Lent and the Discipline of Prayer

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Lent and the Discipline of Prayer

by Josh Martin, Resonate Pullman pastor

If you’re a believer in Jesus, then God’s goal for your life is total transformation.  

God’s strategy for this transformation is the gift of a new heart and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This new heart that God gives us is filled with new desires, but it does not come pre-packaged with new disciplines.  

The way we participate is by creating new disciplines and allowing the Spirit to change us through these disciples, and none are more significant than bible reading, prayer, and fasting.  

Over the last 10 years our church has taken the 40 days leading up to Easter, commonly known as Lent, and leveraged this season to give up something and take on something.  

We engage this season with heightened discipline, fasting, praying, and repenting. Fasting is a temporary renunciation of a good thing, like food, television, social media, sleeping in, coffee, sugar, etc… in order to intensify our expression of need for something great, namely God’s power and presence in our life and our church.  

This year for Lent we want to corporately focus on the discipline of prayer.  

Here’s the plan: A church-wide commitment to pray for 1 hour a day for 40 days.

How you get involved is by downloading the Resonate app or going to lent.resonate.net to receive daily scripture reading, prayer requests for your site, and a music playlist.

Each day you can pray alone, ask your huddle to pick a time together, or join in the church-wide schedule that will be made available at each of your sites.  Each site will provide an opportunity to pray together for this hour Monday-Friday.  The weekends will have no corporate schedule.

The hour of prayer will follow the same daily rhythm and will be guided with an hour long soundtrack, scripture reading, and a prayer list, ensuring that you feel equipped to make it the full hour.

Here’s the rhythm: Each day you will follow this four section pattern.   

1. (15 min) READ:  We want to spend the first 15 minutes reading the daily scripture and asking God to speak to you.  As we read, we are hearing from the Lord and tuning our hearts in preparation for prayer.  The word convicts our hearts, renews our minds, and  informs our prayers.

2. (10 min) REPENT/BELIEVE:  For the next ten minutes we repent of anything going on in our heart that is not like Christ.  You ask God to search us and change us.  We confess our sinful thoughts and actions and believe again the good news that Jesus alone gives us right standing before God.

3. (25 min) ASK:  The next 25 minutes is petition prayer.  We’re asking God to move and provide breakthrough in ways only he can.  We’re praying for the lost, we’re praying for financial provision, we’re praying for leaders to be raised up, we’re praying for wisdom, and we’re asking for power.  Your site will provide a list of more specific prayer needs, and of course we can also pray for things we know about that are going on in our church.  This is a great time to pray with someone else or to write out your prayers on a tear sheet.  

4. (10 min) PRAISE: We want to end each time by worshiping God and giving Him glory for who He is.  We can sing to him or pray prayers of adoration, but all in all be reminded that God is good, He is in control, and He can be trusted to meet all of our needs in Christ.

We believe that during this season God is going to meet us in prayer and move in mighty ways in the life of our church.  We know the vision God has given Resonate can only be accomplished through extraordinary prayer.  May this season give us the breakthrough God wants for us, and may it give us the discipline to carry on a life saturated in prayer.  

“Prayer is not preparation for the battle, prayer is the battle.” -Leonard Ravenhill

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The Blazes of Movement

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The Blazes of Movement

by Preston Rhodes, Resonate Moscow student leader

The blazes of movement start with the spark of a few crazy people who say yes.” - Jacob Dahl

Wide-eyed and haggard on a cold September morning in 1853, a young man boarded the last clipper leaving the harbor at Liverpool. His destination rested that day far more as a fabled land in the Western conscience than a fruitful mission field warranting legitimate dedication. 52 years later, Hudson would board a ship in the same harbor on his last voyage to China, assured that God’s work through him the last half-century had helped cultivate the most fertile missionary ground in the world.

Hudson Taylor was born on May 21, 1832 in the UK. At 17 he put his faith in Christ, and immediately began an education in the medical field. Only four short years later, he bade farewell to all those he knew and stepped aboard the Dumfries as the first missionary of the Chinese Evangelisation Society (CES). Five treacherous months later, Hudson arrived in Shanghai.

Upon his conversion, Taylor developed a holy ambition that would drive him all the days of his life. He stood with the apostle Paul in Romans 15, proclaiming “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation.”

This ambition led to a holy discontentment in Taylor. He became restless as he heard of unreached millions in the Chinese interior who had never heard the name of Christ. His pleas with the CES fell on deaf ears, as they were more interested in maintaining Western ties and focusing on coastal regions. Finally, Taylor resigned from the CES and independently moved inland.

China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women … The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, and souls first and foremost in everything and at every time—even life itself must be secondary.” -Hudson Taylor

In 1865, Taylor realized his need for missionary help as the 12 known provinces of China and Mongolia were far too vast for him alone to evangelize. He felt that he lacked the experience to lead a team of missionaries, but he stepped out in faith and asked God for 24 fellow workers. With that decision, Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission, and within 15 years there were over 100 missionaries working for the CIM.

All God's giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.” -Hudson Taylor

Taylor suffered greatly in the remaining years of his life, losing four children and one wife to sickness and malnutrition. In 1900, the Boxer Rebellion targeted Christians in his area, killing 58 CIM missionaries and 21 of their children, as well as over 30,000 Chinese Christians.

God wants you to have something far better than riches and gold, and that is helpless dependence upon Him.” -Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor died in June of 1905 at 73 years old, shortly after the death of his second wife. Throughout these trials, Taylor held firmly to the belief that God would provide all that he could ever need, and God protected him. He protected him from unbelief, from cowardice, from unfruitfulness, from disobedience, from becoming a doctor and buying a house in the suburbs of Yorkshire and saying “someone else will reach the Chinese”.

At the time of his death there were 825 missionaries working with CIM, and approximately 100,000 Christians in China. Today, the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (formerly CIM) has over 1600 missionaries in China, and the Chinese church boasts 150 million believers. Hudson Taylor, a 21 year old kid with little education, sparked a movement in China that has yet to cease simply by trusting in God for big things and refusing to rest until he had spent his all in the completion of the Great Commission.

The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” -Hudson Taylor

Taylor would implore you, young college student, not to passively become a casualty to the American dream. He would plead against you striving for the nice house, nice car, nice job, nice family, nice retirement; relaxing in leisure as your last act before standing in the presence of God, while untold millions perish eternally for lack of knowledge that you so abundantly possess. When He returns, even our most legitimate excuses will be wholly worthy of shame.

There will never be a better time in your life to write yourself as a blank check given to the purposes of God. Give your life to the evangelizing, equipping, training, and sending of college students to the nations, that we may obey the command God has placed on our lives. Might God be calling you to join in the sufferings of Christ, to fall like a grain of wheat into some distant ground and die, to hate your life in this world and so keep it forever and bear much fruit? Make your life’s purpose the fulfillment of the Great Commission within our lifetime. There is no greater purpose.

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A pastoral word to a hurting campus

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A pastoral word to a hurting campus

On Tuesday, January 16, WSU quarterback Tyler Hilinski took his life. The grief rocked the WSU campus, and it's unfortunately a grief that too many people across the world have experienced. Resonate Pullman Pastor Josh Martin shares his thoughts in the wake of tragedy.

Last Tuesday night, while rocking my daughter to sleep, I received a text about Tyler’s death.  I followed the link and read in disbelief.  

After scrolling through the police report multiple times, the weight of it started to settle in.  I could feel the tears, so I closed my phone, shut my eyes, and tried to keep singing to Lucy.  The song says, “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure, that He would give His only Son, to make a wretch His treasure.”

Somewhere around, “that He would give His only Son…”, the sadness became unbearable.  I quit singing, held my little girl, and wept.

What crushed me that night wasn’t just the loss of a young man with a bright future.  What crushed me was that sin has so infiltrated and devastated our world that hurting people are left to believe there is no way out.  Sin is a liar.  It lies to us and it lied to Tyler.  

So often suffering make us feel isolated and alone.  We are tempted to believe the lie that no one sees us,  hears us, or knows us.  That could be no further from the truth.  Truth is: God is not simply aware of our suffering, He is grieved by it. He responds to our pain with a Father’s heart: I hear you. I see you. I know you. You are never alone.

The entire biblical narrative can be summed up in one word: deliverance. That may seem overly simplistic but I assure you it’s not.  Because deliverance implies captivity.  Suffering.  Sorrow.  Waiting.  Wanting.  And needing to be saved from a power you are powerless against.  

Deliverance is the overarching Biblical narrative, because it’s the action of being rescued or set free.

There is no doubt sin is powerful, and it has caused great sorrow in our world. It has many of us in its grip right now, but make no mistake, God has no rival. Where sin runs deep, his grace runs deeper still.  

However bad your circumstances, God can deliver you.  

However dark your past, God can deliver you.

However present your struggles, God can deliver you.

However captive you are, however dark it is, however deep you’re in, however long it’s been going on, God can deliver you.  There is always a way out.  You can be set free. This is good news, not good advice.

Religion tells you what you have to accomplish for God, that’s advice.

The Gospel tells you what God accomplished for you, that’s news.  

There’s a lot of good advice out there in the wake of tragedy, but there’s only one place for Good News, and that’s Jesus.  

Jesus is most bright and beautiful when times are most dark and tragic. Go to Him - it’s the best advice I offer, because He’s the best news in the world.   

Cougs, take your cares to Jesus, and let him heal you now and forever.  

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Wrestling with doubt

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Wrestling with doubt

by Maria Royall, Resonate Pullman member

Doubt and I have a long history. I grew up in the church, and I was generally pleased with my life. But as I grew older, I learned how to doubt what I was taught. I loved to poke holes in what people taught me. But there comes a day when doubt wants to claim you as its own, and you have two choices- give in, or fight for your freedom. So when I was 19, God sent me to Haiti to confront the doubt I thought I loved.

A disastrous earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. My team was there to assist the YWAM base in Saint Marc, who had been aiding those affected for over a year at the time. One day, my team (and a few people from another church) went to pray with people who had been displaced in the earthquake, many of whom were injured. I watched those missionaries pray for healing, and tell person after person they would be healed. That familiar feeling crept in, and I couldn’t keep pretending I wasn’t bothered to my core. Who are you to promise these people they’ll be healed?

My mind was flooded with memories of people promising me healing that never came. At last, we met a woman whose back was so injured she could barely walk. I couldn’t hold my frustration anymore and I walked away to pray alone. Then I remembered the man in Mark 9 whose son needed to be healed by Jesus, and in a moment of transparency he cried out “I believe, help my unbelief!” I went back and placed my hand on the woman, prayed this man’s words, and the woman stood up tall. She was healed. She danced away, joyfully proclaiming what had just happened. And my heart took a step toward healing through that intense experience.

Until that moment, I had been suppressing my doubt and anger. It was my own personal problem, I thought I could live with it, and it was a little too complicated for me to know what I really believed. But denying how I felt was hindering my potential to heal and grow. Your emotions reveal the beliefs you hold most deeply. It’s important to listen to and acknowledge your feelings of doubt, while not allowing them to drive your decision making. Doubt is normal, and suppressing it harms the close relationship you’re meant to have with God. But it’s also indicative of lies you’re believing, and those lies are worth digging up.

For me, I didn’t believe God wanted to heal people. I doubted He was a God who would give people relief from their pain, and that made me bitter. Doubt is often easier to find in our hearts than a firm trust in God’s plans and promises. Rather than justifying our doubts as a shortcoming on God’s part or counting what we feel as more reliable than God’s word, we first need to recognize that our beliefs can be a product of our fallible surroundings and second, seek out the lies we’re believing and kill them.

So if you find yourself in a season of doubt, what should you do?

1. Speak up.

If you let doubt fester in your heart and never take the time to sort out what you really think and where it’s coming from, you may never recover. Journal, pray, tell a friend- just don’t keep it inside. Give your community the chance to listen for lies you’re believing so that they can speak truth, support you, and fight for you.

2. Memorize scripture.

The Holy Spirit corrected me in that moment through a verse I had put to memory. The word of God is powerful and full of truth. Keep it on your mind until God moves it to your heart.

3. Be willing to accept correction.

It can feel like a personal attack to hear someone tell you you’re wrong, but remember what’s at stake. The lies you believe want to destroy you. Don’t come to their defense.

 

God is gracious toward his children and aggressive toward the lies we believe. Draw near to Him and listen as he corrects the falsehoods that lead you to doubt Him.

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What’s beneath and beyond racism

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What’s beneath and beyond racism

by Nicole Kelp, Resonate Pullman staff

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

We’ve all heard these famous words proclaimed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. We know the story of the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of freedom for black Americans.

But these words, and the memorialization of this movement on MLK day, are not just history. The thesis of these words should impact us daily.

When Jesus was on earth, He repeatedly challenged expectations. The Jewish religious leaders of the day expected him to only care about rich Jewish men. But Jesus instead cared about the outcasts - the poor, Samaritans and Gentiles, women, “sinners” like prostitutes and tax collectors, the disabled, and the sick.

In Luke 4:18 Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has appointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners … and to set the oppressed free.” Right after saying this, He shared how God had used the prophets in the Old Testament to heal and care for non-Jews, and this infuriated the Jews. But this is how Jesus lived his life. He didn’t care about societal expectations of propriety. He cared about justice. King followed Jesus’ example by caring about and fighting for the oppressed.

How can we follow Jesus’ example as well?

Where in your life are you harboring prejudice and only caring for people like you, and not caring for those who are different than you or more disadvantaged than you? King talked about judging people by the content of their character instead of by the color of their skin. Including race, there are plenty of areas where you may find yourself judging people. Have you felt prejudice against someone because of nationality, immigrant status, occupation, socioeconomic class, education level, perceived social influence, gender, disability, mental illness, or appearance? We may like to think we aren’t prejudiced, but if all our friends think and look and act like us, we may be excluding others. If we don’t feed the hungry and care for the sick and hurting, Jesus says that we have failed to care for Him (Matthew 25:31-46).

If you’re able to identify an area where you harbor prejudice, what can be done then? There are two things to consider:

1. Don’t just try to “be better.”

We could set resolutions to be more inclusive, to serve the poor, to care for hurting people. But then we would just be changing behaviors and not our hearts. Jesus cared about the oppressed, but that was because He had the heart of God for people. Don’t just change your behaviors - instead pray that God would change your heart to see the broken and hurting people and desire to care for them.

2. Don’t wait.

In his speech, King said “We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. There is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” This principle applies in the Kingdom of God as well. We need to make the most of every opportunity and use our time on earth efficiently (Ephesians 5:15-16). When God has affected our hearts, we should care for others and share God’s love with them both in word and deed. This is an area where I sometimes struggle - God has burdened my heart for oppressed people, yet I don’t often do anything tangible to help them.

Near the end of his speech, King quotes the book of Isaiah by saying “I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.” That Isaiah passage was also quoted in the book of Luke to describe John the Baptist as he preached and prepared the way for Jesus’ arrival. Jesus brought the Kingdom of God to earth, and that involves the high and exalted people being humbled while the oppressed people are freed. The Kingdom of God is all about changing expectations, giving grace where it’s undeserved, and valuing different things than the world does.

This MLK day, how can you live like John the Baptist, like King, and most importantly like Jesus? How can you help usher in the Kingdom of God on earth? Notice the areas in your life where you may be failing to care for the oppressed like Jesus did, ask God to change your heart, and take active steps to bring hope to the hurting or those who look or act differently than you. Then Martin Luther King’s dream - and even more importantly God’s will - can become reality in your area of influence on earth.

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GIVING HURTS (and it should)

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GIVING HURTS (and it should)

by David Royall, Resonate Finance Director

Running and weightlifting sound terrible.

You’ve obviously heard about how important exercise is for your wellbeing, but you hate gyms. Maybe somebody guilts you into joining them in a New Years resolution, so you put on some unseasonably cold clothes and head to the gym. You run as hard as you can on a treadmill and lift some heavy things until you run out of ideas and go home. The next day, your legs feel heavy and your arms feel weak, and somehow the next day you hurt even more!

Then comes the existential crisis: Who invented exercise anyway? Why does it have to hurt? How can something that feels so bad possibly be good for me? How am I supposed to go back to the gym when I’m still sore from the last time?

But your friend keeps asking you and you keep joining until something mysterious happens: you stop feeling so sore, you have more energy throughout the day, and you even look forward to your next visit to the gym! Even more, you experience more discipline in other areas like your sleep schedule, time management, and food choices.

Tithing and financial generosity sound terrible too.

You’ve probably heard people plead for you to tithe to your local church and give to church planting and mission trips, and you run through excuses like someone who’s never been to the gym. You don’t have any extra to give, you’re already giving so much time serving your church. You decide to give once or twice and it really hurts your finances.

Then comes the existential crisis: Who invented tithing anyway? Why does it have to hurt? How can something that feels so bad possibly be good for me? If God has all the resources in the world, why would he want me to give him a fraction of my measly income to my church?

But giving is a spiritual discipline just like exercise is a physical discipline. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Discipline hurts because it needs to! Giving must strip away the idols of self-security, self-provision, and selfishness that have been building up in your heart for years. Giving is a matter of discipleship and nobody is exempt from repenting of selfishness and obeying God’s commands.

Once you establish the discipline of regular giving (especially tithing), something mysterious happens: you stop feeling so poor, you have more purpose for your finances, and you even look forward to your next tithe and the next support letter you receive! Even more, you experience more discipline in other areas like budgeting & wise spending, stewardship of the things God’s already given you, and prayer toward the ministries you’re supporting, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

I challenge you to begin the discipline of tithing (giving 10% of your income to the local church) and giving beyond that to special requests like church planting, mission trips, and staff support. Even if it doesn’t make sense today and it hurts tomorrow, I assure you it will grow you into a more godly disciple.

To start practicing obedient generosity today with Resonate Church, you can go to give.resonate.net.

There are a lot of common questions regarding why and how to tithe. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions:

1. Is tithing really Biblical if it’s not explicitly commanded in the New Testament?

Yes. The tithe was introduced in the Old Testament with the priest Melchizedek (Gen 14), established by Jacob (Gen 28), and required in the Levitical law as the primary (but not only) mandatory sacrifice for all Israelites (Deu 14, Lev 27). Through Israel’s history it had been ignored and distorted, so Jesus redirected the teachers & Pharisees who meticulously tithed cumin from their herb gardens but ignored what the tithe was supposed to be producing: justice, mercy, and faithfulness. He affirmed they should be practicing the tithe but not ignore its greater purpose (Mat 23:23). The rest of the New Testament affirms that Christians should be giving generously far beyond 10%.

2. How important is the “10%”?

Strictly speaking, tithe means “tenth” or 10%. It was the term and amount established in the Old Testament (see above) by God’s wisdom, who made it a sacrifice proportionate to anyone’s income level. Through the prophet Malachi to the Israelites, God states that giving less than the full 10% is robbing him, and then challenges them to give the full tithe and see how he blesses them in return (Mal 3). Any percentage of your income you give is better than none, but intentionally withholding part of your tithe may indicate a distrusting heart toward God. Take on God’s challenge by giving the whole 10% and see how he blesses you in return.

The New Testament church seemed to treat the 10% as a floor for giving, rather than a ceiling. If you are already giving 10% and are comfortable there, you can continue to be stretched in generosity and discipleship by setting a giving goal of giving 15%, 20%, and more! It could be that the next raise you get is God wanting to increase your standard of giving rather than your standard of living.

3. How can I give if I live off student loans or my parent’s money?

This is a tough and common question. The majority of students living off student loans or parent’s money receive some spending money above their necessary expenses to use for gas, food, coffee, and activities. The simplest solution is to look at how much spending money you receive after tuition and fees are taken care of, and tithe off of that. In reality this isn’t a full 10% since expenses aren’t excluded from a working person’s income. Another solution would be to set a giving goal every term or month when you receive money that would stretch your finances and follow that.

With loans, worldly prudence would tell you not to give away money that isn’t yours and you have to pay back. But if you’re substituting tithe for spending that money on coffee or personal expenses, then there’s no difference in repaying your loans, while there is a difference in your obedience.

If your parents disapprove of tithing off money they give you, it may be hard to balance honoring your parents with obedient generosity. I’d encourage you to talk with them about your conviction, just like you’d talk with them about other challenging parts of your discipleship. Hopefully they will trust you to make your own decisions and to view the money they give you as yours, and not theirs.

4. What’s more important: tithing or supporting people?

Tithing comes first. It represents giving control back to God of what he’s given you, being obediently generous without controlling the specific designation of your gift. Supporting people, giving campaigns, or specific ministries you believe in is a great way to be generous beyond your tithe. But since you still control the designation of your gift, you aren’t truly giving control back to God, and so you may not grow spiritually as much as with a tithe first.

When the tithe was established in the Old Testament, it was accompanied by other mandatory sacrifices and freewill offerings. If we apply the same model today, both tithes and other gifts are mandatory and important, but tithes come first.

5. What do I tithe off of? When should I tithe?

The Old Testament model has people tithing off all their “firstfruits.” This model would include paychecks, bonuses, and even sales of personal items. I believe you could err on two sides of the question “Should I tithe off of this?” You could get really nitpicky about tithing off of everything that comes into your possession, like the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23. Or you could be trying to get out of tithing on a technicality. Either may lead you to forget the purpose of obedient generosity and may indicate a sinful heart toward tithing.

I suggest tithing immediately when you receive your income. This is both a symbolic gesture of giving away your “firstfruits” and is a practical way to not forget or reduce how much you give after your budget starts running low. You can always give more at the end of the month if you have extra, but at least you’ve been obedient.

6. Do I “owe” God if I’ve never tithed before or if I miss a gift?

God wants you to tithe to draw your heart back to him, so start giving obediently today and never look back. Christ has already covered up your shortcomings and sins with mercy on the cross, a debt that we could never pay back. If you feel conviction about skipping a past gift or two, maybe it would be good for your heart to make that up, but don’t let the weight of guilt stop you from being obedient today. Accept his free gift of mercy and be obedient moving forward.

Additional resources:

  • How to give to Resonate Church:

    • Go to give.resonate.net

    • Drop your gift in a Joy Box at Sunday Gatherings

    • Text “resonatetithe” to 77977 to receive a mobile giving link

    • Download the Resonate app (text “resonateapp” to 77977 for a download link)

  • Want to learn more about giving and financial stewardship? Email giving@resonate.net to request a copy of Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn to learn more about the theology of giving and Biblical answers to a lot of big financial questions.

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What is really new about the new year?

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What is really new about the new year?

by Hannah Kerr, Resonate Pullman member

2018 is here!

It is time to put away our holiday decorations, clean up after the festivities, and start making plans for this upcoming year.

I love lists. So when January comes around, I think it is so much fun to make a list. Usually I forget what I wrote, and around November, I remember and look back on it. But for the sake of transparency, here are some things I want to accomplish this year:

  • I want to cancel my gym membership & be honest with myself (I’m not gonna go)

  • Save some money.

  • Give more, buy less.

  • Invite people into my home.

  • Spend less time behind a screen.

  • Read more.

  • Be a better wife, mother, and friend.

  • Learn to give grace as lavishly as I have received it.

Hearing people voice goals and dreams they have for the year is so inspiring to me. I think there is something powerful in speaking those things over your year, but one thing that troubles me is when I see the desire or expectation of the reinvention of oneself. We have all seen and heard it before:

New year, new me.

It does sound tempting, doesn’t it? With each year that passes, we can become someone new, and leave our failures, mistakes, and sin in the past. We get to become someone new.

The thing is, I’ve tried that.

I was in a relationship with this great guy, but we had fallen into the temptation of sexual sin. Right before Christmas break, we broke up. I was devastated, but lucky for me, I had something to distract me over the holidays.

I was going to East Asia. I was gone for Christmas and New Years.  It was so much fun being a part of something so much bigger than myself. I decided I was going to leave my sin in the past. When I came back to America, I was a new woman. I was not going to fall into sexual sin again. I was going to walk into the new year with my head held high. My sin was gone. It was left in 2015, right?

In a whirlwind of events, just three weeks into the year, I had gotten back together with my boyfriend, and fell into sin, yet again.

I wondered how this could happen.. After all the soul searching I had done, all the confidence I had built up. I was a new woman, right? New year, new me.

Most of you know how that story ends. My sin cost me my youth. At just 20 years old, I became a mother and a wife. With that, my confidence was stripped from me, my dreams shifted, and my new year resolution became: survive.

But I made the mistake of forgetting I had already been made new IN CHRIST. The old me was gone, the new had come. And with that, I was to walk differently than I had before.

2 Corinthians 5:17 - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; the new has come.”

Scripture teaches us how to change:

Mark 1:15 - “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

We all want change, but we don’t always know how to do that, and do it well. Here are two simple steps, to become a new person this year.

1. Repent: Repentance isn’t just saying “I messed up.” Repentance means: to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one's wrongdoing or sin. A desire to change the way you have been living. It is important to do this with accountability to prevent becoming stagnant.

*If you are not sure where sin is in your life, this article is very helpful.*

2. Believe: The Gospel is the story of Jesus who came to earth. His life of 33 years had one purpose.. To be the sacrifice that satisfied the wrath of God that was destined for you and I. His death satisfied the payment that was necessary for us to be in relationship with God.. and He didn’t stop there. He defeated death, so we may live.

You see, when Jesus paid the price for us, he cleansed us in the eyes of our Creator. This means, when the Lord sees us, He is pleased.

What in your heart is causing you not to be pleased with what you see in the mirror? Do you truly believe you have been made new?

Years ago, I made the mistake of believing that I was a new person, because the calendar changed to a new year.

I was the same sinful person I had been in the year prior, and only through repenting of my sin, inviting Christian accountability into my life, and believing that I had been made new through Christ, did my heart change. After that, I truly was a new person.

Instead of striving to recreate who we are in our own eyes, and the eyes of the world, we need to sit back and allow the Lord to transform us the way he desires to.

  • Let us remember who we were before Christ, and celebrate the new creation he has made in us.

  • Let us seek for ways to shine His glory brighter than our accomplishments.

  • Let us humbly confess where we have failed, and let us walk in a new light.

  • Let 2018 be the year where you allow the Lord to change your heart.

Happy new year, family. May God bring you a joy you never knew was possible as you are made new.

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Christmas in One Simple, Staggering Truth

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Christmas in One Simple, Staggering Truth

by Josh Martin, Resonate Pullman Site Pastor

“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

Christmas is distracting. Or can be. The food, family, travel, decor, and endless ads alluring us to buy endless gifts, are all vying for our attention. And then there’s Santa. The morality-man who the God-man has to share his birthday with. Then there’s us, the ones who’ve allowed Santa to hijack the narrative with his goodness-equals-presents gospel, all the while Jesus lays in a nativity embodying the true good news of great joy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is intentional. I’m just saying it’s hard to keep it all straight. But trust me, keeping it straight is worth the effort, and affects your eternity.

C.S. Lewis said the incarnation is the greatest miracle in the world. It’s greater than all the others because if God really came into the world then of course He could heal the sick, calm the storm, and raise the dead. If God really came to us, then anything is possible.

What if this Christmas, in the midst of all the distractions, we fixed our eyes on that one simple life-giving truth? What if we allowed that truth to bring meaning to all the festivities?

Here’s the staggering story of Christmas in four words: God came to us.

God to us. God in flesh. God among us. That’s the meaning of the manger in Nazareth.

But did you catch that first part? God to us. Not us to God.

Scripture makes it plain: God came to us because we could not go to God on our own. We would not choose to go to God even if we could. And worse still, we had an unpayable debt towards God, a debt we inflicted, and a debt that inflicted back eternal separation.

But God, being rich in mercy, had great love towards us, and couldn’t imagine leaving a hopelessly sinful people in eternal darkness. So, He did the unimaginable.  He came to us. In humility and kindness, the God-man Jesus Christ lowered himself, and the author of the story entered the story.

Jesus stepped into the world He created and like He did before the world began, spoke into the darkness, “Let there be light.”

As we celebrate Christmas, remember and be stirred up by the truth: while we were still sinners, GOD CAME TO US. At some point today, sit in the truth that God came to you. In your sin, darkness, brokenness, and rebellion, God came to you and revealed himself as Lord. Yes we responded, but He initiated. Praise God He initiated.

If God was willing to come to us, and bring with Him good news of great joy, then we can believe God’s promises that He is for us and He is with us.

Christmas means: God came to us. God is for us. God is with us. Thank God. Praise God. Glory to God.

Believe it.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

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The Advent of Jesus means the advent of healing

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The Advent of Jesus means the advent of healing

By Nicole Kelp, Resonate WSU staff

It’s hard to be sick. And it’s arguably even harder to have mental illness. The root cause is often intangible, and yet the symptoms are all too tangible for those who struggle. People often don’t know how to talk about it, and it’s vague and difficult to treat.

But it’s not hopeless. There is a way to have joy in the midst of depression, to have peace in the midst of anxiety, and to have comfort in the midst of crippling fear. And it all has to do with the advent of Jesus into our lives.

In this season of Advent, as we remember the coming of Jesus, we have to remember why He came. God didn’t come to live on Earth because it was awesome and He wanted to visit. He came to live on Earth because it was broken by sin and needed a Savior. That brokenness wasn’t a part of His design. He had designed the Earth to be perfect - with no sin or sickness or separation between God and people. But then people decided they didn’t like God’s design and did their own thing. And that ushered in the brokenness. We see the manifestations of sin and brokenness everywhere: hate, conflict, sickness, war. God is holy and just, so He couldn’t just ignore our sin. But God is also loving, so He didn’t want to leave us in the mess we created. And that’s why Jesus came to Earth as a baby - to grow into a man who would die in order to pay the price for the sin and brokenness, and then rise again to conquer it. Jesus went back to heaven, leaving us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps restore us to what God designed. But we’re still in physical bodies, plagued by the curse of sin. Eventually Jesus will come again, and then He will restore everything to the perfect design He created. He will wipe away our tears and remove our sickness and pain (Revelation 21:4).

But we aren’t there yet. We’re in the in-between - the already but not yet. Jesus came once, conquered death, and gave us the Holy Spirit. So there is hope in the now. But He hasn’t come again yet. So we aren’t entirely free from the brokenness of sin in this world.

 

What does that mean for us now, especially in reference to mental illness?

1. We need to accept the reality that our bodies are affected by the brokenness of sin.

This doesn’t mean that your mental illness is a punishment for a particular sin you committed. It simply means that sin has broken all of humanity. Our bodies are not whole. And that includes our brains. All of creation groans, waiting for the redemption of our bodies in heaven (Romans 8:22-23). Because of that, it is absolutely appropriate to seek medical help for mental illness. Personally, I have been diagnosed with anorexia and with anxiety at different times in my life. Both times I received professional counseling. Additionally, I have a PhD in Molecular Biosciences and have published biomedical research. I know that science and doctors and medicine are a gift from God to help us heal when the brokenness of sin affects our physical bodies. If you had cancer, you’d get chemotherapy. So if you have depression, you may need medication.

2. We need to trust in the Holy Spirit in the meantime.

If you had cancer, you’d get chemotherapy, but I’m sure you’d also pray. Mental illness is no different. The Holy Spirit is known as our Counselor (John 14:26). We can ask Him for joy and peace and hope and comfort. We can ask Him for wisdom. He can transform our lives by being present with us in the midst of suffering. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self [our body and our mind] is wasting away, our inner self [our soul] is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Advent is particularly relevant here. When Jesus was born He was called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” When He left Earth after rising from the dead, He said “I will never leave you” (Matthew 28:20) and that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever (John 14:16). Thus, because of Advent, we can live in the brokenness knowing that God is with us and we are not alone.

3. We need to have hope for the future.

While you’re in your physical body here on Earth, God may choose to heal you of your mental illness. Or, you may always struggle with it. Regardless of what happens on Earth, you can have absolute confidence in hoping for heaven. God will restore all things to their perfect design, which does not include sickness of any kind. There will be no more sickness or death or pain in heaven. Because of the advent of Jesus, our life doesn’t end in hopelessness and despair. Because Jesus came to Earth to conquer the brokenness, our life will end in eternal health.

 

As you celebrate Advent and Christmas, remember to look past the twinkle lights and the nativity scenes and remember that the advent of Jesus into our lives changed everything. The coming of Jesus provides joy in the midst of depression, peace in the midst of anxiety, and hope in the midst of despair. Because of Advent, our minds are being healed. Because of Advent, there is true light in the midst of darkness.

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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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