Engage in Catayst Training

Everywhere we look, it is easy to see brokenness in our world. News stories, personal relationships, and social media all give us insight into the great need for restoration that exists in our world. We are in great need of Shalom - the peace that is only given through Christ, the restoration of things, the evidence of God’s work amongst us.

 

It is so easy to look at the broken shalom around us. We can easily fixate on the bad, the broken, and pinpoint all the places and people that need “help” or “fixing”. Sometimes we miss seeing Shalom or the ways that God IS working around us.

 

In Catalyst training, we talk a lot about the lens through which we see our world, and more specifically, how we see our cities and neighborhoods. We ask the question, “What would it look like if, instead of constantly fighting against what is broken, we joined God where he is already working?” What if we learned to see how God is restoring and redeeming things and partnered with Him? What if we open our eyes to the peace and healing that God is already bringing and joined Him in his work?

 

The truth is, God IS at work around us. God IS bringing restoration and healing. God IS present in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and cities. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray for this to be be true:

“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

We pray to see God’s will and his Kingdom active and present here among us. And as people called by Christ to be his hands and feet, his messengers in those places where He has put us, we get to be part of seeing that happen.

 

A missional lifestyle is one that recognizes where God is at work - in all places, in all people, in all relationships. A missional lifestyle is one that works to join God in those areas, to bring restoration and redemption. As missional people we recognize that God has placed us in our unique locations and in our unique relationships on purpose and we engage in those locations and relationships in ways that share the hope and love of Jesus.

 

Take some time this week to reflect on these ideas:

  • Will I see my city, through a lens of compassion and grace, as a place that is broken and in need of redemption?

  • Will I recognize that God has placed me in my city, in my specific location for a purpose?

  • Will I open my eyes to see where God is actively and presently working?

  • Will I respond willingly when God asks me to join Him in his redemptive work in the places where He has placed me?

 

And then, when you gather in community this week, I would encourage you to discuss the following questions:

  • How is God working in your own life?

  • Where do you see evidence of Shalom in the lives of your neighbors?

  • How do you see God’s peace evident in your city right now?

  • Where could you engage alongside God, where he is already working?


As you engage in these questions, YOU become part of our CATALYST 100. Would you be interested in learning more about how to see your city from a missional perspective? Do conversations about how God is actively working and how you can engage in that intrigue you? Do you want to know more about how you can see your city with a heart of grace and compassion? Join one of our lifeGroups working through the Catalyst Curriculum and engage in those conversations with others who are on the journey. Let me know if you have questions or want to get plugged in with a lifeGroup.
 

God Using ME

Say this out loud, “God wants to use me.”
How does that sound?  What does it make you feel or wonder?
Are you worried God needs to make you someone else before He will use you?

God personally and purposefully made you. He made you on purpose, and for a purpose.
God knows your talents, gifts, and interests.  He knows where you are energized, and drained.  He knows if you like parties, or if you prefer one-on-one time.  And He wants to use YOU, the person, the You He personally made.  Check out Psalm 139 to see how personally invested in you He is.

 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” –Psalm 139

If you think you need to be someone else to be on mission with and for God, check out 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4 and 5.  We are one body with many parts, all different, and the body works better and is built up better when we all live our lives fully embracing the gifts God has given us, and using them for His kingdom.

God wants you, the person He made, to thrive.  And He wants every other person to thrive.  

This is our mission, to connect people to life in Jesus.  It is for each of us to live out as God has equipped us to thrive.  And as we do, as we thrive, as we invite others know Jesus and to thrive, we are catalysts in His kingdom work.  

And in case you still are wondering, He already changed you in your baptism.

What are some of the unique traits you possess--gifts, strengths, passions? Make a list and consider these things with fresh eyes.    
How could these things glorify God? How could they be used to connect others to God? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you uniquely fit in revealing His kingdom on earth.  And who you are uniquely gifted to reach.  The possibilities are truly endless. Be You, for HIM.
YOU are part of the Catalyst 100... God is calling you to explore and renew your commitment to His Mission - one way is these new lifeGroups - maybe you could try it (e.g. for 6 months)?"

Let me know where you see God personally and purposefully using you.  If you have a story or feedback, please Share It with me in the comments or via email: mwipperman@lifelivetogether.com

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What Does Easter Look Like To You?

What does Easter look like to you? Bunnies, eggs, jellybeans and chocolate? 

Here’s what a few people in Jesus day said:

            “I have seen the Lord” – Mary Magdalene

            “My Lord and My God!” –Thomas (called the Twin)

            “He has risen!” – The Angel who rolled back the stone

            “Remember what He told you?” – Angels in the tomb

            “The Lord has risen indeed!” – The eleven and those gathered with them

“…these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John the Apostle

People gathered to celebrate and worship God.  Books were written to record and share what they had been witness to.  No amount of persecution, beatings or even death could slow the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ, in fact, persecution only accelerated it.

What is different today? Is there any better news?

God created everything, including you, to be perfect and with Him.

Adam sinned, we all have sinned, and sin separates us from our holy God.

God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus, to live perfectly, and to take away our sins.

Jesus was put to death for a crime He didn’t commit, and God put our sin on Him.

Jesus rose from the dead in victory just as He said He would.

Our sins were paid for by the death of Jesus.

We are restored to life with God, connected to Him for all time.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” – John the Baptist

But that’s not all.  The days between Jesus Last Supper with his disciples, his death the next day, and resurrection on the third day include the day of Preparation, when yeast was eliminated from homes and thousands of Passover lambs were being slaughtered, the Passover meal, the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:5-11).

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Paul (formerly Saul)

Not only are you forgiven and restored to life with God, today, but you will be raised to life again and will live forever with Him in the new Earth and Heaven to come.  He is our once-and-for-all Passover Lamb, and the First Fruit of the harvest, proving that we will who have life in Him will also rise with Him.

            “Truly this was the Son of God!” – Centurion keeping watch over Jesus

If Christmas shows how much God loves you by His coming to be with you.  Easter shows how much God sacrificed to give you life to the full now and to bring you home to live forever in perfection with Him.

Do you have a friend who might like to know that God so desperately wants to be with them?

Do you have a friend who would like the promise of a perfect future?

How can you show them what Easter means to you?

Join me in praying for the opportunity, and for the words. Then make an opportunity, get together with them.

YOU are part of the Catalyst 100... God is calling you to explore and renew your commitment to His Mission - one way is these new LGs - maybe you could try it (e.g. for 6 months)?"

Let me know where you see God personally and purposefully using you.  If you have a story or feedback, please Share It with me in the comments or via email: mwipperman@lifelivetogether.com

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Sustained Through Community

Have you ever seen a coal or log fall away from its heat source? What happens when a coal tumbles out of the grill onto the driveway or the small log is pushed to the outside of the fire ring? The coal or the log get cold. It becomes harder for it to accomplish its mission of warming a burger or toasting a marshmallow. Without other heat sources around it, that log or coal loses its purpose.

We are the same as we follow Jesus. We need other heat sources to keep us on fire for Jesus. On our own, we can more easily grow weak or discouraged, or simply get our purpose and mission confused. However, when we regularly gather with others, we are more easily sustained and kept in alignment with God’s mission. This is why lifeGroups are a part of our strategy here at the Church. Biblically, we see people -- Jesus included -- living out their purpose and their relationship with God alongside others.

Today, we thank the leaders who have invested in keeping those smaller communities on fire. We honor those who give of themselves to make sure we don’t have to walk this road alone and are dedicated to keeping us aligned with God’s mission. Thank you, lifeGroup leaders. What you do matters, and your fellow leaders deeply appreciate the time and energy you pour into your groups.  

In April, we are talking a lot about lifeGroups. We would love to see new commitments to lifeGroups. We also see this as a time of reflection and recommitment for those who are already in a lifeGroup community. In May, some of our lifeGroups will be launching what we are calling “Catalyst Curriculum.” These groups will be taking a close look at missional living and what it means for them as they live life together, on mission with Jesus. 

In John 17, Jesus is praying to his Father, and we hear him say, “Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.” God, by his very nature, is a missional God. He sent Jesus to pursue YOU, to redeem YOU, to connect you to abundant life. The very fact that Jesus was sent to earth to seek and save the lost demonstrates that in his nature, God is a missional God, desiring to connect others to himself. And, as those who follow Jesus, we are then sent as reflections of that missional God into our world. We join Jesus, working to bring the message of redemption to a hurting world. In this Catalyst Curriculum, we seek to understand what these ideas mean. We talk about what it means that God is by nature missional and what it means for us to be called to partner with Him. We aren’t prescribed programs to follow to simply share the Gospel. Instead, we learn to see our world, and ourselves, with a new perspective and then support each other as we live out that new perspective in our everyday lives.

Perhaps you are ready to explore these ideas alongside others. We would love to connect you to a lifeGroup going through the Catalyst Curriculum. Perhaps you are a leader who is intrigued about what this would look like in your lifeGroup. Or, maybe you would love to have these types of discussions and you have some friends who might be willing to do it with you -- we would love to prepare you to be a lifeGroup leader. It’s not too late to join in training! Not every lifeGroup is going to be working on this material. Other groups are going to continue to do what we are calling “Sermon Curriculum.” They gather each week to share their lives, pray together, and read and apply the scripture for the upcoming sermon that week. Are you feeling isolated in your walk with Jesus? Do you desire to learn how to read scripture and live it out in your daily life? We have lifeGroups eager to welcome you and have you grow with them.

Spring is a great reminder that God makes all things new, that he brings new life and restores the world. This spring, I encourage you to make a renewed commitment to staying “hot coals” as you follow Jesus. As always, I’d love to chat if you have questions or concerns.

 

Check out what some of our Catalyst Leaders had to say about Catalyst groups.

 

Catalyst from the Church on Vimeo.

 

The Tangible Kingdom

How do you define “the Kingdom of God?” I’ve been mulling that over lately. Jesus describes it as yeast hidden in dough, seed scattered on good and bad soil, a treasure buried in a field. He urges us to seek it more than the earth-bound “stuff” that captures our attention. On one occasion He said it is within or among us. It encompasses the visible universe and unseen spiritual realms and doesn’t operate by the usual rules of typical, earthly power structures.

It makes sense to have a clear idea of what we’re pursuing when we seek God’s Kingdom and ask God to bring it – but what exactly ARE we pursuing and asking God to bring? And would the answer make anyone want to come along with us?

 

God’s Kingdom is bigger than any definition we could come up with, but let’s start by calling it the arena where His will is being done, on earth, in heaven, and in and among us. That would include love, forgiveness, healing, rebirth, restoration, justice and mercy, shalom, knowing and walking with Him. That’s our God, and that’s His Kingdom. But it’s hard to make the concept of God’s kingdom tangible. The things we do in God’s name - our religion and practices - aren’t the whole story, but they’re often visible, concrete, and measurable. They’re what a watching world sees. And honestly, sometimes it’s easier to keep doing what we’ve always done rather than to think about the purpose behind what we do. When I read accounts of Jesus’ work on earth, I get the impression this isn’t a new problem. Jesus seemed to make a point of defying religious conventions for the more important purpose of bringing God’s Kingdom in that moment to the those around Him. God’s will: always. Cultural expectations: not necessarily. He embodied the Kingdom, and He calls us to do the same.

 

The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay (250 HAL, church library) is the story of a community trying to live out that idea. Their goal: form a core of like-minded kingdom people loving each other and those around them, and make it easy for “spiritually disoriented” folks to get in close to see their Christianity lived out, and do this all while avoiding becoming a typical church. While the authors address their book primarily to pastors and church planters, their experiences are thought-provoking for anyone. My own take-aways include:

  • Individually - We have more freedom to love and serve Christ and others than we take advantage of! God’s Kingdom is likely more comprehensible to our friends when experienced outside a traditional religious framework. If that involves skipping a few church services or “healing on a Sabbath,” you’re in good company.

  • Small groups (e.g. family, lifeGroup) - Keep loving and serving each other and others without expectations. Enjoy life and welcome others into your orbit. Such a lifestyle IS the gospel to a watching world. Talk comes later.

  • Church - It’s really hard to let go of lifelong habits and expectations of what “church” should be and do, even when we’re aware of them.   Moving together as a united body against the cultural current is even harder. But with God, all things are possible.

I’m curious to know what you think - get in touch with me (sanders@nutrisci.wisc.edu)!

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