ROOTED is a 10-week small group experience that will CONNECT you with others, help you EXPERIENCE God in new ways, and give you the opportunity to GROW in your relationship with Jesus. Childcare is provided. Cost is $35.00 per person (includes study book, childcare, refreshments, and celebration meal). Want to know more? Keep reading!
What is Rooted?
“Beyond a program, seminar, or small group, Rooted is a catalyst for life change. Rooted provokes questions, conversations, and beyond-what-is-comfortable group experiences that are designed to help you find yourself in God’s story. You will begin to see God in new ways and hear his voice in surprising places. In a world that can be fragmented, isolated, and empty, Rooted allows you to experience a different way of life: community, intimacy, and generosity. Through this experience we hope you will be emboldened to live out you calling as a radical follower of Jesus.” – Mariners Church, Creator of Rooted
Great question! Rooted consists of various elements that work together: a small group discussion once a week, half-hour personal Bible study time 5 times a week, and a few other experiences here and there during the ten weeks of Rooted that will be planned once we start. There is also a Celebration that takes place after the final week of Rooted in which all groups meet together, worship, share a meal, and celebrate what we have experienced.
When and Where is Rooted?
Every Sunday night from 5 to 7 PM, starting January 6th and ending March 10th. Meeting at Harvest. The Rooted celebration will be Friday, March 15th, also at Harvest. Your personal Bible study time can be done anywhere!
Are regular small groups still happening during Rooted?
No, we will be suspending our normal small groups for the duration of Rooted, except for our Men’s and Women’s groups that meet on Wednesday nights. We want to give Rooted as much room as possible to thrive, and we are encourage our current small groups to take part!
Does it cost anything?
$35 per participant. If that may be a barrier for you taking part in Rooted, please let us know, we may have financial assistance available.
What about my kids?
Childcare will be available for kids up to 12 years old, at no additional cost, also at the church.
What about my other questions I have?
Go ahead and contact Kyle through text or call: (480) 452-7950 or email: [email protected] for any other info that you may need!
I am open today from 11 am to 1 pm. Generally a team of two, alternating weeks, staff me. People come in the side door past the big staircase in the wedding garden where they are greeted and recorded. Depending on their family size, they shop for food to meet about 3-4 days’ need. Today, about ten to twelve families will come and shop my shelves and the one average-sized refrigerator that fits into my small room.
At about 11:30 the shoppers return from Birch Community Services – whose mission statement is “to provide a community where people can be responsible and accountable for their needs and to equip them with tools to overcome financial difficulty”. They get between 600 and 900 pounds of food to stock the shelves with – bulk rice, frozen vegetables, strangely-flavored chips and soda. Occasionally they get lucky and find some meat or some canned goods. Some shoppers have houses and apartments to cook in and some do not, so volunteers who go to Birch try to balance the foods they are offered with what different sorts of shoppers can use. Occasionally there are other things in storage to be pulled out, so the people stocking the shelves look for other gaps on the shelves to fill.
Every once in a while bulk foods need to be broken down, be it boxes of hamburger patties or bags of cous cous. This usually happens on an off day, where a volunteer will break things down and then come down and stock the shelves.
A different team from Sunday opens up the pantry at two. As on Sundays, they check the donation bin at the church entrance to see if anything needs transferred onto my shelves downstairs. They will usually have six to eight shoppers to greet and record, with a new person or two to get registered on a short sheet. These volunteers are responsible for making sure that everyone is getting a fair amount of food according to their family size, for keeping the room uncluttered, and for making people feel invited and warm. The pantry is closed up again at 4 pm.
Most weeks, the occasional person will walk in and ask for help with groceries. Even though the pantry is not open, someone from the office will walk them downstairs and help them get set up with a registration card and a few days worth of food. Sometimes they have another need to be filled, such as energy assistance or clothing. The office takes in these requests and follow up with the guest shopper.
Volunteers go to a nearby bread company and get roughly fifty bread items, then come in and stock my shelves for the next week’s worth of shoppers. The bread contribution is a huge blessing that provides a staple item for families in our church and local community.
Our food pantry is small and discreet; many people might not even realize that we have one. However, to our friends who shop regularly, it is a big help to stretch the budget a little farther. Some people have other methods of grocery assistance and some do not. We believe that our pantry is for the good of our community in any form that takes, and we try to put as few stipulations on our shoppers as possible. We recognize that it is a huge act of love that helps to make earth look a little more like heaven. We also reach out to people not already part of our church family – maybe this will be the thing that makes a difference.
This year it was also an avenue for the distribution of our Thanksgiving baskets. It was an opportunity for Troutdale Elementary families to recognize that they have yet another resource – and another friend – at Harvest Christian Church. I was overwhelmed by the support that we received for that ministry drive. It was a big relief to families and a great way for our pantry to show even more love. Thank you thank you thank you for taking part.
If you decide you want to help support our pantry, there are several ways to do it:
- Occasional Opportunities: breaking down bulk items, scooping ice cream at the January 14 chili cook-off, cleaning, stocking items,
- Regular Opportunities: become a weekly volunteer: We are currently in need of an additional Sunday volunteer who can work fairly reliably every other week from 11 am until 1 pm. We are also currently in need of two people who are regularly available on Mondays from 10 am to 12:30 pm.
- We can always use the following items:
- Peanut butter
- Canned meat
- Canned veggies
- Canned fruit
- Canned soups
- Excess garden produce
- We also do pay a fee to shop at BCS, so financial giving does have a place. Any money given should be designated to the “Care Team” fund.
- We can always use the following items:
- If your workplace, school, or community group wants a service project, we would love to have you come up with ways to stock our shelves. Recently, a group of nursing home employees had a contest to see who could bring in the most non-perishable items. Our pantry hugely benefited from this drive.
- Again, financial contributions are incredibly helpful as well.
- Spread the Word
- If you know someone in the area who needs extra help: let them know that we are here to support them.
- If you know someone with extra resources: remind them that we are a willing recipient of anything that can be easily passed out of our pantry (mostly food, occasionally clothing and hygiene items)
Interested in helping in the Food Pantry? Contact Faith Fox at [email protected]. We could not do this without our faithful volunteers!
This is the first blog post in a series of posts on the subject of “Worship.” God placed a desire in my heart to share what I have been learning in my first seminary class, “Practices of Worship.” This blog series will draw from lectures and reading materials from that class. For me, it has been a powerful and formative experience, and has revealed to me the importance of recognizing that our life is our worship. My hope and prayer is that you would be challenged and encouraged by what God has been teaching me over the last few months.
For many people today, words like “worship” and “praise” have become synonymous with music, with songs. Yet, simply defining worship and praise as musical is to diminish what worship truly means. Music is, of course, a way in which we offer up praise and worship to God – but worship is so much more than melody.
God divinely wove into our entire being a desire to worship. Just as we were created to be in relationship to God with our whole self, so too was worship designed to engage us on every level. When we are truly and rightly expressing worship to God we are using all that we are to praise Him. Worship engages us in the many dimensions of who we are. It is our heart, our soul, and our mind – united in the process of offering up worship to God.
True worship isn’t a single simple act of song or praise, just as it isn’t only an event that we attend on a Sunday morning. True worship is a lifestyle, to put it another way: our life is our worship. Worship doesn’t exist solely within the confines of a song, service, or an experience. Worship exists in our very DNA. There is no such thing as “your life in worship”, and “the rest of your life.” Either you are living a life of worship or you are not. As followers of Jesus, we are called to offer up our entire self our entire life as worship to God.
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2
These two verses, written near the end of the Apostle Paul’s life, are powerful and life altering. You may have noticed that first word: therefore. That word is a red flag for us, it should get our attention, and when we see that word we should always stop and find out what the “therefore is there for.” This is signaling a conclusion to a previous argument, in this case Paul’s argument is the entire eleven chapters of Romans preceding this verse!
For eleven chapters Paul has been laying out his theology of who God is and what God has done, and now in chapter twelve he pivots and lays out what our response to all of that should be. That response is that we should, in light of God’s mercy, offer up ourselves – our whole selves – as a “living” sacrifice. We offer up our friends, our family, our hopes and dreams, our careers and ambitions, our possessions, our time and our money; everything we have is given up in worship to the God who gave us everything He had!
Our spiritual act of worship is our life. A whole and complete life that is holy – which simply means “set apart” or “different.” By living life differently from the world around us, by breaking the patterns of the world and culture that surrounds us, we are offering up acceptable worship to God, True worship. A sacrifice of our entire being is how we respond to God and how we worship Him.
Our life is our worship. As true believers, we are to live in worship all the time. When we become followers of Jesus, we give up everything in service of our Messiah. There is no part of ourselves, or our life, that exists outside of our life in Christ. Jesus invades the entirety of our life and transforms us within all dimensions. He leaves nothing un-altered or un-touched.
During this blog series, we are going to be looking at what it means to live a life of worship. It begins today, with recognizing that our entire life is our act of worship. God created us to live in worship, and true worship engages our entire self and our entire life. From there, the next step is to determine what it is that we are worshipping, because we are all worshipping something (and it may not be what we think) and worship changes us; it is formative. Equally important to developing a life of worship is to identify and recognize the purpose of worship. Finally, we will be taking some time to examine different patterns, or practices that we can incorporate into our lives that will help us cultivate a life of worship.
To be clear, having a life of worship doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it is something that we strive for every day for the rest of our days. A life of worship is a life-long pursuit. Becoming a follower of Jesus isn’t the end of our story, it is the beginning of our story. Now is when the real work begins. Make no mistake, building a life of worship will take work and purposeful intent. God is always revealing to me my need to grow and mature into Him, and I am convinced that I will not be fully matured until Christ returns and finishes the good work in me that began long ago.
As you read this series, it is my hope and prayer that God will speak into your life and your heart and reveal to you how He wants you to be living your life. For He seeks to give us life abundantly. Living a life of worship is the path toward realizing the good life. As we examine the purpose of our lives and worship, and practices that we can take to draw closer into that life of worship, remember that it takes time and hard work. Also, do not expect to take the practices of worship and jam them into your already busy life. These practices aren’t to be added in to your life, they are to serve as the very foundation of your life; each aspect of your life and work should revolve around living a life of worship.
The next post will examine what it is that we love and worship in our lives. What we love will be at the center of how we structure our life, and will declare what it is that we worship, for:
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your god.” – Martin Luther
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His most Holy Spirit bring you comfort and new insight as we seek to draw closer to the God who loves us and continue along our life-long journey into a life of true worship. Amen.
 Seriously, check it out – read Romans 1:1-12:2 and see how Paul builds and builds on one theological point after another, it’s awesome.
 Think of a New Year’s resolution….so many of our resolutions fail because we don’t make significant, lasting, and sustainable changes to our pattern of life in order to support our goal. Transforming your life into a life of worship can’t function like a new years resolution. Instead, our life must be re-ordered to that everything supports our new lifestyle.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Large Catechism, trans. John Nicholas Lenker (Minneapolis: Luther, 1908), 44. Quotation taken from You Are What You Love (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2016), 23
It’s been an interesting week around here. The parking lot is full of Red Cross vehicles and the cars and RVs of the evacuees. The gym is full of cots and tables and stocks of food and essentials. We became the official East Corbett Evacuee church as of Tuesday. It’s really a privilege for our building to be used as such.
Here is an interesting one: yesterday we were ready to continue work on the retaining wall (You may have noticed the construction equipment the last 4 months in the parking lot) I went out to start the church dump truck… I looked around, scratched my head, and stood where I a parked it the night before, and it was Gone! Really. . . Can you believe someone stole God’s dump truck! It was old and tired but it still worked great. We were counting on the 10 or 12 thousand it would sell for at the end of the project to pay for our gym completion. Its not like the Philistines stealing the ark of the covenant in 1 Samuel, but if you remember the story, such terrible bad things happened to them that they couldn’t wait to give it back! That is what I am praying, . . (I hope that doesn’t sound vengeful . . .of course if they do bring it back I truly hope they will find the peace of God.)
I am finally over the jet lag from being in Africa the month of August. What a great experience that was. Here are a few pictures. Kathy is so great with her medical visit to each village. Small wounds, burns, malaria, infections, worms in the kids scalps and parasites in their bodies, eye medicine and antibiotics are the main recurring symptoms and treatments.
Here is a great picture of most of the 19 church Pastors. The last Sunday we were there we had a Gathering of the closest churches. Harvest bought a bull and some goats, rice, corn, and crackers for a feast that fed 600 of your brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray for them in their hard times of famine. For most of them, this was the first big meal they had had in weeks.
I’m looking forward to bringing the next message on Sunday in our “I AM” series. “I am the Light of the World” Invite a neighbor and we’ll see you Sunday! And if you see an old green dump truck being driven by a guy who looks like he is having a terrible day, give me a call. We really need it back!
I went my whole 18 years growing up to a great church of 800 in central Indiana that feels very similar to Harvest. I then moved and went to a small church of 30 in college, which was a totally different experience. Except one summer when I ended up having an internship, so I packed up my dorm room and moved to Bend, Oregon for ten weeks.
This church did this crazy thing every summer where they brought on fifteen interns. They want to offer college-age young adults the opportunity to serve in five different areas of ministry. Some people did it for credit and some people did it to get away. The part strangest to me is that they found thirteen families in their congregation to host these fifteen interns. There were hosts of all sorts. Some had no kids, some had young kids, and some had grown kids. It was very diverse.
Through this strange thing that they did, I got to learn a ton about hospitality. I had never seen a community support people like this. Everyone had us over for dinner, gave us odd jobs while we were doing this unpaid internship, and celebrated our birthdays. This community in Bend made me start to realize what it looked like for the church to be amazingly hospitable. Attending and now working at Harvest has continued to teach me this lesson.
God loves hospitality, and Harvest was made in His image. When my husband and I moved to Oregon, I immediately felt loved. I won’t make a big fuss over naming names, but there are so many of you that made me feel incredibly welcome after moving thousands of miles away from my family.
This post isn’t just to tell you guys what a great job you are doing, but that’s where I will start. Harvest family, I love how you shake hands by the door. I love how you show new families over to our check-in desk. I love how you serve in coffee ministry in one way or another. I love how you make this building look beautiful, and also how you make it seem warm. I love that you sit next to people and greet in the auditorium. I love that we do pie calls, that we reassure parents of new children when we show them the classroom, and that we host small groups. I think that this warm, relational focus is the best way to do ministry. I have a large round of applause for my church family.
Next, keep going.
I read this awesome book called The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. The gentleman is a sociologist, and he set out to figure out why the church spread so fast when it was j
ust an infant. Have you stopped to think recently about the history of it all? The church was basically just a crowd of people who followed Jesus around, probably 120 right after the crucifixion. Three hundred years later Stark estimates that there were over 6 million. His research leads him to believe that the church consistently grew by 40% per decade. Let that sink in. It’s insane. The government just stopped trying to fight it.
What led them to this sort of growth? This author goes through several factors, from fertility to class. What he proves, however, is that Christians were just different. They took care of people. When an epidemic swept through and everyone fled for their wellness, Christians stuck around and nursed people back to health. They shared amongst themselves what was needed. If someone had a lot, why wouldn’t they share? They were rare in that time in that they valued their children, they respected women, and they showed mercy. They didn’t run away when the difficulties of life came. They were hospitable and warm.
Of course, this also exists in Scripture. One of the first things we read about the early church in Acts comes from the second chapter and starts in verse 42. It’s going to sound familiar, because Small Groups Pastor Kyle Fox has been writing a lot about it too. In the NIV it reads,
“42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Christians ate together, they prayed together, they let themselves by awestruck by God together. They shared their possessions and gave to the poor. They continued to meet. They were glad and sincere towards each other. Through this, they gained favor with the people. Through this, God added to their group.
Keep this in mind. Growing in your warmth and hospitality not only builds up the body of Christ but it grows it. I’ll encourage you again, keep going. Be different. Be the best people. Be a great part of our Christian community and Harvest family, and be a great part of your neighborhood and work place. Throw a block party. Have a neighbor or another church family over for dinner. Comfort people at work when life gets them down, bring them a coffee the next morning. Offer your help with a daunting task. Hospitality, warmth, and caring attracts people. It draws them in. It adds to those who will be with us in heaven. Go and make disciples, and be hospitable.
Ready to get more connected to the community of Harvest? Sign up to become part of a small group! Groups start the week of September 10th-16th with the study “I AM” by James MacDonald. [Click here for more information]
I had an unexpected encounter recently.
Friday mornings, my wife is in the office and my two older kids are at school, so my youngest (Charlotte) and I have that time with just the two of us. Well, a few weeks ago, I decided to take Charlotte out to breakfast, only the healthiest of meals, of course.
So, we made our way to Burger King, put in our order, and sat down to wait for our food. We sat in our booth, alone in the restaurant, save for one other man.
He was probably in his late 50’s, sitting alone, and was also waiting for his food. He sat quietly for a while, then, while I was playing with Charlotte, turned to me and asked, “Do they bring your food out to you here, or will they call your number?”
I told him that I wasn’t sure, and thought the brief conversation over. But he had more to say. “Yeah, I wanted to make sure I know what to expect, that way if it happens, I know who to complain to. I don’t usually like to complain, but sometimes you need to. I mean, I don’t lean right or left, so I don’t usually complain about politics or anything like that…”
He continued like this for a little while, talking about the things he would and would not complain about. I assumed he was just a person who welcomes conversation, so I smiled and continued to respond as he spoke. But his ultimate purpose became clear as he went on. “You know, you don’t want to complain about things that aren’t important, and you can always tell what’s important because God tells us what is most important in the world. His Holy Word guides us and lets us know what’s truly important in the world.”
Ah! Now I understood. He was a Christian who was looking for a way to share his faith. I was impressed by how direct he was, and happy to hear what he had to say, but was also trying to communicate to him that I was a fellow believer.
After some time, I was able to mention that I was a pastor. This seemed to surprise him, and that seemed to satisfy him, and he brought his testimony to a close. I remember thinking to myself how bold he was in his faith, and how he was so willing to preach Christ to a stranger.
But this is when things took a bit of a turn.
He stood up and walked to the counter and asked the cashier if his food was ready yet. She said it would be just a moment, they only had two people working at that time.
Well, I guess he thought this would be the right time to complain, and so began a lecture on what “fast food” should mean, how many staff should be working, and how to communicate with customers. The cashier, also the manager, said that she was sorry for the inconvenience and that his food would be out as quickly as possible.
At this point, he heaved a sigh and went toward the bathroom, only to find them locked, as per that Burger King’s “restrooms for customers only” policy. This began a second lecture on customer convenience and how businesses should be run, all while the manager is helping customers.
The manager apologizes again, she gathered his food, handed it to him, and he walked out the door without so much as a thank you. Now, I want to make one thing clear before I go on, I don’t know this man personally, and I cannot make judgments about him. So many things could have impacted his attitude that Friday, not the least of which being that he was just having a bad day. So I won’t say anything about the man personally.
But, what I will say is that, were I a non-Christian bystander in this situation, this would have directly impacted my opinion of Christians. Here we see someone eager to share the gospel, directly followed by being eager to judge and lecture an overworked manager.
It reminded me that, when it comes to being an ambassador for Christ, telling people about Jesus must always be paired with treating them with the love of Jesus.
It reminds me of James 1:22-25. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”
Hearing the word, reciting the word, even spreading the word, means nothing if we aren’t doing what it says. We are called to love others, to treat them as we would want to be treated, and to do those things joined with telling them about Jesus. We can’t just think that our words are separate from our actions. We cannot just hear the word, we need to be living it as well.
Even at Burger King.
For as long as I can remember, going to camp has always been the highlight of my year. To me, life was divided into two seasons: camp and not camp. Each year I would wait and wait for camp to arrive, and it was always the most amazing week. I made friends with kids from all over the Pacific Northwest – friends that I am still in contact with as an adult – my camp friends. During camp, I wouldn’t get homesick, but I definitely got campsick when it was time to be back at home.
Some of the most formative moments in my life happened while I was at camp Wi-ne-ma. There are so many different directions that my life could have taken. Camp had a profound impact on my life. I met my best friend at camp when I was fourteen years old. I met my husband at camp when I was fifteen years old. I was sixteen years old (and at camp) when I decided to go to bible college and pursue a ministry degree. Without the things that I learned and experienced at camp, I truly do not know where I would be today – or even who I would be.
At camp, we get to share with kids how much God loves them. At camp, kids get to try new things and grow more independent. At camp, we learn to slow down and how to live in community with one another. At camp, everyone gets to unplug from his or her lives (especially all the technology). At camp, kids get to reconnect with nature – God’s beautiful creation surrounds them. At camp, we get to make mistakes and we get to fail, and that is okay. At camp, lives and hearts change.
Camp Wi-ne-ma will always hold a special place in my heart. Even to this day, I cannot keep myself away. Every year I go back and volunteer as a counselor at camp. I still look forward to camp season, I still get to go and see old friends (and make new ones), and I still get campsick when I am away. I believe in camp and the powerful and profound impact that it can have on our lives.
In ten days, I will be back at camp Wi-ne-ma. We have some amazing things in store for campers this year, and it makes me so excited. I want as many kids as possible to have the opportunity to come to camp too. I want them to make new friendships and lasting memories, just as I did. I want them to be stretched and challenged in the same ways that I was stretched and challenged. Most of all, I want them to experience firsthand the love of God. So if you haven’t signed up for camp yet, do it today – you won’t be sorry that you did [SIGN UP HERE]. Camp changed my life, are you ready for it to change yours?
February 24th-25th, Harvest’s preteen ministry (The Bridge) hosted our 2nd Overnighter event. We had 34 students gather together with 8 adult volunteers to spend 15 hours together in community having some good old fashioned fun. We ate a lot of junk food, watched a movie, threw dodgeballs at each other, participated in nerf gun warfare, played games, and created lasting memories. Some of us even got a little bit of sleep!
As parents were checking in their students Friday night they were equal parts excited for the kids and concerned for my well-being. Mostly, they were grateful that we were willing to spend some quality time with the students.
Here at Harvest we have some truly amazing young people and equally amazing adult volunteers who are here to support our students and create lasting relationships with them. Preteens are an amazing age group. They are forming their own ideas about the world around them and discovering where they fit into the grand scheme of things; they ask questions and begin to develop critical thinking skills; they are anxious to grow up, and yet still know how to let loose and exhibit a carefree spirit.
I look forward to the Overnighter every year. The beauty of the Overnighter is that we can all come together to just have FUN. No lessons, no discussions, and an extremely flexible structure of events. The Overnighter is about building community and relationships. To the parents, thank you for trusting us with your kids. To the volunteers, I praise God for your hearts and willingness to serve. To the students, thanks for the fantastic memories! We will see you at the Overnighter next year!
We live in a very unique time.
I remember being in high school and getting my first cell phone ever. It was literally about the size of half a brick, and came with a holster to sling it on to my belt. I kept it next to my pager.
These days, students have the world at their fingertips. A wealth of information is available beyond anything that’s ever been known in history. People have dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to communicate with one another, and all with a single device in their pocket.
But, as we all know, this comes with many drawbacks as well, especially for teenagers. Students have begun to rely on their cell phone and social media as their primary form of communication. Because of this, deep, genuine, Christ-like friendships are becoming harder and harder to achieve, as this isn’t something that’s likely to come via a screen.
Because of this, we in the Refuge decided that this February, our discipleship camp would be focused on showing the students the importance of a Christian community that stretches beyond social media. So we headed out to Sweet Home to grow in our faith in Christ, and to grow as a Christian community.
The weekend began with the students being given prayer partners for the weekend, one specific person with whom they would be praying for, and would pray for them, throughout the weekend. Kyle Fox brought our messages, and he taught us the importance of how we connect with God, how we connect with each other, how God connects with us, and how we are meant to connect with the world.
The students we also challenged with a game that put the same limitations on them that social media does. They could only communicate in short phrases, like Twitter; only with pictures, like Instagram; for only ten seconds at a time, like Snapchat; and so on. Throughout the weekend, we were shown how limiting relying on social media is, and how important it is to have friendships that go beyond a screen.
Now that we’ve returned, friendships, new and old, have grown and students have learned to be praying for one another and to be in the Word together. In fact, a student led Bible study will be starting along with all of the new small groups beginning within the church.
It was an incredible weekend, and God moved in many ways. If your student wasn’t able to make it, be sure they can go during President’s Day next year, and make sure they can be at our summer camps this year!
Ash Wednesday is perhaps my favorite holiday on the Christian calendar aside from Advent and Christmas. I grew up Catholic, and Ash Wednesday was the first mass my step-dad shared with me. One night, I asked him to take me to church and he responded, “Get your shoes on”. I remember my acute confusion because it was Wednesday and with all the authority of a 10-year old, I declared church was for Sundays. He said “let’s go – get in the car”. We went to church. On a Wednesday. Ash Wednesday. It was a solemn service launching the 40 days of Lent. The priest smudged ashes in the shape of a cross on my forehead and said the words “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Harvest Christian Church doesn’t ‘celebrate’ Ash Wednesday per se, but I’ll personally still go to the nearest Catholic church for Ash Wednesday service. Last year, I came into the office and Mike said “Did you forget to wash your face today?!” hahaha! It gave me a chance to explain why I had ashes on my forehead.
Why ashes? Wikipedia explains it best: “Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief…. The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults. Examples of the practice among Jews are found in several other books of the Bible, including Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Book of Esther 4:1, and Hebrews 9:13. Jesus is quoted as speaking of the practice in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13: “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago (sitting) in sackcloth and ashes.” Interesting side-note: in the Catholic Church, the ashes are from the previous year’s palms given out each Palm Sunday, collected and stored, then burned down to ash. A symbol that we must not only rejoice of Jesus’ coming but also regret the fact that our sins made it necessary for him to die for us.
Growing up and attending a Catholic high school, I learned that the purpose of the 40 days of Lent is to prepare the believer through prayer, repentance of sins, almsgiving and self-denial for deeper understanding and awe of Resurrection Sunday. The 40 days represents the 40 days Jesus spent fasting and being tempted in the desert as described in the Gospels before beginning his public ministry. Today, as a Christian spending a lifetime in the desert of our present culture, I still find great value in this practice.
Traditionally, many people will give something up (example: chocolate/sweets or red meat) for these 40 days as a fast – remembering each time they have the urge to break their fast to deny the self and remember the sacrifice of Jesus in that moment and stop to pray. Many others will add something to their daily routine that they do not normally do such as giving food to those in need or adding a daily devotion for 40 days.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the preparing process. Preparation to draw closer to God and experience Resurrection Sunday with eyes wide open. In awe. In breathlessness. In fear and trembling. In renewal.
You do not need to run out and go get ashes – that is not the point. However, I would encourage you to start a fast or add a family devotional time or jump into a small group or bring in a food pantry donation item for the next 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday.
Remember Repent and Prepare. Start today on Ash Wednesday. Start here.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”