This January we are once again holding the Introducing God course. On Sunday, we enjoyed Sharon Harvey's testimony of how God transformed her life through the last session of Introducing God.
"I can't begin describing my Introducing God experience without first sharing a bit about my personal spiritual journey. I grew up believing that success depended on my own efforts. I was hard on myself when I failed, and even when I did succeed, my life felt empty. I was never satisfied, and I felt I needed to be perfect all the time. Gradually, I began to think my hard work defined my self-worth, and I started seeking other people’s approval to fill that emptiness. I reached a low point after college, and questions in the back of my mind began to surface. What is all this hard work for and what is my purpose? I had grown up hearing my cousin speak about God, but I had always been indifferent. However, God, in his mercy and grace, used this weak point in my life to persuade me to learn more about Him.
With the encouragement of a friend and now a precious sister in Christ, Hannah Stogsdill, I started attending Sunday sermons at Covenant Life Church. Introducing God happened to be starting their Spring 2013 class around the same time, and Hannah invited me to attend the course with her. During the next 9 weeks, I witnessed God's transforming power, heard countless testimonies, and learned more about God's merciful and forgiving nature. Most of all, I came to experience Christ's love through the thoughtful conversations, questions, and care of my discussion group. As I grew closer to Hannah and these brothers and sisters, I also grew closer to the Lord. I learned through them that Jesus Christ sacrificed his perfect life on the cross for a sinner like me. I didn’t need to earn God’s love. He loves me unconditionally, and he was calling me to satisfy all my needs and desires in Him. The emptiness I felt in my life started to be filled. A few months after taking the course, I had proclaimed my trust and faith in my Lord and Savior.
The Lord used these godly brothers and sisters, some of whom have become my best friends, to be salt and light in my life, and it is with joy and thanksgiving that I can now be a witness to others of God's saving power. I would like to invite you now to join me in serving in this ministry to be a witness to others and to be a part of God's great commission to make disciples. God's plans are bigger than our own, and He may just use you to transform another person's life like he used many others to transform mine. And if you are not a Christian, I encourage you to attend. Not only will this course challenge your own beliefs and give you a fresh perspective on Christianity, it will also give you lifelong friends and a heart for the Lord."
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October 27 2015 at 9:58 am 1 Comments
Recently I read a blog post by Trevin Wax about Tim Keller's thoughts on the secularization of the American culture. Interestingly, Keller says the number of devout Christians is actually growing but the biggest change in the culture is the disappearance of nominal Christianity. The culture's nominal Christian majority has functioned as an umbrella protecting Christianity. Now this big majority is disappearing and leaving a polarization of the secular and the devout. Keller’s thoughts on this are insightful as always, and you can read the full article here. What I want to add to this conversation is what it means in regards to reaching the culture with the gospel. Here are a few points.
1. We will have to demonstrate our love to the lost by crossing greater distances.
Our Lord was a friend of sinners, and we ought to follow him in this. Our love today will have to cross seemingly greater barriers and distances than before. If we are going to show the love of Christ to those who do not know it, then it will mean going to people who are very different from us. It’s hard being around people who don’t think like you or share your values, and the differences between Christians and non-Christians are greater than ever in this country. Crossing these social barriers is hard but also a great opportunity to show the love of Christ to others, because without the love of Christ there really is no reason to go outside our own cozy network of people.
2. We will have to be bold.
It takes boldness and confidence to stand in the midst of those who are different than you or to stand up for something you believe is right. There will be many opportunities for this. It is not easy being a Christian, and as we stand out hopefully it will not be because of outdated wardrobes. Hopefully while the world dismisses certain things as cooky, they will also see something of the love, peace, joy, and hope that Christ promised to his people. The new contrast in culture may present a greater opportunity than ever for the hope of the gospel to shine forth. We should be confident of that.
3. We need to be articulate in our explanations of the faith.
Trite answers will not convince. A great number of people in the culture do not believe in God and their whole view of life orbits around a different center. We need to have well thought out and winsome answers to questions that come up. We should also remember differences on ethical or political topics are more superficial issues. These topics help us understand a person's view of the world, and we should dig deeper into their ultimate hope or purpose for life and the basis of their beliefs. Most people today are not religious nor are they philosophers, and so their views on life come together more like a set of random tweets than a coherent and connected system of beliefs. There are often large gaps in their views that a Christian worldview makes sense of. Christians should work hard for good solid explanations for the fundamental issues of life.
4. We should be in it for the long haul.
People don’t change their view of life very quickly. It takes time. If someone has never heard of Jesus or belief in God then they will probably have a lot of questions they want answered before changing their minds. We should embrace this as a part of reaching others, and we should not be discouraged if it takes a long time. People give up witnessing because they think it should be quick and easy. It's not. Convincing others about Christ more than likely will take a lot of time and conversation. If we genuinely love the people we are trying to reach this isn’t bad or hard. We can enjoy the process just as Jesus seemed to enjoy his company. And that is truly sharing the love of Christ.
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October 20 2015 at 2:18 pm 0 Comments
Did you miss Peter Giglio's video testimony on Sunday? Check it out here. It's encouraging to hear how God is using the basketball outreach he started to build relationships among teens here in our community.
Have an idea for your own outreach in our community? Apply for a Go Grant that could provide funds to help get your idea off the ground!
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October 6 2015 at 11:32 am 3 Comments
A couple weeks ago we recieved this encouraging story about how God can use simple acts of kindness to provide opportunities to advance the gospel. We want to thank Donna Banks for providing an encouraging example of being faithful in caring for others in our community and for sharing how God is at work.
This morning as I was driving in a steady rain on the way to Shady Grove Hospital, I came across a group of teens (possibly Indian or Pakistani) standing on the sidewalk in front of a disabled car along Snouffer School Road. The car had flashers on, so I pulled in front of it and asked if they needed to use a cell phone or some other assistance. They said that their Dad was in the car and all they wanted to do was push the car backward about 50 feet to get it off the main road. I told them I would block the traffic with my car so they could do that (people could still drive around us). Anyway, I did and it all worked out. They were able to push the car into a free parking spot (God plans everything).
Because of the rain and the crisis I was not able to meet the Dad but I said, "God bless you" to the young people.
This afternoon, amazingly, a man came up to me and asked if I was the lady who had helped them. I confirmed that I was. He said, "It may seem like a little thing to you, but it was a big thing to me. People were passing by all the time and did not stop. Why did you stop?" I told him that I am a Christian and as God has shown me so much love I want to show others His love too. I gave him one of my cards with my contact information and told him to contact me if he had any needs (and I wrote down the name of our church on the back).
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August 17 2015 at 10:47 am 1 Comments
Prayer: A Fool’s Errand?
by Almasih Kahdost
If you fly, the following words should sound familiar to you. “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” This is one of the few times in life where the right thing to do is to take care of yourself first. You’re not going to be much help to your kids if you pass out while putting their masks on, right? Your physical well being will have a direct effect on the physical well being of those around you.
The same can be true for your spiritual well being. It really can make a difference in the spiritual well being of others.
When I ask people, “Have you ever prayed for someone and seen them come to Christ?” invariably the answer is affirmative and I hear stories that only God could author. There is a mysterious intersection of our prayers and God’s plan to draw people to Himself.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NASB), Paul says,
"Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you..."
Unless the Spirit inspired Paul to exhort the saints in Thessalonica to a fool’s errand, it seems their prayers actually mattered as it related to the spreading of God’s word.
Similarly, when Jesus looked at the multitudes with compassion he called his disciples to pray, asking that God would send laborers (Matthew 9:35-38). Would He tell His disciples to pray if those prayers ultimately didn’t matter? Of course not.
Our prayers for the harvest and for the spreading and reception of God’s word matter.
OUR FRIENDS HAVE BEEN PRAYING. ARE WE?
By the time you read this, our Muslim friends will have finished a month of prayer and (daytime) fasting called Ramadan. Millions of prayers will be recited by millions of Muslims worldwide. They have altered their lifestyle significantly in an attempt to, amongst other things, obey the command of Allah in Quran 2:185 and glorify him.
As followers of the One who prayed and fasted 40 days in the wilderness, can we pray that the word of the Lord will spread amongst Muslims as it has amongst us? Can we look at the multitudes of Muslims with compassion and pray that the Lord of the harvest will send laborers? Our spiritual lives - including our prayer lives - really matter and really can affect other people.
“Almasih Kahdost” is a long-time friend of Covenant Life who desires to see the nations come to Christ. Though preferring to publish anonymously, Almasih Kadost welcomes your comments below.
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July 21 2015 at 9:16 am 0 Comments
God has blessed the last two days of Joy Camp tremendously. On Thursday evening we had our traditional site cookouts at Laytonia and Johnson’s Park. We cooked hundreds of hot dogs and were able to interact with the campers and many of their families. At the Laytonia cookout the campers were even able to come up and share the “Gospel Chant” they had been learning all week.
Friday was our last day with the campers. At South Lake they had a brief ceremony to celebrate the end of the week since they didn’t have a cookout. Parents were invited, and we called each camper by name to receive their Bible and camp t-shirt.
Friday was also our last day together as a team. We took time in the evening to recount God’s faithfulness by singing, listening to a short teaching, and hearing about how God worked at the different sites.
- Because renovations going on at Washington Square and Emory Grove, we weren’t sure how many kids would show up to camp. The leaders visited surrounding neighborhoods on Saturday and handed out flyers to tell people about camp. By the end of the week we were up to 54 kids.
- During one-on-one time one of the youth was explaining to a camper that in all the Bible stories throughout the week, each person had faith and God loved them. The camper responded, “Wait, God loves us? What if you don’t love God back?” So our volunteer was able to explain the gospel to him.
- We averaged between 40 and 50 campers.
- Many campers at Laytonia have professed faith throughout the years, so it is encouraging to go back and remind them of truth.
- Many of the campers have reached their middle school and high school years and have been coming since the beginning of Joy Camp. The experience is geared for younger kids, but by the second and third day the older kids were able to jump in and participate.
- Laytonia has a very diverse group of kids, but it's a tight-knit community with a strong sense of love.
- Because this site is an elementary school, our youth went into different classrooms and helped with summer school classes.
- We heard one first-time camper ask his friend, “Hey, do you believe in God?”
- Even some of the high school students expressed an interest in coming back next year to Joy Camp, not as campers but as volunteers.
- Many kids expressed that this was their favorite week of the whole year.
- During the upcoming school year we are going to partner with the school’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program by providing child care and mini Joy Camps. God is working in unique ways here at South Lake, so please continue to pray for us.
Overall, all of the leaders were encouraged by the youth who have grown up in the church their whole life and are very familiar with the gospel. But seeing them fully invested and being able to apply that knowledge to local missions was incredible. Our group demonstrated love toward each other as well as the campers and grew in unity. Many of the rising freshmen also stepped out of their comfort zones and were bold and courageous in sharing the gospel this week.
Now that Joy Camp is done, pray for each of the families and campers. Pray that they would be reminded of the gospel daily as they look at their Bibles and camp t-shirts. Pray that they would be able to share what they learned at camp with others in their community. Pray for the different churches in our area and around the world. Pray that they would send more laborers for the harvest and that the gospel message would go forth. The same Holy Spirit who helped us this week understand that faith in God’s promises leads to courageous obedience, is the same Spirit working throughout the entire world.
We are looking to do follow-up ministry throughout the year. Here are some ways to get involved:
-Monday nights (starting September 28), 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
-Fun, games, Bible study, friendship and help with homework
-To sign up, email Travis Earles
-Saturday, August 15, 10 a.m. - noon, at the Laytonia Community Center
-Fun, games and Bible study
-To volunteer, email Carlos.
-Saturday, July 25 and August 15, 10:30 a.m. - noon, at the Emory Grove Playground
-Fun, games and Bible study
-To volunteer, email Neal Stuckenschneider.
Lastly, we want to thank you for praying for us. This week could not have happened without you interceding for us. We are grateful for you!
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