Tag: waco

Give Me One

“I will always praise the Lord.” -Psalm 34:1 (CEV)

I am totally obsessed with Jesus:  who He is, what His plans are, what He is doing, what He likes… basically everything about Him.

There are an awful lot of things we could be obsessed with: money, popularity, friendships, our families, our health, our grades, our jobs. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but they are not meant to be our all in all.

Sadly, we can even be obsessed with our pain: who has hurt us, our past, our failures.

Notice today:

What do you think about the most? What occupies your time? What mesmerizes you? What defines you?

For all of us, may it be our One and Only, Jesus.

By Kelly Woods

Junior High Pastor

Take a deep breath

One year ago, I got married and moved to Waco with my new husband to do the Antioch Discipleship School. It was the most refining, challenging and transformational year of my life so far.

Needless to say, it was filled with a lot of newness and get-out-of-your-comfort-zone kinds of scenarios. And what better way to cap off a year of less of me and more of God than two weeks of making disciples in Gulu, Uganda?

I want to share one of my favorite stories from the trip. It’s a story of the kindness of God to include me on His mission, even in my weakness. It’s a story of His goodness and His grace and it’s one of my favorite things I got to see Him do in Gulu.

My Ugandan Sunday morning started with this word from a friend: “Breathe deep today. There is a lot of life out there.” I wrote it down in my journal, not thinking much of it, but taking it as encouragement nonetheless.

I met my friend Joanna in the lobby an hour before we would have left for church, and we headed out to meet a woman named Monica in her village. We had been meeting with Monica all week, and she wanted to come to church with us. We walked for what seemed like several miles that day looking for her.

After the first thirty minutes, I got irritated. My frustration rose steadily with every step along each winding dirt path that led to another grass roof hut that looked exactly like the last one we thought might have been hers. I felt like I was running up the down escalator, never quite reaching the place I actually needed to go.

It’s funny what happens to our spirits when our goals get blocked.

And I thought it was peculiar how I kept seeing this pattern: a hen with baby chicks, a momma duck with ducklings, a dog with puppies. In retrospect I realized that all along that seemingly pointless wandering to find Monica, God was heralding the coming of new life. Abundant new life.

“Pay attention and press on. What you see in these living parables along your path now, you’ll see in the Spirit next.”

But of course, I wasn’t hearing that in the moment.; because I was hot and tired, and we were missing worship. Blocked goals, again. Maybe I was like the people Jesus talks about in Matthew 13, who see but don’t perceive when he speaks through things like stories and metaphors. I was ready to give up. We couldn’t get a hold of Monica on her phone, and we were lost in her village.

Joanna, though, steadfast as she is — she wasn’t giving up. And she wasn’t letting me take her and Monica down.

“We have to get her to church. We’re not leaving without her.”

She was preaching perseverance and my flesh was too thick between my ears and my heart to really receive it…

…Well, I wasn’t going to cross her. So we waited some more. Minutes that felt like hours later, a phone call finally went through. Monica was on her way. She finally made it to where we were, and we walked about 20 minutes in the wrong direction plus 20 more minutes back before finally catching a bota (motorcycle taxi) to church. I was certain we’d missed it all by now.

Wrong again. It was kind of starting to hurt.

Of course we made it just at the right time. We found Monica’s friend Doreen, who we’d also met in the market that week. Somehow (or not-so-somehow but by the grace of God) she made it too, despite us not being able to reach her all week.

And these two women, whom Joanna had led to Jesus days earlier, both raised their hands to be baptized the following week.

The chicks, ducklings and puppies suddenly fled back into my mind. Newness of life. Of course God knew. And now it was all worth it, and I was humbled as I thought of what we might have missed if we’d left when I’d wanted to.

Later that afternoon, as I sat down to write all this down, the clouds were rolling in. And I thought, “How timely. Of course the rain is coming.”

Because God always brings the rain to the sun-scorched land when we ask, and when it rains, it pours. Grace, grace, grace … I was reminded of something a girl on our team said earlier that week: an ocean of grace will mark this trip. And let’s be honest, my heart needed cleansing that day.

So I stopped, looked out over the plains and watched the clouds, awaiting the coming rain as another kind of rain trickled from my eyes. Grace tears — the kind that come when unmerited favor is showered on me.

I take a deep breath. There really is a lot of life out there today.

By Sara Gilmore

To read more of Sara’s work, you can head over to her blog.

You do it

“You give them something to eat.”

Mark 6:37

The apostles were shocked when Jesus asked them to feed the surrounding mob. There were 5,000 men present, not accounting for women and children; it’s conservative to guess 15,000 people could have been there. Jesus’ request becomes even more remarkable when we consider the circumstances preceding this event. At the beginning of Mark chapter six, we find Jesus sending out the twelve in groups of two on their first mission trip-of-sorts. The story continues in verses 6-13 and picks back up again in verse 30. Here we find them reporting to Jesus all that happened on their trips. In verse 31 we read that there is so much activity, the apostles, “did not even have a chance to eat.” Jesus responds by saying, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” As the story progresses, we see they obviously did not get to eat or rest before being confronted with the large crowd mentioned in the first paragraph. It is remarkable to consider Jesus did not ask the apostles to address the need of the multitude from a place of strength, but of weakness. At the very point they felt great need, Jesus asked them to give.

What the apostles did not yet realize was Jesus was actually inviting them to participate in a miracle.

The apostles’ initial response to Jesus invitation demonstrates a perspective influenced by limited energy, resources and vision. They just could not see beyond their own ability in figuring out how to pull off this picnic miracle. The very thought of a miracle was not even on the radar as they did the math, telling Jesus 5 + 2 was not going to get it done. What Jesus asked the apostles to do in feeding this mob was humanly impossible. Many of the situations you and I face in our lives also look very much impossible. Raising millions of dollars to build a new campus may sound impossible. But perhaps “impossible” is an invitation from Jesus to participate in something that will forever change our lives.

Perhaps “impossible” is an opportunity to meet God in a miracle.

In the Kingdom, 5 loaves + 2 fish = 15,000 fed. What does this mean for you, me and Antioch Community Church today? Jesus is daily inviting us to participate in miracles. How is he inviting you to meet him in a miracle today?

By Todd Meek

Not One

It seemed too good to be true. I was sitting with Charles Davis, the 80-plus year old saint who had invested so much in the Antioch movement, and he was telling me something that seemed to contradict my experiences and perceptions of life. “Not one of the promises of God has ever failed me,” he said. “I have found Him to be unwaveringly consistent in His fulfillment of the things He has promised me, and none of them have failed.” I was taken aback. After all, I had signed up for this time at our international missions conference to get some solace for all the “failed promises” I was shouldering at that moment: promises of breakthrough amongst the people we were working with, promises of fruitfulness in my own life and promises so prominently written in the Word, yet so conspicuously missing from my life. I found myself speechless at the bold words of this incredible man of God.

It’s moments like these where a right response can alter the course of one’s life. I decided to allow this revelation to settle into my heart and to change me, rather than to toss it away as fanciful thinking or an overly optimistic interpretation of life. The results of this choice were staggering.

Over the next two years, I began to truly believe the promises God had given me were not sources of imminent disappointment but foretastes of inevitable breakthrough. With that, the way I prayed began to change. I began to see myself partnering with God to bring those things promised to pass. Faith levels began to rise in my heart and in the hearts of those around me, and then the floodgates of Heaven proceeded to deluge the nation where I was working. In those two years, I saw promise after promise fulfilled, many of them 15-20 years in the waiting. I began to understand that when God speaks something, it immediately exists in the Spirit and it is our job to partner with Him through faith to bring it into the natural.

As part of the Antioch community, we are on a journey of faith fueled by promise. Whether believing for finances for our new building or answering the call to see the lost in our midst come to Christ, we are being invited by God to navigate the road ahead by His unfailing Word; not by what we see with our eyes.

Will you respond to that invitation and stand in belief for the things that seem impossible, in light of a God who keeps ALL His promises?

By Trey Green

Wars, Watermelons and Worship

“So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!”

2 Corinthians 5:17

Growing up, my grandfather would tell us stories from his experience in World War II. One particular story sticks out in my mind about a night he and his Marine buddies were hunkered down in a field, surrounded by the enemy. They had identified the enemy by their round helmets silhouetted against the moonlit sky. He recalls how fear gripped him all night long as he stared at the enemy before him.

Just before dawn and much to their relief, they realized they had been pinned down all night long in a field of watermelons which they had mistaken for enemy helmets. The fierce enemy they imagined had been blown out of proportion by fear and imagination. A new day brought new perspective.

Perspective can easily slip away from each of us.  Sometimes our circumstances are so overwhelming and in our face, it’s all we can do to make it through another day.  Often times those seasons last far longer than we’d like.  What does it take to break free? It takes action on our part. We can’t sit around and wait for the season to end, but instead must proactively engage. One of our greatest weapons in seasons of despair is worship.  It’s the very thing that puts perspective back on our side. It allows us to see who God is and allows him to be bigger than our circumstances. Worship is a matter of thinking right thoughts about who God is. When we understand who He is, we know who we are.

Today through worship, let’s begin to let the old mindsets pass away and fix our eyes on the new that has come.

By Blake Hartsock

Director of Antioch Discipleship School (Day School)

Celebrating 20 years in Russia

What do you think has been essential in the Irkutsk church-plant making it to the 20 year mark?

JS: In the very beginning, we tried to instill basic values of loving Jesus, meeting with Him daily, intentionally investing in discipleship relationships through Lifegroup and being committed to reaching out to the lost and broken of their city. The leaders and friends have kept these values personally and corporately over these last twenty years. Basically, they are doing what is often referred to as the great commandment and the great commission – loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, loving our neighbors as ourselves and making disciples of all nations.

How would you describe the believers in the Russian church? What do they have that we need?

JS: When I think about the Russian people, I think about perseverance. They are submitted and committed to their convictions. Many of our leaders were saved at 13, 14, or 15 years old, and many of them are still serving in the church and walking with God. Though Russia has only been opened to the Gospel in the last twenty years, it is still a minority group as far as evangelical believers go. Our guys have not only persevered but have stood strong, pure and true in the journey. I am so proud of them!

What is exciting to you about going to Irkutsk?

JS: Anytime you see a promise fulfilled, there is great joy. Isaiah 54:2-3 says, “Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations and will resettle the desolate cities.” God spoke to us in 1991 to begin planting churches in Russia, and what’s so awesome is one church has planted four other church plants, started a rehab center and continued to grow and be healthy. It is incredible to see a promise God spoke over twenty years ago fulfilled and the church still thriving.

Has anything that has happened in Irkutsk surprised you? How would you say it matches up to your expectations and vision from twenty years ago?

JS: One of the most encouraging things has been their drug rehab center. They have opened up their doors to restoration for those who are addicted and broken. Several of their churches say up to 90% of their people are HIV positive. People are coming out of a broken lifestyle, getting saved and their families in turn are also getting saved. We didn’t know this incredible place would become such an integral part of our work there. It is always exciting to see God reach into broken lives and set people free.

How can we be praying for the church in Irkutsk?

JS: The Church in Irkutsk wants to continue to reach out to their nation and to the nations of the earth. They have continued to make short term trips to different cities in Russia and are taking an international trip as well. Their desire is to continue to raise-up leaders who desire to church-plant outside of Russia. The Russian mentality is a little different than that of America; most of the Russian people do not have vision for or know people who have been sent from their own locale, and we want to be a part of seeing that vision come to pass.

Can you share some other highlights from your trip?

JS: Our time in Irkutsk was quick, only three evenings. I preached the first two nights and Joe Ewen preached the last one. On the second night, we presented a plaque, gifts and affirmation to Alexey and Rita Kuschenko, who lead the church and the movement. They then surprised me by giving me a key to the city. They said, “You guys came and unlocked the key to our hearts and the key to Irkutsk, and we want to give you this key to the city for what has happened. But we also believe God is giving you this key as faith for new nations that have yet to be unlocked.” It was a powerful moment, realizing this church we have raised from birth was turning around praying, prophesying and blessing our future. It was so exciting and encouraging.

Eighteen months ago at the 20th year celebration of the church plant in Ulan Ude, I prayed for a couple who could not have kids and were broken over it. One week after I prayed for them they got pregnant. During this trip they asked me to pray over and bless their child.

One night during the service, many of the unbelievers who were invited prayed to receive Christ. One lady stood at the front, even before we started ministering, and repeated loudly in front of everybody a simple prayer to give her life to Jesus. God is at work, and it matters that we continue to reach out to those who have never heard; the fruit of it is above and beyond what we could ever ask or think.

Jimmy Seibert is the Senior Pastor at Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas. He recently traveled to Irkutsk, Russia to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the Antioch church plant there.

Hear more about the Antioch story in Jimmy’s books:  The 3 Loves  and Passion and Purpose (to be released in November).

Turning a Mountain into a Mole Hill

In August 2012, my family and I took my oldest son, Michael, off to his first year of college. Michael, my wife Tonja and I had worked hard throughout his senior year and the following summer to cover all his freshman year expenses. Though we pursued many avenues to raise the money, the school year came and we unloaded Michael’s stuff, moved him into his dorm room, attended a parent orientation meeting and left him with enough money to cover the fall semester only. We had no idea where the money to cover the spring semester would come from.

Though spring classes were four and a half months away, I felt uneasy knowing we needed to come up with more than $5,000 in that time period. I tried not to worry, but kept feeling January would get here in no time. I prayed every day asking God for the needed resources. I regularly asked God if I should do something such as find some extra work or put together some kind of fundraiser.

Most days I would sense God saying I should trust him to provide the money. One day Tonja and I prayed together and felt we should send a letter to close family members asking them to help.  Another day I felt God say, “Know that I am present with you.” We even felt the Lord encourage us to talk with a friend of ours who worked at the university where Michael attends.  One day’s word was, “Be thankful.”

Between August and December of 2012 the following happened: several family members committed to helping Michael with school, a couple of anonymous gifts were put in Michael’s campus tuition account, the friend I talked to advocated for us and the school awarded Michael some addition grant money, the financial aid office suggested Michael drop one class and take it in summer school which then  netted Michael a small refund which he could use to buy his books and a third  anonymous gift showed up in Michael’s account.

In August, the $5,000 plus we needed for tuition looked like a mountain, but after each step of faith we took, the overwhelming obstacle became a mole hill. Whatever challenge you face, don’t try to take on the whole challenge at once. Just ask God day by day what to do and follow His direction.

By Vincent Carpenter

Administrative and Teaching Pastor at Antioch Community Church

Simple Words

As a child, I grew up Catholic and would go to mass every Sunday with my family. I would hear a Gospel reading and two readings from the epistles (Paul’s letters to the churches). The stories I heard about Jesus fascinated me. I was always so intrigued by Him and the way he interacted with people and the miracles he did.

I remember as a little girl asking my mom, “Does Jesus still heal people the way He did in the Bible story?” She looked at me and said, “Yes, He still does that.” I think part of her just wanted to answer my questions so I wouldn’t ask as many, but I believed her. As I heard more stories of His miraculous power, the questioning ensued. “Does Jesus still ____ (fill the blank)? “ And always the same reply, “Yes, Jesus still does those things.” So I believed.

Around that time I heard my uncle got in a car accident. I didn’t know how bad it was, but over the coming weeks I could see the stress it was putting on my family. One day I walked in to my parents speaking in hushed tones. I asked my mom what was wrong, and she told me to pray for my aunt because she had some really hard decisions to make. My mom told me my uncle was on life-support, which she explained was keeping him alive. She told me he was in a coma, and they don’t know when or if he would ever recover.

I remember going into my room and thinking, “My mom said Jesus still heals, so maybe if I ask Him, he’ll heal my uncle.” The least I could do was ask. So I went into my room and started praying the way I was taught. All of the sudden I began crying, overwhelmed with the magnitude of what my family and aunt was facing. My prayers began to sound something like, “Jesus, my mom told me that you can still heal people. Since you still heal people, I was wondering if you could heal my uncle. I know you can do it because I heard the story of you doing something like it at church.”

And that’s when it happened… my little heart heard God for the first time. This indescribable peace enveloped me and I sensed God saying, “He’s going to be okay.” That’s when I opened my eyes and thought, “Whoa, I knew we could talk to you, but I never knew you could talk back.” I began to understand that Jesus wanted a relationship with me. He wasn’t some far-off, distant God I had to appease, but He wanted to talk to me, help me and be involved in my life. I was blown away by this! No one had ever told me this. I spent a good portion of the day outside talking to Him under a tree, thinking about God and all the stories I had heard about Him.

The next day my uncle was out of the coma and off every machine. That sparked a journey in my heart to find someone who really  knew this Jesus who spoke to me. I wanted someone to help me in my journey, for someone not to just give me cliché answers, but to show me how to walk with Him.

I am now the director of STARS, Antioch’s after-school mentoring program for inner-city kids in Waco. As I play with the kids and interact with them every day, I wonder, “Which of these kids is waiting for someone to show him or her how to walk with Jesus?” I know in this journey we all need encouragement, someone to show us how to navigate the complexities of life; the joys and the sorrows, however small or big they may be.

We all need people to stand beside us, fellow sojourners who may not know all the answers, but who are able to share God’s love.

I spend time with the kids and wonder, “How many of these little hearts are longing for something more?” I know my heart is still longing to know Him more, and I encounter Him every day. My life is forever impacted by the simple words my mom said; “Jesus still does those things.”  I am excited to see how simple words spoken by the people in our church body will change the trajectory of many more kids’ lives.

By Stephanie Ybarra, Director of STARS

Our God Comes

It was only seven days into my senior year at Baylor, and everything was going wrong. Coming out of a difficult summer, I expected everything in my life was about to turn around – that every dream would come true and every prayer would be answered.

It wasn’t just wishful thinking either. I heard clearly from God that things in my life were about to bloom.

But they didn’t. My classes, my ministry, my Lifegroup, my work, my relationships, my music – nothing was blossoming how I expected it would. I sat down on the floor of my room, feeling like God had cheated me. In my disappointment, I opened my Bible to Psalm 50.

It’s an amazing chapter. The beginning describes how powerful, fearsome and huge our God is. Suddenly, God Himself enters the scene and He gathers together everyone who has remained faithful to Him in the midst of suffering.

And then, God tells them this:

“I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills…[Instead], offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:9-10, 14-15)

In that moment, I realized thankfulness is sometimes a sacrifice. I realized true worship is not just a natural response to good circumstances, but also a prophetic and sacrificial declaration in the midst of bad circumstances.

God didn’t want me to react to my disappointment with unbelief, as if God’s very nature had somehow changed and I was His first victim. He wanted me to worship Him despite the disappointment, trusting in His goodness whether I saw it or not.

I resolved then to declare God’s goodness no matter my circumstance. That night, alone on the floor of my room, I wrote a song straight out of Psalm 50. It’s a song declaring belief in God’s character. It’s a song proclaiming the truth that God is over all, and He will come through for His people. It’s a song asserting God will have the final word in His people’s lives.

Later that night, I sat on my porch swing and played the beginnings of what would eventually become “Our God Comes” for my friend Brandon Seibert. When I told him the song didn’t have a bridge yet, he got an excited look in his eye. “I think I have something. Just keep playing those chords.”

What Brandon sang in that moment was a scripture both of us relied on heavily that year: Psalm 27:13. It declares, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Brandon’s bridge expressed exactly what I had been feeling, and in a moment the song was more or less complete.

We were both amazed at how quickly the song came together. But we believed God had given it to us as an anthem we could sing in our pain, while believing God is faithful and will come through for us in the end.

It’s crazy to me how a song that began so personally – with me alone on the floor of my room – is now being sung by hundreds of people who each have their own experiences of testing and trial. I didn’t set out to write a song for our movement. But God chose to take the work He did in me on the floor of my room and multiply it out to become an anthem our church can rally around.

 By Thomas Wilson

Follow Thomas on Twitter at @ThomasJWilson

Thomas Wilson headshot

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You can hear Thomas play “Our God Comes” this Friday, April 5th at Antioch LIVE. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the event begins promptly at 7 p.m. For more details, go here.