Mission

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By Dustin Damitz

Have you ever had an experience you go back to in your mind as a reminder of where you came from? Maybe it is a person that upholds strength and truth in your life and you can always count on them. For me, the answer to both of these questions is my parents. I’m not saying my family has had the roughest of pasts, but I know for a fact nothing has been handed to us. We have plenty of stories and I have plenty of experiences in life to draw from, but I want to focus on just one of those experiences in my family’s past today.

I was asked to write about a time in my past when my parents gave up everything to follow Christ. Let me preface this by saying, YES. Yes, I think my parents are the greatest people on this earth, so I apologize if I get a little gushy or passionate in this blog. 🙂 I also don’t want you to read this thinking I am looking for sympathy or that my parents are on some glorified status, because they aren’t. They just took a chance. A lot of the experiences we have been through have formed me into the person I am today and I would not change a thing. With that said, let’s go back to around 1988-1989 and I was around three-years-old. I have a horrible memory and a lot of my past is really lost in my mind, but an experience like this tends to stick with you. My parents were realizing life just wasn’t working. Living in Davenport, Iowa, three kids, dad was getting ready to lose his job, and a decision needed to be made. Make moves or make excuses. My parents never made excuses, they made moves…literally. They decided to give up what they thought was right and after a discussion with a friend, decided to sell everything, move and lead a mission in Indiana because they felt this is what God called them to do.

I don’t know about you, but I have a constant error in my brain when things go wrong in my life. I tend to try and work harder and lose focus on God…a lot and it is something I am constantly working on. But, here were my parents at an all-time low, deciding to do something crazy (although biblical) insane…right? Sell everything they own to move and help others in need. I was young enough to not really know how much trouble we were in, but I can only imagine how my two older brothers were thinking at this time. They probably thought my parents were nuts, but they were only doing what they felt they were called to do. So, here we were in a two bedroom apartment inside a five-story building in downtown Linton, Indiana. I take so much pride in my time there at The Mission. At three-years-old, I knew what was happening. Even at 29, I can still go back in my mind to those experiences. My family never asked for “wants” and we never went without “needs.” It was through these experiences I understood what it meant to see and feel the love of Christ. This was the Gospel…they gave up everything to help people they hadn’t met. I know of the cookouts at the park in order to form relationships with the homeless. Giving them a place to sleep and food in return, they would help clean and do various tasks in the building. The times dad would get up at 4AM every day, pray with the family, and go ask local business for continued support with food, clothing, and appliances. Not only were people wanting to help, they just needed the avenue. They wanted to help in abundance. There were countless times that families were given second chances and only through the love of Christ and reliance on him was this possible. Mom woke up early to make sure everyone was fed three times a day and constantly cleaning to maintain standards for the guests; never complaining but realizing Christ was changing lives and continually knowing they were following the call of Christ. Not only was this felt by my parents, but as I said earlier, this was an experience I go back to in my mind today. A foundation of who I am was built during this time at The Mission. I can remember the Saturday night sings. Before rounding everyone up for Sunday morning services at a local church, my parents would lead a worship service next to the kitchen in the open area, mom and dad both singing and dad playing guitar to songs like, “I’ll Fly Away” and “Old Rugged Cross”. Think about it…three years old hanging out with the homeless, people who have come straight from jail, liars, thieves, all singing worship and living the dream.

There is one story that sticks with me to this day. This is the time when I wanted a new bike for my birthday. It was an awesome bike and I would have dad go by the store when we could to see it. Because I know the full story now, I know dad didn’t have a dollar to his name, but you know what? Jesus got me that bike. At least that’s what I ran around saying when a wealthy friend of my dad who went to the same church, pulled it out of his truck one day and said, “Dustin, I want you to know that Jesus got you this bike.” It was because of the graciousness of others and the selflessness of my parents that I was able to know and see what true reliance on Jesus looked like. I know I was young, but I will be forever in debt to my parents for that experience. It was modeled to me, not just in this experience, but in my whole upbringing what it means to live a life devoted to Christ.

In all of our ups and downs and even to this day, the echoing of words I hear in my mind every time I go through a dark time is “Everything will work out.” If my mom said the sentence, “I love you,” to me most in life then, “Everything will work out” has to be second. It may seem like a simple sentence, but I know what is truly behind it….FAITH. My parents trusted Christ and what he had for their life. They jumped in head first for what he had for them and I wouldn’t change a thing. In that time and all of the hard times after that, we got through it. We had each other and The Mission would serve as the catalyst for the submission to Jesus. Let me be clear, as I get older, personally I am still trying to figure this out. Even though this was something I lived, I still have a very hard time applying this. Submitting and letting go to something you think is insane is extremely difficult, but I know I can get through anything today because Christ had my parents’ back then and I know he has mine now. Maybe you know what it means to submit to Christ and never see it as a negative. It is because my parents jumped, I know they experienced a true closeness to Christ that I hope to even comprehend, let alone experience one day.

To do something completely opposite to what the world tells you and leave everything you know to help people you haven’t met, is not exactly the definition of success in the world. So, I want to try something. I don’t know how it’s going to work, I don’t have all of the details yet, but in honor of the lives my parents changed in submission to Christ, I want to return the favor. I don’t have a building, but I know technology and I have an idea. I call it RISE and I need your help. I want to help people who I haven’t met yet. I envision the website as an area where people who need help can go and people like the man who was able to get me that bike for my birthday can go to give to those in need in the Des Moines area. I made a website and a Facebook, but I need your help in developing it. Do you know someone in need or would you like to be put on a list of people who can help others? If you have a need or want to help I want to post it to our site, www.risedsm.com. I would like to see this as an ever evolving Mission by helping people right where they are, just like my parents did. Not only that, but if you would like to get involved in helping people right now, I encourage you to contact John Porter at our church and ask to help. I see a lot of my past in John Porter and am thankful we have him at FFC. He is helping people right now, right where they are and could always use your help. I hope to develop RISE closely with John and consider this your invitation to do something crazy. Take a leap, join me and thanks for reading! Respond in comments or contact me directly at ddamitz@firstfederated.org if you would like to help or have ideas!

Take Me To Your Leader

By Pastor Mike Rose

As a child I loved watching cartoons.  One of my favorites was Bugs Bunny. To say which sketch of Bugs was my favorite would be hard to do.  There were so many I found immensely entertaining. But there is one sketch that stands out in my mind. Bugs comes into contact with an alien, a fellow cartoon character from another world. bugs bunny

Somewhere in all of the zany interactions that typically take place in a cartoon sketch, either Bugs or the “alien”, I can’t remember which, says to the other… “take me to your leader.” That was a common refrain in that era of television. Anytime an earthling encountered a being from another world, someone, usually the alien, would ask to meet the leader.

 If someone asked you that question, who  would you identify as your leader? Many people don’t like to admit that they follow a leader, instead deceiving themselves that they are totally independent, without outside leadership. However, that is simply a deception. Everyone follows something or someone. Maybe it’s a sports star or a world renowned pop singer. Perhaps you follow a serious minded scientist, philosopher, religious figure, or maybe the ever changing winds of culture beat out the path that you follow. The point remains, we all follow after something or someone.

Who we follow is no small matter because the very nature of following means we are headed toward a destination. On the micro level there are countless leaders with as many destinations. But on the macro level there are only two leaders and destinations; Jesus, to eternal life or Satan, to eternal death.  Jesus spoke of it in terms of a “narrow” or “broad” gate.

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“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

 The narrow gate that Jesus speaks of is Himself. He alone leads us into the kingdom of God, because He alone gave His life to atone for our sins and He alone rose from the dead to bring eternal life.  sheperdThe good news is this: Jesus is ready and willing to lead you into the presence of The Father where you will find life for your spirit, rest for your soul and grace for daily living.  So who is your leader?  Embrace Jesus. He is a loving, compassionate leader who will lead you in the path of real living.

Eternal Seeds Planted

By John Porter

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What happens when Christians take the time to pour their lives into people who don’t know Jesus?

This is an actual story from, one of our FFC members.

Ever since I can remember while growing up, my parents would be inviting missionaries over to stay at our house and be sponsoring refugees from various parts of the world. The day before Ann and I went to Colorado for Christmas this year, my mom told me that there would be 2 ladies joining us for our family Christmas.

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These ladies were at one time refugees from Azerbaijan and my parent’s church had sponsored them to come to the United States about 10 years ago. Through the years my parents took it upon themselves to invite these ladies over to their house for holidays and special occasions. They also took them on trips around Colorado, to dinner plays, to different restaurants around Denver, and invite them to church activities.

Last year, these ladies invited Jesus into their lives and were baptized as a result of my parents and others relationship with them, being obedient to the Holy Spirit and sharing Christ love and the gospel with these ladies.

It was great having these ladies with us this Christmas. I had never met them before, but had prayed for them and learned of them from my parents. They were so fun and interesting to talk to and they were so appreciative for what my parents had done for them and now they are part of the family of God, through Christ.

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On Christmas day another lady and her family came over to my parents. Her name is Binh, she was a refugee from Vietnam that my parents sponsored in the mid 70’s when Vietnam fell to communism. When they came to the United States, they had never heard of Jesus, they were all strong Buddhist. My parents shared with them about Jesus, took them to church and developed intimate relationships with them. Several became believers in Jesus, one is now a pastor, and Binh started an orphanage in Vietnam which is helping thousands of children abandoned or who have aids, in the name of Jesus.

These stories show what can happen when we Christians just take the time to pour our lives into people who don’t know Jesus.

What impact will your life have on those that God brings into your life in 2015?

Our Role In Prayer…

December 18, 2014 | By Pastor Tom Clegg

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The lesson I took from the refugee camp in Africa began with my pain-filled prayer, “How could God let this happen?” It immediately came back with a sobering question to me: “Tom, how could you let this happen?”

I’m convinced that God’s work is a cooperative effort. He could have ordered the world so that deliverance from sins never involved other people. But he didn’t. Nor did he, like a clock maker who went on vacation, get things going and then leave the rest up to us. Instead, God’s plan involves working together with us–and often, not just “God and me” but “God plus me”, along with a handful or a hundred or a thousand or a few million others aligned with Him.

I’m not sure just how God does all He does. I don’t get the implications of every little nuance about free will and stuff. But I do know this: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. What’s the main thing? Connecting with God through prayer! Things happen when people pray:

“Being confident in this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6, NIV). God wants to use you, too, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV).

For some reason we often see prayer as our last resort rather than our first response. But prayer isn’t a program to be added; it’s a power to be released if people and churches are to reach their highest potential. Prayer is the fuel of living. Prayer is your most vital tool in God’s service. Pray as if your friends’ lives depend on it–because they do.

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If you don’t have a prayer pattern already, you can use the following very practical strategy inspired by Alvin VanderGriend, executive director of Houses of Prayer Everywhere (HOPE). He teaches people a five-and-five prayer challenge.

“The idea is to pray five blessings on five neighbors starting at five minutes a day, five days a week, for five weeks. One person who accepted the challenge was a pastor in Walnut Creek, California, named Johnny Jones…Jones reported that within a month, one neighbor came to the pastor and said, ‘I’ve always wondered what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.’ Jones saw her come to faith in Christ. Another neighbor came to Johnny, admitting an involvement in drugs and asking for help. A Buddhist Vietnamese neighbor asked to go to church with him.”

Prayer unleashes the limitless resources of heaven’s unstoppable forces. This energy can’t be measured in megatons, kilowatts, or horsepower. It cannot be stopped, squelched, or slowed. It can’t be deterred, detoured, or delayed. When submitting to the will of an all-powerful, all-merciful, and all-knowing God, we position ourselves in the place of victory even before the battle begins! Without prayer, we try to fight a foe of unimaginable power with nothing but good sentiments, and we’re doomed before we start. As E.M. Bounds said, “Prayer is not preparation for the battle. Prayer is the battle!”

The need is so great that we can begin to understand that Jesus’ first command isn’t that we pray for the harvest of people who need to know God’s love, but that we pray for more laborers to go out. As Jesus said, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” (Matthew 9:37-38).

What are you going to do? Just stand there? No! Pray. Then go!

Advent…

December 4, 2014 | By Pastor Mike Rose

adventMy assignment for this blog post is to write about Advent. Really! I grew up in Baptist Fundamentalism. We didn’t celebrate Advent. How embarrassing! Until I was given this assignment, I would be hard pressed to have told you what Advent actually is. However, I am glad I got the assignment because now, not only do I know what it is, it gives me a whole new perspective on the Christmas season.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve. The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the season is the celebration of the coming of the Christ Child, (first advent) with anticipation of His second coming as King (second advent).

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So Advent is more than looking back to the birth of Jesus, it’s also looking forward to the establishment of His rule on earth. At the end of the day, that’s what Christmas or Advent is all about. Jesus became a human, to bear the sins of humanity, so that men, women, boys and girls could be reconciled to The Father and become citizens of His eternal kingdom. Now that’s something worth CELEBRATING!  All of this puts me in the mood to sing Joy To The World, which by the way, is a song about Jesus’ second coming as King of Kings as opposed to celebrating His first coming as the babe in a manger.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And Heaven and nature sing,

And Heaven and nature sing,

And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

 

He rules the world with truth and grace,

And makes the nations prove

The glories of His righteousness,

And wonders of His love,

And wonders of His love

And wonders, wonders, of His love.

As you and your family begin the countdown to Christmas day, consider making the season about more than lights, decorations, family, friends and gifts. Turn your heart to the reality that the Messiah has come to bear the sins of the world, making reconciliation with The Father possible. But don’t get lost in the wonder of His first coming. His second coming will be far more glorious as He defeats Satan, judges sin, sets earth and nature free from “the curse” and establishes His rule on earth. We have prepared a resource that you can use to celebrate and teach your family about Advent. You can pick one up in the foyer of the Worship Center.

Finally, anyone’s celebration of the Christmas season can be enhanced by practicing the following exhortations given by our friends at Advent Conspiracy;  Worship fully, Spend less, Give More (of yourself), Love All.  May you and your family have a very happy and worship filled Advent season.

Advent Conspiracy

Why Can’t We Have That Here?

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Mike Rose Senior Pastor

My first pastorate was in a small rural village in southeastern Ohio.  The church had 85 people, the parking lot was gravel and the spirit was somewhat defeatist.  Most of the members had lived their entire life in that rural community and all they knew of “church” was what they had encountered there.  Because of the experiences God had allowed me to have, I knew there was much more that could bless them and help them grow in their relationship with Christ.  At the time however, they were not very open to having “new” things introduced to their worship experience.  How could I broaden their horizons without bringing conflict to the church?  God gave me an idea.  Instead of bring “new” things into their territory where the unfamiliar would be threatening, invite them to go to other venues where they could experience a world of ministry they had never even dreamed of.

The first year I took one couple to the Super-Conference in Lynchburg, Virginia. We came back excited and full of ideas. The next year 6 people went, the next 12, and then one year I escorted 35 of our members to the Real Evangelism Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.   At these conferences, my friends encountered music, preaching, and ministries of every kind. These were things they would have rejected if I tried them back home, but in a distant town, they found them exciting and life changing.  On the drive back home, my friends delighted in all they had experienced and then one of them asked the million dollar question, “Why can’t we have that back home?”  They had gotten a taste of God’s bigger world of spiritual experience and wanted to incorporate it into their regular church life.

I’ve noticed that when people go on short-term mission trips, the experience is much the same.  At home, the thought of sharing their faith, walking across the street to be an encouragement or to do a good deed is feared and avoided.  But, send them to another country and they come back beaming with stories of how God used them to do things they would never have dreamed of doing at home.  My question is, “Why can’t we have those same experiences at home?” The answer is… We Can!  While God may use a special experience away from home to open our hearts and minds to new worlds of ministry and spiritual experience, He longs to empower us in our families, neighborhoods, and local churches to represent and experience Him in ever increasing ways.

I ask, why can’t First Federated Church be a dynamic lighthouse for the gospel in the Des Moines Metro area?  Why can’t we experience worship that draws us to God’s heart, prayer that builds faith and see’s God move in mind blowing ways?  Why can’t we see friends, neighbors, relatives and associates coming to church with us and encountering the life changing love of Christ?  The answer is… We can!  The same God who empowers and blesses us when we go to a conference or mission trip is the same God that meets with us each day, here in Des Moines.  I invite you to join me in asking God to revive in us a passion for Jesus, the gospel and the community He’s planted us in. Then, we won’t be asking why we can’t have what we’ve experienced else where… we’ll be living it out to His glory and the benefit of all we connect with.