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Beginnings

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them at the inn.”

Luke 2:7

I’ve always associated Christmas with endings; it is at the end of the year after all. It marks the end of a long semester full of hard work or maybe a difficult year that we’re desperate to get out of. It’s a time of well-earned rest and celebration. Yet Christmas isn’t really about endings. Really it’s about beginnings.

That’s why I chose this obscure and super random verse to talk about here. Jesus didn’t just appear on earth as a fully grown man. He was born, He grew up, He matured, He learned, He developed. As the Son of God Jesus has always existed, but as God made flesh He had a beginning in a manger out back of an inn in an insignificant town called Bethlehem. It’s hard to imagine a more humble beginning for such a towering figure in human history.

What is the point of saying this? Well, because there is a lesson to be learned here. Christmas teaches us a lot of things - generosity, thankfulness, grace, self-sacrifice - but there are some lessons in the story of Jesus’ birth that are easy to miss. One of them is this: everyone has a beginning in their faith, and there is no shame in being at that beginning. There is no shame in only just starting your journey simply because someone else is further down the path than you. Everyone’s gotta start somewhere. With this in mind, I want to share a few observations.

First, take this truth to heart for yourself. You may be a new Christian looking at the gifts and lives of others and lamenting that you’re not quite there, longing for the kind of freedom from sin that they seem to have. Give yourself a little slack because, in the wise words of the inimitable Kanye West, “you need to crawl before you ball.” It’s okay to need a little time to get off the ground and really get rolling. It’s even expected. Jesus didn’t jump up and start walking around preaching as soon as He came out. He didn’t actually begin His ministry until He was 30. He had to grow up, and that included going through all the growing pains that entails.

Which brings me to my second point: it’s okay to be at the starting line, but you can’t just hang out there forever. If a winner never actually starts running, is he really even in the race? He’s definitely not gonna get the medal. Growing in any area is hard, and your faith is no different. Like I said, there are growing pains. Just look at the path of Peter - he went from fisherman to Jesus’ inner circle to literally being called Satan by the Messiah Himself to denying Jesus to being one of the primary leaders of the infant church. It doesn’t happen overnight and it’s hard, but the results are more than worth the struggle. Run the race and don’t give up. You’ll be blown away by who God molds you into.

Lastly, remember that you’re not the only one who has a beginning. Every Christian has to start somewhere, even the greatest titans of the faith the church has seen. Recognize that some of the people around you are still in the infancy of their faith and you shouldn’t expect them to be at the same maturity level as someone who’s been walking with Jesus for 10 years (although if they are, that’s awesome). Everyone has to start somewhere, and as Christians it’s our privilege to walk alongside people on their journey. It’s not a chore or a burden - it’s a privilege and a gift. Maybe one day that girl who frustrates you with her inconsistency or hypocrisy blows you away with her faithfulness and strength. Who knows? But she needs someone to walk with her to get there. Bear with people, help carry their burdens, and one day you’ll both look back at that beginning overcome with awe at what God has done.

Beginnings can be imposing. Looking at the long path ahead of you, especially with all its pitfalls and twists and turns, can be enough to even make you wonder why you should bother. But beginnings are also bursting with possibility and hope. There’s a whole journey to be enjoyed ahead of you, and as wonderful as that journey is the destination is even greater. Most importantly, God walks alongside you and laughs with you and cries with you every step of the way. He knows what beginnings are like. He knows how hard they can be. But He also knows how to not only survive them but thrive in them and bring you to the finish line. Trust Him and cherish the beginning of something beautiful.

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

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July 1st SBF Recap!

Happy Tuesday, everybody! Throughout the rest of the summer, we will be posting recaps from our Sunday morning lessons. Over the next five weeks, we will be diving (#summer) into the topic of spiritual gifts and listening to how God intends for us to use them. 

This past week, we opened up the series with a discussion on what spiritual gifts are, while looking into 1 Corinthians 12:4-20. Next Sunday at 9:30a, we will be discovering our spiritual gifts, and you won't want to miss it!

You can also look forward to Refuge Field Day this Sunday at 1701 E. Belt Line Rd from 6:30-8:30p. In addition to our regular outdoor activities, we will be kicking off Summer Hunger Games. We can't wait to see you there! 

Happy (Early) Independence Day! We are the home of the free because of the brave, and we want to thank all past and present service members and their families. Have a blessed day as we remember all who have fought and sacrificed for our nation's freedom. 

 

 

 

 

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Denver Days 7 and 8!

Yesterday was our last day in Denver and of working at our ministry sites. It has been an incredible trip and there are many stories to tell. The weather yesterday was phenomenal with sunny skies and highs in the mid to low 80s (wow, I sound like a weather guy).

We spent the morning at our ministry sites, serving the people of Denver and wrapping up a lot of our projects from the week. In the afternoon we went to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater to make up for missing out on the mountains earlier in the week. The Park was beautiful and everybody had a great time exploring the area.

Last night we got to watch the seniors deliver a fantastic and hilarious skit and afterword we moved into our annual night of worship. It was extremely touching watching the students pray with each other and worship together. We were all reminded in that time of what makes this group and ministry so special. The students then had their final family group time and went to bed soon after.

We got up very early this morning to get on the road back home. I’m actually writing this on the bus. Progress is good thus far and we’re praying for continued safe travels. Now that we’re headed home, the biggest thing to pray for is that the students would truly take something away from this week and that the relationships built would not fade away.

Can’t wait to see you all soon and share just how powerful and faithful God has been in Denver this week! Also, below is the link to our final video from the trip! 

https://vimeo.com/276897856

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Denver Day 6!

Thursday is complete! With 15 extra minutes of sleep and a sunny day forecasted, all students and leaders loaded up the buses and headed out to partner with Extreme Community Makeover. Each family group took an alley and began the trek of improving the community through trimming bushes, picking up trash, sweeping dirt and moving out large pieces of unwanted items.

 

Before heading to our final concert at Harbor Lights, there was some relaxing time at a local park with ice cream for all. Our students did a phenomenal job leading worship this evening and sharing God’s love and forgiveness.

 

Please continue to be in prayer for us as we have our final day of on-site ministry tomorrow and a reflection time tomorrow night. May God give us the strength to finish strong and love one another well.

Below is the link to a video of what we've been up to the last couple of days! Enjoy! 

https://vimeo.com/276384992

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Denver Day 5!

It’s Wednesday, my dudes! Today was our 5th day in Denver and 3rd day of working at our ministry sites. Students accomplished jobs ranging from pulling up weeds to spreading mulch to hanging out with local kids to organizing warehouses. Everyone is working so incredibly hard and doing so without complaining.


God blessed us with beautiful weather today. No rain, sunny, and temperatures in the 70s.


Tonight we had the opportunity to lead a chapel service at Denver Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter right in the middle of the city. The students led the people in various songs and a few students performed small filler acts in between the songs. Trent Richardson also shared a powerful message with the attendees.


Tomorrow is a big day as we will be coming together as one big group to tackle one big project in the city. Prayers for safety, flexibility, energy, and rest would be much appreciated, especially going in to tomorrow. God is so clearly moving in Denver. Please pray that He would continue to work in and through us.

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Denver Day 4!

Happy Tuesday!!! It’s day 4 of our time in Denver, Colorado (day 2 of on-site ministry) and our students are flourishing. They have been to nursing homes, pulled weeds, organized clothes, moved furniture and many other tasks without complaint.

Brief periods of rain have cleared and made it even cooler than before, making it beautiful to work outside.

After a yummy dinner in the cafeteria, we had an extended time of games and kicked off the talent show.

We would love it if you would continue in praying with us for God’s work to be done and that we would glorify him in all tasks and conversations. Also for continued strength and stamina for our leaders and students. Tomorrow we will be leading the chapel service at Denver Rescue Mission after a full day of ministry.

 

You can find the link to a video below of what we have been doing the last couple of days! 

https://vimeo.com/276904509

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Denver Day 3!

We have officially completed our first day at the ministry sites! We got up bright and early, packed our lunches, and after hearing a spectacular devotional from our very own Nathan Sims loaded up onto the buses and headed out into the city. We did everything from sitting and talking with the elderly to helping organize supplies for a mobile food pantry. The students not only did an incredible job at all their sites, they did it joyfully and without complaint - representing Christ and VRBC well just like we knew they would. After that we all got to head back to the dorms for some well-earned rest and relaxation before dinner and our family group meetings. All in all its been a fantastic day full of incredible stories that we can't wait to share with all of you, but in the meantime we would greatly appreciate your continued prayer and support, particularly for these things:

1) For the students to persevere and maintain their focus, faithfulness, and work ethic and for God to make a powerful impact through all the good work they do and the relationships they build.

2) For the students to build and strengthen lasting relationships with one another, and that not a single student would miss out on such a relationship.

3) Continued safety and good health for everyone on the trip.

And keep your eyes peeled for the videos of the first two days, because they're coming soon and they're chock full of exciting and special moments! Thank you all so much and God bless your week!

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Denver Day 1!

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As of last night, we have officially made it safely to Denver! We enjoyed our dinner at Garden of the Gods and then finished the rest of the trek to Denver. After arriving at DU, we unloaded the buses, got settled in our rooms, and quickly hit the hay after a long but fun-filled day of traveling.

We are so excited for the week ahead and would appreciate prayers that God would move in and through each of us throughout this trip. The forecast also currently shows some rain throughout the week, so prayers for good weather, safety, and flexibility would also be very much appreciated, as some of our plans may change.

We are hoping to upload videos throughout the week to keep you updated on what we are up to this week; you can expect a video from our first two days to be posted tomorrow! We cannot wait for a fantastic week here in Denver!

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Crooked Sticks

I think often of the irony of the cross as the symbol of Christianity. There is nothing beautiful, inspirational, or remarkable about it; its literally just two planks of word nailed together in the shape of a T. Hardly something that conveys hope and joy. Quite the contrary, in fact, it conveyed horror and terror as the epitome of Roman cruelty against the peoples under their rule. The atrocities committed upon these unassuming planks are enough to turn the stomach of even the most hardened of men and women, to the point that it was something considered impolite to even speak of in Roman society. 

And yet this was the platform from which God chose to declare His love to the world. It was upon this instrument of death that God stood to boldly proclaim that we are still His, and that He was willing even to die to insure it. He took this despicable thing and converted it into a shining beacon of hope revealing His greatness and more importantly His goodness to the very ends of the earth. Because there is nothing too twisted, or too horrible, or too far from Him to be redeemed.

If God is able to take the crucifixion in all its monstrosity and turn it into the very instrument of our salvation, what wonders must He be able to work through us? We all know we are flawed, having been corrupted by the curse of sin. Broken, even, and estranged from our Father in heaven.

But God calls us to Himself and invites us to be a part of His work in redeeming His creation. He says He will take our burdens upon Himself, just as He did our sins. He tells us His strength is made perfect in our weakness and that through us His name will be made great. He sees what sin and the devil would make instruments of wickedness and knows He can use them as instruments of righteousness, of mercy, and of love. The cross shows us brilliantly and undeniably the ability and desire of God to use crooked sticks to make straight lines. In all our imperfection we still have immeasurable potential to be used by our unimaginably creative God to bring good to His world if we would only lay ourselves into His waiting hands. 

The God who brought boundless good through the abominable cross will surely bring even more good through you. 

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