Suffering to Healing

I failed out of Duke University.

I found out on December 17, 2008. While my parents and congregants from our church were gathered at my house joyously celebrating my parents' 31st wedding anniversary, I was huddled over our computer, fighting hot tears and forbidding them from falling down my face as I reeled in shock from reading an email that shattered my identity.

I'd just ended the first semester of my sophomore year in college, and it was a semester riddled with highs (such as my sister's wedding) and lows, but I mostly remember the lows. The anxiety, thoughts of self-harm, frustration, and fear: fear of failure and fear of others knowing how stupid and helpless I felt. But this day was the all-time low.

I returned to the anniversary celebration and did what I always did: put a smile on my face and acted like everything was fine. The next morning, I sobbed on the phone with Kenesha, who had discipled me fort he past year and a half. After she patiently listened to me, she kindly but firmly said, "Lis. I know this seems like a big deal right now, but it's not really a big deal. God has something He's been trying to tell you, and if you stay at Duke you won't be able to hear Him."

Yes she actually said that.

I was shocked too.

Because it WAS a big deal.

I was Elisabeth Michel. Which obviously meant that academic achievement was a given. Failing out of a prestigious university meant that I no longer was the fiercely independent and intelligent person I knew myself to be. I was no longer somebody that people would want around, or who could make her parents proud.

But over the next 8 months I spent at home and out of school, I learned that Kenesha was right. God was actively speaking to me.

Little by little I began to see God revealing to me that I'd placed all my hope and identity in my ability to achieve - something He'd been trying to show me since I started school my freshman year.

I'd believed that since God specializes in doing the impossible, I had to focus on the possible. And focusing on the possible meant excelling academically, because that was in my power to do.

But my academic dismissal shook this belief, and I had no choice but to learn that life was comprised of more than my academic and professional success. My life didn't end because I was no longer in school. In fact, in the midst of my broken pride and bruised heart, I experienced a newness of life as God brought me freedom.

Photo by Henri Meilhac on Unsplash

Freedom from the heavy chains of feeling that perfection is a requirement for others to love me.

Freedom from the burden of thinking that I had to earn a 4.0 GPA in order to have a successful career.

Freedom from the fear of people knowing that I need help and I can't do it all.

And freedom to receive God's love - a love that enveloped me even though I felt undeserving. Love that I couldn't work for.

I can’t tell you what steps I took for my heart to start receiving healing. My first two weeks at home, all I did was sleep, eat, and watch Grey’s Anatomy online. Somewhere along the way, I stumbled upon Colossians 1:17 –

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

And that verse became the mantra for that season (and continues as such – #SorryNotSorry for all the times I’ve repeated it to any of you over the past two years). God pursued me through His Word and through others, and I began to receive comfort in my time of suffering. Family, friends, and mentors extended their love and their support to me, helping me when I didn’t have the words to ask. They spoke words of truth, prayed with me, and prodded me to continue dreaming. They continued to value me when I felt I had no value. Despite the pain, I began to grow and mature in unexpected ways – admitting my weaknesses while honoring my strengths, learning how to ask for help, learning the definition of humility, and learning the feeling of a peaceful heart.

After two semesters of being at home, I reapplied to Duke and was readmitted, but since my pride had been beaten out of me, I returned to school with a renewed perspective - with my hope placed in Jesus instead of myself. My journey taught me that God won’t leave me, even if I try to run away from Him, so it’s safe for me to share my hurts with Him. My journey allows me to encourage others who struggle with academic performance or the pressures of trying to be effortlessly perfect.

Ultimately, my journey of suffering changed (as Artie Sudan shared on Sunday) how I relate to myself, others, and God.

I didn’t want to write this blog on the topic of suffering. I felt like it probably pales in comparison to the suffering you may have encountered in your life. But I remembered Christy Ogden’s words during the response time after the message at Antioch on August 6. She said that suffering is suffering – no matter what it is, no matter how “big” or how “little” you think your suffering is, it all matters to God. He doesn’t compare my suffering to yours, so nor should I.

Nor should you. No matter our suffering, God extends His love and His Word to us, to bring direction, healing, and hope.

Over the next week, I encourage you to think about the following:

  • What has been your journey of suffering?
  • What thoughts run through your mind when you think of your journey?
  • Which of those thoughts are in alignment with God’s Word? Which are not?

Share your thoughts with a friend, and bring them before the Lord. God is waiting to receive your wariness; to exchange your heavy burdens with His yoke that is easy and His burden that is light, and to clothe you in His love.

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.

 

 

 

In the Beginning

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Excuse me if we get a little too deep in scripture for a moment. This is good.

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1

How many people have ever read this and just kind of stood puzzled at what it’s trying to say? I had this experience just last week waiting to catch my flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles. 

First, who or what is “the Word”? And why does this sound so strikingly familiar to the opening words of the Bible? Genesis 1:1-2 introduces 2 characters into the Bible. First is God himself: 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” 

Then, the Spirit of God: 

“The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” 

But now, John wants to talk about a third character? Is this character different than the other two? Well, there are a few things we can learn about “the Word” from the Bible. 

Psalm 33:6 talks about the voice or “the Word” of the Lord as the agent of His creation. Other translations use “Yahweh” in place of “Lord”. It’s how the heavens were created, and it’s how the entire universe was created. This same “Yahweh” is used in Isaiah 2:3 when it associates Him with being a teacher, and his word coming from Jerusalem. About whom do we know this to be true? Jesus! (This is also made clear in John 1:17) 

It gets better. John is interpreting Genesis through the framework of Proverbs 8:22-31. Here, the Wisdom of God is described as a person or entity that assists God with creation of the world.  Below I will quote only verse 22:

“The Lord formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else. I was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began.”

The use of the Hebrew word “qanah” here does not convey conception (i.e., bringing into existence). Rather, it means, “brought forth”.  

With agreement from Paul in Colossians 1:16:

“For through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.”

I had to just stop and process this all for a moment. Basically what I realized sitting in that airport were the following things:

Three beings were present from the beginning of time, not two.

Each being is associated with a form of God.

Everything was centered on this one being, Jesus, who was agent and reason for all of creation. 

Jesus is Wisdom itself, who came in the form of a human to earth to die for me so that I could have life.

Now, if being Wisdom means to absolutely know everything and have the best judgment of all, then I cannot deny Jesus, and I cannot deny what He has done for me. If he says “it is finished”, well, then I must trust him. 

And if trusting God himself means that I gain some of this understanding from Jesus by allowing him to transform my heart, well, then I want trust God.

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!

Fresh Wind. Fresh Fire.

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Acts 1:8

In the book of Acts, we see chronicled a movement of the gospel so strong and quick that new people were daily being saved (Acts 2:47). Scripture makes clear that this movement was enabled by one person in particular: Holy Spirit. In fact, in Luke 24:49, Jesus asks his disciples to wait to tell his story until the Spirit comes to empower them.

Our current reality is no different: we need Holy Spirit if we are going to see the gospel take root in our cities. We need to abide if we are going to see fruit.

Two Sundays ago, Jason presented a reality that is all too familiar for many of us: in a moment of high emotion, at a conference or in a worship setting or on a mission trip, we are captured afresh by the reality of God, and we make promises. We promise to abide, to evangelize, to love sacrificially. But Monday comes and the appeal of our vows has faded.

In these moments we often seek what feels the natural course: to search again for that “mountaintop experience”. As Jason put it: “we’re thirsty and asking for a drink, but we’re standing in a lake.” It is as if, in our haste to reach the mountaintop, we forget that rivers flow down to the valley.

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash

We do need fresh wind and fresh fire. We need the Spirit to empower us to be witnesses to all Jesus has done, but too often we make fresh wind and fresh fire too complicated. Too often we set our stubborn faces to Mount Sinai and think that fresh fire only comes at the top of the mountain (Exodus 24).

But there is no trick to fresh wind and fresh fire.

There is nothing special about particular conferences or mission trips or worship songs or any emotional high that breaks the heavens open. The only thing we need for broken open heavens to let fresh wind and fresh fire through is broken open hearts asking for more. The wonder of the veil-ripped open is that we have constant access to the holy place — where fresh wind and fresh fire are birthed (Matthew 27:51).

Sometimes we search for miracles. We search for miraculous signs and wonders, thinking this is how the Spirit will open the floodgates and empower us to see a gospel movement. But I’m convinced of this: the miracle I need is for Spirit to daily turn my rock-heart to flesh, to push back the encasing stone that I, because of busyness, selfishness, hurt, and complacency, allow to envelop me. The daily miracle I need is for Spirit to mold and bend and conform my heart and will to his.

Thank God there is not an emotional requirement for the holy place. There is no lock at the door that says we must feel a certain way, or even feel anything at all. Sometimes our rock-hearts won’t let us. And the reality is, we don’t always feel thirsty. We don’t always want to enter the holy place. We don’t always desire fresh wind and fresh fire, and we don’t always desire God’s kingdom to come.

In these moments, when our rock-hearts refuse to feel thirsty… what do we do?

I am not always thirsty, but I know that hydration is necessary for life. I know that when I’m dehydrated my quality of life is significantly decreased: I’m tired, groggy, and my head aches. Sometimes I rely on this really simple truth to motivate me to drink: I need to. As anticlimactic and unromantic as it sounds, sometimes we must rely on this truth when it comes to asking Jesus to be present in our lives. Even when we don’t feel as though we need him or even want him; he is necessary for life and for abundant life.

When we drink, we see that the Lord is good:

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the one who takes refuge in him!"

Psalm 34:8

And when we drink, we are satisfied:

"You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."

Psalm 145:16

He is near to those who call on him in truth. Not on mountaintops. Not on emotional highs. In truth.

Whether we are thirsty or not this week, let’s press in. Let’s ask the Lord to send fresh wind and fresh fire. Ask him to do his will in our lives. Ask for his kingdom to come. Let’s drink, and see that he is good. He will satisfy. He will send fresh wind and fire. He will revive us and our cities.

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.

Abide.

Abide. 

A 5-letter word. A simple command. A word that is often spoken in Christian circles. 

Can I just have a little honesty moment with you? 

I have been really struggling to abide. 

Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash

Photo by Maja Petric on Unsplash

Prior to moving to Ann Arbor, I lived in Boston, Massachusetts for 2 ½ years while studying for my doctoral degree in Physical Therapy. Outside of the countless hours in class and the seemingly never ending studying that had to occur outside of class, we also had seasons of clinical time where we would work full time under the guidance of a licensed Physical Therapist. For those of you who maybe have not lived in New England or encountered native New Englanders, let me tell you that these people are fiercely passionate about their gardens in the best way possible. I remember multiple patients giving me weekly updates about their tomatoes, their green beans, their lettuce, their peppers… and the list goes on! In fact, I distinctly remember one patient telling me that as the gardener, his job was to intimately know his plants, know what would harm them, create an environment that would foster growth, and prune them to prepare for future growth. Each week when I finished treating that patient, there was no doubt in my mind that this man loved his garden. 

Fast forward to last weekend, when Ted spoke on John 15 and the concept of abiding. I started getting restless in my seat as he spoke. I became like a small child squirming around, and I suddenly forgot how to discipline myself to sit still for 45 minutes. I was uncomfortable and just wanted to zone out. 

Isn’t it funny how the Lord puts things right under our nose when we aren’t walking in His way? 

That’s what Sunday was for me – a strict realization that I struggle with abiding because I often try to find fulfillment in everything (a job, an event, a reputation, a status, a friendship, an accomplishment, etc) other than living in a place of abiding with Jesus. I was convicted of finding contentment in my earthly circumstances instead of finding contentment in the presence of Jesus despite my circumstances. I was deeply convicted of being in a place of complacency, where I was okay with not abiding. 

I was later processing with the Lord as I was cleaning my house and he sweetly reminded me of my patients who were gardeners in Boston. Earthly gardeners long to spend time in their gardens because they want to see their garden thrive. The gardener knows that a harvest does not happen without a life-giving source and does not happen without cutting away the dead parts of the plant to produce more fruit. 

Reality Check: John 15 is about the same thing. 

Our Heavenly Father is the master gardener: He longs to spend time with us. He, as the vine, is the only source that fruit can grow from because without the vine there can be no life.

And by being in a place of complacency, where I was okay with not abiding, it is almost as if I was saying that I am okay cutting myself off from the vine because I don’t think that I need the life from the vine in order to produce fruit (…cue the conviction). 

As I was on my knees a few nights ago repenting of this sour, filthy attitude and nature of my complacency, I asked the Lord to replace this with an unquenchable thirst for the presence of Jesus. To replace my tendency for self-reliance with a total dependence on the presence of Jesus. To fill even the deepest crevices of my heart with a longing to abide, resulting in experiencing the transformative power that only the presence of Jesus brings.

And through it all, the Lord so gently and graciously continues to remind me that His command has not changed -- to be faithful in soaking up, sitting in, and walking in the presence of Jesus – to abide. 

This week, I would encourage you to read through John 15 and ask the Lord to highlight areas that you have excluded His presence or relied more on your independence than the dependence that comes from walking with Him. John 15 explicitly states that apart from Him (the vine), we (the branches) can do nothing. What areas of your life are you operating apart from Jesus and apart from the life giving presence of the vine? 

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.

The Simple Gospel

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”

Psalm 34:8

When the guest speaker Aric Smith spoke two Sundays ago, his message was the message of the cross: simple, effective, and powerful. God wants relationship with us: his creation. He really, really loves us!

He came into our reality and went above and beyond to show his love through great, great sacrifice: his Son, Jesus. Jesus gave his life to cover our mess, our brokenness, our shame, so we can be with a most perfect and holy God. Through the cross, we can truly know that we are safe in the arms of a really good, really perfect, really holy Dad.

Does a good Dad abandon his Son? No, the story did not end with death on the cross. God raised Jesus from the dead, placed Him on the throne, and gave Him all authority in Heaven and on earth. Salvation through the cross, then, is really simple:

“If you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Romans 10:9

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

When we know the name of the Lord is Jesus, we know the way, the truth and the life; we know the one who saves us from our own inability to be good enough to encounter God.

The point, however, is not simply for us to know in our minds that Jesus is Lord. What God wants is relationship with us. It’s all about the relationship, the daily in and out of knowing him. And we can never fully love someone if that knowledge is all in our heads. We have to know it in our hearts and with every part of our being.

How can we know that the love of God is worth having? We experience God, we see His goodness and faithfulness manifested in the lives of people around us. He supernaturally touches our hearts and overwhelms us. He demonstrates how merciful he is by forgiving us for everything that we’ve done in the past, present and future. He opens our minds to the truth of who he is. He shows us all manner of kindness, even when we think (and know) we don’t deserve it.

God is doing the work to show us how much he loves us. That’s the kind of Dad he is; that’s how good he is. All we have to do is bring our mess to him and lay it at the cross. We can lay all our messiness, all our brokenness before Jesus, and he takes it, and makes us whole and new.

And yes, that takes a little faith on our part. But God can take our little bit of faith and move mountains with it. Or what we think are mountains in our lives.

What do we need to bring before Jesus? What have we been withholding from Him that is hindering us from living life to the fullest? What ways is our pride keeping us from submitting to God and receiving the fullness of his love for us? How can we believe God for impossible things?

If you are wondering if you can truly be forgiven, if you can truly come clean, here is some truth: God is meeting you right where you are. He is patient, kind, and cares about you tremendously. God loves you. He really, really loves you! And wherever you feel that you are, you can turn to him and he will run to you.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hines

A simple prayer is this:

“Search me, oh God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24

As we begin to trust God more and more, and grow in our relationship with Him, as we begin to say yes to what he calls us to, we will discover more and more abundance beyond what we could imagine, for ourselves and for the people around us. The gospel is simple, but incredibly powerful. That is the message of the cross.

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.

Be with God.

Church two Sundays ago was about experiencing the presence of God. Through an extended time of worship, prayer, confession, declarations, and ministering to one another, we cultivated in ourselves the closeness of children coming to the Father.

While service on Sunday was powerful, the question inevitably comes afterward:

How do we cultivate the presence of God in our daily lives?

Sometimes the options are too numerous. There are too many answers. Read the Bible. Pray. Add in a million spiritual things to do. This week, let’s focus on a simple one. Time. 

Psalm 46:10 says,

“ Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

In context, this verse is about acknowledging who God is in a time of desolation, and it specifically highlights that God will be lifted up in all the earth. If we can acknowledge his character and his glory in the midst of chaos, we can acknowledge it in the midst of anything. How do we do this?

“Be still and know that I am God.”

If you break down this beautiful command to it’s most simple form, this is what you get:

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know.

Be still.

Be.

We don’t have to be partaking in a worship service to know that he is God. We simply need to cultivate an awareness of who he is in the midst of being. Playing soccer can be considered being. Reading a book can be considered being. Taking a walk can be considered being. Listening to music can be considered being. Laying still on the carpet or grass can be considered being. In whatever we are doing, we can practice being aware of God’s presence, cultivating an inner stillness that abides with Jesus. This takes practice: to be still and to glorify him in the midst of the chaos of our daily lives. But it is worth it; in John 15:4, Jesus says:

“Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me.”

One of the most powerful elements of church on any Sunday is that, for approximately 90 minutes, we are intentional to be. For 90 minutes, we put aside our phones, our chores, our meals, our work, and we sit. Or we stand. We kneel. We listen to a sermon, we sing, we pray, we reflect, we fellowship with the Body of Christ. We are present.

At a store this week, I came across this add on a vending machine:

This can be applied to our quiet times! It might not always be about what we learn or how we confess. Sometimes it’s just the fact that we spend time being with Him. Consider the "snack" as awareness of his presence. It can take time to sink into the moment and encounter God, and it takes time and repetition to learn to do this. "It's worth the wait!" This is why we must be intentional:

Open up your calendar and, in the next day or two, find a time where you can fully be, a time where you can cultivate an awareness of God. Folding laundry. Going for a run. Waking up early. Receive it as being from the Lord. For when we are still in our spirits, then we are opened to know God.

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.”

1 Timothy 4:4

As we sometimes sing - “Holy Spirit you are welcomed here, come flood this place and fill the atmosphere.Your glory God is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by Your Presence, Lord.”

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!

Letting Go.

I looked at my Excel budgeting sheet in disgust. I knew I felt and heard the Lord leading me to stay here in Michigan after graduating from my Master of Public Health program this past April. And yet, after calculating how much money I had coming in and going out this summer, the numbers showed me I had $200 to spend on summer housing.

That didn’t make me feel very secure.

Days prior, I’d turned down a housing option because it didn’t feel like the right fit for me, but I had yet to find something else. Given the wonderful community here at Antioch, I was surrounded by people who let me know I could crash with them as I figured things out, so I never felt stranded. But I had to find something. 

After sending some emails, I got connected to a series of people, and I followed one lead in particular with a person I’ll call Renee. Renee and I spoke over the phone, she listened to me tell my story, and we determined we would meet in person. We did not specify payment, but before we got off the phone she confidently stated, “I’m sure we can find something fair that works.” When we met in person shortly after, we learned a bit more about each other, discussed schedules, and she gave me a tour of her (super cute!) space. Since we hadn’t yet discussed payment in detail, I asked her what specific numbers she had in mind.  

After pausing for a brief moment, she looked me in the eye and said, “How does $200 sound for the summer?”

#JawDrop #FlipATable

I probably don’t need to tell you that I thought $200 sounded great.

Have you ever read Psalm 37? I’m working on memorizing it. (Feel free to randomly quiz me when you see me around. #Accountability). I’m up to verse nine right now, and within just a few verses, the biggest theme I’m getting is:

DO.
NOT.
FRET.

Psalm 37:3 directs us to, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.” So basically: #TrustGodAndChill.

Trusting God requires me to let go of whatever control I am trying to maintain. Letting go requires me to not worry. And Psalm 37 does not mince words on anxiety:

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil.”

Psalm 37:8

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

So I can let go of worry, or welcome evil. I'd like to choose the former. Right now, for me “letting go” means staying in Michigan where God has called me to be for this season, though I'd expected to return to the East Coast. “Letting go” means not looking for a full-time job so I can focus on entrepreneurship. “Letting go” meant turning down an available housing option that logically may have worked, but wasn’t where God's peace led me. 

Letting go, for me, has meant taking steps forward without any certainty of specific logistics - and that’s scary.

Don't get me wrong - planning is good, and necessary. But I cannot let my fear of the unknown lead me to trusting myself to figure things out, instead of letting go of the reins and trusting God. Fear leads to worry. But letting go means not fretting (which Google defines as: being constantly or visibly worried or anxious). I don’t do this perfectly. By any means. There were times in the past two months when I felt an unexplainable peace - I mentally knew things would work out. And other times when my pillowcase became my handkerchief and my sister patiently listened to me externally process long lists of “What-If” scenarios over the phone.

But God stepped in and provided beyond whatever I could imagine or ask, calming those worries.

This month we celebrated Father’s Day. And in this month, I experienced the heart of God as Father in a way I’d previously not known as deeply. As Father, He has taken on the responsibility of providing my needs, connecting me to the right opportunities, and leading me to where I need to go. And as Father, He also takes on the responsibility of teaching me, correcting me, and disciplining me to look more like Him. More like Jesus who trusted His Father to the point of dying a gruesome death.

What does letting go look like practically? For me, it looked like this: talking to God.

That’s it. No formula, no strategy. As things came up, I informed God of what was happening: 

“Wait, what? I only have $200 dollars for housing?!”

“Uh...I have a quarter tank of gas right now.” 

“Um...I need a job…” (Sidenote, come visit me at the Starbucks in Briarwood Mall!).

All that is to say: just be real with the Lord. Tell Him what’s going on. Don’t say what you think He wants to hear, or what you’ve been trained to say using "Christianese" language. Tell Him what you would tell your best friend.

He'll find ways to make sure you hear Him, and as He responds and provides, step by step, you will learn how to let go and not fret. #TrustGodAndChill.

Acceptance

As I was watching America’s Got Talent last night, I had a curious thought that caught me by surprise, in the best way possible. If you are unfamiliar with this show, let me explain the premise. Basically, it is America’s largest talent show. It exists to find and elevate America’s most talented individual or group to headline a show in Las Vegas, no matter what the talent is. You could be bringing your chicken on stage to play a song on the piano, showing off your ability to withstand pain, or you could be a ventriloquist that brings life to a puppet. Of course these novelty type acts are few and far between, but people showcase these things. As for singers, there is no shortage. 

One in particular was a 16-year old boy who was blind during his early childhood. In his story, his mother discussed his journey and how they had been trying some type of gene therapy to restore his vision. When he approached the stage for the first time (these early episodes are just auditions), an ordinary person wouldn’t think that he had any kind of vision impairment. I am sure that his vision isn’t perfect, but he came on stage without a walking stick and wearing a normal pair of eyeglasses. 

First of all, I must say that this amazed me. As an engineer, I guess I am just clueless to today’s advanced medical solutions, and I didn’t know that we had reached that point in today’s technology to restore sight to the blind without an act of God. It was truly amazing to watch him. He approached the stage with jitters of nervousness and seemed a bit out of place, but when he was given the “go ahead”, he proceeded to sing “Who's Lovin’ You” by Jackson 5 and absolutely stunned the entire building with his voice. 

After his performance, a judge asked him, “If you could have one wish come true right now, what would it be?” The boy asked for the golden buzzer (which essentially is awarded to only 5 acts in the entire audition pool to be saved from any cuts after auditions), and he was granted that wish immediately. The emotions that took place afterward in that building- the crying, the applauding, the joy – prompted the curious thought that I mentioned before. I thought, “Wow, that boy is getting so much acceptance not just for his voice, but for who he has become as a person. God must be even more proud of us than that.”

Which if you were watching, you’d understand that it is probably difficult to experience that much love and acceptance in one moment here on Earth like that boy did. But to think that God, in the amazing Father that he is, has been giving it to us constantly for our entire lives is extraordinary. We learn from Romans (and quite earlier actually) that we as humans are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory. And then we watch multiple sinners come before Jesus and experience this love and acceptance through forgiveness. 

Forgiveness heals. In Luke 7, Jesus forgives a woman who comes before him with her many sins and messed-up life. He tells a parable that ends with this: 

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Jesus is ready to pour out his forgiveness (in which God gave him authority) to anyone that would come to him and realize their need for him.

“God blesses those who are poor, and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” – Matthew 5:3 NLT

So, to know that the God of the universe makes us right with himself through a simple act of realizing our need for him is what God wants from us. We know he wants this because God is portrayed as a Father that celebrates his children throughout the New Testament. God himself accepts us for who we are. He has created us to have relationship with Him, and this has been true our entire lives. 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

It is difficult to compare what that boy on stage must have been experiencing emotionally in that moment to the emotions the sinful woman was experiencing as she wept at the feet of Jesus and learned of her forgiveness. But one could agree that both probably felt acceptance, and most likely, more acceptance than they were expecting to feel when they walked into the room.

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!

Cape Town Recap

So what did the ADS team do when we were in Cape Town? 

Well---

We preached the gospel.

We had team time to worship, have fun, and minister to one another.

We hung out with other visiting Antioch teams from Salt Lake City, Houston, and the Intern Team!

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We did college campus outreach on UCT - the University of Cape Town!

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We helped put on a market with the Antioch Cape Town Church!

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We did these things and so much more!!

Thank you so much for your prayers, financial support, well wishes, and all other forms of participating in this trip! So many of you put your time, thoughts, emotions, and selves into our trip, and we couldn’t have done it without you! Many people were reached for Jesus and many seeds were cast through this trip.

But you may be asking -- Cape Town was great. But now it’s over. Where do we go from here?

The simple challenge we were given as we came back to the U.S. was to considering doing one of the following:

Pray. Give. Go.

Pray

Although we are home, the Cape Town long term team remains. They need our continued prayer support. Pray for:

1. Strength and favor for the leaders

2. Increased financial support

3. Protection against spiritual attack

4. People in the township of Langa to know the truth of the gospel and begin life groups with one another

Give

Currently, a majority of the Antioch Capetown income goes to just paying for rent. With extra income, they’d have more resources to do more college campus coffee outreaches, throw markets to attract the local community, love on their leaders through retreats and fun nights, and give into other outreach ideas. 

Similarly, some of the Antioch Capetown staff are currently raising support to be fully supported workers and ministers in Capetown. If you would be interested in supporting one of them, please let someone know and give you more info on who you can support!

Luke 10:7 says, “A worker is worth his wages.” Those who work for the Kingdom may not be producing an earthly product worth our money, but we can buy into their heavenly reward!

If God has put Capetown on your heart, he may also be calling you to participate in it through financially supporting what is going on there!

Go

Want to be a part of God’s work inside and outside of Ann Arbor?

This summer, a group of Antioch interns from around the U.S. are serving in the Hamtramck area. They would love for you to join them throughout the summer on outreach and in prayer. Get connected by contacting jason@antioch.org or rachlossing@gmail.com or find the interns at church.

Consider signing up for ADS for next year! Throughout the year, you will have the opportunity to take part in multiple outreaches, including an extended overseas trip.

If you have questions, talk to Ted Peabody or Tiffany Hines. Ready to go? Apply here!

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 and discipleship school classmates!

Prayer Moves Us

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray…” James 5:13

Two Sundays ago, John Kirby painted an impressive picture of how BIG God is, taking us on a journey from the farthest reaches of space, to the spaces within an atom. He showed how looking at the universe puts in perspective how inconsequential we really are, if not for God’s response to us. 

Photo Credit: Nathan Herman

Photo Credit: Nathan Herman

Despite our seeming inconsequentiality, it astounds me how God responds to prayer. As a church and as a movement, the vision this year has been “Lord, teach us to pray.” And as John highlighted in the book of James, we are all very much in trouble, and very much in need of prayer.

In response to that vision, I remember when our connect group took some time to study the Lord’s Prayer. I have known the Lord’s Prayer by heart since I was in elementary school but looking at it again with my peers helped me realize the depth and power of that brief passage. Prayer is more than just asking God’s blessing on things that we think we need, but about asking God for all things, all the time, and acknowledging that it is HIS kingdom and HIS will that we are calling for on earth. 

More and more, I’ve found myself praying for my workplace, coworkers, and the work I do, doing my best to pour out love on kids, both as a sitter and coach. Admittedly, it can be hard to consistently be present and patient when I’m with kids. But through a coworker’s friendly reminder, I realized how lack of presence and patience can have a tremendous impact on a child.  I continually wanted to show kids that I am with them and for them, because that is who God is to his children. But I needed him to show that kind of love, because in my own strength, I would consistently come up short.

While I’ve seen some tangible results from my prayers, I’ve noticed the biggest shift in myself. I find myself being more patient, more kind, more joyful as I pray and allow the Spirit to work in me, and I feel a lot more peace. Those are the fruits of the Spirit, and that’s God’s kingdom and will being done on earth. 

God works within us through prayer, as well as through us. As scripture also says in James 5, “the prayers of a righteous man are powerful and effective.” Prayer shifts hearts, brings healing, and orchestrates change, because we are acknowledging rightly who we are in our big, BIG universe — ones seen and known by a very big, very powerful God. 

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.

Late Night Encounters

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and not been able to fall asleep again? Have you ever wondered in those moments, “why in the world am I up right now?” Over the last year and a half through discipleship at Antioch, I have been challenged to ask the Lord if there is something that he wants to address when I wake up in the middle of the night, instead of bemoaning the fact that I can’t sleep. This practice is one that has taken time to incorporate, but it has become massively impactful in my life and my walk with the Lord. Rewind with me to about 4 weeks ago. At 3:00am, I woke up abruptly and found myself unable to fall asleep again. I laid there for about fifteen minutes before asking the Lord, “Is there something that you want to speak to me right now?” After hearing a resounding “yes” from the Lord and maybe after an eye roll or two from me (if we’re being honest), I reluctantly crawled out from under the covers at 3:19am.

Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao

Photo Credit: Nathan Dumlao

In the wee hours of the morning, the Lord sweetly revealed several lies that I had been believing and that had taken root in my life. A few of the big lies were “I will never be good enough,” “I am not beautiful,” and “I am not valuable.” Looking back at it, I can easily laugh at these lies, knowing that they are irrational misconceptions that have snaked their way into the way I perceive my value, worth, and purpose on a day-to-day basis. But in reality, these lies have become automatic thoughts that I allow to invade my heart and, at times, determine my actions.

The beauty of walking with Jesus is that He wants us to walk in freedom and in Truth, throwing off everything that entangles us.

In the moments after the Lord revealed these lies, I asked Him to speak His Truth over me. With a journal nearby to write down the declarations that the Lord was going to give me, I cautiously opened my hands asking the Lord to infiltrate me with Truth. Here’s a little glimpse of how the Lord tenderly met me that morning:

Lie 1: I will never be good enough.

a. Truth from the Lord: I do not place you in a measuring cup to see if you measure up to the standard that has been set. Cease striving; there is no standard. The cross met the criteria and it is finished.
b. Scripture reference: Luke 3:22, Psalm 46:10a

Lie 2: I am not beautiful.

a. Truth from the Lord: I am a direct reflection of the beauty of Jesus
b. Scripture references: Genesis 1:27, Psalm 139:14

Lie 3: I am not valuable.

a. Truth from the Lord: You are far more valuable than rubies or gems. I (the Lord) look upon you with joy and delight. You are more valuable than your earthly accomplishments. In fact, your earthly accomplishments don't remotely define you. 
b. Declarations that the Lord gave: I will not be defined by earthly accomplishments. I will not be defined by what a fallen and broken world says about me when my Creator is whole and on the Most High place. I am seated at the right hand of the Father in Heavenly places so therefore I am also whole. 
c. Scripture references: Ephesians 2:6

These statements of truth have become powerful declarations that I am able to speak aloud each morning. Slowly, through these declarations, my thoughts are coming into alignment with the thoughts that He has about me and what the Bible says about who I am in Christ.

This year at Antioch, we have been asking the Lord to “teach us how to pray.” For me, this has looked like an increased frequency of conversation with the Lord and realizing that our Father yearns to spend quality time with his children – whether that is in the car while I am driving or in the middle of the night when I find myself awake. It has looked like trusting the Lord to speak Truth to replace the lies that I have been believing and asking the Lord to equip me with boldness to declare this Truth over my life each morning. It has looked like the Lord increasing my awareness of these lies from day to day with supplication of concise nuggets of truth to combat them.

Today, I would challenge you to spend intentional time with the Lord and ask Him what lies you have been believing. I challenge you to boldly ask Him to speak Truth to replace these lies. Declare this truth over your life and walk in the freedom that only the Lord can bring.

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.

Missional Marriage

What is Missional Living?

Missional Living is a phrase used to describe a noble life devoted to the Great Commission. The Great Commission is Jesus' final words for us before he left earth, and it is found in Matthew 28:19-20: 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  

When we think of missional living, or living out the Great Commission, many times we think of telling others of Jesus and his love for them. The noble missional life is presented as an exciting lifestyle of changing the world.  By contrast marriage is often presented as the end of something. The world says it is the end of the glory of being single and many times the church presents it as the end of being effective in ministry.  However, the New Testament presents marriage as something else altogether.  

What is Missional Marriage?

In Ephesians 5:25-32 Paul writes of a great mystery. Marriage is not just for the two people involved. Marriage is for the world to see the love of Christ for the church and the love of the church for Christ. Paul writes:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

Photo Credit: Scott Webb

Photo Credit: Scott Webb

As husbands selflessly love their wives, the world sees how Jesus loves the church, and as wives lovingly follow the leading of their husbands, the world sees how the church is to follow Jesus. Marriage is not the end of effectively telling others about Jesus. It is the primary way a married couple tells the world of Jesus and his love for them. Jesus’ plan was for the world to know of His love through the way you love your wife and follow your husband. This challenge is not to be taken lightly. Missional living and your marriage go hand in hand. Jesus has given you a noble and vital mission to tell the world of His love and the church’s devotion.  In all aspects of life--raising children, working jobs, going on dates, everything: husbands, Jesus has challenged you to be a mighty example of His selfless love for which He gave up so much to become a man and lay down His life on the cross so that we may live. Wives, Jesus has challenged you to be a beautiful example of the church lovingly respecting and following the lead of the head, Jesus.  This is what missional marriage is: a picture for the world to see Jesus.

About the Author: Ted is a father of five, our families pastor at AntiochA2, and a leader of 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. Ted has a desire to see families wholly following Jesus with passion and being transformed by His love. He 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.   

Marriage Discipleship

What does discipleship look like in marriage?

The first question that needs to be answered is "what is discipleship?" Discipleship is the process of one person helping someone(s) become a lifelong follower of Jesus. We see in Matthew 28:18-20 that Jesus commands His disciples to “Go” make disciples:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

What does that look like? Simply:

Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you.

Discipleship is learning how to obey Jesus and teaching others how to do the same.

Photo Credit: Naassom Azevedo

Photo Credit: Naassom Azevedo

So, what does this look like in Marriage?

As we talked about this past Sunday, marriage is a relationship like none other, something unique and special. 

Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways. You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Psalm 128:3

Your relationship with God doesn’t just impact your life; it changes your spouse (making "Your wife like a fruitful vine"). It’s for your children (making them "like olive shoots"). We have to recognize this is something to actually invest our time and energy in. The fruit of discipleship is definitely worth it.

Discipleship within marriage is not limited to a 1 or 2 hour time limit. It is a lifestyle: the day in, day out rhythms of life. The question for each spouse is, "How am I helping my spouse obey Jesus?"

Here are a few practicals in helping each other mature in God and obey Jesus.

1. Spend time with God together in the morning.
(Discipleship point: stay connected to Jesus.)

One of the most helpful things about being married is you constantly have someone holding you accountable. Alex and I wake up before our kids so that we can spend time with God in the morning. Waking up at 5:30 isn’t easy, but when you have your spouse there kicking you to get out of bed, or turning on the lights, it helps. We usually have our own ways of spending time with God in the morning, but both typically include some Bible reading, worship, and prayer. We will come together for a time at the end to pray together. Make prayer a regular part of your life together.

2. Foster a "Same Team" Mindset
(Discipleship point: loving rebukes and correction.)

You and your spouse are on the same team. Cheer and celebrate one another. Don’t become their biggest critic. In discipleship with your spouse you want to spur one another on in God rather than beat them over the head with the Bible and force them to obey Him. When we have a same team mindset, we more naturally confess, challenge, forgive, and lovingly rebuke one another. To give you an example, the other day I raised my voice to one of my daughters when I shouldn’t have. Alex corrected me gently and said “Jase, that was a little strong, tone it down”. I needed the correction, but Alex did it in a way that I wasn't made to feel like a loser but was encouraged to repent to my kids and move on.

3. Go make Disciples.
(Discipleship point: becoming disciples who make disciples)

Not only can discipleship happen within your marriage but you have the opportunity to challenge and encourage your spouse to make disciples as well. Ask your spouse: "who is someone that you can initiate with and help them learn how to obey Jesus?" Again, you get to hold your spouse accountable to following through with initiating with that person.

If you have no clue where to get started, I’d encourage you to download the Discipleship App by Antioch Community Church on your phone and go through some of the lessons and questions. The purpose of discipleship is not becoming the most knowledgeable Christian out there but rather a person who is connected to Jesus and learning how to obey Him.

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).

 

Abiding in New Seasons

Summer is coming! A few days ago, it was almost 90 degrees outside, according to my car. I was outside for a couple hours, and the sun left its mark on my cheeks and shoulders. Summer is a very exciting time, but it’s also a time of great change and transition for me and, I think, for many of us. People are graduating. School is ending. Vacations are coming up, irregular schedules, or maybe you’re staying here and friends are leaving town.

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This past week, I partnered with God in asking Him how He sees this summer for me. The summer for me right now has been a vat of mystery, and I have found myself wondering what good will come of it, or will things not start moving again until the fall?

I want to encourage us that God is moving and moving in good ways this summer! This summer is not just a season of same old, same old or of hectic schedules. It is a season full of God and his hopes for our lives coming to fruition!

How do we partner with God so that we cultivate fruit this summer?

Whatever season we are in, we know we are called to abide (John 15). And when we abide, we are promised that we will bear fruit--fruit that will remain! (Romans 15:5, 16). We were chosen by God, for the purpose of bearing fruit. If you follow God, it is your destiny to bear fruit! It is meant to happen. Let us walk with God and agree with that truth!

Abiding is simple. It is what we do when we are with a friend, a mentor, a spouse. It is listening. Being with. Talking with. Sharing. Doing together. This week, I went through this roles and goals worksheet to evaluate and ask God where he wants to take me spiritually, mentally, in family, financially, relationally, and physically this summer. You can go through it on your own or with your spouse to hear from God concerning what He has for your family this summer.

Summer isn’t here yet, but God has increasing and renewing hope for our lives! I like how the King James Version says Romans 4:17:

“God...calleth things that be not as though they were.”

We all have hopes and longings in our hearts that are not reality for us yet. But God is calling into being those things which are not yet! He did so at creation, and he will continue to do so as we are being made new before him.

So, no matter how you’re feeling about your summer, God has good things coming!

I am praying for you all!
 

“Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17

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 and discipleship school classmates!

Brothers and Sisters and Couches and Cars

I grew up believing that Easter was a holiday for which I received a basket of candy--chocolate, to be precise--and thanked the Easter bunny for such a marvelous gift. How kind of this mythical creature to hop along to my front door and drop off a treat that’s fate was to be eaten by eight year old me, and forgotten about the next day. Jesus was not a part of my Easter celebration.

This Easter Sunday I was baptized. You guessed it: Jesus was a big part of that celebration.

To say that my thankfulness has shifted, that my eyes have opened, that I’ve realized the gift I have actually been given, would be a dramatic understatement; the gift I have been given through Jesus’ death and resurrection is eternal life, yes, but it is also everything that is within this life: my body, my mind, my dreams, my goals, my friends, my experiences, my home, my family. Each of these gifts--like bonus gifts tagged onto the gift of eternal life with the King of kings--come with a lot of lessons that I will never stop learning.

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I’m going to take up this space of the internet to talk about family and how I have learned what a gift it is. When I say family, I’m talking about the church family, the body of Christ. I am not ignoring our blood relatives, in fact I want to talk about the body because I believe it sets an example that can transform the individual families that we all have.

I am an ancient nineteen years old. I have learned a lot in my life, but boy do I have so much more to learn. I want to keep learning and being surprised by the family that I am now a part of. I am not from here. I’m from San Diego, California and nearly everything I own and everything I know is back there, 1,919 miles away. My car, my guitar, my family, my dogs, my school... you get my drift. I moved out here pretty quickly and had a very small agenda: I was to be a nanny for four months.

God had different plans.

I have now been here for nine months. I’m in the Antioch Discipleship School (ADS), a barista at Starbucks, and have been fully immersed in the church and the people that make it up. From not knowing Antioch existed, to living with an Antioch family, I’d say God wanted to teach me something about relationships and His heart for each one of us.

I built a lot of walls growing up and my trust was given out, for lack of a smaller measurement, in teaspoons. I had a view of God that reflected my experiences, not the Bible. Jumping into Antioch changed that, and much more. I have been graciously guided to the truth of God’s heart, my identity, and my purpose in this earth through the relationships I have built with the body of Christ that have brought me to the Bible. In class, in church, and in conversations, God has slowly revealed His idea of a family to me. I’ve been in need of many things out here--a place to live, a way of transportation, a meal--and every time I am in that place, God protects and provides through a family member.

These “family members” of mine, these brothers and sisters in Christ, have let me sleep on their couches and borrow their cars. They have given me a bed to sleep on and a room to sleep in. They have been my chauffeurs and my often-needed advice givers. They have brought me Vernors and saltine crackers when I’ve been sick. They have given me a guitar to play. They have taught me how to drive in the snow. They have bought me groceries and cooked me dinner. They have shown me what it means to love thy neighbor and have all things in common. They have given their time, their money, their space, their energy, their love.

Because of all of this--these people and these experiences--I have gotten a glimpse into the kingdom.

I have been on the receiving end of those who live generously and openly, with their eyes on Jesus. I have been blessed abundantly by those who fill the seats of our church and I can’t help but believe that this sort of family is a reflection of God’s intent for all of our families: that we would all live with our hearts eager to love, our arms open wide, and our eyes fixed on the one that started it all.

 

About the Author: Courtney is sort of a college student. She's also sort of a musician, a barista, a writer, and an artist. Most of her life has happened in San Diego, CA where she practically camped out on the stage telling dozens of stories via musical theatre. Now she makes coffee for people, drinks even more coffee for herself, tries to run, and is always ready to pull the age card on her thirteen older ADS classmates. She does indeed enjoy long walks on the beach.

Patient Endurance

Recently, my roommate came to me, her face pulled into that painful smile you get when you’re sharing bad news that isn’t really that big of a deal but it’s still your fault. “I think I killed our seedlings.” We had stored our seed trays in her room—which happens to be the warmest in the house—for those frigid winter days of April. But life happened, and the initial enthusiastic burst that had inspired our gardening adventure had begun to fade. Needless to say, they hadn’t been watered in a while. I laughed because I was all to familiar with this phenomenon.

If you’re anything like me, a quick rifling through of your closet, garage, or desk unveils unfinished projects and a quick-read through of your journal reveals forgotten and unaccomplished resolutions: reminders of a moment of enthusiasm quickly thwarted by busyness, boredom, or just straight up laziness. 

So I knew. I knew that life happens and projects get put on the back burner. 

My connect group (shout out to Ypsi Young Adults!), recently studied 2 Corinthians 8, where Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to follow through on their previously expressed desire to give generously. One verse in particular struck me: 

11 Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

While Paul is talking about giving, I am inclined to think this admonition can be applied to much more. I have long recognized this tendency in my life—this tendency of leaving endeavors incomplete as eagerness fades—though previous attempts to thwart it ended prematurely (we'll call that predictable irony). As I prayed through this, I felt the Lord speaking the phrase “patient endurance.” 

“Small things done repeatedly bring harvest, like watering plants and deadheading flowers. Patient endurance brings abundant harvest. Patient endurance yields fruit. Come up under a yoke of faithful discipline... Sow faithfully, endure patiently, only then does one see a harvest (when the season for harvest comes).”

So we brought our seedlings to the dining room, where they were out in the open for all of us to see: where they would have a better chance of getting watered and cared for. We watched as slowly, the wilting leaves began to gain strength and new green sprouts emerged. We watched with surprise as one group of seedlings we had given up on, a group which should have taken one week to emerge, began to sprout after four. We replanted some that were clearly irredeemable.

When you plant a garden, you can’t just plant a seed and let it go. You plant a seed, you water it, you put it in the sun, you transplant it when ready, you weed, you deadhead. You do the same things over and over and over until the harvest comes. 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Enthusiasm is great at planting and even harvesting. But it’s terrible at tending. That’s where patient endurance comes in. 

I know this is common sense. But that doesn’t make it any easier or more natural. We live in a world of instant gratification and quick results. As a society, patient endurance is not exactly our strong suit. For us young'uns, we may not have had to patiently endure for very much.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:21

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Ask the Lord what in your life you may have begun enthusiastically that you need to now endure patiently: a project, a job, investing in a relationship, praying for a family member or friend. Trust that through the Spirit, you have access to all you need for faithful discipline and patient endurance. 

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

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 a receptionist and marketing consultant 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.

A City of Salvation

In this season of lent, we, as a church, are pursuing a heart of prayer: a heart that chases after what is on God’s heart and that prays in his Kingdom. I have been so blessed by our early morning prayer times. They have been sweet times of searching after the Father heart of God as a community. It has been so refreshing to take time out of our busy lives to show up and pray. Some of us might come with our PJs on, no makeup and our hair in a messy bun. But this is authentic community. We are asking God to show us what He has for us and we are saying “yes” to it. 

Downtown Detroit

Downtown Detroit

This week as we prayed for Hamtramck and the refugee crisis, we were led to pray that the Father’s heart would be revealed. God’s heart is that we would walk in His identity and share with others the salvation that only comes from knowing His name. God has put in my heart to pray Isaiah 26 over our cities (Ann Arbor, Detroit, Hamtramck, Dearborn, etc ) It says…

In that day, everyone in the land of Judah will sing this song:
Our city is strong!
We are surrounded by the walls of God’s salvation.
Open the gates to all who are righteous;
allow the faithful to enter.
You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the LORD always,
for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.” 

Downtown Ann Arbor

Downtown Ann Arbor

My prayer is that as a community we would sing and pray the song of salvation over our cities.

May this area be known as an area that is safe because it is full of God’s salvation. 

May families, universities, work places and cities be transformed because we walk in righteousness and are faithful. 

May God also keep us in peace and may we trust and walk in this identity. 

May God raise up the church to be the foundation to our city becoming a city of Salvation.

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.

In all things, pray.

You are powerful! Your prayers are powerful! We must recognize this: our prayers are powerful.  Our prayers affect the world…both the seen and the unseen.  

James 5.13-18 13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.[b17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

In James we see that prayer is amazingly powerful. Our spiritual reality and our physical reality are intimately tied together and affect each other.  In this passage we are taught that we are to pray in every circumstance. 

If you are suffering, if you are cheerful, if you are sick, if you have sinned, if you need rain...pray! 

James is convinced that prayer is the answer to all circumstances. We must learn to agree with James. 

This past Sunday, Antioch gathered to pray for every situation and circumstance, as James encouraged.  Our hope is that, as a congregation, we would know how to pray in all circumstances with faith that God will break into our lives and change both our spiritual reality and our physical reality. Jesus taught us to pray that our Father’s kingdom and will come to Earth as it is in Heaven. When heaven breaks into your life you cannot help but be transformed. 

Setting our Gaze

“Taste and see that the Lord is good...”

Psalm 34:8a

In Ted’s sermon a few weeks ago, he spoke to us about listening to God. For those of us who want to hear God more, we may have this question on our heart: How do we do hear God more?

One thing Ted covered was removing distractions from our life. But how do we know if something is a distraction?

When we partake of it, we don’t feel refreshed.

In Ephesians 3:19, Paul prays that the church “may be filled up with all the fullness of God.” Psalms 16:11 says, “In your presence is fullness of joy.”

When we do something that is of God, we are filled to fullness! If we are not experiencing fullness from something, we may need to consider it as not of God in this season.

When I was in middle school and high school, I read a lot. I mean, a lot. I read several books a week. Sometimes one a night. It took up a lot of my time. I was still involved in a lot of other areas. I did musicals at schools. I led Bible studies in my youth group. But when I moved to college, God started to tell me to stop reading so much. I’d try to read, and I would feel empty. I wouldn’t feel as moved as before. So I’d read more, to try and get the same effect as I had previously.

This is the heart of binging. I would feel just as, if not more, empty, discouraged, and distanced from something that once blessed me. And for a time, I didn’t understand what was going on.

God took reading away to make space for himself. Reading isn’t inherently bad. Most parents would rejoice if their kids were reading. But God had something different planned for me.

1 Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are permissible for me, but not all things are beneficial.” I was experiencing God removing his blessing on something to lead me to greater blessing: to the substance of the shadow of joy I had found in books, just as Christ is the substance of the shadow of things we find on earth (Col. 2:17).

Ask God: “Are there any things in my life that do not fill me?” When you eat and are not filled. When you read yet only want to read more. When you watch a movie or a TV episode and only feel a need for more.

When God gives his answer, ask what He would have you do with that distraction. He may have you moderate it more. For example, I have come to only watch movies or a TV series when I’m with other people. Or he may ask you to throw out the distraction completely. I did this with sugar for a few months during my senior year of college. I saw that, when I ate sugar, I didn’t feel satisfied. I only wanted more. And I wanted that more to come from God.

Once the distraction is dealt with as God leads, we have more space inside. Most likely, it will feel awkward. We will feel uncomfortable. And we won’t know how God will fill that space.

This is the time for us to seek God.

For me, when I don’t know what to do, I sit on my couch. I stare at my wall or window, and I say, in my head or heart, “God.”

From there, God moves me toward him. Different things happen each time. I sometimes sit and stare and just listen and wait for a long while. I have been moved to read a spiritual book, pray a specific prayer, listen to a song, journal a thought, or meditate on a passage of scripture.

To be filled with the fullness of God and to hear his voice, we first need to make space in our hearts for him! Let us do so expectantly.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;

blessed is the one who takes refuge in him! ”

      Psalm 34:8

About the Author: Allison Downing 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 and discipleship school classmates!

Don't Stop Believing... Or Praying

Meet My Friend. His name is Edgar (name changed). 

Edgar and I became friends in middle school. By the time we entered college in 2007 (me in North Carolina, and him in Connecticut), our conversations occurred less frequently. But when they did happen, they lasted for hours. We discussed everything from politics and race relations in the United States, to music or the latest sports wins. Always extravagantly decorating his sentences with foul language, Edgar kept me abreast of what he was learning in school, his party life, and details of his latest love interests. 

Chats with Edgar were always thought-provoking, engaging, and had us both yelling at each other and laughing with one another. Yet no matter how long we were on the phone or instant messenger, our conversations always circled back to God. Though he sometimes read the Bible, Edgar didn’t believe there was only one way to God. 

In college, I began praying for Edgar to meet Jesus, and I asked some of my friends to do the same. I wanted it to happen, but I struggled to believe it would because he just wasn’t interested.

Towards the end of one of our multi-hour phone conversations on a cold January day in 2009, a thought popped in my mind: “Elisabeth, you should pray with Edgar.” I glanced at the clock and told myself...well...let’s face it - I told God, “Um - it’s almost 3:00am. I’m going to sleep.”

The thought from God returned: “Elisabeth, pray with Edgar.”

Me, with a frown on my face: “He’s going to laugh at me and won’t take me seriously. And I’m tired!” So, I told Edgar it was time to go. After hanging up, I proceeded to pray for him.

But that thought wouldn’t let up - I had to pray with Edgar. So, shortly after we hung up, I reluctantly re-dialed his number.

“Hey Ed,” I said after he answered, “...Um. I feel like I should pray with you, so I’m just gonna do it, okay?”

He paused. I held my breath. After a few beats, he responded, “Okay.”

So I prayed. I don’t remember exactly what I said. I remember feeling awkward at first, and then pouring my heart out, praying for Edgar to enter a relationship with Jesus, and praying for blessings to abound in his life.

When I finished, he sniffed and through a choked up voice forced out the words, “Thank you for praying with me, Elisabeth,” and he hastily hung up.

I didn’t hear from him for some time, but I kept praying for him.

Seven months later, Edgar called me saying he had good news. Over the next hour, he shared with me how his life radically changed after he dedicated his life to Jesus a few weeks prior.

I celebrated with him, but I also had to repent. You see, I’d sort of stepped into the intercessory role - praying for my friend and praying for breakthrough in his life. But for some time, I didn’t consistently believe what I was praying. I struggled sometimes to truly believe Edgar would come to love Jesus. The one major exception was when I prayed with him that night on the phone.

Faithfully Interceding.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t called Edgar back to pray with him. I think he would’ve still come to know Jesus. But I wouldn’t have been part of his story. I wouldn’t have known the sweet victory of interceding for someone and seeing the answer come to pass. I would’ve missed on an opportunity to experience the power of breakthrough. I saw that breakthrough happen when Edgar - the apathetic, pluralistic college kid who didn’t need the God of the Bible - broke into tears on the phone when he felt the presence and the love of God.

I’m not saying my prayers and those of my friends are solely responsible for Edgar coming to Jesus. But I do believe in the power of prayer. Jesus promises in Matthew 18:

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Webster’s dictionary defines intercession as, “prayer, petition, or entreaty in favor of another.” Jesus, in John 17, models intercession as He prays to God on our behalf. In John 17:20-23, He prays for us to be united with the Father, and for unity among believers.

Sometimes intercession doesn’t seem successful. We may pray for a loved one’s healing, only to see them pass on. In a similar way, we don’t always successfully live out what Jesus prayed for us. I can point to times where I’ve fallen out of unity with the Father. Jesus knew believers would struggle to be united together - whether due to race relations, perspectives on homosexuality, or views on prosperity, to name a few. Yet He faithfully intervened on our behalf to the Father. And when I read His words in John 17, I feel encouraged and spurred on towards connecting with Abba Father and with my fellow beloved in Christ.

Intercession and prayer make possible the impossible (see Matthew 21:21-22) and can also serve as a way to encourage the ones for whom we pray. In that moment when I prayed with Edgar on the phone, he later told me he felt love in a way he never had before, thawing his heart and helping him begin to be receptive to the love of the Father.

What About You?

Have you lost your fire to intercede for someone or something? Identify and admit those places. I encourage you to repent for doubting God in those areas, and ask the Lord to replace that sense of doubt with His confidence (check out Hebrews 4:16). 

Ask Him to give you the words to pray. It may get hard, but please don’t quit. Your intercession really does move mountains.