By John Porter
Recently, I sent out an email to our staff asking the question, “What are you reading lately?” The responses came pouring in and are all over the place in terms of genre. You can learn a lot about a person by what they read, and if you could be a fly on the wall at FFC on any given day, you would hear staff having conversations here and there about what they are reading, suggesting books to one another, or laughing about a book they never expected a person to read. Books bring about conversations and an opportunity to connect.
I really wanted to title this post, “You Are What You Read,” as I found it interesting that so many of the books listed were a great representation of the reader or the phase of life they are in. Either way, I think you will find it interesting to know what FFC staff are reading these days. Maybe their list will spark an interest and give you an idea for your next read. Take a look at their list…their answers may (or may not) surprise you!
*Currently reading: Gone, by James Patterson; Interrupted ,by Jen Hatmaker
*Favorite book of all time: Chronicals of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis
*Favorite author(s): Teri Blackstock, John Grisham, James Patterson, Karen Kingsbury
*Last Read: The Social Media Gospel, by Meredith Gould
*Currently Reading: Radical, by David Platt
*Favorite book of all time: Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
*Last Read: Gossamer, by Lois Lowry; Generous Justice, by Tim Keller
* Currently Reading: The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau; The Legacy Journey, by Dave Ramsey
*Favorite book(s) of all time: The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis; The Circle Series, by Ted Dekker; Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis; Let The Nations Be Glad, by John Piper
*Last Read: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
*Currently Reading: Follow Me, by David Platt
*Favorite Book of all time: Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo
*Last Read: Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
*Currently Reading: True Series of Crime and Detection, by Gill Harvey (with her son)
*Favorite book of all time: Just Give Me Jesus, by Anne Graham Lotz
*Last Book : The Divine Conspiracy, by Dallas Willard
*Currently Reading: The Kingdom of God, by John Bright
Pastor Tom Clegg:
*Last Book: The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Flatland, by Edwin Abbott
*Currently Reading: The Universe Nextdoor, by James W. Sire; The Bible Tells Me So, by Peter Enns; The Will of God as a Way of Life, Jerry Sittser; Time and the Art of Living, by Robert Grundon; Contentment: The Secret to a Lasting Calm, by Richard A. Swenson M.D.
*Currently Reading: Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy, by Jane O’Connor; Bible Promises for God’s Precious Princess, Jean Kavich Bloom (with her daughters)
Now that you know what we’re reading, let’s turn the question over to you. What are you reading these days? Let us know in the comments, or share on the FFC Facebook page!
January 8, 2015 | By David Bush
As we begin the new year, I hope you’re able to look back with satisfaction at a year filled with gracious blessings, faith-building challenges, and spiritual and personal growth.
It’s possible that amidst the accomplishments of the past year, you also harbor feelings of angst or regret over unfulfilled goals or missed opportunities. Wherever you find yourself, each new year brings with it a certain optimism that we can change, grow, and experience significant improvement in our relationships, our vocational and spiritual pursuits, and our physical bodies.
As I’ve engaged with Beaverdale residents, I’ve found that issues involving health, fitness and nutrition attract a lot of your attention. Many recognize that we live in a culture that increasingly produces two opposing lifestyle alternatives: the extradorinary pursuit of all things health and fitness related…or the gravitational slide toward sedentary lives of consumption. God has entrusted each of us with a significant responsibility to maintain our bodies, as the purposes He has for each of us are only able to be accomplished when we are alive and healthy. Perhaps the new year will provoke you to take stock of your own physical situation and consider what changes might need to be made.
To help you in this endeavor, First Federated is planning several events to be held on January 16-17. INSPIRE2015 is a weekend of opportunities to learn, engage, experience and compete. At the Friday evening and Saturday morning conference you will have the opportunity to hear from double Olympian (and former neighborhood resident) Lolo Jones, NY Times bestselling fitness author and former Muscle and Fitness writer Jimmy Peña, and Des Moines University President Dr. Angela Franklin in addition to nearly 20 other health, fitness and nutrition experts. On Saturday, January 17, we will also be hosting a free health fair on our campus. For those who would like to compete in a holistic fitness challenge, we have partnered with the Wellmark Downtown YMCA and the Walnut Creek YMCA to host Elite and Novice fitness competitions the same day. For non-competitors, we will offer a health screening at the YMCA Healthy Living Center in Clive.
This inaugural INSPIRE2015 weekend will conclude at our morning services on Sunday, January 18, when several of the conference speakers will address the topic “Fit For Life” at our 3 morning services.
Your health has an oversized impact on your quality of life, your productivity, and your spiritual vitality. I hope that you can join us as we explore a balanced and biblically-informed approach to health and fitness at our INSPIRE2015 events. You can find out more about all the events and register at http://www.inspirehealth15.com. I can’t think of a more positive way to start the new year!
I love how Des Moines is small enough that I run into people I know as I am out and about in our community! Lately, my family has seen several FFC families while we are enjoying community events and frequenting our favorite restaurants. After the initial line of, “Hey, what are you doing here?!”, I find myself consistently thinking and saying, “It’s so much fun seeing FFC people doing normal, fun things in our city! We do exist outside the walls of our church building!” Yes, of course, each of us do, but in years past I have typically seen my church friends only on Sundays for worship service, Wednesdays for Awana, designated Life Group nights, or scheduled FFC events. To be honest, I didn’t think anything of it, until I started seeing our FFC family outside the prescribed schedule and location. Chalk it up as another God-intervention. He gets all the credit for this new-found realization and joy!
Last month I took our two oldest kiddos out to the Des Moines Open Streets event (dsmove.org). The Des Moines Move website describes the event as: “a safe public space in a car-free setting where communities can connect, families and friends can exercise and play, and businesses can engage the public.” Sounds like a perfect match with FFC’s mission statement! For this event, University Avenue was shut down to vehicular traffic from 23rd Street all the way to 42nd Street, creating a safe environment for people to ride their bikes and community organizations to set up stations. As my kiddos and I took a stroll down University with $1 cotton candy fueling our systems, a familiar face came into view. Clayton Kennedy? I should have known – Clayton has been recommending this event to me for a couple of years. We had a great time discussing highlights of the event and where the best vendors and free stuff was located. Clayton teased my kids, which they always enjoy, we shared a few laughs (most likely over the unique array of individuals filling the street) and we continued enjoying this unique opportunity to interact with our community. I can’t wait until the next Des Moines Move event! We should totally set up a station and bring our bikes!
A couple of weeks later, my family took advantage of Gateway Market’s Tuesday night special: kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal (gatewaymarket.com). We are self-admitted foodies, and if you tell us we can eat incredible food and fill young, hungry bellies for free, we are there! Shortly after receiving our meals (you have to try the blackened tuna sandwich!), I noticed a pastor friend of mine from Walnut Creek Community Church at an adjacent table. God has been connecting me to brothers and sisters outside FFC, and there has been a special joy in spending time with other people in the Kingdom who are not part of FFC. Both our families were fully engaged in keeping the familial peace at our dinner tables, but we had a moment to mention our favorite Gateway dishes and provide some encouraging parting words, including a, “hope to see you soon!”
Most recently, my family attended the Downtown Farmers Markets (desmoinesfarmersmarket.com), fulfilling our kids’ craving for kettle corn while my wife and I drifted between stands offering fresh veggies, flowers, ethnic food and pastries from La Mie pastries, and the honey stand and…did I mention I am a foodie? While standing in line waiting for an Indian potato cutlet, I noticed Ashley Griffin walking up to say hello, with her family following a minute later. Our kids love Ashley (as do we) and we have developed a friendship over the last couple of years while together in the Shift ministry. We traded tips on where to get some great food and most of the Griffin family entered the Indian food line right behind us. Both of our families were drawn to the same place because we share common interests. At the market we shared in each other’s joy, and this joy occurred within the natural rhythms of life: walking, eating, recreating. We all like to eat and recreate! We have found those activities are most fun when shared with people we know!
Now God is telling me to take this experience to the next level. All of my stories exclusively involve people who are already following Jesus. God has been telling me lately that many of my friends enjoy these same activities, and many of these friends have never experienced the joy of Jesus. So, the next step, which again God has initiated as He continues to transform my heart and life, is to utilize my family’s interests as opportunities to spend more time with my friends who need Jesus. I know we will have fun together, regardless of our spiritual similarities or differences, and hopefully in the process, Jesus will begin a similar transformation process in their lives too.
So I have to ask, where do you like to eat? What do you enjoy doing in Des Moines? Maybe God will have each of us invite someone from FFC and someone who is not yet part of the Kingdom of God to join us in having fun in our community!
I’ve had the wonderful privilege of realizing that my life has made a life-or-death spiritual difference to others. When we were first married, Jodi and I lived in Illinois, where we shared a four-unit apartment building with three other newly married couples. We got to know the others quite well, especially the guys, because we usually ended up out in the hallway…
“Hey, what’s up?”
“I’m doing the laundry.”
“Liar! You had a fight with your wife, and you’re in the doghouse.”
“We heard you through the walls. Do you want to guess why I’m out here, too?”
It was a significant bonding time for us guys. Our downstairs neighbors, Kenny and Tiffany, were active Mormons. She’d grown up in that faith. He had Christian roots but connected to the Mormon religon when they were dating. We shared a growing friendship with Kenny and Tiffany.
We regularly ate pizza as one big family, shopped for Christmas trees together, our wives prepared their Sunday school lessons together, and Kenny and I often played racquetball or worked out together. We had a lot in common. Kenny and I came from loud, boisterous families where the importance of an issue was measured by the decibel level of the discussion. We both discovered that our respective wives came from families where their parents never had arguments in their presence. My first disagreement with Jodi devastated her. I couldn’t understand what was wrong–all I was doing was making my point! At times like these, as we sat in the hallway, Kenny and I tried to help each other figure out our wives, or at least admit to each other that we just didn’t have a clue.
Kenny and Tiffany seemed more interested in how we lived than in what we said. They wanted to know about the struggles in our marriage. We talked as couples about how we handled money, time, intimacy, and other adjustments.
They accepted invitations to church with us half a dozen times and went with us to a marriage conference, concerts, and other special events. But in conversation, discussions about religion seemed forced or unnatural–even on our special pizza nights.
Jodi and I tried going through various pamphlets and formal presentations. We watched the Jesus video with them. We probably tried a dozen other “techniques” to help them become authentic and devoted followers of Jesus, and we prayed all along. Nothing connected.
A year and a half later, Kenny and Tiffany helped us pack our boxes as we prepared to relocate to another city. On the night before we moved, Kenny said to me, “Ok, would you explain it to me one more time?” I was so shocked that I asked him why he was interested.
“I’ve seen how you live, and I want that, too,” he said. None of the “programs” made the connection as much as how we lived. What we said had credibility not because of how we delivered the message, but how we lived it.
I had believed that humanity’s basic problem was a lack of information. If I just helped people understand, they’d certainly turn away from their sins and receive salvation through Jesus Christ. But I learned a better way from Kenny. His responses confirmed that no one wants or deserves to be my project, but many people would like to be my friend.
Nothing works better than a personal relationship that addresses a person’s needs and interests in a relevant way. The most important first step you can take is to make sure your friends know that you personally care for their well-being. You’ll be surprised at how true relationships naturally lead to conversations about faith, and even more surprised at how God uses you when a friend makes a spiritual decision to accept Christ as Savior. As much as we might love our churches, we can’t simply hope people will somehow make their way through the doors of a church to find their way back home spiritually. The greatest impact on the unchurched begins friend-to-friend.
**This blog post is an excerpt from Tom Clegg’s book, Missing In America: Making An Eternal Difference In The World Next Door
f you and I were sitting across from one another this very moment, I would ask you a bit about your life. I would ask about your family, where you grew up and went to school. I would ask about the funny moments, your favorite people and food (’cause who doesn’t like to talk about food?). I would also persuade you to tell me about your most embarrassing moments. To be fair, I would share mine too. And we would laugh.
I love people. Really, what makes people interesting is their story: the events in their lives that have shaped them into the person they are today. Some of those stories are sweet, endearing and smile-worthy. These stories are seen through rose-hued glasses and make us recall the good and wholesome things in life.
But, there are stories around the world, and yes, in our very city and community, that are heart-wrenching, devastating, dark, and difficult to listen to. These stories also shape people. These stories are spoken of in hushed tones through tear-filled eyes and hearts that cry out to God, “Why is this happening?!” These stories leave us at a loss for words and even worse, at a loss for action.
The people and stories I am referring to are the victims of Human Trafficking. Maybe the word ‘Human Trafficking’ is new to you. Human Trafficking is human slavery: the buying, selling and moving of humans for the purpose of forced labor or sexual slavery (prostitution, exploitation). Human trafficking is a national and global travesty that occurs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For the victim, there is no break. It is a cruel and relentless billion-dollar industry that strips individuals of their dignity, identity, and leaves them at the mercy of their trafficker. Why is it that slavery was abolished 150 years ago, yet there are more people in slavery today than at any other point in our history?
The International Labor Organization estimates there are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide (The Polaris Project). 5.5 million of those victims are children. In the United States, children between the ages of 12-14 are at highest risk for sex trafficking, but globally the age is much younger. Human trafficking is not a biased industry. It affects men, women, boys and girls.
This is not merely a global issue, but a local one as well. Interstate 35/80, the major Interstate each of us takes on a daily basis, has become a major thoroughfare for traffickers to transport their victims to cities like Kansas City, Minneapolis, Omaha and Chicago. No one expects human slaves to be in Des Moines, therefore, these victims are hidden in plain sight.
Last spring, I had the privilege of hearing Mike Ferjak speak on this issue. Mike has firsthand experience with Human Trafficking as he is the lead detective on the Human Trafficking task force for the Des Moines Police Department. It saddens my heart that Des Moines needs a human trafficking task force, yet I am so grateful for Mike’s relentless pursuit to free those who are enslaved in our city and state. This problem is huge, and Mike and his team struggle to keep up with an ever-growing number of cases. He is now looking to churches and other organizations to join him in this battle.
In his effort to educate and encourage others to join him, Mike will be speaking at First Federated Church on Monday, September 29, at 6:30 PM. Mike will present powerful information and personal stories of cases in our own community. He will also give practical advice of how each of us can play a role in helping abolish human slavery. There will be various organizations present with information for those looking for next steps and how to partner with those who are already at work here in Des Moines and globally.
I invite you to come, and please pray about how God may be asking you to join in loving people and helping to give them a new story of rescue, redemption and hope. Let’s not speak of this in hushed tones, but speak boldly, petitioning the Father to show us how we can be a people who love others mercifully and serve them faithfully.
Matthew 25:20 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'”
**For more information about Human Trafficking and ways you can help, visit these websites:
Back in the day, there was a famous preacher story that circulated among what were then known as “Christian Education Directors”. It was told that D.L. Moody had come back from a tent revival meeting where he reported that 2 ½ people were saved. Whoever he was talking to replied, “You mean, two adults and one child?” D.L. Moody responded, “No, two children and one adult. When a child is saved, you save a life – a whole life.” *
This is an interesting perspective. Kids have their whole life ahead of them to live for Jesus and tell others about Him! This is one thing I LOVE about FFC!! As a whole, our church gets this! Our leadership understands that we don’t just ‘do childcare’ to keep our kids busy while their parents are attending services or classes. We are teaching and investing in young lives to help them follow Jesus.
So, add to that idea some interesting statistics from **George Barna: Children ages 5 – 13 are 34 percent more likely to respond to the gospel compared to children 14 – 18 where the percentage takes a nosedive to 4%! Wow!! For those investment-minded people, the response to this information is obvious! Spend your resources where the return is greatest!
This is why it is so important to begin leading children to Jesus at an early age. Children look at the world around them and begin asking questions, “Who made me?”, “Why was I made?”, “Is there a God?” As parents, grandparents and caregivers, you are in the perfect position to tell them of a wonderful Savior who loves them, created them, and designed them to find their satisfaction in Him, and in turn, glorify Him in worship. What a great privilege!
But, maybe you don’t have little ones in your home. You still have the ability to share Jesus and make an impact. The beauty of children’s ministry is the opportunity volunteers have to lead little ones to Jesus. I am challenging you to pray about being involved in Children’s Ministry at some level. Maybe you join our nursery team on Sunday mornings to snuggle some babies. Maybe you love sharing Bible stories and would teach one hour a week. Maybe you love to play games and would join our Awana game team. We need lots of adults to choose to invest in the lives of these children.
Maybe you’ve been wondering what God is asking you to do this fall… where will you serve? How will you get involved? Will you take a class? Maybe a life group is something that has your attention…
There are lots of opportunities for you to be a part of the best investment portfolio FFC has to offer! KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!
* Give Me Jesus by Ryan Frank
**Raising Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church’s Number One Priority by George Barna