each of the four weeks of January (with adaptations from Larry Warner’s book Journey with Jesus – a modern interpretation of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius). These devotionals are designed to be experienced near the beginning of the week (Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday preferably) to give adequate time to process and live out these invitations. They will be posted here each Sunday around noon for the week ahead. The devotionals themselves are only designed to take 20-30 minutes, so there’s lots of room to fill in the week with your usual devotional practices on other days.

There’s also a beautifully designed web version of all four devotional, done by our church’s stellar Communications Director, Amanda Buda. It can be accessed HERE.

As you stand looking at the New Year and a fresh start, we hope you’ll join us in saying yes to Jesus’ invitation to “come, follow me.”

On the journey with you! 

Justin

Devotional Instructions:

Find a time to sit down for thirty minutes or so in a comfortable, quiet, undistracted place – preferably in the early part of each week. Have your Bible and journal handy as you prepare for each week’s devotional. 

Start your time with a few, calm breadths to still your heart and mind. Ask God to help you focus on Him.

As you meditate on these various passages of Scripture, focusing on the life of Christ, be aware of what draws you to Christ, challenges you, amazes you or gives you pause. Take time to journal about and ponder these internal movements.

Feel free to use the audio accompaniment as a guide, as well. Each week’s devotionals includes a recorded version of the readings, prompts, and prayers – with moments of space in between for your own reflection.

Evening Reflection Questions:

In addition to these four weekly devotions, consider asking these questions of the Lord at the end of each day. Take a few moments of silence, offering these questions before God and noticing what He brings to mind…

  • How and when did you experience Immanuel (God with you) today?
  • When were you aware of your love for Jesus today?
  • When did you “follow Jesus” in your relationships, circumstances, reactive and proactive responses, and actions?

* Tips for “Imaginative Reading” 

Many of these devotionals center around a passage of Scripture that you’re encouraged to meditate on and read “imaginatively”. What that entails is taking the time to read the passage very slowly, and maybe a few times over, imagining the scene unfold before you. This is a Spirit-infused, God-directed use of your imagination that gives you the ability to experientially enter into the stories, symbolism and images of the Bible. How might it look like as a movie? What details can you see in your mind’s eye? What are the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds you observe? You may consider placing yourself in the narrative as a character in the story or simply a bystander observing. Feel the freedom to be playful and creative in this exercise. Don’t worry about “doing it right”, just go with the Spirit’s direction and be open to how God leads you.

WEEK 1 / Jan. 5-11

As the new year passes and 2020 comes into view, spend a few minutes thanking God for His presence in your life throughout the last year. Pray through this simple reminder and allow God to help you reflect on His faithfulness and goodness…

Who has listened to our joys indescribable and our groans unspeakable?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who has provided food, shelter, friendship, work and rest?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who has healed the afflictions among us?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who has brought friends back together and mended families torn apart?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who has forgiven us for sin unseen and brought liberation from addiction?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who has been our rock when the ground around us has given way?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who tenderly carried us through times of unbearable hardship and loss?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who knows those deep pains in our hearts of which even we are not aware?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who stores our tears in a bottle, tears shed in secret?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Who else was with us, in our joy and grief, in our victories and defeats, through everything this past year?

Only you Lord Jesus.

Amen.

“Jesus’ Childhood”

Read Luke 2:41-52

Spend time imagining Jesus at the following ages: infant to two years, three to five years, and six to twelve years. Try to appreciate his development, his vulnerability and his challenges at each stage.

Conclude your time thanking God for sending Jesus, and thanking Jesus for choosing to come to earth, clothed in flesh of an infant who had to grow and develop like the rest of us.

As you look out into this new, uncertain year ahead, bring this prayer before the Lord…

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

                                                (Thomas Merton)

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New Beginnings

Posted by on Jul 18, 2019

New Beginnings

Have you ever felt grief over the past? Do you sometimes long for things to be back to the way they were? In this sermon, I walk us through some of these feelings as the Israelites experienced them in Ezra 3:10-13. It’s a dramatic passage highlighting the tension between joy and loss. Even as we may experience sorrow about the past, God desires us to embrace the new things He is doing in our lives. Are you ready?

“New Beginnings”

The sermon outline is below. Click HERE for the full manuscript.

The Outline

Sermon Text: Ezra 3:10-13

1.    God Brings New Beginnings (v. 10-11)

a.    Ezra 1:2-3

b.    Zechariah 4:10

2.    New Beginnings Bring Goodbyes (v. 11-12)

3.    New Beginnings Bring Hope (v. 13)

a.    John 2:19-21

b.    John 4:21-23

c.     Revelation 21:3-5

d.    Isaiah 43:18-19

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France Recap

Posted by on Jul 3, 2019

France Recap

Bonjour!

THANKS AGAIN to so many of you who supported our mission trip to France through financial contributions, advice, language help, and prayers. Kennedy and I had an amazing time!

We started off the week serving at The Chateau by starting a fire. Literally…I helped start a fire. Our team was set to gather for our first meeting of the week, and my man-skills were called upon to light a bonfire and prep for a BBQ dinner. After many attempts, it did finally get going and all was well (thanks, Dad, for passing down your Eagle Scout knowledge!). We pulled together an awesome spread, ate well, and began the week sharing and praying together – and I led a few worship songs with a borrowed guitar.

The next day, the Chateau Director and I headed to a motel for immigrant refugees. We met with, shared the Gospel with, and prayed with, several people from various countries. One of the men wanted to say a prayer and put his trust in Jesus for the first time! We were also able to encourage an entire family (who gathered around us with interest and questions) to consider how Jesus was looking after them with His love. It was a moving moment.

A German youth group was headed to The Chateau for the week, so we prepped things and greeted them the following day. Our main job those first few days was laundry and making sure every bed was set up correctly for the guests.

I also had the privilege of hunting for tools in a century old shed and fixing a broken bunk bed! The team and I also began rehearsals for our musical performance, and it was a joy to get Kennedy in on the hand-drum for the first time ever and plan out some rich harmonies with one of the Summer Interns. Our street performance on Friday night was an adventure, for sure! It was the night of “Fête de la Musique” (“World Music Day”) in France, and so there were performers on every corner. We bounced around a bit and had the chance to declare in a fun, loud, and public way that we “saw the light”, that God “restores every heart that is broken”, and to sing; God, “build Your kingdom here!”

The following Sunday morning, I had the chance to join the worship team at the church meeting in The Chateau. I was all prepped with the guitar and sound system, ready to join the band, and then realized a few moments before that the chord charts are all in FRENCH, of course! I had to transpose from French to English on the fly and create this fancy cheatsheet to get me through…

In some of our spare time, we were able to take in a Saturday morning street market and tour a few old churches, marveling at the ancient architecture, the stained glass, and the mysterious underground crypts. We talked about what early Christianity must have been like in those days and also paused to consider where God’s Spirit might be moving next.

Our last few days at The Chateau were filled with laundry once again (where I learned how to correctly fold a fitted-sheet – don’t tell my wife! – and run it though an iron roller!). I also managed to unclog a shower drain, fire up a massive weed-wacker for some edging on the grounds, and repair some broken lightbulbs. Kennedy was promoted to kitchen crew for the last day, preparing and serving the meals for a group of about 30 ladies, and I pitched in on the dishwashing side of things.

After our week at The Chateau, we headed to Paris for a couple days before catching our plane and heading home. It was truly a life-changing trip. Thanks AGAIN for being a part of it with us! We are already in talks with The Chateau Director about further outreach initiatives including Writers Workshops, culinary experiences, and even a Worship Leaders Training Weekend for emerging leaders in France (where only 1% of the population identifies as evangelical Christians). There is more to do! May God lead and direct us!

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Off to France!!!

Posted by on Jun 12, 2019

Off to France!!!

Hello, friends and family!

We’re excited to share about our mission this summer: Our third-born child, Kennedy, has been taking French lessons, will be graduating from high school and majoring in International Studies this fall, and has an opportunity to practice both of these passions while serving at a Christian conference center (which doubles as a 100-year old castle)! “The Chateau” is a ministry outpost for outreach and soul-care in the French town of St. Albain. Our church has worked with this ministry for many years, and it’s with great anticipation that we step out to partner with the Chateau for a week of outreach this June! WE LEAVE THIS SUNDAY!!!

I’ll be joining Kennedy as “designated Trip Leader”, travel manager, and sidekick as we encourage and help the Chateau team through musical outreaches, relationship building, construction projects, hosting ministry guests, and maybe even digging a ditch or two. Our time there will coincide around a local music festival called “fete de la musique”, where we hope to reach out through local church partnerships in creative ways.

Here’s a word from Kennedy:  “Expanding on what my Dad said, I am taking French lessons and will major in International Studies in college because I have a passion for language and culture. Having already known American Sign Language, I thought it would be a great challenge to learn another language since it fascinates me so much. When my Dad told me about this trip, I saw it as a perfect opportunity to delve into different cultures and learn from their lives and experiences. It was crazy how God presented this opportunity for us with such perfect timing! I think this mission will be an amazing chance to see where this love for language and helping others takes me in my life for the future.” 

We’ll keep you updated on this page as our trip unfolds… Pray for us; that God will grow us and use us to share His love to many!

Thanks so much for being a part!

Justin & Kennedy

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