Monday Reflections: Milwaukee Mission Trip 2019

Hey everybody!! Liberty (sophomore), Peggy (adult), and Ashley (senior) here from the high school mission trip. Emily asked us to share some insights from our first couple days on the trip.  

This year we are spending the week serving in Milwaukee. Next Step Ministries organizes the mission trip (www.nextstepministries.com), setting up our work projects, housing, food, and worship experiences.

So far we have enjoyed 2 evenings and 1 full work day at our site. God is already teaching and stretching us. Here are some of our initial reflections:

 

What surprised you?

(Ashley) I think the thing that surprised me the most was probably the sheer amount of energy and love that the Next Step staff have contributed to the experience so far. I was scared going in that I would have a hard time connecting and spending time with others but the staff has been very helpful in connecting us all.

(Liberty) The thing that surprised me the most was how friendly the people at our worksite are. When we were working the neighbors were very friendly. When we were working in the front, cars would drive by and honk their horn and wave to us. The neighbor to our worksite was very nice and let us use his electricity to power our tools.

(Peggy) I was surprised by how some of the rules and some of the things we had always done on Next Step mission trips had changed. So I guess I was surprised to find how comfortable I had become with routine. It made me look at our daily routine differently and with fresh eyes which I think was great after 7 previous trips. This was reflected in our first morning devo, “Are You Awake Yet,” which asked us to open our senses to see God in new and exciting ways.

 

What did you enjoy?

(Ashley) I have loved the interaction with both new friends from the Church and outside Church. I truly have seen love in every person I have come into contact with so far. At just our worksite we have created a great atmosphere of people all willing to help and contribute which makes me feel more confident to be myself in every way.

(Liberty) I really enjoyed meeting new people, both people in the community and people who I came on this mission trip with. I also enjoyed working on site and doing what I can do to help people.

(Peggy) James, the nephew of Shelby [the owner of our house], chatted with me for about a half an hour about his passion for composting and gardening. He shared how he is working to get his neighborhood to care about using the things around them to make their lives better. He had even built a great compost site out of pallets!

 

Where did you see God?

(Ashley) I saw God in the people I have met in the last two days, including my team, the neighbor to the house we’re working at, and our worksite leader (Mike). Everyone has been so kind and welcoming in each and every way.

(Liberty) I saw God in the people I have been meeting - the people in the neighborhood and the Next Step staff and the people on my worksite. Everyone is so kind and they are trying to help where they can. Even the people in the neighborhood help us out by letting us use their electricity and their bathrooms. Everyone is kind and friendly and welcoming.

(Peggy) I saw God today in the teamwork and energy the kids brought to our work site. They jumped right into new and challenging tasks and were very encouraging and respectful of each other while having a lot of fun!

Each night of the mission trip, Emily is going to ask a few other people from the mission trip team to share some reflections. Stop back to hear how God is continuing to teach us and shape us this week. Also, you can check out the Church’s facebook page for pictures and other updates. You can also leave your questions and comments for the mission trip team here.

 

 

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