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The Journey


The Journey is a study guide that follows Heartland’s Sunday morning teaching, with the goal of helping us apply what we hear to our daily lives. To pause each week and ask ourselves, “What was my takeaway? What might God be saying to me? What am I going to do about it?” Each edition starts with a reflection on the week’s message, then walks us through a Bible reading plan Monday-Saturday. If you follow along, you will cover the New Testament in 2-years! (For those of you following the Moravian Bible reading calendar, the Monday-Saturday Journey follows the New Testament schedule.)

Our lead pastor, Dan Deeble, has written a short welcome note to get you started on your own journey.

Observe. Reflect. Apply.

Regular Bible reading, reflection and application are essential to the growth of every follower of Jesus. Now if you are thinking that you need a secret decoder ring or a master’s in theology to do this, forget it. All it takes is three easy steps: observe, reflect, apply. What is happening in this story? What does that have to do with me? What am I going to do about what I am reading/learning/questioning?

CLICK HERE for more on how to use this simple approach to getting the most out of your Bible reading.

Want to subscribe to our weekly email? CLICK HERE to sign up. (You will receive the email Sunday evening…the study plan begins Sunday and runs through Saturday.)

Sherpa: To Teach With Joy, 3.12-18

By Presley Wilson

I am a teacher.

“You know teachers don’t get paid, like, anything, right?”

“Middle school?! Bless your heart!”

“Well, at least you get summers off…”

Although I’ve heard many other things when I tell people that I teach – middle school, specifically – these are the most frequent responses. I understand. Teachers are grossly underpaid. Middle schoolers can be quite difficult. Teachers do receive a summer vacation. But none of that has been a deciding factor in my choice to teach.

As Albert Einstein once said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

I like to tell people who ask me why I teach, “I live for the two minutes.”

Now you may be wondering what is significant about two minutes? Seems pretty miniscule compared to the eight-ten hours a day I spend at school, right? Well, I’m talking about the moment that every happy teacher talks about. The moment when you see a student “get it”. We say, “The light bulb came on.” Scientifically stated, the electrical nature of neurons and the development of neural networks that are the foundation of our thought processes collide and trip a threshold telling your conscious mind that you understand.

We have all experienced it.

But, perhaps your “aha moment” came when you first realized that Jesus died for you. Or when you realized what it truly meant to look like Jesus. Or to act like Jesus. Or maybe even to serve like Jesus.

Back to the science! What if I told you that there is a particular group of neurons that are very active in social interactions called “mirror neurons”. Well, by accident, in the early 90’s, during an investigation with monkeys, a researcher reached for his food and noticed neurons beginning to fire in the monkey’s premotor cortex—the same area that showed activity when the animals made a similar hand movement. Talk about “monkey see, monkey do”.

You see, humans possess these same neurons. And because our creator is Jesus, we must know this is not by accident. We were literally created to “mirror” the life that Jesus lived. To act like Jesus. To love like Jesus and to serve like Jesus.
But I’ll come back to that. Back to the “two minutes”.

You’re right. Two minutes is just a blip in the day and life of a teacher, but it’s in these two minutes where I have my personal light bulb moment. As I teach, I experience the joy of learning over and over. My mirror neurons fire, and my body responds to the successes I observe. Each time I guide a student to experience that moment, I get a burst of those feel good neurochemicals of my own. It’s a vicarious thrill, one that is addicting, in a good way.

This is the same joy that Jesus intended for us, as we “sherp” the people he created. Because to serve with joy means that we are mirroring Jesus, himself. SO, with whoever it is you come across that needs to “get it”, mirror Jesus. In whatever that “thing” is that is causing the disconnect of neurons, mirror Jesus. And lastly, wherever it is that you are called to serve, mirror Jesus. And I promise, the joy Jesus brings will trip the threshold of this world and break through.

{sunday 3.5.17} 
Read Mark 10:45 & 2 Corinthians 4:5 
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Is there a significant person that needs to “get it” in your life right now? How can you “mirror the Father” with the way you approach them? In the area that you serve, what does it look like to “mirror the Father”?

{personal reflection and bible reading plan} 
As you read the verses each day, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 3.13.17}
Read Romans 3:3-18
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Jews and Gentiles were both guilty of sin, and Paul tells us that we should not purposely sin. Some argued that if people did evil then God’s truthfulness could grow greater. Paul strongly disagrees with that logic. Sin is a strong word that as a culture we shy away from. Why do you think we shy away from this word? How would you define sin?

{tuesday 3.14.17}
Read Romans 3:19-31
Observe, Reflect, Apply: What does Paul say is the purpose of the law (Jewish religious law)? What role does Jesus play when it comes to the law (Jewish religious law)?

{wednesday 3.15.17}
Read Romans 4:1-12
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Paul tells us that Abraham earned favor with God because he believed him not because of circumcision. Circumcision was a sign of his faith. It is the faith, not the actions themselves, that earns favor with God. Do you place your actions above your faith in God? What actions do you take to try and earn favor with God? What is the difference between an action done out of faith as opposed to an action to earn favor?

{thursday 3.16.17}
Read Romans 4:13-25
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Abraham had faith in God’s seemingly impossible promise. Like Abraham we live in a world that wants evidence, not just faith, to feel secure. It wouldn’t seem any less absurd in Abraham’s time for God’s promise to come true as it would ours. What is it about evidence and facts that makes you feel more secure than faith? Why do you think God would want to do the impossible rather than the mundane for miracles? Can you feel secure in faith in God that he can do seemingly impossible things?

{friday 3.17.17}
Read Romans 5:1-11
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Jesus died for all of humankind when we did evil. That still applies to us today. We do evil things and Jesus died for us so that we can be declared “in the right” on the basis of our faith in him. Would you sacrifice your life for your family? Would you sacrifice your life for a friend? Would you sacrifice your life for a stranger that you thought might be a good person? Would you sacrifice yourself for someone that hurt you or your family?

{saturday 3.18.17}
Read Romans 5:12-6:4
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Like Jesus dying and being buried for our sins we too, through faith, die for sins. Like Jesus rising from the dead, we too become new through faith. What is new about you because of your faith? If you do not have faith in Jesus yet, what might you would choose about yourself to go away? What new thing would you like to replace it with? 


Sherpa: Part 1, 3.5-11

By Bill McMurtrey

Brooke spoke about Mt. Everest as a metaphor for the mountains that we climb in our lives. As she so eloquently put it, “The reality is WE’RE ALL CLIMBING SOMETHING….in this thing called LIFE.” She went on to say that she didn’t know about us, but she has desperately needed sherpa’s in her life….I believe that we all do.

Sherpa’s come as those that help guide us through the hard times of life, not just there for when things are good and it’s all smooth sailing.

A little over a decade ago I left a career that I was very well grounded in. I could almost write my own ticket. I was very established and didn’t have a solid backup plan for my exit. It was hard making the decision to leave, but I heard and saw God calling me to do other things. On faith, I left.

Around the same time, my best buddy from the age of 5 died. Then my mother passed. It was a hard time in my life. The pain was real, it was deep and it was haunting. At this same time I began to get more involved at Heartland by joining a Friday morning men’s journey group.

A buddy of mine named Rob was the leader. Though I had been on and off with the group in the past he encouraged and challenged me to be more involved. He became my sherpa during that time. He would check on me during the week and call me if I missed a group to make sure that I was okay.

What Rob also did was guide me toward a better path. One that would make it easier and clearer when climbing my next Mt. Everest. He did this by sharing life, and sharing God’s words with me, through both good and bad times.

Because of Rob, my life is different today. For the better. The peace in my heart and the success I enjoy now is something that I could only dream of 12 years ago. I now realize that it was born out of faith and that what I am doing now is what God has called me to do. It wasn’t easy getting here, and I couldn’t have done it alone. I needed a guide to show me the way. I needed a sherpa.  

{sunday 3.5.17} 
Read Job 2:11 
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Job had lived a good life to this point. This painful illness had to be a challenge, emotionally and spiritually. His friends heard of his situation and traveled to be with him. Who are your friends that are there for you in both the good and hard times? Who can you connect with that might need someone like you to help encourage them in good or hard times? To be their sherpa?

{personal reflection and bible reading plan} 
As you read the verses each day, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 3.6.17}
Read Acts 28:17-31
Observe, Reflect, Apply: We end Acts with Paul in prison. He goes on to teach about Jesus while being imprisoned for the next two years. If you were falsely imprisoned, how would you react? What would you say to those who came to visit you?

{tuesday 3.7.17}
Read Romans 1:1-12
Observe, Reflect, Apply: We learn alot about Paul and his identity and actions as a follower of Jesus here. Paul was praying for the Romans, day and night. Who are you praying for and how often are you praying for them? He was yearning to join them and share his faith personally, and also be encouraged by them. How can you encourage others in their pursuit of Jesus–whether they are still exploring who he is, or are trying to follow him?

{wednesday 3.8.17}
Read Romans 1:13-25
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Paul says he is unashamed of Jesus . . . do you ever find yourself feeling ashamed about the story of Jesus, and how it intersects with your life? Or timid? How has that been a hurdle as you consider sharing what you have experienced of Jesus with people who may not have the same beliefs?

{thursday 3.9.17}
Read Romans 1:26-2:4
Observe, Reflect, Apply: If you follow Jesus, who do you have the right to judge, and who do you not? How does that impact how you think about and interact with people who haven’t decided to follow Jesus? If God is kind, grace-giving and patient with us, how should we respond to those around us?

{friday 3.10.17}
Read Romans 2:5-16
Observe, Reflect, Apply: The word “sin” is not a word our culture finds acceptable. Instead, we trend toward words like “mistake”. Why is it hard for us to pause and accept that our wrongs are sinful, not just mistakes? The phrase “nobody is perfect” is often used in our world. Where did that come from? Who or what is the measure of perfect?

{saturday 3.11.17}
Read Romans 2:17-32
Observe, Reflect, Apply: For 20 years after Jesus’ resurrection, both the Jewish people and the Gentiles (pretty much everyone who wasn’t Jewish) struggled with how best to follow Jesus and his teachings. Jewish leaders proclaimed that everyone needed to follow the old testament laws. In the book of Acts, in a hearing with the elders and the apostles, James (Jesus’ brother) concluded, “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” When you came to know God, was it difficult? Were there obstacles in the way of you following Jesus? How do you pursue a relationship with Jesus today? How does the challenge to “not make it difficult” impact the way you share him with others?


Living The Dream 2/26-3/4

By Sarah Hahs

First semester of my freshman year of college I had a composition class that required us to write a paper a week. The first week I was very excited to hand in my first college paper. It felt so grown up and important. This was before electronic submission, so I was careful to leave enough time after writing it to walk to the library and print it off so that it was ready to submit the following day. I handed in my paper and anxiously awaited its return. It was returned to me, not with a grade on it like everyone else, but with a note that instructed me to meet with my professor. 

I stopped by during office hours, nervously knocking on the door. I had never been to a professor’s office before. My knock was met with a gruff reply to come in. I was told that my paper didn’t have a grade on it because it wasn’t fit to grade and that my topic was childish and my writing was sub-par. I was crushed.

I ran back to my dorm room where I called my mother and sobbed. I loved words. I loved reading words, I loved writing words, I loved speaking words. Words were sacred and beautiful. And I had just been told I lacked the talent to use them. I put my dream of writing away. I finished the class with a C, and never shared my writings with anyone unless academically required. 

God has a funny way of taking the things you are most afraid of and making you confront them. I kept having people ask me to write things and I kept feeling a nudge to pursue writing in my free time. God kept showing me his plan when I would lean into him, sit with his words, or love on his people.

Today I kept hearing, “You are seen and known by a God who loves you but who also wants you to pursue his dream for you.”  It has taken me several years to realize that God’s dream for me also involves me facing my fears. That stepping out in faith is sometimes scary and ugly and messy and—the best part—beautifully redeemable by God. We are God’s workmanship. The message today reaffirmed that I need to keep pursuing what God has whispered into me.

I think Shibu’s words came from a person pursuing what God has whispered to him. Those words were sacred and beautiful. His courage to speak his words today gives me hope that as God’s people we can start to pursue our dreams together. To have the hard conversations . . . the messiness of a broken people trying to love as Jesus loves.

It is not going to be pretty. We will stumble trip through it, as I did in freshman comp. But God’s dream for his people was never to leave us in exile. He has a plan me, for you. Let’s start moving towards the dream he is weaving in us. Push through the hard moments and let them define—not defeat—us.

“Exile is the place where dreams go to die” – Dave Rhodes

{sunday 2.26.17} 
Read Exodus 2:11-15 
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
This part of scripture is where Moses flees the Pharaoh because he’s afraid for his life. Is there something that you fled from because you were afraid? Why were you afraid?

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 2.27.17}
Read Acts 26:15-27
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Paul is telling King Agrippa his story about how he came to follow Jesus. If you are someone following Jesus, how would you tell your story? If you are someone who is not a follower of Jesus, what is your story in regards to what has brought you to the point of reading this?

{tuesday 2.28.17}
Read Acts 26:28-27:8
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
There isn’t a lot going on in these scriptures outside of details surrounding the sailing trip Paul was being taken on to Italy. Why do you think the author found it necessary to include all these details? When a friend tells you a story about something that happened to them, would it seem odd if they couldn’t recount any of the details (how they traveled, when they traveled, where they traveled, why they were traveling)?

{wednesday 3.1.17}
Read Acts 27:9-20
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Paul gives advice to those in charge of the ship about the dangers they could be facing–but those in charge decide to go on. As we continue to read we see that the dangers Paul warned about are becoming their reality. Have you ever experienced someone warning about dangers or troubles ahead if you continue with the course you’re on? Did you listen or ignore them? What happened as a result of your decision?

{thursday 3.2.17}
Read Acts 27:21-38
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Imagine yourself leaving for a long road trip and you see on the news that bad weather is ahead. You warn your fellow travelers that maybe you should postpone the trip, but they take a vote and decide to go ahead with the trip anyway. You are several days into the trip and you have ran into bad weather and you’ve become stranded. To top it off you have run out of food except for a little bit of bread left in case in help doesn’t come soon and you need it to survive.
How you react in this moment? How did Paul react? Why did Paul react this way?

{friday 3.3.17}
Read Acts 27:39-28:6
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Paul is having one of the worst road trips you can imagine. After a horrible sailing trip they finally spot land and try to sail in nicely but end up getting stuck and having to swim to shore. They get there and meet some nice people that built them a fire. Things are finally looking up and then while collecting firewood Paul is bitten by a viper. Paul is fortunate and does not die from the snake bite. Have you ever experienced a time in your life when things just kept turning out badly no matter what you did? What was that experience like? Are you currently going through this? If so, do you know someone you trust that you can share this with that can help and encourage?

{saturday 3.4.17}
Read Acts 28:7-16
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Finally the trip ends with Paul arriving in Rome. That was one long and horrible journey, especially when your final destination is to stand trial. Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “journey”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes; 2) Do NOT self-edit as you write. Share what you wrote with someone else.


Our Nation Is . . . Too Important To Stay The Same 2/19-2/25

By Bill McMurtrey

During times of uncertainty people can act in a manner that is not only detrimental to their best interest, but in a way that is not glorifying to God or themselves. During times of uncertainty, emotions, anxieties and fears run high.

Dan gave the illustration of “Loving our Enemies”. . . this is not easy. I don’t know if I can say that “I Love my enemies” . . . but I have prayed for them. I recently went through a situation that was completely out of my control. Nothing I could do but continue to walk the path God gave me and pray. It was difficult. Extremely difficult. I had to dig down deep, peel back some layers of me and pray. Not for my own personal desire but that God’s will would be done.

In doing so I had to pray for my enemy, my “adversary” if you will. For he, like all of us, was created in God’s image. We can’t always control or change outcomes or situations. And we can’t expect people’s thoughts or political leanings to be like ours. No matter how hard we try, or how bad we want something that we think is righteous and good. No matter how “broken” we may feel from the situation we can invite God into it.

I really liked how Dan said that “America is not a Kingdom. It isn’t. The Kingdom Jesus spoke about is God’s home. If we as a nation or as individuals are to heal or change, we should seek God in all we do . . . because God made us all too great, for things to stay the same. 

{sunday 2.19.17} 
CLICK HERE to download the Kingdom Scripture List and Resources (referenced by Dan in the teaching.) 

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Follow the link above to Dan’s Kingdom Scripture List and Resources mentioned in the teaching. Take some time and choose a verse that resonates with you this week. Maybe put it on your dashboard, computer, mirror. Pray for a deeper understanding of what God is asking you to do in his words. We are praying with you this week!

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 2.20.17}
Read Acts 23:25-24:3
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
As you reflect on what happened in our readings last week (Claudius gives a good summary in his letter as well) what do you observe about Paul’s situation, and the people and resources coming together to address it? What do you think Paul is thinking as he is brought before the Governor?

{tuesday 2.21.17}
Read Acts 24:4-16
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
In this scene, Paul hears his charges again and has opportunity to speak. He addresses the false charges, but also boldly declares his faith in following Jesus (The Way). What do you think of Paul’s courage, and his statement of belief? If you had opportunity to share your own statement of faith, what would you say?

{wednesday 2.22.17}
Read Acts 24:17-27
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What do you observe in these verses? If you were a friend of Paul’s visiting him while in prison, what would you do/say?

{thursday 2.23.17}
Read Acts 25:1-15
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Do you think Paul became frustrated by this point? When you are accused of something you didn’t do, how do you respond? In this setting, the Jewish leaders want Paul killed, but the Roman government is applying their legal process to the situation. How did they get to this juncture, a 2+ year standoff?

{friday 2.24.17}
Read Acts 25:16-26:1
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Our list of involved characters grows longer! And Paul gets another appeal. What are your observations about the justice system in Roman times? What is one thing you can take from these passages as a personal lesson today?

{saturday 2.25.17}
Read Acts 26:2-14
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Here we get an even deeper version of Pauls life and his turning toward Jesus in faith. Do you have anyone in your life who is adamantly opposed to the story of Jesus? Perhaps you are still questioning it? What can we learn from Paul…someone violently opposed to Jesus, who is now proclaiming his truth boldly and spending time in prison because of his faith?


Community Is . . . Too Important To Stay The Same 2/12-2/18

By Adam Pontier

I remember what it was like to not have community. My wife and I chose to move to Lees Summit back in the spring of 2009. We moved into a newer neighborhood thinking we would be surrounded by young families and new friends. This did not turn out to be the case.

While living in Lees Summit we tried to meet our neighbors and hang out with them…but it never really clicked. We tried going to churches out there to meet people in our new community. We found ourselves coming back to Hearltand–even though the drive was 45 minutes each way.

Living without community was isolated and lonely. There was a piece of our spiritual life missing. We were involved in a small group bible study at the time that helped us, but ultimately there was still a sense of local community that we desired that wasn’t being fulfilled.

After several years of living in Lees Summit, having one child and two babies on the way, we decided to move back closer to home (Overland Park). We wanted to be closer to Heartland and our families. We were hoping we would move into an area where we could meet young families that we could be friends with.

The day after we had an offer accepted on our home in Overland Park, Jenni and I began to worry that we made a huge mistake. We were moving into a 50 year old neighborhood. It was one we both knew very well growing up in the area, but it dawned on us that we may have just agreed to buy a house in a neighborhood were there might not be any little kids and young families that we could be friends with. We panicked a bit (maybe a lot).

We stuck with the deal and moved in. After we moved in we found out we were going to be neighbors to Seth (the dude on stage today), Holly and their children. We then found out there were a couple more Heartland families with kids in our neighborhood.

Three years later, I can’t take out the trash without seeing at least three people from Heartland. Our kids go to school together, we do dinner together, we go out for drinks together, we loan each other tools (mainly me loaning to them because I have enough tools to supply a small army), we take each other’s kids to games, to school, etc…. You get the point, we do a lot together.

Our community goes beyond Heartland families. We have all kinds of families in our neighborhood. Some attend other churches. Some don’t do church that way. We have bible study groups on Sunday night and Friday morning (I skip these because 6:30 AM is way too early for my brain to process anything of importance).

We’ve recently had a neighborhood “Vision Meeting” to see what our community can become. How can we serve others? What is God asking us to do with this? How can we use this amazing gift that God has given us? We know it’s not just for us to keep to ourselves. We are in the process of listening and doing. Because this is too important not to change…to share…to expand.

I look back at that day when Jenni and I thought we made a huge mistake and think about what God knew He had in store for us. We knew nothing about what God had planned!

“Seekers today need to not only get a body of content, but also see Christianity embodied in individuals and a community.” –Tim Keller (Facebook post 2/12/17)

{sunday 2.12.17} 
Read Acts 2:42-47
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Do you have a community? If so, get together and ask God to show you what He wants you to do with this gift. If not, what do you want in a community? What would it take to develop one where you live (or where you work)? Who do you know that you could be in community with? Pray for this community.

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 2.13.17}
Read Acts 21:17-30
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Paul had devoted his life to taking the message of Jesus to all people (gentiles). Why do you think the Jewish believers questioned him here? What were they saying to Paul and his team? What do you observe of the happenings in the Temple, and the arrest of Paul?

{tuesday 2.14.17}
Read Acts 21:31-22:2
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What do you see happening in this scene with Paul, the angry mob, and the Roman soldiers? What do you think happened when they heard Paul speaking their language? What would you say to this angry mob that had tried to kill you?

{wednesday 2.15.17}
Read Acts 22:3-16
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
In this moment, before an angry mob, Paul chose to return to the story of his experience with Jesus…how he came to believe. Story is a powerful tool–our stories of wrestling with faith, coming to faith, reorienting are faith–are the most powerful tool we have to share with others. People may not believe what you and I have experienced, but that can’t deny that we have. Take a moment to jot down or review your story. Have you come to believe in Jesus? To follow his teachings? How did you get here? If you don’t yet believe, what are you wrestling with? Share these thoughts with a friend or group you are a part of. Ask about their story.

{thursday 2.16.17}
Read Acts 22:17-29
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
When Paul reaches the part of his story involving teaching all people the ways of Jesus, the crowd gets angry again. Why do you think this happened? What lens were they viewing their world through? When the soldiers took Paul inside to be beaten, he revealed that he was a Roman citizen. Why do you think this made them pause, and grow fearful?

{friday 2.17.17}
Read Acts 22:30-23:11
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Paul continues to boldly profess what he has been sent by Jesus to do. Have you ever boldly declared what you believe, or why you are here? If so, what was that experience like? If not, what might you say if it was required of you? Paul receives an encouraging word from God…how would you describe the most recent time you received an encouraging word from God? What did you do after receiving that encouragement? Paul was resolute, but calm while sitting in a tension filled room. What can we learn from Paul’s confidence and disposition?

{saturday 2.18.17}
Read Acts 23:12-24
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Why do you think the Jewish believers are plotting to kill Paul? Why are the Roman soldiers mounting such an effort to protect him? The lengths the Roman commander goes to secure Paul’s safety are interesting…when have you needed God’s protection? How have you seen evidence of God’s protection in your own life?


We Are . . . Too Important To Stay The Same 2/5-2/11

By Michelle Davis

I had an artifact. For years I held onto my relationship artifact. It was a letter from a college boyfriend that I thought I was going to marry . . . he dumped me via letter right after he moved. And sent no return address. I can’t quote the letter now, and if I tried I’d probably get it all wrong because time changes our memories. The part I know for sure is that we hadn’t been communicating well. We had both been avoiding talking about issues, and things were being miscommunicated.

It is so scary to talk to someone when something hurts, when we feel we’ve been wronged, when we’re uncomfortable about how something happened, or how something was said. The fear can be suffocating, especially if you have had multiple bad experiences in life with trying to have hard conversations.  

The more important the relationship is, the more scary it can be to start one of those conversations. I’m lucky that at some point in my adult life–after my divorce–I made good friends. We had mentors that encouraged us to practice having hard conversations with each other.

Our closest friends are a great place to practice how to have these conversations. I was taught to start practicing with the little things and not wait for there to be a big thing. Over several years, I developed trust in a few select friends. When I eventually had a bigger issue to talk about, I had words, experience, and some faith that people do listen when they are approached in a loving way.

Every single one of these conversations still leaves me shaking in my boots, but now I can usually have them, even with people that I don’t know well. The point is, hard things have to be talked about–start by practicing in a safe place with the smaller hard things.

Another way to have tough conversations in a safe place is by using a trained professional. Someone who can help you figure out the right words in the moment. Don’t be like the younger me and just avoid talking about things. Be proactive in your relationships and remember . . . it’s okay to ask for help in having that conversation.

{sunday 2.5.17} 
Read Romans 12:9-21
Observe, Reflect, Apply: After reading this, begin with prayer and ask God to reveal to you where you are not doing these things in your life. Do you know someone who does live this way? What does this look like in real life? How can you apply love like this in the week ahead? In your most difficult relationships?

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 2.6.17}
Read Acts 19:21-31
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Sometimes the world challenges our faith, or asks us to consider a different definition and expression of faith. When that happens, how do you stand firm? How do you reconnect to why you believe what you believe? Do you have a group of trusted friends that can process things with you, challenge you and encourage you?

{tuesday 2.7.17}
Read Acts 19:32-20:3
Observe, Reflect, Apply: What do you see happening among the people of Ephesus, both believers and nonbelievers? To what did the mayor of the city appeal to calm the crowd? What can we learn from this passage in times of disagreement and arguing today? Paul and his group encouraged the believers there, and in the towns they traveled on to. What might it look like for believers to encourage one another in our times? What value might this practice add to our lives?

{wednesday 2.8.17}
Read Acts 20:4-16
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Paul was traveling often to share the story of Jesus with all people. In these passages we see him modeling the practice of gathering together and sharing in communion. Why do you think this gathering has such high value in the christian faith? Have you ever experienced communion in community with others…what was that like? What do you take away from the practice of communion? How might your practice of communion expand to include an element of community?

{thursday 2.9.17}
Read Acts 20:17-31
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Paul repeatedly modeled for us how to share with others (often of very different backgrounds) the story of God and his grace and forgiveness that is available to all people. What can you take from these passages to shape the story God has given you to share with others? How can you take the lessons of your life, and your movement toward God, and share them to encourage others? Take some time this week and write out your story with God. Take time to share it with a trusted friend or friends.

{friday 2.10.17}
Read Acts 20:32-21:4
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “inheritance”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2) Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else. How would you describe your “inheritance” from God, in your own words?

{saturday 2.11.17}
Read Acts 21:5-16
Observe, Reflect, Apply: Paul has now had several groups of people share with him that he shouldn’t continue on to Jerusalem. Have you ever had someone share a feeling or sense they had about something in order to encourage (or discourage) your next step? What was it like to receive their words? How do you weigh what is being shared in a situation like this with what you are to do next? Paul chose to continue on, in spite of several warnings not to. Talk about what you think was happening with Paul as he heard these messages. (In the Bible, when someone has these messages to share it is called prophecy, if it is coming from God.) 


Our Giving Is . . . Too Important To Stay The Same 1/29-2/4

By Michael Maybee

Some of the oldest jokes about pastors share a punch line that goes something like, “Whoa, fella! You just went from preaching to meddling.” The joke takes various forms. What they all have in common is the idea that preaching is okay as long as it teaches me stories and facts found in the Bible. It is even better when it serves to reinforce my conviction that I am on good terms with God and am destined for heaven.

But when the lesson touches on the way I actually live my life; when it starts to require something of me; well, that is where I and many others start to think of it as meddling. And nowhere is this more strongly felt than when the message starts delving into how I steward God’s money and other material blessings.

That is a major paradigm shift, from thinking of what I have as mine, to thinking that nothing is really mine. Realizing that I am just a steward of God’s blessings was an important first step for me. I wasn’t ready to hear it the first few times I heard it taught or read it in the Bible. Perhaps you weren’t ready to hear it this morning?

I may not have been ready to hear it at first, but I needed to hear it. I also needed to be reminded of a saying that has become pretty familiar but bears repeating. I needed to hear that God loves me just as I am, but loves me too much to let me stay the same. So I felt conviction around the matter of my giving, but no condemnation. I pray that you experienced today’s message the same way. Wherever you are in your giving, God loves you.

Jesus wants so much more for me than I want for myself. One of the things he wants for me, is to join him in his work. And one way I do that is by giving. My giving can help grow his influence in our world today. And Jesus wants me—all of us—to participate in that growth. He wants to say to each of us, “Come and share your master’s happiness!” (For the context of that comment, see Matthew 25:14-30) Do you want as much for yourself as Jesus wants for you? Do believe that you can share in his happiness?

Dan crossed that “meddling” line this morning. I applaud his courage for doing so. You go, dude! Thanks for telling us what we needed to hear, but perhaps didn’t want to hear. Thanks for caring enough to challenge us. Thanks for relaying Jesus’ invitation and providing the opportunity to join him in his work.

“Tithing isn’t a financial issue. It’s a Lordship issue. Do we really know God , and is he really Lord of our lives?”
― Barry Cameron

{sunday 1.29.17} 
Read 1 Chronicles 29:14
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
When you are asked to give, what is your first emotional response? Be honest. This is just between you and God, and he already knows. Why do you think those feelings arise in you? What would need to change in you to prompt different feelings? 

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 1.30.17}
Read Acts 17:4-15
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What was the reaction of the Thessalonian leaders to Paul and Silas coming to their town and sharing the message about Jesus? Has anyone ever come into your life telling stories and sharing news that you don’t agree with? How did you react?

{tuesday 1.31.17}
Read Acts 17:16-28
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What did the inscription on the altar in Athens say that Paul quoted back to them? What did Paul say (in your own words) to the people of Athens after he read this scripture? How can you apply this to your life in today’s world?

{wednesday 2.1.17}
Read Acts 17:29-18:7
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
How was Paul treated in Corinth by the Jews when he began speaking only to them? How did Paul react? Did he continue to fight and argue or did he move on? Have you experienced a time when you felt that no matter what you said, it wasn’t going to make a difference? How did you react?

{thursday 2.2.17}
Read Acts 18:8-21
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “persuade”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2) Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.

{friday 2.3.17}
Read Acts 18:22-19:5
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
How was Apollos treated by Priscilla and Aquila after they heard him speaking about Jesus? How can you help someone that has passion but not all the information?

{saturday 2.4.17}
Read Acts 19:6-20
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
In this scripture we read about the sons of Sveca (who were not followers of Jesus) trying to cast out demons in Jesus’ name. Have you ever wanted good things from God without wanting to listen to and follow God? 


The Church Is…Too Important To Stay The Same 1/22-1/28

By Sarah Hahs

I recently saw my youth pastor at a wedding. I hadn’t seen him in years, I haven’t needed a youth pastor for quite some time. We no longer go to the same church, we no longer live in the same town, he and my parents are no longer in the same social circles. But when he saw me he hugged me and said, “Hey Girlie!” in the same familiar way that he had 23 years ago. 

He still listened to me talk about life, still encouraged me about the impact I was making on my own children. To me, he was church. I grew up in a small church in East Lynne, Missouri where my grandpa was the pastor for more than 30 years. A church where we still printed an Olan Mills church directory every year. 

When there are only 200 of you on any given Sunday your absence is felt. If you needed help, you didn’t reach for the phone book first, you went to the church directory. The church body served as your social circle, as your moral compass, it was also where you got your plumber, your electrician, and your entertainment–if Mr. Nevils was telling any type of story. 

However, my church life changed in the late 1990’s when my grandpa decided to retire. I should mention that the old adage that preachers never truly retire is true. He chose to leave full time ministry, but he still drove all over small town Missouri preaching when he was called to fill in. I watched my childhood church die because the people were unwilling to accept change . . . they clung to a building and a preacher. 

I know for me, listening to Dan talk this morning I was on board with shifting from “I go to church to we are the church.” I had no issues with switching from “Jesus loves me to Jesus leads me.”  But when we got to “I come to stay versus I come to leave” I needed to pump the brakes. I’m not a fan of change. I like coming to a place at 11 AM every Sunday where I am known and needed. And there’s coffee. 

As I sat there today I was reminded how it felt sitting in a church 20 some years ago and deciding that I love Heartland too much to watch it become irrelevant. I love the message of Heartland, not the building. 

So for me it means change. It means looking at how I can become the church among those in my community. It means being uncomfortable. I’m not great at it yet. I still struggle with what I think it should look like, or selfishly, how best it serves me. 

Ultimately I’m left with this–Jesus came to this world for every single person. He didn’t come for every single building. And in order to reach those who are on the outside looking in, I have to be willing to walk outside those doors and meet them where they are in spite of my comfort. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but I am excited about what it means for the church.

“We have to deal with fear because it is possible that it will make us miss the best parts of life.”
― Jennie Allen, Restless: Because You Were Made for More

{sunday 1.22.17} 
Read Acts 2:42-47
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Do you want to live a life in community with those around you? What intentional steps can you take to live a life in community with others?

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 1.23.17}
Read Acts 15:6-18
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
This is a great passage about the community the early church was living in and the challenges the faced. What difficulties have you experienced in living in community with other people?

{tuesday 1.24.17}
Read Acts 15:19-31
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
We see in these passages that the leaders decided not to make it difficult on the gentile believers. What road blocks have you seen that worry people in your community about Jesus? Are these unnecessary burdens? What can you do to help eliminate this worry/burden for them?

{wednesday 1.25.17}
Read Acts 15:32-16:3
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Ok, now these passages are interesting. If this was today we would all be tweeting whether we are team Barnabas or team Paul. We have a disagreement between two well respected men of the early church. One who mentored and vouched for the other. Disagreement WILL happen in community. Have you experienced this? What was the result? How will you prepare for this again?

{thursday 1.26.17}
Read Acts 16:4-15
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “travel”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2)  Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.

{friday 1.27.17}
Read Acts 16:16-29
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
On the road Paul and Silas land themselves in jail after being beaten. The path they are own and continue to go down (spoiler alert) is not full of fun and good times. They suffer physically often. Why do you think they are willing to endure this?

{saturday 1.28.17}
Read Acts 16:30-17:3
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Even though Paul and Silas had an opportunity to escape with ease, they chose to stay to help the guard who was ready to take his own life. Why would they do this? 


Too Important To Stay The Same: Icepocalypse, 1.15-21

By Adam Pontier

The plan was to have church at Heartland as usual today, but the weather had other plans. Of course we all planned for a crazy ice storm that was supposed to be here Friday. Those predictions didn’t exactly come to fruition. The Chiefs were supposed to start their game at noon today and that has been moved back to the evening. Seems like no matter which way you turn, predictions are falling flat and plans are being changed this weekend.

This time of year and its unpredictable weather are a good reminder of how little we actually control. We’ve learned to adapt our way around it, but even that can get all screwed up. For instance, school closings on Friday when, in hindsight, it wasn’t necessary. Of course it’s easy to get annoyed and frustrated with the meteorologists because their predictions were wrong when it came to weather.  

We forecast the weather, stock market, politics, health and more. When things don’t match our forecasting we are surprised. This makes sense. We forecast to have an idea of what the future holds. Year after year it seems like the advancement in technology is allowing us to become more and more accurate in our forecasting.

Then all of a sudden, we have weekends like this one. We have elections that shock everyone. We have stock market crashes and health crises. Our forecasting models didn’t allow for these things to take place! But they do take place, and we try to fix our forecasting models to account for the unknown in the future. We don’t like our plans to get interrupted, changed.  

God showing up as Jesus was not predicted by the Pharisees. Their forecasting model for how God would show up as the Messiah did not account for Jesus. Their frustration and confusion is no different than when our plans get messed up.

This weekend of predictions falling short and weather changing our plans is a good reminder that we are too important to stay the same. God shows up unexpectedly. Our plans get changed by things out of our control. We try to make predictions but they aren’t always accurate. God often has other plans for us.

We can get angry and frustrated. We can accept anomalies as part of reality and keep moving forward. Or we can allow ourselves to be open to change. What have you “forecasted” in your life that isn’t matching up to reality? What do you think God might be saying to you through this?

“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

{sunday 1.15.17} 
Read Genesis 12:1-9
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Do you think Abram (Abraham) was expecting God to tell him to leave his country, his people and his parents to go to a destination to be determined later? Would this kind of unpredictability make you uncomfortable? What kind of change scares you the most? Explain why.

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 1.16.17}
Read Acts 13:8-10
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
In this scripture we see Paul blind someone for a time for trying to turn someone away from faith, followed by some harsh words. Why do you think Paul took this approach instead of something more gentle or kind?

{tuesday 1.17.17}
Read Acts 13:21-33
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Here we read Paul recounting scripture from the time the Jewish people where in Egypt to Jesus’ resurrection. Why is it important fro Paul to draw a connection from their past to what Jesus just did?

{wednesday 1.18.17}
Read Acts 13:34-47
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Have you ever experienced jealousy for something that you turned down? How did that feel? Explain.

{thursday 1.19.17}
Read Acts 13:48-14:7
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Paul and Barnabas continue to travel from town to town teaching about Jesus. Wherever they go they stir up controversy and have to leave town. Have you kept working at something through continuous struggle? Explain.

{friday 1.20.17}
Read Acts 14:8-20
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Why do you think it was so easy for those who witnessed Paul and Barnabas to mistake them as gods instead of people sent by God?

{saturday 1.21.17}
Read Acts 14:21-15:5
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “debate”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2) Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.


I Am…Too Important To Stay The Same, 1/8-1/14

By Adam Pontier

I’m in day three out of four parenting on my own! Not that I’m counting down to when my wife gets home or anything (I am). Nothing like a pressure cooker situation to come to the realization that you have a problem with patience. I keep finding myself losing my patience/cool with my 6 year old and twin 2 year olds. Couple this with sub arctic conditions and you have a recipe for serious impatience.

I don’t have patience with those closest to me. I have it for people I work with. I have it for people at the stores. I have it for just about everyone but my wife and children. This is weird. This is not good. This needs to change!

Dan mentioned trying to change the “symptoms” in his sermon today. I’ve spent the last two days trying to figure out exactly which “symptoms” I need to change. None of it has worked. I’ve tried lowering my voice. I’ve tried raising my voice. I’ve tried not saying anything. I’ve tried explaining my feelings. I’ve tried apologizing. Here is what I’ve learned from all of this “symptom treating”—two year olds don’t care and six year olds do care—but my lack of patience is not their problem. Fair enough, they are the kids and I am the adult and all.

Dan also said “Love others, change yourself.” I could’ve used that two days ago! I’ve been thinking this whole time that if I can just get them to change what they’re doing (typical 2 and 6 year old behavior), then I wouldn’t lose my patience. Wrong!

After today’s teaching I now have to ask myself a couple of questions. What is my core illness here? What’s the change behind the change that is needed? Why do I want to change?

I haven’t got this all worked out yet. I know I want to change to be a better Dad and husband. But why is that important? Too look good? No. To feel better? Maybe. Because Jesus thinks I’m important enough to sacrifice himself for? Yes. Because Jesus thinks I’m too important to stay the same old impatient dad that I’ve become? Definitely!

I haven’t fully fleshed out what the core illness is here yet, other than I know I’m making this about me. I’m putting me first. I am annoyed because things are not going MY way. Me, me, me, me. That’s what I am worried about when I am losing my patience. Not intentionally and not rationally. It’s me reacting and a truly basic selfish emotion taking over. I hate that I do this.

How do I heal this? I don’t know for sure, but I know it won’t be me alone. It has to be with Jesus’ help. I’ve got to listen to God so he and I can do some changing in me because I’m too important to stay the same.

“And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.”
― Augustine of Hippo, Confessions

{sunday 1.8.17} 
Read Philippians 2:12-13
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What motivates you to change? Does this scripture match your motivations? Explain why it does or does not.

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 1.9.17}
Read Acts 10:34-43
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What new realization has Peter come to about God in the beginning of this scripture? Why would this have been important at this time? How does this concept challenge you in your life?

{tuesday 1.10.17}
Read Acts 10:44-11:10
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Peter has to explain this revelation and his actions to the apostles. What’s an action that you’ve taken in life that you had to explain to others later? How did you explain it?

{wednesday 1.11.17}
Read Acts 11:11-24
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
God called Peter out of his comfort zone to share the gospel (good news of Jesus) with the gentiles. Do you feel or have you every felt God calling you out of your comfort zone? What are you going to do or did you do about it?

{thursday 1.12.17}
Read Acts 11:25-12:5
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Why did King Herod also seize Peter after putting James to death? Have you ever decided to do something that you knew was wrong because it would please someone else? Explain.

{friday 1.13.17}
Read Acts 12:6-19
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “astonished”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2)  Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.

{saturday 1.14.17}
Read Acts 12:20-13:7
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
The Holy Spirit said to set apart Barnabas and Saul for work which he called them. What do you think it means to be “set apart”? Do you feel like you have “set apart” for work that you have been called for? Explain. If not, pray for understanding of this in your life.


Too Important To Stay The Same, 1/1-1/7

By Dan Deeble

You are too important to stay the same.

In other words, it’s time to change.

Now by change I don’t mean changing into some unrecognizable freak. No. I also don’t mean that someone should force change upon you. No one wants to be a project. That never goes well.

By change, I mean becoming who we were always intended to be by our radically loving God. 

But we’re a funny bunch, aren’t we? On the one hand, we love change. Anything new, novel, or next I’m in. A la New Year’s resolutions. When it comes to me and my core being, though, I’m change resistant. Even the mere suggestion can feel like a crime against humanity. This is in part due to a pride (or fear?) in us and to a culture today that defends and celebrates the unchangeable “I” and “me” in unprecedented ways. I may change WHAT I do but don’t ask me to change WHO I am!

The band Imagine Dragons illustrates this in their song “It’s Time”:

It’s time to begin, isn’t it?
I get a little bit bigger but then I’ll admit
I’m just the same as I was
Now don’t you understand
I’m never changing who I am

But there’s a mixed message in there it seems. All our activity, dollars, and energy spent for the change of our choosing and, yet, we’re “just the same as I was.”  And, yet, he sings “I’m never going to change who I am.”

Gee.  This sounds a lot like…me.

In this month, we’re exploring the question of change – the what, who, and how. 

Because we can’t be our fullest self, unless we first open ourselves up to true change.

And we can’t change what we do unless we first change who we are.

Lastly – and here’s the kicker – we don’t get to chose what needs to change, in others and even ourselves.

That’s God’s bidding and doing, because He’s the one who does the true changing.

The question we must each ask is, ‘Will I let Him?’

{sunday 1.1.17} 
Read Romans 3:21-26 and Philippians 2:12-13
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
The verses in Romans make it clear…we all fall short. Yet God sent Jesus to pay for our sins, so that we may be reconciled to him. As you read Romans, how do you feel about this? Have you accepted this to be true in your faith? What questions do these passages raise for you? As you move on to Philippians, what might it look like for you to follow God more closely in 2017? Take a moment to write or speak to God about your hopes this year. 

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts}
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{monday 1.2.17}
Read Acts 9:1-9
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Hearing voices, but seeing no source. Being struck blind. Seeing this all happen as an observer. Place yourself in the scene with Paul and his friends. What do you see happening? How would you react if you were present? Have you had an experience with God that didn’t seem to make sense at the time? How did you process that experience?

{tuesday 1.3.17}
Read Acts 9:10-22
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What do you see happening in Paul’s story? What do you find easy (or hard) to believe in this story? If you have chosen to follow Jesus, what happened when you made that decision? Share your experience with someone else. Ask them about their experience of Jesus in their life.

{wednesday 1.4.17}
Read Acts 9:23-35
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Whether you have already decided to follow Jesus, or are considering it, are there people in your life that would have a hard time believing you were a Christ follower if they heard your story? Who in your life would be able to support your story? What do you have in your story that could teach others about Jesus?

{thursday 1.5.17}
Read Acts 9:36-10:8
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Have you ever seen or experienced things you couldn’t explain? Do you believe that these might be signs, or miracles? Do you have someone you can process “hard to explain” things with? If not, who might you consider asking?

{friday 1.6.17}
Read Acts 10:9-23a
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “vision”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2)  Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.

{saturday 1.7.17}
Read Acts 10:23b-33
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What God has been doing in Acts 10 is revealing how the old laws and customs have been replaced by the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. If you were alive in this era, how would you as a follower of Jesus (gentile or Jew) respond to the shift in laws and culture that the era was ushering in? How do you reconcile the teachings of Jesus in our world today?


AMONG: Good News, 12.24.16

By Adam Pontier

I spent a good portion of my life trying to find what it is that will make me happy. I hate being upset, mad, sad or anxious (anything but good feelings). Lots of things have made me happy over the years, but somehow those things always come back to make me unhappy too. I bought a brand new vehicle that eventually turned into an old vehicle. New clothes that somehow magically don’t fit anymore. Broken relationships and promises. We’ve all experienced these things. The things that start out as “good news” that eventually turn to “bad news”.

I always wanted something that was unbreakable, that couldn’t fail, and that wouldn’t disappoint. I wanted permanent “good news”. When I began to follow Jesus I caught a glimpse of something that was all of these things. I heard the “good news” but wasn’t willing to hold onto it over the “good news” from life and things around me. I kept looking outside of Jesus to find happiness.

During some of my life’s greatest moments I’ve felt something missing and was bothered by this sense of un-fulfilment. I didn’t understand. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that whatever this great moment was that it wouldn’t last. I knew this from experience.

I needed to have something in my life, no matter what happened, that would bring me joy. I wanted perfect and ultimate good news.
I don’t know when exactly it happened but I finally came to understand that my identity and happiness was based on so many different things that I knew I would never be happy. I came to the conclusion in my mind and heart that I was made by God and for God. When this finally sunk in, I learned that I had joy no matter the circumstances in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on some sort of permanent joy trip that never gets shaken from time to time. On a daily basis I find myself getting annoyed, frustrated, angry, disappointed, etc… When I start to feel this way, I remember who made me and why I was made. Sometimes this happens quickly and sometimes it takes me awhile.

This past year has taught me that I can experience loss like I’ve never experienced before and still have joy.

I lost a good friend to brain cancer, my father in-law passed away unexpectedly, and my grandfather lost a long battle with cancer all in a matter of months. I had a large part of my business vanish in one day too. All of this is what we consider to be “bad news”. News that sells and gets attention. News that is unexpected!

Anyone of these things in the past could have unhinged me from any kind of happiness or joy long-term. I was sad of course but in the back of my mind I felt comforted by Jesus. I still felt joy because of Jesus’ presence.

When good things are happening, I’m not dreading the inevitable downside in the back of my mind. When bad things are happening, I’m not consumed with the present pain. I have something unbreakable, that cannot fail and that won’t disappoint. I have what I was made for…. God. This is the good news I had always wanted to experience. This is the good news we all desire and are meant for.

“We must understand that God does not “love” us without liking us – through gritted teeth – as “Christian” love is sometimes thought to do. Rather, out of the eternal freshness of his perpetually self-renewed being, the heavenly Father cherishes the earth and each human being upon it. The fondness, the endearment, the unstintingly affectionate regard of God toward all his creatures is the natural outflow of what he is to the core – which we vainly try to capture with our tired but indispensable old word “love”.” ― Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God

{monday 12.26.16} 
Read Colossians 2:1-12
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What reason does Paul give to those of Colosse for writing this letter? Imagine this letter was written for you specifically. What do you hear Paul saying to you?

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{tuesday 12.27.16}
Read Acts 8:1-8
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What would compel someone to continue doing exactly what they were being persecuted for and friends killed for?

{wednesday 12.28.16}
Read Acts 8:9-17
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
What difference do you see between Simon the Sorcerer and Philip?

{thursday 12.29.16}
Read Acts 8:18-25
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “captive”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2)  Do NOT self-edit as you write.
If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.

{friday 12.30.16}
Read Acts 8:26-40
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Philip shares the “good news” about Jesus with the Ethiopian eunuch. Imagine you are Philip in our modern day and you come across a similar scenario. What would you say to explain the “good news” about Jesus?


AMONG: Needs, 12.18.16

By Ryan Heckman

As I sat down to write this, the early drafts had a lot of self-righteous sounding “I’s” and “me’s” in it. I’ve got practical, logical, and tangible in spades and I help people. So why not label myself the expert and tell you how to minister to others by meeting practical needs. Gut check. What I don’t have is a good handle on how to ask for help or how to receive it.

Our country and culture have raised us to be independent. Needing help is showing weakness. Generosity is for us to show and for others to receive. Asking for help makes us vulnerable and that scares the crap out of me. If you found out I couldn’t completely take care of this part of my life, then my façade of perfection would be broken. You may have judged for yourself things about me that aren’t perfect, but I’m certainly not going to tell you about the others. I’m ashamed of those shortcomings: resources, smarts, and skills alike. And now in this line of thinking, I’m ashamed that I won’t share. Ugh!

Here are some introspective questions I pulled out of that train of thought. Do I really understand giving if I haven’t learned to receive? Have I subconsciously put myself above those I’m serving, because I don’t have the same kind or “volume” of needs? Am I judging them as weak for even asking? If I don’t understand or practice asking and receiving, is that affecting how I try to meet the needs of others?

I have a working theory for myself as it relates to this. I don’t ask for help or receive it well because I don’t believe I’m worthy of it. I know I’m worthy in theory, but I don’t know it in my “knower”, as Tom Brawner would say. Deep down I still think I’m supposed to earn it. Another side of this theory is about how I perceive others in need. If I remain distant from those I am serving, then it’s easy to believe that God calls them worthy. The lie in my head is that he generically calls everyone worthy…except me. If I make a connection with those I’m serving and identify with them, I might assume they are subject to the same lie of unworthiness. Then I look at them with the eyes of the world, with judgement and pity. The same lense that I would turn on myself if I were to ask or show need for help.

I know the way forward; those questions were pretty leading, right? I just need to know it in my “knower”. I need to practice making myself vulnerable by asking for help with things I need. Hopefully that sense of worthiness will sink in for me and also become how I perceive others. I’m on the hunt for my next ask…both what, and to whom. What need could you ask for help with?

“You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.” -Henri Nouwen 

{monday 12.19.16} 
Read Colossians 1:9-14
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Paul uses a lot of descriptive words and phrases (spiritual wisdom, knowledge, knowledge of his will, understanding, bearing fruit, strengthened, etc…), which of these stands out to you as something you need more of in your life? Why do you think you need this? Pray for God to increase this in your life.

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{tuesday 12.20.16}
Read Acts 7:17-29
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
In this scripture we continue to read Stephen recounting the Old Testament scripture to the Sanhedrin (religious leaders). Why do you think Stephen felt the need to recount a story the religious leaders would have already known?

{wednesday 12.21.16}
Read Acts 7:30-43
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Again in this scripture Stephen is carrying on with the recounting of the Old Testament scripture to the Sanhedrin (religious leaders). Describe a time when you personally recounted a story, event, scripture or experience to someone who would have already known what you were talking about. Why did you feel the need to tell someone about something they already had experience with?

{thursday 12.22.16}
Read Acts 7:44-53
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Have you ever experienced hearing something more than once without fully understanding it? What have you been hearing or learning about yourself lately that you haven’t been fully understanding or acting on? What are you going to do about it?

{friday 12.23.16}
Read Acts 7:54-60
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “furious”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2)  Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.


AMONG: Meals, 12.11.16

By Debbie Kirk

It’s hard to believe but I used to have a fear of bread. No really, I was afraid of it. Afraid to make it, touch it, bake it. What if I kneaded it too long? What if it didn’t rise? It was unknown to me and, only because of my dear mother in law, did I learn to become familiar with the whole bread thing. Bread is now my friend. We know each other well and the fear was replaced with a comfortable appreciation. Now I make bread, almost without thinking.

Dan’s message this week reminded me of a few things. First was the open door, open heart, open table practices my future in laws lived out before me during my earlier years. Henrietta Mears nailed it when she said that if a person’s legs were under her dinner table, they were halfway into the kingdom of God. I’m certain the meals we shared week after week in their home were a large part of the reason I came to know God. The breaking of bread, the softening of hearts. My heart. I try to imagine that time in my life without those meals. Without the conversations. Without the comfortable love they offered within the safe walls of their home. Something I had never experienced. It was priceless.

Second, I was reminded of the difference between hospitality and entertaining. I’m one of those people who loves things that sparkle. Added touches truly bring joy! This is where I need to be careful not to slip into the bad habit of presentation. I would never think to serve our guests on paper plates. Family & friends, sure, but special guests, nope. This got me to thinking, why is that? It’s because family is, well….. Family and friends know us far past the china right onto paper plates. Again, why is that? It’s because our friends and family are present in our lives, week after week. Around our table, month after month. They have gained paper plate status. This thought was compelling.

Lastly, I was reminded to share our table with the crippled, the lame, the blind. Those who are on the outside. Those who need and long for paper plate status. Those who are just like I was when I entered the home of my husband’s family years ago as an outsider– crippled, lame, blind. They fed me, loved me and invited me into their world, until their world became my own. This reminder above all others is the one for which I am most thankful.

Are there enough “strangers” around our table? Are there enough paper plates, is there enough broken bread? Outsiders who become so comfortable sharing our table that our two worlds blend, almost without thinking.

“We show hospitality to strangers not merely because they need it, but because we need it, too. The stranger at the door is the living symbol and memory that we are all strangers here. This is not our house, our table, our food, our lodging; this is God’s house and table and food and lodging. We were pilgrims and wanderers, aliens and strangers, even enemies of God, but we, too, were welcomed into this place.” -Thomas G. Long, Beyond the Worship Wars: Building Vital and Faithful Worship

{monday 12.12.16} 
Read Luke 14:23
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Jesus tells us to go out and compel the outsiders to come in. Can you remember a time you felt like an outsider? What would it look like to compel others to come in to your home or inner circle? What practical steps could you take to invite outsiders to the inside, to share a meal around your table?

{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts} 
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{tuesday 12.13.16}
Read Acts 5:17-40
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Is it easier to follow the rules or to follow what God is telling you? Why do you think it was so important to the apostles to continue teaching even though the authority figures of their time told them not to?

{wednesday 12.14.16}
Read Acts 5:41-6:7
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
The apostles were disobedient to the authority figures, but being obedient to God. How do you know when you are being obedient to God? Being disobedient to authority figures does not mean you are necessarily being obedient to God. How do you distinguish the difference of being disobedient to authority figures and being obedient to God?

{thursday 12.15.16}
Read Acts 6:8-7:3
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “Seized”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2)  Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.

{friday 12.16.16}
Read Acts 7:4-16
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Here we see Stephen recounting the old testament laws and stories of Abraham from memory in response to their challenge of him. If you were challenged to give an account of why you believe what you believe, what would you say?


AMONG: Ask God, 12.4.16

By Ashley Pickering

When I was four we left for Africa. I can almost see the scene in slow motion. A whole slew of people waiting to wave one last time at my family. The five of us say our goodbyes, pile in our old station wagon, I’m sitting in the third rear facing seat, probably without my seatbelt on, and I am crying. I am not sure if I was really sad or I just saw the sadness in everyone else but as we drove away I knew the rest of my life would be different. Different from everyone we left.

Fast-forward 15 years and I was in college. I was not in a good place in my life.

My parents were missionaries in Africa and after we came back state-side they were pastors in a church in Texas. My re-entry into America had proved very difficult. I felt like an outsider. I turned to drugs and alcohol to fill the void. One night changed everything for me. I nearly lost my life, and had an encounter with the Holy Spirit. He basically said, you are not meant for this. I have more for you.

My turn towards God was a slow, one foot in front of the other journey. From that day though, I knew that God had this amazing plan for my life. To show love to everyone I met. This sounds super corny but it’s true.

See, we are all wired, by our past, which God has redeemed, the good and the bad, he wants to use it all, to reach for the people who seem to be the furthest. The unchurched. The bible talks about our purpose here on earth, and it’s pretty simple, let me paraphrase, love others and make disciples. That is not all but for this reflection let’s look at those two. The neighbors on our street who will never think about coming to church. The person who sits alone at lunch. That was me. I want them to have the same encounter with God.

That glory moment, the one where I hit my rock bottom, had to happen. No one around me could have saved me but Jesus. It’s not our job to save other people, it’s our purpose to show the love of Christ and help disciple others. And to do this we have to actually DO something.

I would love to sit here and write that I wake up every day asking God to show me who he is calling me to, but my reality is different. We have to live it every day, it’s our choice, and believe me some days I choose survival, and that is ok. But the days when I ask him to guide me, to show me, to lead me, he does. I get to watch his glory unfold.

“Sometimes the best way to bring good news to the poor is to bring actual good news to the poor. It appears a good way to bring relief to the oppressed is to bring real relief to the oppressed. It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said.”  ― Jen Hatmaker, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

{monday 12.5.16}
Read John 1:14
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
In your own words define the word grace. In your own words define the word truth. How do these concepts play out in your life? Discuss your definitions among a group of trusted friends.
{personal reflection and reading plan: from the book of Acts}
As you read Acts, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the study questions below. Grab a friend or two and meet up to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

{tuesday 12.6.16}
Read Acts 4:13-22
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Being a Christian does not require one to be a theological scholar. We are told, however to spread God’s message of hope. Have you ever been faced with adversity about your belief? How did you handle it and what did you do?

{wednesday 12.7.16}
Read Acts 4:23-37
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
God will often place opportunities right in front of us to help others, which in turn is actually serving him. It is not always easy to help others and make sacrifices when we live in a busy, commercialized world. How do you make space, time or resources available in your life to help others?

{thursday 12.8.16}
Read Acts 5:1-11
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Take 5 minutes and write whatever comes to mind about the word “Lie”. The only guidelines are…. 1) Do NOT stop writing for the entire 5 minutes. 2)  Do NOT self-edit as you write. If you feel comfortable doing so, share what you wrote with someone else.

{friday 12.9.16}
Read Acts 5:12-16
Observe, Reflect, Apply:
Imagine yourself living in 1st century Judea with a sick child, parent, spouse or friend (“loved one”). If you heard rumors about people walking around that could heal this “loved one” of yours, what would you do? If you took this “loved one” to them and they were healed, what would your reaction be? Have you witnessed anyone’s life drastically changed (for the better) by faith in Jesus? What did witnessing this mean to you? Did this experience change you?