We just closed out 2013, our seventh year of ministry at fresh life. It was an amazing, jam-packed twelve months of watching God move in people’s lives and bless aggressive steps of faith. At times we were holding on for dear life, but it has been awesome. Check out this year end recap video that we showed this weekend.
From Billings to Missoula, Kalispell to Whitefish, in all we are having eighteen Fresh Life Christmas worship experiences across the state of Montana! There will be five different that will be streaming online. If you know someone who is unable to make it to church in person this Christmas invite them to join us online.
Here at the Fresh Life Christmas page you can find all times and locations, send out twitter and facebook invites and even get the Fresh Life Christmas advent videos sent to you so you can post them on instagram.
Unquestionably, one of the most important things we do as a church is the way we meet in houses, apartments, and coffee shops across the state of Montana for conversation, laughter, bible-study and prayer. Our larger gatherings on the weekend get more attention. They are louder and flashier — we have people travel from different parts of the country to attend these worship experiences all the time — but there is no way that Fresh Life would be the church it is if it weren’t for our small groups.
It is the low-key and conversational nature of the groups that lend themselves to discipleship, life-change, and real growth. It is in these settings that the aha! moments from the weekend are knit into the warp and woof of daily life. Friendships are forged and strangers become like blood. Anytime other pastors or leaders ask me for input, if they don’t have an aggressive and intentional approach to community, this is the very first suggestion I make.
Here is a fun little video that we recently used to create interest in Fresh Life Groups.
This weekend we are embarking on an adventure at fresh life as we begin one of the most powerful and life-changing books of the Bible — the book of Philippians. At several of our locations we are adding worship experience times to alleviate overcrowding and to create open seats for new people. I believe that this fall is going to be a special and powerful season in the life of our church as we go through the Rampart series.
Get details, campus information, send e-vites, tweet about Rampart and more here.
We are in the middle of an annual event at Fresh Life called Rock This City. It all started when we studied the book of Nehemiah and saw his heart to build up the glorious ruins of Jerusalem. God filled us with a desire to do the same in the state of Montana. During this 10 day period we are in a full-on blitz to unleash Christ’s love right where we live. This is now the fourth summer in a row we have done this and it is one of the most special things on our calendar. We have enjoyed it so much that we have opened it up to other churches and it has been awesome to see different churches working together.
Though the “ask” from each person is small — six hours in the course of 10 days — the end result is massive. It is amazing to think that through community service, collaboration with the Parks and Rec departments and partnerships with non-profits we are able to donate thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of work. In some cases getting projects done that a city didn’t have the time or resources to take on. Everyone who serves gets a shirt and so as you drive around town or cruise around Instagram you are seeing #rockthiscity in action.
This year we have ramped up the focus on families serving together. Children have always been allowed to participate but this year we have made it a point to foster and encourage their involvement like never before. Seeing kids in tiny little Rock This City shirts are definitely adorable, but I love the fact that the kids of Fresh Life are learning to love and serve their community while spending quality time with their parents.
I’ll admit that there is a sadness mixed in with the excitement of all of this. Today marks exactly eight months since Lenya’s departure. Approaching Rock This City for the first time without her has been hard. Doing events together as a family is always a blast and it was very challenging to “suit up” and head to our events without her by our side. The first activity we picked was cleaning up a neighborhood park that had been severely neglected. There were so many weeds coming through the gravel all around the playground equipment that you couldn’t tell there were even rocks under it all. As we were getting ready to go and brought out our gardening equipment from the garage there were her little princess gloves sitting there. Deep breath in.
I couldn’t help but think of last summer. Our final event we did was a “choose your own adventure” meaning that it wasn’t planned but one we came up with as a family. We decided to bake cookies and bring them to City Hall, the Fire-station and to local paramedics. The girls spent a long time in the kitchen baking and then we made our rounds handing out boxes with notes saying thanking them for serving us. Even Clover, then a baby, was wearing a custom-made RTC shirt.
A few of the firefighters were super kind. They gave the girls a tour and showed them where the ambulances and firetrucks were parked. None of us could know then that one of those same vehicles would carry her to the hospital in four months. I love that Lenya got to show Jesus’ love to the same people that would heroically try to save her life. I was told by one of the paramedics later on that two of the EMT’s came to Fresh Life on Christmas eve in her honor and responded to the invitation. God works all things together for good. Nothing is wasted.
This weekend we are very excited to have Pastor Greg Laurie speaking at Fresh Life! It is always a huge honor to have him out, and I am especially excited for our Missoula and Billings campuses since this is the first time he has come to preach since those two locations began. Join us on the Internet no matter where you live on Sunday for our two online worship experiences! Details here.
We are beginning a new series at fresh life this weekend! I so excited about these messages and what I believe God is going to do through them. Come out to one of our campuses or join us online or on the radio for the Microphone series.
The promise of the resurrection has never meant more to me than it does today. I have always loved Easter, there is no day like it on the calendar. Nothing even comes close. Ever since Lenya went to heaven, I have been living, breathing and eating the scriptures that describe Jesus’ triumphant victory over death more than at any other point in my life. The message I preached Sunday about Jesus’ resurrection, and the hope that is ours as a result, is one that has been on repeat inside my heart and home nonstop for months. We have comforted each other with “these words” as Paul said we should, and there is nothing that brings comfort when facing the grave besides the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.
As we celebrated the fact that Jesus rose the anthem reverberated across the state of Montana to more people than we have ever had the opportunity to communicate to. We have never undertaken anything quite so complicated or large as what we did Easter Sunday, but the reality of the message merits our doing everything we can to turn up our megaphone. God blessed the event in a major way and we saw many people respond to the gospel and stream forward in Billings, Missoula, Kalispell to make public professions of faith.
Going into the weekend we knew it would be bittersweet. Sweet to celebrate the best news that has ever been preached, like ever. I’m talking about “He is not here, He is risen!” Bitter for Lenya not to be there when I got off stage to show me her Lion mask craft they made in her Fresh Life Kids class. Sweet to hear story after story of life change and destinies being rerouted. Bitter to not get to see her scampering around the lawn looking for Easter eggs later on in the day.
In the midst of these highs and lows I saw something I hadn’t noticed in the Easter story before. Saturday. I tend to think a lot of Friday, when Jesus died. And of course you can’t think too much about Sunday when He rose, but Saturday hit me hard this year. On Saturday the body of Jesus remained buried in His tomb. He was not in His body. He had gone to Paradise. He would rise eventually, but for Saturday His body, which had been shed in dishonor, lay still. Motionless. Dead. Saturday is a place full of waiting. A place of anticipation. A place where promises had been made but weren’t yet fulfilled. To His disciples, who had been left behind, Saturday must have been the hardest part. I realized that we are sort of in a long Saturday, waiting for the promise of His coming, and we must not lose heart.
The ground is still cold and frozen. It has been a long and difficult winter. Fortunately, spring is coming and it carries with it the greatest celebration on the calendar — Easter. The ground will thaw, the days will lengthen and flowers will blossom. Life that has been held hostage by ice and frost will emerge and begin to bloom. The crown comes after the cross.
I have never been so excited in all my life to celebrate the resurrection as I am this year. Easter has always meant a lot to me, (and in the life of our church they have been historic times of outreach) but now it is more personal than ever. The grave is brutal, merciless and uncaring. It swallows everything it touches and it is never satisfied. It will not stop until every last person has been consumed.
The good news is that death has been devoured by the life of Christ and it can’t fight back. Jesus’ tomb is empty and because of that fact, we don’t have to be terrified by the grave anymore. Death’s power has been undone. Those who fall asleep in Christ become greater after death than they were before and they can never be touched by it again. Paul said, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (II Corinthians 5:1)
I am writing these words about a subject that is raw and a wound that is still fresh for me. Seventy five days ago we faced the grave as a family after Lenya went to heaven, but we faced it with hope. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the power of the gospel are the only reason I am full of faith and not despair as I sit here. There are tears in my eyes, but peace in my heart. And I am, with every fiber of my being, driven to communicate the truth of this message to as many people as possible (people who will all have to die one day) until my time on this earth is done.
We are going big this Easter at our worship experiences that will be happening all across the state of Montana. For King & Country, Phil Wickham and The City Harmonic are going to help us celebrate. Our prayer is that many will rise, from being dead in sins, to life in Christ. Check out the Fresh Life Easter site for all the details by clicking here.