Category Archives: Stories

Stories – Julie

I grew up in the church with two parents who love God. But with that, I got a mixed concoction of religion and true Christianity. I wasn’t able to decipher which was which.

I saw the flannel graph pictures, and puppet shows of Bible stories, and they all sounded great. I even came to Christ at the young age of 4 years old (one week before Thanksgiving). But I couldn’t fully comprehend what a relationship with Christ really meant until years later.

It wasn’t until I hit junior high, that my faith really began to be put to the test. It was then that I began to understand just how special a relationship with Christ is, and how I cherish it! As one who grew up in the public school system, there was this after school Christian club that I was apart of. It was there that I saw Believers worship God in a way genuine. It was as if, it was something I’d never seen before. Seeing their devotion to God, challenged me to want to worship God not just in spirit, but in truth as well.

But here’s the main biggie…I still didn’t understand what Gospel focused, and grace flowing living meant until I hit college. It was just before I came to Grace, that God began to unveil me eyes to the truth.  God has used the ministry of VI and Grace in a TREMENDOUS way!!  I’ve come to know what a true Believer should look like, and that living missionally is what God has called each and everyone of us to do!

God has placed each one of us in the positions at work, classes at school, and families we have, for a specific reason and purpose, to glorify and radiate an accurate representation of Christ. I’m learning more that this world is NOT our home. Our home is in Heaven with Christ! Therefore, it’s important that we run with perseverance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, who is the author and perfector of our faith. I have also learned within the past couple years of being apart of the Grace family, that it is completely God’s plan for my life that will prevail. That has been a huge lesson to learn, for this person who is naturally inclined to plan and set out and organize everything!

Currently I’m learning the importance of keeping God in his rightful place in my life, and not putting other activities, people, or work before him. It’s easier said than done! But for all that God has done in my life, and how He has literally given me a second chance at life when I tried to end it; how can I not desire to live a life that glorifies Him, and all that He’s done in and through me.

I am blessed to be apart of a Living Room that genuinely cares about each other, and is there for each other, as we all grow closer to God in community together. The friendships I’ve made are cherished and I thank God for each and every person!

It is my prayer that God humbles me, and continues to take away the things that are not of Him, so He can shine ever more brightly in my life. Not out of a legalistic point, but out of my love for Him. My Savior, Healer, and Redeemer, my life is in His hands to do with whatever He wants, and whenever.

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What’d he say?

I’ve been asked recently by several people outside of VI why we do dialogue teaching instead of the traditional monologue sermon. I’ll lovingly smile and then give them an answer far longer then they expected…

“For years we have been exposing Christians to scattered, random bits of biblical knowledge through our church services and Christian education classes. They hear a principle here and read a truth there, then nod their head in approval and feel momentarily satisfied over receiving this new insight into their faith. But within the space of just a few hours that principle or truth is lost in the busyness and complexity of their lives. They could not capture that insight and own it because they had never been given a sufficient context and method that would enable them to analyze, categorize, and utilize the principle or truth. This inability to systematically apply Scriptural truth produces a spiritual superficiality or immaturity that is reflected in behavior.”
-George Barna

A main problem many of us have been facing over the last several months is the facilitating of our Living Room discussion. Many members of our communities seem to be unengaged, timid, or unwilling to participate. I believe the primary reason for this is the way we (leadership) have approached the discussion. Many of us have taken the route of studying the passage, preparing a 3-point sermon, teaching it, and then asking the Living Room questions based off of your teaching. A concern for that approach is that many people, especially college students, in our society are not receptive to facts presented in monologue form. The majority of people are much more receptive to absorbing, retaining, and repeating content that is in dialogue and story form.

“The word commonly translated ‘preach’ means to proclaim the gospel to unbelievers. It should be no surprise that Jesus taught through dialogue and questions. Studies by IBM and the UK Post Office show that people who learn by hearing alone retain just 10% of what they have learned after three months. People who learn by hearing and being shown experience retain 65%. It means the only person experiencing good learning in a sermon is the preacher!” (Total Church, pages 112-113).

A culture that needs to be engaged

– 42% of college students don’t read books
– 80% of US families did not buy or read a book in 2007
– 50% of books bought are not read to completion
– The average reader will read only 18 pages of a book
– Each day people in the US spend 4 hours watching TV and 3 hours listening to music
– The average American spends 80% of their non-working time in front of a screen

Reasons for story form teaching

• We are captivated by good stories. Why do you follow certain TV shows (The Office, Prison Break, The OC)?

• After hearing a story, it is easy to repeat

• People love hearing stories

• Everyone was raised and shaped by stories

• Stories have the power to get attention

• Community promotes story telling

• Story telling promotes community

• Storying is transferable

• Story telling invites other’s to tell their stories

• Story telling is welcoming

Nick

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Stories – Erwin

Here is what’s been going on with my man, Erwin…

Christ has provided me with true friendship and an amazing community of gospel centered believers. Of the little time that I’ve been a member at Grace Community Church, God has shown me what it is to live in community and truly grasp humility. The past year has been a healing and growing experience for me and the Lord hasn’t let me down. Before I came to VI, it was hard for me to find friends that are everyday believers and not fake. The Holy Spirit has reviled to me that I need to die to myself, encourage my brothers and sisters, live out the gospel, and pick up my cross and follow Him daily. In the Living Room that I’m a part of, God has done amazing things. I believe He has placed us in this group specifically to let us grow through one another. These members have shown me how much they love God and it makes me want to become more like Him.

Our Living Room volunteers with iHelp homeless ministry. We prepare lunches for the following day, and have conversations with those attending. They all have such amazing stories and experiences from where they came from. They are grateful that the church opens the doors and help them get back on their feet. I am so amazed how God works. How He chooses to love us and have a personal relationship with us. Through this ministry, God has shown me how much He loves us and how He will continue to change our lives through the body of believers in community. God has shown me through Pastor Josh that we all need a Paul to teach and guide us, A Barnabas to walk and encourage us, and a Timothy to pour into. As the semester starts out Living Room will continue to expand and reach out into the community to serve with willing hearts through Christ Jesus. This year for me will continue to be a learning and growing process with the community, through the gospel and our faith in Christ our Lord and Savior.

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Stories – Tom Tom

Here is another story of how God is working through VI. My boy, Tom Tom, shares how he’s been rocked by the gospel…

Over the last couple months the gospel has been rocking my world in some crazy and exciting ways. Coming into a deeper understanding of the gospel has lead to some changes in my life, as well as a heavy and deep pursuit of Jesus. I am daily feeling in my heart the depth of my sin and depravity, as well as the abiding joy and hope and peace the cross has brought me. I read the book of Mark right before Christmas and just finished Prodigal God a couple weeks ago. I was blown away by what I read in Mark about Jesus teaching the Pharisees, and Prodigal God really showed me a side of my prideful, legalistic nature that was difficult at times to stomach.

Probably the passage I was blown away by the most in Mark is in chapter 7 where Jesus references Isaiah and says, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” He follows that up by explaining that the rebellious and sinful nature of the heart of man. I remember that as I read that I was floored. I have been in church since I was very, very young and have worked hard within myself to hold to the right focus and the correct ways of living, but I wondered how much of it was done out of response to the gospel and how much of it was done just as holding to a tradition, or worse yet, the approval of other men. Recognizing that Jesus is the only one who can change my heart and that he does that through the gospel message being preached and being applied to areas and circumstances in my life really allowed me to examine my heart and my selfish and approval-based motives. As I read on, I came to Mark 8 where Jesus talks to his disciples about coming after him and how that works. As I let that idea sit with me and wash over my mind and heat, it showed me that, as much as I fought against it outwardly, I was, in many ways, using Jesus as a means to something rather than pursuing him as ultimate. I so often seek after cheep idols instead of giving Jesus the place of king in my life.

Prodigal God rocked my view of the gospel in light of my legalistic, arrogant nature. Some quotes that really got to me and were, at first hard to deal with were:

“Being an older brother Pharisee is a more spiritually desperate condition.”

    “Sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.”
    “The resentment you have towards others is your own fault. It is caused not by the prosperity of the other person, but by your own effort to control life through your performance.”

These are just a few of many that were hard to take in that rocked me, but I was shown my elder brother Pharisee mindset in a way like I had never recognized it before. Basically, I was hit with the fact that I get my worth and significance from being a good and nice guy. I default to the mindset that, because I serve God and work hard to do things I think please him, I should receive blessing and favor in the things I want. God becomes a genie I control by my good works and no longer means anything to me as a Savior, a King, and a Righteous Judge that lovingly and graciously gave himself for my desperate, sinful condition. I become easily embittered when others are succeeding where I’m not and where others are finding God in the midst of their daily pursuits. I was not finding God because I was not looking for him, I was just looking for his blessing and favor in the circumstances of my life.

Coming out of the break into my final semester of college, I feel called by God to a few things but one thing very specifically. This semester, I am committed to learning and understanding my identity as purchased for me by Christ, and not as something I have earned by my own merit or deeds. In reality my merit or deeds could never earn me anything, but that doesn’t mean that my mindset won’t default to that place where I believe whole-heartedly that it does. By God’s grace and his grace alone I have been redeemed into his family as a servant, learner and missionary. I want to lead and serve and work out of the fact that my identity is solely based on grace and I don’t have to earn it. I can be passionate and pursue a calling, and a purpose for my life, all the while recognizing the wonderful and merciful provision of Christ. I don’t fully grasp that yet and I know that I won’t over night. But I know my understanding will increase more and more in the same way it began: In faith that God’s work in the cross was enough to accomplish my complete and total redemption and that it will be enough everyday for the rest of my life.

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Stories – Seth

God has been moving in amazing ways within our ministry. As one of the main leaders I get the joy of being able to hear of all the ways the gospel has been transforming lives. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some of the stories of how God is working through people within VI.

Our hope is that you’d be able to see the different ways God has been working within VI and lives of those who are striving to live rooted in the gospel (Col 2:6). Seth will kick off this new blog series…

Growing up in church I learned how to be a ‘good Christian’. The problem with this was that it became a disguised form of legalism that created a problem; being a ‘good person’ became synonymous with being a ‘Christian’. The result was that, practically, living for God on a daily basis meant simply acting like a good person on a daily basis. I would have a good day ‘spiritually’ if I had a quiet time in the morning and if I didn’t curse under my breath throughout the day. Make no mistake, I felt the power of the gospel transform my mind and heart; that I was God’s personal creation, that out of pride and ignorance I rebelled and therefore deserved hell, that while a was and still am a sinner Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, the all atoning sacrifice, paid my debt on the cross, and that there is now exists inside of me faith that saves by God’s grace. But, tragically, I was having a great deal of trouble applying it practically to my life.

The door was shut. The reality was that it was frustrating. I would have quiet times; I would spend 2-3 weeks a year overseas ‘on a mission’, and I was completely (outwardly) faithful to the church and my role as a worship leader. However, on a daily basis I was struggling to experience God beyond that of an intellectual level. It was frustrating to me, as I felt as though I was making every effort to pursue deep understanding and application of the Truth, I strove to be faithful in prayer and faithful in reading the Word, and that I was, comparatively (which in and of itself leads down the slippery slope of legalism), being a good person.

God opened a new door to me. The doctrine of grace does not end with salvation. Being or becoming what the world would call a good person or even a Christ-like person is not an end in itself. This is because no matter how Christ-like we become ‘even our righteousness is like a filthy rag’. Me responding to God’s grace and salvation is so much more than me attempting to conquer sin in my life (I do not mean to diminish or at all disregard the call to be sanctified, only to point out that it is not the only purpose of my life). So then, my idea of ‘living-out’ my faith on a daily basis was shattered.

God pushed me through the door. God saved me so that I may now participate in his mission. This is not going on a mission trip, this is not attending a church, this is not deepening theology, this is not even loving others (all of which are very good things, but are not ends in themselves). People coming to Christ and being blessed eternally by the gift of God by God are the only events in any single person’s life that does not simply go away. So God has blessed me with a mission; that every day, 24/7, every dollar spent, word spoken, action lived, and step taken would be for the sake of furthering God’s Gospel. This happens here and now. When I walk to class, when I watch the NFL on Sunday, when I shop for clothes, and when I sit alone in a coffee shop. God has placed me here because here is what I need and I am what here needs. I was blessed so that I may be a blessing.

In the middle of last semester I began to experience what this looked and felt like when I began to live this out. My initial frustration was that I was not experiencing God and that I was not seeing and feeling God move in my life. As soon as I began to even attempt to be on a mission (missional is the hip term) on a daily basis I saw God move. I could see God moving around me because I was the person God was moving. God empowered me to build relationships with people at ASU who I, without feeling compelled by the truth of the Gospel, would not have pursued. Sharing my life leads to sharing the gospel. These relationships are my mission field. This mission field is my purpose at ASU. It all is satisfying God’s eternal purpose of displaying his Glory!

My challenge to myself and every person—find one person in every class (or setting in general if you’re not a student) and become their best friend this semester. Sharing your life leads to sharing the gospel.

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