Catalyst Stories

There are some exciting stories being shared about Catalyst Curriculum!  As a reminder, “Catalyst Curriculum” are lifeGroups that are taking a close look at missional living and what it means for them as they live life together, on mission with Jesus.  Here are just a few quotes from those who have experienced the training and are now teaching it in their lifeGroups:

 

“After going to the Catalyst training my husband and I have noticed we are more aware of what is going on around us.  I find myself putting my phone down at the bank to talk more to the teller, or just to start conversations with people.  Instead of reading a book while giving blood I had a conversation with the lady and learned a lot about her life.  We asked a waitress if we could pray for her and found out her Grandma has cancer.  We have had multiple situations like that this last month.  And once you start doing it, it really comes naturally.”  

 

“It was a challenge to teach the 10 children (age 8 and under) about listening to Jesus… but as we played games and listened to one another we were able to make a natural connection to listening to Jesus.  They are starting to understand!”  

 

"The Catalyst Curriculum has been great! What it has done is teach us -- step by step, in bite-sized pieces -- HOW to do what we're all TRYING to do, to actively love the world as God loves us. We've been able to adapt each lesson for the young kids in our group, helping them to find ways to share God's love, too -- through volunteering or even just asking that lonely kid at recess if she wants to play. All of the curriculum is directly tied to the Bible, so it's easy to see how the lessons directly stem from God's Word. Catalyst has been interesting and engaging, and it's exciting to be taking steps toward actively being Jesus in our neighborhoods."

 

“We had a great first week teaching the material in our group and some rich discussion.  There was also some resistance as we wrestled with some of the content.  It’s not bad when there is resistance, it means it is getting real and people are really trying to own their walk as they follow Jesus.”

 

God is working!  How encouraging to hear what happens when we follow Jesus and practice living out what we are learning.  How great it is when people are willing to just give it a try!  

 

We are offering the Catalyst Training again -  August 11, 12, 13 and August 25, 26, 27 - for anyone that is interested.  Perhaps you were not able to attend back in April, or you may have been unsure what it was about.  Take advantage of this exciting opportunity.  You can email Amy Meyer - ameyer@livelifetogether.com -  if you are interested in attending the August training weekends or if you have any questions.  We would love to have you join us!
 

The Church is Not Like Family

Today I want to reflect on the role of the church in our lives, motivating us to follow Jesus and share his saving love. God encourages us through Paul, in Hebrews 10:23-24, to appreciate the church:

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

 

The following article by Pastor Dhati Lewis (Blueprint Church, Atlanta) also outlines how close the church really brings us, to God and to one another.

 

Of all the word pictures and metaphors used to describe the church, one stands out above the rest: family. In fact, it is so much of the essence of the church that it cannot even properly be called a metaphor. Metaphors describe what the church is like or similar to—light, flock, field, building—but family is not metaphorical; it is a literal description of the phenomena we know as church. The church is not like family; it is family.

God is literally our Father, Jesus is literally our elder brother, and we are literally brothers and sisters in Christ. Family is the primary way the early church identified themselves. This can be seen by the fact that the word “disciple,” so prevalent in the early part of the New Testament, disappears after the book of Acts. It is replaced by the term “brother” in the rest of the Bible. Family dominates the self-understanding of the early church. We could argue that this is because of Paul’s letter, but it didn’t come from Paul. It is deeply rooted in the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Christian Identity as Family

Our creeds and confessions focus on Trinitarian orthodoxy, but Matthew 3 emphasizes the revelation of God as a family. What the revelation of Jesus Christ introduced into the world is that God is more than what we thought, namely that God is family. In our adoption as sons [and daughters], we are brought into the experience of what God has always been. In church life, we are usually more concerned about orthodox statements that express this reality than we are with living out the experience of family.

Paul consistently threads together the Fatherhood of God and believers’ relationships with one another. He cannot think of God outside of His “Fatherness,” and can’t think of believers outside of their ‘brotherhood.’ Our problem is semantics. When we say church, we don’t think family. We have to understand that we are not simply planting a church, we are not starting a Bible study, we are not starting a 501(c)(3); we are establishing a family.

What are the implications of this insight for our everyday lives? Let’s start by asking this question: as family members, how (well) do we appreciate and embrace the support we all have among fellow Jesus followers here at the Church and share that support with those whom God has placed in our lives?

 

At our most recent faithBuilders “Equipped for Mission” series (Prioritizing for Missional Living, held in April), we discussed how easy it is to compartmentalize our faith/church lives, seeing the ways we ought to share Jesus’ love with others as extra tasks to be done, or as fitting into our lives only if we first accomplish the mundane duties a given day or week requires. We then asked, “What happens if we shift our perspective to one reflective of our missional God, prioritizing missional living within the relationships and communities we already occupy?”

 

Brothers and sisters, God has placed and equipped each one of us uniquely to connect others to Him by following Jesus’ example - listening to, truly being present with, and responding in love to the people we see each day. Think about your upcoming week, and ask yourself who in your life might need some special care or a listening ear, and make a point to reach out to them! I’m praying Jesus’ words for us this week:

 

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21).

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Dependent on Christ

What do you think of when you hear the word cancer? Would you ever consider that cancer might be a blessing in disguise?

 

In October 2012, we were waiting for the results from a colonoscopy. Mark was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia, and was incoherent. The doctor entered, head down, eyes focused on the chart in his hand, not meeting me eye-to-eye until I heard him say, “It’s cancer.” I jolted, not expecting it. I wanted to see the pictures. I wanted an explanation. How could this be happening? I was stunned, fearful, with so many emotions churning in my brain. Visions of mounting medical expenses, the financial impact on our family, and questions filled my mind: “Will Mark be able to work? Will I need to quit my job to care for him? What about our commitment to the Church and other charities counting on our financial support? Will we lose our home?” I felt so alone, nauseous, buried in my thoughts of an uncertain future of life with a spouse with cancer.

 

“FOCUS,” I heard my brain cry… “you must listen for the next step.” The Doctor told me that our primary care physician would be calling to set up an appointment for a CT scan:  “We’ll check to see if the cancer has spread.” More fear, more uncertainty and feelings about financial fears crept in; as if hearing the word “cancer” wasn’t enough, now I heard two words: “cancer” and “spread.”

 

Mark was still a bit incoherent as I directed him to the car. I gripped the steering wheel  and headed home, still reeling from the news that my husband had cancer. In my head I keep repeating, “Think of the blessings, think of the blessings,” and then I felt some comfort repeating it out loud. Later, Mark didn’t remember a thing about the ride home or the next few hours. I just knew that I wanted to get home so I could cry -- no, more like sob uncontrollably. I was waiting for directions from our physician about scheduling more appointments, a CT Scan, surgery, not knowing what would be next. I was processing the news, wanting to pray; but pray for what, and with whom? A little voice said, “You need to pray with someone,” and Amy Meyer popped into my head. Why Amy? I needed a calming voice to help me process this unexpected news. What unexpected plan did God have for our family and why did it involve colon cancer?!? Colon cancer, you know, the cancer that just so happens to be one of most common and deadliest cancers. So I called the Church and Amy just happened to be there. We prayed, and I cried, and we prayed some more. I couldn’t tell you what we prayed about, but I can tell you that her calming voice is what I needed to hear.

 

The next day we went in for the CT scan. I didn’t know how long it would take, so I was prepared with books and my smartphone. I thought I’d try to get familiar with the Bible app that Mark downloaded because it might come in handy. As I was waiting I thought, “I’ll check out the New Testament, something short and sweet to get my mind off of things.” I’d never read 1 Peter, so I zeroed in on the 1st chapter. Tears streamed down my face as I read verses 6-8:

You rejoice greatly in this, even though you have to suffer various kinds of trials for a little while, so that your genuine faith, which is more valuable than gold that perishes when tested by fire, may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus the Messiah, is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him.  And even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.   

 

I kept reading, the words in print appearing blurry due to my still-streaming tears, and at the end of the chapter I read, “All human life is like grass, and all its glory is like a flower in the grass. The grass dries up and the flower drops off but the word of the Lord lasts forever. Now the word is the good news that was announced to you” (1 Peter 1:24-25). I felt RELIEF and was uplifted; this was the good news I was longing to hear. Though I felt my faith being tested, I also felt so much comfort in my new go-to good news verse from 1 Peter.

 

And then an amazing thing happened. That very next Sunday, the selected reading was from 1 Peter 1. I listened with renewed ears to this faith-rebuilding message. As the days unfolded after the diagnosis and successful surgery, the financial fears subsided, and God provided so many blessings:

  • I learned that Mark’s chemo was covered at 100%.  The cost for the first treatment was over $17,000. Mark would need 12 treatments and he was able to withstand all 12 chemo treatments.

  • Surgery was covered at 100%, as was a week in the hospital.

  • I was promoted to senior retirement plan consultant, which included a significant salary increase.

  • Mark missed very little work during chemo which started mid-December, 2012 through May, 2013.

  • We increased our contributions to the Church and continued supporting other charities.

  • We started regularly attending faithBuilders, and received spiritual support from our lifeGroup.

  • I shared more prayer requests and this continues to provide me with peace and comfort.

  • Mark’s health continues to improve. October 11, 2017, will be 5 years since his colon cancer diagnosis.  

God put people in place at just the right time during our faith journey. And when we put our trust in God, we realized that, yes, a diagnosis like cancer could be a blessing in disguise.

 

Discipleship 101 at Home

Discipleship requires only 3 things.

  1. Relationship with God (you have this through your Baptism)
  2. Relationship with another person
  3. God’s Word

What if it could be this easy at home?

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“because a home centered on Jesus becomes the epicenter of an active life of faith.”

What if you could suspend your skepticism and disbelief?

If you are willing to experiment even just for two weeks, I think you’ll find that a future where your family is growing together in faith, where people are responding to Jesus command to love, and where you each know what discipleship can look like, is not only possible, but simple.

*Resist the urge to over-engineer. K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid)*

So here it is, Discipleship 101 at Home:

1. Talk about the Bible together.

2. Encourage each other to live it out.

…that’s it.

You decide when and how you Read the Bible (together or apart, reading or listening).

You decide how you Reflect on it.

You decide how to Encourage each other to Live Out God’s Word.

Maybe you’ll listen to the Bible in your car (free Biblegateway.com app) while you’re driving to school or work, or when you’re returning home? Maybe you’ll decide to prepare for a lifeGroup discussion.

Personally, I need to read and reflect on scripture before I get together to talk about it, or my conversation will stay at the surface. 

If you need an idea: Choose a Gospel, read a chapter and reflect on it on day 1, discuss it and its application on day 2, and practice living it out day 3. 

Check out “30 Things” or any of the other tools in our Disciple’s Utility Kit www.livelifetogether.com/discipleship-read/

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. –Deuteronomy 6:4-8

Be the catalyst in your home, and see what God does, even in two weeks.

How do you talk about God’s Word and His commands all the time with those in your family?  How are you experimenting?  Please let me know in the comments or via email: mwipperman@lifelivetogether.com

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Do Marriages Need Maintenance?

Michelle TsaiDid you know that the average cost of a wedding is around $26,000? Yet as married couples we so easily balk at spending a few hundred dollars to help maintain our marriage. Just like our homes and cars, our marriages (even great ones) need a tune up!  

 

We recently attended the Weekend to Remember marriage conference in Appleton and were blown away by the humorous and engaging speakers who really helped us understand God's blueprint for marriage. This is a marriage conference for couples in various stages of life - those who are not yet married, those who are looking to reconnect, and even those who are considering divorce.  

 

In all honestly, while we were excited to go away for the weekend together, we didn't really think we needed to go. We went to reconnect - to get a temporary escape from the basketball games, errands, science fair projects - and focus on each other. Having attended this conference, we are completely convinced that no matter what the current status of your marriage, if you take the time to do something like this, you will not regret it! The conference inspired conversations and understanding between us that would have never happened otherwise.  

 

This conference is not a large-group counseling session or small-group discussion. You won't be asked to share intimate details of your relationship with anyone. You will listen to engaging talks with Biblically-based insights from marriage experts, then be given private time alone with your spouse to work on assignments related to the concepts you studied. When you leave, you will have an assortment of powerful, Christ-centered communication tools to use for years to come.

 

Weekend to Remember comes to Madison once a year, and it is coming up on May 19-21. To learn more about the conference and register, go to WeekendToRemember.com. Use the group code of love4you to receive $100 off the couple registration fee.

 

Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage (Hebrews 13:4a).

A strong marriage is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves and our family. It is worth every minute and every penny! As the conference website tells us, “Great marriages require intentionality and investment—just like a garden that must be watered in order to grow.” Let us know if you have any questions (love4youWTR@gmail.com)!