Author: Vincent Carpenter

Seeing Jesus // Part Two

This morning Vincent Carpenter continued our series, Seeing Jesus, with a message on identity crises. Sometimes life circumstances can cause us to have an identity crisis – maybe you didn’t get a certain promotion or you didn’t get invited to something. But we were created uniquely by Jesus, and when we see Him clearly, we begin to see ourselves more clearly. Check out some of our takeaways from today’s message:

  • The law is an arrow that points to Jesus.
  • We have been made uniquely by God to glorify God with our lives.
  • An identity crisis is when a person struggles in understanding who he or she is, his or her value to other people and whether meaningful individuals care about.
  • God established an identity for us before we were even created.
  • Jesus wants to get in the middle of our identity crisis and point us back to Him.
  • When we have an identity crisis, it’s an opportunity to see Jesus more clearly.
  • Jesus is with us in the here and now through the person of the Holy Spirit.
  • Jesus tells us, “Though you are broken, I am committed to you.”
  • We have been given a place of honor from Jesus.
  • Sometimes we have to be willing to decrease so Jesus can increase.

IN RESPONSE:

  • To help us see ourselves the way God created us, we need to be clear on who Jesus is. This week look up passages of who Jesus is and declare His identity.
  • Declare things you are thankful for. We get greater perspective when we are thankful for what we have, rather than what we don’t.

By Vincent Carpenter – Adult Pastor

Being a Kingdom Ambassador

Recently, someone shared with me how they used to get angry when hearing about negative social incidents involving their race. However, this person said he now feels more compassion and understanding toward other racial groups after attending Come Together, our racial unity event we hosted.

In April, the church journeyed through a series called “The Culture of Heaven: A Biblical Perspective on Diversity.”

THE SERMON SERIES ENCOURAGED BELIEVERS TO MODEL HOW PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT RACIAL, CULTURAL OR ETHNIC GROUPS CAN LOVE AND SERVE EACH OTHER.

The four-week series concluded with four additional weeks of people meeting in Come Together dialogue groups to talk in a deeper way about the messages.

Feedback from the groups included people making new cross cultural relationships, cultural lessons being learned and even some conflict ensued about issues which can contribute to forging meaningful relationships. One of the ten groups spontaneously decided to continue meeting and inviting others to be a part of their community. Another group decided to occasionally visit churches of other minority racial groups. Almost all the groups communicated a desire to do more to increase racial and ethic unity in some way.

Second Corinthians 5:17 says we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.

THIS MEANS WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO SERVE AS AMBASSADORS BETWEEN GOD AND MAN.

This also means we are called as ambassadors between people groups. We can represent God to the world when people see believers love, respect and honor each other; especially those who are different from us in ways such as race or ethnicity.

Because I have developed racially diverse relationships throughout my adult life, I have had experiences of people around me saying God has convicted them of a prejudiced or racist attitude toward some other person or group of people. In all these cases I never spoke about diversity, but it seemed that my presence among people outside my own race had a meaningful impact on those around me. If we can be present among people who don’t look like us it creates an opportunity for God to do a work of unifying people.

LET’S KEEP COMING TOGETHER.


IN RESPONSE

As we continue to move forward, I encourage you to find places where you can be a Kingdom Ambassador. Whether it means inviting your neighbors over for dinner or engaging with someone different than you at work, we have the ability to bring Kingdom culture into every sphere we’re in.

By Vincent Carpenter – Adult Pastor

Responding to the Cultural Crisis

My wife Tonja loves to sing and has been involved in choirs her entire life. When she enrolled at Baylor University in 1987 she wanted to continue worshiping God through music, so she auditioned for the Baylor Religious Hour Choir (BRH). The BRH ministers in a formal style of singing. Tonja, like most African-American singers, minister in song through a more informal, intuitive style. Due to these differences, Tonja was not invited to join BRH.

While some might feel rejected or offended, Tonja simply decided to re-audition for the choir the following year. In the meantime, she decided to start a Gospel choir which would give her the opportunity to sing until the following year. Tonja went to the director of the university’s student ministry department with the idea of starting the choir and found out that the director had been praying for an African-American student with a desire for ministry because the university had no outreach among black students at the time. The meeting between Tonja and the student ministry director birthed the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir. The choir was embraced by African-American students, grew quickly and started ministering on the Baylor campus and throughout Waco. At one time, more than 100 students joined the choir. The group has recorded a couple of CDs over the years, and is now multi-racial and sings contemporary Christian as well as traditional Gospel music.

A SITUATION THAT COULD HAVE CREATED RACIAL STRIFE ACTUALLY BECAME A GOD-HONORING AND BEAUTIFUL MUSICAL EXPRESSION.

Today there are many opportunities for strife between various group of people in our community and nation. The violence between minorities and police has heightened hostility between blacks and law enforcement. The presidential election has led to feelings of fear and anger in some people and insensitive behavior in others. While these crises are threatening new levels of division in our nation, there is also a great opportunity for God to move and create a beautiful expression of unity. Racial and political groups rejecting each other will lead to more violence, fear and division, while a right response can lead to unity.

THE FIRST AND BEST RESPONSE TO ANY CRISIS IS TO DRAW NEAR TO GOD.

James 4 says if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When people are in pain, feeling discouraged or facing other challenges; God talk might sound trite or even dismissive of the problem but our God is not a theoretical concept nor is He symbolically powerful.

OUR GOD’S PRESENCE AND POWER IS REALITY.

Therefore, we must go to Him in any situation we are concerned about. During times of crisis, a powerful way of looking to God is to simply write on a piece of paper or say out loud the phrase, “God what are you saying or doing in my life through this?” After your statement, just wait in silence for a minute and allow God to bring His thoughts or a Scripture to mind.

THE NEXT RESPONSE TO CRISES IS TO DRAW NEAR TO COMMUNITY.

When we are hurt we often pull away from the people closest to us. God is often present in our lives through people, so if we pull away from people we pull away from His method of being present in our lives. Sometimes the person we are closest to is the one who hurts us most. These situations are difficult and there is no way around the fact that people we love or trust can and do deeply wound us sometimes. However, we don’t get healed by getting disillusioned with those who disappoint us but we get healing from hoping and trusting in a God who is bigger than any person, political party or race.  During a time of crises, simply go to those you are closet to and share your anger, hurt or fear and ask those people to dialogue and pray with you.

ANOTHER RESPONSE TO CRISIS THAT MAY NOT NATURALLY COME TO MIND IS DRAW NEAR TO THOSE WE HAVE DIFFERENCES WITH.

Jesus said to love our enemies. He said anybody can love someone who is like them, but a Christian can love those who are not like them. When the world sees people who are different reaching out and loving one another I believe God will be exalted like never before and people will come to Christ like never before. Therefore, we have a great opportunity in these days of cultural controversy to expand the Kingdom of God in an incredible way. When you have crises that are related to a person who does something that is the opposite of what you are doing then go to that person with the heart to understand them and what they did.  A productive statement could be, “I’m not clear on what happened. Can you help me understand?”

For eight years, my family rented a house in the South Waco area near Robinson. Some years ago the person we rented the house from passed away. A family member of theirs told them that at one time they distrusted African -Americans, but since we lived in their rent home those eight years they had developed a different attitude toward blacks.

In a season where people in our culture are experiencing pain, anger and fear of people who are different from them, the people of God can transform that pain through a sincere effort to draw near those different from themselves.

By Vincent Carpenter – Adult Pastor

More Of Jesus Week 8 – Loving in Close Relationships

Today, Vincent wrapped up our More Of Jesus series with a message on humility and relationships. Humility means to lower ourselves and come under people in order to see them benefited. We humble ourselves by exalting Jesus. Check out how to apply this week’s message and dig deeper into the passage we studied:

Three Ways to Apply This Week’s Message:

  • 1. If someone asked you to describe yourself, write down what you would say? Write what you think a person close to you would say. Write down what you think God would say. Ask a trusted person to read your responses and give you feedback.
  • 2. If you have on-going conflict with someone, ask the person what you can do to stop the conflict.
  • 3. Do you feel other people cause you to feel or behave negatively? If so, ask a mature believer you trust if your feelings or behaviors are justified.

Digging Deeper:

Scripture Focus: Colossians 3:18-4:1
  • When Jesus is at the center of our lives, our relationships look completely different
    • Why? Because it’s about Him and not us – relationships are based on honoring God rather than personal desires.
      • This opens the door for forgiveness and honor for people who don’t deserve it. When we love and serve those who don’t deserve it, then cycles of conflict are broken and life is restored.
    • Relationships should first and foremost be ‘as unto the Lord’
      • This does not negate the need for boundaries – abuse, persistent manipulation, co-dependence, etc; enabling these behaviors doesn’t help or show love to anyone, it just perpetuates a cycle.
    • When we show love, respect, honor to someone not because they deserve it but because Jesus deserves it then we become a powerful witness to the world
  • Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church; a relationship built on covenant – Ephesians 5:22-33 develops these themes in a significant way and is a companion passage
    • Wives submit to your husbands
      • Husbands are meant to be spiritual leaders who serve and love their wives
        • As the book Love and Respect demonstrates, the greatest need for a man is to be respected; when he feels respected his response is to turn around and show love
        • The trap of the enemy is to send marriages into a spiral, the wife refuses to show respect and allow her husband to lead and the husband refusing to show love or affection, each side waiting for the other to change before they will.
    • Husbands love your wives and don’t be harsh
      • Marriages would work if men simply did this; if we show unconditional love and affection to our wives then so many problems would disappear
        • People will resist a harsh leader but will joyfully follow someone who unconditional loves them and put the other’s needs ahead of their own
      • Men should focus more on loving their wife as Christ loves the Church.
        • Kids
        • Parents
        • Employees
        • Bosses

Get Connected

Jonathan and Amy, who led an Antioch Lifegroup and served as trainers for Lifegroup leaders, felt God was calling them to plant a church in the United States. They eventually developed a team and planted a church that is currently thriving and reaching many college students in a Chicago suburb. Almost the entire original church planting team was made up of people from the section of Lifegroups Jonathan and Amy trained and led.

Brenda said her Liferoup has walked her through some of the most difficult times in her life. Brenda said the members of her Lifegroup are just as much her family as her biological relatives.

Donna said Jay has always been a faithful husband and provider, but since joining Lifegroup he has also become a stronger spiritual leader in their home. Donna testified how blessed she felt when Jay surprised her at a Lifegroup meeting by challenging all the couples to begin praying together and how Jay took on and followed through on the challenge himself. Jay said meeting with the other men and being accountable to them was a major factor in his spiritual growth. Donna said since joining Lifegroup she has committed to pray more and that has made the biggest difference in her life.

Matt first saw Abbey at Lifegroup. Abbey shared a struggle she was having, and Matt remembers thinking that someone from the Lifegroup should come alongside Abbey and be a support to her. Matt said he felt the Lord challenged him to help his fellow Lifegroup member sometimes, and he now helps Abbey full-time as her husband.

All these meaningful relationships have one thing in common – Lifegroup.

Lifegroup is a place where people can experience community and discipleship in a life-changing way. You might not develop a significant relationship with every person you meet at Lifegroup, but every person you meet in Lifegroup has the potential to impact your relationship with God through opportunities for fellowship, service and discipleship.

This is why we want every person in our church to join a Lifegroup. Everyone not in a Lifegroup is invited to Connect, next Thursday, February 4th at 6 p.m. in the Auditorium. At Connect, you will have the opportunity to meet our Lifegroup leaders, get information about numerous Lifegroups and even select one to attend. A light dinner will be served and childcare will also be provided kids, birth through sixth grade. We have an easy registration form to fill out if you plan on attending. All kinds of relationships will be started at Connect, and we hope to see you there!

 

By Vincent Carpenter, Teaching and Administrative Pastor

The Power of Community

Married couples often meet privately with a counselor when working through relationship struggles or just trying to make a good marriage better. However, church survey information suggests another effective option. Antioch conducts a church-wide survey every two years to determine if the members of the congregation understand and live out the values of the church.

The 2014 survey clearly showed that people who attend Lifegroup far more effectively live out the church’s values than people who do not participate in Lifegroup.

Another interesting fact from the survey was that people who attend Lifegroup reported a significantly higher degree of martial satisfaction than people who did not attend Lifegroup.

Jay and Donna, Lifegroup leaders at Antioch, affirm the findings of our survey. The couple recently shared that participation in Lifegroup has strengthened their marriage as well as their individual walk with Jesus. Donna said Jay has always been a faithful husband and provider, but since joining Lifegroup he has also become a stronger spiritual leader in their home. Donna testified how blessed she felt when Jay surprised her at a Lifegroup meeting by challenging all the couples to begin praying together and how Jay took on and followed through on the challenge himself. Jay said meeting with the other men and being accountable to them was a major factor in his spiritual growth. Donna said since joining Lifegroup she has committed to pray more and that has made the biggest difference in her life.

Consistently sharing life issues with similar people creates an environment of growth and development.

This is why we desire every person who attends Antioch to join a Lifegroup. The church wants to make the process of joining a Lifegroup easy, so Thursday, Oct. 1 from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. the church will host an event called Connect. At Connect, our Lifegroup leaders will assemble in the Auditorium so individuals looking for a Lifegroup can meet them and get information about the groups. Dinner and childcare will be provided.

Sign up today!

 

By Vincent Carpenter, Teaching and Administrative Pastor

 

God Believes in You

I’ve played sports since age nine, so I’ve worked with lots of coaches. My favorite was Mr. Cain who coached my little league baseball team. I liked him so much because he always encouraged me by sharing the positive things he saw in me. During my first year is playing baseball, I played with kids I didn’t know and I was not very good, so I felt bad about myself. However, Mr. Cain always built me up so I loved hanging out with him. His belief in my caused me to believe in myself.

What Mr. Cain did for me was similar to what God did for Jesus after His baptism when He said “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” What is interesting about this passage is that it occurs before Jesus began preaching and performing miracles. Why then would God tell Jesus He was pleased with Him if He hadn’t done anything to be pleased with?

I think God believed in who Jesus was and not what Jesus would or could do.

This confidence that God the Father bestowed upon Jesus actually empowered Him to go and have a successful ministry. If someone believes in us, the we are empowered to simply strive for success out of a place of joy and freedom. If we don’t know or experience someone’s belief in us, then we tend to have a need or an unhealthy drive to excel in hopes that it will draw the favor or belief of someone around us.

IN RESPONSE:

If you walk in the confidence that God and others believe in you, then share that belief with someone else. If you have not experienced someone’s belief in you, then receive this truth:

Just as God was pleased with Jesus outside of His performance of ministry, God is pleased with you.

You can also reinforce this truth by asking others who know you to share what they see in you, just like Mr. Cain shared what he saw in me. Those words have the power to change your life.

By Vincent Carpenter, Teaching and Administrative Pastor

Intro to Discipleship Lessons

Download the Discipleship Lessons here.

Like many churches, the church I grew up in strongly encouraged active participation in the various ministries it offered.

These ministries helped me in my initial understanding of God’s love, and while I am forever thankful for my spiritual upbringing, I went to college with nagging thoughts that something else was needed in my walk with God. In college, I told my academic advisor that I wanted to grow in my relationship with Christ. He asked me if I would like to host a discipleship group in my dorm room. I had never heard the word discipleship before, but I instantly knew it was the “something else” I had been looking for.

My discipleship times with my adviser and the other students who joined us consisted of reading scripture, praying and learning to share our faith with others. Each week we would discuss a topic and my adviser would ask us to practice the lesson and discuss the results the following week. It was one of the greatest times of growth in my Christian life. I remember experiencing the presence of God as I would read and share my faith. I can remember influencing my roommates for the Lord, seemingly without even trying. Looking back on that time, God allowed me to experience His power in several ways. First, I developed a meaningful relationship with my adviser, whom I respected greatly. Second, my adviser provided accountability for me, giving the strength I needed to move forward in the disciplines of reading the word, praying regularly and sharing my faith. Finally, regularly reading scripture kept my mind and heart centered on Jesus.

That discipleship experience was a critical factor in my journey with God as a college student, and is still an important factor in my walk with God today. Discipleship is so important that at Antioch we call it our “X-factor.” This means we view it is as the single most important factor in helping a person grow spiritually. To ensure this crucial component of someone’s spiritual life, Antioch has developed discipleship lessons we call Foundations of Faith. These seven lessons cover basic components a believer needs to either start or maintain a solid Christian experience. The lessons introduce core passages from the Bible and then provide ways to apply these truths to life. While the lesson itself is a great discipleship tool, its power to impact a person’s life comes from completing the lesson in a discipleship environment (usually in Lifegroup or with another believer). If you have not gone through Foundations of Faith, there is no better time than now for you to partner with another person and complete the lessons. If you have done them before, consider asking God who you could take through the lessons. I am confident you and that person will be blessed!

 

By Vincent Carpenter

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