What the Advent of Jesus says about that pile of presents under your Christmas tree

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What the Advent of Jesus says about that pile of presents under your Christmas tree

by Connor Kerr, Resonate Pullman member

Consumerism needs no introduction to my American audience. Focusing on material goods is where so many of us find ourselves each December. Maybe you have had an aunt trampled by a stampede of coupon-wielding Black Friday shoppers. Perhaps your best friend just got the new iPhone, which will allow them to pull up their student loan debt at lightning speeds. Our worship of things is distracting us from our mission, and the true purpose of Christmas.

Christians can find a way to justify any purchase in the name of staying culturally engaged, which leads to churches full of spiritually dead people with great jeans and trendy apartments. If we use our money primarily to decorate our homes and invest in material goods, then how are we any different from the world? We must ask ourselves as people on a direct mission from our Creator: in what way does my life look radically different from everyone else around me?

“Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;  rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:6-7

Christmas marks the point in human history where God entered into the world in the flesh to save lost souls. Christ had a mission; To live his life as a servant, giving up all luxury and heavenly comfort to pursue a goal that is eternal. The ramification of Christmas on Christians is that we now follow Christ in giving up our lives to become servants. Building your life around that which is material is self serving, while giving up your life for the Gospel is selfless.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39

How then do we structure Christmas? Do we insulate our families and exchange headphones and candy? Perhaps the birth of Christ should be celebrated by remembering who he was and what he did.

Knowing he only had 33 years to live, Jesus spent his time washing people's dirty feet, and giving hope to broken and lost people. Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28), we must also live sacrificially.

The thing we must understand is that once we give up the worldly comfort of consumerism, God can use us to do great things. It’s almost like these things that claim to make life easier are actually ankle weights, and once we free ourselves from their grip, we are able to run the race God has for us. God wants to transform you through a life lived out to the fullest.

“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,” Hebrews 12:1

Advent is a great time to refocus our life, to reflect on who God is, and ask how we as a church are fulfilling our purpose. Consider the following questions and ask God to rid you of selfishness:

  • Do I look any different from the world around me?

  • Do I prioritize my childhood rituals over God's purpose for Christmas?

  • Am I using the holiday season to talk to people about who Jesus is?

  • Where am I being a consumer in my church, rather than a servant?

  • Am I using Christmas to teach my kids to be consumers?

  • What am I willing to sacrifice for the betterment of a neighbor?

  • Would my bank statement reflect a life lived for the Gospel or a life lived for myself?

Material possessions are not evil in themselves, but orienting our lives around earthly things does not help our mission as Christians.

When you leave this earth I can pretty much guarantee that at your funeral, friends and family will not be talking about your possessions, but rather the relationships you shared. Jesus invested his life in the people around Him. This Christmas season, what if we honored his life by living out the mission he gave us?

Imagine a community of believers putting the needs of their city as number one on their shopping list this Christmas.

“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.” Matthew 6:19-20

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The Advent of Jesus: A Herald of Hope in a Hectic World

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The Advent of Jesus: A Herald of Hope in a Hectic World

by Jess Dahl, Resonate CWU staff

Rumors of war, the abuse of power, and attacks on the vulnerable all leave us feeling punched in the gut. It’s easy to believe this is the worst it’s ever been for humanity.

The news has been brutal lately. Political leaders shout at each other and society has followed suit. Sexual assault accusations and firings have taken over the news. We feel tension of every kind: racial, political, societal, international, theological. The fragility is palpable. Each night across the globe, we huddle around our screens for hope- waiting for the news to get better, waiting for the politicians to come through on their promises, waiting for those who have been wronged to get justice, waiting for the dust to settle. The tension lingers in the air.

Yesterday marked the first Sunday of advent season. Advent is a Christian tradition celebrated as a season of hope. One may be tempted to believe that this year is the exception to that hope. Our political situation is worse, our societal issues are new. They didn’t have nuclear war to worry about back then, so how can an ancient story from a different time speak to here and now?

But the hope found in the story of God coming to man transcends all ages. The hope found in his defeat of death transcends our daily anxieties. The hope found in his promise to come again transcends our despair of a hopelessly broken world.

The observance of Advent in the church dates back centuries. The word advent comes from the Latin word for “arrival” or “coming.” It has been used to celebrate three forms of God’s coming: God as a baby in the form of Jesus at Christmas, the coming of Christ’s power daily in our lives, and the hope of his return to restore and redeem the world.

The Greek word used in scripture for advent is parousia.

Strong’s Concordance writes that the word parousia, or advent, was used in that time to mark “the arrival of the owner who alone can deal with a situation.” For example, this is like when the house floods and you call the landlord. The renting tenants want to call the shots until things go wrong. When things go wrong you call in the person in charge. This word literally means “to enter into a situation.” God came to Earth knowing there was a situation, and he came to deal with it.

The situation that Jesus entered into in the Christmas story was fraught with political tension. The nation of Israel was under Roman occupation. They were clamoring for freedom, doubting government, and looking for hope. There were parties that shouted for revolution, wanting to overthrow the government and start fresh. There were parties that clung to individual identities, who pulled away from the fray and believed that looking further inward would be the great hope of society.  There were parties that clung to fundamentalism, tradition, and rules for morality as the way forward. There were parties that grabbed at power, manipulating and buying their way on any side to be in control.

Sound familiar?

The God we serve chose to enter into that situation as a baby, and he is able to enter into our situation as a risen lord and savior of this increasingly broken world. Our situation is no match for the owner who alone can deal with it. The creator of the world is not powerless in our current political situation. He has entered into our situation, our mess, and he is here to help. Here are three ways this advent season can meet us in our societal tension and bring hope to what feels like a hopeless world.

1. God Brought Hope to Our Human Situation

Christians celebrate a sent God. He came to us. He entered into a broken world. He did not remove himself from our situation. A Roman empire did not phase him or threaten the kingdom he came to establish. God did not meet strength-for-strength on the world’s terms, but came in vulnerability, as a baby, knowing he had nothing to prove. He came one cold night to refugee parents who had no place to sleep. So often we read the Christmas story with boredom and nostalgia, our eyes glazed over thinking we know the plot. The Christmas story is a gritty collision of the eternal and finite. This is the literary version of a record player scratching to a screeching halt, like in the movies before that tension-filled silence. This story changes everything.

Where do you need to approach the Christmas story with new eyes and ears to find hope?

2. God Brings Hope to Our Daily Situations

This baby, God in the flesh, grew into a man who continued to rewrite the political script. He was plotted against, then gave his life willingly so that a lost human race could be restored to Himself. The shame and weight of being our own god when we were created to serve only One had built a barrier between us and that merited death. It was us or Him, and his grace to bear the curse of sin forever broke the bondage of shame. In  our daily despair and feelings of failure, we no longer have to hide, cover up, lie, manipulate, try for perfection. His coming to die for us daily gives us hope to look to in every little moment. Our daily hope is not an intangible ideal but a tangible person and a finished work: Jesus. He has made our situation right with God. What situation do you need to invite him into to find hope for today?

3. God Will Bring Final Hope to Our Earthly Situation

This Earth and its kingdoms that are passing away are not our final home. While that knowledge should give us peace, we cannot disengage from society.We are called to bring hope to others through our lives as Christ-followers. Our king came to redeem and restore, and He left us in the world as His agents of redemption and restoration through reconciliation to Himself.

But we know that true peace will never be achieved before he comes back. Christ promised that he will once again enter into our situation and return to his true place as ruler of this earth, bringing order to creation. Then and only then will we see the fulfillment of true hope on this earth. This means that we need not despair now or fear those that can harm the body but cannot kill the soul. We are eternal beings trapped in mortal bodies, fumbling around on a spinning planet that we, left to our own devices, will self-destruct. God will once again enter into our situation and meet us with hope that cannot fade, perish, or be taken away.

His past, present, and future arrival point us to hope this Christmas season. He is the owner of the clamor of sides, the terrifying headlines, the isolation you feel, the rage and desire for change. He has been a refugee, a marginalized outcast, the center of slander, the receiver of false accusations, the bearer of unjust beatings, the victim of an unfair trial and the victor over death.

He longs for you to let him enter in. He already has. He is Emmanuel, here with us. He is our only hope for change.

May we turn our hearts to him for hope and away from the clamor this Advent season.

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Overcoming Passivity: Because Superheroes Don't Wear Sweatpants

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Overcoming Passivity: Because Superheroes Don't Wear Sweatpants

by Nicole Kelp, Resonate WSU staff

I love Wonder Woman. I sometimes wish I could be like her. When I watched Wonder Woman in theaters, I was instantly drawn to the main character, Diana- she’s strong, graceful, courageous, and powerful. But as the plot carries on, we learn she’s not only tough as nails, but compassionate and kind as well. Diana never loses sight of her larger mission to stop the bad guys, but she always makes time to stop and help those in need, even against the wishes of her comrades. Seriously, I wish I could be like Diana.

But alas, I am no Wonder Woman. Like most of us, I’m not quite as good at getting things done. I’m often plagued by passivity and don’t actually do what I can to help people.

I think our entire society can relate. We idolize superheroes, Navy SEALs, Mother Teresa - whoever it is, real or fictional, past or present. We look at people who accomplished something great and helped others, and we wish we could be like them. But if you and I are not careful, we’ll find ourselves 5, 10, 20 years down the road with a story plagued by passivity and missed opportunities to be who God calls us to be. We know what God has called us to- to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31) and sacrifice ourselves for others- but we just aren’t that good at doing it.

So where does this passivity come from? And what can we do about it?

Rather than dealing with the symptoms, it’s important to examine the root cause of our inaction. Passivity stems from one of two heart issues, whether independently or together: laziness or selfishness. How can we diagnose where our passivity is coming from?

1. Passivity due to laziness

If you tell people you’re busy, but constantly find yourself with hours to waste on your TV or phone, you’re really just being lazy. Practically, you value comfort over accomplishing things that matter. You are too focused on  temporal personal satisfaction to be effectively used by God to advance His Kingdom.

2. Passivity due to selfishness

Maybe you actually are busy. Maybe you’re not lying when you say you don’t have time to help someone. But what are you busy with? What are you prioritizing? Even school, work, or other seemingly good tasks can be selfish if you’re prioritizing them for your own personal gain. Who are you always willing to make time for- yourself, or others?

Once we know the root of our passivity, we can begin to address it. Beyond Wonder Woman, my real hero is Jesus. Wonder Woman may inspire me, but Jesus empowers me to change. How can we turn to Jesus for help to overcome our passivity?

1. Look to Jesus’ example

Our God doesn’t sit in an ivory tower and command us to love our neighbor. He came to Earth to show us how it’s done. Jesus left his own personal comfort in heaven to become homeless on Earth. He spent hours with people, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, talking with the lonely. But He also took time away to rest with God. He had the wisdom to balance His life well. He took naps, but He didn’t use tiredness as an excuse to not help His friends when they were scared (Mark 4:35-41). He had a mission- to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). That mission manifested itself in so many ways, from mourning with his friends, to showing love to small children, to dying on a cross to redeem the world. Jesus never let laziness or selfishness keep Him from caring for others.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit for help

Beyond showing us how to love people, Jesus wants to help us do that. He sent the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom, guidance, and strength (John 14:26, Acts 1:8). If we’re struggling with laziness, choosing our personal comfort over loving others, we can pray for the Holy Spirit to give us strength to overcome our flesh’s desires and choose what is right. If we’re struggling with time management, not sure when to agree to help someone or to rest with God, we can pray for the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom and insight into the situation. If we’re struggling with selfishness, prioritizing tasks that help ourselves but don’t help others, we can pray for the Holy Spirit to soften our heart so that we want to serve others.

3. Ask your Christian community for help

We can’t try to overcome passivity on our own. We need our community to gather around us and help us dig up the roots of our passivity, pray with us, encourage us, and hold us accountable to actually loving our neighbor. My husband and I have a family motto: “Mission over comfort.” If I’m ever choosing my own comfort over the mission of showing God’s love to others, then my husband only has to say those three words to help remind me to fight my passivity and choose to do what is right. It’s incredibly helpful to have him and my friends help me fight my passivity.

I’ll never be like Wonder Woman. But thankfully, I’m called to be like Jesus. And fortunately, Jesus wants to help me get there. I have the Holy Spirit to help me overcome my laziness and selfishness, to give me strength to fight my flesh and wisdom to prioritize the right things. With God’s help, I can put my passivity to death and be the active, courageous, loving, Christ-like woman He has made me to be.

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How To Go Home Well This Thanksgiving Break

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How To Go Home Well This Thanksgiving Break

by Jess Dahl, Resonate CWU Staff

You can already hear the comments as you make the drive back home for Thanksgiving.

Your mom will inevitably make that remark about your personal life (and you will inevitably get defensive). Your uncle will definitely make a comment about your skinny jeans and your taste in music. You might even get questions about where your time is being spent, what you believe, and why you changed your major and are obeying Jesus into a life of mission instead of following the expected path toward money, power, and success. Even if you and your family get along well, extended time with them will begin to show the cracks in the idol of the nuclear family. Whether it’s the warmth of belonging or the sting of rejection, nothing can get at you quite like these people who have known you since birth.

This coming week will be a test of your heart. Thanksgiving break and its pitfalls will be a chance for you to take God at His word and invite Him into the chaos, the free time, the hard conversations, the brokenness in your family, into every second you feel out of control and want to hide behind Netflix and busyness. Although you cannot control your family, you can control your heart and invite Jesus in as you interact with your family for extended amounts of time this upcoming holiday season. If they do not know Christ, or know him but don’t want to sacrifice for the mission, it is a weighty battle-filled time ahead of you.  Here are three common pitfalls of going home for break:

1. Lack of Depth

Because of the work it takes to explain so much of my life within Christ, I have found that my time with family can be shallow unless I look and pray for opportunities to talk about real things. Don’t get me wrong, my mom and I are going to watch way too many Hallmark Christmas movies, but if that’s all we do because I’m too lazy or scared to go deeper, we will both miss out. Don’t avoid the hard topics.

My friend Amy Martin recently reminded me of the picture God paints for us in Psalm 1. We are to be like a tree planted by a stream of water, with roots sunk down deep into our source of life, always connected. So often we cut ourselves off from that time with God because it feels like a chore, or one more thing to add in. Spending time with the Lord is not one of many things to schedule in, but our source of life and energy to even attempt to be good news to our family.

How To Invite God In:  

Start each day with a prayer for your heart to stay connected to your source of life instead of searching in things that will leave you empty. Prayerfully press into where God is at work in your family and spend time with Him so you have an overflow to give out. Ask deeper questions like what they’re learning, or what they’re anxious about lately. Share those same things with them from your standpoint of a Christ follower. Listen well. Ask to pray with them.

2. Defensiveness or Avoidance of your Faith

Many of us go home to family that doesn’t see or understand our spiritual growth. You may want to talk about how you are different but don’t know where to start. What if your family just doesn’t understand the goodness of God and the call to follow Him?

1 Corinthians 2 tells us to expect that what we believe will seem like foolishness to those who don’t believe. But if you enter these conversations with a heart of humility, you can paint an incredible picture with your life and how you talk about it. Find ways to share the good news of a God who left heaven to know us, has paid our debt of sin, and invites us to quit trying to be good enough on our own. Be willing to be misunderstood, but don’t sugar coat. Don’t give into pride and talk down to your questioning family, leaning into false righteousness that creates separation and distance. On the other hand, don’t allow their disbelief to shake your new identity in Christ. Their reasoning is of this world, and we work for a different kingdom with a different standard of success.

How To Invite God In:

Colossians 4 says to let your speech with nonbelievers be full of grace and seasoned with salt. Grace-filled is the opposite of defensive. When friends and family ask questions about your life, be ready to give a grace-filled answer. One that assumes humility, listens before responding, answers with a gentle question back. A response seasoned with salt means it is full of flavor, witty, it makes sense. Even if they don’t believe, talk about your life in such a way that makes much of Christ and leaves them wanting to know more. Ask God to help you to have a humble heart as you navigate questions from those curious about your life.

3. Your Old Friends

If you’ve had a transformational encounter with Jesus since coming to college, your old friends may not understand how or why you are different. You have a wonderful opportunity to show and share your faith with them. But participating in the old things that used to define your friendship will only lead to confusion on both sides. You say you’re different, but you still drink the same amount of alcohol, smoke the same amount of weed, delight in gossip, or lash out in anger?

Romans 6 talks about leaving those things behind, no matter the pressure or risk of rejection. Paul writes, “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Although it may mean an uncomfortable conversation, those old friends trust you more than most so ask God to help you take the risk to show and share your new life with them. The freedom you’ve found in Christ could be theirs.

How To Invite God In:

This is hard, and you can’t do it alone. Invite your friends who do know Christ to pray for you to be obedient and have boldness as you interact with your old friends. They might not understand, but try to hang out with them in a different setting. Go see a movie, ask them to lunch, invite them over to hang out with you and your family. Show that you still want to fight for the relationship even though you have changed and your interests aren’t the same as they used to be. So many new Christians feel the tension and just cut ties all together. God calls us to remain and fight for our friends to see the beauty and worth of Christ, showing them a better way to live. Do you trust God with these relationships? Do you love your friends enough to risk the awkward conversation?

 

God wants to meet you this week. May you walk with obedience as you go deeper, talk with grace as you share your story, and live with intention as you let your life speak about the God you follow.

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Church Membership: Where it came from and why it matters

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Church Membership: Where it came from and why it matters

by Josh Martin, site pastor of Resonate Pullman

I am a member of a gym. I pay a fee, have a card, and tell others I go. To my shame, I don’t go often (it’s starting to show), and I have no concern for the wellbeing or vision of the gym.  

Gym membership and church membership have little in common. This is one of the reasons why our church uses the word “Ownership” instead of “Membership”- because Lord knows if I owned the gym, I would be much more invested and integrated and would take personal responsibility to see the vision achieved, the budget reached, and the people cared for.  

Where does this term “church member” come from?

In 1st Corinthians chapters 12-14, Paul uses the metaphor of Christians being a body made up of members, with Christ being its Head. The Bible teaches this as both a global membership phrase and a local membership metaphor. This is the primary reason people use the word member when talking about joining a church.

What does this term “church member” mean?

Membership means that somebody, whether by signature or word of promise, says “I’m committed to these people who hear the Word of God preached from these leaders, perform the ordinances of communion and baptism, and commit to the ‘one another’ commandments in scripture.”

Knowing what church membership means and where the term comes from is well and good, but there are still two very basic questions many people struggle with: Is church membership biblical and is it really necessary?

It is true that church membership is not explicitly biblically commanded, and it’s also true the word membership is never mentioned in the Bible, but we would submit that belonging to a local church is absolutely implied and understood in the Word of God. The Bible never uses the word Trinity, yet we understand the implied truth of the Trinity without the word being explicitly stated. Similarly we believe membership in the local church is biblically implied and understood.

Membership is implied through church gathering

The word ekklesia, meaning “church,” is used 90 times in the New Testament in reference to the gatherings of the local believers. It’s a fair question to ask fellow believers, “To what gathering do you belong? Under which covering do you gather?”

Membership is implied through church discipline

When Jesus talks about confronting a brother in sin, he tells you to confront a brother, then take two or three along, then if that doesn’t work you take it to the church. This is obviously not a plea to announce this to the universal body of Christ; it’s clearly implied that you tell this to the local body of believers who gather.  In short: You can’t get taken “out” if you were never “in”.

Membership is implied through church leadership

Hebrews 13:7 says “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over your soul as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

It’s a command of scripture that leaders give an account, which raises the question: who must leaders give an account for? Certainly not every Christian in the whole world, or the universal church. No, they will give an account for those who identify as members of their church. And followers are to obey their leaders - should they turn on the TV and obey whatever Christian leader they can find? No, they are to obey their local pastor at the church where they have committed to submit.

Membership is implied through church accountability

The church is accountable to appoint leaders in Acts 4, to preach the gospel in Galatians 1, to allow in members in 1st Corinthians 5, and to send missionaries in Acts 13. This prompts us to ask  the question, “Are you an accountable member of a local church?”

When it comes to your relationship with the church, God is concerned with you answering these questions specifically:

To whom is your life committed?  

Who are the leaders to whom your life is submitted?  

Whose teaching are you coming under and obeying?

A pastoral word to you about ownership in Resonate Church

Our church and every church was designed for our good and for God’s glory. We exist to serve the body of Christ; the body of Christ doesn’t exist to serve us. Therefore, we shouldn’t hop around from church to church or disregard the church holistically. We should commit. With our whole lives, commit. Just as generations before us have committed, we too should commit, because it’s evident there's not one New Testament believer who was not associated with a local church.

In my experience, resisting church membership is rarely a Biblical conviction, it’s usually something more of an American - independent - trust issue - fear of commitment - type conviction.  If that’s where you are, we would ask you to take this issue to the Lord and allow him to lead you to repentance, belief, and spiritual growth.

If you become an owner of Resonate Church you will be joining a family on mission, under the Lordship of Jesus, committed to being an urgent, multiplying, college church planting movement. You no longer go to Resonate; you belong to Resonate. You will transition from being a consumer of religious goods from Resonate, to being a contributor and bearing personal responsibility for the vision. You will be under leadership who will give an account for you, and you will be pushed to live a life of mission, give sacrificially, and be cared for and loved.  

We encourage you to join us in owning Resonate Church. If you are not committed to a local church, our hope is that you would make that a priority in your Christian life. Jesus laid down his life for the Church, and we want to be a people who do the same.

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