Spending Time

Time is the one thing that every person has in equal amount. No matter where you live, if you are wealthy or poor, young or old, well educated or have never been to school, every single person in the world has 24 hours a day. It really is pretty amazing to consider the gift of time. Each new day God gives us a beautiful gift of 24 hours. It is up to us how we spend those hours made up of minutes and seconds.

There are hundreds of quotes about time, here are just a few:

"There just aren't enough hours in the day."
"Time flies when you're having fun."
"Time stands still while you're waiting."
"Time heals all wounds."
"Time is more valuabule than money, you can get more money, you can't get more time."

It seems like in the month of December the calendar fills up with extra demands on our time. We try to fit in more visits with family, more shopping for gifts, and more hours of baking and even more opportunities to worship.

How will you use your time? Who will you invest in? What intentional decisions can you make this month as a family for who you will spend your time with? Perhaps it would be wise to take some time and consider who around you could use a little help, or some encouragement and follow-through on those promptings.
    
What plans do you have? Perhaps you can take something that you are already going to do and this year invite a neighbor or someone on your impact list to join you. Who can you bring with you? What could you do as a neighborhood to bless others? Go to a local nursing home and sing some Christmas Carols, or gather at one of your homes, bake cookies, and then take them to other neighbors. Who do you know that is alone this Christmas? Invite them over to join your family. You can start a new tradition; find a few friends and sign up to ring bells for the Salvation Army. Offer to babysit for a mom so she can go Christmas shopping by herself. Collect mittens and hats and take them to a local school.  

The truth is, we find time for what is important to us. Take time to consider once again how amazing it is that our God would choose to send his Son Jesus to be born in a manger. Take time to talk about the most awesome gift     that has ever been given with your family and friends. Take time to worship. Take time to pray for those who do not yet know that the Messiah has come and he is coming again. Take time to ask God, “How should I spend my time today?”

Amy Meyer

 

Are You Ready? 3 Simple Moves to Prepare for Spirit-inspired Opportunities to Share Jesus

“In your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect.”  Peter, writing to Jewish Christians who had been driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia Minor (1 Peter 3:15)

Recently in one of our lifeGroup conversations this question came up:  “When is it the right time to share the Gospel with our friends?”  Timing is everything.  How do you know?  Here’s a good rule of thumb:  When your friend asks you.  God is already working in the life of our friends. The Spirit, if we are sensitive to His leading, will provide “opportunities” for us to share our hope.  We can take the pressure off of ourselves to “manufacture opportunities.”

One of my priorities, then, as a Christian leader, is to walk alongside Jesus-followers and prepare them for those opportunities.  I am called, in part, to help get them ready.

How are you preparing Jesus-followers to “share the hope they have in Christ” when they are gifted with Spirit-inspired opportunities?

Here are the 3 simple moves that prepare you (and those you lead) for those oppertunities.

1) Consider, again, that Jesus is Good News.

Good News is not difficult to share.  Jesus is Good News!  He is not advice. He is not theology.  He is not history.  He is a person.  He has done great things for us and in us.  He is doing great things for us and in us.  What if we approached our relationship with Jesus, the same way we approach that “great thing” that recently happened to us?

Try this:  Pick out one of your favorite stories about Jesus from one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) and look for an opportunity to share it with your friend.

2) Ask good questions.

Powerful, soul-stirring questions combined with a genuinely caring and interested spirit can be the equation that unlocks meaningful opportunities to share Jesus.  One of my favorite questions I got from a list in a book entitled “I Once Was Lost” by Don Everts and Doug Schaupp.   

“What is the most significant thing that has happened to you in the last month? Pg. 56

Have you ever noticed how often we use questions to just gather information?  What if we started using questions to stir emotion and thought?  Think of the opportunities that might emerge.

Try this:  Choose your favorite, go-to questions and give ‘em a shot the next time you have an unhurried conversation with your friend. 

3) Build your capacity in community.

We sharpen each other as we practice and compare notes.  I love exploring the way Jesus built capacity in His disciples.  

  • He taught.
  • He assigned.
  • They went out and tried.
  • They returned and shared stories.  


This training cycle was repeated again and again.  What would happen in our churches if we turned our gatherings into places where this rhythm was repeated.

Try this:  Get together on a regular basis with a few other Jesus-followers and begin praying for your unbelieving friends, and then begin sharing your “stories of engagement” with each other.  Listen deeply to each other, learn from each other, encourage each other, and pray for each other.  Pay attention to what begins happening over time.  You will be amazed at the “Spirit-inspired” opportunities that start popping up.

 

Values: How Words Help Change the Culture of Your Church

Words create worlds.  Language shapes us and forms us.

When I say, “Let’s go to church,” what does that statement reveal about my understanding of the nature of the church?

Sometimes as leaders we are called to help people move from one deeply held perspective to another.  Words help make that shift possible.  Words build a staircase that allow people to move up from where they are to where God wants to lead them.

Over the past few years in leading that kind of “perspective shift” at the Church, I have recognized that a portion of our staircase was a little shaky.  It needed to be rebuilt.

Let me explain:  in pursuing a God-inspired vision which we call “One Church, Regional Impact” many have asked, and to some degree are still asking, “Why?”  At some point I began to recognize that some did not understand the “Why” behind the “What”.  I realized, because of my work with Auxano, that this was a Values issue.  Words create worlds.  In this case, words articulate the answer to “Why?”

Here’s how we define Values as Missional Motives at the Church:

“In any given day there are a thousand things clamoring for our attention, a multiplicity of motivations that move us.  What we value will either direct us back toward center or divert us from what is truly worthwhile.  Values are the motivational flame of the church.  They are the shared convictions that guide actions and reveal our unique strengths.  These motives answer “Why do we do what we do at our church?”  They are springboards for daily action and filters for decision-making.  They distinguish our philosophy of ministry and shape our culture and ethos.”       - the Church Leadership Guide

       

(Old) Values

   

(New) Missional Motives

       

Growth

    Ordinary+ 

We value a lifelong journey with Jesus that results in individual growth and kingdom expansion.

   

because ordinary people connected to Jesus share in Christ’s extraordinary mission.

       

Relational Service

   

Step+

We value people and the opportunities to meet their individual needs as an expression of the Gospel.     because simple steps guided by Jesus accelerate the impact of new life.
       

Authenticity

   

Friendship+ 

We value genuine relationships and a sincere Christian lifestyle/ behavior.

    because friendships infused with Jesus expand the reach of true community.
       

Creativity

   

Generosity+

We value innovation in ministry.     because generosity empowered by Jesus fuels a contagious, others-centered culture.
       
Every Person a Missionary      

Home+ 

We value the personal privilege given to every Jesus-follower to help others live life with Jesus every day.

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

Here are the major reasons why we are rearticulating our values.

The Motives behind our Motivational shift:

 

  1. Our values could be any church’s values.
    They did not clearly express our unique motivation.

    Ask:  What uniquely motivates your church?
     
  2. They didn’t help us answer the “Why”.
    We were never using our value statements to answer people when they asked “Why?”

    Ask:  As a leader these days, what “Why” questions are you answering?
     
  3. The words that we chose were not catalytic or compelling.
    People did not want to speak them out loud.  They did not inspire anyone to participate in creating the culture that those words were trying to describe.

    Ask:  Are your values serving as a motivational flame for your people?

 

Pastor Jeff

 

Values: Home +

This week I would like to highlight "Home+" (read, home plus).  "Home+" is one of our five newly articulated values.  You can examine all of our re-articulated values here.

We articulate it this way:

Home+

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

Take some time to reflect with me:

Read Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Answer this question:

What are the specific commands, and where and when are they to be lived out?     

 

Old Russian peasant log houses were constructed around a key log running under the center of the floor and sticking out the end. To pull the house down a tractor simply had to jerk back and forth on this key log until the entire structure collapsed. The Russian word used for shaking the key log is also the word for agitation, meaning "to shake to pieces from underneath."

Today the American home is being shaken by a variety of forces pulling at the "key log." That "key log" is a relationship with Jesus, the Lord.

"As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD"  Joshua 24:15

Jesus is life. Our mission is "to connect people to life in Jesus." The home is the epicenter of missionary multiplication. The church exists to support the home because the home is where we best learn how to rely on Jesus, follow Jesus, and serve Jesus. The home is where we get to practice "life in Jesus" right in the middle of all the distractions, the pressure, the joys and challenges, and the day-by-day activities.

Pastor Jeff

 

Values: Generosity +

This week I would like to highlight "Generosity+" (read, generosity plus).  "Generosity+" is one of our five newly articulated values.  You can examine all of our re-articulated values here.

We articulate it this way:  

GENEROSITY+

because generosity empowered by Jesus fuels a contagious, others-centered culture.  

 

Take some time to reflect with me:

Read 1 Chronicles 29 (if time is short, read vs. 10-19)

Answer this question:

When was the last time you were so moved by someone's generosity that you simply had to stop and worship God?     

Generosity is contagious. The generous love of Jesus is still fueling Jesus-followers to actively love others. Here's an example:

Gererosity + Story

Summertime is mission trip time for the youth at the Church. It's a time of great anticipation - going to new places, meeting new people, driving for ridiculously long hours in overcrowded vans, and waiting for those moments when we so clearly see God working in powerful ways.
 
One thing that has been a priority in Higher Ground, however, has been the importance of knowing that we just don't go to foreign lands to do mission work. We don't need to travel 15 hours to make a difference. We don't have to visit the most impoverished counties in America to meet people who need Jesus. Those needs and opportunities are present in our backyards. In fact, we can't properly go and serve elsewhere until we have spent time first immersing ourselves in how God is wanting to work right here in our own communities.
 
As a way to remind ourselves that God is wanting to use us TODAY, HERE and NOW in our communities, Higher Ground spent June 18th-20th participating in LOVE MADISON DAYS. It was three days dedicated to being on mission here in Madison, and learning simple, replicable ways that we can make a difference.
 
What did we do? Simple - we fed the hungry and gave water to the thirsty. On Tuesday, students worked at St. Vincent de Paul food pantry sorting and stocking food. Then, they passed out 200 fliers to the homes in the church's neighborhood, advertising a food drive and the needs of the food pantry. On Wednesday, we spent a few hours weeding and watering in one of Madison's 5 food pantry gardens. After dinner we went to McKee Farms Park and passed out water and freeze pops to the multitudes. Finally, on Thursday morning, we took up that food drive. We went back to each house where we had dropped off a flier and collected food for the food pantry - 529 pounds of food collected in just 1.5 hours! What a fun three days we had! We laughed, we bonded, we worked really hard, and we knew we made a difference.
 
Nothing we decided to do was too hard. We didn't need extra training. We didn't spend much money. It didn't take a ton of coordination. All it took was for the students (over 30 different students!) to be willing to GO AND DO. What can you GO AND DO this summer?  
 
How can you create your own LOVE MADISON/VERONA/FITCHBURG days this summer?
   
 
Emily Powers
Director of Youth, the Church