Day by Day

A Lifegroup is a Christ centered community devoted to connecting with each other and encountering God together. These communities are based on the picture of the early church we find in Acts 2.

Being part of a Lifegroup has truly changed my life. I have involved in Lifergoups for the past four years; some of which I have led, some of which I have not. Some of them have been incredible, some have felt a little bit awkward. Some were filled with old friends, some were filled with new. But one thing has always been true: I have always been pointed towards Jesus.

Lifegroup has pointed me towards God in personal and collective ways.

I have developed genuine friendships through Lifegroup. I have found dear friends that encourage me, laugh with me and always point me back to Jesus. Regardless of my circumstances, the relationships I have gained from Lifegroup are irreplaceable.

I have encountered God through Lifegroup. Over and over again I am reminded of God’s faithfulness and righteousness because of my community. I have been vulnerable by asking for prayer only to be blown away by seeing God answering my cries.

I have friends who have met Jesus through Lifegroup. Often times these friends declined many previous invitations but finally came. Upon arrival these friends were welcomed by a group of genuine people who helped melt off the hardness of life. They were pointed to Jesus, encouraged, and prayed for. Some prayed for the first time in years and encountered God’s goodness and love.

I have known strangers who had never been to church trust in Jesus because someone invited them to Lifegroup. I once invited a girl to Lifegroup who had never been to church before and she came. After a few weeks she came to church and gave her life to Jesus! Lifegroup was the gateway to her knowing God.

The list goes on and on. Over and over I have seen God move through Lifegroup. But it has nothing to do with my Lifegroup specifically; it has everything to do with Jesus. As we invite God to do His will in our Lifegroups, as we submit to His authority, and as we obey Him in inviting people He will move in the hearts and minds of people. It may not look like we anticipated but it is a journey that will not disappoint.

I have been so blessed to see Acts 2:42-47 in my life through Lifegroup. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Have you checked out a lifegroup? Do you need to give it a second chance? They’re so much fun and they’re all about Jesus. Check one out this week!

By Tina Jackson, Children’s Ministry Director

Financial Peace

Are you $100,000 in debt? Do you have $100,000 to spend? Or are you somewhere in between?

Come to the Financial Peace Equipping to hear Josh Lawson share God’s intention for your finances. Josh is the Director of Community Engagement at Antioch Waco and is an author and speaker who engages his audience with Biblical principles on finances. His equippings are known for being perspective shifting and motivating for living a lifestyle of peace and purpose with your money.

Join us Sunday, February 23rd at 7:30pm in the Upper Room to learn more about God’s purposes for your money. This equipping is open to anyone, no sign up required.

More

My whole life I have always wanted more. Whether it were more LEGOs as a child, a faster time on the cross-country course in high school, or more results in my ministry, I have always wanted more. It’s a challenge to be content with what is right in front of me.

I’ve found dissatisfaction much easier to come by, as compared to its more positive counterparts: contentment and thankfulness. It is far easier to point out what is not going my way than to celebrate what is. Often I reflect on my life and I feel that it’s not good enough; I want more. I look at my relationships and feel I’m not being cared for the way I’d like. I look at my ministry and it’s so easy to compare to other churches and other leaders feeling inadequate. I compare compare compare.

At times, this perspective has led me to frustration and even anger at God. “Why God? Why can’t it be this way or that? Why can’t it be easier? Why can’t I have more fun? Why can’t things work out just the way I planned?” I can go on and on, questioning and asking for more.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe when you evaluate your life you are quick to see the flaws and slow to celebrate the joys. Maybe you’re frequently dissatisfied and longing for more. And maybe your lens is just like mine, marred by dissatisfaction.

I think our standards and expectations need refurbishing. I so often forget that I do not deserve any of it. The “more” that I always seem to want is not what I’m entitled to. In fact, Romans 6:23a states that I deserve quite the opposite of a perfect life.

“For the wages of sin is death…”

On our own, we can never measure up; we are never qualified to earn God’s grace, love, and salvation. Left alone we are stuck; we are trapped in captivity and rightly face punishment. But by God’s grace, what we deserve and what Jesus offers differ drastically. The verse goes on to deliver some very good news.

“… but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When Jesus came to rescue the world, he changed everything; Jesus’ interference changed our stories forever. And for us, anything short of death is divine intervention. Only through God’s mercy are we set free. If we consider what we owe, we cannot fairly blame the one who pays our debt. Jesus is the more we have always longed for. He is the answer to our longings and our cries.

When we rest in Jesus’ promise of abundant life the questions, the comparisons, and the misguided longings fall away. That doesn’t mean life miraculously becomes easy or perfect; it means that Jesus is all we need. He is our “more”.

What if we replaced dissatisfaction with joy? What if we spent more time celebrating the eternal life we have in Christ than contemplating our lack? I know my life would look different. How would yours look?

By Will Aufhammer, College Ministry Director

Getting Over My Offense

For me, these moments come. These moments where my every dream seems shattered and broken on the floor. My thoughts lead to how He never comes how I want Him too. His ways rarely look how I thought they would, or should. His timing does not seem perfect. And as my thoughts lead to disappointment, anger, and despair, I stop believing that His ways are above my ways. I start wondering if maybe my design is better than the Designer’s.

This was my December.

Last month He hit me hard. He challenged me to truly face what I believe. He showed me my control and manipulation. He showed me my plans and my dreams, the ones, that I hadnʼt fully surrender to Him. He asked me time and time again, “Are your boundary lines in pleasant places, are the purposes I have for you good, are my dreams fuller than the ones you created, do I come to give abundant life?”

Throughout Advent I realized that God has never come as we quite expect. Our God let Sarah get past the right age, Noah watched his world be flooded, Joseph lived forgotten in a prison, David started his kingship surrounded by disgruntled men living in a cave, Daniel was an advisor to a pagan king, Mary got pregnant a couple months too early, the King came as baby, and the Savior died on a cross. I doubt any of these circumstances looked how the heroes of our faith expected.

The people of God have always been confused by His ways. And sadly, have tried to control, have gotten offended, and have walked away from him during the process. The Israelites, the Pharisees, and us Christians have all done it. And how my heart is the same. Only by His abundant, fiery grace, have I stayed anchored to His feet.

The question today is not whether you or I will be offended in our journey with God. The question is what we will do with that offense? Will we be like the crowds and even some of Jesusʼ own disciples who turn back? Like in John 6 when hearing that they would have to “eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life” they depart. Missing the greatest story they had chance to be a part of because they could not comprehend. Or will we resolve that our offense is not a worthy reason to turn around compared to the worthiness of God? I am standing with the twelve, echoing Peterʼs words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Those words have become my whispered weapon in the midst of offense, silencing the lies of the enemy and the temporal temptations of this world.

And today, I awake challenged. To once again say, “Lord, not my will, but yours.” Jesus, let me lose my life, to gain. My story for your glory. Not my manicured plans, but your crazy, wild adventure. Not my black and white life, but your abundant one. Come surprise me. Do it your way. Give me the grace to wait and watch this beautiful masterpiece be painted out of the messiness of my soul. And Lord, let my offense not give way to my turning back. Because, really, where else can I go?

By Carrie Bach, Member of the Senior Leadership Team

Hope on a Sleeve

In line in front of me, a commonplace coffee shop event takes place. Customers ahead progress; I stand still- obstructed by an awe inspired four-year-old with hands, nose, and lips glued to the glass covered pastry case. He presses his face harder against the glass, as if increased proximity to the pastries and a harder gaze results in his desire satisfied. Then with a “Sorry” to me, and a “Come on, Aiden” to the little one, his mother pulls him forward, his left hand leaving a fingerprint streak along the pane. The streak draws my eye to surrounding smudge marks on the glass, all toddler height, evidence of the hopes of Aiden’s peers who went before him that day. 

And I think, “Children just have no qualms about leaving traces of their hope wherever they tread.” Then, I wonder, “When did I unlearn that shameless, public declaration of my hope- that clarity of communication about what I desired? Was it when I realized that those older people around me weren’t putting their noses on the pane? Or was it when I learned that the focus of my gaze and relentless requests didn’t necessarily correlate to my hopes being realized? How did I decide that asking sparingly increased my odds of receiving? That  the best way to avoid disappointment in a world of inconsistent supply was to decrease my demand? ”

Somewhere along my childhood development spectrum, these lessons were affirmed.

Unfortunately, these lessons in the economics of hope don’t translate to my Father’s economy. Instead, when I look at the market laws of His kingdom, I see this:
• “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matt 4
• “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matt 5
• “Pray then like this: Father… Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”
• “The kingdom of Heaven…is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” Romans 14
• “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” Luke 11
• “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11

So, I see a few economic laws at work here. First, I see that my soul demands (hopes for) the word of God and the righteousness, peace and joy of His Spirit. I see that the supply of these is endless. I find that the transaction involves asking and desiring; and my currency is belief. What is belief? Being sure of what I hope for.

But how am I to be sure of what I hope for when the ask, seek, and believe didn’t lead to fulfilled hopes in the past? When my heart is sick, like Solomom’s, from hope disappointed? First, I remember the second part of that Proverb: a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. And I eat from that tree of life, remembering where God has opened His hand to satisfy my desires. Second, I remember what He has done for my friends. Because what’s been done for them has been done for me- we’re family. And finally, I just hope again. Because, I know this: my hope will never put me to shame! How? Because of His love. In his letter to the Romans, Paul says that the love of God has been poured out in my heart through his Spirit that He gave to me. And this is his answer for how our hope is never put to shame: His love (Romans 5:4).

His love, unchanging, results in my hope unchanged- unadjusted to the norms of those around me or the disappointments of the past. My hope is unaware of those watching me. It keeps no ledger of the disappointments of my past. My hope doesn’t settle for a counterfeit reward. My hope insists on receiving my desire- the Word of God and His steadfast Love: in one word, Jesus.

And so, I’ll press my fingers, nose, and lips against my Father’s pastry case! I’ll leave traces of my hope behind me, leading others to the treasures I’ve been longing for. Unashamed, I’ll wear my hope on my sleeve. And my hope reads: Jesus!

By Renae Arndt, Prayer and Worship Director

Priorities and Motivations

This is part two of a three part series. See part 1 here.

So your time is valuable. How do you maximize it?

The first step is figuring out how you are using your time. What are your priorities? Last year, I made a list of everything that took time in my life (work, church, hobbies, family, friends, health) and tried to order them in terms of what I value. I asked questions like “What activities do I never forget or miss?”; “What do I always forget about?”; “What do I end up putting off until last minute?” to determine the order. And I recorded my time use  for 48 consecutive hours.

Once I made that list, I found that I was doing the top half of my priorities excellently, the next quarter adequately, and the last quarter barely.

We are called to excellence because we are made in the image of God and God does things excellently. If you are not doing something excellently, you should be wondering if it is worth your time.

The problem is, excellence takes time. By taking stock of my priorities and current time management, I was able to evaluate if my current priorities lined up with what I wanted to value, and what needed to be adjusted.

I would argue that, for every Christian, your relationship with God and personal time with him has to be your #1 priority. Above all else, make sure to get personal time with your creator, Father, and best friend every day. It is the absolute best use of your time.

I try and make my time as high-yield as possible, which for me means focusing on one activity and doing it well. That is, when I am spending time with friends, I am fully present and enjoying their company. When I am working on a project, I avoid distractions, even turning off the Internet from my computer and closing the door to my room. Why? Because I know if I try to watch TV or hang out with a friend while studying, I will do both half- heartedly and enjoy neither. And if I come home late and my housemates are halfway through a movie, I will generally choose to go to bed rather than stay up because the amount of genuine connecting that will happen during that time (especially when I’ve missed the premise) isn’t worth being tired and unproductive the next day, when there may be better opportunities to develop friendship.

Let me leave you with a challenge. As Christians, we are called to give at least 10% of our income back to God. When I was in college, I had no income so I felt God ask me to tithe my time instead. What if you gave 10% of your time? I’d argue that the kingdom would come faster. I’ve heard so many stories of financial breakthrough that I am convinced that God can get all money he wants, with or without the Church. But it takes our choice to give Him the time he needs to accomplish His mission.

By Ben Drum, Neighborhood Section Leader

Who Is Jesus?

Jesus is our Advocate

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 ESV)

Jesus made a way for us to have peace with God. Every sin you’ve committed carries a consequence.  Our sin has disrupted our relationship with God.  Sin has left us restless, reckless, and in absolute depravity, unable to make peace with a perfect God; Until Jesus came.  In and through Jesus we find justice and mercy.  He did the very thing we could never do. He personally took the penalty for the sins we committed when he died on the cross, and he restores our relationship with God, as we trust Him.

Jesus is our Victor

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV)

Jesus is our Victor.  Jesus defeated the enemy.  Each of us has different perspectives and experiences with “the enemy.” However, scripture is clear that the enemy exists and that we are in a spiritual battle, not against people, but against this enemy. Whether it came as an injustice, a perversion, a harsh word, an unfair circumstance, a sickness, or the death of a loved one – we have all encountered the enemy.  And yet, there’s hope any and every time we encounter the enemy because we have Jesus as our victor.  He has already won. The end of the story has been written.

Jesus is our Light

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV)

Jesus is our guide into what is True.  We live amidst so much confusion; there are so many conflicting answers and paths.  We are so prone to persuasion, so caught in a world of wilderness, and it’s dark.  If you’re like me, you’re tired of all the easy steps to change your life, sick of feeling incapable of making a good decision on your own, and disgusted with the attempt to keep everyone happy.  The great news is that you don’t have to follow everyone anymore.  You just have to follow the one true light, Jesus.

Jesus is our Refuge

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 ESV)

We are guaranteed trials in this life.  You were born with a tag that said “Hardship Guaranteed.”  You cannot avoid pain and difficulty, but you can find rest in the middle of it.  Jesus is our Refuge.  His promise is that He will never leave us.  His invitation is to come to Him.

Jesus is our Living Water

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV)

Jesus offers us LIFE!  Everything else is fleeting.  Sadness, emptiness, boredom, those who feel no purpose, hear no compelling point to it all, or see no reason for even living must drink of the fountain of Life:  Jesus, The Christ.  When the fleeting pleasures of this world are exposed, one thing will remain…. the life of Christ.

Do you feel distant from God? Trust Jesus as your advocate.

Do you feel under attack… like you’re losing the battle? Trust Jesus as your victor.

Do you feel confused and don’t know where to turn? Trust Jesus as your light.

Do you feel tired and heavy laden? Trust Jesus as your refuge.

Do you feel low on purpose and in need of refreshment? Trust Jesus as your Living Water.

By Andrew Bach, Lead Pastor