A Metaphor for Growth

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A Metaphor for Growth

I’ve always been told that the Christian life is not a sprint, but a marathon. It’s not about rushing through as fast as you can and getting to a specific destination. It’s about endurance and perseverance. I personally am a sprinter… figuratively that is, and especially when it comes to the idea of sanctification. One thing that I’ve been learning this last year is to be okay with the process of growth in my life. I’d like to think that I’ll reach perfection someday if I weed out all the bad and do all the good, but that’s not the Gospel, and I’ll be glorified and perfected only after my time on this earth is done. I don’t always make the kind of progress I’d like to… sometimes its two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes I have to relearn lessons that I thought I already knew. Life is a little more messy than my black and white mind likes to admit.

The idea that life is a marathon is a very good one in many regards. I think it has helped me and it gets its point across. However, recently I’ve been thinking about another running metaphor that might work too. As much as I joke about not being an athlete, I did run cross country and track in high school. I remember my coach making us do interval training. It was by far my least favorite day. Interval training is an intense workout where you run a set amount of time alternating between sprinting and jogging. For ten minutes you’ll be running at your top speed and then the next ten minutes you’ll be at a slower pace, and then you’ll start sprinting again.

I’ve felt like my life has reflected this the last few weeks here at Project. The month of June was intense for me. There was a lot of struggle and tears and processing and growth. And then all of a sudden everything started to click and make sense and a revelation was made. And now here I am in July, and nothing nearly as exciting as the level of growth I experienced in June has happened. As I was brainstorming about what to write about for this post, I got frustrated because I feel so uninspired by my lull in growth.

I’ve heard that if you aren’t growing, you’re dying, or going backwards in your faith. That always stressed me out and made me feel this pressure to constantly be growing at an intense pace where I am making leaps and bounds of growth every day. And when that’s not the case, it made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough or that something was wrong with me.

I think one thing I’ve seen in both my life and in those around me is that growth is not always a consistent process, and that is okay. That’s why the idea of an interval run seems to fit so well. Sometimes you are sprinting in this life. God is bringing you through an intense period of growth and learning. Sometimes you are jogging. You are still moving forward, but it is at a slower pace. Maybe God is allowing you time to process or is teaching you how to rest in Him or is preparing you for a season to come. And that is a gift! I certainly wouldn’t have the endurance to frantically sprint spiritually through my entire life, even when I am extremely grateful for the results. It is a blessing when he gives us a slower and more relaxing season, and I do think it is rare. My encouragement is to not take it for granted… learn how to humbly accept where God has you. You’re there for a reason.  

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Discipleship

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Discipleship

Coming back to Project for a second time, I have been asked the question, “How does this summer compare to last summer?”, multiple times. My answer is that I can’t even compare them because they are so different. The people, the culture, the focus, is all so different each summer and I think anyone who has come back to Project multiple times would say the same thing. Summer Training Project is special because it is a place that people can come back to multiple summers, but have a new role and experience a new area of growth. These different roles are disciple, room leader, team leader, and project director. It is designed in such a way that each role is being discipled and discipling another.

Something I believe Campus Outreach does really well is discipleship. Two weeks ago, team leader, Mary Hitt gave a message on the importance of discipleship. One aspect of her talk touched on the phases of discipleship in reference to how Paul discipled Timothy in the New Testament.

            Phase One: Parent

Paul became a “parent” to Timothy because he mentored him (1 Timothy 1:2).

            Phase Two: Pacesetter

Once Timothy understood the Gospel well enough, Paul invited him along to keep up with himself and the pace he was moving at in his Faith (2 Timothy 3:10-11).

            Phase Three: Partner

Paul eventually no longer saw Timothy as someone who needed guidance in their faith, but he saw him as someone that he could do ministry with. He trusted Timothy with leading his own disciples, while still maintaining a relationship (Romans 16:21).

 

This is what discipleship looks like on project and back at on campus! The staff disciple students and as students grow they are encouraged to start to pour into the lives of other students or people in their lives. Project is the perfect grounds for practicing discipleship because it is such an intentional environment that helps participants learn and understand the value that is in being disciple and beginning to disciple others. One of the biggest lessons I have learned this summer, being a room leader, in a role where I am encouraged and expected to do life on life discipleship with the girls in my room is simply: it is not about me. All of the discipleship we do on this earth is not about if we are “good” at it, if we are doing enough for the person we are hanging out with, or even if the person we are hanging out with thinks we are cool! It is all about learning more about Jesus together and falling deeper in love with Him alongside one another!  Life on life discipleship is so exciting because it allows us to see the intimate ways Jesus is working in the lives of those around us. Therefore, we are able to see and experience more of Him! I think this is truly what discipleship is all about: that we would know Jesus and make Him known together!

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A God Who Changes Lives

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A God Who Changes Lives

We have a little over two weeks left at Summer Training Project, and the thing I can’t get over is how much God works in the two short months that we are down in South Carolina. For some people, Project is an experience filled with life changing revelations every day. Sometimes it’s an experience that continues to push people along the trajectory they were already graced to be on. Here is a glimpse into what God has been doing in some of the students’ lives the last few weeks:

“God has really been showing me that nothing I can do will change or affect people, but I need to rely on him to do the work in people. That’s also been super humbling. I’m really excited to keep building deeper relationships with other people as the summer goes on – both with old friends and new friends that I’ve met this summer.”

Sam Reid, Room Leader

Junior, University of Northwestern

 

“God has been teaching me a lot since being at Project. The most important thing I’ve learned is to trust in God. I’m a very independent person, so relying on God has been a struggle. He’s always so faithful to me though. When I do turn away from my own path and follow God’s it ends up being a hundred times more rewarding. My favorite part of being down here is D-group time. I love learning new things with Taylor and Tori. I also enjoy their openness and guidance. And the snacks. And us just laughing all night long. I’m looking forward to building more friendships this summer and also going skydiving!”

Hope Burnham, Disciple

Sophomore, Saint Cloud State University

 

“One thing God has taught me since coming to Project is the value of surrounding myself with fellow believers. I love the community and the intentionality of Project. Having the accountability of studying the Bible with other students before work, being in a discipleship group with my roommates, and discussing the talks with other students have been very helpful in growing my relationship with God. I have really enjoyed the Thursday night socials, Friday night encouragements, and spending time with friends, whether that is swing dancing or singing hymns together after work on Saturdays. It is sweet to have something to look forward to after work and participate in activities with other students who I may or may not otherwise see during the day. I look forward to continuing forming deeper friendships with people at Project. With only one other student coming to Project from St. Thomas, I did not know many people prior to the summer. It has been encouraging to talk to people one-on-one and to hear their stories. I am grateful for the friendships I have developed here.”

Maria Bell, Disciple

Sophmore, University of Saint Thomas

“If I had to point to one thing that God has been teaching me during my time here, it’s that I need to put my trust in him and in him alone. Before I left for Project, I had been living a life in which my happiness was derived entirely from earthly desires. Time after time I put my faith in relationships, sports, partying, and other things. Each time I was left broken. That’s where Project comes in. I signed up out of desperation, hoping to build relationships that would last. Yet I am leaving with the only relationship that could ever truly fulfill me – a relationship with Jesus Christ. My favorite part of Project has been the environment that it creates. This is the first time in which I have experienced a community that is so comfortable with who they are as individuals. The love they have for Jesus and for each other has been evident from day one. At this point in the summer, I’m really looking forward to going back home. In a conversation with Reid early on this summer, he related Project to a fire hydrant, with a steady, powerful stream of information blasting from it. I’m interested in the transition back into life in MN and how God uses that information to transform me and my life.”

Bailey Fey, Disciple

Junior, University of Minnesota

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The Transformation of Hearts

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The Transformation of Hearts

Project is one of the most unique communities I have ever had the opportunity to be part of. Our little hotel on the coast of South Carolina has become a sacred space made up of vulnerability, growth, and life-changing transformation. Through early morning bible studies before work, talks given by staff and student leaders, discipleship groups with rooms, and deep conversations that free people up to be fully known by those around them, the power of the Gospel transforms lives right before our eyes. God has been showing up in mighty ways here and showing us that He is the only one who can change the hearts of those here at Project who do not yet know Him.

A question that might be coming to your mind right now is, “Isn’t everyone who decides to give two months of their summer to a discipleship program already a Christian?” The answer to that is, no! Not everyone who comes to Project is walking with Jesus and this is the purpose of STP; that students would grow in their love for Jesus and that He would become the ultimate treasure of their hearts. While we learn in Ministry Training on Wednesday afternoons how to share the Gospel with those around us, a lot of our talks are focused on helping students become self-feeding followers of Jesus through reading the Word and practicing other spiritual disciplines, as well as getting to the heart level, uncovering sin, and asking hard questions like, “What is holding you back from accepting this free gift of your Salvation?”.

The Lord has graciously given students at Project the absolute privilege of watching His Gospel transform the hearts of people we love here. I personally think that it is the sweetest thing I have ever seen and I am in awe of how much God wants each of our hearts. Students have met Jesus in this space, students are currently meeting Jesus in this space, and students will continue to meet Jesus in this space. Praise God for the souls He has saved already this summer and for those He is fiercely pursuing!

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What a Week at Project Looks Like

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What a Week at Project Looks Like

A lot of people don’t exactly understand how Project works. They wonder how we spend our time, what we are learning, and what the schedule looks like. When they hear that we work forty hours a week at Walmart, they wonder how we have time for rest, fun, or any spiritual growth and processing. They question why we need to raise support if we have a full-time job and if it is actually a good experience to monetarily support. These are all very valid questions. These were things I asked before coming down here for my first summer.

One thing that really stood out to me when I first started getting involved in Campus Outreach is that almost everything within the ministry is very intentional. I couldn’t help but respect and appreciate how purposeful CO was. That means that the way Project is set up is very intentional and purposeful too.

Yes, we do work at Walmart for forty hours a week. Yes, that is a lot of our time down here. But it’s almost surprising how much good comes from it. It isn’t just a job and source of income for us for the summer. Walmart is a key part of building community here at Project. I’ve always heard that suffering bonds people. Walmart isn’t exactly suffering (we’re actually all very grateful that they give us jobs!!), but work is work. We are all experiencing life together as coworkers, which is a different kind of bond than just living in the same place. You truly become so close with the people you experience Walmart with.

Walmart is also the perfect ground for evangelism. All summer long we are learning about relational evangelism, and our Walmart coworkers give us the perfect opportunity to put our newfound knowledge into practice. We work so much with these people, become friends with them, and come to genuinely care about them.  Conversations about life and faith can’t help but naturally come up every so often. Many students have been able to share the Gospel with their coworkers before the summer ends.

How do we have time for much else when Walmart is forty hours of our week? Project is an intensive discipleship program. Every Monday after work we have a theme talk. Every Tuesday we have time with our individual campuses and a discipleship group with our room that involves Bible Study, reflection questions, and testimony sharing. On Wednesdays we have a ministry training talk and a workshop that sometimes includes going on the beach and striking up conversations with strangers about Jesus. Thursdays are dedicated to a fun social event. Fridays are for personal worship training where we learn about different spiritual disciplines and how to to apply them practically to our lives. Everyday there is a devotional on 1 Peter that we can go through on our own or with other people.

The thing I’ve noticed is that often the most spiritual growth happens when you are living and doing every day normal life activities with others, like working or grocery shopping or running to the post office to mail letters back home. We are all doing life together here and creating relationships built on the foundation of being brothers and sisters in Christ. Project is a unique environment where we can be authentic and vulnerable with others about the hard things and the good things we’ve gone through in life. It is an environment of support and encouragement, a safe place to ask tough questions and be open about sin. This is a place to forgive and ask for forgiveness, a place to process and heal and grow. Students truly meet Jesus here. That’s why it is so life changing, even when we spend so much time at Walmart.

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What does God think of me?

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What does God think of me?

During our second Monday night theme talk of the summer, Project Director, Emma Button gave a talk titled, “An Imperishable Smile”. At the beginning of the talk, Emma asked all of us the question, “If Jesus were to walk into this room right now, walk up to you and stand right in front of you; what would His face be when He was looking at you?” I think that this is a question that people like to avoid because it automatically begs other questions like; would his face be one of disappointment? Shame? Anger? Sadness? Regret? Joy? Satisfaction?  I am confident a different word rang in everyone’s ear for different reasons; everyone’s reason led them to their answer of the question, “What does God think of me?”

I know that when I hear this question, immediately all the mistakes I have made, the ways I have fallen short, and the ways I have loved the world more than I have loved the Father flood my mind. I am convicted of my sin that tells me I (and everyone else) am a guilty criminal that needs to be punished. Emma gave us a definition of Justification which is: a legal declaration in which God pardons the sinner of all his sin and counts the sinner as righteous in His sight. Thinking about this truth almost makes me uncomfortable because this love is unlike any love we will experience on this side of Heaven. In the midst of justification, the Lord sees all of our sin and knows our deceitful hearts fully, yet STILL chooses to forgive us of our sin, and count us righteous in His sight.

During the talk, we took a look at Luke 15:11-32, The Parable of the Prodigal Son.

 

In this story, the younger son squanders away the inheritance his father has gifted him, and full of shame comes back home to his father for help. When the son reaches his father he says (15:21), “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am not longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants”. The Father, however, responds with grace saying (15: 22-24), “’Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, for this my son was dead, and is alive again: he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate”.

The older son, upon hearing of his brothers return, responds with pride and envy. He says (15: 28- 29), “but he answered his Father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”

 

It is clear the both sons missed the main point: the heart of their father.

I left this talk understanding on a deeper level that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is simultaneously not about me at all, yet completely about me. There is not and never will be anything I can do to earn this type of justification. There is not and never will be anything I can to do deserve this type of love. Jesus in His immense love for me and all of humanity chose to love us this way. Jesus chose to stand up in the court room, right as the judge was about the charge us as criminals guilty of the sin we have committed, and He said, “Don’t punish her/him. I’ll take the punishment for their sin”.

It doesn’t matter where you have been, how far your heart has wandered, what shame or pride from your past you carry around with you; our Father will always, with open arms, joyfully welcome you back to Him.

 

So…  this brings us back to the original question; what does God think of us?

1. God is satisfied

Because of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, the wrath of God has been satisfied. The only thing that is left for us to do is receive God’s tender love.

2. God is generous

 He transforms us and makes us into a new creation in Him. He did not need to leave heaven- in fact, God does not need us at all. But He wants us and so He died on the cross for us.

A desire that is innate in all human beings is the desire to be fully known and fully loved. This desire is perfectly satisfied in Jesus.

3. God is happy with you

God is glad that He saved us. He doesn’t hold anything against us and keeps no record of our wrongs. God freely chose to bring us in as an ingredient to divine happiness.

 


Reflection Questions:

-       Are you like the younger or older brother?

-       What is keeping you from accepting God’s grace for you in this moment?

 

Taylor Wolf, Senior

Bethel University

2019 STP Communications Intern

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A Perspective on Brokenness

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A Perspective on Brokenness

Do you want to know the truth? The truth of this life is that we are broken. That fact is really hard to hear and impossible to ignore. There is something deep inside of us that is lacking – a hole in our hearts. And we try so hard to compensate for it. We think that somehow we can conjure up what we need to fix ourselves. Some of us find out faster than others that it’s impossible. No matter how hard we try and strive, we can’t get rid of that brokenness.

And so, we turn instead to trying to cover it up and bury it. We wear masks and present false selves to the world. These are just shadows of the real us, twisted and carefully manipulated versions. By whatever means possible, we hide the ugliness of our hearts. Sometimes we become such experts at this that we don’t even see the ugly in our hearts anymore, and we get puffed up with pride, believing that we aren’t like our struggling, broken neighbors. We say, “You know, I’m doing pretty good over here, not like so and so over there,” as we pat ourselves on the back, completely forgetting our former broken, desperate self that is sick and in need of a Savior.

But something happened 2,000 years ago to change this. The hole in our hearts can be filled. Our sickness can be healed. Our ugliness can be redeemed into something absolutely beautiful when it is covered with the blood of our sweet Jesus. That’s the Gospel. That’s what this summer is all about.

But this Gospel needs to be preached every day, again and again. This independent, “self-saving” nature has been ingrained in us, and we too often try to revert back to our old ways, even when we’ve accepted and known the truth before. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it…” the old hymnist writes.

How does this problem get solved? We have to know our brokenness again. You see, it’s hard to accept a savior when you forget you need the saving. This brokenness is sweeter though. It is our false self that is shattering. It is a mercy that God allows us to see our brokenness again. And we are not left in hopeless despair. Although it is still painful, it is with relief and gratitude that we can receive it because it is a necessary reminder of the Gospel. We are reminded that we can’t do it on our own. We can’t save ourselves or fix our brokenness. Thank you Jesus that You can!

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Summer Theme Announced

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Summer Theme Announced

Everyone made it safely down to Project, and the first week was a whirlwind of transitioning into our new home for the next two months. We started working at Walmart, had the first Social of the summer, and were able to see what our schedule each week in this crazy place is like. And, after months of planning and keeping it a secret, the theme of the summer was finally revealed! STP 2019’s theme is…

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Imperishable

This theme word was chosen out of the book of 1 Peter and comes from 1:3-5:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Staff and Team Leaders dedicated months of their time into brainstorming and preparing the theme, devotionals, and talk topics for the summer. So much prayer has gone into the process as well, and everyone is excited for what God is going to do in us and through us. One thing that I witnessed in others’ lives and can confidently say based on my own experience is that being down here in South Carolina and participating in this intensive two-month program changes people. God really is present here and is actively moving.

The night that all of the disciples arrived, Zach Simmons, who is on staff at the U of M and is one of the Project Directors this year, spoke at the first rally on this theme word of Imperishable. He brought up the point that all of us are fascinated with eternity, and this idea of something imperishable, but currently on this earth we don’t know of anything that actually is imperishable. An imperishable inheritance is, however, the climax of the Christian faith. The eternity that we will experience in heaven  is when all of our God-given longings will be satisfied forever.  

Zach set a great foundation for the rest of the summer, and I am confident that this one word will soon become something very real in our own lives and play a role in the story God is writing for each and every one of us. We can’t wait to see how this theme develops and progresses throughout our time here at Project!

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Come With Open Hands

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Come With Open Hands

Team leaders, room leaders, and servant team all have had a great secret to bear. It comes with the job, I guess. At the end of April, these students from five different schools gathered together for the Leader’s Retreat where the theme, verse, and book of the Bible to be studied this summer were announced. This all has to be kept from the disciples until the very first rally of the summer. That’s too long when you’re excited about something! And all the preparation that they have been involved in has definitely caused a lot of anticipation and excitement for these returners to Project.       

As one of these returning students myself, I can completely relate to these feelings that we are experiencing in the final days leading up to Summer Training Project. Recently, however, I’ve been reflecting on why I am so excited. Though there are a lot of good reasons to feel this way, a large part of why I am excited is because of last summer. Last summer was my first year at Project, and I had one of the sweetest seasons of my life. It seems almost like the ideal Project experience – my room got along and became my closest friends, I worked at a wonderful Walmart with great coworkers, and I learned and grew so much over the two months. Not everyone who is returning has this same story, but it stands to reason that most people who go back do so in part because of how good their first summer was.

You wouldn’t think that this could be a problem, but it has become one for me recently. Whenever you experience something for a second or third or fourth time, you come in with expectations for what it will be like based on your previous experience with it. This has been the case for me, and I’m guessing many others. But coming in with too many expectations can be dangerous. Expectations have a tendency to rob your current experience of the joy that it brings because you are constantly comparing it to the past instead of embracing your present for what it is. This is unfair of you to do. Not only does this have a negative affect on you, but it could also land on those around you, especially as a leader.

During the Leader’s Retreat I had to mourn my last year’s summer. It sounds extreme, but that’s what it felt like. Last summer was a wonderful season that God brought into my life. It is so easy to want to hold on to that, but that’s not how life works.  Time moves on, and it’s best if we let go and move on with it. That season served its purpose. This summer is going to be different. It could be harder, or easier, or busier… Only God knows what it holds. He is bringing a new season into our life that will have its own unique challenges, blessings, laughs, and memories. It will be its own kind of sweet.

I had to let go of the expectations for this summer in order to embrace the good that God is going to do in this new summer. I hope and pray that we can extend our hands before God wide open to what He has in store for us this summer instead of trying to hold on to the past, because as the wise C.S. Lewis says, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” And I don’t want to miss any of them.

“And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing and I will send down the showers in their seasons; they shall be showers of blessing.” Ezekiel 34:26

Jasmine Winter, senior

University of Northwestern

2019 STP Communications Intern

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Not the End, but the Beginning.

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Not the End, but the Beginning.

Four days ago, we all jumped out of our vehicles and stood on Minnesota ground once again. Though many tears were shed in those moments, the bittersweet feeling that project was just a dream turned our minds back towards reality. With heads spinning and much processing to be done, we all knew that God gifted us the community we had found in Garden City, South Carolina, but He was now calling us back home to share, grow, and establish further roots into His Word, community, and sharing the Gospel with urgency we have never felt before. Some were excited to share, some not quite sure how they could go about doing that, while others felt the overwhelming weight of anticipation towards sharing with their fallen world, family, friends, and others God put on their minds. Since we all come from different backgrounds, not everyone felt the same way. Despite the emotions, students walked away sharing a memory of the most impactful, loving, and stretching summer of their lives. Though it felt like the end of a beautiful dream for most, the beginning of project's produce is yet to arrive. The end of project is not the end, but just the beginning of what God is about to do with it in our lives.

Here are a few quotes taken from students about how summer training project impacted them:

“Project was extremely impactful for me in many categories. However, if I had to pick one that impacted me more than others, it would be the community project has given me. I formed relationships with brothers and sisters in Christ that are long lasting and Gospel centered. Within a week of leaving project, I already had my community contacting me, informing me that they are praying for me, and showing excitement to hold each other accountable in Christ. I’m excited to grow, as well as evangelize alongside my community this school year.”
-Austin Pavelka, University of Northwestern-St. Paul.

“My head and heart are bewildered, content and heavy all at once. I was challenged and stretched this summer in ways I didn’t know I needed. Jesus showed me more of who He is and His constant pursuit of me! Always chasing after me, relentless! He reminded me how very personal and near and intentional He really is. I couldn’t be more grateful for how Jesus worked and for the incredible people He put in my direction.”
Natalie St. John, Bethel University

“We love because He first loved us. This summer I was reminded with the importance of LOVE again. Jesus died for everyone including me, you, and the non-believers. There’s nothing we can do to change hearts unless we show them the love of Christ and leave God to do the rest. I can’t wait to be back on campus to see how God can use me to love the unloved ones already!”
-Scarlett Swift, St. Cloud State University

“Being at project this summer opened the door for God to give me a whole new perspective on loving people and stewarding my heart. Through His gracious love, the Lord revealed to me my deepest and most internal sins and gave me a community of believers that challenged me in my walk with Jesus. Project was a great tool in establishing habits of a disciple that will last a lifetime.”
-Daniel Fenske, University of Northwestern--St. Paul

“I used to think that God was someone I needed to constantly impress and that I needed to work for His love and His salvation. I learned that there is nothing that I can do that could make Him love me more or less than He already does. I learned how important the gospel truly is and how imperative it is that we share it with everyone possible.”
-Jenn Olson, University of Saint Thomas

“Athletes in Training allowed me to see how selfish I really was. I believed my strength depended on myself and I had to be physically and mentally strong in order to carry my burdens. This summer broke me and made me realize how weak I really am. I held onto the promise for when I am weak, then I am strong—that I can and should be boasting in my failures and weaknesses to glorify God. God’s grace is sufficient and His power is perfected when I fail and have no strength to carry on. I should glorify Him even in my time spent building physical strength”
-Danielle Jibben, University of Northwestern—St. Paul

This summer I fully understood the pursuit God has for my heart. I watched as He uncovered my sin and broke down my walls leaving me fully dependent on Him in every aspect of my life while sweetly reminding me of the Gospel and the freedom I have because of Jesus. I was reminded that He is in every situation right by my side walking with me not just watching over me and I can have hope in His unfailing love no matter the circumstances (Lamentations 3:21-24). I also was shown the importance of Gospel centered community and how we can come alongside and encourage each other as we grow further established in our relationship with the Lord.
-Katelynn Mehrkens, University of Northwestern--St. Paul

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Is Project Even Fun?

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Is Project Even Fun?

After hearing my schedule, my mom once asked me, "Is project even fun?" It took me a couple seconds to process my answer and realize that, to any project outsider, STP's schedule may seem like a roller coaster ride that never seems to slow down, but instead picks up speed. It may seem like all we do is work at Walmart and sit in talks, if we are not working out or evangelizing or eating and sleeping. Reality is, it feels just like that, but in a good way. The extensive structure and impossible alone time definitely increase the wear and tear on our bodies, but that does not mean there are not moments of total joy that come from it. The irony of it is that most of the time we do not know what to do with the free time we get. Often, you will find us under the tent playing Mafia, in the pool, driving to Cook Out or Steak n' Shake, processing information, or (it may be hard to believe) find us buying groceries at Walmart on our day off. Sleep and time off are our most valued commodities. STP may sound like we're always chasing time, but its not all work and sweat. In fact, most of our memories made during our craziest moments where we let fun slip into the picture.

Watch some of the beautiful, fun moments we made this summer in the videos below!

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Ripples

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Ripples

Today, I created a ripple.

This is never the thought that goes through our head at night, is it? Often times, the question is did I change the world today?

We boast about all the huge accomplishments, jobs, activities, and medals we have won. It is easy to talk about the waves we started that impacted the world, or at least our world. 

But how often do we sit back and watch the ripples we make spread? How often do we find joy in seeing the stones we've been casting at the solid surface (someone's hard heart) bounce anywhere but the place we were aiming for?

Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to you.

Ripples. Oddly enough, it sounds so peaceful. 

Yet, we are always surfing out to try and find the biggest wave instead of finding joy in the simplicity of something small. We spend our lives chasing after the waves. Soon, it becomes an addiction to fame--trying to become somebody great. 

We don't realize ripples become waves and sometimes the ripples are more satisfying to watch accumulate than chasing a wave that may never hit us. 

Throughout His journey, Jesus was humble. He sought out the ripples, never the waves. Yes, He stood in front of crowds, but He also targeted the lost and hurting. There are times to dive deep into the crashing waves, but God also calls us to make ripples. That's all He wants from us. Jesus was the everlasting example of what making a ripple can do. He was one man and He had 12 disciples. He was King of the world, yet He didn't boast. Instead, He reached out to people who no other king would ever touch. 

Jesus made a ripple. That ripple grew through 12 other disciples, women close to Him, and any others close to Him. The ripple He made in those few lives led to the 2.2 Billion people who call themselves Christians. Though not all of them are saved, 2.2 Billion people on this earth associate themselves with something that Jesus started. 

A ripple was all it took.

I saw a quote a few years ago that says,

How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.
- Bill Bennot

Jesus, in my mind, lived this quote. 

What about you? What are your intentions?

Are you chasing after the waves when you should be delighting in watching God use your ripples?

The earth has 7 billion people chasing waves, trying to change the world.

Are you willing to step aside from the rest of the world and allow God to create ripples through you as He did Jesus?

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The Woman by the Ocean

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The Woman by the Ocean

Last Wednesday, I sat down next to a middle age woman, who rocked my entire world. Up until this last week, I had never had a conversation gone wrong with anyone I reached out to on the beach. Up until her, I felt pretty confident in myself, I guess you could say I had it coming.

She was alone on a blanket looking at the ocean, so I felt pulled to reach out. After commenting on her situation, I sat down and asked to share about my summer. She quickly turned defensive and said, "if I take the time to listen to you you have to respect what I have to say too." 

Definitely took me off-guard.

She mentioned her belief that she thinks people should be good without having to "be good for someone or a reason." She hated the church and hypocrisy. I agreed. We all hate hypocrisy. She said her mother was partially Jewish, but she didn't desire to follow neither her heritage or Jesus.

She shared her story and I dug into mine, but somehow the words just wouldn't come out. She was defensive and her reaction made me feel as if she was a lost cause and nothing I said would change her mind. I shared the gospel, but it felt as if I was talking to a wall.

Soon, the tide swept in and she cut off the conversation and I walked away analyzing what happened. Her response made me feel inadequate. I walked away rethinking everything I believed in about sharing the gospel. I felt silenced and as if I couldn't say anything I thought I needed to. 

But then I realized nothing I could ever say would ever save anyone. Only Jesus can unveil someone's eyes to every lie they've believed in or lived out and nothing I will do will ever be able to compare. 

I walked away realizing I look at Jesus as a TOOL TO BE USED verses looking at myself as the TOOL. 

That woman may have become more ignorant towards Christ after that conversation or maybe God used sharing the bridge diagram and my story to allow her to see God for the first time. The saddest part is I will never know. 

Personally, the hardest part is knowing not everyone is going to Heaven. In fact, it scares me. How dreadfully scary is it to realize we know and carry the key to Heaven in our hearts. Often, we are so scared and/or selfish to take the time to share it. I let that fear of trying to save everyone hit me like a wall of bricks, but then Jesus sweeps in and reassures me that His plan is His plan alone to carry out. Yes, I should be living out the Gospel and sharing it, but I should not do it out of fear of trying to take everyone off Hell's hit list by my own strength. 

I cannot save anyone, you cannot save anybody. Only Jesus saves. He uses us, not the other way around.

Yes, preach the Word and share the Gospel as often as you feel led to, but never let fear become the reason for sharing. Do not walk away from what felt like a dead-end conversation and believe that because it "went wrong" in your eyes means it was a failed mission.

God does not fail missions, in fact He scoops them up and fulfills them in His perfect timing. Jesus completes the mission. He uses you whether or not you reap and/or see the benefits.

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Five Minute Life Fix

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Five Minute Life Fix

Sorry to disappoint, but I don't actually know how to fix your life in five minutes. In fact, I think it is quite odd of you to think you could fix your life at such a rapid speed? Also, should I be concerned?

You may think it's fake news, but quick fixes actually do not fix anything. If fact, usually they end up hurting you in the long run. 

Have you ever thought about why we tend to click on the blog posts, articles, or Pinterest ideas on things that say something like:

  • How to get rid of ... quick and easy
  • The best solution for ...
  • How to permanently stop ...
  • How to ... the right way
  • 5 Questions you should ask before ...
  • How to ... in 5 minutes
  • Tips for effortless ...
  • 1 Simple rule to ...
  • 10 simple things you can do to ...
  • 2 most strategic ways to accelerate ...
  • 7 Tricks to ...

I wonder how many books, articles, magazines, treatments, or technology we have invested in and spent our money on in order to achieve these "quick fixes."

How crazy is it that we doubtfully read and chase after things that we know will not satisfy our desire?

However, we continue to click on these ideas that give us momentary hope in the growth we want to see in our lives. Despite the endless lists of failed products, weight loss tips, or life hacks, we continue to pursue these "easy outs."

Why is that?

This summer, I have learned about how much we, as humans, tend to chase after any option that could lead us towards the destination we desire without asking for help, spending the extra money to consult a professional, or ask God--the ultimate professional who wrote every book on how to live a perfect life.

I have learned that we chase everything but the heart of God. Often, I feel like God is my "last resort." I tend to desire control and when I think I can fix something without having to "bother" God, then I usually try to. My bad, did I say usually? I meant all the time.

God tends to feel too hard to reach or too busy because I do not take the time to realize I am the one too busy, not Him

I measure my success by looking in a mirror, use self-talk to talk myself up, and let other's comments about me hit too hard.

You know what's funny? We are not who we see in the mirror because it only reflects what is on the outside and not the inside. Our self-talk, whether positive or negative, does not paint a accurate picture of who we really are. What others say about us cannot touch us because only God can judge, only He can define. Instead, God knows us better than anything or anyone ever could--He created us. 

Our true identity cannot be ESTABLISHED from anything else but God and His word. Our desires will never be met by the simplicity of what those 10 Steps to Receiving Fame promise us. 

Growing up, I felt like I was doing everything right, yet it felt all wrong. I knew God was God and about His love, but somehow the distance and what I knew to be true about Him felt like a distant fairy-tale that deep down I was hoping to be true.

I felt an obliviousness towards God, despite knowing the facts, that Jesus died for me, and how much He loved me.

Looking back on life, I think we can all agree that at some point in our walk with the Lord we were more concerned with appearing godly than with knowing God. We chased the quick fixes instead of chasing the only thing that can fix our problems--Jesus. Everyone judges our hearts by our behavior, instead of understanding that God cares more about our hearts. 

Can we honestly say we talk to God about what we are feeling instead of saying what we think He wants to hear?

Life has no quick fixes outside of Jesus and the powerful work He can do in our lives. Maybe it is time to start being honest with ourselves and "fix" how we interact with others, the Word, and ourselves with small, God-guided steps every single day.

Ask yourself:

  1. For God to be pleased with you, what do you think you should be chasing?
  2. What is your heart chasing the most?

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Prepare to Share, Dare to Care

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Prepare to Share, Dare to Care

In our minds (those of Christians), we often picture ourselves standing on a stage with thousands in the audience. If we (the speaker) looked around, we'd picture some listening, some sobbing, some with their heads rested between their hands, some trying to hold in all the emotions with silent tears falling down their cheeks, while others sit as cold as ever. We imagine a beautiful, inspiring soundtrack playing, while the rest of the world sits silently as our voice echos throughout the giant stadium. We picture thousands falling on their knees with their hands raised high begging for the Lord to save their lives and break apart the chains holding them to their pasts, illnesses, and temptations. 

At least, when I hear the word evangelism, this is what I imagine.

The first time I shared my testimony, it was over a phone. Yeah, that's right. Horrible idea. The next time, I was sitting in the middle of a game room with clashing pool balls and loud, obnoxious music playing in the background so loud I had to repeat everything twice and I lost my voice. The time after was given over lunch in a room so silent I thought I could hear the drop of sweat that ran off my back hit the floor. 

Then, one Friday night I was driving home to finally share my testimony on a stage, which I thought would finally come close to what I pictured my "perfect testimony-sharing stage" to look like. Man...was I wrong. I walked out of church that Sunday from filling two back-to-back forty minute sermon time slots with my head a mess. I had said what I planned to, but somehow it didn't come out like I had practiced. I kind of got the reaction I expected to, but not totally. I went back and listened to the recording and, I kid you not, probably got a concussion from hitting my head against the wall every time I heard myself say "um." I hated every bit of how I told my story. I felt inadequate and I should have talked about God more. There are so many "should haves." I wish I could press rewind on the whole thing just to make a second attempt. 

The thing is, I walked away that day disheartened. I felt like I had failed God. I felt like I had failed everyone in my story. Returning home, I remember seeing some people in the following weeks who negatively impacted my life (though I had not mentioned their names) and getting glaring looks as if I had lied to the entire world. I remember Satan filling my head with the thought that I should quit sharing because nobody believes me and I am a liar--like the pain I had felt in my past was something I made up.

Little did I know in one of the rows near the front a very lost young man wept that Sunday. That day a child of God was returned after so much searching and years of pain. That man was not supposed to be there, yet he showed up. His grandparents approached me with tears in their eyes weeks after that Sunday and told me their grandson dedicated his life to Christ that day and he feels brand new. 

Little did I know.

I took a leap of faith and trusted God that He would use my story to save the lives of others. I told Him I wanted to be used. After beating myself up for weeks about how and what I had shared, God proved His faithfulness, even when my trust fled. The moment Satan tried to burn up my desire to share the Gospel, Jesus came and put it out. 

I would do it all over again. I would receive those hateful texts that left me wondering late at night why I try. I would stand on the stage and share the exact same message and go through the same experiences I spent my life trying to survive. I would do it again.

For that one person. For that one, young man who decided to randomly show up at church the same Sunday I thought I spoke and thought I totally blew it. 

How sweet is our Lord? How sweet are His mercies and His faithfulness to show up even when we flee the midst of the battle? He calls us back and not only allows us to continue fighting behind Him, but uses us to win impossible battles.

It was not my story that saved that man, it was the grace of God. How sinful is it to think of my story as my own--to place the weight of saving lost souls on my own shoulders? How much disappointment in myself must I experience before I realize how God sees me and allowing Him to "take the wheel"?

What about your story? Are you willing to allow Jesus to use you, despite any wounds you may receive from this fallen world?

Sharing your personal testimony is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding opportunities you will ever experience. The question is, how does one prepare a personal testimony? This summer we have learned that anything we say can be more effective if we know how to organize our thoughts. Testimonies have to be simple, clear, and intriguing. Here are some ...

Do's and Don'ts of giving a testimony:

| DO |

  1. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and guidance.
  2. Use a three point outline describing your life before Christ, how you came to know Him as your Savior, and what your life has looked like after receiving Him.
  3. Use a attention-grabbing beginning with a thought-provoking ending.
  4. Explain in a way that associates others to your story.
  5. Arouse interest.
  6. Use one to two verses.

| DO NOT!! |

  1. Use Christian jargon, such as "saved," "convicted," or "converted."
  2. Be too wordy.
  3. Speaking extravagantly.
  4. Mention denominations.
  5. Give the impression becoming a Christian makes life perfect and easy.

When your are ask to share your testimony, be sure to:

  1. Share with enthusiasm about how the Holy Spirit has transformed you!
  2. Speak loudly and clearly.
  3. Avoid mannerisms that distract.
  4. Avoid using a preachy tone.
  5. Smile!
  6. Memorize it and practice until it becomes natural!

When sharing with a non-believer, make sure to ask questions to see where they are in their walk with the Lord by asking questions, such as:

  1. What are three words that would describe your life?
  2. Do you have any religious background?
  3. How would you explain Christianity to a non-believer?

Moreover, when you are sharing, make sure you CARE for that person in a way that makes your testimony uplifting, not heavy or points them away from the Gospel.

DARE TO CARE ABOUT THAT PERSON THROUGH YOUR TESTIMONY AND PREPARE TO SHARE YOUR HEART!

I hope you share and fully trust that our gracious Lord may use you.

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God's WILL for Your Life

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God's WILL for Your Life

Have you ever down and wondered why life just does not work out sometimes? Have you ever questioned God and asked Him why you had to go through the suffering or experience you did or why something you wanted ended up in total chaos?

Me, too. 

In fact, we all have. To say you have never questioned if God was real or if His plan for your life was actually good would be similar to a athlete questioning their coach if his or her workout plan is actually beneficial or if the purpose is only to inflict pain and injury.

Often times, I find myself questioning if God's plan is actually good--if in the end it will all be worth it--if the pain will be worth it. Looking back on life, I would not hesitate to say yes--it was all worth it. If I did not see the reward and strength I acquired from those experiences, then I would not be sitting here blogging today and you would not be reading my thoughts.

ALL Christians debate God's WILL for their lives. We know the Bible mentions our hearts and nature are controlled by God, as stated in Psalm 115:3, Psalm 135:6, and Proverbs 21:1. We KNOW God is in control, but do we actually feel it? 

Often, we mistake God's WILL as a desire for something we think WILL happen verses knowing God is in control so it WILL happen as He sees fit.

Control is something we struggle with a human beings. We desire taking the wheel and going where we think is best, despite knowing God knows everything. Sometimes, we get caught up in the thought that God is too busy to help us, so we carry mountains of things that were only meant for God's shoulders and for us to climb. 

Even Satan knew of this deep desire for control. He knew he could tempt Eve with the thought of knowing good and evil in order to have control over her own life. We want control. God reveals Himself through nature and the Word, but Satan twists how we perceive those two things and convinces us with outstanding arguments that God is not _______ (whatever we are doubting).

Karl Geary said in the talk, "God's Will for Your Life,"

Rebellion against God is rebellion against goodness itself.

As humans, we put on masks. We pretend everything is okay. As a Christian, I myself have put on a smile and "faked it till I made it." I told people I was trusting in the Lord with specific things and for His plans in my life, but inside I was fearful. Outwardly I would confess that God would supply for me, but inwardly I was still trying to convince myself of the words I just spoke to someone else. 

It was inauthentic faith. Instead of practicing my faith, the Lord showed me I was practicing my doubt. Let us be honest, we do not have faith a lot of time. Instead of faking faith, I needed to become honest with God. He wants us to talk with Him and He already knows what we have to say, all we have to do is open our mouths. 

Authentic faith is trusting in things we cannot see. It's not just believing in God, but BELIEVING HIM (AND HIS WORDS). We must believe Him to believe in His works. 

So, the question is...

Do you not only trust God's power, but do you trust His love?

God's WILL will happen.

Chances are, if we had met the Pharisees and if they were living right now, we would feel guilty (the Church) for trash talking them so much because in our eyes they would look like the perfect Christians. ARE WE NOT PRETENDING LIKE WE ARE PERFECT? Do we not pretend as much as the Pharisees and sometimes MISS THE MARK and what God ACTUALLY HAS IN STORE FOR US? 

Last week, a staff member spoke chapter 8 of Romans from memory. I looked around the room and realized only a few students were watching him, while the rest were looking down at their Bibles. IS THIS NOT LIKE THE CHURCH TODAY? Only a small percentage of believers will see God's miracles and experience His wondrous love because the rest are too busy doing other things in His name and so wrapped up in living a perfect life to even LOOK UP AND SEE HIS POWER. No, this staff member is not God, but that moment, in my eyes, made me recognize how blind some of us are--how arrogant we are to think we can read or live out the Bible better than anyone else to even look up and sit in awe of who God is.

Max Lucado once said,

And it also makes me smile to think there is a grinning ex-con walking the golden streets who knows more about grace than a thousand theologians. No one else would have given him a prayer. But in the end that is all he had. And in the end, that is all it took.

It blows my mind to realize God is more concerned with what we are doing, than what we achieve. Many Christians will have huge testimonies and will have saved thousands of others, but there will be saints among them in Heaven who did not save one other person, but loved unconditionally and like Jesus did. So, do you treasure Him? What are you pursuing? What do you delight in, daydream about, long for, or ask God for?

God wants you to have those things, but if those things are what you desire over God, do they even matter?

Psalm 27:4 speaks to this. In order to pursue God, we must remember the gospel every day and the miracle that takes place (2 Peter 3:9, Hebrews 12).

Once your eyes are set on God, how will God work?

Sorry to break it to you, but you are not that important. Psalm 103 speaks to this. You will become dirt when you die.

Therefore, we must remember God is God. We are small and He is large.

John the Baptist was questioned about how he felt about Jesus baptizing people and "taking away his business." He responded, "He must increase and I must decrease. Therefore my joy is complete."

God's love is not a ditch where He is waiting for us to fall off on either side of. It is a valley where we are taking little steps in the right direction trusting that God will show us the way. 

Karl dove in Matthew 25 that talks about the master who entrusted his servants with a sum of money. One of the three doubled the money because he had faith. Karl then said, "Make sure we're faithful in the small decisions now and God MIGHT entrust you with more in the future."

We may never be entrusted with anything more, but we must trust everything to Him. We must know what God wants and how He works through reading the Bible and seeing what He says.

Psalm 37:4 talks about delighting in the Lord. We must pursue Him by examining our desires and having a heart after the Lord. We must not only examine our desires, but our abilities and opportunities as well. God gifted us with abilities and moments to use for His glory. We must be faithful with what we have now.

All in all, "If you can't walk a direction do not try going there."

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I Want A Relationship!!

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I Want A Relationship!!

Lucas and Ariana Cecka gave the relationships talk yesterday before church.

The Goal?

To establish your view of gospel-centered relationships and to give you some guiding principles.

THE Relationship

The ultimate relationship our hearts were designed for would be the vertical one -- the one that ties us to our Heavenly Father.

We are all spiritually unclean. On the outside, we can portray ourselves white as snow, but on the inside we have leprosy. Not only are we unclean, but our hearts are damaged and not white as snow in any regards. 

Ariana presented a clip from the original Disney Beauty and the Beast. This clip included the scene the very beginning of the movie where the young man is turned into a beast because there was no love in his heart. In some ways, we are the beast. Our hearts are just as ugly as his. However, Jesus was Belle--the woman who fell in love with the ugly beast and saved him from eternal death. Belle saved the beast, even though he deserved death--this is true love.

Jesus loved us when we were unlovable. We, as Christians, need to realize we need Jesus more than a significant other or friend. Our hearts are craving someone to fill us up completely and look at our ugly, sinful hearts and love us despite the darkness in our lives. Only God can fulfill that desire--the desire to be loved unconditionally and completely. 

"Everyone is looking for someone who is looking for you" - Ariana Cecka.

We are all searching for something or someone to fill the emptiness inside our hearts, until we allow Jesus to overwhelm our hearts with HIS love we will search for eternity for something to fill only He can.

God created horizontal relationships for us to delight in, too.

If He is filling us up, then He can fuel and lead our horizontal relationships as well. Our hearts will overflow with love that can seep into all of our other relationships if we allow God to work.

Marriage is a biblical example of the closest relationship we have that can relate to ours with God. However, marriage is NOT the mission. Marriage is disappointing because we are human and sin exists. 

C. S. Lewis once said, "There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy."

This is so true! However, Jesus is our mission so marriage is being on mission together. Jesus IS the mission. Marriage can be a shadow of the pleasure God will offer in Heaven. Yes, it is broken, but it is also a glimpse of how much He wants us to delight in His works and in each other. 

Colossians 2:17 states, "Theses are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah." 

Though marriage is NOT the mission, it IS being on mission together -- to image Christ and the Church. Ephesians 5:22-23 talks about wives submitting to their husbands and husbands are also called to love their wives how Jesus loved on earth. Husbands are called to give all of themselves for their wife's joy, while wives are called to respond attentively and joyfully to his lead. It should look like a dance where the man leads while his wive submits but is attentive and helping him lead in the best way he can. Genesis 2:24 talks about Adam and Eve and their perfect relationships before the fall.

There are two biblical principles to build a marriage on:

  1. Must be someone of the opposite sex
  2. Must be a Christian

Love is not a feeling, but a commitment. Feelings can come and go and if we built marriages upon those feelings that relationship will break when the feelings are no longer there. However, if we look at it as a commitment it will fuel the feelings and affections, such as in 1 John 4:10.

So, what about friendships?

For the most part, there are two ditches when it comes with growing close to the opposite sex. The first is avoidance and the other is over indulgence. For avoidance, ask yourself why you avoid and what your fear actually is. When it comes to over indulgence, ask yourself what you are really chasing after.

To have quality, God-honoring friendships, we must relate to one another as family. John 13:34-35 talks about Jesus and His calling of us to love one another as He loved us on earth. Our mission must be to: Display the love Jesus has for you in your friendships.

Why do we date? We either date coming from a cultural perspective or a Christian one. Culture tells us dating is for "trying on" people to see who you will best "fit" with while Christians date to pursue marriage. 

As a Christian, how can we pursue dating relationships that honor God?

For one, we can PURSUE CLARITY over intimacy. If intimacy is prioritized then emotions and physical affections will lead the relationship, but if clarity becomes the priority then pursuing relational purity will be a bit easier. Dating is the evaluation stage--look for someone who is mature and surrounds himself with good community while pursuing you with God-honoring intentions and don't forget to have FUN. 1 Timothy 5:1-2 and 1 Corinthians 6:18 seek to this standpoint.

Secondly, date to PRIORITIZE Jesus. Let your dating mission become: displaying Jesus as you pursue clarity for marriage.

Thirdly, use COMMUNITY! Date vulnerably by telling every detail of your relationship to an individual or group of women or men who will lead your intentions, heart, mind, and emotions back to Jesus. Proverbs 18:1 backs this up. 

Take risks because we're safe with God"
- Ariana Cecka (Proverbs 11:14).

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Built Up

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Built Up

Zach Simmons has led the last two personal worship training talks: "Built Up by the Bible & Built Up Through Prayer."

Built Up by the Bible

He introduced the session by saying,

"Christianity is about a person, not an ethnic idea."
- Zach Simmons

His goal for the session was for students to treasure the means God has given to them to relate to Him. 

Colossians 3:16 says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

Simmons summoned three questions to the front of our brains:

  1. Why do we need the Bible to be true?
  2. What does it mean for us to dwell richly?
  3. Why should we want it to dwell in us richly?

Jesus is on every page of the Bible, whether or not we recognized that. We need to dwell richly in the Bible because it is required in order to stake our lives on it. We have to submit to it--sleep on it. Also, we should want and desire it to dwell within us in order to see God's glory.

He wrapped up the conversation by using an analogy between a window and chalet. Most of the time, we stand in the window looking at the Swiss Alps, aka. our lives or faith or anything really, but that was not what we were created for.

We were made for mountains, not mirrors.

 

Built Up Through Prayer

The goal of this talk was to establish how we treasure God's gift of prayer.

Colossians 4:2 states, "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." The Bible calls us to prayer, but why?

Simmons made three points.

  1. Why is it so difficult?
  • To experience God, we must be present.
    • Real moments evoke things we don't want to feel. There are three ways to push off feelings:
      1. Distract ourselves / capture feeling
      2. Dream of things we want / desire
      3. Divulge very little
    • We are afraid of God
    • We don't want to really feel God
  1. What is prayer?
  • Prayer is answering God
    • It is based off what we know of God - regardless of religion.
    • God is relational.
    • God demands a response to His glory.
    • Question: Am I worthy to pray?
  1. Why should we want to pray?
  • It is an invitation into the dance of God's glory.
  • It is an extension of His glory.
  • Who do we dance with? 
    • We dance with a King who is majestic, just, merciful, and gracious.
    • We dance with a Father who sees us as His delight, He is our friend, and His dependent.

God loves you just because He loves you. He does not have to love you, but He chooses to. 

Takeaway:

To be established in Christ, how important is it for you to continue steadfastly in prayer?

Prayer should be a conversation. It should be candid and completely honest. It should be consistent and specific.

Prayer should include:
A. adoration - what is praise-worthy
C. confession - how have I rejected God?
T. thanksgiving - how has He provided for me?
S. supplication - what are my needs and what do I need to resupply?

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Ain't Nothin Like The Country Life

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Ain't Nothin Like The Country Life

Week 1's LOW COUNTRY BOIL SOCIAL was sweeter than some southern sweet tea.

Or was it...

Festivities included some redneck eatin' of some tasty corn, sausage, and potatoes, goodwill-bought outfits, carnival games, prizes, a watermelon eating contest, kickin' karaoke, and line dancing.

 

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Can I Trust Jesus With My Money?

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Can I Trust Jesus With My Money?

Alberto Ramos opened Sunday's life training topic on finances by asking the question,

"How do you view money?"

Students took a few moments to write down their thoughts. Then, Alberto went on to say the Bible brings up the topic of money 2,000 times, so it must be important? 

"We don't worship money, we worship what money can give us."
-Alberto

Matthew 6:1-4 talks about giving to the needy. It mentions those who practice righteousness in front of others in order to be seen by them will not receive their reward in Heaven. It pleads for believers to give in secret. Verse 24 draws in the idea that man cannot worship both money and God. Man, when put in that position, will hate one and love the other, but not serve both equally well.

Alberto made three points:

We use money as a means to happiness.

  • Why do we strive to buy earthly happiness when we have treasures in Heaven?
  • Matthew 6:19-21 discusses this,“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
  • Whatever we spend our money on, that shows where our heart is.
  • Many believe if we can get _____ or be ______, then we will be happy, but this is not true.

We use money as a means to acceptance.

  • We compare and want to be a part of the "in crowd" so much.
  • We desire status and fame, often times we use money to achieve both.

We use money as a means to get security.

  • There is no promise our money will be there tomorrow.
  • James 4:14-15 says, "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
  • The desire for money is not bad. What is bad is how you go about that.

So, the question is: 

What are you longing for?

God offers us all of these things!!

Hes offers us:

  1. Joy - Psalm 16:11 - He will give joy to us HIMSELF!
  2. Unconditional Acceptance - Colossians 1:21-22 - He RECONCILED US!
  3. Security - Hebrews 13:5-6 - What can man do to us when we have God?
  4. Grace - Romans 8:32 - If He gave us things based on who we are, we'd be in Hell.

God gave up His son for those who rejected Him, so who are we to become stingy and not give to others? Luke 18 goes on to describe how it is important to give up everything in our hearts, but it is impossible without God. Only He can change our hearts.

Practicals:

  1. Be Thankful - 1 Timothy 6:6-10
  2. Be generous
  3. Give sacrificially - Trust giving will hurt and cause us to have to say no to other things.
  4. Be a steward of your money - spend wisely.
  5. Be accountable
  6. Spend time in prayer - We are naturally selfish, so God must change our hearts.

 

 

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