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Power to Change.

wesblackburn —  January 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

So I’d like to start off today’s Wes Wednesday post with a little video that I saw recently and found a little funny:

(Can’t see the video? Click here.)

How many of us have been there? Seriously, if they would have replaced donuts with Pringles, that would have been me a few Sunday nights ago.

But honestly, isn’t that how we all feel sometimes, especially when we are trying to undertake something that’s hard and new? A couple Sundays ago, we unrolled our desire to hear from God every day as a church, and specifically to do so through reading God’s Word. That’s awesome! Many of you signed up the next day for YouVersion, got the e100 Challenge, and started reading. Last Monday, I saw a bunch of Facebook posts (you probably did too) from all my friends here at Suncrest who were taking that next step and beginning the journey together. That’s awesome!

my-alarm-clock-doesnt-go-off-quite-as-early-now-that-im-not-doing-the-early-show-gig-but-i-still-get-up-around-530-am-theres-something-i-cant-miss-about-joe-weisenthals-early-morning-tweets.jpgThen Tuesday happened. Maybe you’re more spiritual than me, but here’s how it worked out. Day 1 of e100 started off great. But then that night, I was out until about 1am and didn’t get to bed until 1:30 or 2. That sounds bad enough, but it gets worse when you find out my wakeup time the next day (actually, the same day, I guess) was at 5:45am for all of our Tuesday meetings at Suncrest the next day. Finding time to spend with God is a challenge, but especially when you’re only going on 3.5 hours of sleep. (I’m sure many parents of young ones are out there nodding their agreement.)

kinda got my e100 stuff done. Thankfully, our reading that day was only 25 verses or so. I got that done, but to say that I was really in deep thought and meditation on it would be a stretch to say the least. In fact, I kind of blitzed through it. I definitely blitzed through our two questions. I’ve discovered for myself that I can’t just think about my answers to reflection questions; if they are going to impact me, I need to actually write down my responses in the journaling app on my iPad. That day, I only got far enough to write down the two reflection questions… not my responses. Oops. Large E100 banner(1)

We’ve all been there, right? There’s nothing that takes the wind out of your sails when you’re trying to start something important and great and new than missing it or messing it up. And in those moments, we start to hear the voice of the devil figure in the video; we hear the voice of cynicism, the voice of doubt, the voice that tells us we can’t do it and we’re a failure. When you’re trying to do something that feels spiritual, it’s even worse because you feel like it’s a judgment on how bad of a Christ follower you are.

But that’s not the attitude of Jesus. Take a look at one example from Jesus’ words in the book of Luke:

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32, NLT).

Let me give a little context here. Jesus and his disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane, and they are quickly approaching Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion (it’s literally hours, if not minutes away at this point). Jesus knows exactly what’s going to happen; Simon (Peter) is going to be asked three times if he knows Jesus, and he will deny him three times. In other words, Peter’s going to have a real #epicfail on his hands in a few hours.

friendlp.nfo-o-a0eBut look at Jesus’ words to Peter here, even knowing all of that. He essentially says, “Peter, I know you’re going to mess up. You’re going to miss it, and you’re probably going to feel pretty bad about it. But here’s the deal: When you screw up, just pick yourself up, turn back toward me, and go at it again, strengthening and leading these guys around you.” Jesus’ attitude toward Peter when he screws up isn’t one of rejection, it’s one of forgiveness. Jesus doesn’t discount Peter because he messed up, he just offers him a second chance. (I like to imagine Jesus giving Peter a fist bump at that point.)

It’s easy to get down on ourselves when we fall off track. That applies in every area of our lives, and definitely every area of our spiritual lives. It’s pretty easy for us to beat ourselves up when we were determined to be loving to our spouse, but got in a big argument again. It’s easy to get disappointed when we were determined to take advantage of an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus, yet only managed to squeak out a “Hey, how you doing?” when we see them. With regard to e100 stuff, it’s really easy to just fall off the wagon when we miss a day (or a week) and feel like we’re so far behind that we can never get caught up. But in all these situations, I think Jesus’ attitude toward us is just like his attitude toward Peter: Yes, he acknowledges our failure, but he doesn’t stop there. He encourages us to get up, turn back to him, and get going again. Jesus doesn’t want failure to define us; he wants us to push through our failures (which are many, right?) and to simply keep following him in the midst of them.

Hope that’s an encouragement to you! If you’ve fallen off track with e100 or anything else, here’s to all of us together picking ourselves up, getting back on track, and pushing through in our desire to hear from God every day in 2014.

Out Loud

wesblackburn —  January 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

Today’s Music Monday comes from the crew at Crossroads Cincinnati and a song that they wrote exclusively for their fall all-church journey last year called “Out Loud.” Watch and listen below:

(Can’t see the video? Click here to be re-directed to the YouTube page.)

This is just a really cool reminder for us to live in a way that makes God’s kingdom known to all around us. It’s neat to me to dream about what God could do with a group of people (just like us) who are committed to bringing God’s kingdom to our earth. Today, let’s bring it! Let’s make God’s kingdom loud.

To help you hear from God everyday, we’ve put together some guides and links to help you get started using Youversion.

So it’s begun.

That’s right… as of this morning, all three of Suncrest’s campuses around the region will begin to hear from God everyday through engaging with the e100 Bible reading plan! It’ll be awesome for us all to have an opportunity to cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus together! (If you are wondering, “What the heck are you talking about, Wes?” then you probably missed this weekend’s message. No problem; just go here to watch and/or listen!)

One of the really awesome options to help you engage with God everyday is an app for your phone called YouVersion. It’s a free Bible that you can take anywhere with you (or at least wherever you take your phone)! If you’re looking to download YouVersion for your device, just open this post on your phone, Kindle, iPad, whatever, and click here. The link will automatically redirect you to the place where you can download YouVersion for your device. (Did I mention that it’s free?) You can also read the Bible from your computer or laptop by going here to YouVersion online.

Now, in order to get the most out of YouVersion, it’s really helpful to sign up for an account. Doing so is really easy and also free, and it allows you to take advantage of great features such as note taking, highlighting passages, and signing up for Bible reading plans (including the e100 Challenge). For a quick how-to on creating an account, you can check out the video below! (If you can’t see the video in your blog reader, e-mail, or feed, just click here to be re-directed to it.)

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 7.34.24 PMSigning up for the e100 plan on YouVersion is also really easy. Just click or tap the “Plans” section in the side menu (the icon looks kind of like the one here; you might need to swipe or tap to make the side menu appear on your phone or tablet). By selecting “all plans,” you’ll see a search bar that allows you to search all plans. Simply type e100 and the e100 Challenge will pop up! Click on the plan, select “start this plan” on the next screen, and you’re signed up! Each time you go to the “Plans” section now, you can select “My Plans” and see what your reading is for the day. (Note: Keep in mind we’ll be doing five e100 readings each week for 20 weeks, not all 100 readings in 100 days. You can use the “Catch Me Up” option at the start of each week to keep you on track. Or, you can read ahead. I mean, it’s the Bible. Reading ahead might be a good thing.)

If signing up online isn’t your thing, no problem. We have copies of the handout we had on seats at all of our worship gatherings yesterday. Download and print at your leisure by clicking here!

Hearing-from-God-mobile-questions

Lastly, looking for help to know how to read and reflect on Scripture? We created this handy-dandy phone wallpaper for your screen! You can save the image in this post, or you can click here to follow the download link for your phone or tablet!

I am so excited for all of us to journey with this together. I hope you are too. I can’t wait to see how God works in and through this plan and through us hearing from him on a daily basis to change lives together!

Let Hope In

wesblackburn —  January 8, 2014 — Leave a comment

I’m here today to share with you about a new book that was released recently that I just finished over Christmas vacation called Let Hope In. It’s the third book by one of my favorite authors, Pete Wilson, who’s the pastor at Crosspoint Church in Nashville. Some of you might be kind of familiar with Pete Wilson because he also wrote the book Plan B that was our all church journey at Suncrest a few years ago.

Let-Hope-InIn Let Hope In, Wilson writes about four basic choices that we can make to let hope into our lives in a deeper, more powerful way. One of his main points in beginning is that if we never deal with the stuff of our past, we only end up transferring it to others in our lives (usually in a pretty toxic way). But if we deal with our past in a healthy way and truly let it be our past, then we can experience God’s transformation in our lives. There are definitely parts of the book that line up with our Getting Past Your Past series from a few weeks ago; this book could be an awesome refresher on some of those points for all of us!

For me, the final section of the book was the most powerful. Wilson writes about how we can learn to truly trust God and how we can learn to love God (and others) in the deepest, fullest way possible. I know that in my life right now, I’m bumping up against my difficulty in being truly and completely loving and trusting, mostly because I fear vulnerability. Let Hope In definitely offered some great thoughts and insight from Scripture, that made me re-think some of my issues and move forward trusting God.

I think that to some degree, many of us really struggle to experience the full hope that following Jesus brings because we allow our fears, our past, our unforgiveness, and our hurt to get in the way. To me, following Jesus should be the most thrilling, exhilarating, and wonderful experience of our lives; that’s part of how we show the difference that following Jesus makes to a lost and hurting world! It’s my hope that if you decide to pick this book up that you’ll experience the hope of God in a deeper, fuller, bigger way and that will shine through every corner of your life and into the lives of others!

(Here’s a link to Amazon if you’re interested in getting your own copy of Let Hope In.)