Author: Destiny Gonzalez

Grief and The Gospel

Many of us know the story of Lazarus. He was Jesus’ friend who was sick, dead for four days and was then brought back to life. The glory and power of God was displayed like never before, and many of those who came to grieve were stirred to believe as they saw the dead live again.

But before the miracle of verse 43 came Jesus’ emotional response in verse 35.

“Jesus wept.”

The shortest verse in the Bible, but I believe it is one of the most significant acts of Jesus’ life. These two words display God’s heart for us in a unique and powerful way. They essentially encompass the whole gospel.

His response was filled with deep compassion and proved that Jesus was, and still is, willing to “go there.” You know that place. The place we awkwardly avoid because we don’t really know how to engage the situation. The place of loss, and sometimes anger. That place of deep pain where no words ever seem to be enough solace. The place where confusion resides and grief seems to eliminate the possibility of hope.

JESUS KNEW THE OUTCOME.

He knew of the life He was about to speak back into Lazarus, but still, He took a moment to feel the raw and painful emotion of man. He grieved and wept with His friends. This part of the story always stirs something inside of me. There is something so significant and beautiful about Jesus’ response. He could have come to Bethany, told Lazarus’ sisters to stop crying and immediately revived Lazarus. Instead He comforted them by first mourning with them.

I believe the glory of God is magnified when we go to those deep places, allow ourselves to grieve and then still declare that He is faithful and good.

Ultimately it is the sin and brokenness of this world that causes our pain and grief. It isn’t until we are in heaven that the tears will forever dry up and we will experience eternal joy. Jesus wept 2,000 years ago with his friends, and He hurts for us still today. He grieves over the brokenness of the world, and there is an invitation for us to grieve with Him. Jesus isn’t intimidated by our emotions, instead He embraces them. If we try to numb and avoid our pain, we eventually won’t allow ourselves to feel joy either. There is space for us to grieve, and a promise that the Holy Spirit will comfort us.

THERE IS NOTHING MORE POWERFUL THAN WEEPING IN GRIEF AND CELEBRATING IN VICTORY WITH ONE ANOTHER.

The gospel is preached every time we are willing to “go there” with someone and then declare hope in the midst of the hurt.

Jesus’ entire life proved His willingness to, “go there” with us. He came to save us, to the point of dying on a cross. But before He committed the act that gave us eternal hope, He stepped fully into our lives. He stood with us and experienced the brokenness of humanity.

Jesus’ ministry was fueled by compassion. We can’t fully declare Jesus to others if we aren’t willing to be stirred by the emotion and pain of those around us.

Grief isn’t bad. Crying isn’t a sign of weakness. Let yourself, “go there” because ultimately, we won’t stay in that place of pain. We will find that Jesus is willing to feel with us and then speak life over us.

IN RESPONSE:

  • Let yourself grieve // Maybe it’s a dream, the loss of a loved one or another disappointment. Whatever it may be, there is an invitation to grieve with Jesus. He isn’t intimidated by our emotions, and He won’t rush our grief process. Scripture says that it is in weakness that the power of God is made perfect through us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). When Jesus left the earth, He sent the Holy Spirit to be our helper and ultimate comforter (John 14:15-31). When we grieve there is a promise that the Holy Spirit will bring us comfort and hope. Take a look at this message from Jimmy on the role of the Holy Spirit.
  • Be willing to go there with someone else // If you know someone that is grieving, ask God how you can best support and care for them. I believe we express the heart of God when we are willing to listen to people’s pain, and when we are willing to cry and grieve with them. The heart of God is not to push away emotion, it is to embrace, comfort and declare hope in the midst of the pain. Carl Gulley shared a powerful message on grief this past fall. He unpacked practical ways we can respond to grief. Check it out here.
  • Read the story of Lazarus and ask God to reveal His heart to you. // This is one of my favorite passages, and Jesus still reveals something new to me every time I read it. I suggest reading it in another translation, I read it in the Passion Translation this morning, and it was a game changer.

By Destiny Gonzalez – Communications Staff

 

Resolving to Leave Perfection in 2017

Welcome to 2018!

There is something about the start of a new year that has me running to the nearest Target to get calendars, colored pens, sticky notes, a new planner and anything else that is sure to help me have the most successful year yet. My motivation is at an all-time high and my list of resolutions extends down a page in my journal.

But to tell you the truth, my motivation dies out after about a month. I can’t remember one thing that was on my 2017 resolutions list, and my planner has sat idly on my desk for the past few months, just waiting to be replaced on January 1st. I love the idea of a fresh start. I think we all do. But each year after the holidays pass, I find myself caught between the same responsibilities and struggles I woke up with on December 31st, and the desire to check off every single item on my resolutions list.

The recipe for my seemingly perfect year is all there, but things never really play out the way I expect them to.

WHEN MY EXPECTATION IS PERFECTION, I AM TEMPTED TO FEEL LIKE A FAILURE WHEN A RESOLUTION GOES UNCHECKED.

If you’re anything like me you may be wondering, “How do I get out of this cycle of feeling like I fail every year?”

I’m not going to tell you to give up on making resolutions or to set low goals because I don’t think that is the answer. I believe the answer is to shift our expectations away from perfection.

GOD DOESN’T EXPECT US TO BE PERFECT.

If perfection were achievable, Jesus never would have died on the cross. Instead, God invites us to press into Him in the areas where we fall short. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness…”

WHEN WE LAY DOWN OUR EXPECTATION FOR PERFECTION, WE CREATE SPACE FOR GOD TO DO WHATEVER HE WANTS.

And there is an assurance that His plan is always better than we can comprehend.

So, as we look forward to the New Year I encourage you to resolve to leave perfection in the past. Make a list of resolutions and dream with God about the year ahead. And cut yourself some slack, you don’t have to check everything off your list right away. We are covered by the grace of God, and it’s time for us to extend grace to ourselves.

IN RESPONSE:

With the desire for perfection in the past, check out three ways to help you set yourself up for a great year:

  1. Invite God into the process and ask Him what He has for you in the coming year.
  2. Stick to three or four resolutions; don’t overload yourself with a ton of things.
  3. Quantify your goals. Instead of saying, “Read more,” set a more quantifiable goal, like, “Read one book every three months.”

By Destiny Gonzalez – Communications Staff

Three Things I Learned From Anxiety

“You really aren’t good enough. You missed the mark again, are you actually surprised? You have to get better; you’re only going to hold people back. You can’t even get yourself together, why do you think you can lead people?”

These irrational and paralyzing thoughts swirled around in my head until the familiar feeling of my chest tightening came and I fought to keep my breathing at a normal pace. My heart raced and tears burned the corners of my eyes. My car became my only safe haven, and I drove around squinting to see between the streaming tears that clouded my vision. The thoughts mocked me, and I pleaded for them to stop. When I came to a place of feeling completely defeated, my panic attack would end. I breathed a sigh of relief, but instead of being at ease, I was left feeling defeated and humiliated.

This past spring was one of the hardest seasons of my life because this was my reality. Anxiety lingered over my head for years, but during this season it completely took over.

I CONTENDED AND PLEADED FOR GOD TO MOVE, AND THROUGH THE PROCESS, HE DID.

Processes are hard and at times they feel hopeless. Even after I felt freedom from anxiety, the enemy wanted to replace my anxious thoughts with shameful ones. But this is why I’m so thankful for the process! I am left with a foundation of truth to stand on when the enemy wants to paralyze me with shame.

THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS, THERE ARE THREE MAIN THINGS I LEARNED FROM ANXIETY:

  • 1. God isn’t afraid of your emotions // In some of my deepest places of pain, I found God to be my greatest comforter. Out of confusion and pain, I found myself yelling and asking God why this was happening to me. He didn’t take my anxiety away right away, and I expected Him to eventually get irritated by my wild emotions. I waited for Him to go silent, but God shattered my expectations. He continually spoke words of comfort and peace. I realized we are known and loved by a God who isn’t only able, but willing.
  • 2. Isolation keeps you trapped // Time and time again, I convinced myself isolation was safe. Letting people in is risky, and I believed it would only cause me more pain. What I’ve learned is the ways of the Kingdom don’t always make sense because it’s actually the complete opposite. We need community. The Bible states it so clearly in Hebrews 10: 24-25. God places people in our lives to lift our arms up when we can’t. I spent so much energy hiding my anxiety from my roommates. Out of fear I wanted to keep them out, but they ended up being a sole source of encouragement and truth when I needed it most.
  • 3. Healing doesn’t always happen overnight // I had my first panic attack when I was 15-years-old. Anxiety was prevalent in my life for eight years before I really felt like I had a breakthrough. Sometimes we pray and we see God miraculously heal and restore in an instant, and it’s amazing. Other times, it is a process. In times like this, the enemy wants to creep in and make us believe God will never bring a breakthrough. The Lord hears the cries of His people (Psalm 34:17-19), and I’m confident that He loves to answer our prayers. But my unanswered prayers were an invitation to deeper intimacy with Him. In those moments of desperation, I learned more about God’s character and more about who He has called me to be as a daughter. I am more confident now in His faithfulness because He was faithful to meet me every step of the way.

IN RESPONSE

I am thankful for the process because it brought me into a place of freedom and deeper intimacy with God. Whether it’s anxiety or something else, I believe God has breakthrough for you.

  • Don’t be afraid to be real with God. Let Him into your places of pain, He isn’t intimidated by it.
  • Let people into your process. It isn’t always easy to be vulnerable, but it’s always worth it.
  • Don’t stop believing for breakthrough. God hears the cries of His children and He’s faithful to answer.

By Destiny Gonzalez – Communications Staff

How to Pray for Our City

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14

I’m convinced Waco is a city set on a hill. The Lord has spoken words of life over Waco time and time again, and we have the opportunity to partner with Him to see the glory of God magnified in this place.

In the early 1900s Waco was known as a place of hope and healing. People would travel from all over to visit the artesian springs that supposedly had healing powers. The springs are long gone, but healing, restoration and hope is still something that marks our city.

WEEK AFTER WEEK PEOPLE POUR INTO WACO WITH HOPE AND EXPECTANCY.

Waco doesn’t only hold an expectation for physical healing it has also poised itself to be a place for people to find restoration and life in Jesus. Years ago revival was evident at Baylor University. At a conference, students were stirred by the presence of God and found themselves with a desire to be completely sold out to God. This desire is still alive in people all over our city. Last week we hosted Nights of Revival, and the Auditorium was packed night after night as people encountered the presence of God and hungered for more.

Driving around Waco, it is evident our city is filled with different cultures. Our city is painted with diversity, and it’s not only beautiful, but needed. As we’re unified throughout our city, God is glorified. Two years ago churches across the city came together to host The Gathering, a city-wide worship celebration. The culture of Heaven was on display at McLane Stadium as people were unified to worship Jesus.

Waco is a place marked by God, and through prayer, we have the opportunity to believe for His Kingdom to come in our city.

HOW TO PRAY FOR WACO

  • Hope and Healing // Whether someone is in need of physical or emotional healing, pray for God to miraculously heal those needing a touch from Him. Pray for hope to be ignited throughout Waco, and for the hopeless to find fresh life.
  • Revival // Pray for a move of God to spread across Waco, and for people to deeply encounter the presence of God. Pray for those in our city that don’t know Jesus to meet Him in a real way.
  • Unity // Pray for the culture of Heaven to be a reality in Waco as we learn to celebrate the diversity of our city. Pray for the churches in our city to lead out in being unified.
  • The Gathering // This Sunday, April 9th, our city will come together to host The Gathering at McLane Stadium once again. Pray for the leaders and speakers to be covered, and for people to fill the stadium and find hope and life in Jesus.

Join us at The Gathering, this Sunday, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at McLane Stadium. It will be a powerful time as we worship and hear from Pastor Miles McPherson, Baylor basketball coach Scott Drew and musical artist Anthony Evans. Doors open at 4:15 p.m. and the event is free, but we encourage you to bring canned goods to donate to Caritas and Shepherd’s Heart food pantries. Learn more, including information on where to park at thegatheringwaco.com.

By Destiny Gonzalez – Communications Coordinator

Making the Most of Your Summer: In Waco

Waco is a wonderland. At least that’s what people always say, right? You may be wondering, “What exactly is there to do in Waco?”

After spending my summer here for the last few years I can assure you, Waco really is a wonderland, and there is no better time than summertime in this great city.

Check out some of my suggestions on what to do in Waco during the summer:
  • Get outside this summer! With one of the largest parks in the country, the Brazos River and Lake Waco, there are many opportunities for some fun in the sun:
    • Cameron Park: Waco is home to one of the largest municipal parks, located right along the Brazos River. Grab some friends and have a picnic by the river, go on a hike or play a round of frisbee golf. The options are almost endless.
    • Brazos River: Speaking of the river, be sure to take an opportunity to get out on the water. Head over to Bicycle World, located in downtown Waco, to rent a kayak, paddle board or canoe.
    • Cameron Park Zoo: If you can’t make it on a safari this summer, Waco has the next best thing! Head out to Cameron Park Zoo for an afternoon with some wildlife.
    • Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market: Saturday mornings were made for the farmer’s market! Reject the snooze on Saturday morning and grab some breakfast or do a little grocery shopping all in one place. During the summer, the market is also open on Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
  • With the Texas heat, you’ll definitely want to get a cold, sweet treat and these places are worth visiting:
    • Mr. Snow Shaved Ice Stand: This is your classic snow cone stand with flavors like Ninja Turtle and Wedding Cake as some of the favorites. What makes this place stand out among the rest is their combination of snow cones and ice cream rolled into one treat called a Love Nest.
    • Heritage Creamery: Located right next to Common Grounds coffee shop, this creamery is a perfect combination of hipster vibes and waffle cones. Their unique flavors include honey lavender and oatmeal brown sugar. I like a more classic salty vanilla bean, but don’t be afraid to venture out with a more daring flavor.
    • Common Grounds: If you’re not feeling ice cream, stop by Common Grounds and try a Cowboy Coffee. If you’re not much of a coffee drinker, try the Moroccan mint tea. Either option makes for a refreshing, afternoon pick-me-up.
    • Pokey O’s: This dessert truck specializes in sweet Blue Bell Ice Cream squished between two homemade cookies. What could be better than that? Because this is a food truck, you’ll have to check their Instagram to find out their location and hours.
  • If you’re not really feeling the outdoors or something sweet, check out some of these other fun places in Waco:
    • Waco Hippodrome: This recently renovated theatre is the perfect place to catch a movie. With a twist on your traditional movie snack bar, the Hippodrome offers full-service dining during the movie.
    • Downtown Food Trucks: Venture out of traditional restaurants and head to the food trucks downtown. The food trucks offer a hip, Austin vibe with shorter lines and less traffic. From Greek, to Indian to traditional Texas barbecue, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
    • Magnolia Market: Have you heard of Fixer Upper? There’s no way you can live in Waco and not know about the hit HGTV show! Check out Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market Silos to find some inspiration for your home or hang out with friends in the backyard.
      • Local Tip: If you go on Wednesdays, you can enjoy a grilled cheese from Cheddar Box food truck for only $5, just tell them you’re there for Wacotown Wednesday.
    • Visit a Museum: Take in a little culture with the Art Center of Waco, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the Mayborn Museum or the Dr Pepper Museum.

There are endless possibilities to have some fun in Waco, and I hope by the end of the summer, you’ll be convinced that Waco really is a wonderland.

By Destiny Gonzalez- Antioch Communications Coordinator

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