The Ultimate Journey

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By Jon Kalvig

As a parent of three kids (8, 5, and 2) I realize the importance of my parenting, my marriage and my behavior. There will be times when I witness my son acting in a way contrary to what Kelly and I teach, yet realizing I have in ways contributed to his wrongdoing. That’s a scary place to be but one that led me to seek my past. Deep in the annals of my life are hurts, disappointments, failed expectations, fears and voids that while experienced in my childhood, are still impacting me today. And guess what – the same is true for you too. While I’ve been proactive in “not going there” with my past, I realized for my own growth and edification – not to mention parenting – it would require me to revisit my adolescent years in a structured format.

Thankfully in our own backyard is a proven ministry designed to do just that. I’ve heard about The Ultimate Journey from several who have gone through the three phases. Each of them, in some way, would describe the experience as “life changing”. Of course that means different things to different people, however it was apparent that this journey would be hard…yet liberating.

Two weeks ago I jumped in and decided I had nothing to lose. Rather than pursuing the thirteen week course, I signed up for the three day (12-14 hours each day) turbo. Going into it, I figured my preference is to have the flu for three days rather than a cold for three months, so maybe that logic would apply here. [insert chuckle]

To help contextualize briefly, I was joined by two others, neither of whom were from this area. Both were Christians, as was our facilitator. The Ultimate Journey makes it clear that while participants needn’t be believers, every aspect of this ministry is birthed in Scripture and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Throughout our three days we often would pray together and share Bible passages. However the emphasis for this first phase is to begin at infancy and start fast forwarding to adulthood, taking plenty of time to engage in those memories (many which I had intentionally lost) and relationships. Having never been part of anything like this before, there were uncomfortable moments at first. And yet, the Lord was beginning to shine light into dark places of my past, which for the most part I had stuffed away. I may or may not have shed some tears in the process. 🙂

Though my struggles are different than yours, what I can tell you is that I walked away with a profoundly different view of our Father. And in many ways I experienced a “coming home” to Him as I came face to face with childhood pains and sensed God come and rescue me. Part of coming home is saying good-bye. And in one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had as an adult, I said good-bye to a number of falsities. In doing so, my group hovered around me with acts of compassion and affirmation. Despite having only shared 72 hours of my life with those three members, they have become part of my life symphony.

Now, as I approach my own participation in phases two and three – which will wrap up my Ultimate Journey – I’m here to testify to you. Going back to your childhood may seem like a crazy notion, particularly if you are decades removed from that timeframe in your life. As a Christian, you may believe that you are fully free from all past hurts, disappointments, and struggles; however, I would question whether that is the case.

The day after my phase one turbo, I was reading Galatians 5 (my assigned devotion for the day) and lo and behold the first verse I read was, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” The Israelites were tempted to go back to slavery. And like a dog returns to its vomit, we too find ourselves returning to a form of slavery – even when we can’t describe why. In the coming weeks don’t be surprised if you hear more about The Ultimate Journey. It is my hope that many of you will seek to explore your past in order to be more free and fully alive in Christ. Not only can you look into participating through the ministry headquarters (theultimatejourney.org), but I’m looking into how we can host our own ultimate experience to help you find the exodus your soul needs.

Standing firm,
Jon Kalvig

National Day of Prayer

NDP_2017_Home_Slider_F1National Day of Prayer
May 4, 2017

FOR YOUR GREAT NAME’S SAKE

Hear us…Forgive us…Heal Us!

O Lord, Listen! O Lord, Forgive! O Lord, Hear and Act! For Your Sake, O My God…Daniel 9:19

Join others as they join together on Thursday, May 4 in prayer for our nation. Meet at the Iowa State Capitol Rotunda at 12PM for worship and prayer!

 

WHY PRAY FOR AMERICA?

God is sovereign and nothing comes as a surprise to Him. Whether we face fluctuating economics, threats from abroad, unrest at home, or other troubling circumstances, our Heavenly Father is not caught unaware. Through prayer, we are able to tap into His wisdom, strength, protection, and peace. He stands ready to respond to our needs when we humbly ask for divine intervention in the affairs of men.

As we pray for America whose pledge of allegiance recounts that we are “one nation under God,” and whose currency states that it is “in God we trust,” we want Americans to encounter the God who rules over their country. “He who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man, He who turns dawn to darkness, and treads the high places of the earth—the Lord God Almighty is His name.”—Amos 4:13

EQUIPPED TO P.R.A.Y.

  • PRAISE – Thank God for what He has already accomplished through Jesus
  • REPENT – Confess your sins and shortcomings. Repent personally and on behalf of our nation. The Lord is quick to forgive when we come humbly to Him.
  • ASK – Ask God to reveal truth, turn our hearts back toward Him, and bring healing.
  • YIELD – Yield to the Lord and recognize that He has heard our prayers and will answer according to His will. He is ready to provide guidance and direction.
  • Pick up a prayer guide on the table in the foyer on Sunday, April 30.
  • Pray for our Government, Military, Media, Business, Education, Church and Family!
  • Go to: NationalDayofPrayer.org for more information

The Fruit Bearer

 

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By Ruth Susan Bullard

My great-grandmother transplanted a few vines on her property as a young woman and allowed them to flourish in her lifetime. Those beautiful bunches of red-concord grapes produced some wine and much canned preservatives throughout the generations.   Yet, for me, it was an early visual aide to help understand the Fruit of the Spirit; Galatians Ch. 5 in relation to John Ch. 15; The True Vine.  

I was familiar enough with this type of setting to have John Ch. 15 resonate in a metaphorical display as I got to see firsthand the expected growth pattern for a new babe in Christ and their progression to healthy adulthood as a comparison to a thriving vineyard.  Even in my youth, during times of classroom teaching on this Scripture passage, I often reflected back to my grandmother’s vines. I know the effort and care it takes to prune, graft and tie down a row to help yield its worth come harvest time.  

In the initial verses of this chapter there is a distinction between the Father and the Son.  “I am the true vine and my Father is the husbandman.  It’s clear that the Father is in charge.  Without the nurture and care of its caretaker/gardener, a vineyard will not bear much nor adequate fruit.  In addition, there’s a difference between the Vine and the branches too.  John 15:4 “…the branch cannot bear fruit of itself; except it abide in the vine;…”. I’d like to remind myself that the vine is similar to the root system of a plant as referenced in other passages such as found in Romans 11:16-18.  Verse 16 shares that the (healthy) plant with its root, branch will yield its own kind (fruit) and the branch cannot brag of itself since it gets a life source from the root.  There’s a disciplined training underway here that will eventually result in the evidence of abiding in the True Vine by expressing the Fruit of the Spirit of Gal. Ch. 5:22-23; “…love, joy, peace, forbearance, gentleness and self-control…”.  

In early spring, a newly grafted vine looks like it must be suffering.  The entire plant appears to be in a very uncomfortable state.  That’s why being grafted in and tied down needs the skill of the caretaker.  It takes some delicate pruning with those shears to snip just enough to get rid of the dead twigs and foliage and a gentle touch to bend the branches without snapping off a vital part.  Wire and a bit of tape may be used, as well, to transplant a new shoot to another area of the vine to get better sustenance to aide in its early growth.  It’s a little wet around those wounds as they’re checked regularly for that callous knob to form at the incision sight to ensure its heath.  Aww, but no matter how it looks, it’s clean now with no obstacles and room to stretch out in a new way and possibly a different direction too.  Actually, it’s an exciting time filled with much hope for the future harvest.  

As the months pass, and with a few steps back to view the entire miniature vineyard, it’s obvious to see the branch and the vine are now all intertwined. It’s unified as ONE.  The source of the vitality and its strength is hard to find because it’s difficult to tell where the branch or the vine begins and/or ends, and only then can it truly bear much fruit.  John Ch. 15:16 “…that ye should go and bring forth fruit…”.  Some days we’re better at siphoning from the Vine the needed supply to keep us well fed while pushing the nutrients further for our growth to the tips of our very extremities.  Then suddenly, a blossom or two appears or three shoots grow from OUR branch that may stay or need to be snipped and placed elsewhere for its maximum growth.  It’s just a matter of time, because fruit doesn’t lie.  Matt. 7:16-20 “Wherefore  by their fruits ye shall know them.”  It’s a confident security in the Caretaker and His plan.   Now that’s exciting!  

Some of the fondest seasons of my life were during the times that I could spend early mornings with my Lord among the few vines that we had left.  Sadly, that generation is long gone now, and with it, the vines too.  I’ve learned some hard things there.  Nevertheless, I love to reminisce of our former walks there and to ponder with great anticipation for His next steps. As a grafted branch, the training seems too intense at times, the pruning somewhat painful but all of it is very necessary to produce what the Creator designed the Plant for,… fruit!  Psalm 1:1-3.  

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The Fruit Bearer

Early in the morning before the first light, I peek through my window and view such a moonlit sight.  The field just beyond my pane displays rows of young and mighty soldiers naïve of their soon journey through pain. They’re neat and tidy now – proud as trimmed vines should be.  Although, not really knowing of the trials that await them as a disciplined vineyard they shall be!  This army cast out as far as the eye can see reminds me of these,…

Springtime, when it’s filled with youthful energy!  Then the roars of summer’s heartache suffering sore.  Nor any sooner shall come harvest time, “my favorite zest-time,” filled with days of hot cups of tea while enjoying the vineyard’s nice cool breeze.  Winter is time for rest.  Yes, much deserved rest indeed.

Yet, here I gaze out beyond my windowpane.  I consider the days to be.  If one weary troubled vine, I see, should struggle with such uncertainty, would grieve me enough to dress and head-out to care for the vines every morning before the first light.

Ruth Susan Bullard

 

THE MYTH OF A COMPARTMENTALIZED LIFE

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By David Bush

I’ve developed an online fitness challenge that typically runs in the spring and fall. People from across the country looking for a biblical perspective on health and fitness join together for 28 days to learn nutritious eating habits, healthy movement, and most importantly, how the gospel informs our body stewardship.

I don’t know most of the people wblog textho take part in these challenges as they are often friends or relatives of those who have encountered INSPIRE or Fit For The King events or resources. One such participant asked to be dropped from our faith-based challenge after a few days and moved to another challenge with a different fitness emphasis. She explained her reason for leaving:

“I didn’t realize this was a Bible and religious teaching weight loss challenge. Even though I’m very religious I like to keep my Bible study separate from my exercise/diet study. Can I switch to a challenge that is more fine-tuned to me?”

Without realizing it, this lady just articulated with great clarity both the current malaise experienced in our churches as well as the predominant thinking of our culture as it relates to matters of faith. Even for “religious” people, matters of faith and spirituality have little bearing and influence in the practical aspects of our multifaceted lives. Our faith is simply one more compartment in which we can file away inspirational or moral “truths” that fit our lifestyles and worldviews. We can summon them from the moth balls when needed.

We should be honest and admit that while we might not write the words referenced above, we all too often live compartmentalized lives as well. We speak often of compartmentalizing grief,  anger, vocations, finances, and more as if the gospel holds no sway in these matters. Perhaps we see no gospel relevance, or, more likely, we desire no gospel intervention in areas of our lives we wish to remain unredeemed.

For the follower of Christ, this is not an option. According to Scripture, it’s not even possible:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”   – 1 Thessalonians 5: 6 – 24 (ESV)

Resisting the sanctifying work of the gospel is tantamount to “quenching the Spirit” – the indwelling agent of redemptive transformation. Our spirits, our souls, and our bodies are involved in this overhaul that is both God’s right and responsibility.

In the absence of transformed lives, much has been made in recent years of evangelistic processes and activities that can “reach the lost” and “make the church relevant again.” But into this transformative void author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth rightly asserts in her book Adorned: Living out the Beauty of the Gospel Together:

“There is simply NO more powerful tool of evangelism than for Christians to believe and demonstrate the doctrine and gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Our penchant for compartmentalization not only fosters spiritual turmoil as we wrestle with the Holy Spirit for control of our lives, it also presents a hypocritical front to a world hungry to see a gospel that works. In this regard German philosopher Heinrich Heine said:

“Show me your redeemed life and I might be inclined to believe in your Redeemer.”

For the glory of God and the sake of the lost, may we allow the redemptive power of the gospel to infiltrate, influence, and inform every area of our lives.

I Am A Christian, So Why Am I Depressed?

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By Pastor Mike Rose

This is the title of a book my friend, Beth Bush, gave me over a year ago. It came at a most-needed time as I was in the throes of a major depression.  The book was written by a man who gave his life to Christian counseling and was on the faculty of The Masters College and Seminary in California. He wrote from his own journey through debilitating depression that took him out of the mainstream of life and ministry for several years. The insights gained were helpful in easing my suffering, giving me a boost that kept me going for another year and a half. Ultimately however, because I did not get treatment, my condition returned with a vengeance. One thing I discovered is that depression is an equal opportunity malady.  It strikes Christians and non-Christians alike. Knowing Jesus does not give one immunity to mental and emotional challenges, but it does give hope!

During my time away I read a book that helped me understand what I was going through and how to better combat a disease that is at epidemic proportions. Unmasking Male Depression is a book every man, and the women who love them, ought to read. As the title advertises, the focus is on men specifically. This begs the question… isn’t all depression the same?  Research says no!  Men and women experience and react to depression quite differently. Of course a blog cannot deal with the topic exhaustively, but I’ll make mention of a few uniquenesses of male depression.  Dr. Archibald Hart, Professor of Psychology and former Dean of the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, created a comparative list that helps us here:

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Just as men and women are different physically, so we are different emotionally. This means that conditions such as depression occur and elicit unique characteristics in men and women respectively.

Now the reason I write about this is because women are twice as likely to seek and receive help than men are. That means there are a lot of men and their families that are needlessly suffering. How many men miss out on a mutually satisfying marriage, close relation with their children or productivity in their careers because they are in the grips of male depression? Admitting that you may be suffering from depression and seeking help does not mean you are weak; it means that you need help. And thank God, help is available! There are Biblical counselors, Christian practitioners of psychology and psychiatry…and there are many new and safe treatments that can help us heal and live healthier lives.

I am a man who has suffered from male depression. There is no shame, no blame; it’s just part of living in a fallen world. But Christ has overcome the world. Through Him there is spiritual and emotional healing. Furthermore, The Father has given us physicians, medications, treatments and therapies that help our physical bodies cope with disease and the ravages of aging. I encourage anyone who is suffering, to seek help. If you would like to talk with someone who has been through it and understands, I would be happy to help.

True Love

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By Susan Bullard

In light of the recent holiday filled with its sweet tokens of human affection and proclamations of such great favor bestowed upon others, I find myself heaving a bit of a sigh.  It’s more so during this time of year that I’m reminded too often of the many interpretations of the definition of love.  

When I see the word “love,” my first thought is of a short passage in 1 John 4:7-19 describing that “God is love.” It’s the essence of who He is. I begin to ponder that this is an attribute of His “being” and not this mere verb that the rest of us use to profess to others, in varying degrees, our sincerest emotions.  So, what does Love actually look like? Well, of course, we have the “Great Love Chapter” of  1 Corinthians 13 that most of us immediately consider, but before we go there, I initially tend to think of Philippians 2: 1-11 instead.  Let’s look at this passage together.  Here the chapter opens with “if” clauses to exhort unity by comforting, fellowshipping and displaying mercy within the body of believers. Years ago, this segment of Scripture made such an impact on me, because I was seeking diligently to understand the “Greatest Commandment” (Matthew 22:36-40 ref. of Exodus 20|The Ten Commandments) and what it is to love God and my neighbor as myself.   This passage described to me in a simple, practical way how to execute this on a daily basis.    

The chapter continues in verse 3 with the unity of like-mindedness, (“let each esteem others better than themselves”) – not to exclude self, as further explained in verse 4, (“look not every man on his own things”) but to also prefer another (“but every man also on the things of others”) as being just as significant as oneself is in contributing to the functional factor of one unified body.  There’s no room for pride here but a sober understanding of one’s place within the body.  Then, the remaining verses (5-11) provide the example of how we should emulate this same like-mindedness beginning in verse 5, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Though being very God in human flesh, He expressed Himself as a servant filled with great humility as our daily example to follow.  

Now as we steal a look at 1 Cor. 13:1-8, if we’re honest, we find it’s not an easy task to love others.  We have the chance to exhibit it at all times as we seek to be more like Him.  However, even though we fail so often, it’s encouraging to know than an unloving act can be followed by an act of forgiveness and/or the choice to “love” instead of harboring bitterness, jealousy, etc. This is an ongoing state of mind… “blessed are” as introduced in Luke chapter 6, that continues with the application thereof, found in verses 27-38|section of the Beatitudes. Remember, it’s a continuous behavior for us, “our verb” to love which expresses kindness, truthfulness, longsuffering, not given to arrogance nor being self-seeking, etc., and His continuous state of being, “His attribute.” God IS Love.

In closing with the original question, “What does Love look like?”, I see throughout the pages of Scripture that Love looks just like Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 4: 8-10 opens with “…love shall cover the multitude of sins.”  Albeit, the next time you sense a prompting from within to “grant grace” to another, know that you’re just emulating the traits of your Father.  This type of meekness is a great strength to possess.  Nurture it and wield its virtue wisely, knowing that the possessor has the character to love another enough to rebuke in private while pardoning just the same should the offender ever attempt a reply to shame in a public forum. The 1 Cor. 13 Love Chapter passage makes me feel like I’m reading a beautiful poem that ends with sudden clarity for the truest definition for Love.  He’s the Greatest, 1 Cor. 13:13,… and His love never ends! 1 Cor. 13:8 / 1 John 4:19 “We love Him, because He first loved us.”   

Cooking in God’s Kitchen

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By Tracy Griess

Life is a journey.  I would venture to guess that most of you have heard this phrase or at least some variation of it.  Recently I have been reflecting on the journey part of that phrase.  Life is a journey; we look back and we see that sometimes we got it right and sometimes we didn’t.  One of my favorite songs uses this line.  And it strikes me as so very true.  I have won, I have lost, I got it right sometimes and sometimes I did not.  Colton Dixon may have penned those words but it rings true for all of us.  What he also goes on to sing to us is that God has been there through all of it.  All of it.

As I reflect on this journey of life, that is also true for me and I suspect for most of you.  We can, in fact, look back and see God’s hand, His work, His plan carried out.  But, what about the time in the middle of the struggle or difficult time?  What about the journey?  The truth is that if we are reading this, we have not yet come to the end of the journey.   So, what about now?  The rest of this truth is that we all want the destination but we don’t necessarily want the journey.  We want the outcome, but not the process of getting there.  We look toward the finish line, but we might prefer to skip the race or at least the preparation.  The problem with that thinking is that it is in the journey or the holding pattern where the growth occurs, where God does his best work in us.  Some of us might pray for patience on purpose.  While others of us have not stepped out in complete faith to pray for patience because we know God doesn’t simply give us patience, he teaches us patience through the journey.  James 5:7 says, ”Be patient, dear brothers until the Lord’s coming.  A quick search and you will find that God talks about patience or being patient dozens of times in His word.  In James, we are learning about patience in suffering.  While we all experience suffering in different degrees and at different times, I think we can learn something here about the time spent waiting.  Whether we are waiting during health issues, marital issues, prodigal child issues, financial issues, loss of loved ones, job change, or simply change, we can learn something here.

I recently heard Bryan Loritts, pastor at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, deliver a message.  Pastor Loritts spoke of being patient while waiting.  He used a great analogy and said, “There are no microwaves in God’s kitchen.  God only uses crockpots.”   Oh my goodness, yes!  This is absolutely true in every sense.  God does not snap his fingers and 90 seconds later have a fully mature Christ follower.  He slowly, over time, with lots of ingredients all mixed together into our lives, “cooks” us into the disciple He planned for us to be.  It is simply our job to stay in the crockpot long enough to wait for Him to finish us.  Again, it’s that journey or waiting part while we are molded and “cooked” that is difficult.  That is the part that we sometimes get frustrated with.  While we know we will never be finished this side of heaven, I love what Pastor Loritts went on to say, “The only thing worse than waiting on God, is wishing that you had.”  Again, oh my goodness, yes!  How many times have we looked back and wished we would have known this or that.  We wished we would have sought God on something first.  

So, how do we wait?  Well, James goes on to say in verses 8-9, “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.  Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!”  Yikes, is he serious?  Do not grumble?  Be patient and we can’t complain?  Philippians 2:14 tells us we must do everything without grumbling or arguing.  Yikes again!  Some of you with children may have used this verse a time or two to admonish our children to obey without complaint.  I have certainly said this a time or two.  But have we applied it to ourselves?  How many times do we as Christ followers find ourselves grumbling or complaining as we journey thorough change?   It’s so easy to apply this to other people as we hear them complaining or grumbling, but I think it might be time that we really take a look at how we are waiting.  God uses all of us in different ways.  He has gifted us all differently.  Sometimes I must remind myself that there are people wiser than me.  We aren’t all in the same “crockpot”.  My journey looks different than yours and it is for a very good and well thought out reason.  God has a good and perfect plan.  And one thing I know for sure is that I serve a God that is 100% always on time.  I will remember one last thing that Pastor Loritts said and that is this:  “Always let what you know about God trump how you feel.”   Sometimes what I feel or think about change or things happening in our “holding pattern” needs to take a back seat to what I know about God.  God has a plan for us individually and as a body of believers.  We may not always understand it, we may not always love it, but we can ALWAYS trust it.