Ten Reasons Why We Meet Weekly

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Tuesday nights are easily my favorite night of the week. We get to come together and worship Jesus, learn from His Word, and spend time with one another. I love the passion and excitement that students have for coming together. I love the feeling in the atmosphere when our worship leaders lead out spontaneously. I love preaching the word and watching it resonate with you. I love meeting new students who have come for the very first time. Tuesdays are amazing.

We have another Tuesday Night Gathering tonight and it got me thinking, "If I had to give ten reasons as to why we meet weekly, what would I say?" Why is it so important that we meet together every week? Hebrews 10 touches on the importance of meeting together.

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV - 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 

Stirring each other up for love and good works and encouraging one another are two reasons that the writer to the Hebrews gives for why we should meet together. I came up with a list of my own in no particular order and thought I'd share them with you.

Worship

One reason we meet together is to exalt Jesus and worship Him. In the midst of a campus of people who do not know Jesus yet, we lift up His name, declaring that He is God. We worship, not to remind God of who He is, but to remind ourselves of who He is and that He is worthy to be praised.

Celebration

Along with worship, we celebrate. We celebrate that God is the God of victory. We celebrate that Jesus defeated death, sin, hell, and the grave through His resurrection. We celebrate that God loves us each individually and uniquely. We celebrate that Jesus pursued us when we were not worthy to be pursued. We celebrate that God is in the business of redeeming all things.

Prayer

In today's church, we often miss the importance of corporate prayer. We miss the importance of praying together as a body. On Tuesdays, we give 20 minutes for corporate prayer before service from 7:20-7:40. We also pray during key parts of the service. Prayer is so important. If we want to draw closer to Jesus and change our campus, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do.

Discipleship

We believe that discipleship is why we exist. We exist to become disciples and make disciples. Discipleship is the process by which we become more like Jesus. One way that we grow in discipleship is biblical teaching. We need to be continually reminded of the gospel and built up in the Scriptures so that we can grow in Christian maturity. If we want to become mature disciples of Jesus, then we need weekly biblical teaching that is full of grace and truth. We love reading God's Word and seeing how it applies to our lives on Tuesday nights.

Encouragement

Another reason we come together is to encourage one another. Life can be hard. College life can be hard. We need to be encouraged. "The homework will get done." "This test will surely pass." "God is with you!" "This is only a season." We need these weekly reminders. Tuesday nights are an opportunity to encourage one another in the seats and also be encouraged from the platform by our worship leaders, pastors, and student leaders.

Challenge

We don't only need to be encouraged, but we also need to be challenged. It's easy to slide into complacency and a lack of passion for the Lord. We need to be pushed to grow into the person that God has called us to be. We need to be convicted of our sin and challenged to pursue Jesus. We pray that every week you will walk out of Tuesday nights with a specific challenge from God.

Mission

Tuesdays are also a strategic opportunity to introduce your friends to Jesus. Every week, we share the gospel and give opportunity for students to put their faith in Jesus. Tuesdays are not just a time for us to enjoy one another and grow personally, but also a time to reach out to our friends and grow God's Kingdom. 

Community

As much as Tuesday nights are about mission, they are also about community. They are an opportunity for us to get to know one another more. For us to go deeper together and share life with each other. We share our victories and our struggles and also just have a good time with one another. Every week, we cap off our Tuesday Night Gatherings with a party at Buffalo Wild Wings for this sole purpose.

Friendship

Tuesdays are also a great opportunity to make friends. I met some of my best friends in the world (including my wife) at a Chi Alpha service. Our prayer is that every student who is a part of Chi Alpha would know that they have friends here.

Service

Finally, Tuesdays are an opportunity to serve. Whether that be on the worship team, connect team, production team, or just creating a friendly environment for guests, Tuesdays are an amazing opportunity to use your gifts for God, others, and His Kingdom.

These are a few of the reasons why I come every Tuesday and believe in the power of a Tuesday night. What are your reasons?

With love,

Pastor Daniel

On The Move to Lang (Three Encouragements)

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Tonight, we are moving into Lang Auditorium. This has been quite the journey of prayer, strategizing, and trusting in Jesus. What I hope to do in this post is give you insight into this journey and encourage you with three thoughts as we move into our new home.

Last spring, we realized that the Communication Arts Center would not be able to facilitate our gatherings for much longer. With 87 seats and an average attendance of 60 students during that semester, we knew we had to get a game plan for the future if we wanted to grow.

We then went on an exploration of every classroom on campus to see where we could move next. With the remodeling of Schindler, there was really no logical next room for our group. A logical room would be a room with 200 or 300 seats, but there really isn't a room like that on campus, especially one that is fit for a worship service. 

One afternoon as Lovensky and I were checking out rooms, we decided to look at the monstrous room of Lang Auditorium just for fun. We got one of the employees in Lang Hall to open the room for us and we checked it out for the first time. Lovensky's eyes widened as he looked around the room and dreamed of what could be. My response was a bit different - yes, excitement, but also scattered thoughts and questions. At this point, we were having 60 students at our services. As I looked around at the 800 seats, an internal struggle began. One part of me thought, "It makes no sense to move to a room that is over 10 times bigger than our attendance." The other part of me thought, "Where else can we go? The CAC is too small. We are dreaming for more. Why not take a step of faith and believe God to fill the seats?" Over the following weeks, we prayed as a team for guidance from Jesus and sought wise counsel from other pastors. God squeezed our hearts and challenged us to step out in faith.

We unanimously felt that the Lord was giving us the green light to move into Lang. We then went to reserve the room for this fall, but realized that many people had already reserved it on Tuesday nights and that we couldn't get it consistently until November 1st. I felt that the Lord wanted us to move on this date for a reason. We decided to go for it and planned for a November 1st move date. This all happened before April. So for the last 7-8 months we have been preparing for this move.

Since then, we have went over maximum capacity twice in the CAC. Now, here we are on move day looking into the future with expectant hearts and nervous anticipation. As we move, I want to encourage you with three things.

1. Stay faithful

It's tempting after a move like this to let your hunger for more wane. Just two years ago, we were a small ministry with about 20 people plugged in. There is so much to celebrate and thank God for as we have grown by almost 500%. However, we cannot take our foot off the gas. We have to keep pressing into the Lord, serving with passion, praying hard, and casting the net for new students to plug in.

2. Think long

It's also tempting to expect God to fill the room right away. This is certainly possible and I believe the Lord may do a quick work. However, we didn't sign up for quick growth or for an easy task. We signed up for faithful ministry over the long haul. We signed up for the daily grind of loving students, maturing in the Lord together, and preparing the way for a long-term sustainable work of God on the campus. Let's think long and refuse to be discouraged by the daily struggles. We are working for something so much bigger than this year or even this week. We are working to provide UNI students for generations to come with an opportunity to respond to the gospel and mature in their faith through the community of Chi Alpha.

3. Dream big

Finally, keep on dreaming big. Dream and pray for revival each and every week. Dream that God could wake up hearts all over our campus in a moment. Dream that God could fill up Lang Auditorium on Tuesday nights. Even dream that we would have to have two services in Lang on Tuesday nights to facilitate all of the students. God is capable of far more than our wildest dreams.

Tonight is the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Chi Alpha at the University of Northern Iowa. I pray that Lang Auditorium could be our home for many years. I'm eager to get started on the long mission ahead tonight. Keep being FAITHFUL, think LONG, and dream BIG. 

Love you guys,

Daniel

Note: I got the principles of thinking long and dreaming big from The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. In his book, he challenges us to DREAM BIG, PRAY HARD, and THINK LONG. I encourage you to grab a copy.

The Secret to an Extraordinary Fall Semester

I don't know about you, but I struggle with getting the motivation to pray. I think it boils down to two reasons for me. One, I like to do things that give me immediate results. Sometimes, we don't see an answer to our prayer for years or we don't feel God's presence when we pray. This can be discouraging. The other main reason that I struggle with getting motivated to pray is I can't seem to focus. Five minutes in (more like five seconds) and I'm already thinking about all of the things that I need to do that day.

Despite the difficulty of praying, I know that I need to press on and do it anyways. I know that if I want to be intimate with Jesus and grow in my faith then I have to pray. And the beautiful thing is, I never regret it when I do pray.

God is pushing me to pray more. The last couple nights, Emily and I have taken time to prayer walk the campus in preparation for this coming fall. Our goal is to do this every night until our fall kickoff service on August 23rd. 

I want to invite you to pray this summer and ask God to move in your heart and on our campus this fall. We believe that it's important to do this for two main reasons.

1. Prayer Is The Key To Breakthrough

In Mark 9, Jesus's disciples attempt to cast a demon out of a boy but are unable to do so. Then, Jesus comes in and casts it out in a moment. The disciples later pull Jesus aside and ask Him why they were unable to cast it out. Jesus tells them that their lack of prayer prohibited them from driving out the demon.

Mark 9:29 ESV- And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

Jesus says that this kind of breakthrough is only possible through prayer. 

If we want to see UNI changed and heaven unleashed on earth, we need to pray. We need to pray for the situations and hardships that will come our way. We need to ask God to empower us to bring hope and healing to our friends. Prayer is the key to driving back the darkness and our greatest weapon in defeating the enemy.

2. Prayer Changes Our Hearts

The second reason we need to pray is prayer changes our hearts. Although we don't always see external results, prayer will always do a work in our own hearts. Every minute that we spend praying is time spent with Jesus. No moment in prayer is wasted time.

I'm excited to see what God might do in our hearts as we pray for our campus over the next month. What dark spaces of my heart will God invade? What sins might God reveal to me? What healing will God bring? What dreams will He download into my heart? What new passions will He give me?

We need to pray. Specifically, we need to pray for the fall so that our hearts will be ready. We need to be with Jesus. We need to give God room to work on us before we ever hope to bring hope and healing to our campus.

I urge you brothers and sisters, pray and, specifically, pray with us for this fall! Get with Jesus. What could God do with a group of people who have spent extravagant time with Him? What could He do with a group of people who are committed to changing the atmosphere of their community? How might God use us to change our campus and bring hope to our friends? 

Let's give God time during the remaining days of summer. Let's push back the darkness with our prayers.

With love,

Daniel

 

How Do I Find Freedom From My Sin?

Something I love about Jesus is His ability to affirm a person's value, while challenging them to rise above their sin. He is passionately in love with people, but ferociously against their sin. 

This morning I was reading Matthew 12 and found one such occasion where Jesus affirms the value of the person, but then later gets angry about sin.

When answering a question about whether or not it is lawful to heal on the sabbath, he says, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:11-12 ESV) 

While addressing this important issue, Jesus affirms the value of people. He takes the opportunity to elevate people above animals. This is great news. God does not view us as lower, animal-like beings. He views us as people of eternal value who were made in His image.

Then later on in the chapter, Jesus shows his disdain for sin and calls us to rise above it.

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33-37 ESV)

I don't know about you, but this passage convicts me big time. Specifically the line, "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Does He really mean that what I say is a reflection of my heart? That's a sobering thought. Not to mention that Jesus assures us that we will be held accountable for the careless words we say.

When I was reading this passage, I immediately thought about some of the hurtful things that I've said to people. I thought about some of the vile things that can come out of my mouth if I'm not careful. I thought about my human tendency to want to gossip about people. I thought about my tendency to lash out at those I love when we argue.

According to Jesus, whatever comes out of my mouth is a reflection of what is in my heart. When I think about some of the things that I'm capable of saying it makes me think seriously about what is in my heart. 

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

Let's face it, without Jesus, we have sick hearts. If we detach from Jesus, our heart is going to spew out some nasty things. 

This leads me to the question that I want to answer this week, "How Do I Find Freedom From My Sin?" To answer this question, there are two things that you need to know.

1. Although Jesus loves us and will always forgive, He does not excuse our sin.

If you are a Christian, you know that Jesus loves you and has forgiven you. If you are not a Christian, you need to know that Jesus loves you and will forgive you if you repent from your sins and believe in Him!

However, God's forgiveness does not lessen His challenge for us to run from our sin, it actually raises the bar. Because we have been forgiven and given a new heart, God calls us to a higher standard.

One such example is in Matthew 5:27-28. Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Jesus doesn't just call Christians to refrain from adultery, He calls them to refrain from any kind of lust. He raises the bar. He doesn't only do this on issues of sexuality, but on issues of all sin. (Read Matthew 5 for more on this.)

The point is, God calls all Christians to take their sin seriously. Paul David Tripp said it best, "You cannot be serious about your relationship with God and not take sin seriously."

Forgiveness does not reduce the challenge to run from sin, but raises it.

We don't obey to earn God's love, but we obey because He has loved us so much.

If you are serious about the things of God and have a relationship with Him, you must run from your sin.

Now that we understand the seriousness of running from sin, the question remains, how do we find freedom from our sin?

2. The remedy for our sin is heart transformation, not behavior modification.

When challenging us to watch what we say, Jesus brings it back to the heart.

He assures us that we cannot fix our nasty words by focusing more intently on what we say. Instead, if we want to cure our propensity to gossip, slander, and lash out, we must get closer to Him so that He can mold and shape our hearts.

This applies to any sin. If you want freedom from your sin, the cure is not behavior modification, but rather heart transformation.

Whether you're struggling with gossip, pornography, or anger, Jesus' solution is the same, get closer to Him.

If you want to find freedom from your sin, then you have to get closer to Jesus. You can do this by reading the Scriptures, prayer, worship, serving others, and so forth. 

This should give us great hope. It is not our responsibility to pull up our boot straps and try harder so that we can overcome sin. Instead it is our responsibility to get closer to Jesus so that He can transform our hearts. It is our responsibility to stay near to Him and His responsibility to change our hearts.

In order for this to happen, we have to understand His love for us and that He will not condemn us if we only trust in His sacrifice on the cross. When we sin, we run to God instead of from Him because we know that He calls us son or daughter and has already purchased our salvation. 

So how do we find freedom from our sin? We find freedom from our sin by living our lives in close proximity to Jesus. We do whatever it takes to get closer to Him. We know that our performance does not dictate His acceptance. With His loving acceptance in mind, we stay close to Him and allow Him to do the heavy lifting of transforming our hearts. When we do sin, we run from it, confess it, and ask Jesus to give us the ability to overcome it.

This week, I want to challenge you to get closer to Jesus. Spend some extra time with Him. Allow Him to do a work in your heart. You will be pleased with the beautiful fruit that grows out from you as you stay connected to the vine of Jesus.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 ESV)

Love you guys,

Daniel

 

 

The Key To Being Extraordinary

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. (Luke 16:10 ESV)

I've been thinking a lot about leadership this summer. What does it mean to be a quality leader? What does God expect of leaders? What sets great leaders apart from average ones? Why are some leaders promoted and others not?

One of the things that the Lord has been pressing on my heart is this verse from Luke 16. This principle is clear - if you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the big things.

If you treat small things like they are big things, then the Lord will entrust you with big things like they are small things. When you are someone who gives 110% no matter how small a task is, Jesus will trust you with much bigger tasks.

This principle applies to Chi Alpha and to our own lives.

Applications for Chi Alpha

I truly believe that if every one in our ministry gives 110% in the small things, the Lord will trust us with much bigger things.

Every Student is Invaluable and Irreplaceable

If we welcome every single freshman who comes through our doors like they are the only one in the room, Jesus will give us a lot of freshmen.

If we take time to know and love each student in our community, they will go all in and do the same for other students.

If we recognize that every student has God-given potential and we empower them to find that potential, God will unleash world changers in our midst.

A Commitment to Excellence Throughout

If we expect and pray for big things in every gathering no matter the attendance, God will consistently do great things and grow our influence.

If our small group leaders prepare for their small group like its the large group gathering, our small groups will be healthy and maybe even grow so big that they could be large group gatherings. (It's happened before!)

If everyone who serves on a team gives as much effort as they would if they were preaching the message, then our gathering will be irresistible.

Applications for Your Personal Life

Jesus is looking for people to give their all when no one is watching. He is looking for people who treat the small things in their lives like they are big things.

Love Jesus When No One Is Watching

If you are faithful in giving the Lord time each day to speak to you through concentrated prayer and Bible reading, then He will trust you with spiritual leadership.

If you give God your best this summer when you are away from Chi Alpha friends, God will bless you spiritually during the school year.

Serve in Anonymity

If you are able to serve in anonymity, then you will be able to serve in (the seemingly more glorious) public leadership roles. For example, if you want to be able to lead worship or preach in front of crowds, then you first have to be able to stack chairs. If you want to have a successful career, then you first have to be faithful in your homework.

If you want to be great for Christ and great in life, you have to be faithful in serving in seemingly small roles.

The examples are endless, but the principle remains. If you give your all in the little things, Jesus will bless you in the big things.

I pray that as a community we would capture this principle and make it a mantra of our lives.

When a group of hungry people do small things like they are big things, God will unleash the extraordinary like its ordinary.

Love you guys,

Daniel