Learning to Fly

This week's blog is by guest blogger, Meredith Jolley. Although her home is in Australia, Meredith attended World Mandate 2018 in Detroit and was greatly impacted by her experience. We're so grateful for her open heart to share her reflections with us!

So how does an Aussie girl end up at World Mandate Detroit?

God of course!

I live in Adelaide, Australia (google it) and about a year ago God plucked me out of a personally harmful church situation - a legalistic church I had grown up in and been to for 29 years. Since that time God has taken me on an amazing journey of faith and healing that has been tough and yet liberating. Each step of the way has required me to let go of something and simply say "Yes" to God - like dropping off a cliff and learning to fly for the first time. So much of me and my heart has been suppressed all of my life and now the prison doors are open and I am free to worship and serve God. I have a God-given heart desire for people that burns inside of me - to see people set free from whatever imprisonment is in their life.

So when a friend told me about World Mandate, something resonated very strongly with the beating of my heart. I felt God saying very clearly:

"just be there, take hold of this opportunity."

One way we encountered God at World Mandate was through the incredible times of corporate worship. As a church, we joined together to lift God up in song. Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

One way we encountered God at World Mandate was through the incredible times of corporate worship. As a church, we joined together to lift God up in song. Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

I came with no expectations apart from being open to God. And He filled my heart in overflowing abundance! I had a real encounter with my Father and experienced His embrace, bringing release and hope. And re-igniting the burning desire to step off the cliff by saying "Yes" to God no matter what.

As a result of World Mandate, I have 3 things I believe God wants me to step out in faith:

  1. Step away from my past - open my heart to be healed, find a group of people to run with.
  2. Step back into Bible study - deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ so that I can touch people's lives in a deeper way.
  3. Reach out to a disadvantaged people group in a practical way.
God also encounters us through prayer, as we lift one another up to him. Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

God also encounters us through prayer, as we lift one another up to him. Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

World Mandate 2018 was an amazing, challenging, uplifting and life-changing experience. Through energetic worship, powerful teaching and a real encounter with God I felt so surrounded by love and freedom from anything that would hold me back - the Holy Spirit was definitely at work and evident in this place. I walked away from the time with a heart to say "Yes" to God no matter what, whatever he says and whenever he desires.

Two other thoughts stood out to me:

When we drink of Him at the wells of intimacy there is power and freedom.

and

Saying yes to God is saying I am going until He says no.

Singing "Jehovah Jireh" is an Antioch Tradition that dates back to the early years when World Mandate was a small missions conference in Waco, TX. Over 20 years (and a few musical updates) later, Jireh lives on. We closed out the conference with a full-out worship party, complete with balloons. Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Singing "Jehovah Jireh" is an Antioch Tradition that dates back to the early years when World Mandate was a small missions conference in Waco, TX. Over 20 years (and a few musical updates) later, Jireh lives on. We closed out the conference with a full-out worship party, complete with balloons. Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

I am inspired and re-energized to be part of God's work around the world reaching out to meet people's needs and available for His use. God used World Mandate in a powerful way to open my heart to Him. Life is a journey and God is asking me to take a chance and step out in faith.

What is he asking you?

Looking Back to Look Forward

I’ve recognized something….I constantly am looking ahead, looking towards the future, what’s next. When I do that I can miss the present and overlook the past.

Well, to prevent us as a church from doing that, this past Sunday we concluded our "This Is Us" series with a family State of the Church message. It was basically a year in review. Looking back on 2017 recognizing the grace of God and celebrating His faithfulness. As we look back, we also look forward with excitement about the opportunity the ground that will be taken in 2018. Here is the 2017 Report…..

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These numbers are your stories, your invitations to Lifegroup or Sunday service, your giving, serving, sharing the gospel!  I love our church family and am so glad to be a part of it with you!

We are so excited about all that God is going to do in and through you and our church in 2018! BE EXPECTANT!


About the Author: Jason serves as the connections pastor at Antioch Ann Arbor. Jason loves helping people discover who God is and who they are in Christ. He is usually next to one of his four prettiest girls on the face of the earth (his wife or three daughters.)

New Resolutions

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

For most people, the New Year is seen a time of improvement for oneself. It is likely that the most frequent question you have been faced with this month is “Oh, so what is your New Year’s Resolution?” Statistic Brain’s published the most recent responses to that exact question for the year of 2017:

 Rank                       Top Resolutions                                %

1                      Lose Weight/ Healthier Eating                21.4  

2                     Life/ Self Improvements                          12.3

3                      Better Financial Decisions                       8.5

4                      Quit Smoking                                           7.1

5                      Do More Exciting Thing                           6.3

6                     Spend Time with Family/ Friends            6.2

7                     Work Out More Often                               5.5

8                     Learn Something New on my Own          5.3

9                      Do More Good Deeds for Others            5.2

10                     Find the Love of my Life                        4.3

11                      Find a Better Job                                     4.1

----                    Other                                                     13.8

Are any of them relatable to your personal change?

Last Sunday, Jordan (the pastor at Antioch Ann Arbor) presented the same cultural question with a biblical twist. He referenced first Corinthians chapter three verse two (1 Cor 3.2), which says “I gave you spiritual milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” This correlates with the New Year by emphasizing the notion that spiritual growth can be an area for intentional improvement as well - not just physical, mental, and emotional.

At the time that the letter was written, the citizens of Corinth were going through their own process of imitating Christ. Paul addressed the idea that the place they were at was of low maturity in the Spirit. They were given a simpler resolution, one of “milk.”

No matter where you are at spirituality, there is always room for growth; don’t be discouraged if you still need “milk.” At times, I think we all need to be fed metaphorical milk, instead of solid food. I would encourage you to take this New Year’s resolution as one distinct from more mundane or worldly resolutions. Instead, ponder how you can grow in the Spirit with the help of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.

About the Author: Gabby Sines is a student at Washtenaw Community College and a scholar of the History of the Near East. Her favorite animal is the giraffe, and she strives for her primary aspiration to be to glorify the Lord in everything.


“New Years Resolutions Statistics.” Statistics Brain, 1 January 2017, https://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/. Accessed 13 January 2018.

Hopeful Anticipation

Traditions.

Such a simple word, but one that brings up so many emotions and memories. As a kid I was always amazed at how various cultures celebrated holidays so differently. I grew up celebrating Christmas outside in 90-degree weather, with fireworks and ice cream. Since moving to the States, I have realized that my “normal” Christmas feels more like the “normal” 4th of July for most people raised in the USA. Yet this difference in traditions has only made me appreciate more the pre-season festivities and anticipation that Christmas brings.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

I have learned to enjoy all the traditional Christmas carols that kick off the season. I was so excited when I found out that we were going to learn more about this topic as a church through the advent season. Music has a unique way of reaching to the depth of our hearts and influencing the way we think. This year I have been thinking a lot about what it means to anticipate. During the Christmas season, we anticipate Emmanuel. We look for. We hope. We await. Through music, we hear the message of salvation over and over again – and we let it take root in our heart.  We anticipate the “Holy Night.” The night where “the stars are brightly shining; it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth…”

As we enter the new year, let us continue to grow in anticipation.

Just as we await the celebration of the birth of our Savior during the Christmas season, let us increase in hope as we await his return. At Christmas, we celebrate because God sent His son to bring hope to a hopeless world. Now, that hope has come, and we eagerly await the fulfillment of that hope. At the start of this year, as we look ahead, let our thoughts and our goals be characterized by the hope that Jesus brought, and the anticipation of his coming.

About the Author: Maribeth has recently discovered a love for writing and communicating what the Lord has put on her heart through the written word. Maribeth currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is part of Antioch Community Church. You might find her drinking chai at a local coffee shop with a good book in hand, working at the local hospital as a nurse, or enjoying her new friends. But one thing is certain, she will probably have on some form of pink attire.

Love and Worship

Last Sunday, Ian, one of the worship pastors, spoke about the seven Hebrew words for praise described throughout the Old Testament. As a recap, below are “The Seven Hebrew Words for Praise” that Ian outlined for us:

  1. Zamar- “to pluck the strings and sing along”
  2. Tehillah- to sing out who God is; such as when we sing “The Lord is enthroned on the praises of his people”
  3. Barak- to kneel down and bless God in adoration
  4. Yadah- to extend hands in adoration or acceptance
  5. Towdah - to throw up your hands, expressing excitement; may also refer to drawing or painting during worship
  6. Shabach - to triumph, to shout, to proclaim
  7. Hallal - to be clamorously foolish and hopeful
Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Some of us come from church traditions that are comfortable with many of these forms of corporate worship, while others of us may be familiar with singing along to a worship band, but may be less familiar with the more expressive forms. While the idea of raising our hands in worship, let alone jumping or dancing around, may seem foreign and awkward, Ian highlighted how corporately praising God with our whole selves - body, soul, mind - is a manifestation of God’s Presence. It prepares a space for Him to come among us. The message is an important aspect of Advent - coming together to celebrate the coming of the Messiah, the One who saves.

It took time for me to let go of my self-consciousness to embrace all seven forms of praise. Because my church growing up did not have a culture that encouraged all of these ways of praising God, I felt awkward and self-conscious when I would feel the desire to “throw up my hands” exuberantly. Yet I knew it was right to express praise through hand raising and a bit of dancing. We would sing jubilant songs, and talk excitedly at the pulpit about the goodness of God, yet our corporate worship didn’t express those feelings. It wasn’t until college that I found a place where I felt free to step outside of my comfort zone.

Praise is inherent to who we are as human beings. Our actions often reflect our hearts, and can also reorient our hearts, even if we do not feel something in the moment.

If scripture says “...people look at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7), then why is it valuable to cultivate a church culture that embraces all seven forms of praise?

The answer is also in Scripture. Deuteronomy 6:5 states “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” It is a command, but not an obligation. When we truly love something or someone, it will be evident in our words and actions. If our love of God is not evident through these things, it is quite possible that we have yet to truly experience the fullness of His love for us.

And how do we experience that love? The answer is again in Scripture. John 15 states that to remain in God’s love we do what he commands. And his command is to “love each other” as God has loved us. When we remain in Christ by following his commands, we bear much fruit - leave a lasting legacy that leads to flourishing of ourselves and others.

One way that I remain in God’s love while I am in corporate worship is to ask Him how he wants to me to engage Him in that moment. Sometimes that is listening to the worship leader and responding to what they say, whether it is raising my hands, singing loudly, or kneeling before God. Sometimes he will bring a person to mind that I will go and pray for. Other times he is revealing something in me that I feel conviction of, which I can confess before Him and other people. Sometimes I will feel really stretched to be more dynamic in worship, to really dance at my seat or move to a space where I can move without inhibiting others’ worship. Sometimes that is making my own song to the Lord during breaks in the music. Sometimes, he is simply encouraging me, and I experience his sweetness and closeness in an almost palpable way. Those moments are my absolute favorite.

There is a lot of freedom in corporate worship, but the objective is the same - to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And, to love each other.

About the Author: Gabby hails from Waco, Tx where she received her undergraduate degree in social work. She calls herself a Michigander now, and is excited for the next adventure with God in Ann Arbor and Detroit! Geography is her favorite subject, and as the American daughter of Filipino immigrants, she is no stranger to a diversity of food, culture and travel. You can often find her at the local rock wall, hitting the pavement around Ypsi/A2 or, her favorite, getting quality time with good friends.

Can we shift the atmosphere this Holiday?

3 words come to mind when I think about going home for the holidays:

food,

fellowship,

and family.

For many of us, we get excited about the holidays and about spending time with loved ones, but may have apprehension about the conflict or tension that often naturally arises when you gather half a dozen or a dozen adults together that live very different day to day lives.

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Many of us have ourselves or have seen other people shy away from spending time with loved ones because of deep seated conflict, relational tension, or disagreements that have been allowed to fester in our hearts, contributing to roots of bitterness towards our loved ones. 

I've been praying for breakthrough in a handful of familial relationships in my life for a few months now, but have recently struggled with the question of: What does it look like to hope for change, breakthrough, restoration, and reconciliation in these relationships? When I think about trying to dig into these issues, I almost automatically shy away, believing that this is just the way it's “meant” to be. It's as if the promise that the Lord gives Habakkuk in chapter 1 -

“For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.”

- is not a good enough promise to be true in my life. It's as if I’m telling the Lord that He is not trustworthy to bring breakthrough in the area of familial reconciliation.

In discipleship last month, we were digging into Romans 4:13-25 which is a passage about Abraham’s faith when it comes to the Lord’s promise to give him and Sarah a child. Verse 18 says: 

“Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping.”

Abraham was nearly 100 years old, well past the “be fruitful and multiply” years, yet he kept hoping because

“he was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises.”

Abraham clung to God’s promise, knowing that God is the God who creates new things out of nothing. Our God is a God who breathes hope into hopeless situations.   

So, my perspective is shifting in this season from being one of hopelessness, believing that the familial relationships in my life were too far gone, to a place of declaring hope, especially when there is no reason for hope. My prayer has become, "Lord would you give me a glimpse of heavenly hope and bring Heaven to earth through reconciliation of familial relationships?"

The Challenge:

Go into the holiday season with proclamation of the Lord’s promises over your life and over your family. As the Bryan and Kate Torwalt song says, “Our Champion, You fight for us. You made a way, where there was none…We will shout it out, from the mountain tops, that our God is good, He has overcome.”

The Practicals:

How can we practically engage with those relationships in our families that seem to be too far gone? 

Last week in the discipleship school, Ted (our discipleship school director) challenged us to be thermostats during the holidays instead of thermometers. You see, thermometers rise and fall in temperature based on their atmosphere. Thermometers are driven by their circumstances. On the other hand, thermostats set the atmosphere. Thermostats drive the environment instead of being driven by the environment. When conversations turn towards conflict or situations are filled with tension, stop and call out the gold in someone. It can be as simple as saying, "hey I just want to let you know that I really appreciate your smile and value the way that you served us at dinner last night." 

Try it out. You may be surprised how powerful it can be to be a thermostat, one who shifts the atmosphere, instead of being a thermometer, one who allows themselves to be shifted by the atmosphere. Let's believe together this holiday season for breakthrough in our families and pray for Heaven to come to earth in our familial relationships.

About the Author: Christiana thrives on saying "yes" to new adventures, connecting with people on a deep relational level, and eating Saturday morning brunch. She works locally as a Physical Therapist and also serves at Antioch Ann Arbor as the Production Director. Christiana is passionate about partnering with individuals to prepare, equip and mobilize them to operate best in who God has made them to be and accomplish the purpose that the Lord has set upon their life.

Is this Righteous Anger?

*Published with the happy permission of my father and myself, who are now in a place of peace and unity.

I was angry at my dad.

I went for a four mile run in the brisk spring air. Snow and ice was melting all around, and it caused rivers of water to drain down the sides of street. I ran, sprinting between pockets of pavement and ice.

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

It seemed as if it was the hundredth time my dad and I had tried to have a civil discussion to smooth out our differences. He tried; he honestly did. I think I could believe that. But how did he still fail to understand or respect how I thought differently than him? It was as if my political views were the only thing worth talking about; not anything else I did. I was summed up in what I believed politically. I felt like a project he needed to fix.

It had been two years after I went to college and came home excited by new thoughts and conversations, and we still hadn’t figured out how to talk. My dad seemed to not understand me or respect what I was thinking about, and so I struggled to feel that I and my convictions were valued by him.

I prayed as I ran. Was there anything we hadn’t tried yet? My dad and I were both committed to Christ. We prayed. We cared about our unity and the peace between us. But we just seemed unable to get it.

As I neared the last quarter mile of my run, exhaustion set in and I stilled myself by the road, staring down at the streams of water flowing past me. It was cold and I started to shiver, but I knelt down and put my fingers into the cold, crystal water.

“If your father never changes, will you love him?”

I heard the question clearly, and tears sprung into my eyes.

I don’t want him to not change, I told God. I don’t want this to be my lot for the rest of our time as family.

“It doesn’t have to be.”

It was clear now to me what God was asking, and I started to cry more. It had been a long time since we had started to try to settle our differences. I tried to learn different argument techniques to explain myself. I tried different listening techniques to open myself to hearing him better. But we still just felt aggravated.

It was time to forgive him.

I tried to argue with God. I don’t want to settle, I told him. I don’t want to give up on this.

But that was exactly what I needed to do.

Anger is an emotion of injustice. “Hate what is evil,” God says, “and cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Anger at racism is an appropriate response. Anger at mistreatment, at lying, at the oppression of others or ourselves. Anger motivates us to keep going and press in and right wrongs.

If I never accepted my dad for not understanding me, though, I would be treating him exactly as I felt he was treating me. I had to give it up. Then there would be peace.

Throughout this process with my dad, I had often wondered if I was unnecessarily clinging to anger, and I tried to offer my anger to God regularly to take it away. It wasn’t until this moment, though, that God was calling me to lay it down. He was ending the battle.

The Bible calls us to “be angry and do not sin.” Right after that it says, “do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Right before this it says, “Put away lying. Let each of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25-27).

See that order?

  1. Speak truth.
  2. Be angry and do not sin.
  3. Do not let the sun go down on your anger.

Do you have anger in your life?

Have you tried all of these steps? Have you tried telling someone about your anger? It doesn’t have to be the person or people that cause the anger at first. Seek insight from someone you trust: someone in your Life Group, your discipleship group, your spouse.

Have you just let yourself be angry? Have you accepted that, and cried out to God about your pain? Have you let yourself be angry but committed to not acting out of vengeance or aggression?

Is God calling you to let go of that anger? Have you asked him recently what he thinks about it? Is He calling you to let go of it?

The comfort is that when God is calling us to give up anger, we will know it - if we are staying close to him. Like Jordan was saying this week, God is not looking to demand a list of rules from us. He’s looking for relationship, and He is for us. If we say the same as the psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart,” we place ourselves right in the center of God’s heart to be safely comforted.

If we regularly submit our emotions, our rights, and our anger to God, this will keep bitterness out of our soul and keep us pliable to the direction God would lead us in. Then we need not fear anger getting a hold of our lives. We need not fear anger at all.

About the Author: Allison is a massage therapy student at Schoolcraft College and waitress at Zola Bistro. When she isn't doing these two things, she's probably doing something around Antioch. She loves prayer, worship, and spending time with her connect group!

Do we walk in victory?

Last Sunday, we stood together and declared: “Hallelujah, you have won the victory. Hallelujah, you have won it all for me.” But what do these words really mean? And do we really believe them?

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Let’s face it. We often walk around feeling defeated. Defeated by our own sin. Defeated by the world’s sin. By spiritual darkness. Depression. Anxiety. Loneliness. Defeated by apathy, lethargy, or complacency. (Now, to be clear, facing these things is different than feeling defeated by these things.) Maybe you have accepted defeat by shelving dreams the Lord has put on your heart or accepting “good enough” as your calling.

To walk around feeling defeated (as a follower of Christ) is to walk in a lie. Let me say that again.

To walk around in defeat is to live outside of reality.

Let’s take a look at what scripture has to say.

Psalm 3: 2-3, 8
Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain…From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.

If I may, allow me to paraphrase the first part of that passage…

“I could believe what I’m hearing, that I am defeated and will not be delivered. But that’s a lie. You guard me, Lord. You are my victory and honor. And with you, I don’t walk with a downcast expression and my eyes lowered in defeat, because you lift my head up high.”

Furthermore, in John 16, Jesus tells us to have hope and courage when we face the hard things. Why? Because he’s already overcome them.

John 16:33
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If we already have the victory in Christ, why do we so often feel defeated?

I don’t have all the answers, but I know in my life, it’s often because I allow lies to reign. I don’t combat them with truth. I accept that whatever I’m facing or feeling is “just how it is” and forget that I don’t have to walk in what I feel is my this moment-reality, because I’ve obtained an eternal victory through Christ. And even when the lies, or the complacency, or whatever brokenness it is feels crushing, I won’t be crushed, because I have a firm foundation of victory. Even if I’m sitting on the floor feeling a little shattered, I sit on a foundation of victory, and it’s sturdy and constant and full of hope.

It may also be a faulty understanding of what victory is that prevents us from walking in it. We assume victory feels one way, when it really doesn’t. We assume it feels like power and joy and rainbows. We assume that because we face resistance and repetitive battles that we don’t have victory. But Proverbs 24:16 says,

...for the righteous falls seven times and rises again...

Maybe the victory isn’t necessarily in the not falling but in the getting up again, in having the power to get up again and again and again until you reach that place where you aren’t knocked down. And before you go thinking you don’t have that power…

1 John 5:1, 4
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God... everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world...

victory2.jpg

As we sang about victory this past week, God reminded me of dreams he’s placed in my heart, dreams I had labeled as idealistic “maybes” for the very distant future, and he spoke victory over them: “I have already won the victories for these. You just have to walk in them.”

What victories has God won for you that you need to walk in?

1 Corinthians 15:57
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

About the Author: Ana is a Michigan native who likes putting honey in her coffee, singing in the car, and dancing when walking would do. She currently works in the Ann Arbor area as a dance teacher and as a receptionist at Arbor Woman Pregnancy Center. Her heart is for every person to know the deep love, identity, and mercy that can be found in the Father.

The Strangest Thing

So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people generally are pretty self-interested. We have a culture in America that not only tolerates but promotes it. It’s “right” to do what we want, which is usually in the interest of ourselves. And, though we're told this is how we should live, is that even Biblical?

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

 

Here are some examples from my daily thoughts—you’ll get the idea.

  • “I don’t want to interact with my classmate, I have homework that I could be doing and I don’t think we’d have things in common.”
  • “I don’t want to have to give her a ride in my car so I just won’t invite her.”
  • “Man, I have a whole day free, what can I do that will be fun?”
  • “I need to get to work on time, why is everyone driving so slow?”
  • “I need help myself, I am not going to offer help.”
  • “Why haven’t I heard back from the UofM about my application, I deserve an answer.”

I’m sure you get the point.

A lot of my day (maybe yours too) is me-centric (I think I just made that word up). Okay yes, so, I am so me-centric. But this attitude is in no way biblical. It’s man-made. In fact, Philippians 2:3-4 offers quite the opposite perspective:

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

The message that was given last week by Jordan Ogden addressed the Nicene Creed. What is that? Essentially in 325 AD Christians across Europe met together to combat a heresy that was spreading rapidly. The blasphemy was that Jesus Christ was not divine, he was made by God like Adam, Noah, Seth, David, me, you, etc. By the way, this is the only time in history that the ecumenical church came together to agree on a creed.

Here’s where I am going with this whole thing, if Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit are of one—in perfect union—then they didn’t have to invite humans into their life. It wasn’t critical to their existence to create woman and man, but they did! They did in order to bring us into their perfect, united circle.

This is the strangest thing. Get ready. So, the last month I have been letting go of my needs and trying to look for the needs of others. If you’re reading this, know me, and think I am pretty selfish…awkward. But really, I have! So, I have been actively seeking out the needs of others and it is actually more satisfying than serving myself. Strange, right? 

So, to sum this up. God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit invited us into their lives of fullness, which enables us to do that for others. They sacrificed for us; we are to copy their example for others. The strangest thing is that it is worth it.

That’s a wrap.

About the Author: Gabby Sines is a student at Washtenaw Community College and is studying the history of the Near East. Her favorite animal is the giraffe, and she strives for her primary aspiration to be to glorify the Lord in everything.

Can risk change the world?

As a new graduate student at University of Michigan, I am learning much more about the culture of the unchurched and the formerly churched and angry. The school that I am a part of is filled with students who have a very negative view of Christianity, seeing many Christians as narrow-minded, judgmental, racist, homophobic and the symbol of power and status quo in the United States. Often times, this attitude stems from deep pain caused from interactions with Christians that have been a poor reflection of the love of Christ and the transformational power of the Good News.

Now that I have experienced a small glimpse into campus culture as a student, I understand why many students are so surprised by our Encouragement Café outreaches. When students say with genuine shock “Wow, this is the most positive interaction that I have ever had with a Christian,” I’m less taken aback.

The prevalence of this perspective of Christianity requires me to wonder at church culture and the hearts and actions of Christians. Is this negative outlook of Christianity simply the perverted thought process of unsanctified individuals, or are their deeper issues at foot that Christians should reflect upon more deeply?

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Jason spoke about taking risks as Christians. As Christians, he said, we are God’s Plan A for the world as those entrusted with really good news: that no one is too far from God’s grace. The flip side is that when Christians fail to take risks, fail to look beyond the walls of their own church community, the world loses an important force to combat evil. As the Bible says in Ephesians 6:12 “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.” We, as Christ followers, were not meant to be bound up in the safety of people who think, act, and look similarly to us, but to go and preach the good news near and far, to heal people, love people, and see people break free from the bondage of sin and darkness.

I have been reading a book on rest days called Eternity in their Hearts by Don Richardson. It depicts missionary work in places around the globe among many minority ethnic groups, and describes how within folk religions is knowledge of the unseen God who created everything. Many have an oral tradition that tells the story of how people once followed a Creator God, but just like the Israelites in the Old Testament, went astray. However, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11). With patience, humility, deep observation and study, missionaries discovered the Eternal God story woven into the culture of many different peoples, and when those people found the way in which to know that God, revival happened.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

As missionaries in this field of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, we are the ones discovering the God story embedded in the culture of the people that we live among. Eternity is written in the hearts of man, and no man is too far from the grace of God. One bridge that I’ve found in my field of study was through one of my readings in a diversity class on social theory. George W. Allport developed a theory called Contact Theory, regarding what contact must occur between rival groups to overcome prejudice and stereotypes. The theory fascinated me because as I read the five criteria for contact that breaks down walls of prejudice and discrimination, I was immediately reminded of the Church. The descriptors are as follows:

  1. sustained contact between people who are different from one another,
  2. individuals interacting with each other must be of equal status,
  3. individuals need to be working toward common goals,
  4. there must be sufficient resources to prevent competition for these resources and
  5. there must be institutional support to implement the other four conditions

(Marsiglia & Kulis 92)

Based on Contact Theory, the Church can be a mechanism for social change to break down the walls in our society that divide people, such as race, socioeconomic status, gender, physical ability, sexuality and even religion. The Church as a body of believers can be a means for people who are different from one another to interact on equal footing, where individuals can work toward common goals, supporting each other by meeting each other’s needs, within an institution that supports these conditions. That is the ideal, and while the reality can be far from that ideal, when I see Church at its best, all of these criteria are met and far more.

I believe in the Church, and our own church body. As those who are followers of Christ, we persevere through challenges and face the odds, because we know that our reward surpasses momentary troubles. When we risk in Christ, as Jason said, there is great reward. We just need to keep looking towards the Kingdom of God.

“Do not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

About the Author: Gabby hails from Waco, Tx, but she calls herself a Michigander and a Wolverine, now, as she pursues her Masters in Social Work at U of M. Geography is her favorite subject, and as the American daughter of Filipino immigrants, she is no stranger to a diversity of food, culture and travel. You can often find her at the local rock wall, hitting the pavement around Ypsi/A2 or, her favorite, getting quality time with good friends.

Love Prays

Last Sunday, Jason Sudan, one of our pastors, spoke on the theme “Love Prays”. He briefly mentioned Nehemiah of the Old Testament, and how Nehemiah was moved with compassion for God’s holy city of Jerusalem after hearing how the Jews were faring in Jerusalem (of Judah) after returning from exile.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I’ve been thinking about Nehemiah lately, even prior to this past Sunday’s talk. What strikes me the most about him is just how faithful he was. Jason called him a “praying man.” This is true from the very beginning of his story. Nehemiah weeps over the fact that the Jews are living in a fallen city filled with destruction, and he turns to God in response: 

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses. 

“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’ 

“The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” 

Nehemiah 1:4-11

After this (sort of) heavy introduction to Nehemiah, we learn that he is a cupbearer, which is someone who would serve wine in a royal household. It was an esteemed and honorable position only given to those with trustworthy character. It then makes sense why Nehemiah would be asking God for favor with the king, of all people. Why Nehemiah needs favor exactly, we don’t know yet.

As the book continues, we are taken into Nehemiah’s mission of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, (the reason he needs favor with the king). There are many difficult hurdles along the way, and it is not an easy feat by any means - although it was accomplished in an astonishing 52 days. 

But notice how, from the beginning, Nehemiah never prayed, “God, would YOU rebuild this city, and would YOU bring into fullness what you promised”. Rather, Nehemiah realizes the burden in his heart and takes action. He prays to God for help along the way, but never demands some miraculous event to take place while he just sits back and watches. 

I think it’s important to realize how great a deal of courageous and risky work Nehemiah had to put in to accomplish this feat. Some of you may read this and think, “Should I be doing what Nehemiah did in some fashion?” I think the answer boils down to the fact that God’s servants do not have the same gifts, the same tasks, the same success, or the same degree of divine intervention. It is partly a matter of where we fit into God’s unfolding redemptive purposes. Let God be God, and let’s just be faithful with what’s been placed on our hearts. Nehemiah accomplished such an incredible feat in so short a time because it's what the Lord had called him to - he was operating within the purposes God had for his life.

God can operate in the so-called “natural” course of events. Putting aside the idea that God only encompasses the spectacular or miraculous and who shows up only through signs and wonders, we plainly see in Nehemiah a man who was faithful through prayer and action. Equally important, we see a loving and faithful God who was beside him through the grueling process. Like Nehemiah, when we are faithful in prayer and action to what God has placed on our hearts, we will see God's love and faithfulness as we see his purposes lived out in our lives.

About the Author: Jaret is originally from Sugar Land, TX, but moved to Ann Arbor with his wife after graduating from Texas A&M to be an engineer for Toyota. They now live in Ypsilanti and have a puppy for a child. Jaret loves community and making friends, and can’t get enough of these Michigan summers!

Greener Grass

It has been said that the grass is never greener on the other side… Yet, as humans, we tend to always want what we don’t have; we long for the grass on the other side - the grass we think is greener. Our heart longs and dreams for what we think could be. But contrary to this desire, as followers of Jesus, we are called to water the grass where we are planted.

This was a lesson that I learned while in South Africa with Antioch Discipleship School earlier this year. At that time, the Antioch Church in Cape Town was studying the same passage that Jason shared a couple of Sundays ago (Jeremiah 29:4-7). One of the phrases that the Cape Town pastor repeatedly said was:

“Water the grass where God has called you to be.”

Antioch Young Adults "watering the grass" at U of M by serving students through an Encouragement Cafe. (Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines)

Antioch Young Adults "watering the grass" at U of M by serving students through an Encouragement Cafe. (Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines)

This phrase has helped me understand that even though I do not know the timeline that God has for me, I do know that I can have purpose, because I am called to water the grass here in Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti. Let’s take a closer look at what the passage says:

4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NIV)

This passage illustrates how God is calling the Israelites who are in captivity to water the grass where God has placed them. I don't know about you, but if I was in captivity and relocated to a different land against my will, I would not want to contribute to the good of that place. Yet, God is telling the people of Israel to build, to plant, to get married and have kids. He also instructs the Israelites to not just be planted but also to do good in the land that they are in: to water the grass where God has placed them.

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On Sunday Jason called us to be people who do good in the communities that we are in by being people who worship God, share in God’s rescue plan and show compassion to the people around us. This means that every day as we go to work, class, the store, life group, etc we would be people that carry the gospel and share that with the people around us. It means that we go out of our way to do good and water the places where we are called to be.

Maybe for some of you this idea of "watering where you are planted" comes really naturally, but maybe you're not even sure what this looks like. This Saturday, as a church, we are going after this concept in a really practical way through Love Where You Live. We are so excited to love and serve our community and to do good in our city! We hope you'll join us!

You can go to http://www.antiocha2.org/events/ and click on Love Where you Live to sign up. We hope to see you on Saturday!


About the Author: Maribeth has recently discovered a love for writing and communicating what the Lord has put on her heart through the written word. Maribeth currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is part of Antioch Community Church. You might find her drinking chai at a local coffee shop with a good book in hand, working at the local hospital as a nurse, or enjoying her new friends. But one thing is certain, she will probably have on some form of pink attire.

What's in your Joy Bucket?

What do you want right now? What you really desire in this season of life? What’s that thing you wonder about while lying awake at night or before rising in the morning? I’m not talking about world peace, salvation for everyone on earth, and food for all the starving children. Those are great...but no.

I’m talking about your personal desires, goals. What makes your smile waver when you see other people with the thing you want but don’t have? That makes you feel the world as you know it will end if you don’t get it?

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Got it in mind? Now answer this:

What do you want life to be like if you never get it?

(Blank stare). "Um, Lis...what do you mean?"

I mean, imagine a life where you would never receive that thing. What do you want your life to look like?

"Why would I waste energy imagining life without it? Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). Also - death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21), so I’m not going to speak lack over my life!! And besides, God gives good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11), so...I know I’m going to get what I’ve been believing for."

Maybe you didn’t respond that way to my question. But I did when it was asked of me.

So, what is it that I want?

Eep. Vulnerable moment alert. I’m going to follow the example of my dear friend Mac (who writes so vulnerably on her blog), and I’m just going to close my eyes and jump in.

I want to end my current status of being single.

OhMyGoshISaiditOutLoud. DontLookAtMe.

I’ve been wanting to begin my journey of meeting and getting to know my life partner, forever friend. It’s awkward to admit on a public forum (flashback to nightmares of showing up to class in my underwear) and in a time of life where various precious friends are in beautiful relationships. (I’m genuinely happy for y’all - you know this!). I’m not thinking about the ridiculous “ticking clock,” eggs drying up, or wanting to get married before I have a head full of silver hair (first silver appeared at age 19).

I’ve been thinking about sunsets that would be nice to share with someone. Moments when I want to talk to someone, but I don’t feel like chatting with a girlfriend, or my family, or even God. Wanting to build and grow with someone.

And I’ve felt discontent.

Earlier this month, a good friend of mine told me she is studying the fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5. Her excitement about what she’s been learning encouraged me to do the same. So far, I’ve covered the first four listed in Galatians 5:22. On my second day of the study, my experience reading verse 22 went like this:

“...But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy…” Ugh. (Side-eye). God, can you please remove this mirror from my face? I genuinely smile, I feel truly happy for and with others. But I’m discontent when I look at myself. And if I’m discontent, I am lacking joy.

I then asked the logical next question: “How can I get joy?” Right now I don’t feel that same joy I felt when my relationship with Jesus first began.

The phrase “...that your joy may be full” popped into my mind. I immediately asked Dr. Google for assistance, and I was led to John 15:10-13, where Jesus says to His disciples:

"If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." 

Jesus wants me to obey the Father’s command. The Father’s command is: love other people sacrificially. As I do that, I will be engulfed by the love of the Father. And the joy that Jesus has will be the joy that I have. And my “joy bucket” won’t have any empty ounces. It’ll be full to the brim - overflowing even.

Jesus willingly endured great pain for me, and He wasn’t always happy, yet He still had joy. In the words of my dear friend, Jesus endured the pain of the cross, but He went to the cross for the joy set before Him. The joy of making it possible for me to know God as Jesus knows Him, and walk in an eternal, beautiful relationship with the Father. And that same Jesus-joy is accessible to me. Selah.

When I read this article (Single Truths), I was told point-blank I might not get married. Marriage is not a guarantee. But the writer asked me what I want my life to be like if I never got married.

Here’s part of my answer: I want a full Joy Bucket. I want to travel the world. I want to maintain strong relationships with my friends and family and spend quality time with them. I want to live a life that makes people curious and excited about Jesus. I want to learn more languages. I want to see systems enhance life and health outcomes, instead of destroying them. And I want to be an extra on the set of an action movie.

Not being in a dating relationship influenced my joy, not just my happiness. At times I’ve kept myself too busy to think about it. But ignoring the gnawing at my heart didn’t make it go away. Intentionally spending time in God’s Word is helping to reshape my thinking...and revitalize my relationship with God. Actively loving has been giving me opportunities to experience joy in new ways.

I ask you again. What do you want life to be like if you never get that [X]? That job? Career milestone? Salary? House? Grad school acceptance? Grade? Car? Acceptance into a tight-knit circle of friends? Marriage? Child?

What Now?

This week, assess the status of your Joy Bucket. Journal about it. Discuss with a close friend or your discipleship group. Whatever it is, do something. Because we’re not guaranteed everything we want, no matter how good it is. We were not designed for the fulfillment of our desires to determine the breadth and depth of our joy.

About the Author: Elisabeth (Lis) is a recent graduate of UofM’s Master of Public Health program. When she’s not wading through the uncertainties of entrepreneurship as she launches a start-up focused on end-of-life healthcare decision making, making drinks at Starbucks (or doing the non-glamorous aspects of barista life), Lis loves to sit at a piano, blast various international music, or curl up with a good book.

I Love my Microwave - Passion and Purpose II

I love my microwave.

I literally do not think I could live without it. Literally.  I love that it seems to cook my entire meal within minutes. Sometimes I’m a real martyr and have to be super patient when I heat up a Marie Calendar dinner, as those tend to take a good 8ish minutes to thoroughly cook. Those are tough times. But on average, I pop something in there and 2-3 minutes later… Bon apetite!

I don’t think I’m alone when I say this is how I would like the rest of my life to go. I am always in this constant tension of wishing everyday processes would go by just a bit more quickly. I wish this line at Starbucks would have three less people in it. I wish my 12-hour shift at work were only 6 hours. I wish I didn’t have shower every morning…that would save me so much time and inherently make my life better - make me more productive. Am I right, people?!

Better yet - what if there were processes that I could eliminate entirely?! I’d be living my best life for sure!

The catch to all of this ingenuity is that it’s completely counterproductive to the mission of the Gospel. 

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Our pastor, Jordan, delivered a spectacular message of hope this past Sunday. He encouraged us that God uses the process, no matter where along that spectrum you may find your start. He took us to scripture that highlights the modeling aspect of discipleship and then shared story after story of how it’s that very piece that produces life transformation. It’s the friction of running beside someone through different seasons and storms so that what is being demonstrated and lived out by one may eventually be absorbed by the other. I don’t know about you, but I have never really been a quick learner - so bless the Living God that he set up a system that allows time! Because goodness knows some of us (a.k.a. me) need it! (Even though we might not always want it.)

We often despise that which takes a lot of time - it’s cumbersome, tedious, and taxing and we lose sight of “progress.”

Jesus invites us to trust Him with our process.

We diminish the work of the Holy Spirit when we do otherwise. Philippians admonishes us to remember that

“he who began a good work [in us] will carry it to completion.”  

God created us. God created the system to bring us to him and do it with other people. It’s only logical that God would also see it through.

We are His beloved; His chosen. He is changing our families, our city, our nation, the NATIONS with the power of our relationship with him and our relationships with one another. As we bear with one another and seek him and his ways, He’s more than faithful to reveal himself to us and make us more like Him.

Grab someone by the hand today and start walking this thing out. Trust Him with the days. Trust Him with the months and even years - He’s doing His thing even when you can’t see it. Like I said, I love the microwave, but there’s deeper, more tasty magic that is found only in the slow cooker.

About the Author: Larissa is a nurse at St. Joe's Mercy Hospital as well as the college director here at Antioch Community Church. She enjoys reading, listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat and pranking her roommates. She also consumes coffee on a far too regular basis. She will do great things.

Set In Order What Remains - Passion and Purpose I

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Recently, I know a lot of us have done one of the following things:

  • Moved into a new house.
  • Moved into a new church.
  • Moved into a new job.
  • Moved into a new role.

If you haven’t done one of the previous, you’ve probably done one of these below:

  • Returned to the same house.
  • Returned to the same church.
  • Returned to the same job.
  • Returned to the same role.

No matter whether you are moving to something new or returning to something familiar, the calling for all of us, like Titus, is still the same:

“Set in order that which remains.”
Titus 1:5

At the beginning of Paul’s letter to Titus, Paul writes that he left Titus in Crete so that he would “set in order what remains." But what do we do when setting things in order gets tiring? What do we do if things don’t seem to be changing, or that the work is never ending?

Here are three encouragements to remember when considering this call to set in order what remains:

1) We are not accidents; we are chosen.

When Paul leaves, He tells Titus: “For this reason I left you.”

In each area of your life, you have been chosen by God as a cultivator of your house, your relationships, your children, your studies, your job, or your finances - however each of them look now - to set them into more order than how they began. When Paul had to leave Crete, Paul delegated leadership to Titus to care for Crete, but he didn’t leave him alone. Paul still wrote to Titus to encourage him. When Jesus left, he chose for himself a people to set in order what remained, but Jesus has not left us alone. He sent his Helper, the Spirit, to guide us into all things. We are chosen, and we are not left alone!

2) We are not alone; we are in a chain of delegation.

The Christian life isn’t a cake walk! For this reason, God intended us to be in discipleship relationships, where we are spurred on to love and good works by someone above us, and where we can share what we learn with someone under us.

Our disciplers and those put in authority above us are gifts meant to encourage us! Again, we are not alone in our pursuit of setting things in order. Not only do we have God’s Spirit guiding us, but we have each other, the Body of Christ, spurring us on along the way. We are to rely on authorities God sets above us, especially those in the church! They, just like us, have been given divine delegation to be setting things into order.

I have found myself particularly encouraged these past few weeks when I have seen photos of people setting up our new church. My schedule has required me to focus setting into order other parts of my life, but I got to receive the wonderful gift and sacrifice of leaders above me and peers around me setting into order the new church building, which I got to receive!

On days when you’re overwhelmed, remember that someone else is also putting into order areas that impact you. You have gifts to receive from the Body of Christ. Rest in their leadership. Trust it. And receive it as a gift.

Lastly, trust the anointing God has given you as a delegated leader. God will not abandon you at your post. He may ask you wait and stay there, persevering in your calling (Titus 2:2), but He has not left. Paul might have left Crete, but Jesus did not.

3) We are not helpless; we wait.

“If an army has been set out to march into an enemy’s country, and news is received that it is not advancing, the question is at once asked, what is the cause of the delay?

The answer will very often be: ‘Waiting for supplies.’ All the stores of provision or clothing or ammunition have not arrived. Without these, [the army] dare not proceed. It is likewise in the Christian life...we need our supplies from above. And there is nothing so necessary as to cultivate that spirit of dependence on God and confidence in Him.”

Waiting on God, Andrew Murray p. 23-24

As a leader in our own areas of life, it is not shameful to wait on God! In fact, it is the path God intended for us since Adam and Eve.

The Lord upholds all who are falling
And raises up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You,
And You give them their food in due season.

Psalm 145: 14-15

Some last truth:

“He will finish in you that which he begun.”

Philippians 1:6

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

Selah

About the Author: Allison is a massage therapy student at Schoolcraft College and waitress at Zola Bistro. When she isn't doing these two things, she's probably doing something around Antioch. She loves prayer, worship, and spending time with her connect group!

We Moved!

We are moving!!! We have a new place to meet!!! Antioch Community Church has a great new home!!! We are now meeting:

Sundays at 10 am at
105 N. Mansfield Rd
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

We are super excited and filled with expectation for the coming years. Moving brings excitement and expectation like few other things in life. Abundant expectation of what God has planned for our church and our city fills us. We are also filled with excitement for what God is going to do in and through us. I am having a hard time putting into words what the church is feeling with this move. So for this blog post I wanted to write out a prayer for the church and our city as the move is happening. Please join me in praying the following prayer as our church is given a great opportunity to steward a building in our great city.

Father thank You for providing a place for our church to meet.

Thank You for giving us a wonderful place to praise Your name in worship. Bring people into our lives that we can invite into encounters with You in worship. 

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Thank You for providing rooms for our children’s ministry to change the lives of children, teaching them the love of their heavenly Father. Bring more families who will be transformed and become transformation leaders in the world. 

Thank You for giving us a space to listen to powerful preaching of Your truth. May we encounter You through the preaching each week, transform our hearts. 

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Thank You for a base for mission sending to the city, region, and world. Father give us opportunities to serve those who need to experience You.  Thank You for teaching us to be Your disciples. Teach us to make disciples of all people.  Holy Spirit come in power and fill us up and fill up this new building. Make this building a powerful base to transform our city with love and service. Teach us to serve and love like Jesus.  We love You and thank You for the great opportunity for a space to experience Your presence as a body, to learn to be Your disciples, and to go on mission to transform the world.  

About the Author: Ted is a father of five, our families pastor at AntiochA2, and helps lead our prayer ministry. He loves Jesus, being a husband, being a father, and loving people. Ted enjoys hanging out with his sons and enjoying God’s beautiful creation. He has a desire to see families wholly following Jesus with passion and being transformed by His love. Ted believes that as we make disciples of Jesus who truly understand their new identity in Him, the world can’t help but be dramatically changed by the local church.  

Stories of Faith: Hamtramck

One evening at the beginning of the summer, I sat with a group of interns from around the United States and listened as they answered one simple question: What brought you to Detroit? Why spend 11 weeks of your summer serving a city of people you've never met? The common thread was obvious. God hand-picked each of them "for such a time as this." To serve this city. This summer. I remember sitting in that upper room in Hamtramck, looking around at these faces and being filled with sure expectancy: God was about to release fresh wind and fresh fire over the city. And these faces were going to be a part of it. 

Join us on today's blog as two of these interns - Heather and Elizabeth - share a bit of what God taught them this summer.

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Jesus' Name Changes Things

- Heather Sullivan -

One of the most powerful things I learned this summer in Detroit was how to pray. Some might say that seems too simple or that it's a small task to fill up 3 months, but it was more than that.

Every time I said Jesus' name in faith, things changed. Whether it was praying for someone to be healed from an injury or for someone to know the Lord, Jesus never failed. A consistent prayer of mine this summer was that people we encountered would know that we were different. I prayed this day in and day out, knowing God had big plans for us. He did.

In our last days in Detroit two mighty miracles happens. The first one was with a restaurant owner that we had been investing in almost daily. Despite this persistence, we had not yet seen any fruit come from it. On our last full day in Hamtramck we decided to eat there one last time to say goodbye. As I was leaving the restaurant, he asked me to pray for him. He told me that he knew that we were different and that when we talked to God, things happened. I prayed for him and knew in that moment that was one of the reasons why I was called to Detroit this summer.

The second miracle was with one of our friends from Bangladesh. Another ministry that we partnered with this summer had been pouring into him for over a year before we met him. He was going through some difficult circumstances and was at a loss for what to do next. We did exactly what Christians are called to do, we loved and prayed for him. We prayed for and loved him every single day of the summer, even when he went back to Bangladesh for a few weeks. We knew God had a really big plan for him, and we got to see it on the very last night that we were in town. That night our friend from Bangladesh gave his life to Jesus.

God showed me this summer that nothing can happen without prayer. Even when we do not see it at first, when we call on Jesus, He moves in powerful ways.

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Faithful to the End

-Elizabeth Macpherson-

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion-to bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

It almost seems unbelievable to share the testimony of how this scripture was shown true and real this summer in Hamtramck, Michigan. From teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to Syrian refugees, to pulling weeds, planting seeds, and watering gardens, and to living everyday lives with boldness and love of the Spirit, God showed His promises to us. God never left our side. He guided our every moment. 

But it was more than God just directing us. He gave His heart, His eyes, His vision, and His hands to give and heal in every situation and circumstance. Our God is faithful to the end.

As we put in the effort, God put in the energy for us. On a normal day of ministry, we began at 10:00 am and were out until midnight. It was exhausting, and it definitely pushed us to press into God when we wanted to pull back. It was in those times though that God truly revealed himself and His Father heart for me and all His children. He revealed to me His grace and mercy for me like never before. Receiving His grace and mercy in a new way helped me be able to extend the same to others around me.

His strength came daily through His Word, worship, prayer, community, and through His Spirit. From day one, He continually poured out His spirit and favor to us, and it became evident in the city. By faithfully abiding and walking the streets and praying for people and for His Kingdom to come, God shifted the atmosphere.

About halfway through the summer, people knew who we were! We would ask Hamtramck residents if we could pray for them, and they would respond, “Wait! Are you the group from Texas? We’ve heard about you guys. You guys are changing this city.” That is so praiseworthy! All the glory to God because it was His power, love, and faithfulness, not ours, that transformed lives on the streets of Hamtramck.

Looking back on the summer, I can’t help but proclaim that Jesus is alive and healing His children! From broken toes, to infected eyes, and to hearts that use to be filled with lies, Jesus healed and restored people in a way that we never could have done ourselves. Through the Holy Spirit, people’s heart were healed so that they were able to see the truth of Jesus Christ and accept Him as their Lord and Savior. Because of the Lord's faithfulness, the 11 weeks this summer in Hamtramck were an unbelievable and indescribable experience.

I encourage you all to listen and obey the Spirit and go with faith when He speaks, because there are no qualifications for being a missionary. God will equip and provide for you always, and he'll teach you so much as you walk faithfully with him.

About the Authors: Heather hails from Baton Rouge, LA, where she serves on the student council of LSU. Elizabeth is from Tyler, TX, where she is learning to hear the voice of God and lean into him to direct her future. Heather and Elizabeth gave up their summer and said "yes" to all God had for them in Hamtramck.
(Intro by Ana Lossing)

You are Valuable

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”

Matthew 6:25

Anxiety. The word itself makes me feel uneasy.

It was fitting that this last Sunday Jordan used “anxiety” in the context of Matthew 6:25-34. In the Bible translation I use, the word used in that passage is “worry,” and while I’m of course familiar with both words, “anxiety” strikes a chord with far more people in our culture and social context.

I don’t need to show you the stats to tell you what you probably already know. Every day we are inundated with choices: what to eat, what to wear, where to go. Our technology continually presents us with more options and gives us the means to rearrange our plans in a single moment. We look at our government, our economy, our health system, and we feel unstable and uncertain. We look at our own lives and wonder, did I get the right education? Am I in the right field? Will my kids be all right? Will my marriage last? Am I making the right investments for the future? Am I saving enough for retirement? How do I get out of debt? Am I making enough to support my lifestyle? Am I going to be all right?

Feeling anxious? The complexities of our world can get a little overwhelming sometimes. Sometimes we need a simple reminder that we are valued, treasured, and cared for.

Photo by Khürt Williams on Unsplash

You have inestimable value.

Your life is of far more importance than anything you can acquire or put into it. As Jordan reminded us, at the end of the day, being anxious adds nothing of value to your life. It doesn’t add even a single hour (Matthew 6:27).

Why do we do it? We worry, we fear, we get anxious and forget to trust. We turn on ourselves and hate who we are, and belittle the value that has been placed there by our Creator.

But that is not life to the fullest as God has intended through Christ. The passage reminds us to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt. 6:33). It’s a reminder for me that no matter what options are presented before me, and no matter the choices I worry about making, God cares for me throughout, and if I set my focus on him, seeking his kingdom first, I will see the things that I worry and fret about fade with each passing day.

If we have the perspective that God does not care for us and does not provide for us, then we will make choices, financially or otherwise, that reflect that belief. When our values are not aligned with God’s kingdom, we find giving challenging and tithing impossible.

But the opposite is true the more that we begin to trust God and seek him out in all that we do. He wants us to be free from anxiety. He also will provide for us like any good dad would for his kids. As we declare that over our lives, and set our focus on who he is and the values of the kingdom, I pray that we will not only see the change in our hearts and minds but that we will also see breakthrough in the area of anxiety.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:7

About the Author: Gabby hails from Waco, Tx where she received her undergraduate degree in social work. She calls herself a Michigander now, and is excited for the next adventure with God in Ann Arbor and Detroit! Geography is her favorite subject, and as the American daughter of Filipino immigrants, she is no stranger to a diversity of food, culture and travel. You can often find her at the local rock wall, hitting the pavement around Ypsi/A2 or, her favorite, getting quality time with good friends.

Money Practicals

The past two weeks we have been talking about money. Why? Because money touches all of us. And God has a lot to say about the topic of money and our heart in light of it. On the post this week, I just wanted to give some practical advice and help in this area.

Photo by Vitaly on Unsplash

Photo by Vitaly on Unsplash

These are things that my wife Alex and I have found helpful, and you might as well:

1. Develop a Vision Statement for Your Money:

“Without vision people cast off restraint”

Proverbs 29:18

This proverb rings so true in the area of money. It's why it is important to develop vision for the way you steward the money God has given you. Maybe you have vision to one day give over 75% of your income away or to save up $1,000,000. Whatever your dream and hope is, if you don’t have vision for it you won’t get there. 

2. Create a Budget:

Whether you are in college or an empty nester, one of the most valuable things you can do in the area of financial stewardship is make a budget. The idea here is to tell your money where to go. Whenever you receive your paycheck, whether irregular, varying amounts or a set amount, take 10-30 minutes to plan.

Here are some great resources for making a budget….

3. Start an Emergency Fund:

One of the biggest hindrances to stick to your budget are unplanned expenses. Car repairs, a broken phone, and emergency medical expense are all things that can happen at any time that we may not have prepared for, and they can destroy our budget. Having $1000 in a savings account that you don’t touch except for emergencies does two things. 1) It gives you peace of mind. If something happens, you have money placed to the side that you can access. 2) It allows you to stick with your budget in the event of an unplanned expense.

If you don’t have an emergency fund, start putting a reasonable amount from each paycheck into a savings account.

4. List Your Debts:

 One helpful thing is to make a list of all debts owed; simply write them out on paper. From small to large, list them out. I’m even talking about the $50 you owe your friend. It is far easier to dig your head in the sand like an ostrich and pretend like those debts aren’t there. But it’s far more life giving to list them out and make a plan to pay them off. Proverbs 22:7 says: 

“The borrower is slave to the lender." 

It’s the real deal. Ask anyone who is debt free. There is something powerful that happens when you get set free from the lender. Once you list out your debts, come up with a plan to pay them off as soon as possible.

 

I hope that these small items have been helpful for you. If you're feeling lost, consider joining our Financial Equipping Course starting in October, where we’ll dive deeper into managing finances wisely. If you are doing really well in the area of finances, disciple others on how to handle money.

Let us be a church who is debt free and outrageously generous!

About the Author: Jason serves as the connections pastor at Antioch Ann Arbor. Jason loves helping people discover who God is and who they are in Christ. He is usually next to one of his four prettiest girls on the face of the earth (his wife or three daughters.)