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Helping People Live for God
Our vision is more than just a statement… it’s a calling. It’s an exciting calling, full of hope and promise. He has called us to be a living church. The calling isn’t about a service or a building… it’s about a group of people seeking life in God and fellowship with one another. There is nothing greater than serving God! We are committed to helping people discover the joy that only comes from knowing God personally.
7 Life-Giving Habits
by Christian Conatser on Aug 29, 2014
All of us have habits of which we are not proud: nose-picking, sleeping late, smoking, nail-biting, bad-eating. There are countless methods people employ to rid themselves of these compulsions, but on a whole, the human race generally loses the battle against bad habits. Many have suggested that this may be because we spend too much time, energy, and focus on the bad habits, and not enough time, energy, and focus on the good habits. If we were more diligent to build the right kind of habits into our lives, these may very well begin to eliminate the wrong ones as a ripple effect. Here are 7 habits that, if added to one’s life, would produce greater success in every other area:
Early To Bed, Early To Rise
The early 20′s version of myself thought this was so lame, but it is absolutely one of the most important habits in the lives of successful people. Don’t let yourself believe that you are either a morning-person or a night-owl. In many cases, you are who you decide to be. We are biologically made to go to sleep just after sundown, and wake up just before sun rise.
Whether it is reflection time, journaling, praying or reading scripture, adding 15-30 minutes of quiet time in solitude is an important part of sustaining sanity, health, and growth.
It may be old-fashioned, but it’s good for the soul. Gathering everyone around the table for one meal of the day will be beneficial for the whole family. In an age of primary contact taking place through social media, real human interaction is essential to children’s development… and ours too!
Day Of Rest
Of all God’s commandments, this is one that He emphasized the greatest when sharing it to Moses. Nobody knows our hearts, minds, and bodies like God, and He designed us to function best with 6 days of hard labor, followed by one day of holy rest. This is a real challenge in today’s culture, so you have to make it happen.
“Coffee” With A Friend
The older we get, the easier it is to separate ourselves from quality time with friends. It is vitally important to set apart 2 or 3 times each month to spend with a friend, discuss life, confess issues, and encourage one another. Be wise in your choice of companions, then keep consistent time with them.
Great leaders are always trying to reinvent and reinvigorate the church, but it always comes back to the principles laid out for us by God’s people in Acts 2:
- gathering regularly to worship and learn together (Sunday service)
- frequently breaking bread together in each other’s homes (Life Groups)
Getting together with fellow believers will always be one of the most important life habits you can establish.
Say “I Love You”
There are many ways to show the people in your life that you care about them; writing them a card, giving them a gift, serving them or spending quality time with them. All of these things are great and should be done regularly, but they cannot take the place of actually saying the words “I Love You”. Say it often to your spouse and your children. Don’t leave them with any doubt on the subject!
All of us want to rid ourselves of our bad habits, and we should. Over time, If we focus on adding new habits, they will drive the old one’s away.
Your Camp Moment
by Elisha Garcia on Jul 29, 2014
One of the greatest moments of the year for youth ministries across the nation is youth camp. Every summer students and leaders load up in buses, readying themselves for late nights, early mornings and pitted competition.
A few years ago we began labeling this as the “greatest week of your life”. Whether it was from repetition, or it became true, this line stuck. Every year we’ve seen a numerical increase of students who have attended youth camp, and every year we see students / leaders talking about how camp is “the best week of your life”. It’s fun to listen to the chatter and stories during the weeks leading up to camp. Students recounting their experiences and favorite moments during the 5 days that forever changed their lives. 9 times out of 10 if you ask a student what their favorite part was, they’ll say the services. It won’t be the games or the lake. It won’t be the competition, and it certainly won’t be the food. Most students you ask will talk about the worship where they felt God for the first time. They’ll tell you about the message that spoke to exactly where they were in life. They’ll tell you about the altar call where they experienced God in a new and powerful way. They recount miraculous healing(s) they saw. They’ll talk about their decision to be baptized, and their eagerness to tell the world about who God is and what He did for them.
As a youth pastor, this is my favorite moment. I love spending time with students and leaders. I love the bad nachos, and the team competition, but I LOVE seeing the transformation of a students life, and the faith that is built during this week. Getting to see the life change in a student is incredible. When we say that this is going to be the greatest week of their life, we mean it. July was the month our students had their experience, and the stories that came as a result are continuing to be written. I continue to hear what God is doing in them. I see the evidence(s) of true life change. The very expressions on students face (complacency to passion) is evident.
I share this because it challenges me as a an almost 30 year old man to have my own transformation. God doesn’t just do things in the lives of kids and students during one month of summer. God transforms lives 24/7, and I’d venture to say He’s wanting to do more in our lives than we can think or dream. I have to have my own “camp experience(s)”. You, you have to have your own camp experience(s). We have to create moments where we push distraction to the side, get alone with God, and pursue Him in a life changing way.
Even as you read this, you’re probably asking yourself, “when is the last time I had a moment like he’s describing?” If the answer is hard to recall…it’s probably been too long. But, don’t feel shame or condemnation. Feel encouragement. James 4:8 says “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Our relationship with Christ is not meant to be cat and mouse. The equation is simple. If you want transformation, life change, healing, power, strength, answers, peace, provision…draw near to God. He will draw near to you.
Go after your own camp moment, and you will find it.
All’s Fair In Love
by Timm Horton on Jul 16, 2014
POGs. Beanie Babies. Comic books.
Like any true child of the 90′s, I had them all. And I just knew that one day, they were going to make me rich beyond my wildest dreams. Yes, as a kids I had many precious treasures, but none I prized more than my Pokemon cards. And not just any cards. Only the rarest and most incredible (like my holographic 1st edition Charizard). And like many of my peers, I was frequently involved in the often unscrupulous and somewhat seedy trading market for these cards. And I was the best. I could wheel and deal with the best of them, and more than once I took advantage of younger, less experienced players, preying on their lack of foresight and trapping them into a “bad trade.”
There are entire TV channels devoted to these kind of “bad trades.” The faces and names change, but it is always inevitably the same story: some sort of shiny, flashy, must-have new object that generally holds no value for it’s new misguided owner. I always had a nose for this sort of thing, so you could imagine my surprise as a young kid when I stumbled upon perhaps the worst trade in all of history in the Bible:
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8
My experience in 90′s memorabilia has been no help in this area, and I’ve always struggled with this verse. Before I was profitable, before I was a sure bet and before I was mutually beneficial, God bet the farm on me. He raised the stakes and went all in, giving His most precious possession in exchange for an enemy.
I took the birth of my son to help me understand. On June 7th, Bethany and I were blessed with the birth of our first son, Jude David Horton. And immediately, it was clear to both of us that this was love at first sight. And he hadn’t even done anything yet. Before I knew anything about his quirks and personality. Before he spoke his first words. Before he ever bought me anything or made me a gift. He received my love, and everything I had. Not because he deserved it. Not because it’s even fair. But because he’s my son. All’s fair in love.
For the first time in my life, I understood God’s love, grace and mercy in a brand new way. I understood His love for me in my love for Jude.
I am grateful that God does not see me as a business deal. That He doesn’t size me up based on what I will bring Him or give Him. Scripture tells me that all of His love and all of His power and all of His resources are mine. Not because I deserve it. Not because it’s even fair. But because I’m His son/daughter. And you are too!
And all’s fair in love.
Best week ever!
by Truston Baba on Jun 04, 2014
As a kid, the best day of the year, other than Christmas, was the last day of school! The anticipation leading up to that day was almost overwhelming! On the last day, I remember riding the bus home, knowing once I stepped off the bus I was FREE! For threee whole months, it meant no more math tests, no more homework and no more riding that smelly bus! I don’t know about you, but summer brings back a flood of great memories like family vacations, going swimming everyday, and eating snow cones whenever possible. Some of my favorite and most memorable summer memories all took place one particular week every summer: the week I was at church camp. Going to camp was a whole other level of freedom. No parents, no chores, no making my bed. It was amazing! Every year from 6 years old all the way through High School I went to camp. My parents every year would sign me up, pay the money, pack my bag and off I would go. Those 4 or 5 days were the highlight of my summer. I always looked forward to going because I got to play crazy games, stay up late, eat way too much candy, and only take a shower by jumping in the pool. When I think back to my childhood I can only recall a few memories that took place in a classroom, but I can recall hundreds that took place over a few weeks of camp. I remember entering a contest to see who could eat the most goldfish. The guy who ate the most won a bunch of points for their team. I ate 26! I remember sneaking into the girls cabin and hitting them with water balloons. I remember winning a belly flop contest into the mud pit. I have tons of fun memories!
But more than just fun memories at camp, I had life changing moments. I remember the first time I felt God speak to me and knew without a doubt He was real. I remember the first time listening to someone preach and feeling like they were talking right to me. I remember the first time God used me to pray over someone and speak into their life.
Right before school let out my junior year I won first prize in a young engineers program I was in. With that win, I received a college scholarship to Kettering University and a paid internship. I went off to camp and I felt like I had a plan for what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I remember that week at camp God getting a hold of me like He had never done before. I remember feeling like I was called to do something more with my life than what I planned. Throughout that week God used multiple people to prophetically speak to me and open my eyes to my real gifting and calling. It was at a altar time that week that I committed my life to follow God anywhere He wanted to lead me. Its because of that camp that I am who I am today.
I’m in no way saying that if you go to camp you will become a pastor, obviously all of us have different callings. I am saying that at camp you’re in an environment where you’re able to hear God in a different way than at home. There’s just something about being away from all the distractions at home that allows people to focus on God in a greater way. As an adult, I genuinely miss the camp experience and have been praying about how we can in the future create that atmosphere for adults at LC. Pastor Garret Booth always says “one week at camp is equal to one year of spiritual maturity in a child.” I couldn’t agree with this idea more. Personally, I went to camp for 12 years so that added 12 years of spiritual maturity to my life. I have to be honest, when I graduated from high school at 18 I was still very immature, I mean I was a serious goofball! But 18 years of regular spiritual development plus 12 additional years of camp maturity gave me this weird 30 year old spiritual maturity inside a goofy 18 year old kid body. And it’s that spiritual maturity that kept me out of big trouble and has guided me throughout life.
So, parents, no matter the hurdle, send your kid to camp. Not only will they have a fun week, but God has something huge in store for them. Plus, everyone needs to eat a goldfish! Ha!
The Business Of Prayer
by Christian Conatser on May 06, 2014
Years ago, my sister told me about a dream she had experienced. The dream inspired my imagination to create a story about heaven. Although it doesn’t speak to a biblical example of heavenly operations, it does support God’s biblical promise in Matthew 21:22, “Whatever you ask in my name, it shall be given to you.” In this story, an angel allows a peak into the business office in which the angels do their work:
Entering into a large office area, I saw rows and rows of cubicles. Angels were busily scurrying around the grid made by these cubicles filing paper work and delivering important messages. On each cubicle desk there were stacks of file organizers – the type used to hold slips of paper and folders labeled with categories. Some of these organizers created a stack of 3 or 4 on top of one another, others stacked as high as the eye could see, and yet there were others that sat alone, holding very little. The label on each organizer read the names of people on earth: Matthew Russel, Catherine Barnet, Maria Gonzales... In each person’s file, the busy angels were carefully adding papers to the stacks.
The angel explained that there was a file organizer for every person ever born on earth – 40 billion and counting. In their organizers were slips of paper, and on each slip of paper was a specific request made on behalf of that person. Some of these prayers were a personal request, and others were requests made by that person’s family, pastors, and friends. God had given explicit instructions to the angels that these request were to be “Properly filed without error!” It was the Lord’s prerogative to be sure that His eternity would be spent addressing each request. The angel continued explaining with extreme seriousness that no prayer would go unanswered; the Lord would grant the request no matter how small or how large.
As I strolled down the many aisles of cubicles, the angel directed my attention to a particular organizer. As I looked closer I saw my name. I was astounded! The organizers with my name produced one of the highest stacks in this giant room. I had never realized so many were praying for me. As I shuffled through the slips of prayer, I saw submissions from so many different people, most of which were names I hardly recognized. I paused on one of the requests with a name I hadn’t heard for over 25 years; it was a request made by my 2nd grade elementary teacher:
Time Stamp: 10/18/1988 Tuesday 06:32
Submission by: Theresa Marks
“Jesus, thank you for the incredible blessing that Christian is to the world. I ask that you will grant him strength and wisdom throughout his life. When he experiences difficulty, may he feel the nearness of your presence and learn to always call on your name. Help me Lord to provide him the very best love and instruction. Amen.”
Tears filled my eyes as I realized that a teacher from so many years ago had been so diligent in praying for me; that this simple prayer request was accounted for in heaven; that God was carefully planning to answer her request on my behalf.
Full of joy and hope, I continued walking, when I noticed a lonely organizer labeled with a name I did not recognize. It caught my attention because, unlike my own, it was completely empty. The angel explained that this was just one of many that had zero submissions. Although so many struggled through family crisis, addiction, cancer, and heartache, there was no one who had made a request for God’s intervention. These people had never been instructed to make their requests known to God, and had no one speaking to God on their behalf. Tears streamed down the angel’s face, “If only people understood how much of God’s work is responding to the requests of His children. Nothing brings Him more joy.”
Reflect on this story, albeit fictitious, of the business of heaven:
- How does it feel to know that every request made by you or by others on your behalf are carefully organized and addressed by God?
- Is there a person in your sphere of relationships that has yet to be prayed for?
Let’s make it a priority this a priority in our lives: that everyone around us will get a prayer submission from us in heaven on their behalf.
by Rachel Hunter on Apr 23, 2014
Some days are harder than others. More taxing, more tiring, more trying, more… I have had a few of those days this week. Headaches, congestion, overwhelming desire for a nap and just a general battle against sadness. As I was praying this morning on the drive to work, I felt like God spoke to me that days like that are a lot like “windy days.” You can drive the same road everyday (Hwy 287 for me) and all of the sudden, it is harder! The wind demands you to grasp the steering wheel tighter, sit up straighter, pay closer attention, and focus. What was easy & mindless yesterday, today, with the addition of the wind, is hard.
That’s exactly how our spiritual walk can be. One day we are whistling worship songs, playing board games with our kids and oozing love & kindness – the next day we can be driving against the wind, grasping our “steering wheel” with white knuckles trying not to lose control and hurt someone!
Scripture tells us in Ephesians 6:12-18, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. STAND FIRM THEN, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Sure, we need to equip ourselves with the armor of God every day, but when we feel the winds of adversity, we need to spend extra time in the truth of God’s word and in focused prayer. Of course, the winds are tiring and doing anything productive may feel like the last thing you want to do, but standing firm in our faith requires spiritual disciplines.
The winds can also require encouragement from Godly friends. Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Maybe your voicemail box is not full of encouraging words from friends, that’s ok! You can make the first move and ask a friend to pray for you. There is incredible power in hearing the prayer of a friend. My friends and I have prayed for each other over the phone in a long list of unexpected places!
So, tune in. Next time you feel extra agitated, unusually tired, sad or weak, know that it’s time to kick it up a notch spiritually! Some days are “windier” than others, but God gives us what we need to stand firm.
God and Gandalf
by Preston Horn on Apr 07, 2014
“A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.” Though he was talking about himself, I’ve been realizing that Gandalf was also explaining the timing of God. Often we create our own expectations of how God should deliver his answers. We ask God for things based on our own narrowly-focused perspective. We ask him to drop whatever he was doing before and help us NOW. And when God doesn’t deliver, we start questioning things. Is God real? Does he hear me? Does he care about me? Why is he letting this happen? God missed the deadline! I gave him clear instructions on my Santa-style wish list and he didn’t come through in time for Christmas! It turns out, though, that God is working on a much larger scale.
Have you ever seen a movie where the main character is acting shady and you start to think he’s bad? All along he was supposed to be good, but now he’s not acting the way we expect him to. Is he bad now? I think he’s bad now! But in the end it turns out, he wasn’t bad at all. He just had a grander plan than we knew about. He had a plan that he couldn’t unveil or make obvious because it would’ve changed the entire feel of the movie. The suspense, excitement and even overall outcome was hinged upon his actions being specific and intentional. That’s how God works! He’s God of the universe, thus he’s taking into account all of his children at the same time. He’s playing a master game of chess and knows where all the pieces are at all times. When he doesn’t deliver the answer in time, we’ve got to realize that WE’RE the ones who set the deadline. God doesn’t have much of a track record for being early. That would be imperfect and wasteful. And he’s definitely not late, that would be sloppy and not his style. God is on time. But he’s on HIS time. He DOES answer. He IS real. He DOES hear you. But He’s waiting for the perfect moment. The exact second for things to fall in place. He’s ready and willing to answer, but he does so like Gandalf. He arrives precisely when he means to.
The Home You Want
by Elisha Garcia on Mar 24, 2014
Being newly married I’ve learned a lot things. I’ve learned helping in home affairs are important. I’ve learned that life happens very quickly and any time together should be cherished. I’ve quickly learned the old adage that “a happy wife is a happy life.” Most importantly I’ve learned that I have the ability and the responsibility to create the home I want.
If I want to see more love in our home, I’m responsible to show more love. If I want to see help and support in our home, I have to be the first to give help and show support. More importantly, if I want to see more of God in our home I need to be chasing after and pursuing more of God. The level in which I pursue God will directly determine the level of God in which my home experiences.
As men, we’ve been given special charge to “love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” Eph. 5:25. This shows our huge role as a leader in the home. Christ gave unselfishly to the Church. With obedience and passion He gave his everything to what mattered most to Him. As a husband I must give unselfishly, with passion and obedience not only to God, but also to my wife and home. As a husband I must lead our home with integrity, love, and compassion.
Don’t let your life, family, or home end up somewhere on accident, but rather through a collection of intentional efforts and choices press towards the place God wants you to be. Whether it’s love, support, or more of God, you and I are absolutely involved in the equation of what our home looks like.
Husbands, be intentional in creating the home you want.
by Natalie Salinas on Mar 14, 2014
Lately, God has been teaching me a lot about having patience and reminding me that everything is in HIS timing. As a person who likes to thoroughly plan things out in her head and wants to know what is right around every corner, this time has been a challenge. As a woman, and now a mother, I am constantly fighting the need to always have everything under control. I am finding out that the more I give in to my need for control, the more I feel like my life gets out of control.
There have been several specific things that AJ and I have been in constant prayer for lately. Sometimes it feels like when you pray for something so hard and so often you can start to get God’s voice and your voice confused. Then I get concerned that I am not going to know or see when God begins to work in my situations. What never fails to amaze me is that when God finally answers your prayers or open a door, It is the most clear answer to me.
As much as this season has been a challenge, this has also been such a fulfilling time for my family and I. God has already began to work in our situations and show us his love and grace. He is NEVER late! With all this encouragement I am receiving from God in my family, I will continue reminding myself that He will not be late for Living Church. There is so much excitement in my heart to know that God chose you and I to be apart of His will for Living Church and the people of Mansfield. In my excitement, there is also uncertainty and an itch to be impatient.
In every area of my life, there have been a few verses that have given me peace and the patience I need so badly. One being Exodus 14:14 “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” So short and so simple, but also very powerful. As a person who likes to have control of everything, I find myself repeating that verse in my head to remind me that I don’t always have to do all the fighting; God I already working in my favor.
Have You Thought About Eternity Lately?
by Derek Guynes on Feb 25, 2014
There are a lot of words. There are a lot of human arguments. There is a lot of human wisdom. Probably more human foolishness. We get tied up in a lot of theological debate. There are a lot of questions. There are some answers. Probably more questions though. Some people aren’t satisfied with the answers. Some people don’t see enough evidence. Some people see more than enough evidence. Some people are offended. Some people get mad. Some people just stop trying. Some people repent and seek forgiveness. Some get distracted. Some get discouraged. Some people overcome. Some turn to the world. Some turn to God.
Everyone dies, though. Everyone will stand before God. And there will be no more arguing.
“In the end, there are really only two types of people: Those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” – C.S. Lewis
Hebrews 9:27 − 28: “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.”
God, let us not lose our eager expectation of Christ’s return. Though the love of many grows cold, let our hearts burn with love for you, for your word, and your church. Come, Lord Jesus, come!