Day 14 Staying the Course

I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. 

-Philippians 3:14

Perseverance has to be one of the most underrated of all character qualities. But, in my opinion it is very difficult to live the Christian life without adopting a “long view” to living. We must live beyond the moment. We must not allow our CURRENT circumstances to dictate our outlook on TODAY. We cannot allow today’s delays to determine our decisions.

We live in a microwave world with a pretty short attentions span and a pretty low tolerance for delay or pain. And yet, in the Bible, people overcame tremendous obstacles and endured tremendous hardship. Why? Because they were able to take the long view. They knew that their CURRENT hardships would be worth it when they arrived at their destination. What is the destination? Heaven. God’s calling.

William Carey was a missionary in India, considered the founder of the modern missionary movement. There are at least 9 colleges that have been named after him, an entire missionary movement was modeled after his achievements, looking from where we are TODAY on him back then…no one would argue that he wasn’t a successful man of God.

Yet, he labored for 7 years in India before he ever saw ONE person decide to follow Jesus. What if William Carey gave up after 1 year, or 2 years, or three…or even 6? Countless thousands would not be followers of Jesus today.

As a church, we are on a significant journey to expand our impact on a community that needs Jesus. Increasing our capacity and increasing our effectiveness and eliminating some obstacles to people coming to Believers is no small task. We will no doubt experience some hardships. We will probably hit some delays. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few things between now and then that we will wish didn’t occur.

But, when we arrive, and we see what God has done through us…we will be grateful we persevered. We will be grateful that we kept our eyes on the prize.

For reflection:

In what areas of your life are you struggling right now or considering giving up in? How might things change, or how might God be glorified if you persevere?

As you pray and give towards NJAB, what great things are in front of us? Hang on to these thoughts to motivate you when discouraged.

Day 13 A Little Bit Goes a Long Way

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” 

“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. 

So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.) Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” 

John 6:9-12

There is always a tendency to look at what we have and think to ourselves, “This isn’t much…I don’t think it can even make a difference.” That’s always the enemy trying to discourage and dissuade us from surrendering what little we have to God because the devil knows that once God gets a hold of it, that little becomes MORE than enough!

In this story the boy could have just as easily looked at the crowds of people around him (some estimate that there were as many as 20,000 people) and thought to himself…this little bit of food won’t even make a scratch in the overall need here, and walked away deciding to keep it for himself.

And yet, that little bit surrendered to God was MORE than enough!

When you consider the scope of the Not Just a Building Project, it would be easy to think that the amount of money that YOU bring to this is so insignificant that there is no reason to bring it all. What difference could it really make?

When you consider the goals of NJAB, it would be easy to think that your humble invitation to the grocery worker isn’t going to make much of a difference.

When you think about how much has to happen for this project to succeed, there could be a strong temptation to think that your prayers aren’t really going to matter, I mean who are you?

But that’s just the enemy talking to you. Don’t listen to him. He knows that your small offering will grow your faith and multiply when God gets a hold of it. He knows that humble invitation can lead to transformed life that leads to an entire family finding faith in Jesus. The enemy would love to discourage you from

praying a simple prayer, because he knows that prayer can do whatever God can do!

So, surrender your little to our great God and watch Him multiply your gifts, your efforts and your prayers. Every little bit that you bring makes a BIG difference because our God is BIG!

Day 12 Pictures

We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever. 

Joshua 4:6-7 (NLT)

I cannot stand to have pictures taken of me. They always say the camera adds 10 lbs.; I think it adds 50! Because my wife is a photographer, every time we go on a trip, we have to always take pictures. I must admit, I now go back and look at these pictures with fondness because they remind me of special moments in my life.

Like the stone memorial in Joshua, pictures are a great memorial. They are an opportunity to reminisce… to reflect… to remember. We cannot move forward without taking times now and then to honor the past. Pictures are a great way to show our children, their children, and their children’s children the sacrifices that were made for their benefit.

As we prepare to move to a new promised land, take a family shot near one of the Believers signs as a memorial of what God did in your family’s life in this location that you can share with generations to come.

Day 11 Keep Your Camera in Focus

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it and it will not be taken away from her.” 

Do you ever get so focused on the grocery list for snacks for your upcoming trip that you forget to buy things for tonight’s dinner? Or what about making sure the bicycles are perfectly tuned, the trails are plotted, and the water bottles are loaded, but you forget all the helmets? 

Luke 10:41-42

I find myself in this kind of situation too often. I’m smart enough to remember bikes and helmets, but I don’t. I plan for dinner every day and then I totally space it. I’m finding that it’s not so much a matter of smarts as it is a matter of focus. Too much focus on one thing means neglect of another. And sometimes that accidental neglect has pretty serious consequences, especially when you’re doing something specifically to honor God.

As endeavors grow in size, so too do the opportunities to make focus errors. Clear goals, detailed plans, praying, and staying in constant communication with God is critical to success in anything we aspire to do. We set some exciting goals a year ago with Not Just a Building (NJAB), and the last year has been a lot of planning. Even as you read this, we shift from planning into doing and we’ll soon see the fruits of careful efforts to balance focus both in the NJAB Project and Believers’ continued day-to-day commitment to make Jesus number one, one person at a time. As ministry plans and your walk with Jesus progress, let’s take a moment to thank God for His gifts, and ask Him to hone our abilities to focus.

God, thank you for the presence of your Holy Spirit, which guides us in all our efforts to glorify you and introduce people to your son, Jesus. Please equip us with continued discernment and balanced focus in all our efforts within Believers Church ministries and NJAB, as well as what we do outside church walls. May we be useful in accomplishing your great plans, and remember to give you all the credit. 

Day 10 Twists and Turns

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’  These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. 

Matthew 6:26-33

Almost 14 years ago, my young family decided it was time for a change and my husband accepted a job with Ferguson Enterprises, in Newport News. At 23 years old, I was used to moving; Hubs on the other hand had only moved one other time in his life and it was to a neighboring town. Some bumps in life’s road in combination with new paths on the horizon lead to an excitement about starting over.

At the end of July in 2000, we flew into Norfolk, dropped off our 1 . year old son with my mom and dad, found a townhouse, and flew back to Minnesota to make the big move, half way across the country. The company was giving us a moving allowance and being the young couple that we were, we felt like we hit the jackpot. By the beginning of August, we packed as much as we could into our Intrepid, watched the movers load everything else we owned into the truck, and off we went.

As we drove away from our little 2 bedroom apartment we left behind family, lots of friends, the church we were married and involved in…all for…well, we didn’t really know! The future seemed so uncertain. I remember going through waves of feeling really excited and really terrified.

The passage in Matthew 6:26-33 became a mantra in our home as we transitioned into our new location. There were days when we just knew we had made the right decision to leave all that we knew for this adventure; then there were days that brought so much loneliness we just wanted to run back to the comforts of the familiar. In our times of worry and uncertainty, the reminder of how much God cares for us didn’t grow old. As a couple, settling into Chesapeake was one of the deepest faith growing times we have faced. The realization of what we faced was out of our control caused us to surrender

everything to Jesus and doing so stretched us in ways we couldn’t have imagined.

Believers family, we are embarking on a move of monumental proportions. As a ministry, we’ve hit some bumps in the road (lots of people and cars and not enough room for them!); we also have some new paths on the horizon! While the combination of those things can be a little daunting, it can also be very exciting. Together we have seen (and will continue to see) that when we seek God above all else, He will show up in the midst of twists and turns on the road to give us everything we need!

Day 9 Who We Are

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. 

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

Have you noticed lately that every Sunday at Believers Church is starting to feel a lot like our “Big Days”? New faces and hundreds of kids each and every Sunday is pretty exciting. It should also be our weekly reminder of how mission critical our Not Just a Building project is! I have been at Believers Church for 3 years now and one of my favorite things is to hear the staff and those who have been here for many years talk about where we have come from. From the stories of the technology that was used to the people who had a heart to see our community come to know Jesus.

You might have heard the saying that in order to know where you are going you have to know where you have been. From what I have learned and witnessed over the last 3 years Believers Church has always been filled with people who have a heart to see those who do not have a relationship with God come to know Him. The idea to just staying in this same location and be comfortable “doing church” doesn’t fit with who we are and who God created us to be.

I believe that we are living out Philippians 1:6 as a church and God is going to see it through to completion. Not just the completion of a new building but to the numbers of people who will come to know Christ on a personal level because of the sacrifices being made right now by Believers Church.

Next Step:

~ Praying for the lives that will be changed because of NJAB

Day 8 Mile Markers

Living in this area, many plan their vacations in the Outer Banks area of North Carolina. My family has made that our summer vacation a number of times. There have been summers where we switch it up and try other areas but the OBX is still a common place for us. I have, over the past 4 years made it one of my fall traditions; going in November to run the OBX half-marathon.

Each of us probably has a favorite thing about the OBX we rave about. Some love a favorite restaurant; others like a certain activity, etc. The one aspect of the OBX that I like best; the mile posts (MP). Wherever I need to go in the OBX, all I need to do is look for the appropriate mile post.

Mako Mikes? MP 7! Mama Kwans? MP 9.5! Just tell me the mile post when I venture out and I am good to go! Those mile posts make my entire vacation a lot less stressful because I can see a clear path to where I am going. I set my eyes on the prize and look forward to what’s ahead. When it is time for those delicious Duck Donuts, I am laser focused in on MP 8.5 and nothing else can deter me from it.

Those mile posts and the determination to achieve my predetermined destination remind me of a passage in Philippians. The apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (perfection), but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” 

This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. It speaks to the forgiveness we have in Christ; the sin that broke my relationship is forgiven and I can look forward to what God has for me. But look closer at that passage. It also speaks of endurance, of arriving at my destination! We need to look forward and keep our eyes fixed on what’s ahead. We haven’t arrived yet in terms of our NJAB project. We must continue this race so that we can receive all that God wants for us.

So with that, what mile posts do you need to establish in your NJAB journey? Are there financial mile posts you have missed? Are there spiritual mile posts that need to be erected? Determine today what mile markers you need in life so that you can celebrate in what God is going to do in the next phase of Believers Church.

Don’t miss your mile posts. Establish a clear plan for the future and stick to it!

Day 7 Trippin’

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 

Hebrews 12:1-2

This verse fits perfect in our busy, fast food, instant streaming, next day delivery, society. Time is money and we are growing less and less sympathetic to anything that slows us down. It’s odd that we despise buffering when watching YouTube, or get mad when our Amazon order is a day late, yet we happily allow sin to slow down our lives.

We may look productive on the outside but spiritually many of us are being weighted down to the point where we aren’t even moving anymore. The race is life, the weight is sin, and our forward movement is our growing and maturing relationship with our Creator.

If we hope to speed things up the verse is very clear: strip off the sin. It’s slowing you down, it’s a distraction, and for many of us it is tripping us up hurting relationships, getting us deeper in debt, and taking us to a place where God never intended us to be.

As a church we have some really exciting goals that are focused on where God wants us. We have to work together though if we hope to see this vision God has given us come to fruition. This race doesn’t involve just one person running but it’s all of us running together, holding each other accountable, and reminding each other to shed off anything that is slowing us down.

What sins are slowing you down? Once you identify those areas what kinds of changes are you going to have to make to ensure you can stay focused on God? This process won’t be easy but it is essential to a life that is ready to run this race and avoid anything that will slow you down.

Day 6 Getting Through It Together

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Sprit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 

Romans 8:26-28

I love road trip adventures. I love to see new things, listen to music, eat at weird restaurants, and visit with my companions… I cannot recall an adventure that I haven’t enjoyed. That is NOT to say that things have never gone terribly wrong. In fact, thinking back now, the road trips I remember most fondly are the ones that have had an element (or two) of insanity. Is that normal, I wonder?

I think there’s really something to be said for getting through a hairy situation with other people… it’s kind of a “unity multiplier”, I think. Perhaps that’s why my memories of trip trouble end up being so positive. I remember the feeling of closeness to my companion(s) when circumstances were rough. It is one of my favorite feelings… overcoming something together.

About a year ago, we started the Not Just a Building “adventure”, and now, nearly half way through this crazy trip of working towards better space in which we can show Jesus to those who don’t know Him, maybe you’re not where you thought you’d be when the trip started. Maybe life has taken on “an element of insanity”, and you find yourself scrambling to accomplish the demands of a single day, let alone spend time with Jesus through prayer, worship, and reading. If you find yourself in this spot, it’s time to pull the car over, take a nap, and then look at things with fresh eyes.

It is easy to forget that even when we are by ourselves we are not alone. Jesus is always available to be with us. Are you taking advantage of this? We are close to friends when we reach out to them. The same is true with Jesus. And while he doesn’t overcome obstacles for us, he is with us through the obstacles and takes a lot of the obstacle’s power away… recalibrating us, and giving us hope and renewed focus on the truly important things in this life.

How are you reaching out to Jesus right now? Through prayer? Through reading the Bible? Through worship and serving? Consider stepping up in one of these areas through the end of the year and assess your situation again at the end of that time.

Day 5 Back Seat Driver

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors and set them above the crowd. 

Hebrews 11:1 (MSG)

Ok I am guilty…I am a back seat driver. You know the guy who sits in the passenger seat and tells the driver what they are doing wrong. I have always been the “driver” in our family. Whenever we go anywhere, that could be a trip to the mall or on a long road trip, I am the driver. I wish I could say it wasn’t a control issue that I have but it is. There are many things in my life I don’t need to control but where we are going as a family is definitely one of them.

You know that feeling when someone else is driving and you are in the passenger’s seat hitting your fake gas and brake pedals! You say to yourself  “if I kick this floorboard hard enough I’m pretty sure it will stop this car.”

Over the last year our Not Just a Building campaign has left me feeling a lot like I do when I’m riding shotgun in the car. I have been overwhelmed at times because of the uncontrollable circumstances that happen in life and I have been blessed by the faithfulness God has shown me. I have heard more stories than I can count about how God has shown up with unexpected financial blessings that would cover the amounts pledged to NJAB and I have also heard the stories where unexpected job loss or health issues have turned NJAB pledges into forgotten dreams.

Hebrews 11:1 talks about our acts of faith and how it set us apart from the rest of our world. If right now you’re discouraged because you have been on detour roads for the last year my prayer for you is that you rest in the faith that our God is greater, stronger, and higher than any circumstance you may be going through. It’s hard work and for most of us we are not going to open up the mailbox one day and a check for the exact amount will be sitting there. Looking at our finances and sacrificing on the things we really don’t need right now will allow us to reach the goals we have set as a Church. Let us continue to pray for one another that we give up control and allow God to lead us over the next year.

Next Step:

What are some financial sacrifices you can make?