Are You Sailing, Floating or Sinking?

The summer before my senior year, I was at Red Rock Camp. At that time we had a large catamaran (think flat large sailboat). One of the fun things to do while out on the boat was to hang from the bottom bar of the boat. The rest of the group took their turn and had a blast getting splashed by the lake. I was so excited for my turn. I climbed off the edge and grabbed hold of the bar. See back then I was about the size of my daughter here. As the boat turned towards the wind the pressure of the water was so strong and I couldn’t pull myself up above the bar and waves. I knew that I was in trouble. You see we hadn’t paid attention to the increased winds on the lake.
Life is like that, and in many ways our faith is like that. If you don’t look around and see where you are you will quickly find yourself sinking or floating instead sailing in your spiritual life.
So today I want to ask “Are you Sinking/Floating/Sailing?”
I’m going to start with sailing: Some of us are sailing. You’re relationship with God is going good, time with Jesus comes natural. You are serving. Matthew 7:16-17 ” You will know these people because of what they do. Good things don’t come from people who are bad, just as grapes don’t come from thorn-bushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit.”
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things.”
You probably want to be here. You desire it, but I’ll be honest in saying that it is tough to get there and even tougher to stay there. Many times we will bounce between the three. How to know you are sailing: You see fruit. If you are not, go back to what you were doing the last time you were sailing. It might not work, and you might have to try something new, but go back to listening, and go back to serving.
Some of us are floating.
How do you know if you are floating: You don’t even feel guilt for your sin, you go to church, you make no effort to change, you are content with where you are, there is no fruit in what you do. The key word for this is apathy. You exist, God exists, but that is it. You believe Him, You believe in Jesus, but you there is no movement.
Revelation 3:15 “I know what you do. You are not hot or cold. I wish that you were hot or cold! But you are only warm—not hot, not cold. So I am ready to spit you out of my mouth.”
This is why we talk so much about serving. Being mobilized on your campus, at your church, and in your community. Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with what you know, and everything to do with how quickly you react to God.
Steve Callahan set out sailing on a trip that would take a month years ago, and he set out alone. He said that he wanted some solitude, he wanted to get away, and that he was excited to be alone on the sea. A little over a week into his trip something hits his boat. He doesn’t know what, but it punctured the hull of the ship and the ship began to sink in the middle of the night. He quickly grabbed some stuff, got on a life raft and was stuck on it for 76 days. 76 days of struggling for food, water. 76 days of laying in a raft, of trying to get by. He said what got him through was the fact that he realized he had done nothing with his life but waste it. He doesn’t say this, but he obviously had enough money to get a boat, obviously had enough money to not work for a month to go sailing, yet he said he wasted his life because he had never given anything back to anyone.
I’ve floated. I know that at times it feels good. You like it because it’s easy, it takes little effort, and I convince myself that I can change when I want. But in reality I’m either lazy, or hoping something magical happens. The key is that you’re waiting.
Proverbs 14:8 “It takes wisdom for the clever to understand the path they are on, but the fool is deceived by his own foolishness.”
I know there are some of us that are sinking. Some signs that you are sinking: You are stressed constantly, you feel overwhelmed, doubt is overpowering you, you dread getting up in the morning at times, many times you lack transparency.
There are 3 major groups of people that are sinking:
  1. Those that have no idea they are sinking- They believe in God and say they love Jesus, but then brag about their sin. They don’t even know how far off they are.
  2. Those that realize and don’t want to be rescued: You feel your faith being sucked out, you know things aren’t right, you know that the life is being squeezed out and to be honest you don’t care. Mostly because you either convince yourself it is a season, or because you like the way you feel.
  3. Those that realize they are sinking and want to be rescued: You’ve felt like it for a while, you’ve been hurt by it, you might have even cried out for help to God, but have been met with silence. It breaks your heart.
I want you to know that if you are sinking you are not alone. In the Bible the disciples had many moments like this. This one might be my favorite and it could be found in the book of Mark. Jesus has the disciples going across a lake and in the middle of crossing a storm comes up. Huge waves break on the boat and they begin to yell that the boat is going to sink. In the meantime, Jesus is asleep. They go and get Him yelling:
Mark 4:38-40 “Jesus, Master, don’t You care that we’re going to die? He got up, shouted words into the wind, and commanded the waves. That’s enough! Be still! And immediately the wind died down to nothing, the waves stopped. How can you be so afraid? After all you’ve seen, where is your faith?”
When those waves started crashing over me, I was like those disciples panicked and scared. Suddenly, from above a hand came down and grabbed the front of my life-vest and pulled me above the waves. Later, I was told he had been trying to get my attention so I would reach out to him to pull me up, but I was too focused on the waves and not looking up. We can be so focused on not drowning, on keeping ourselves a float that we can forget that our rescue is on God. Maybe you are sailing but you know someone who is sinking, reach out and pull them above the waves.
Cassi B
Director of Youth Ministries


Don’t Waste Your Summer

Every summer, I have grand plans to spend it bonding with my family. My ideas are going camping, museums and spending time sowing seeds of faith and wisdom. But, instead I get caught up in schedules, errands and before I know it the summer is over. Then I promise myself next summer I will do better. I will spend more time with my daughter before she goes off to college and we don’t have summers together. 
Summer goes so much quicker than we ever expect it too. We start out with the best intentions when our kids are small to use the summer to the best of our abilities, but then life just seems to get in the way. We get sidetracked and we waste the opportunities given to us. Often we as parents forget —God’s given us just 18 summers with our children before they leave home for college. So, don’t waste this precious time. Don’t look back with sadness, and without memories, because those days can’t be done over.
Summers are also a great opportunity to talk about your faith as a family; to let your children see how faith and family are important from one generation to another. Jesus showed us the importance and the impact of spending time together in his relationship with his disciples. He shared life with those twelve who were closest to him. He knew he had just a few short years with them and that he had to make the most of it. 
He modeled to his disciples what a mature relationship with God looked like. He taught them how to pray, worship, serve and  live with other Christians. By doing life together the disciples were able to grow in their faith. This idea of making disciples of our children made me rethink how I talk and what I do during these summer days. What do I want my kids to learn before they leave home? What memories do I want them to have?
Deuteronomy 6 gives clear instructions to parents as to how to intentionally point our children to the Lord. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 6:5-7).
From the time we wake them up to the afternoons at the lake, to the long walks and bike rides through the park, we have an opportunity to shape our children by pointing them to Christ; to engage them in conversations about the gospel. If we continue to keep our summer schedule as busy as our school year schedule, we’ll miss the unique opportunities summer gives us to spend extra, unhurried time with our children.
Here are some practical ways to be make disciples of our children this summer. 
  1. Nurture their faith by being intentional with Bible study. 
  2. Read good books and devotionals together. 
  3. Put down your phone. Simply put your phone out of reach and really listen. 
  4. Include your kids in your daily activities and favorite hobbies. 
  5. Indulge in sheer fun with your kids. Laughing together creates memories that won’t easily be forgotten.
Like the disciples, may our children be close enough to us that the relationship that we have with our Lord draws them toward him. And may God help us reach our children for Christ at the heart level as we ourselves love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and strength.
Cassi B
Director of Youth Ministries


Leaving a Legacy

Last week was a sad one for our church. We lost a long time member and friend in JoAnne. As we grieve the loss, her life is in our lives, we also remember the legacy she leaves. A legacy is much more than jewels, money or even societal standing. These things will fade or go away but a true legacy will last forever. Sharing with others the eternal legacy a belief in Jesus Christ gives us is the most important thing we can do.
JoAnne knew the importance of leaving an eternal legacy. She lived out her faith for all to see. She was a regular church attender. She believed that going to church weekly was important for her Christian growth. JoAnne studied and talked of scripture often. Her children said, at her funeral, she would even mutter verses in her sleep. She acted out her faith in service to others. JoAnne loved to quilt and turned it into a ministry, making over 800 quilts that she gave out to soldiers, children, people in need or sold for charities. JoAnne also sent out dozens of cards each week, encouraging those around her. She knew the importance of Proverbs 16:24 “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
The Bible shows us that Paul, like JoAnne, gave himself in the service of Christ and in the end, when they both knew their lives were coming to an end, they couldn’t wait to meet their Savior. Paul and JoAnne continued to write and encourage others in their faith throughout their lives. They both left clear legacies of standing firm in their faith, whether it was Paul defending it while in jail or JoAnne’s faith filled joy while dealing with cancer.


Lent, what is it?

The season of Lent started this past Wednesday with Ash Wednesday. If you’re like me, you may not have grown up practicing Lent, and you might not be too familiar with it. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but you don’t really know all the ins and outs and why people observe the practice of Lent.
In general, most people think about two things when they think about Lent:
  1. seeing people on Ash Wednesday with a smudge on their forehead
  2. a season where you “give something up”

The textbook definition of Lent: Lent /lent/ noun

  1. the period preceding Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. In the Western Church it runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday and so includes forty weekdays

Lent is not a new idea. In 325 AD, a bunch of Christian leaders got together at something called the Council of Nicaea. During that meeting they established a lot of things, including the way the Bible is set up, and establishing Easter as its own Christian holiday. They also discussed a 40-day season of fasting called Lent. This shows Lent is something that has been around for a very long time. What started a long time ago was really strict rules about fasting and prayer that were designed to help Christians repent of their sins and remove things from their lives that distracted them from Jesus. In today’s times, we tend to think of Lent as a time where we “give something up.” When I was younger most of what I knew about Lent was my friends couldn’t eat candy, pop, or watch TV (depending on their family). I never really connected it with the true purpose of giving up something to focus more on Christ. But Lent did not just get thrown in before Easter for no reason. It was placed there on purpose because Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. It prepares us for Easter by reminding us of how much we need Jesus. Read more…


Jesus Now What?

It was the summer before fifth grade, in a small white chapel. I sat on a hard wood pew. My eyes were transfixed on the elderly man drawing at the front of the room. He was explaining the story of salvation in a way I had never heard  before. He used paints and markers of neon colors and in his grandfatherly way he made the story come alive. I knew then that Jesus was real. After class he asked if anyone wanted to accept Christ as their savior. I immediately threw up my hand. Outside on a wooden bench, he prayed with me to allow Christ into my heart.
That day at summer camp still fills me with warmth. I made a decision that day that affected the rest of my life. But it took awhile, and I mean a long while, to understand what that decision really meant. For some, they would think that my road to being a Christian was done. In a way they would be right. I believe in one God, that He gave His son Jesus to die for us on a cross, and that after Jesus died, he rose again. Our sins our forgiven through this act. I also believe in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity. That belief secures my salvation, but my story doesn’t end there. Neither does yours.
We now need to start living the life we profess. We obey God outwardly to reflect inwardly what’s occurred.  The Bible lays out guidelines and rules for our lives. It also gives us clear instructions on what our main objective is as Christians. Read more…


Self-Help or Gospel

At the start of the new year it always makes me cringe to hear everyone talk about their newest resolution. Not that I think resolutions in and of themselves are bad, but in today’s society of personal betterment, most resolutions miss the mark. The U.S. self-improvement market was worth $9.9 billion in 2016. It is forecast to post 5.6% average yearly gains from 2016 to 2022, when the market should be worth $13.2 billion.* Society is on a search to make themselves better, or as the old American sayings goes “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” or maybe in today’s verbiage “girl, wash your face”. Now you are asking yourself why is that so bad? This focus on self and change only through one’s own works leads us to a place of selfishness. Even in the so-called Christian self-help books, I see a startling lack of Christian discipleship. First, there is little to no prayer mentioned. There is normally a lot of pages focused on meditation, but that meditation is completely focused on one’s self. Though it is good to have some introspective moments. There is very little focused on prayer or meditation on scripture. Second, our happiness is completely dependent on our own making. We must be on guard and avoid self-obsession. Our happiness is not the focus of the Bible. God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. For our joy comes from knowing Jesus and our relationship with him. We will find joy as we become more like him.

Most books talk about how we just need to try harder, do better, let go of negativity, all on our own. We start to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are the most important thing in the world, that it is our own power that makes these changes. It assumes we have the power to change ourselves. We can change our habits, our food choices and maybe even our waistline but we cannot change our insides without the Holy Spirit. Luke 18:27 “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”