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FAVOR “For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime!”
Psalm 30:5 NLT
… the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” — LUKE 4:19 NLT
1 0 DARE TO BE BY CHARLOTTE GAMBILL 1 4 BACK TO THE BASICS BY BRANDON STEWART
2 0 FAVOR FOREVER BY KEVIN GERALD
IN THE KNOW 6
18 Champions Foundation Update
IN EVERY ISSUE SPRING/SUMMER 2013
3 LET’S TALK 4 YOU TO US
CHECK OUT THIS ISSUE
ABOUT US Champion Life Magazine purposes to equip people to live successful Christian lives.
8 CHAMPION FINDS 25 REAL LIFE CHAMPIONS 28 K. WISE SPRING/SUMMER 2013
E xecuti ve Pub lis h ers Kevin Gerald & Sheila Gerald
E DITO R-IN-CH IE F Jodi Cameron
S enior P roje c t Man ager Art Direc tor
Dallas Drotz, Drotz Design Abbie Buck, Corianne Burton,
Contri b uting E ditors
Andrea Dashiell, Kim Ludwick, Stephanie Jannsen, Raelynn Poulin, Leslie Powell, Judi Shackett Contri b uting P h otogr ap h y
Ardorlit Photography, J. Hobson Photography Josh Buck Photos, Jeremy Kinlow Contri b uting Gr ap h i c Design Contri b uting Writers
Venessa Koehn & Mickey Elliott
Kevin Gerald, Jodi Cameron,
Sheila Gerald, Roger Stanton, Charlotte Gambill, Brandon Stewart Distrib ution
P RODU C E R
Champion Life Magazine is produced by Kevin Gerald
Communications (KGC). KGC is a department of Champions Centre in Tacoma | Bellevue, WA, a non-profit organization.
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I’ve only been there once in my life. It’s a place that impacts you for the rest of your life. I remember even at a good distance away I could feel the slight moisture on my face from the overabundance of water cascading down the crescent shaped Niagara Falls. As I stood there considering the creativity of the God I serve, the falls also made me think about the never ending and overabundant favor of God. The very grace God extends to us is simply unmerited (or unearned) favor. And that favor promises to never run out. It is always around us, on us and with us—just like the water from the great Niagara Falls that day.
It’s difficult to grasp the extent of God’s favor or understand its magnitude. It’s not something that is for only one season of your life. His favor is not something that is with you only when you’ve made the right choice or done the right thing. It’s not something with a quota or a measurement on it. It’s favor forever! God’s favor is accessible and ready to flow in and around our lives just like all the hundreds of thousands of gallons that flow over the Falls every second! Some people think of God as an angry god, but the Psalmist said it best in Psalm 30:5, “For His (God’s) anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime.” As you read this issue of Champion Life Magazine, we hope you learn something new about the favor of God—or just be reminded that He is for you, so who can be against you? Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what would happen if everyone began to acknowledge the favor of God on their lives—from the breath in our lungs today giving us another day to live to the unexpected promotion at work to the parking spot up close at the store to the miraculous healing in our loved one’s body. God’s favor is available for you and me, it’s up to us whether we tap into it or not.
P.S. Tell us your story at email@example.com.
YOU TO US I have to admit, I've kept my distance when it comes to church for the last twenty years. I lost faith in God when I was young, and even as a child I didn't really like going to church. But I'm thankful for what Pastor Kevin has been teaching and I've been learning to keep an open heart and an open mind. I finally like going to church for once! I just wanted to say thank you! —Renee R. Wanted to share a big miracle… My daughter and son-in-law were on the verge of divorce. They had filled out the paperwork and just needed to file. They heard about the series Mind Monsters and started going to church with me. God transformed their hearts and they are now back together as a couple. It's indeed a miracle! Thank you, thank you, thank you Champion Centre and Pastor Kevin for your awesome messages of hope, being so relevant, and speaking God's Word. Lives are indeed changing! — Vickie R. I grew up with the principle of giving tithes cheerfully. As soon as we finished our Starting Point class my husband began to give tithe. We were ecstatic and full of joy that we were in a position to give to a church home. Thank you Champions Centre for the beautiful messages, worship and warmth from the people. Thank you for making just the simple things that most would take for granted very memorable and pivotal for my entire family. — Nikkia
CHAMPIONS CENTRE TWEETS
Here are some of the recent online tweets we’ve seen about Champions Centre in 140 characters or less. Join the conversation at twitter.com.
Such faith in the house @championscentre tonight. Already pumped for tomorrow. We love our friends @kevingerald & @sheilagerald #ilovechurch — @christinecaine
God’s Favor is the outworking of his Grace. It’s not about who you are, it’s about whose you are. #favorforever — @kevingerald
Loved first five @ChampionsCentre this weekend here is a little preview. #besteasterever13 — @tysonramsdell
CHECK OUT THESE STORIES OF LIFE CHANGE:
Great Sunday with great musician friends from @championscentre #Tacoma #Bellevue: 1 home with many rooms :) — @danmejia
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TEAM SPOTLIGHT: CELEBRATE RECOVERY
he months leading up to August 18, 2009, were filled with long meetings between leaders at Champions Centre who wanted to better see God’s almighty power of changing lives. Real change. The kind of heart change that takes you from selfishness to selflessness, from wallowing in pain to walking in faith, from addiction to God-breathed recovery. Thanks to this handful of inspired people, that summer Tuesday evening Champions Centre successfully pulled off its first Celebrate Recovery service.
“IT’S ALL WORTH THE LOOK ON THE PERSON’S FACE WHEN WE GET TO CELEBRATE A RECOVERY MILESTONE WITH THEM.”
BY Roger Stanton
CHAMPION LIFE MAGAZINE
The model for this ministry was born out of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Celebrate Recovery (CR) is now in over 10,000 churches worldwide and growing. It has a Christ-centered approach to recovery that applies a 12 step model to people’s hurts, habits and hang-ups. Infused into the heart of the young and the old, CR has quickly become one of Champions Centre’s greatest opportunities to experience community and accountability. Every Tuesday night since that summer night, the team has been facilitating a full church service, followed by breakout groups that each have their own focus. It is within the breakout groups, or open-share time, that Champions have the weekly opportunity to do as James 5:16 says: “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Open-share groups give people a safe place to share what is holding them back. Removing the secret makes room for God’s perfect healing to take place. The CR leadership team quickly learned that if the ministry was going to continue its success, they needed to build up leaders from within. Just a few years in, Champions Centre’s CR has amassed hundreds of leaders who in addition to putting on a full church service, host each of our open-share groups. These groups include dependencies (drugs, alcohol, gambling, food, pornography, etc.), soldiers returning home from battle, sexually broken women, co-dependency (unforgiveness, anger, control issues, etc.) and more. If that wasn’t enough, there are separate services for the teenagers and kids that each have their own team structure!
TEAM SPOTLIGHT: CELEBRATE RECOVERY
“…CONFESS YOUR SINS TO EACH OTHER AND PRAY FOR EACH OTHER SO THAT YOU MAY BE HEALED.” -JAMES 5:16 And to no counselor’s surprise, CR actually works!!! Addicts, liars, cheaters, abused, abusers, egotistical, insecure, leaders, followers, broken, and even “perfect” Christians have all been set free through the ministry. We’ve seen people who are brand new in their faith, those who have returned to their faith and those who have been in the church for 60 years experience break through on Tuesday nights. Each person’s recovery is celebrated once a month with a coin celebration that highlights the milestones in their recovery. THE FOLLOWING ARE A FEW EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN CHANGED THROUGH CR: Sharon, an off the charts leader and matriarch in our church, lost her husband to cancer a few years ago. Though she had spent much of her adult life in ministry, she realized she could not get over this hurt on her own and sought CR to help overcome the impossible hurt of losing a spouse. Instead of allowing her lifetime of missionary work to act as a shield of pride, she put into action what she had taught her whole life and gave God the reins to her inner health. Today, she leads the women’s grief group and uses her past hurts to help others recover in their own way. A couple years ago, Skyler was on the local news being outed for robbing people of their money through a fake donations outlet for victims of the tsunami in Japan. Ultimately, the scam was an avenue through which to attain money to feed his substance addiction. With his life falling around him, he turned to our CR. The program walked him through God’s recovery plan, which excluded his typical substance crutches and instead included the hard work of coping and growth. Now, not only does Skyler diligently serve every Tuesday night on multiple teams, but he is now a key member of the staff at Champions Centre. Once we get past our denial and understand it is actually okay to not be okay, we begin to understand that God can use our mess of a life to help someone else out of their mess. However, our life lessons are of no value to anyone else if they are never expressed. Both Sharon and Skyler are now down the road in their recovery, but they understand the value of passing forward the lessons they have learned on their path. There’s no question that the CR team works hard to facilitate such an important part of our church. However, if you ask anyone on the leadership team they will tell you the same thing: “It’s all worth the look on the person’s face when we get to celebrate a recovery milestone with them.”
The Difference A Day Makes (CD, DVD) One Day changes everything. Every person who has encountered God up close and personal can tell you about the moment, the setting, the service or the date their life was dramatically changed. God uses people like us to create places and spaces and atmospheres where people experience God in a way they have never experienced Him before.
Mind Monsters (Book, CD, Small Group Series) Mind Monsters are those negative thoughts we all battle, the creeping shadows in the corners of our minds that feed our insecurities, worries, and fears. But the good news is, you can take control. In Mind Monsters, Kevin Gerald shows you how to recognize destructive thoughts, take them captive, and use biblical truths to overcome them.
Local 253.475.6454 ext. 361 Toll free 888.935.6914 Online kevingerald.tv
CHAMPION LIFE MAGAZINE
NEW FOR SMALL GR OU PS
Exchange (2 CDs, DVD) A good relationship is like a game of pingpong. One person serves the ball or “initiates”. The other person responds or “reciprocates” and together they create an ongoing exchange. In this message, Pastors Kevin & Sheila talk through the rules of relationships and teach us how to have a healthy exchange in our relationships.
A Year of Favor (4 CDs, DVD) When Jesus proclaimed the year of the Lord's favor, He was proclaiming the era we live in today and that God is turned towards man. When you turn towards God’s favor there’s a very real experience of favor for your life: freedom, hope, weight off of your shoulders, promotions, financial increases, and times of refreshment!
Timeless (3 CDs, DVD) Have you ever wished you had more time in the day? Or wondered where time went? People romanticize about the idea of having more time. But the reality is that our time here on earth is temporal. In this message, Pastor Kevin describes a God who lives outside of time, who entered the context of time to give us hope beyond time. His love for us is timeless and if you’ve ever wondered about life and death, and a God who transcends time, this message is for you.
RESOURCE YOURSELF AT KEVINGERALD.TV
Go online to find a wealth of resources, including free videos from Kevin Gerald and MP3s of messages.
A FINISHER “now finish the work so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it.”
2 COR I N T H I A NS 8:1 1 N I V
BY Charlotte Gambill
veryone loves a strong start. There’s a certain rush of adrenaline and excitement that accompanies a new task, idea or commitment. Do you remember the last time you set out to organize every bit of clutter in the house? Or the last time you joined a gym, started a cleanse and launched a new diet? The first few days are great! The novelty of the idea or task presses us on. Over time, however, that novelty wears off and soon, what was once new is now mundane and no longer very interesting. We are often enthusiastic starters, but there is a special joy that God wants us to experience—the joy of completion. The joy of seeing that the work was worth it… The joy of surveying your work from a distance and seeing a job well done… But such joy isn’t easy to come by. Much like a marathon, we have to endure pain and struggle and fatigue and press on even when we feel like quitting. We must dare to be men & women who not only start well; but finish well. We must dare to cross the finish line.
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DARE TO BE A FINISHER
I love the story of the Good Samaritan who helped the injured man on the side of the road. When no one else would stop, he did. He bandaged his wounds…but he didn’t stop there. He took him to an inn where he was fed and cared for. And the next day, he came back to pay for any other costs involved in this man’s full restoration. The Good Samaritan finished well.
on both their best and worst days. He never threatened to leave them even when they chose to leave Him. From doubting Thomas, to a denial from Peter and a betrayal from Judas, Jesus was surrounded by people who didn’t finish what they started. And yet, He didn’t let their failure deter the completion of the work He had begun in each of them. His commitment was and is unconditional. He is the ultimate finisher.
The Word tells us that, “He who began a good work in you will see it through to completion.” For us to be true followers of Jesus, then we have to learn how to follow His commitment to finish well. Jesus stuck with His disciples
Remember in those last agonizing moments as Jesus hung on the cross, He didn’t hang His head or breathe His last breath until He uttered the words “It is finished.” He left no captive bound; no sin unforgiven; no enemy undefeated. He endured death until victory was won and our eternity secure. So what about you and me? I’m often aware of many things left undone in my life. Relationships with no closure…Hurts untreated…Loose ends abound! However, we are called to be finishers. We should be the modern day Samaritans, modeling the character of a Savior who always ends well.
He who began a good work in you will see it through to completion.
DARE TO BE A FINISHER
In our communities and families, we should be known as those who care enough to stay with people through the good and the bad. Our words should be reliable. Our commitments, as strong at the end as they are at the beginningâ€ŚWe should embody the words from the Apostle Paul and run our race until we gain our crown at the finish line. I dare you today to take an inventory of the things that you need to complete. Where are the loose ends in your life? What promises have you made that remain to be met? Projects, promises and relationships all need to have the joy of completion. Donâ€™t let your life read like an unfinished sentence. See it through to the end and dare to discover the joy of being a finisher.
your DAILY DARE: 1. 2. 3.
I dare you today to take an inventory of the things that you need to complete.
What areas do you need to commit to complete? Where have you left doors open that need to be closed?
Who is on your path that needs you to be their Good Samaritan?
Charlotte Gambill is an international speaker and author, best known for her practical and passionate application of God's word. Charlotte and her husband, Steve, are the lead Pastors at Life Church, England. They have two children, Hope Cherish and Noah Brave. This is an excerpt from Charlotte's new devotional with Natalie Grant. For more information visit www.charlottegambill.com
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k at Champions Centre e s c strong emphasis of h c a t b to si a
hat do you remember about the biggest game in football this year? Superbowl 47: Niners vs. Ravens. I think all
of us will remember this past Super Bowl, not for it’s commercials, or even it’s gameplay (and it turned out to be quite a game), but rather for something much more unexpected: a power outage. It was a 34 minute absence that changed everything. Two teams forced, by no fault of their own, to wait on the sidelines of the field while power was restored. Those unexpected moments of rest focused one team, and almost put another to sleep. It was one of the greatest momentum shifts I’ve seen in a long time, and it almost altered the outcome of the game. The trajectory of the game changed when focus was lost. Can you imagine a winning team without focus and alignment? No great team would hit the field in a big game without the right talks in the locker room first. Those unseen moments are golden to a coach and his players. They are the moments where a group of individuals become a team. They are the times when every individual has the opportunity to lay individuality aside and become one. The wins are clarified, and the strategy is set. There is one common identity for the entire team. Leadership Development in church life serves a similar purpose. It serves as the primary place of alignment and focus for our teams. In the absence of clear vision, culture, direction and leadership, even the best church teams can lose their way. If pastors and ministry leaders are not consistent in our development of others, our teams can easily enter into default mode. Our lack of clear leadership can become like a power outage. In our absence, anything can happen. Certainly, focus and alignment are two things that take the hit. At Champions Centre this year, we’ve returned to a very strong emphasis of Leadership Development. We’ve always had a vehicle through which we came together and
BY BRANDON STEWART
CULTURE EITHER EXTENDS 14
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BACK TO THE BASICS
this year, we’ve returned to a very leadership development rallied our volunteers. But this year is different. It’s special. We’ve made an intentional effort to come together, and get back to the basics of our church culture. But not in a way that would put everyone to sleep or solicit thoughts of “I’ve heard all this before” from the audience. We found our voice again, and we clarified who we are and what we’re all about. It was the perfect way to start a new year and it has been great to see it evolve as the year continues. I firmly believe that our intentional focus on alignment is something that will attract God’s favor on our team. Psalm 133 says it like this, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!...For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever.” I want our team to be one that experiences God’s blessing- life evermore! I want the favor of God on all our efforts. I want our team to be more effective in winning people for Christ than ever before. None of us want to rely on natural results alone. We want the supernatural! We want nothing short of God’s perfect plan. And what if supernatural favor is directly related to the level of unity and alignment? Great churches aren’t built by accident. And while I believe we labor in vain if God's not in it, we are still called to partner with God to do our part and open the door for God to do HIS part.
For our own leadership development this year, we chose to study culture. Why culture? Because culture is the single, most powerful force in any church. It’s stronger than vision, strategy, training, a ten-year plan, or even the anointing (yes, I said it). It is the single force determining everything about your church. The reason is this: culture eats vision for lunch. Look at it like this: vision is the church you want to have, but culture is the church you do have. And if vision and culture are out of alignment, culture wins every time. Still not convinced? Consider this example: we can say that we’re a “friendly church.” But if we have grumpy people at the front doors greeting, we don’t have a friendly church...we have a grumpy church! In this example, the vision is to be friendly, but the reality is grumpy. Culture either extends or undermines vision. If you serve on a team at your local church (and I sincerely hope you do), I cannot encourage you enough to find your church’s vehicle for leadership development and dive in headfirst. Be there every time. Make it your single goal to be in alignment with your leaders and their vision. Know the culture of your house and commit to live it every day. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give your pastor—a willing heart focused on alignment with him and the team.
OR UNDERMINES VISION SPRING/SUMMER 2013
BACK TO THE BASICS
FOR PASTORS AND CHURCH LEADERS:
Since I’ve bragged on our own leadership development efforts for this year, you’re no doubt wondering what we are doing to get good results. So, here are some practical thoughts on our approach for 2013.
WHAT WE DID... •
We returned to a strong, united call of leadership development. Every department church-wide issued the same message to their teams. We were focused, direct and succinct. And most importantly, we all said the same thing.
We communicated through grassroots efforts. One of the most impressive things to me was that we mobilized a lot of volunteers to come to a training at the outset of the year - which meant we were primarily communicating to them over the holidays. We didn’t rely on the big megaphones of video announcements or church services. We got personal. We asked our directors to know who to expect in attendance from each of their teams.
We didn’t penalize people for being busy (after all, busy people get things done). We gave them options. Every month, we hold a primary night at each campus. It is the night we advertize and mobilize people for. However, we’re also offering sufficient make-up nights to ensure that everyone in our church has the opportunity to make it to one of our leadership development nights. In the first quarter of the year, we offered five sessions each month between all of our locations. This was intentional, and people took advantage of every session. We focused on the most powerful force in our church: culture. As I mentioned above, we chose to talk about the greatest thing we could align ourselves around. We created a systematic approach to teaching our culture. And for nine months this year, this is what we’ll be doing. We issued a spiritual challenge. We spent the majority of our night talking leadership—and rightly so. We need to use sessions like these to talk about things that we can only talk about with leaders.
Having said that, we felt the night would be incomplete without issuing a strong spiritual challenge to our teams. So, we have someone give a five minute challenge (some examples: fasting, reading your Bible, prayer, etc). And we heard great reports of people who took it to heart and joined the challenge. It really added to the night. •
We celebrated a volunteer, and highlighted a ministry. You can tell the culture of a place by who its heroes are. So, we decided to create heroes by honoring volunteers who exemplify an area of our culture. Every month, we select a department in the church giving them an opportunity to honor a volunteer (at each session), as well as share a few thoughts about what is currently happening in their department.
We got people to interact with each other. Probably one of the most fun additions for us is that our teaching times are interactive. They start with discussion and are designed to get people talking. We feel people learn the best when they talk it out with others and make it personal to themselves.
We were organized, on-point and focused. We knew what we wanted to accomplish, and we put it together well. We didn’t get every detail perfect, but we were intentional and our volunteers could tell. We honored them by creating a great environment. And I believe they honor us back, by having great attendance this year.
All of this came together and produced a very electric and exciting leadership development vehicle. I’m looking forward to the next time our team is together. And in that spirit, I pray success on all of your efforts for alignment and unity this year.
Brandon is the Site Development Director at Champions Centre. He spends his time serving as an ambassador of his church, extending it's vision to equip other local churches. He believes that the greatest need facing local churches today is stronger and better leaders. Reach Brandon at email@example.com 16
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Champions Foundation Hope initiative is serving our local community. Every month teams of volunteers go into Pierce and King counties to serve our local community. From Homeless to Foster kids we are proud to partner with various organizations to bring HOPE to people closest to us. Check out Championsfoundation.com/hopelocal for more opportunities to serve local this year including LOVE week at the end of June. Here are a couple of local organizations Champions Foundation Partners with to serve our region and what volunteers are saying:
Take a look at the website:
YouthCare YouthCare (serving meals to homeless teens and young adults. A non-profit we partner with to get teenagers off the streets and on a path to work and housing) â€œI am so grateful to belong to a church with a wonderful foundation that supports our community! Many people experience their first opportunity to volunteer through Champions Foundation Outreach programs and discover their passion for serving others as I have. Serving at YouthCare is now a staple in my monthly calendar. We have outstanding volunteers who show up ready to prepare meals and serve with grace and compassion. The cohesiveness of each team we have at Youth Care is amazing. God always provides the right people to show up each month! I am forever changed with my love of serving the homeless youth in Seattle. Just the thought of providing a warm meal, a giving heart and a welcoming smile to a child who needed it that day, is a blessing.â€? - Christy Rupert
CHAMPION LIFE MAGAZINE
Tree House Tree House (Temporary housing for families whose child is in the hospital. A non-profit we partner with through Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital) “Richard and I met a family last Spring at the Tree House who ended up coming to Team Church Conference and stayed at our place during that week. Well they came to church a few weekends ago! They made a point to come say hi to us in the Coffee Shop and they are doing great! They still live down south pretty far but they live stream often and come up as much as possible. The mom is still searching for Full-time teaching jobs out this way because she wants her family to be out in this area and going to CC. Her son's condition is stable, he looked GREAT and the daughter is fulfilling her dreams this Spring and will be going to Japan as a Missionary! We are continuing to agree in prayer with them for favor in finding mom a fulltime job and continued health and healing for her son!” - Ashley & Richard Barnes
< “We have loved volunteering at YouthCare! It's very fulfilling & such a blessing coming together with other volunteers with one goal & purpose: to make a difference in these teens lives by providing them a good, healthy meal served up with love & prayers. It's nice getting to know some of their names & engaging in a bit of light conversation as they go through the dinner line. You can't help at YouthCare without your heart & perspective being changed in a huge way. Joining together as a team is fun and a way to connect with others and we've met new volunteers we didn't know before. To be even a small part of this by preparing & providing these teens a meal, is a huge blessing & honor!” - Kevin & Carrie Chase
[to give text ‘champions’ to 80888] ($5 donated with each text)
BY KEVIN GERALD
ave you ever asked, “Why me?” or “Why, God?” If we’re honest, we all would admit we experience times of uncertainty, times when our situations cause us to wonder and question God. I’m probably not supposed to admit that I am including myself in this statement, but I experience this, too. I was scared when we merged two churches over 20 years ago. It scares me to try new things, like adding new services, or starting a new campus in Bellevue or expanding to North Tacoma. I feel BOLD in moments, and then sometimes it’s followed by complete and total uncertainty. But, at the end of the day I have to remind myself God has favor planned for my future, and He has favor planned for YOUR future too!
Before the New Testament in the Bible when Jesus came to the planet, God had a tendency to turn toward, and away, from man. When Jesus proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor, He wasn't proclaiming a calendar year of God's favor. Instead he was proclaiming the era we live in today, where God has turned toward man. In other words, it’s not a question of whether God’s favor is turned toward mankind or not, because God’s favor is ready and available for humanity right now. In fact, the challenge we have today is not God turning away from man, but man turning away from God. So how do we tap into this readily available favor of God? Think about these guidelines and then we’ll look at one person (of many) from the Bible who experienced enormous favor from God.
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BE OBEDIENT. Rather than being stubborn toward God, be quick to obey His word and instructions for your life. •
Proverbs 8:34-35 says, “Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life, and receive favor from the Lord.” Isaiah 1:19 says, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land.”
I don’t always want to do what God is teaching me to do. Sometimes, what He’s telling me to do is the exact opposite of what I may want to do. You may not want to read the Bible more. If a sports app is more appealing to you, I understand! If reading a novel is more appealing to you, I understand (kind of)! You may have resistance to prayer or giving. I get it. However, we won’t eat the best of the land and experience God’s favor doing only what we want to do. We eat the best of the land—experience God's favor —when we stop resisting and start embracing God’s commands to form new habits in our life. Oftentimes, we don’t see where the path of obedience takes us until we walk that path. We don’t see the new relationships, the doors of opportunity, the new and better person we become. Even though we may not be able to see those things until we begin to walk the path of obedience, the truth is that nothing can compare to the favor that comes into our lives through obedience to God.
RECEIVE GOD’S FAVOR AS A PRODUCT OF GOD’S GRACE.
It’s very hard for us, especially some personalities, to receive something that we know we don’t deserve. So, if you’re thinking
“I don’t deserve God’s favor,” you’re absolutely right! None of us do. That is what is so amazing about God’s grace—it is His unmerited (or unearned) favor in our lives. Turning toward His favor means we give up on earning His favor, and start thanking Him for His favor. Rejoicing in His favor. Proclaiming His favor. The reality is, God’s thoughts of favor and goodness are constant and unchanging. He’s locked into one mode about us right now. He looks on us with favor. His plans for us haven’t changed. He doesn’t change His thoughts toward us: • • • •
Your sin doesn’t change His thoughts about you. Your fear doesn’t change His thoughts about you. You doubts don’t change His thoughts about you. Your distractions from Him haven’t changed His thoughts about you.
He is always turned in favor toward you. One person said it like this, “If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring, and a sunrise every morning. Face it, He’s crazy about you!” I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised at the extent of God’s favor, sometimes. After witnessing some seasons of self-willed screw-ups and poor decisions, when people turn toward Him, no matter what they’ve done, God’s favor was still there. He truly doesn’t change His position. No lightning bolts, no exclusions or condemnation. Just favor. It’s up to you and I to simply receive it.
BE MINDFUL OF GOD’S BENEFITS. When man is turned away from God’s favor, he forgets all God’s benefits. Take a look at what the Psalmist writes here, “Praise
the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” (Psalm 103:2-5). It can become a question of which comes first: Do I turn to God first and then see His favor? or Do I remind myself of God's favor and then turn back to Him? Whether we're in good times or hard times, it seems when we become aware or mindful of God's benefits we are more likely to turn to Him. You see, troubles and hardship do not mean lack of favor, even though oftentimes, it causes us to feel this way. A lot of people in the Bible were in the flow of God’s favor and still experienced trouble. People like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Daniel, Joshua, Esther, and Deborah. Even Jesus Himself experienced trouble walking in the flow of God’s favor. It will be the same in your own life. Favor doesn’t mean the absence of problems; it just means that God’s favor will be with you even through your problems. Stand in faith! What has kept you from turning toward God? Is there an offense that you need to turn from? Is there a decision that you’ve been stubborn about making? Is it time to start a new habit that God’s been talking to you about? When you turn toward God, get ready to experience His favor. Now, lets talk about the simultaneous favor of God and man. In Luke 2:52 it says that Jesus "grew in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man." It would be easy to think that this means that everything will go our way and everyone will like us. However, I think we can agree that just because you’re a good person doesn’t mean that everyone is going to like you. And, being a Christ follower doesn’t change that. In fact, in some cases being a Christ follower may cause some people to like you less. Not everyone is going to be for you
—and many will, in fact, be against you. Luke 2:52 is not saying that everyone liked Jesus. So, get used to it… not everyone will like you. Some people in your own family will be your harshest critics. Some people at work just won’t get you. The only way to avoid criticism is to stand for nothing, do nothing, and say nothing. The reason I’m bringing this up is because I don’t want you to assume that this idea of God's favor is intended to say that you’re not going to have any enemies or critics in your life. But, I do want you to realize that when you walk in the favor of God, it’s safe to assume the favor of man will show up, too. In fact, God almost always brings His favor through people so that you experience simultaneous favor from God and men. It comes in unusual ways, at strategic times from unexpected places… and when it does, it’s not because of who you are, but because of whose you are! We belong to God's family when we're obedient to His word, and we receive his unmerited favor when we turn ourselves to Him. Besides Jesus, a lot of people in the Bible experienced the favor of God and man. I’d like to take some time to focus on one person: Ruth. Ruth had a lot of setbacks and disappointments early in life. Her husband died young, as did her father-in-law and brother-in-law. Around this same time, there was a severe famine in the land and food was scarce. Ruth’s only source of food was to go out in the fields every morning to glean wheat left over by the reapers. That’s how she survived, and also how she helped her mother-in-law survive.
GOD ALMOST ALWAYS BRINGS HIS FAVOR THROUGH PEOPLE.
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Note that she wasn’t just going to work with a sense of duty. She went to work with confidence that she would experience man’s favor. She wasn’t looking for pity, or to beg or look weak. She was going out to work! Look for favor in your life and don't expect it to come with shortcuts or quick fixes. Resist the urge to feel like people who have more than you owe you something. Ruth’s attitude was to show up with the best work ethic and a hope that the harvesters would have a desire to pass along some “hard to get to harvest” for her to work on, and that she would have opportunities to harvest for herself and her mother-in-law.
speaking kindly to your servant—though I do not have the standing of one of your servants.” (Ruth 2:10-13) Boaz told her that she was welcome to glean in the fields, and then when she left the table – he told one of his workers to intentionally leave extra wheat in her path.
One day, the owner of the field, Boaz, noticed her and asked his workers about her. They told Boaz that she came and asked for permission to glean in the fields. Boaz invited her to come to the lunch table.
Ruth went on to marry Boaz and the field she once gleaned in she became an owner of! It all happened because Ruth decided to keep a good attitude, work hard, and believe for God's favor to show up in her life. And she experienced favor from God and man!
“At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She asked him, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me – a foreigner?” Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since
You don’t always know whom God will use to bless your life! When you walk in favor, people will go out of their way to do what they are not obligated to do for you. Favor is not about obligating people to do something for you. Favor is when people want to do something for you that they don't have to do.
You may feel overlooked and unnoticed. You may feel pressure to compromise your integrity to compete at work. Stay confident in God’s favor! Something happens when we are
SOMETHING HAPPENS WHEN WE ARE CONFIDENT OF GOD’S FAVOR —IT RELEASES US FROM STRIVING TO GET MAN’S FAVOR. the death of your husband – how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge." “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, my lord”, she said. “You have put me at ease by
confident of God’s favor—it releases us from striving to get man’s favor. Don’t believe the lies that tell you nothing good is in store for you. Be faithful where you are with what you have. We miss out on God’s best when we give up too soon. Know that God has favor planned for your future!
BECAUSE OF YOUR GIVING… WE TRUST IN GOD FOR EVERYTHING.
“BRING THE WHOLE TITHE INTO THE STOREHOUSE, THAT THERE MAY BE FOOD IN MY HOUSE. TEST ME IN THIS, AND SEE IF I WILL NOT THROW OPEN THE FLOODGATES OF HEAVEN AND POUR OUT SO MUCH BLESSING THAT THERE WILL NOT BE ROOM ENOUGH TO STORE IT.” M AL ACHI 3:10
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REAL LIFE CHAMPIONS
THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES OF A STORY, THANKFULLY OURS CONTINUES THE SAME…
My name is Joshua Ortiz, I’m a believer of Jesus Christ and I am victorious over drug addictions, abandonment, lust, lying, and thievery. I grew up in a loving home of two parents and 3 brothers. I was raised as Christian and I began attending Champion Centre when I was in 6th grade at Cascade Christian Elementary. Since fourth grade, my drug of choice was marijuana; however marijuana was just the gateway to cocaine, ecstasy, and alcohol. I think it is important to take you back to my childhood… because I believe moving a lot was detrimental. I have lived in three different states, eight different cities and have attended thirteen different schools. Socially, I adapted to the environment that was most accepting, which was usually bad company… and we all know that bad company corrupts good character. I say this because I was raised in a Christian home and I knew right from wrong. But, it was that bad company that influenced me to continuously choose wrong over right. I was always looking for a way to buy my next high. I did everything I could for other people, so when it required lying to my parents, fighting for a friend, or stealing, I did it. As I got older, I lived a double life. When I was at home I did what was asked and when I was away from home I did what I wanted. Eventually, the lifestyle became evident to my parents. My dad was strict and I resented him for his strong discipline. This resulted in a physical altercation, which led me to getting kicked out of the house. Not too long after I had gotten kicked out of the house I found out from a classmate that my parents and little brother were moving to New York. I felt like my parents didn’t care enough to tell me themselves, and I experienced my first feeling of abandonment. They gave me a choice: I could stay in Washington on my own, or I could follow my Dad’s rules and go with them to New York. I chose Washington, and my girlfriend at the time, Mayra. We had been together for about 9 months, and I ended up moving in with her family. When we found out Mayra was pregnant, I felt the need to provide. I sold drugs and stole what I could. I didn’t have enough credits to graduate high school. In 2007 I was charged with possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. I took a plea deal and did a 6-month treatment program for drugs; I completed the program and was never sober. Mayra stuck by me through it all, but our relationship was hanging by a thread. SPRING/SUMMER 2013
Mayra went into labor on Dec. 24, 2007, and our son Jaidon was born on Christmas morning. I was under the influence when my son was born. I didn’t know how to be a father; I felt more pressure than ever. I was in and out of jobs, and was introduced to another way of making money: robbing houses. It wasn’t long before I found myself in the back of a cop car. I knew I was going to spend a lot of time in prison. I was charged with three counts of burglary in the first degree with seven gun enhancements: I was facing up to 40 years in prison. I ended up getting bailed out of jail and fought my case on the outside. I tried to pick up the pieces, and started by asking Mayra to be my wife. Mayra had recommitted her life to Christ, and she and I began attending church together. Two weeks out of jail, my buddy Nick Davila landed me a job with him. I still struggled with marijuana use. In October of 2008, Mayra and I were married. The anticipation of the incarceration was heavy, I felt a lot of pressure to set things straight before I had to go in. In January 2009, I took a plea for theft in the third degree and unlawful possession of a firearm and I was to turn myself in on February 23, 2009 to complete my sentence of 51 months. When my incarceration began, I remained under the watchful eye and protection of God. I began to see a glimpse into the life God had planned for me. I saw Mayra’s faithfulness and obedience to God’s word, and the life of blessing she was beginning to live on the outside. I felt blessed. Nobody in my unit had visitors every week, extended family visits once a month, a locker full of food, money on my postage account, and weekly phone calls from home. I got into Bible studies and started attending church. I had a brother at McNeil with me, Juan Woods, who took me under his wing and encouraged me. I saw the anointing and blessing upon his life. But, my addiction to marijuana was still a heavy bondage. I had made marijuana my idol. I was smoking a lot and surrounding myself with bad company, still. Mayra understood putting God first in everything, including our marriage, but I was putting Mayra first and was building my foundation on our relationship. I told Mayra the truth about my bondage 26
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to marijuana, and she gave me an ultimatum. I began to think of life without my wife and son, and I couldn’t take that chance. I began to confront the issues in my life that were hindering me from receiving the full power of redemption, and I placed God at the center of it all. In early 2011, I experienced my ONE DAY. I ended up attending a church service and seeing the power of God move in another offender’s life. I wanted that in my own life. At an extended family visit with my wife, I shared the testimony of the man that had touched my heart and I found myself crying out, asking her why God wasn’t working in my life in the way He was working for others around me. I felt like I had hit a spiritual wall that I just couldn’t get over. I was crying out to God that night as I wept to my wife. That night, my wife prayed with me, and after that, things began to change. I found purpose and knew that I was put on this earth to spread The Gospel of Jesus Christ in ministry; first in my family and then to the lost. I knew God wanted me home for my family and because He always had had big things planned for me. This is why temptation was so strong, all my life. The enemy takes advantage of our weaknesses and uses them to take us off course. I am so glad that God can use any situation for good and turn it into a victory. I knew I was eligible for a program called FOSA: Family Offender Sentencing Alternative. I submitted my application for it September of 2011, when I was a year from my release. I believed that blessing and favor comes directly from obedience to God, and I felt that through the last 6 months of prayer and my obedience, God was creating a new season for me. Less than three months later, my wife received a call letting her know that her husband had been approved for FOSA and would be home the following Thursday. My wife had been on a fast believing for my release before the New Year, and on the 21st day of her fast, I was home. “Now to him who gives exceedingly more abundant than anything you can think or ask for” (Ephesians 3:20) I am currently a little over a year into my release, and God has continued to hold strong in my life. I am 1 year and 6 months sober, I am working full-time, and I get to enjoy my (now) two beautiful children. I get to come home to the most faithful and loving woman I know, I am getting opportunities in life that I would have never imagined, and I get to serve in the most amazing church on the
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planet. Celebrate Recovery has helped me understand the importance of accountability and support, and I will never take for granted the power of this community.
My name is Mayra Ortiz and I am a grateful believer in Christ, who is overcoming codependency, grief and loss, and insecurities. I am 22 years old and was born and raised in Washington. I am the youngest of three and have an older brother and an older sister. My father was a Captain in the Army and my mother was a very traditional Latin woman. I remember going everywhere as a family until I was about 9 or 10. I grew up overweight and looked to sports to try and find my self-worth. A childhood friend introduced me to a Christian church when I was about 12. I went to church with her as often as my parents would allow. My family hit bankruptcy around this time so our household became very stressful. My family went from being a united unit to focusing on taking care of individual needs. I was smart, made varsity in all sports I played, I was friendly, popular, well known by teachers, known as a leader. It was easy to get away with drinking and drugs. While I never did drugs, I did drink a couple of times out of pressure… after all, everyone was doing it. Going into the second year of my relationship with Josh, I became pregnant. I was a senior in high school. This crushed my family and teachers… I was always seen as a good, hard-working student. Josh had been kicked out of our house, and was homeless on the streets. He was drinking, smoking weed, selling drugs, and messing with weapons. I was scared to raise my child on my own so I continued to justify the things he was doing, enabling him in every bad habit, hurt, and hang-up he had. I was stuck in a codependent lifestyle. I always felt that I had to do what was best for Josh. I began to notice my pattern, and I fought back by reading God’s word and gaining understanding of the calling He put over my life. I dove right into ministry, serving as much as I could. I made sure to surround myself with people that were going to challenge me and help me succeed. However, I was struggling with severe anxiety and depression about life on my own while Josh was gone. I had several panic attacks every day that controlled my life. I even thought about suicide. As Josh came closer to incarceration, he began encouraging me to find strength in our marriage, our child, our testimony, but most importantly - to find strength in Jesus. This is where I began to pray and seek God intimately. God showed me that I no longer had to be held down by guilt or fear. He showed me that He had already fought those battles for me. Josh and I got baptized a month before he went to jail to serve his time. I left all of my depression, fear and anxiety down in that water, and I emerged a new person, forever transformed. I began to be the
daughter of Christ I was called to be, I began to be the wife I was called to be, I began to be the mother I was called to be, and best of all, I was at peace with my situation. I felt confident that I was going to be okay during Josh’s incarceration. Our second child, Elliawna, was born about two months before Joshua came home. Joshua and I have been blessed with great jobs, and I will be graduating this May. Our older boy just turned five and he is 49 pounds of pure energy and life. We would be nowhere without the support and direction of Celebrate Recovery. I came into CR to fill a need for CR’s youth ministry, The Landing. I never knew that in the process, I would be spiritually transformed even more than I had been. God was calling me to lead the next generation in making God the center of their world, in the midst of their hurts, habits or hang-ups. I am now a ministry leader of The Landing at Champions Centre and I wouldn’t believe you if you told me that my students learn more from me than I do from them. Psalm 71:18 says, “Even when I am old and gray, Do not forsake me until I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” Our children are important and they deserve parents and leaders who are not ashamed to deal with their hurts, and who are humble enough to receive direction in their recovery through God. I have never understood the importance of life more than I have this last Christmas. I was very ill for a couple weeks leading up to Christmas. I finally decided to go get myself checked out, and I found out I was miscarrying our third child. I was devastated; I was angry and depressed, not understanding how God could have allowed this to happen. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12). Even in the midst of hurt, God was there to comfort me, and to heal and fulfill promises that His word taught me. I have peace in my heart that surpasses all understanding, a peace that only He can give me. The thief may come to kill, steal, and destroy but Jesus comes to give life! Just a week ago, I went in for a routine check-up after my miscarriage… and I am overjoyed to announce that we are expecting again! Our journey is not over, and we are sure more obstacles will come our way but we are confident that the same power that raised Christ from the grave lives in us and that power will continue to claim victory over any adversity. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 “Death is swallowed up in victory. Oh Death where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who give us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”
K. WISE the underestimated pathway of favor he past couple of years we have had an influx of babies being welcomed into the world by some of our younger staff members. These new babies do nothing to deserve the love and constant care the parents will provide them. It's unconditional favor. These parents will release favor in these lives forever! There is something that I like to call "increasing favor" that these kids can experience as they grow, which is largely determined by how they grow in wisdom. In much the same way, the unearned, undeserved favor of God is on your life today! This favor is unstoppable because it’s unconditional. But wisdom will increase the flow of favor in your life. The path of wisdom is an underestimated pathway of favor. God's word is full of wisdom. And, wisdom is intended to lead us in the paths of favor. It's no coincidence that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). Wisdom brings favor because wisdom is thinking at a higher level. It's literally thinking like God thinks. Imagine if God were you—not if you were God—but if God were you, how would His decisions differ from the ones you've made in your life? The way He thinks produces favor. The sooner we can train our minds in wisdom, the sooner we can be on our way in a journey of increasing favor. For example, when I use wisdom in my finances—following a budget, giving my tithe and offerings, making good decisions with my money—I leave the door open for God to bring blessings and favor into my life. I understand God's unmerited favor (His grace on my life) cannot be earned or altered based on my actions. But the increasing favor on our lives that is unrelated to our salvation finds us as we walk on the path of wisdom.
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. (Proverbs 3:13-18 NIV)
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“When you plant a seed of favor you can expect a harvest of favor.” Dave Martin