Saturday, April 30, 2011

Alabama Relief: How can I help?

Letter from our pastors at Celebration Church:

Our prayers go out to the people of Alabama in the aftermath of the tornadoes that left hundreds dead and thousands with damage to their homes and properties. As a church, we are now operating as the main drop off location for supplies, as we mobilize Relief Teams to send to the hardest hit areas.

 
There is a place for everyone to get involved in helping others move beyond this devastation and, as a church, we are fortunate to have tremendous connections with organizations that have longstanding relationships in the Tuscaloosa and surrounding area communities. With God's help and your involvement, we can see Him do incredible things to make a difference amidst this tragedy.

 
So how can you get involved?


1.) Donate Supplies: Mobilize your family and friends to bring supplies this Sunday at all campuses or at our upcoming 7:00pm Wednesday night service.


Items Needed: Blankets, diapers, baby wipes, baby food / formula, socks, bottled water, individual bottles of juice, and packaged food for distribution.


Collection Points for Donation Items:



Westinghouse Campus


1202 Rabbit Hill Road, Georgetown, TX


Saturday April 30th-Wednesday, May 4th: 8:00am-8:00pm


Northwest Campus


2121 Cypress Creek Road, Cedar Park, TX


Sunday, May 1st, 8:00am-3:00pm


RunTex Austin


422 W Riverside Drive, Austin, TX


Saturday April 30th-Wednesday, May 4th: 8:00am-8:00pm


2.) Give: Give online or in service tomorrow towards the "Celebration Serves Alabama" fund to provide resources towards our efforts


3.) Volunteer: Serve locally at a Collection Point or contact us to see how you can join a Relief Team. Email us at serve@celebrationchurchtx.com to get started.


For the latest updates on the Alabama Relief efforts, visit our website, and thank you in advance for your prayerful consideration of how you and your family can get involved.



Much love,

Pastors Joe and Lori Champion

Feel free to check out our church's website at http://www.celebrationchurchtx.com/.  It is not about our church or any one church - it is about being the hands and feet of Christ, and in that being The Church to the world.  And if you have other ways to serve, please feel free to comment them!  Thanks!
“The Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you.” - 1 Chronicles 28:9


This is the verse that really struck me this morning as I am working through David: 90 Days with a Heart Like His by Beth Moore. After going back to my Bible to look it up, I am even more stunned. Here is the verse, in its entirety in the Amplified version.

“And you, Solomon, my son, know the God of your father [have personal knowledge of Him; appreciate, heed, and cherish Him] and serve Him with a blameless heart and a willing mind. For the Lord searches all hearts and minds and understands all the wanderings of the thoughts. If you seek Him [inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him as your first and vital necessity] you will find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever!”
Did you know that some people are able to literally (in their mind) step outside themselves and view themselves as a third party would and see their own intentions. This ability can be clouded by past experiences and by self-confidence or a lack thereof. Actually, the truth of the matter is, that while some are predisposed to do this, we are all capable, but to truthfully step outside of ourselves and see the reality of our intentions and purposes – we have to seek the Lord. He understands “every motive behind [our] thoughts” and every “wandering” of our thoughts, so in relationship with our God we are also able to see this truth too.

Are you afraid of what you might find?

In Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (found in Matthew chapters 5, 6, & 7) He outlines what the blessed life looks like and what a follower of God should look like, and if we are honest we all fall short. Romans 3:23 says we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But we have hope in Jesus’ sermon in Mathew 6:33, “But seek (aim and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.” (AMP)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!” –Matt. 5:8

“If you are offering a gift at the altar (to God) and remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave your gift at the altar and go. First make peace with your brother, and then come back and present your gift.” (vs.24)

“Let your ‘Yes’ be simply ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’ be simply ‘No’; anything more than that comes from the evil one.” (vs. 37)

“You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (vs.44)

“Take care not to do your good deeds publically or before men, in order to be seen by them; otherwise you will have no reward [reserved and awaiting you] with and from your Father Who is in heaven.” –Matt. 6:1

These verses stand out in my heart as relational purity – pure intentions toward others, but in our humanity we are often selfish and transactionally-minded (I know that I just made up a word…it means that we are minds are often directed toward what our gains or losses will be in interactions instead of what glorifies God). We will only be able to fulfill this calling to be pure of heart when we seek God and ask Him to help us to see clearly and then to change our heart.

“So Jesus said to those who believed in Him, If you abide in My Word [hold fast to my teachings and live in accordance with them], you are truly my disciples. And then you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.” –John 8:31-32

Sometimes the truth that we know is the truth about ourselves, but we are not left without hope…God transforms our hearts when we renew our minds in Him.

It is a little scary that God might reveal to us our intentions, but when we allow Him to surface some things that might be ugly, we also bring it to the surface so that it can be healed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It seems like it has been season after challenging season for so long now. I feel like I am swimming a marathon, and every now and then God brings me back to the surface for air and a reprieve and a pep talk only to dump me back into tumultuous waters to swim for my life. It’s probably because I think I’ve learned my lesson but as soon as things smooth over I fall right back into my old habits and have to be reminded again.


One thing that is particularly challenging to me is God’s call to be real about who I am and where I am, even in the midst of struggles. It seems easy to talk about once they are behind you, but I fear the “ugly” spilling out in everyday conversation. I think as Christians, growing up in the church, we feel called to live a higher standard, and it seems somehow ungodly to openly fall short. God keeps showing me, though, that when I let them come to the surface, in the light He can heal it and we can deal with it together.

This evening I opened up to Mark 11 and read a story I am familiar with but has always troubled me. Here it is in the Amplified version, “Seeing in the distance a fig tree [covered] with leaves, He went to see if He could find any [fruit] on it [for in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. But when He came up to it, He found nothing but leaves, for the fig season had not yet come. And He said to it, No one ever again shall eat fruit from you. And His disciples were listening [to what He said].” (vs. 12-13). To be honest, this story has always troubled me, but the amplified version helps to clarify by saying that the tree should bear fruit at the same time the leaves appear, but it does not. Basically, the tree had all it needed, but was not useful in the way that it was designed.

Pastor Joe talked about this weekend that when we have significant moment’s we remember (like our wedding day or a special trip), there are “souvenirs” from the journey (like our rings or a Disney sweatshirt); the same should follow with our relationship with Christ. We must experience the cross, not just know about Jesus, and this translates into the fruits of the spirit found in Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control. When our fruit is not in keeping with these, our logo is all wrong; it’s like buying Baylor clothes at Walmart (Baylor holds the rights to their official colors and logo so that you can only buy it from their bookstore – if you go to the Walmart in Waco, they have imitations that look similar, but just don’t add up).

Joyce Meyer says that Jesus cursed the tree because it was a “phony”! The tree was an imposter of a fig tree, looking for all intents and purposes like a tree, but lacking the essential element – the fruit. “If our lives revolve around the church but we have no fruit, we are not living our faith. We can have Christian bumper stickers on our cars, wear Jesus pins, carry our Bibles around…and say ‘Praise the Lord!’…but if we do not have [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-control]…we are like the fig tree with leaves but no fruit.”

She goes on to say that “People with spiritual outward appearance but no fruit are hard to get along with and never allow themselves to be inconvenienced by anybody else.” OUCH! I don’t want to be a phony, but I find myself starting to feel the fear of disappointing others or concerns about how I am perceived and struggle again to be real about where I am.

Brothers and sisters I’ll give it to you straight right now – I am a hot mess! God has been working with me through Christian counseling for months now, but I thought I would have it all “together” by now. I still find myself struggling with the same old struggles – mine may look different from yours, but we all are struggling. God just really reminded me that if I am going to work through these things, if I am going to be victorious and bear much fruit, if I am going to walk in the healing that He died for me to experience (yes, He died for more than just a ticket to heaven) – then I must be real about where I am and stop trying to “be” or “act like” what I think I should be, I have to be real about where I am, bring it to the surface and allow God to heal that so that I can bear the fruit that He has for me. It is painful to allow it; it is painful to know that “ugliness” is still in there, and I fear what others might think, but the truth is that if I am only living to please God, then I will be righteous and justified, and the Lord becomes my vindicator.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"How Great Thou Art"

Country music flows through my veins...it resonates so strongly with me...here's a video clip from The American Academy of Country Music's "Girl's Night Out" tribute to some great women in country music.  Carrie Underwood with Vince Gill singing "How Great Thou Art"

I wish I could find the words to articulate what watching and hearing this does for me...I find that it is spiritual, connecting to the deepest parts of me (and then I feel that sounds almost cliche').  God has placed a love to sing so deep in my heart, and He first drew me to music through the sounds of an accustic guitar and fiddle, through the voices of women like Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Reba, The Judds, LeAnn Rimes, and more.  I remember as a little girl dressing up in a dress, boots, and cowboy hat to perform my favorite country songs for my parents.  Singing has helped me through the most trying times and expressed my joy in the sweetest moments.

Just seeing these men and women that I so deeply admire, and pray that one day I will get to be apart of stand and sing praises to our God brings me to tears.  I know that many joke that country music only sings about getting drunk, the woman who left, and the dog died, but there is so much more.  There are songs about the truths in the depths of our hearts, they are emotional, raw.  And country music as an industry is still a place where the name of the Lord is exalted and praised, and serving His people is a priority...I love that.



When I was in high school my family visited Nashville and my sister and I sang on the stage at the Ryman, as close to the "spot" (Ryman is the original Grand 'Ol Opry where all the greats in country music history have sung, and when they moved the Opry, they cut a hole in the stage around the area where artists would stand) as we could, and then we stood on the steps of the new Opry and sang our hearts out...just so I could say I sang at the Opry.  I still remember the day that Carrie Underwood was inducted into the Grand 'Ol Opry...here she was, just a girl from a small town, being inducted into the Opry by Randy Travis. I wept...that's my dream...someday, I hope to sing on that stage, and sing praises to the Lord that this precious dream he's placed in my heart has come true.   

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Relational Insufficient Funds

God has been working on this idea in my head for a while, and I'm not sure that my thoughts on it are quite fluid enough to articulate it well, but I'm going to give it a shot.  This may be a delete and re-write next week, but feel free to comment and tell me if I make no sense or definately tell me if I am way off base!

So it started by thinking about the things we do when we want someone to like us, be pleased with us, or even be impressed by us.  When we learn what attracts attention and admiration, we sometimes "sub-consciously" try to capitalize on that.

Now it's not quite as manipulative as I'm making it sound...I'll give you a couple of examples.  Let's say that my husband just came home from work and he had a rough day.  He is tired and achy.  So I tell him, hey how about after dinner I'll give you a shoulder rub.  I fully intend to give him a shoulder rub, and he is happy with me saying that I will later.  When I say it then I get to "cash-in" so to speak on his thankfulness at my thoughfulness.  But lets say after dinner I am tired and totally forget about my promise earlier.  Well, Scott won't forget of course, but he doesn't want to seem rude and ask me, but he's a little hurt that I didn't keep my word (this is more likely the other way around because my husband is not a girl - lol).  It's like a wrote a bad check.  I got to get the instant gratification of his thankfulness but then when he went to cash the check there were insufficient funds.

Or, lets say, like most girls do, you meet a new friend and you get so excited while talking to them you say, "Let's hang out sometime!!!"  But then they contact you and you are busy, or maybe you like them, but don't really want to spend all that much time with them, but you keep seeming overly enthusiastic each time you see them and then say it again.  Girls do this all the time, and I think for the most part they mean well and think this is a nice thing to say when you have had a positive conversation with someone else.  However, I've seen enough hurt from other friends on the receiving end and frankly, I've been on both ends here, and it hurts when you feel like someone created a scenario where you felt like you had a deeper friendship or more meaningful friendship than was really there.  Again, you wrote a check, got to cash in on the excitement from the friend, and then they took it to the bank and got nothing in return.

Now here's where it gets a little messy in my head.  I don't want to say that you should never be nice to people you aren't deep friends with or that you should never say you are going to do something for someone.  What I do want to say is that sometimes the reason we say and do these things is to draw positive attention to ourselves, but we really don't have the resources to back up that attention.

What we should be doing instead is, first of all, making our goal to point others to Jesus, not us, and everything we do for others should be an outpouring of His love and guidance, not an attempt to get a positive response.  Second, with the first point in mind, we should be more careful not to make plans or promises that we can't really fulfill.  There are definately times to say, "Hey, I'm sorry, I know we made plans, but this other thing came up"...life stuff, it happens.  What I'm talking about is how carelessly we often say, "Let's hang out" or "I'll throw you a shower" or "You can come over anytime" or whatever it may be.  And men and women are prone to it alike, but it looks different for us.  Women are more likely to promise social things like I listed above and men seem more likely to promise things on our "honey-do" list.

Consider that when we choose to write a check without knowing what our checking account balance is (so to speak), that we lesson the weight of our words and we may be unintentionally toying with the emotions of others. 

Ok - I know this is still a little messy of an idea, so please feel free to share your thoughts - even if it is, "um...what?"

AN ADDITIONAL THOUGHT, ADDED LATER:
My dear friend reminded me of another factor in this equation and that is that we often fear disappointing or letting down others, especially when we know how much they want "more" from us.  This is a particularly tough area for me, and it seems like women of all ages really struggle here (I haven't seen guys seem to battle with it as much, but maybe they do too). 

Some things that God has really spoken to my heart in that department are :

- Joyce Meyer reminds us that if we are only living to please God and not people we will never be overwhelmed.  Anything God gives us to do He also allows us the grace to complete it (as long as we stay in Him), but when we try to take on things that are not ours to take on, we have to depend only on ourselves.

- I often think that it is my job to save the world, and even though it mind sound noble, it actually has its root in pride and/or misconception of where my worth and value lies.  It is God's job to save the world...He sent Jesus to do that, and He is the only one who can.  It is my job, all our jobs, to seek God, to obey what He tells us, and to walk out the plans that He has for our lives.  It is really challenging for me when I see someone who is obviously hurting  not to jump right on in and think that I can encourage them and counsel them and be their real friend and make their life all better -or- if I hear about a great ministry not to want to dive in head first, but God is showing me that sometimes my emotions get excited and I forget to seek what He really has asked me to do.  I am responsible to whom and what that God has called me specifically, and if I neglect those tasks for something else that might seem good, I'll be held accountable for that, and usually I end up getting burnt out and feeling like I let someone down somewhere.

- It is ok for others to be disappointed in/with us sometimes.  It is so so hard to swallow, but if we find our worth and value in Christ, we are living to please Him and follow what He speaks to our heart.  And oddly enough, I have learned from personal experience, that sometimes it is good for me to be disappointed with other people because then I turn to Jesus, and it is good for people to be disappointed with me because then they can turn to Jesus too.  If I am always swooping in to save the day, then sometimes we don't allow others to grow and build the relationship that will sustain their life.  We will inevitably fail others, but Jesus won't. 

When we stop, get quiet, be still, and listen to what the Lord is saying to our heart, as well as purposefully seek Him, He will show us how relationships are supposed to flow in and out of our lives.  Every positive conversation is not meant to turn into draining the life out of each other; we have to let God guide our relationships and interactions so that we can walk in freedom and honestly, so others can too.  Friendships have different levels and seasons (ie: like your friend for Bio-chem class that you do all your projects together and sit together in class or your friend who lives far away that you get to talk to maybe 6 times a year and see once if you are lucky but you have the most intimate and deep conversations), and that is ok.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

God's Word is the same Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Aha! Revelation! Our enemy knows the Word way better than we do, and He knows how to use distort it and misuse it to break us. As God has been calling me to pull back from many responsibilities, I kept hearing in my head all the scriptures of how we are known by our fruit. And then, I kept comparing my “fruit” to others around me. Well of course I didn’t measure up! The thing is our “fruit” is not the number of ministries we are involved in or even the number of anything we are involved in at all!


“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

–Galations 5:22-23

And walking where God wants me to walk, in only the responsibilities and relationships in which he wants me to walk, all the while abiding in Him, produce such fruit. I can tell you there is nothing less patient that an overworked Mom. Halleluiah!

Study and meditate on your Word, and seek the Lord for His guidance in understanding so the enemy doesn’t snatch it and distort the Truth in your mind.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

“As a camel kneels before his master to have him remove his burden at the end of the day, so kneel each night and let the Master take your burden.” –Karen Kingsbury Take Two
In Karen Kingsbury’s book Take Two From the “Above the Line” series, the characters have a discussion with an author about a book entitled Unlocked (Karen also has a book by this title, but I haven’t had an opportunity to check it out yet…). In Take Two the author articulates that the book is representative of a real life relationship between herself and her younger sister who was autistic. “The doctors used to tell us she was unreachable, that she lived alone in her own little world…But I knew otherwise. When we were alone, I’d put on music…I would start dancing, and after a minute, she’d smile at me and join in. Music gave us a bridge. We often danced across it.”


Music can also be this way in our faith…

“In some ways – until we find that life-saving faith in Christ – we’re all autistic. Living in our own world, trapped by the smallness of our existence and needing something, anything, to pierce the silence and open our eyes to the reality around us. Music can introduce people to God.”

Learning to Say "No"

Learning to say "no" is one of the hardest lessons yet; learning to say "no" without feeling incredible guilt - harder still. But I am starting to have periods on the other side of that mountain and really experiencing the freedom with feeling "allowed" to say no and greater beauty of being able to say "yes" to all the things to which I need and want to say "Yes"!

I am also learning that being involved in something doesn’t require me to come early and stay late to every single event involved and be on my “A game” every day. Taking commitments seriously is important, but prioritizing commitments and seeking God in this is more important. Sometimes just showing up functional is enough – fascinating!

All of this is part of God re-shaping my identity, or rather, part of God re-shaping my perception of my identity. These choices all require that I find my worth in Him; if at any moment I begin to become more concerned with what others think or believe that who I am lies in the activities that I do, I fall right back down that slope – overcommitted and under-nourished (spiritually, emotionally, and often physically).

I have found at the end of the day that God, of course, always loves me, and that the love I receive from others is far more valuable than if it was only based on what I did. It’s pretty special to be loved for who you are – mess and all.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

We pray for things: healing, a situation to work out, etc...but we really don't know how it's possible.  Then things start to happen, unexpected things, and God asks us to do things that sometimes just don't make sense to our human mind.  It's when we walk with the blindfold on and listen carefully to His voice, and obey His words exactly, that we see the things we asked for come to fruition in more beautiful ways than we ever could have imagined.  Right now I am blindfolded, but the more I obey, the more God reassures me that I am walking down the path to the freedom I have desired, the same freedom Christ died for me to enjoy.  I am often surprised at what God asks of me - it doesn't fit comfortably in the paradigm that I have of "good Christian"...I guess God didn't ask us to be a "good Christian", He asked us to take up our cross and follow Him, to obey. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Charge to Preachers, Teachers, and Parents


"For our appeal does not come from delusion or error or impure purpose or motive in fraud or deceit."
-1 Thessalonians 2:3 (AMP)

There is no "agenda" other than to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

"We speak not to please men but to please God, who test our hearts [expecting them to be approved]...we never resort to words of flattery or to cloak or conceal any greedy motives or pretexts for gain) as God as our witness).
Nor did we seek to extract praise and honor and glory from men...though we might have asserted our authority." -vs. 4-6


"BUT we behaved gently when we were among you, like a devoted mother nursing and cherishing her own children." -vs. 7

"As a father dealing with his children we exhorted each of you personally, stimulating and encouraging and charging you to live lives worthy of God, Who calls you into His own Kingdom and glorious blessedness." -vs. 11-12


In his letter to the Thessalonians Paul talks about his purposes and intentions in preaching and teaching the Word.  This charge is for us also to preach, teach, and for us parents - it is also a charge in how we should raise up our family.

We are charged not to:
-operate from our own agenda, but rather move with pure motives that come from following God's voice
-speak to please mean, but rather speak only to please God who will test our intentions
   no pretense, no flattery, no deception - a challenge in todays society highly valuing rhetoric where this is not only accepted but encouraged (However, with Paul's upbringing and culture of the day, skilled rhetoric was also considered highly valuable, so this charge is not without also overcoming the challenge to be counter-culture)
-seek praise, but rather to humble ourselves before God and the people He has called us to
-assert our own authority, but again to humble ourselves and assert only God's authority

-RATHER- We are charged to...
Behave gently...nursing and cherishing tender hearts
Encourage and stimulate in the faith
and charge others to lives a life worthy of our great calling

This is not an easy charge to continually allow God to test your motives and intentions and to humble yourself before others to minister to them, but it is one that Jesus set the perfect example for us and by the Spirit we can also live out.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Our Empty Cups

"We each have our unmet needs, and we carry them around all day long like an empty cup. In one way or another, we hold out that empty cup to the people in our lives and say, 'Can somebody please fill this? Even a tablespoon would help!'
Whether we seek to have our cup filled through approval, affirmation, control success, or immediate gratification, we are miserable until something is in it."
-Praying God's Word by Beth Moore

"No love of the natural heart is safe unless the human heart has been satisfied by God first."
-Oswald Chambers

"We are wrong to thing that we can make anyone love us the way we need to be loved."
-Praying God's Word by Beth Moore

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in You. 
Show me the way I should go,
for to You I lift up my soul."
-Psalm 143:8

"There's a God-shaped hole in all of us
And the restless soul is searching
There's a God-shaped hole in all of us
And it's a void only he can fill."
-Plumb "God Shaped Hole"

We all have a God shaped hole and empty cups.  Only God can fill it up.  Did you catch that - ONLY GOD CAN FILL IT UP.  Not a single other person in this world can do it for you.  And let me tell you something from experience, when you allow others to fill it for you, it turns your eyes toward them - one of two things always happens.

One - they withdraw because even though they want to love on you, few want/can handle that kind of need directed at them
 -or-and perhaps worst option-
Two - they do try to meet your needs, and keep you needing them, thus creating a cycle of co-dependency.  Many unhealthy people get their needs met by others needing them. Yikes!

Plus, this is also another form of idoltry, turning your eyes to something less than God that can never match Him.

When we turn our eyes to the Lord and allow Him to fill our cup, when others make deposits we are able to receive it and be thankful, not beg for another drop.  We are also able to more easilly slough off any poison that dares enter.

Also, when our eyes are turned to the Lord and our cup filled by Him, we are able to love others better - our cup spills over.  We don't have to try or guess what others need - God already knows!!!  Hallelujah!  When He fills our cup, what spills over will be exactly what God knows they need and intended for them to have!