RISE Advent

DECEMBER 2016: Served as editor for the four weeks of adult and family devotionals to coincide with the Advent series at RISE City Church. Also, wrote the piece for Week 2 (below). 

Jesus is the Perfect Prophet – Deuteronomy 18:15-18, Romans 16:25-26 01

In Deuteronomy 18, the Lord tells Moses what the people of Israel can expect in the future. “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” Deuteronomy 18:18

Throughout the Old Testament, God would raise up prophets from his people, the Israelites, to speak on his behalf. Elijah and Jonah, Isaiah, Micah and Daniel, all serving as the Lord’s mouthpiece. Hosea and Jeremiah, living, breathing illustrations of the Lord’s message.

Regarded as crazy at best, hated and persecuted at worst, the role of prophet was a tough gig. And yet God tells Moses he will raise up another prophet, Jesus. The little baby in the manger we celebrate now at Christmas will grow up to say and do some crazy things, like brandish a whip and chase people out of the Temple (Luke 2:15) and begin his public ministry with the very sandwich sign-worthy statement, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). He will make wild claims about his own divinity and will pay dearly for it.

Jesus, our Perfect Prophet, is himself prophecy fulfilled. God delivered on each and every promise made through the prophets in Jesus. Immanuel dwelling with us, the sinless thread of our redemption running unbroken through generations of rebellious veins. He is coming, they said, to bind up the brokenhearted and set the captives free. And just as Jesus himself prophesied, he was betrayed, died, rose, and ascended to heaven, securing our eternal hope by defeating sin and death for all time.

God said, and it happened, again and again. And yet, so much of my discontent stems from my own forgetfulness and doubt. I forget his faithfulness, choosing self-reliance. I doubt his goodness, favoring discouragement. I overlook his perfect provision and dwell in the not enough. But it’s in these spaces between, the then and not yet, between slavery and the Promised Land, we must cling to the great and precious promises of our Lord. For his Word never fails and he is faithful to deliver just as he said, again and again.

Four hundred years of silence broke as the Word became flesh and let out his first squalling cry. Heaven burst into song as the long-awaited Messiah emerged from the pages of prophecies into the arms of an awe-struck virgin girl. This is Advent. Not a season, but a blessed assurance. Hope, peace, joy, love, Jesus – each candle lit charging the darkness in remembrance and expectation, promises fulfilled and promises awaited.

“This beautiful revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God” (Romans 16:25-26). Christ in the manger, but a down payment on the glory yet to come.

Personal Reflections

Read Deuteronomy 18:15-18 and Romans 16:25-26

  1. Prior to Jesus, God used prophets to speak on his behalf. Do you think it’s easier to listen to God now (with the help of the Holy Spirit)? Why or why not?
  2. Often prophets called for people to turn back to the Lord. It’s common in our culture to view Christianity as a religion of turning from, as in turning away from things we “shouldn’t” do. Is there a difference in turning from things you deem sinful and turning toward God? Explain.
  3. Where have you witnessed the Lord’s faithfulness? His goodness? His provision in your life? (If you are in a season where this is difficult, spend time meditating on the following verses: Psalms 36:5, 1 Chronicles 16:34, Philippians 4:19.)
  4. In what areas do you have a tendency to doubt the Lord’s faithfulness, His goodness, or His provision?
  5. Joshua 21:45 declares, “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” Look back at your answer for question four. Spend time in prayer addressing all of your worry and all of your doubts, laying each burden down at the feet of Jesus.

RISE Art of Joy

SEPTEMBER 2016: Worked with the leadership team to produce devotional materials for both personal study and group reflection for RISE City Church. 

“Joy in Friendship” Philippians 1:3-12

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.” Philippians 1:3-4

Sitting in a Roman prison with his death looming on the horizon, Paul opens his letter to the church at Philippi with great thanksgiving. The mere thought of his friends fills him with such joy, he continues praising God for them throughout the passage.

I don’t know about you, but my relationships don’t necessarily bring me this level of joy. In my friendships with others, I’ve encountered striving, experienced manipulation, and suffered abuses. I’ve hurt others, been selfish, and entertained bitterness. Not really lift-your-hands in gratitude worthy stuff.

However, Paul addresses the key to finding true joy in our friendships. It’s not about what we get out of the relationship or finding the perfect friends, but keeping Christ as our ultimate focus. This does not mean Christians should only befriend other Christians. On the contrary, we must simply remember this perspective with each and every person we encounter. Cultivating Christ-focused, joy-filled relationships involves three main components.

First, we must see others as Christ sees them. In The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis states, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. It is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.” As we forge and cultivate friendships with those around us, we must remember we are not simply dealing with “other people.” We are entering into relationship with uniquely designed eternal beings, created in the image of God Himself, crafted for relationship with God Himself.

Next, we must seek out partners, not projects. For Christ followers, a new work has been initiated which Jesus will bring to completion. It is not up to us to “fix” our friends. We all desperately need the grace Christ so freely offers. Further, if we are to accept the mission of God and the work He is doing in our world, we cannot deny our role. There is much to be done, and it is far easier to shoulder the load together.

Lastly, we cannot use our friendships in place of our own relationship with Christ. We must allow ourselves to be filled “with the fruit of righteousness,” that comes directly through Jesus Christ. If we are not spending time with Him daily, we will come up empty. Emptiness demands filling, and we need to ensure we are filling ourselves in God’s presence.

In the end, there is no substitute for the deep joy knowing Jesus brings. Relationships that are not Christ-focused tend to become superficial and empty. We have to avoid the safety of the shallows with our friends and intentionally seek out opportunities to point them to Jesus. Afterall, our eternity in Heaven together is at stake.

PERSONAL QUESTIONS

Read Philippians 1:3-12

  1. What reasons does Paul give in being thankful for his friends in Philippi?
  2. Think of a friend in your life that brings you joy. Spend a moment listing his/her name and the reasons you have to be thankful for this person.
  3. In verse 9, Paul states, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.”  What role do you think knowledge and discernment play in growing love?
  4. Reread verses 6 and 9-11. According to these verses, in what ways does God work in a believer’s life?
  5. Knowing this, where have you seen (or where would you like to see) God at work in a relationship in your life?
  6. In cultivating Christ-focused friendships, which component do you find most difficult to live out: seeing others as Christ sees them, seeking partners over projects, or not using relationships as a substitute for one with Jesus, and why?
  7. How could you work on this in the future?

GROUP QUESTIONS

  1. What word best describes Paul’s feelings for the church at Philippi?
  2. What word best describes your feelings about Rise?
  3. Do you find it difficult to express your feelings for others as Paul does in this passage? Explain.
  4. Think of a friendship in your life that is primarily joy giving. Now, think of one that is primarily joy draining. What characteristics in each relationship mark the difference?
  5. Not all of the friendships in our lives are edifying, joy-giving relationships. When we follow Jesus, we grow in knowledge and discernment, “so that [we] may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Do you feel that it is ever appropriate to walk away from a friendship? Why or why not?
  6. In what ways are our friendships affected by how we feel about ourselves? How are they affected by our personal relationships with Jesus?

PRACTICING JOY – I thank my God in all remembrance of you

Look back to the friend you listed for Question 2. Take time this week to write a note, a letter, or even just an email, letting him/her know you’re thankful for the friendship and why.

The Perfect Wedding

November 2015 – January 2016: Finished the rebrand and website completion and launch of The Perfect Wedding after staff turnover stymied the project. Worked with the advertising agency of record and provided content management and overall strategic direction. Copywriting, web editing, Google advertising, staff direction, trade show planning, and more.

Five Oaks Training

March 2015: After serving as Communications Manager, prepared and conducted a training session for easy hand-off to on-site successors. Topics covered included: Main Goal, FB Basic Admin Roles/Posting/Functionality, Posting/Scheduling (and liking/hyperlinking other pages), Identity (between personal and business timelines), Interacting with Comments/Messages, Mobile App, FB Ads & Promoted Posts, Twitter Rules and Differences, Character limits, Third-party apps (like MailChimp and Hootsuite), Strategy, Managing Editorial, Team Approach, Posting Frequency, Editorial Scheduling, Drafting Content for Optimal Engagement, Compelling Call to Actions when Needed, and Dealing with Negativity.

St. Croix Advisors

June 2013 – January 2015: Assisted a financial advisor with editing blog posts and website copy for his website while providing general marketing advice.

Tamarack Tap Room

January 2015 – March 2016: Provided strategic marketing consulting for a brand new restaurant’s launch in Woodbury, MN. Copywriting and editing for their website, digital content strategy, including writing and photography, for web and social media and ongoing social media management. Provided turnkey services, training, educating, and equipping managers to take the reigns post-contract.

HILLCITY Advent

December 2014: Worked with the senior pastor to prepare 30 days of devotionals for Advent.

Day 29: The Reality of Christmas
Revelation 21:1-7 & Revelation 22

The dust has barely settled on this Christmas. Wrapping paper and bows linger in corners of the living room and a few presents remain in the piles their owners stacked them in before moving on to something else. Maybe you greet today with relief as life returns to normal or maybe today brings disappointment now that Christmas is over.

No matter where today finds you, the reality of Christmas remains. Throughout the Advent season, we looked forward to the arrival of hope, joy, peace, and love. Now that the anticipation and excitement are over, we tend to look to the next big thing, goals for the New Year or Spring Break plans. But in doing so, we skip over the reality of Immanuel, God with us.

Because Immanuel is now and Immanuel is forever. When we pack up the Christmas decorations and send the kids back to school, the reality of the baby in the manger is still ours to keep. Forever. Because of that baby, hope shines forth in our darkest nights. There is joy no matter our circumstances and peace beyond understanding. And oh, how He loves us. So much so, that He left heaven to meet us here. To find us. To save us. And He’s coming back again.

God’s gift of Immanuel means Jesus walks beside us on this earth, knowing full well what that entails, and no matter how our story ends here, we get to look forward to eternity with Him in Heaven.

See, the home of God is with His people.
He will live among them;
They will be His people,
And God Himself will be with them.
The prophecies are fulfilled:
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
Mourning no more, crying no more, pain no more,
For the first things have gone away.
(Revelation 21:3-4, VOICE)

Read Revelation 21:1-7 & Revelation 22
The One who placed the stars and set the world into motion will make His home with His people. And as all of Creation groans for the return of her King, may we carry the reality of Christmas – the hope, joy, peace, and love of God with us – into each of our remaining days.

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room.

In doing so, we acknowledge that He is also preparing room for all who love Him. The table is set; Jesus is coming. May we be ready as well.

[FOR] Campaign

October 2013: Planned and executed a church capital campaign which successfully raised over $1 million. Creative direction, strategic planning, writing, editing, and content management.

La Rue Marche

March – June 2013: Worked with local boutique La Rue Marche to promote events, expand social media reach, and revive their mailing list.

Redmon Law

August 2011 – January 2013: Worked with a local law firm to update their website, send out periodic email updates, and expand their social media presence.