@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Have you ever been a victim of bullying? Like many teenagers, I was picked on while playing football in high school.
I was an awkward kid. I was too much of an athlete to fit in with all the smart kids...but too much of a good student to fit in with the athletes. Throughout my time in high school, I tried fitting in and being popular—but in the end, I was just kind of awkward.
I'll never forget the big "shining" moment in my high school career. Following football practice, I made some type of awkward comment in the locker room that ended with numerous teammates trying to shove me into a locker.
After that incident, I became really annoyed with those teammates. In fact, I began to build a deep disgust for them because of what they had done. The world would tell me that my feelings were okay, were justified. What they had done was mean. However, as a follower of Jesus, I knew that I was called to live differently. My feelings toward them were not healthy and needed to resolve.
Quite removed from those awkward high school years, similar feelings rise up in me in some of the most common situations.
My wife or a family member say something in a way that gets me upset.
A friend cuts me down.
Someone who I trusted and respected shows a side of their personality that leaves me hurt and bitter.
In each of these cases, we have two options. We can try to leverage what the other person did to gain control of the situation, or we can forgive—and in so doing, give up complete control.
Forgiveness is hard and takes intentional effort. It cannot fully take place until we hand over control of whatever is causing division.
following jesus looks different.
When we walk with God, our lives should look different than those that are not walking with God. This doesn't mean we achieve some type of holy halo around our head, but it does mean that we treat the people around us differently. In fact, we act differently. We respond to hurt and pain differently.
Jesus Christ came from the lineage of a king by the name of David. David was known as a mighty warrior, king, and is a prominent figure in the Bible. While he was far from perfect, his life shows us how to walk with God, especially when it comes to forgiveness and the hurt we face because of other people.
In 1 Samuel 24, there is a powerful interaction that takes place between David and the first ever king of Israel, Saul. Here is a brief overview of the situation:
Saul was jealous of David and was on a mission to kill him. David was running from Saul. Any interaction between the two could easily have led to a battle royale. They eventually met in a cave (see 1 Samuel 24).
David was gathered with his men in the cave when Saul entered in order to go to the bathroom. In that moment, David's men told him that this was his opportunity. He could stop the chase and put an end to Saul in that very moment.
Imagine running for your life. Someone with power and authority is out to, not only to catch you, but to kill you. They want nothing to do with you than to kill you. What would you do if they came right into your presence without them even knowing it? Common thought may be that this is your moment to take them down, to gain control of the situation, to make things right. That's exactly what David's men thought. BUT, David was different. He chose not to kill Saul, but instead to cut a piece of his robe off instead.
David was kind to Saul. He only cut a little bit of clothing. Yet, he still felt guilty about it!
1 Samuel 24:5 says, "And afterward David's heart struck him, because he cut off a corner of Saul's robe." David did nothing wrong, yet his conscience was compromised and he had a punch to the heart. He felt like he had just done something bad. So what does David do?
He not only called out to Saul, but he bowed down before him.
When we're hurt, our gut instinct is often to strike. We want to pay someone back for what they did. However, as followers of God, we are called to live differently. Rather than striking the person, we are called to humble ourselves before them. Instead of striking a blow, we are to offer a bow.
leave revenge up to god.
Often we want to avenge someone so that they can get back what they deserve. If someone punches us in the face we have ever reason to punch them back. Right? Not according to Jesus. Here are his words:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’...But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39 ESV)
When someone hurts us, as Christians we are not called to strike them, but to even offer up the other cheek. This seems insane because it is. It's different than the world would teach. The reason being, as followers of Jesus we are not to deliver revenge, but instead are to offer love. Revenge is for God to handle. He never asks us to bring payback, he simply asks us to spread his love.
Look at how David handles his situation.
He says to Saul, "May the Lord therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand (1 Samuel 24:15)." Instead of trying to carry out justice himself, he leaves it in God's hands.
This is not easy to do. There are many times when someone says something or does something to hurt me. Every part of me wants to lash out and pay them back for what they just did, but I have to remember that it's not my place to give justice. That is God's job.
2 Thessalonians 1:6 (NIV) says, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you."
Have you ever given or been victim of the silent treatment? I have tried this tactic a time or two when someone has hurt me. I may not pay them back with physical punishment or even verbal words, but rather I pay them back by saying nothing at all. In my head I think, "They will understand they hurt me when I just ignore them." However, in my many trials of this tactic I can assure you that it doesn't work.
In being silent, I am actually trying to take matters into my own hand. I am trying to gain control. In so doing, I am being the carrier of justice rather than God. This doesn't work well
What I have found works is this:
When situations arise that make you want to give someone the silent treatment, speak words of love instead.
it's our job to love.
When we seek forgiveness, when we make things right with someone we are showing love to them. David bowed before Saul. He left the justice up to God. David didn't try to change Saul's heart, but he simply showed him love and respect. The response...Saul wept. God changed his heart.
When David made the decision to speak to Saul and bow down before him rather than kill him, he was risking his own life. He did not know how Saul would respond. In fact, he was talking to a man who wanted to kill him. However, God worked through the love David showed. God changed Saul's heart. Things ended peacefully.
It's amazing what happens when we love people well. This requires forgiveness. Payback does not lead to anything but a never ending battle. However, love leads to change.
If we want to have healthy relationships, great family gatherings, and a Christmas to remember, then we should begin to love even when it is hard. We are to take a humble approach, bow before others, and seek forgiveness even when the situation may seem like we have every right to feel the way we do.
Unforgiveness only hurts ourselves. If we want to truly be freed from the bondage of the pain, than we must begin by forgiving those who hurt us.
Back in high school, I realized that fighting back was not going to get me anywhere. While I held on to my bitterness for a while, it only led to more pain, questions of self worth, and struggle. When I let it go, put it in God's hands, and realized those teammates who picked on me had battles of their own, it was freeing.
The only way to truly live a life free in Christ is to love and forgive the people who hurt us.
Remember this: our job is not to change people, it is to love them.
@narboy96 || worship arts director
Why are we a stoppable church?
No really. If you look at the church in America specifically, it would seem on many fronts we have lost our influence. We're stoppable.
I think you can see our inhibitions from two angles. On the one hand, you have churches who—it seems—the Spirit is really anointing their ministry, numbers are booming, lives are being touched. But then in one fell swoop, scandal strikes.
The pastor caught cheating on his wife.
The worship leader abandoning his family.
The priest caught molesting a child.
The ministry leader caught covering up rape.
Covering up alcoholism. Covering up extortion. The list could go on and on—and behind each of these I've listed above is an actual story I'm thinking of—real churches, real lives, real witness for the gospel, ruined.
What's going on here? An equation I'd like to suggest to explain this is POWER – FRUIT = TYRANT (hold on, I'm gonna be using quite a few equations in this post). These leaders, these churches, had spiritual power. Yet they lacked the spiritual fruit, the character. And so their leadership became tyrannical. This type of way of Christian living always leads to defeat.
On the other hand though, you have churches who seem to have it all put together. Their theology? Flawless. Their doctrine? Theologians would want to write a systematic theology about. They're the nicest people you'll ever meet—perhaps a bit reserved, but they know their stuff.
But you know what? They have zero kingdom influence. I was a part of a church for short while that was like this. The community was majority hispanic, yet guess how many hispanics attended the church: zero. The church very brazenly displayed their church covenant in their sanctuary, boasting of prohibition clauses and the like. But meanwhile, guess how many outreach events or attempts at bridge building there were with their community: zero. The answer was, "Oh, the church down the road will handle it." Literally.
What we have going on here is the reverse problem as the tyrant. FRUIT – POWER = INEFFECTIVE. Powerless.
What does it look like to be an unstoppable church?
An unstoppable church has the character of God. FRUIT
An unstoppable church has the power of God. POWER
A church that has the character of God and the power of God has the Spirit of God. FRUIT + POWER = SPIRIT
A Spirit-filled church is an unstoppable church.
God makes clear in Scripture that when we repent and believe on Christ—when we are saved—the Spirit of God indwells us. Yet for some, they're content to simply leave him there as nice theological fact, without him impacting their experience at all.
Having the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit are not the same thing. The Spirit doesn't want to just kick back on a La-Z-Boy in your heart. He wants to be active. He wants to move through you. To change you. To make you look and smell more like Jesus.
That's why God continually reminds us to be filled with the Spirit in Scripture. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, the apostle Paul writes this to them:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Those four phrases I emphasized above all speak to the conditional empowering of the Spirit. Or, in other words, it's not a given. It's something we need to pursue. And even as seen through this passage, I think we can see two categories of what it means to be filled with the Spirit—and I already mentioned them above. We need the fruit of the Spirit (that's the love and the character of God) and we need the power of the Spirit (that's the overflow of his presence in us).
We need both. Think of it like this. You have a bird, right? A bird flies. What does it need to fly? Wings. If a bird has a left wing but no right, it ain't going anywhere. Same if it only has a right wing.
But if the bird has both wings, it can fly and function the way God designed it to.
It's the exact same when talking about being filled with the Spirit. We will be a stoppable church if we try to fly with only one wing (spiritual fruit) or another (spiritual power). But it's when we fly with both that we become unstoppable.
I was a chunky kid growing up. Honestly. I'd come home from Wednesday night church so excited to eat. I'd pop two Hot Pockets in the microwave, pour me a glass of 2%, and take my snack in the shower. Yes, the shower. I was so excited to eat the Hot Pockets and drink the milk that I'd take them in the shower with me.
Needless to say, I wasn't the fittest kid. In fact, those unhealthy (albeit tasty) sandwiches I was putting into my system started to transform me into them. What I mean is, the more unhealthy food I ingested, the more unhealthy I became. What I practiced showed in my life. I guess you really are what you eat.
In the same way, you can tell the fruit of your life by the desires you fulfill. Paul talks about this with the church in Galatia when he discusses this war going on inside of us, our flesh wanting one thing and our spirits wanting another (see Galatians 5).The fruit of the flesh, of sin, are things like "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like" (vv. 19-21).
But then he goes on to explain what the fruit of the life of someone walking with the Spirit, being filled with God, looks like: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. . . . Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit" (vv. 22-23, 25).
A Spirit-filled church is an unstoppable church. A Spirit-filled church is overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit.
When we’re squeezed, when there’s pressure applied, what comes out of us?
When the lady drives 20 in a 45 in front of us, does patience comes out, or fits of rage?
When your friend gets promoted at their work is making way more than you, even though you’ve faithfully been in the same position for double the time, does joy for them come out, or jealousy?
When we’re feeling lonely and misunderstood, does faith and self-control come out, or selfishness and lust?
This is hard. This is so hard. Our entire natural selves want what we want. We want to feel good now.
The Spirit inside us wants what God wants, and wants to grow our character into looking more and more like Jesus. It’s not growing in order to be a better person, it’s growing in order to be a godlier person.
It’s only by partnering with the Spirit that we can be transformed. He’s the grower, yes. “We live by the Spirit.” But nothing will grow unless we position ourselves to be poured into by him: “Let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
Until we resolve in our own individual lives to partner with the Spirit in his growing his fruit in us, we can never expect to be a collective church that is unstoppable. It starts with a Spirit-filled life.
an after-class prophesy.
My first real experience with someone operating out of a sense of spiritual power was when I was in middle school with my art teacher Sherri. I went to a Christian school. I grew up in a pretty conservative background that never talked about the power of God, and Sherri was a part of a different church tradition than I had grown up in. So my 100%-correct middle school self (please catch the sarcasm) would try to debate her about different doctrinal topics.
Yet the one thing I couldn't explain away was her gifting. I could tell so many firsthand and secondhand stories of her healing people, speaking life into people, prophesying over things and then those things happening.
But one simple story I remember came when I was in eighth grade after a prayer meeting. She kept me back for a minute because she said she felt God telling her to tell me to go through the book of Daniel and write out each reference to a name of God in the book. I thought this a little strange, but said thanks and went on my way.
At church that night, I was asking our student intern what he was going to be preaching on for the upcoming winter retreat—and to my complete surprise, he said, "I'm thinking about going through the book of Daniel." Such a seemingly small thing, sure. Could it have been a coincidence? The timing seemed to peculiar for that to be. But based on her level of spiritual power she displayed in the rest of her life, I had no reason to doubt that it was truly God working through her. I listened to her word and went through the book; and as a result, I was very prepared for God to pour into me his word that retreat.
God has given us all gifts that we're to use to encourage and strengthen others. That’s why the Spirit even gives us gifts in the first place, to show his power among us through each other.
Spiritual gifts aren't just talents. It's not just being good at music or being able to cook well. It's a supernatural display of God's power working through us in a way we would not naturally be able to operate on our own. It requires a dependence on the Spirit, a seeking out for these things (1 Corinthians 12-14 dives into this on a much more detailed level).
How can we be like Sherri? A Spirit-filled church is an unstoppable church. A Spirit-filled church is overflowing with the power of the Spirit.
It can be tempting to say that if our character is godly, if we’re full of compassion and joy, of fruit, that’s enough. But that’s not what Scripture says: “...who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).
We’re in the church age right now. Jesus is not on earth; he’s in heaven. The Spirit is here, working according to his power that’s at work within us. So if we don’t ask him to do more than we can ask or imagine, that power isn’t going to be at work within us. If we don’t expect him to do big things, why would he? Then if they happen, we’d credit ourselves for our own genius and strength instead of crediting God. We are the agents of God on the earth right now. We’re his representatives.
So what kind of church is one that’s all talk but no power? Certainly not an unstoppable one. Not a Spirit-filled one. Because the Spirit fills us with love and with power, truth and gifting.
"Okay, Nate, this is all great and all. But what does this practically look like? What does an unstoppable church look like?" I'm so glad you asked.
When we look to the early church, they had this concept down. Spiritual fruit and power: they were filled with the Spirit. Take this account from Luke:
"And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
You see the boldness in their prayers. They were asking for power. So first, the Spirit poured out his presence onto them as they prayed, made himself felt, as if to say, “I hear you!” Then they went out and did exactly what they prayed for: healing, performing miracles, conquering darkness with the light of the gospel. They displayed the power of the Spirit.
It’s striking, though, how what follows this prayer is a note about how they shared everything. Nothing one person owned belonged to another. That shows incredible fruit, incredible love. That couldn’t have been a human work. They displayed the fruit of the Spirit. And because of their witness, many people believed.
In fact, that's what it's all about in the first place: Jesus, and trusting him. Paul writes earlier in his letter to Ephesus, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better" (Eph. 1:17 NIV).
This same filling can be for us too. How do we become unstoppable in our worship? All 168 hours of the week, how can our lives be ones that brings the utmost glory to God, brings the most pleasure to God?
That when there's a crisis, we're the first ones the city calls.
That when there’s a spiritual obstacle, our first response is to come together, praying in faith and seeing God do the miraculous.
That individually we respond to our friends and family with a spirit of patience and joy no matter what.
That we have conversations with strangers, delivering to them not just the words of the gospel but the power of the gospel to bring them healing and words of encouragement, exactly what they needed to hear.
Pursue the Spirit.
Pursue spiritual fruit.
Pursue spiritual power.
Our lives should be shaking things up all 168 hours of the week.
By being filled in the Spirit in both fruit and power, we’ll be a community filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. We’ll be a church that’s unstoppable. Because a Spirit-filled church is an unstoppable church.
Because he’s a God who is able to and desires to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Let’s shake our world around us with our Spirit-filled lives.
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Photo by Kea Mowat on Unsplash
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
It's the day I'll never forget. I woke up, and everything seemed to be going well. My wife was getting ready for a seminar, and I was excited about my alma mater playing in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The only thing different this morning was that I noticed a voicemail on my phone. It was a call from my mom.
"Call me back. It's important."
That's all that was said. That return phone call would shake my world upside down. It would have me seeing life through an entirely different perspective.
"Dad is gone," my mom said. "He passed away."
My dad. My best friend. My role model. The one I had known for the first quarter century of my life was all of a sudden gone. There was no sickness that we knew of. We didn't have any warning. Just the sudden end of his life here on earth.
Upon hearing this news, I collapsed to the floor. All the strength that was in me was suddenly gone. My wife looked on with confusion and shock as tears began pouring down my face.
Then I felt it. It was as if the arms of God were wrapped right around me. His warm embrace was there and suddenly—amidst the pain, anger, confusion, and tears—I began to sing:
"Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise him all creatures here below.
Praise him above ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
Amen, amen, amen, amen."
I would sing this song as we got in the car, drove to my parents house, and made arrangements for removing my father's lifeless body.
Years later, I still remember the day like it just happened. I still have the pain, tears, and memories. I also have a God whom I've seen strengthen me through a time in my life where I felt like everything I knew was taken away. A God who is strengthening me and wants to strengthen you. Why? It's simple. Because God is good.
God doesn't let us go down into a deep, dark valley just to leave us there.
hardships are unpreventable.
"In this world, you will have trouble," Jesus said.
Jesus never promised a life without struggle and pain. He never said that the world would be easy. No, he in fact promised pain would come. He assured us that it will happen. However, he said these very words next:
"But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV)
Over a thousand years before Jesus walked the earth, there was a man named Job. He was a righteous man who walked closely with God. In fact, he would even rise early in the morning and make sacrifices to God just to make up for the shortcomings of his own children. (See Job 1:5)
While he lived the best life he could and by the accounts of people around him would've been considered "good," Job could not avoid hardship. In fact, he faced even more hardship than I ever have.
In an unexpected moment, he lost his kids, and every one of his possessions. He lost everything. So much so that he responded, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return" (Job 1:21 ESV).
In the midst of losing everything, he still uttered these words:
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21b ESV)
I'm pretty sure Job had to have been hurting pretty badly. In fact, the story tells us that he was in such despair that his friends couldn't even recognize him (see Job 2:12).
Job lived a life for God. That honored God. With many sacrifices to God. Yet he still suffered.
As Jesus promised us, hardship is not a matter of if but when. So, how do we respond to hardship? It helps to continue to look at Job.
we can only be helped up if we are down.
I had just finished my last class of my undergraduate degree. It was the week before graduation, and life was suppose to be exciting. Then I got the call. One of my closest friends from high school passed away suddenly. So, rather than spending the week with my college friends, I packed up my bags and headed home to mourn her passing. I wasn't the only one who did this. In fact, all my close friends did the same. We came from all over the country to be back home for this tragedy.
Just three months later, we would gather again. This time, not over a death, but for a friend on life support. He had fallen from the roof of a 3-story building. He would never be the same.
I cannot begin to explain the pain and agony that my friends and I experienced that summer. We were confused, hurting, and wondering where God was in all of this mess. However, while we all have our separate journeys, one thing is for certain: these events brought us together. They brought us closer than we had ever been before.
When we're down, it actually allows for others to gather to pick us up. That's what happened with Job.
"Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him." (Job 2:11 ESV)
People rally to support one another through pain. It is an absolutely amazing, comforting thing.
If people can rally to support one another, then why wouldn't a good God do the same? Well, he does.
It is when we are at our lowest points that we can recognize there is a God right there to pick us up.
The question becomes, are you talking with him or avoiding him?
hard times elevate our worship of god.
God would rather have us fight with him than avoid him all together.
Have you ever done something to someone and then been given the silent treatment? Maybe you said something, did something, or contributed in some way in causing a person to feel hurt. While no one wants to ever hurt someone intentionally, there are times where they do get hurt.
However, I have never witnessed the silent treatment or a cold shoulder lead to anything beneficial.
The reality is that this world is not perfect. There is hardship and pain. God promises it. In fact, he even allows for us to experience it. He did with Job. While we can try to give God the cold shoulder or the silent treatment, it doesn't lead to anything beneficial. In fact, it actually leads to more pain for us than healing.
But that doesn't mean we can't be frustrated with God. Job was. In fact, he cursed the very day he was born (see Job 3).
Who curses their birthday? Someone who is very frustrated.
Yet, God did not punish him for saying such things. He didn't pour down fire and brimstone. NO! God showed comfort and compassion. He used the moment to grow Job, not to tear him apart.
That is what God does with us. When we are struggling and in pain, he wants us to throw our arrows at him. He wants to hear our frustrations. He wants to talk it out. As we do that, we are able to see more of God's perspective and allow him to comfort us amidst our agony.
Job concludes by saying these words:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6 ESV)
It's in our deep depths of despair that we can see how loving God is. How he's there to pick us up, to put us back on our feet, and to allow us to be better than we were before.
Over a thousand years later, a man by the name of Paul would reflect on the goodness of the very same God. In fact, he wrote this to the Jesus followers in a city called Corinth:
He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:10 ESV)
Let those words be words to cling to.
When that unexpected phone call comes. When the pain happens. When the news looks so bad. Know that God is right there with you. Because here's the thing:
God doesn't let us go down into a deep, dark valley just to leave us there.