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February 16-18 was our annual Disciple Now Weekend (always shortened to DNOW). This event serves as a local retreat for our 6th-12th grade students. They meet for multiple sessions of worship, small groups, and they stay in host homes. We do this event with several other area churches allowing us to have over 150 students gathered together during the main parts of the event. DNOW is non-stop from the moment it begins and is one of the highlights of my entire year.

Our theme this year was Relentless. This is centered around one idea: If you were put into a situation where you had to choose Christ, and by doing so you would lose everything-- maybe even your life--would you still do it? Through the weekend our speaker, Dave Atherton, challenged the students to “never settle” in their pursuit of following Christ and to “preach the word because the world needs a dose of truth.”

The last session focused on being broken before God. This session involved an activity where the students were given a note card and told to anonymously write their greatest challenge to them following God—their greatest distraction and deterrent. This exercise brought the students to dig deep into what they feel is holding them back. The youth pastors of this event collected the cards and pulled out a few for the speaker to read through later. What may have been an exercise for the students to measure where they were spiritually, became a difficult exercise for us as leaders. We read through every card—mostly thinking we’d pull out the “duds.” Reading through the thoughts and struggles of hundreds of our students is—exhausting. It is also a good reminder—even for those of us working with students every week.  Our students’ trials are not bad Wi-Fi connections and finding prom dates. Our students wrestle with real and difficult doubts, sins, and pasts.

This session was followed by an invitation, and the majority of the students attending went forward and they prayed. They prayed alone, with their friends, with their leaders. When you’ve written your greatest obstacle is on the forefront of your mind and you have an opportunity to speak to God about it—it’s a difficult one to ignore. It was difficult, it was deep, and it was freeing.  When the distractions are brought to God, then we can fully commit to being relentless followers of Christ.

I would ask that as it crosses your mind you would pray for our students. Pray that they have courage to overcome their distractions. Pray that they are not held back by the weight and guilt of their mistakes. Pray that they will be ready and free to relentlessly preach the gospel to all of those around them. Pray that the weekend’s verse “…for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and hear,” (Acts 4:20 ESV) becomes a constant reality for them.

We end Saturday night with a late-night worship session. The band comes out with high-energy songs, dance-offs, and goofy dances. It is one last opportunity for students from other groups to worship the Creator together—laughing, singing, and dancing.

There was also a purple gorilla—but that’s just how DNOW goes.

Posted by Alec Erhart with
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It's that time of year around here.  Life seems to be stagnant.  We say we have the blahs or are in the doldrums.  We look forward to spring, when things will be different, but in the meantime,  it is more of the same:  cold, barren, dirty, and nothing seems to change.  We long for adventure, for variety, for diversity - anything to get us out of the stale pit we find ourselves in.  We remember other seasons longingly - the thrill of summer with it's sunny skies and BBQ, the lush green of springtime.  (Funny how we forget the complaints about pollen and excessive heat from this perspective!)

In Numbers chapter 11, God's people were in a similar season.   “They remembered the good things of Egypt and craved them; the fish, the cucumbers, the melons....verse 6  But now our appetites are gone.  All we ever see is this manna!"    Tired of the same old thing every day, they longed for something different, some variety. 

The funny thing is, we humans don't typically choose to have much diversity in our lives.  We go to the same restaurants and order the same things.  We sit in the same pew at church or the same chair in class.  We wear the same clothes over and over - even when we have a closet full of other things.  We find comfort and security in the sameness of things, I suppose.  In routine.  In not dealing with the unexpected.

In fact, we tend to do the same thing when it comes to our relationships, our interactions with other people.  For the most part, our friends are like us.  They look like us, act like us, think like us.   We hang with those who make us feel that security that comes from sameness.  We are comfortable with those whose lives mirror ours as much as possible.

That's not all bad.  The manna was a provision from God, a good thing!  The same every day, but a good thing nonetheless.  Winter is a good thing, too.  A season that has a lot going on behind the scenes in nature that is preparing for the next season of growth.   Our relationships with those who are like us are good as well, we can encourage each other and help each other as we walk through this life together.   

Too much interaction with only those mirror images is not a good thing, however.   As Beth Moore recently tweeted, "Ick.  What a lame way to live."  She's right!  God has created mankind in such enormous variety.   I believe He longs for us to grow and learn and be stretched by one another and be blessed by the diversity of His creation.  Honestly, it can be scary sometimes.  For some of us, the opportunities to come in contact with those of a different race, religion, socio-economic status, culture, educational choice, or those who sin differently than we do are pretty rare.   Some of us have had interactions with those who have points of view that aren't just different from ours but are in opposition to God's as we find in His Word.  That can be really intimidating.  In other cases, we just don't have a perspective to understand the cares and concerns of those so different from our own.

I believe that we are called to get over those fears and get to know folks that aren't like us.  Expand our circles of interaction.  Speaking of circles, the we can have so many opportunities for gospel centered "Three Circles" conversations, sharing Jesus, when we step out of our comfort zones and interact with those that are not so familiar to us.  We are missing out on a whole incredible world of humanity when we close ourselves off, and we are missing our calling to share the gospel and make disciples as well.  We were made for more than this! 

I am challenging myself, and you, to be intentional about having conversations with those who are different from us.    I am making a goal to have at least one interaction a week for the rest of 2018 with someone who is not "like me".  Yes, I will have to seek out the opportunities.  Yes, I'm kind of scared.  But what better way to escape the doldrums than to experience more of God's pinnacle of creation:  people?!?  So, I'm seeking them out, and I'm going to be prepared to listen to them first.  Really listen to their stories, to their experiences, to their hearts.   And I'm going to be ready to share Jesus.

A reminder as tweeted by Beth:

  1. We don't have to agree with people to LIKE them.
  2. We don't have to agree with people to LEARN from them.
  3. We don't have to agree on all things to agree on SOME things.

I'd like to invite you to add some variety to your own life this year.  Let's not be like the little child who never wants to eat anything but chicken nuggets.  Let's be like Phillip in Acts 8, willing to initiate a conversation with the Ethiopian.   Let's sit in a different chair, eat at a different restaurant, and celebrate the potpourri of humanity as we live this adventure!

Posted by Denise Woodliff with

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