The Power of Encouragement

Encouragement

Powerful Encouragement

The right words at the right time have the ability to make an incredible impact. I recently read the following story that illustrates the power of encouraging words. The school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their school work during stays in the city’s hospitals. One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child. She took the child’s name and room number and talked briefly with the child’s regular class teacher. “We’re studying nouns and adverbs in his class now,” the regular teacher said, “and I’d be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn’t fall too far behind.”

The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain. Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, “I’ve been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs.” When she left she felt she hadn’t accomplished much.

But the next day, a nurse asked her, “What did you do to that boy?” The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize. “No, no,” said the nurse. “You don’t know what I mean. We’ve been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He’s fighting back, responding to treatment. It’s as though he’s decided to live.”

Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization. He expressed it this way: “They wouldn’t send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?” (Bits & Pieces, July 1991)

Example of Powerful Encouragement

Encouragement changed this young boy’s entire outlook on life. One day he had no hope. The next he was given hope through simple encouragement. Barnabas was a man who made a huge impact on the early church. His name means, son of encouragement (Acts 4:36). His name sums up what he did with his life. The first thing we see him do is to make a financial sacrifice. He sold a plot of land and gave the proceeds to the apostles to use for the edification of the church.

Just 5 chapters later we see Barnabas take a substantial risk to bring Paul into the Jerusalem church. You can understand why the Jerusalem church wasn’t laying out the red carpet for Paul. Before Jesus changed Paul’s name he was known as Saul, “The Persecutor of the Church”. Then Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus and Saul became Paul, “A Preacher for Christ.” There was still great distrust of this man Paul. But Barnabas took the risk and spoke with Paul. Paul shared his testimony with him and Barnabas took action to bring this new brother into fellowship with the church that Paul formerly had sought to destroy.

When the early church saw the need for leadership in a growing but struggling church in Antioch they chose Barnabas as the man for the job (Acts 11:22). The church began to grow and they needed another pastor to care for the people. Barnabas probably could have had his pick on anyone in the church but he chose to seek out Paul. It took him quite some time to find Paul who had gone home to Tarsus to share the gospel. Barnabas brought Paul back to the church in Antioch where they together earned the nickname, “Christians.” (Acts 11:26).

It wasn’t long until God called Barnabas and Paul to expand their ministry. They travelled together on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13:4). When it came time to leave for the second missionary journey they had a hot dispute over a young man, John Mark, that had abandoned them on their first missionary journey. This dispute caused them to part ways (Acts 15:39). Paul traveled with Silas and Barnabas traveled with John Mark. Barnabas made quite an impact on John Mark because at the end of his life Paul asked, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).”

Why was there such a change? Because of one man Barnabas, the son of encouragement. Throughout the biblical record of Barnabas we see him continually at the work of encouraging. The impact of his life is astounding. We see the growth of the church in Jerusalem, the growth of the church in Antioch, the growth of the church in the uttermost parts of the earth, as he travelled as a missionary, the growth and acceptance of Paul, the writer of the majority of the New Testament, all because he chose to make encouragement an important part of his life.

Implementing Powerful Encouragement

I believe that encouragement is one of the most powerful and yet least accessed tools in the arsenal of the church. If encouragement is so powerful why don’t we utilize it more often? I believe it is due to the consumer driven attitude of many people in the church. Church to these people is about what it offers to them. Their focus in the church revolves around what they get out of church. How does the worship style, children’s program, preacher, etc., serve or help me? This attitude breeds a culture of selfishness. “It’s all about me.” But the church isn’t about the individuals, programs, worship, or even the preacher. It’s about the glory of God.

How can you and I make an impact by encouraging? When you join a church leave your “wants” at the door (Ephesians 5:21). The church isn’t about serving you its about serving Christ. The best way to establish this attitude of service is through our encouraging speech and attitudes (Ephesians 4:32). This attitude of encouragement has been something that the Lord has been working in my heart about for quite a while. I have been encouraged to see growth in my ability to give encouragement. I have been impressed by the power of simple encouraging words. Here are a few phrases that I have seen work wonders; “You are very good at …” “God has gifted you in …” “You are a blessing to me.” “God has amazing plans for you.” “God is doing great things with your service.” This list could go on and on. I wrote these things out so that you can see just how easy it is to encourage. As Harvest Baptist Church lets make a goal to live focused on serving others through encouragement and not on what the church or others can give to me. I believe that if our church would grow in encouraging each other, we would see God do some amazing things.

I think he might be crazy!

He's Crazy

My Husband is Crazy!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought that Josh might actually be crazy. It could be the time he figured he would take his Jeep apart and put it back together in 3 months. Then there’s the time he came in with one sleeve of his shirt left. Laughingly he told me the drill press had ripped his shirt off. Then there’s countless times I’ve heard, “Hey, I lit myself on fire in the garage again.” Did you catch that, AGAIN?! Like it’s a normal occurrence to light oneself on fire. The time he came home with an Elektroroller motorcycle because his brother told him if he could start it he could have it. It was missing keys and hadn’t started in years. He now rides that motorcycle back and forth to work. Most recently I walked into the garage to hear some grunting and struggling from under a car and then Josh said, “Do you think you could lift this gas tank off of me? It was heavier than I thought and I’m stuck.” Thankfully, I listened to a car jack lesson I received once and simply wheeled it over and rescued my crazy husband.

Maybe I’m Going Crazy!

When I first fell in love with Josh, my idea of a fabulous date would include a night downtown, dinner at a nice restaurant, followed by some window shopping while walking down the city sidewalks. Fast-forward fifteen years to our day off this week. Since no day off is really without some responsibility, we were heading out to run a few errands. On our way out, Josh got a twinkle in his eye and flashed me his crooked smile that stole my heart a decade and a half ago, and asked if I wanted to go to the brand new Tractor Supply Co. We’ve been watching it get built just down the hill from us, and to our crazy delight it just opened. We went with our 3 youngest daughters and spent nearly an hour walking the aisles of the brand new Tractor Supply Co. Mind you, this was Josh’s second day and second hour touring the store. This is the guy who refuses to buy new clothes because he can’t stand shopping! We looked at retractable air hoses, trailer axles, tractor drive shafts, Pink Red Ryder bb guns, and finally ended in the clothes section where the girls decided they definitely needed pink rain boots.

A few hours later we were at Costco when I remembered that Nordstrom Rack is right across the parking lot. Since I have a gift card I decided to run in and see if anything caught my eye. I walked into the store and literally stopped still. It was so overwhelming. I kid you not, the next thought that ran through my mind was, Maybe I should just shop for my clothes at Tractor Supply Co. It would be a lot less overwhelming. Crazy!! I left without anything. The whole process seemed daunting. The rest of the day Josh and I kept talking about something we’d seen at Tractor Supply Co. that stuck out to us. It was truly the highlight of our day off. Because of course welding supplies are fascinating if you lean towards the crazy.

Crazy Has Changed Me

All that to say, the last decade of marriage has changed me. I used to love the hustle and bustle of the city. Now I feel claustrophobic in a department store. I can carry on a basic conversation about control arms. I know what a broken control arm looks like, and I can tell if a Jeep has leaf springs or coils. However, not all the change was easy. There may have been a time when I was cooking dinner and saw a bright light, only to discover my darling husband was welding in my kitchen. Apparently, that was the most level place he could find. Yes, I was slightly irritated at my husband’s “redneck” tendencies, but now they make me laugh. Its part of his charm, and I’ve changed my mind throughout the years. Maybe he’s not actually crazy…maybe.

It has been almost 10 years since I walked down the aisle to marry Josh. At our wedding, my father-in-law described how a wedding is a picture of our relationship with Jesus. Just like when a groom in love pursues his bride, takes her as his own, and forms a new family, Jesus in a crazy kind of love pursues our heart. We become His. Over the years that relationship with Jesus changes us. We have new desires, and a new purpose. Sometimes we find the things we thought we desperately needed, aren’t as important as we thought.

A marriage that is characterized by two people who refuse to change won’t last. A husband in love tries to please his wife. A wife out of love and respect will try to be the woman her husband needs and desires. Over time we find we’ve changed and our relationship is stronger. A relationship with Jesus that is marked by our unwillingness to change won’t be a profitable relationship either. As we spend time with Christ, we learn about Him and are motivated to change.

Has the Crazy Love of Jesus Changed You?

This time of year we are bombarded with love and romance. Christmas was barely over and the Valentine’s candy, cards and flowers were everywhere. Inevitably, we will find ourselves in some respect contemplating Valentine’s Day. I encourage you to also contemplate your relationship with Jesus. His love for us is crazy. The sinless Son of God came down from heaven not to be worshiped but to die for us, simple unloving sinners. We could do nothing for Him but He gave His life for us. Have you allowed your relationship with Jesus to change you, or are you relatively unchanged? If you’re unchanged I encourage you to take some time and think of His love for you and make the steps to change and grow in your relationship with Him. Maybe the change He has done in you continues to overwhelm you. Then, take a moment and thank Him for working in you.

Marriage to Josh is one of the greatest blessings I’ve ever had. I wonder what the next decade of change will bring. Perhaps I will don leather gloves and a welding helmet and learn to weld or other such craziness. Probably not, but its my prayer for our marriage that each year we find our selves growing closer to each other. It is also my prayer that my relationship with Jesus finds me growing and changing to be more like Him.

Fear of the Imagined

Fear

Fear of the imagined

One summer my Dad took my brothers and me white water kayaking. Since this was our first time kayaking we had an instructor. On the shore he had explained to us how to guide the kayak through the different types of rapids that we would face. We were each given a wetsuit and warned us that the water would be cold. I slipped into the wetsuit and quickly forgot about the cold. I couldn’t wait to battle the rapids. As we pushed off the shore into the river I was almost bursting with excitement. In the calm water the instructor taught us how to paddle correctly and explained how to get back into the kayak when we fell out. Our guide’s final instruction was, “Now, tip over and get back in the boat.” I remember thinking, “No way the water is freezing.” my Dad and brother Jon must have been thinking the same thing because we didn’t budge. We looked at the instructor like he was crazy, didn’t he know that this river was at best 45 degrees. Luke, my youngest brother, on the other hand heard the instruction and simply rolled into the river without a second thought. It took Jon, Dad, and me anther minute or two to overcome the fear and anticipation of the icy cold water. The funny thing was when I finally manned up and rolled into the water it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. The worst thing about the cold water was not the actual temperature but the fear and anticipation of just how cold that water would be.

The crippling effects of fear

So often as Christians we choose not to get serve or get involve because of the, anticipation of what might happen, the fear that we are not prepared, we might do it wrong, or that we might fail in our attempt. We choose to be conservative in following Jesus because our fear of what might happen. We fear that the water will be cold so we hesitate or balk at God’s call to recklessly abandon all and passionately follow Him. David responded to last week’s blog with a question on this point.

“Would it be that risk taking and fear are acceptable if associated with expected physical (weather) events, but risk taking and fear associated with personal expressions of our beliefs are more emotional, mental expressions of our faith and are more difficult to acknowledge.

I ask this having survived three hurricane events and now struggling with my own expressions of faith. Hurricanes, like blizzards, are expected and we accept the consequences. When I think about witnessing, I hesitate because of the fear that I won’t “do it right”. Trembling, in anticipation my witness becomes my excuse for not doing what the Bible says is one of my service opportunities. (You can read this response in its entirety by clicking here).”

I think David hit the main reason that Christians choose not to passionately get involved in God’s call to us. This is why we are too conservative in our pursuit of our master Jesus Christ. We have a fear of what might happen if we jump into Gods call with reckless abandon. This fear of what might happen is the most crippling of all fears. David Jeremiah writes about this fear of what might happen.

“Our greatest fear is the conditional might—the threat of what might happen. Fear trades in the market of possibility. Or even impossibility—for fear is the tyrant of the imagination. It imposes itself upon us from the shadows, from its hazy mirror of maybe.” (What Are You Afraid Of?)

The fear of maybe cripples the Christian to a life of inactivity. This is the difference between the natural disasters that David mentioned and our fear of obeying God’s call. Our fear of what might happen with a natural disaster forces us into activity. We prepare by protecting our homes and possessions as best as possible and evacuating. There is an impending storm that we cannot stop. The storm is coming regardless of our preparation. There is still that fear of what might happen but the storm is out of our control.

Pursuing Christ with reckless abandon is different. In a way this storm of anticipation and fear is in our control. If we fear what will happen as a result of witnessing we can simply chose not to and the storm is avoided. We choose to be inactive instead of serve and dodge the “hazy mirror of maybe.” Through inactivity we can be comfortable and avoid what we perceive as an impending consequence. We can simply choose not to jump into the cold water out of fear and remain comfortable in the kayak of inactivity.

Is all fear bad?

Fear is a natural human emotion, and in most situations we have no control over that emotion. Whether it is fear of an impending storm or the results of following Christ. The fear doesn’t go away. It is our reaction to the fear that makes us. Paul told Timothy, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).” Remember the circumstances of Paul writing this to Timothy, his son in the faith. Paul was serving his last prison stint in the worst conditions imagined. Ultimately Paul would be taken out of this prison and beheaded for preaching the gospel. You can imagine why young Timothy feared preaching the gospel. His spiritual father was about to be executed for the cause of the gospel.

You may ask, “Is it wrong if I feel afraid?” The answer is no. What is wrong is when we allow that fear and anxiety to cripple us into inactivity or following Christ conservatively. Paul encourages Timothy in the next verse, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, (2 Timothy 1:8)” You and I must respond to our fear with this same resolve. Don’t be ashamed of the gospel. Don’t be ashamed of those who are passionate about following Jesus. Be willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel.

Understanding our fear

The emotion of fear is powerful. It drives each of us to react differently. Many people are driven to action and prepare for what might happen, some simply ignore the fear and go on as if it didn’t exist, and others are crippled by the fear and feel unable to respond. If you’re like me you may say, “how do I deal with this crippling fear of maybe? I don’t want to be ashamed. I want to be willing to follow Christ, but I am so afraid.” That answer is found in the end of this verse in the simple phrase, “by the power of God.” That simple answer doesn’t always seem so simple. Paul understood this when he wrote to young Timothy and he expounds upon the character and power of God in the next few verses. “Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, (2 Timothy 1:9–10)” This powerful God saved us and He calls us to passionately follow Him, which is a holy calling. Not because of your works, worth, talent, or even bravery in the face of fear, but because of His grace provided through the person of Jesus Christ. This grace has been made available to the followers of God from the very beginning of time.

Overcoming our Fear

The first time God called the nation of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land they were crippled with fear. This fear caused an entire generation to die wandering in the wilderness. (Numbers 13-14, Deuteronomy 1). 40 years later the next generation was lead into the Promised Land still full of the same things that crippled the previous generation. They were able to over come their fear because they chose to, “fear the Lord and serve him” (Joshua 24:14).”

Recklessly abandoning our conservative attitude toward following Christ is scary. I will be the first person to tell you that every time I volunteer to serve, step out of my comfort zone, or open my mouth to witness I’m afraid. But I have determined that I will not allow that fear to cripple me. I will fear the Lord. I will trust in His power. Will you allow the storm of fear to cripple you or make you? I pray that your reply will be like Joshua, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Jump In! Can we be too conservative?

Jump In

Too Conservative

When it comes to my life I am an unabashed thrill seeker. I still remember the days I used to fearlessly jump off the roof of our house to the hard ground beneath, fling myself off of the biggest jumps while snowboarding, fly down the rockiest mountain on my bike with reckless abandon, or backflip 50+ feet off cliffs into icy cold water without a second thought. This thrill seeking has cost me the breakage of numerous bones and who knows how many concussions. As I get older I remember the falls, broken bones, and my growing responsibility. This has caused me to become a bit more conservative in following after my thrill seeking pursuits. While this may be a good thing when concerning the longevity and quality of my life I have also seen this conservative nature creep its way into my spiritual life. God calls me and I am too conservative to take that step of faith. I question God’s call and His provision when I ought to passionately jump into His work. I believe this conservative response to God’s call is a problem especially in the realm of Conservative Christianity.

Condemnation of the Conservatives

Jesus confronted the hypocritical, hyper conservative Pharisees on many occasions. He condemned them for majoring on the insignificant and ignoring the important matters. Matthew 23:23 ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” There was nothing wrong with the Pharisees tithing carefully, but their conservative attitude towards tithing had made them loose their passion for God. They got so caught up with the nitty-gritty of the law that they had missed the passion of following the Savior who was standing right before them.

Ok, before you get your hackles raised too much let me explain the title of this blog. I’m not changing doctrinal positions on you. I’m trying to point out a pitfall of conservative Christianity. As conservatives we are guilty of being conservative about everything and many times ignoring the call to be passionate about our Master, Jesus. We are conservative in our music, but also about our involvement in our praise and worship. We are conservative in our finances, but also in our giving. We are conservative in raising our families, but also in our service with our family. We are conservative as we choose our church home, but also as we commit to service in our church. We are conservative in our dress, but also in our exposure to the lost who need Christ. We are conservative in our doctrine, but also in our evangelism efforts. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with being conservative. In fact I believe it is only through conservative Christianity that we will truly see God impact our church, town, country, and world. But there is a problem with our conservative nature. It tends to spread into our entire lives. There are some things that we should not do conservatively. Some places in our Christian lives where we should throw caution to the wind and go all out for Jesus.

Reckless Abandonment

Jesus calls us to a life of reckless abandonment. He sent the rich young ruler away sorrowful because he was not willing to abandon all for Him. Jesus told would-be followers, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26).” Quite harsh words to say to potential volunteers, He reminded them of their need to abandon all to follow Him. Luke tells of three people who came to Jesus as He was walking and volunteered to follow Him. The first man was a scribe. He said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus responded, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus invited another person to follow Him and the man replied, “Let me go and burry my father, first.” Jesus told him, “Let the dead burry their own dead, but as for you, go proclaim the kingdom of God.” One more volunteer called out, “I will follow you Lord but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus’ answer must have been tough to bear, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. Jesus told them that they needed to be willing to give up their refuge, riches, and even their relationships to follow Him (Luke 9:57-62). He invited them into a life of reckless abandonment for His cause. Not a conservative life in which everything is in order before they follow.

Where is the passion of conservatives?

When Jesus called his disciples, Simon, Andrew, James, and John, He said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Do you know what their response was? Simon and Andrew abandoned their nets (the tools of their livelihood) and followed Him immediately. James and John immediately, “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed Him.” They recklessly abandoned their livelihood and family to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20). That’s not conservative.

So how do conservative Christians fall into this trap? I believe that we are conservative about everything. I don’t mean that we should loosen up our biblical doctrine for the sake of unrestrained passion. Removing ourselves from conservative doctrine also removes us from following our Master. Don’t allow this conservative nature to infiltrate the way we follow Jesus. We must follow Jesus and obey His call with passionate reckless abandon. I have been cliff jumping a number of times and I have seen that the longer a person stands at the top of the cliff instead of leaping into the water below the harder the leap becomes and more likely it is that they won’t jump in at all. Just jump into service and leave the rest up to God.

We need people who are willing to passionately get involved in ministry. Don’t go in with a conservative attitude. We need people who are passionate about their worship for God. Don’t sing in church to fill time before the preaching, worship God. There is nothing wrong with emotion or passion when we worship. Passionately get involved in our worship service through allowing the message of the song to touch your heart, don’t just recite the words. Passionately get involved in ministry to our children through nursery, Sunday School, Truth Trackers, and children’s church. Passionately volunteer to help out with out sound and PowerPoint presentations. Passionately involve yourself with other believers at church. Tell them what God is doing in your heart. Plan to spend time with them outside of church services. Build relationships with them. Passionately visit the shut-ins in our church. Passionately involve your entire family in the service to the church. Passionately open your home to one of the thousands of foster kids stuck in our system. Passionately invite your friends and neighbors to church. Passionately help out those who are in need. Passionately support missions. Passionately get involved in our Tuesday night growth group beginning in February. Passionately pray for the needs of the church. Passionately give to the financial needs of our church. Passionately thank those who serve in our church. Passionately praise God for His work among us. Passionately abandon your conservative response to the call of God. Quit thinking about it and just jump in!

How do conservatives change?

Stop dreaming about what a passionate Christian life would look like and start living it. Let’s be passionately conservative as we follow Christ. When When Jesus calls you to take a step of faith that you fear, don’t argue with Him, don’t make excuses. passionately jump in and watch God passionately provide your need, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).” We wonder why we don’t see the amazing blessings that God promises at times. I believe the answer is found in Luke 6:38 “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” If we follow Christ conservatively we will find that His blessing and work among us is conservative. What would happen if we followed Him passionately? I believe that only time will tell. As conservative Christians, remain conservative where it is important, recklessly abandon the idea of conservatively following, and passionately follow our Master, Jesus Christ.

Just Jump In!

Growth in 2013

GrowingHarvest2013

2013 growth in numbers

2013 was quite an incredible year of growth for Harvest. We increased our auditorium capacity by 240%. We gave the outside of the building a much needed facelift and our curb appeal dramatically increased. Our average attendance grew by over 15%. The number of people serving in the church on a weekly basis expanded by over 75%. We saw the largest sustained growth in our youth programs. The nursery exploded by 250% on the average Sunday and our Truth Trackers program swelled 333% on some Wednesday nights at the end of the year. We have also seen more visitors come and stay this year.

Growth is more than numbers

The numbers of 2013 will stay in 2013. Impacting a community for Christ can’t be simply stated with numbers and percents. Impacting only one life for Christ literally changes eternity. This past year we saw families strengthened. We saw some begin to attend and get involved in church that had been absent in years past. We saw young families get involved. Our children learned more about Jesus and what He did for them. Due to the building project we grew closer together as a church family. People began to attend, serve, and get plugged in that hadn’t before. This was a very exciting year for Harvest.

Our people rallied together as many came out to build, paint, and clean. This work together brought us closer to each other. We became unified under the goal of finishing the building that God entrusted us with. Relationships with each other were strengthened and friendships were built. We grew together as we worshiped in our services. We laid the foundation in 2013 to becoming a church that can make a real impact for Christ in our community.

Where do we go from here?

This growth has truly been exciting. We saw things happen this past year that only God could do. However this growth should only make us hungry for God to do more. Paul said it this way, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)” I don’t use this verse to tell you that what we have accomplished in this past year should be forgotten. I truly believe that God is pleased with the growth that we saw in 2013. If we looked at 2013 and become satisfied and choose not to pursue growth in 2014, I believe that the growth that we have seen this past year would be a waste. God wants to do so much more with Harvest Baptist Church. We should press towards the goal with a desire to obtain the prize.

What should our goal for 2014 be?

Our goal ought to be to win and disciple followers of Jesus Christ and to teach them to impact the world through our community, Castle Rock. In 2014 we should strive together to follow Christ. As we follow Christ we will grow closer together to each other(Romans 12:5). From this growing relationship we will build each other up in Christ and become stronger (1 Thessalonians 5:11). It is from this platform of mutual discipleship that we will begin to impact Castle Rock through winning souls to Christ and teaching them to follow Christ. But this goal shouldn’t stop here in Castle Rock. Our goal should be to impact the world to whom we are called to preach the Gospel with Christ’s power (Matthew 28:18-20).

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).”

Let’s promise each other that we will each do our part to achieve God’s goal for Harvest Baptist Church in 2014.

Christmas Party moved to Pastor’s House

Christmas party

December 14th, 2013 @ 5:00pm

We are moving the Christmas party to Pastor Josh and Priscilla’s house.

6023 Millbridge Ct.
Castle Rock CO 80104

Please bring hot type finger foods, Christmas goodies! Drinks will be provided. Remember to bring a White Elephant Gift
Hope to see you there.

Christmas Through Her Eyes

ChristmasI was not prepared for motherhood. I had babysat a handful of times and changed as many diapers. I first held a newborn a year before I would hold my own. Despite my lack of experience when it came to babies, I really wasn’t taken off guard by many things that motherhood entailed. However, I did find myself shocked at the raw emotion motherhood produced. That moment I held my first daughter in my arms I felt emotion like I’d never before experienced. Love and joy mixed with fear and responsibility and awe.

Beneath the twinkling lights, the warm glow of manger scenes and sparkling family get-togethers, lurks a sinister problem that has stalked mankind since the fall. A problem that was altered with the birth of one humble mother’s first Child. Mary, the mother of our Savior, is given more pages in Scripture than any other mother, and it is in her emotion that my view of Christmas has forever changed.

From Mary’s quiet acceptance that she would bear the promised Messiah (Luke 1:38), to her beautiful Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) it is clear that this simple girl recognized and understood the immensity of the circumstances surrounding her first Child. Though she likely didn’t understand how her Child’s life would be lived, or how He would redeem our fallen race, she observed it all and meditated on it.

There’s no doubt on the night our Savior was born that His mother instantly loved Him, but the details of His birth puzzled her. She gave birth to the Messiah in a barn, and then common shepherds came to worship her tiny Son. Yet, she treasured these memories (Luke 2:19). They were the details surrounding her first Child’s birth, and like any mother, they were treasures.

A few short weeks later she and Joseph brought their tiny Son to the temple. Here they were met by Simeon, who was anticipating their arrival. Simeon gathered the Child in his arms and praised the Lord. (Luke 2:22-32). He then turned to Mary and pronounced some of the most poignantly beautiful words in Scripture, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” In these words all of redemption is so beautifully summed. This tiny baby would be surrounded by upheaval. He would suffer, and the suffering would wound her as well. She was His mother, and the price of redemption would hurt her mother’s heart. Yet, all this suffering would produce a “rising of many”. This suffering would bring forth redemption.

Thirty-three years later Mary found herself at the foot of a Roman cross. Her Son was hanging in agony between two common criminals. The crowds jeered and mocked her Son. In His anguish He noticed her. He protected her and provided for her earthly needs by asking John to care for her. (John 19:25-27) He bore the weight of the sin of all humanity on His shoulders, but He still cared for His mother. She watched as her Son died, paying the ultimate price. In order to speed up the crucifixion process a Roman soldier broke the legs of the criminals. When the soldier came to her Son he saw Jesus was dead and instead of breaking His legs, he pierced a sword through the heart of her Son. In that moment I’m sure the words of Simeon came back “a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Her mother’s heart was broken, but redemption was purchased.

Jesus would resurrect – securing victory, and weeks later we see the final mention of Mary in Scripture. She is praying with Christ’s followers in the upper room. (Acts 1:14) It was now clear what her Son’s purpose was. The treasured memories she had pondered over the years, the pain that she had endured as she watched Him rejected and ultimately killed now had purpose. The purpose was salvation and she would further her Son’s mission to the best of her ability.

Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the decorations, the songs, and the anticipation of my children as they think of their presents. As I have meditated on the birth of Christ from Mary’s perspective there’s a somberness to all the celebration. This tiny Child was born, but He was born to die a cruel death. A death that cost Him the very presence of His Father and a death that would hurt His mother’s heart, because that is the price of sin. But, it’s also in this birth we find true beauty – the beauty of redemption. This Christmas let’s remember the perspective of Mary. Her excitement at the arrival of her first born, but also the anticipation of what awaited her Son as He would sacrifice all to save a fallen race.

How are you applying this perspective to you Christmas preparations? Let us know in the comments. If you are receiving this in your email click here to leave a comment.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? Part 3 – Sacrifice

The path to following Jesus involves sacrifice.

Jesus told his disciples, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:38).” The idea of taking up a cross in many ways is lost to our culture. The days of the gruesome Roman execution on the cross are long gone. Jesus’ disciples probably had vivid images seared into their minds as they had seen people crucified on the side of the road. Death on the cross could take days. The cross was a public display warning people what happened to those who disobeyed the law. This statement of Jesus to his disciples must have been confusing to them. Why would Jesus make following him so hard? Jesus made it very clear that the path to following him involved sacrifice.

Christians are not guaranteed an easy path through life. The exact opposite is true. Paul warned young Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:12)” The reason for this persecution is the very essence of following Jesus. Jesus told his disciples, “Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).’” The fact of the matter is the closer we follow Jesus the more we will sacrifice. Some people will say, “Doesn’t God want me to be happy? How can I be happy if all I do is sacrifice?” The answer to this may surprise you. Yes God does want you to be happy. In fact the place in your life that you will find the greatest happiness is in His perfect will (John 15:11). The path to following Jesus is often strewn with difficulty and struggle yet it is the best place that you could be. Because it is in that place that the sovereign God of the universe protects and carries you. “and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place (Deuteronomy 1:31).” God takes care of and provides for those who follow after Him.

“I never made a sacrifice”

David Livingstone, a man who made incredible sacrifices to bring the gospel to remote tribes in continent of Africa said this of his sacrifice. “People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life–these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.”

Sacrifice or betrayal

Those of us who live in America truly know little about what true sacrifice is. We think fasting for a day or spending an hour in prayer or withholding something from yourself is sacrifice. Yet when we remember the thousands of Christian men and women around the world being persecuted and even killed for their faith our ‘sacrifice’ seems insignificant. Eric Fellman tells the story of meeting a Chinese couple in Hong Kong, while traveling to China.

“A Chinese man in his 6Os opened the door. His smile was radiant, but his back was bent almost double. He led us to a sparsely furnished room. A Chinese woman of about the same age came in to serve tea. As she lingered, I couldn’t help but notice how they touched and lovingly looked at each other. My staring apparently didn’t go unnoticed, for soon they were both giggling. “What is it?” I asked my friend. “Oh nothing,” he said with a smile. “They just wanted you to know it was OK–they’re newlyweds.” I learned they had been engaged in 1949, when he was a student at Nanking Seminary. On the day of their wedding rehearsal, Chinese communists seized the seminary. They took the students to a hard-labor prison. For the next 30 years, the bride-to-be was allowed only one visit per year. Each time, following their brief minutes together, the man would be called to the warden’s office. “You may go home with your bride,” he said, “if you will renounce Christianity.” Year after year, this man replied with just one word; “No.” I was stunned. How had he been able to stand the strain for so long, being denied his family, his marriage, and even his health? When I asked, he seemed astonished at my question. He replied, “With all that Jesus has done for me, how could I betray Him (Eric Fellman, Moody Monthly, January 1986 p. 33)?”

What sacrifices are you making to follow Jesus? Are you taking up your cross and following him? Lets discuss this together in the comments. If you are receiving this as an email you can click here to add your comments on the blog.

Photo Contest Extended

SliderdecpostWe will be extending the Photo Contest to December 31st. Send us your photos of the Christmas season for free coffee. For more details and contest rules visit http://hbccr.org/photo-contest/.

Thanksgiving for Harvest – Past, Present, and Future

thanksgivingforharvest

Thanksgiving for changes – Past

The pictures in the slider above remind me of our past here at harvest. The picture on the far right was our charter service in 2005. The two pictures to the right of that were at the instillation service in 2010. That little boy in the corner of the picture is now a senior in Highschool. We have seen a lot of change here at Harvest. But nothing has matched the change that we have seen in this past year.

Last year at thanksgiving we were discussing the possibility of being in the new building around Christmas time. We were finishing up the framing, pulling the electrical, and preparing for the drywall. The walls were still bare with exposed insulation. The HVAC work was beginning. There were bare i-beams and posts exposed. We were getting ready to install the new auditorium doors. No paint, drywall, carpet, or lights in the new auditorium. There were about 3 different types of carpet in the old building. We had some plumbing issues that needed to be resolved. The building was still yellow with cracking paint. The wood mansard roofing was falling apart along with the letters on the sign that were peeling. We were bursting at the seems in our small auditorium and full of excitement at what the new auditorium would bring.

Thanksgiving for Changes – Present

Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2013 and all of that has changed. The new auditorium is beautiful. Though we still have a small list of things to finish up with the building we can keep track of that list on one hand as opposed to the 15 page list of things to do. This has been an incredible year of change and growth at Harvest and I for one am thankful.

The building isn’t the only thing that has changed. So have the people. We have grown in this past year not by leaps and bounds but steady growth. Last year this time we were averaging about 40-50 per Sunday morning service. This year we are averaging 60. Our children’s department, especially in the younger ones, are bursting at the seams. We are always in need of people to help out with Nursery, Truth Trackers, and Children’s Church. The families at our church have grown in number and faithfulness. There is a lot to be thankful for.

The spirit of the church is encouraged and perhaps a bit overwhelmed with all that has transpired in the past year. I am constantly reminding myself of the comforting words of Jesus to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)” God’s grace is sufficient in my weakness. This truth lead Paul to say, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10).” I am learning to be thankful for the overwhelming changes and growth that our church has seen in this past year. I can be thankful because I know that God hasn’t put us in over our heads (Philippians 4:13). I know that God is taking care of us and that in our weakness God makes us strong.

Thanksgiving for Changes – Future

I am thankfully looking forward to what next year will bring our church. Our building’s image probably won’t change as much as it did in the past year. But I believe that the church (the people) will grow and change as Harvest Baptist Church pursues our mission. Our mission is to win and disciple followers of Jesus Christ and teach them to impact the world through our community, Castle Rock.

What are you thankful for this year?

Please leave a comment about what you are thankful for. We have just enabled Facebook comments to make commenting easier for you. If you are getting the is as an email I encourage you to follow this link to the website and tell us what you are thankful for this year. Not just church related things. Lets thank the Lord for all that he has done in the body of Christ this year.