Says Who? Living in Dystopia

Living in Dystopia

Looking at my unmown yard, I’m reminded of something gone horribly wrong.  5-10 years ago it seemed you couldn’t see movie previews or hear about trending books without at least one telling the story of a dystopian society.  The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner series, as well as remakes and their original versions of Robocop and Mad Max are all examples.

Dystopia, which is the direct opposite of utopia, is a term used to describe a utopian society in which things have gone wrong.” – cliffsnotes.com

*year old, vague spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen Infinity War, skip the next paragraph*

Watching Infinity War, and then End Game, we see a form of dystopia.  At first glance, and even living in it for a while, you might not know what went wrong, exactly, but something did.  And for those that remember, the signs of what is missing are a constant, haunting, and even debilitating reminder of what should be.  But without knowing the one who made the change, and how, there is no real way to know how things are supposed to be, especially once you get a generation or two past the change.

*end spoiler*

If something went wrong here, in our universe, thousands of years ago, that fundamentally changed things for the future, how could we possibly know how things are really supposed to be?

“…the ground is cursed because of you.  All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains.” –Genesis 3:17b-18

When Adam and Eve sinned, everything changed.  Work became difficult and painful, including yardwork.  Everything now dies.  We all sin.  We can’t even imagine a realistic utopia, because we know that something is wrong, and something will always be wrong as long as human beings are involved.  It’s this imagining of utopia, and then imagining real and sinful people involved, that leads to the imagining of a dystopia.  As horrifying as these imagined futures are, they are easier to imagine for our future, because it’s what we know.  Something went wrong.  Something isn’t right.  Even my yard (and neighbors) know.

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. –Romans 8:20-21

Living in Dystopia we can’t discover Utopia, creation as God designed.  All we know and see, all we can observe, measure and experience is distorted under the curse of sin.  Living by what we see, experience, hear and observe, apart from God’s Word, causes us to be conformed to the cursed wisdom of the world.

2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2

The true revelation of reality is only given by God, in His Word.  As we live missionally, we must be changed by God, by His Word through His Spirit, instead of being formed by the curse.  His Word is Truth. 

Join me, in re-committing to reading God’s Word every day from now through the summer.  I’m going to start with a Gospel, then Acts and Romans.

Please share a story of how God is changing your thinking through His Word. Send stories and questions to mwipperman@livelifetogether.com

Let’s see what He will do!

 

 

Says Who? Biblical Literacy and Children

This month we are examining the idea of worldview. Where do we find our source and understanding of truth? Adults and children alike wrestle with this question. From a very early age, children begin to adopt their own worldviews from their experiences and what they are taught. Our job as parents, teachers, and mentors is to help them develop that worldview from a Biblical perspective.

 

Raising my children to be Biblically literate -- to truly know Scripture in a holistic way, and see it as foundational to their engagement with the world and as their primary source of truth -- can be overwhelming.  Because in order to do that, I need to teach them the entirety of God’s story: not only the popular “Bible stories,” but also how stories and themes connect, and how they can see themselves, as broken and redeemed, fitting into God’s story.  And I need to foster in them an emotional connection with Scripture -- to desire, seek out, and digest God’s Word in a life-giving way. Honestly, I often feel ill-equipped for that. So what do we do when we feel ill-equipped? Avoid? Excuse? Pass off the responsibility? That might be what we want to do. Instead, in those moments when we realize that on our own we are not enough, we pray. We admit our weakness. We ask God to grant wisdom. And we give ourselves a whole bunch of grace as we experiment.

 

Here are just a few ideas on how to promote Biblical literacy in your home:

 
  1. Model - Children learn what is modeled. As parents, we need to understand God’s Story, how to search for answers in Scripture and apply it to our lives. And we have to know truly what is in the Bible - not what we think is in the Bible. The only way to do that is to be in the Word on a regular basis. Let your kids watch you read your Bible, listen to you question, and think aloud about what you read.

 
  1. Consistency - Create a rhythm in your home where you and your children are reading Scripture on a regular basis. The best way to help your child know what is in the Bible is to give him/her ongoing, regular access to it.  Repeat, repeat, repeat. God’s Word cannot be read too much. We don’t ever “master” a specific story or passage.

 
  1. Read in Context - As often as possible, choose to read the larger story or passage with your child instead of the isolated verse. Read about the entirety of Joseph’s life over a week or two. Or read through an entire Gospel together. Set a goal to read a children’s Bible from beginning to end together.

 
  1. Teach Truth - Don’t teach things now that need to be undone later. Ex: Jesus will take all the bad things away. It’s an idea that sounds nice for a child, but isn’t accurate. Also, teach children that the Bible is truth even when they don’t like what it says or don’t agree with it. Talk through those emotions with your child and then point him/her back to Jesus.

 
  1. Connect the Dots - Help your child connect stories and passages to other ideas and themes in the Bible. Currently, Oliver and I are reading “The Story for Kids” together. We happened to read the story of the passover the same week as Easter. It was a very tangible way for him to connect the stories of Moses to God’s plan of salvation.  

 
  1. Focus on skills - Knowing and understanding Scripture is a life-long journey. Turn your focus into teaching skills that help the Bible be accessible to your child. Give your child a Bible of his/her own. Teach them to look up passages. When your child has a question, turn to the Bible before giving an answer of your own.   Most importantly, teach your child to apply what they are reading to their own lives.

 
  1. Ask the right questions - When we talk with our children about Scripture, it is easy to resort to questions about time, setting, people and fact recall. To encourage Biblical literacy, try questions like this: “What characteristic of God do you notice in what we read? Why would Jesus have said that? Does this passage remind you of anything else in the Bible? What questions do you have after reading this? How might we use the Bible to answer those questions? How does this passage show us what it means to trust Jesus?

 
  1. Focus on the Gospel - The goal is not for your child to be able to recite the books of Bible or to have 100 verses committed to memory. (Although there is a definite place and usefulness for these things). The main goal is that your child knows who he/she is within God’s plan of redemption and that he lives out that understanding in his life.

 

These suggestions really apply to any of us, at any age. When we have Homes Built on Grace and Truth, we see the world through the lens of a gracious and loving Savior, and we are equipped to bring that grace to our world. Share your ideas and questions with me at epowers@livelifetogether.com.

 
 

Goals: Coming in 2019

Goals: Coming in 2019

As we look through Scripture, we see countless examples of God giving people goals to achieve. Goals that help them focus on fulfilling the plans that God has set out. Homes Springing with Life are homes that are focused and intentional about the goals that God has set before them. Our church family is no different. We operate well when we are aligned and moving towards a common goal that God has set before us. Each fall, the Church staff gathers to look at those goals that God is placing on our hearts. We look forward to the big picture, and then narrow that to goals that are a few years out, goals for the coming year, and then our specific focus for the next few months.

 

Our big picture goal is this: We will see 40 well-watered Household Wells in designated regions, bearing Kingdom fruit. We will see people from those Household Wells in focused and intentional 1-with-1 discipling relationships. We will see people identifying themselves as disciples, committed to reaching 1 person, 1 home, 1 neighborhood, 1 region at a time until no one in Madison is thirsty.

 

Sometimes a big picture dream feels really big. We have articulated what we hope to see in the next few years as a step in seeing the big picture goal realized. The 3-year goal is to see a FLOURISHING CONGREGATION, FLOURISHING HOMES, and FLOURISHING INDIVIDUALS. In each of those areas, we have defined flourishing to mean our congregation/homes/selves are built on truth and grace, practice generosity, are emotionally and spiritually healthy, and are connected in community with each other and to their specific regional neighborhoods and communities.

 

In 2018, we focused on Homes Springing with Life as a first step towards seeing that 3-year goal become reality. It has been an exciting year for the staff. We have been celebrating the growth and joy that we have seen in people’s lives. We enjoyed the extra time spent with our church family at our wellness events. And we are confident that the dream that God has given us is becoming a reality.

 

For 2019, we hope to continue building that foundation that will lead towards a Flourishing Congregation, Flourishing Homes, and Flourishing Individuals. Our theme for 2019 will be:

HOMES BUILT on GRACE and TRUTH (John 1:14)

We will place an emphasis on what it means for those areas to have a solid foundation in God’s truth and in His grace, living that out through time in God’s WORD, connected through PRAYER, and generous with LOVE. By the end of 2019, our hope is that each of us can answer the questions:

“How am I following Jesus through WORD, PRAY, LOVE?”

“Who am I helping to follow Jesus through WORD, PRAY, LOVE?”

 
  • We are eager to explore those questions alongside of you. As we prepare for the new year, here are just a few of the things you can look forward to at the Church:
  • We will continue our rhythm of L@ST Sundays. On the last Sunday of each month we will worship together at 9:00am with a potluck afterwards.
  • The Art of Parenting class will be held during 2*22 from January 13th through the end of March. We will kick this off with a screening of the movie “Like Arrows” on January 11th. There will also be an alternate Bible Study led by Pastor Jeff during this time.
  • Spiritual Experiences Night on February 11th.
  • Family Playdate at Legacy Academy during February.
  • Before each Lenten service, we will be offering prayer experiences.
  • A debt reduction campaign to eliminate our mortgage and increase the building maintenance fund.
  • Much of our accounts payable, receivable, and accounting will shift from volunteer positions to the organization N4N (Numbers for Nonprofits). Pastor Jeff will maintain oversight of finances. The bulk of our financial obligations will be streamlined through this central organization.
 

On December 2nd, at Coffee with the Staff, we were able to give an overview of this information, along with some other information about staff roles and what to expect in 2019. You can hear what was presented firshand by going to our facebook page and watching the livestream video from Coffee with the Staff. At the end of our time together that morning, we asked those in attendance to reflect on a few questions. As you go about your week, I’d encourage you to take some time to reflect on these questions as well. Perhaps, through your time of reflection, God may impress on you some personal goals for 2019. The staff and I covet your prayers as we move into 2019. We are so thankful for each of you and your partnership in God’s Kingdom.

 

“Where do you currently see our congregation/your home/yourself flourishing?”

“In what areas in our congregation/your home/yourself need some nourishment?

“What growth have you see in yourself in 2018?”

“What would you like to see for your spiritual health in 2019?”

 
 

Homes Springing With Life Midpoint and Survey

 

Everyday Dependence on Christ

 
August, 2003, July, 2006, August 1, 2006, November 4, 2012, January 5, 2014, September 13, 2015

Those are some of my significant dates. They include my move to Madison to take my first teaching job, my first mission trip, leaving the school district to begin working at the Church, my marriage, and the birth of my children. These are the dates when I understood, more clearly than any other times in my life, what it meant to be dependent on Christ. These are the times when life shifted, responsibility was overwhelming, and the future was unknown – and I had no choice but to surrender to Jesus.  What are your dates? Your experiences? The times when you had to fall before Jesus with complete trust?  My hope is that you have had at least one of those experiences, a time to look back on and say, “Jesus had control and we did ok.”

Unfortunately, those are only 6 dates. There are many, many days and weeks and years between them. Many days of life as “status quo”; days when I felt confident to live on my own power and control. Have I lived those normal, peaceful days with a full surrender and trust in Jesus?  When life is in turmoil or change, when we feel like we have nothing to offer on our own, we fall before Jesus. However, the challenge lies in maintaining that dependence in our everyday, normal lives. Luke 9:23 says, “Take up your cross DAILY and follow me.” I don’t know if you can relate, but I don’t always surrender my everyday to Jesus.

More than anything, I desire my home to be springing with the life that Jesus, and Jesus alone, offers. I want my marriage to be centered in Christ, reflective of His grace, and a place where spiritual health abounds. My primary goal for my children is that they love the Lord and trust Him with all their hearts. I want my friendships to be places where Jesus is central and His love is poured out.  And yet, God has been convicting me of a simple truth – spiritual health begins with me.  I am half of my marriage. It cannot be spiritually healthy if I am not.  My children cannot know spiritual health unless they see it modeled. And my home cannot spring with Life unless I am well-connected to the Life-giver.

And so, Luke 9:23 becomes more important. I must DAILY make the decision to surrender to Jesus. My decisions, my time, my finances, my priorities, my roles as friend and wife and mother and neighbor, must all be viewed first as a daily practice in trusting Jesus.  My relationship with Jesus becomes a first priority, so that I can then place myself, my wants and desires SECOND to what Jesus wants of me. With this perspective, I feel an urgency to be daily sustained by God’s Word, prayer, community, and worship. I am convicted and confess that I place myself and my false sense of control before Jesus.

It’s not easy. Working towards our own spiritual health and dependence on Christ takes humility, patience, compassion, and an open heart. But by God’s grace, I get to take those steps. And I do so in confidence knowing that His ways are better than my own, and that I am a loved child of God. So this week, I will start each day with a simple prayer. Would you join me? “Lord, in this day, teach me to trust you. Open my eyes to the places where I can surrender my will to yours. Sustain me and give me your peace.”