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College Students: 5 ways to avoid a restless winter break

Posted in Students, Adults, Community Life  |  By Kevin Naylor  |  Posted on Mon Dec 12, 2016

College Students: 5 ways to avoid a restless winter break

Most of us run so hard during the semester that by the time we get to winter break we don’t know what to do with "free time” – whatever that is. We think that simply having free time will mean that we will rest. But we have all had breaks where we had all the free time we could want and yet end up more restless at the end of the break than when it began. Simply having time off from homework and class does not ensure that you will be able to rest. We do not rest by simply not having anything to do. That can actually make us rest less. In order to rest we cease doing things that drain us and focus on things that refresh us. So here are some suggestions on how to have a restful and not a restless winter break.

1. Receive Grace. 

Jesus is our rest. He frees us from our constant and exhausting striving to prove ourselves to God. He says to us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) We can have rest through Christ because he bore the greatest restlessness on the cross – separation from the Father and the punishment for sin that he did not commit. This is the good news of Christ. And it is news that our souls need every day.

How do we rest in the rest Christ provides? We do this largely through what the church has called “means of grace.” These are avenues by which God assures us of his loving disposition towards us in Christ, allowing us to know him in a deep and real way – and subsequently to rest. Among other things the means of grace include: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, community, hearing Scripture read and explained, and personal Scripture reading and prayer.

The devotional acts of reading, meditating, journaling, and praying through Scripture are some of the key ways the Spirit reveals God’s true heart for us in Christ. Grab a bible, a pen, a journal, set an alarm to go off in 30 minutes so you’re not constantly checking the time, and see what God might do. There’s no wrong place to start.  

 2. Worship Corporately.

 As Western Christians we tend to focus almost exclusively on private ways of growing in love for God and others. We focus a lot on reading Scripture and praying by ourselves (“devotions” or “quiet times”) – which we should. But we often neglect corporate means of grace such as weekly worship services and community groups. 

What does is it look like to engage in corporate worship? It involves more than showing up and sitting in a pew. It is easy to get into the habit of attending church services just because that is what you do in the South on Sundays.  Even if you don’t always like the preaching or always connect with the music it means attending a worship service with a sense of expectation that God himself will speak to you as the gospel unfolds through the service. 

What if you prayed before the service that your heart would be prepared to receive? What if you prayed for the pastor preaching? What if you prayed for the people you would talk to before and after the service, that you would be able to find ways to encourage and comfort them with the good news of Jesus Christ? What if you finished the service by praying that the church as a whole would respond in repentance and belief to the Word preached?

Engaging in corporate worship can do wonders for our souls. Whether you choose to attend your home church or a different church in your hometown, don’t miss the benefit of the Sundays between the fall and the spring semesters.

3. Expect Temptation.

 If Jesus is the source of our rest, then sin is the key cause of our restlessness. Breaks provide unique opportunities for the enemy to whisper his subtle lies in our ears. Be aware that being back home with a lot of free time will remind your heart of old temptations and stir up new ones. Sin tempts us with the promise of satisfaction, fulfillment, and deliverance. But take hope because we have a better satisfaction, lasting fulfilment, and truer deliverance that are ours perfectly in Christ. 

The beautiful thing about the gospel is that it provides us safety to be honest with ourselves (and others) about the true state of our souls without feeling condemned. The reality is that we are all five minutes away from destroying our lives. So let’s look to Jesus in the moment of temptation, thank him in the moment of victory, and cling to him in the moment of failure.  

4. Stop Scrolling.

 Nothing gives the illusion of rest like scrolling through social media.  We think we are resting because we are on the couch, free from work with phone in hand.  But the constant scrolling keeps our minds hyper-stimulated with a stream of disconnected tweets, blogs, statuses, and images. Our attention is diverted every two seconds with a new post. This constant stimulation makes us restless even as we image it to be restful.  

When we look to social media to give us rest we fail to realize that rest takes work. I’ll say that again: rest takes work. We don’t accidently rest. Rest necessitates focused attention to that which energizes us. Social media scrolling acts as a pacifier for the restless. It distracts for a little while but it doesn’t solve the problem. Always scrolling; never resting.

Often our phones are the main hindrance to our rest. So what if you shut down your phone for an hour each day of the break to put energy towards something that actually refreshed you? Or what if you took a fast from social media for a week? What kind of rest would be available to us if we disconnected for even a little while?

5. Engage Family.

While you’re disconnected from your phone, connect with your family. Ask them questions. Tell them you love them. Share with them what you are learning. Consider their needs and serve them. We can easily slip back into “kid mode” when going home for breaks during college. Kid mode is characterized by taking, not giving. Don’t be alarmed by this, but: you’re an adult. You have the privilege and responsibility to serve your family by giving and not simply taking.

What does this have to do with not being restless? As our Lord said, “It is better to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) By taking initiative to be more present and engaged with your family you will be blessed and find rest.

I recognize that this is easier for some than others. Some of you have a wonderful family that you can’t wait to see and spend time with. But some of you might have a painful relationship with your family and you are dreading going home.  If you find yourself with a difficult family, I encourage you to focus on prayerfully taking small steps in this direction. We can do this because our Lord Jesus made us his family members when we were his enemies.

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Community Engagement at Shades

Posted in Adults  |  By Steve Browning  |  Posted on Mon Dec 5, 2016

Community Engagement at Shades

“We don’t go anywhere.”

These were the words of the young man buying our old air hockey/pool table combo. He saw the table for sale on Facebook and had come by to haul it off. As we prepped the table to be moved, I asked him for his story. He grew up “Over The Mountain,” graduated from a local high school, and served in the military. Afterward, he returned to the area to raise his family. 

When we lifted the table onto the trailer, he asked what I did for a living. I told him that I was one of the pastors at Shades Mountain Baptist Church.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve driven by there many times before," he said. "On Columbiana right?” 

“That’s the one,” I told him. 

“Where do you go to church?” The question was in the natural flow of conversation. It didn’t catch him off guard or offend him that I asked.

He matter-of-factly responded, “We don’t go anywhere.”

Here is someone that has driven past our church many times. He knows the location, has seen banners advertising our events, and has never stepped in the door. The days of people coming to church simply because there is a church to go to are long gone. In fact, statistics tell us that nearly half of people who live Over The Mountain “don’t go anywhere.”

This breaks the heart of God. He has created people for a thriving, meaningful relationship with Himself. Jesus gave His life so that people would enter into a relationship with God and become part of the movement known as His Church. We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch our community trickle away from God. So what do we do?

It is time for us to engage our community. Shades Mountain Baptist Church is launching a new initiative aimed at making a difference Over The Mountain for the Gospel. Community Engagement is about three things:

  • Serving our Institutions
  • Sharing with Individuals
  • Starting New Endeavors

Serving Our Institutions: Our schools and first responders need our support. In the coming months we will make a significant investment to bless our community institutions Over The Mountain. We will adopt schools in our own neighborhoods. We will tangibly bless our first responders through building relationships, bringing meals, and training chaplains from our own congregation. We will expand our partnerships so that our community institutions know that Shades cares.

Sharing with Individuals: God has uniquely positioned our church membership through the community. In many neighborhoods and businesses, there are people from Shades who can share the Gospel with people who are in desperate need of it. In the days ahead, we will equip hundreds of Shades members with effective ways to share their faith and help others begin a relationship with Jesus.

Starting New Endeavors: Across our community, there are pockets of people in neighborhoods without a strong, gospel-preaching local church. Perhaps it is because some of the churches in that area are in decline and getting ready to close their doors. Perhaps it is because there is no church at all to be a witness in that part of the community. Shades will begin new endeavors in church planting, church revitalization, and/or starting campuses Over The Mountain to meet the need.

Our hope in Community Engagement is not to get everyone in the community in the doors of our church, but to get our church into the community. We see a day coming when Shades is more than a church that someone drives by on Columbiana Road. We imagine a day when Shades will bring life and light to every road in the community Over The Mountain. 

I hope that you will join us in this new and exciting vision. May God use every effort of Shades in Community Engagement to bring people into a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ!

If you are interesting in joining and leading within this effort, please email Steve Browning at sbrowning@shades.org

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The arts and the Gospel

Posted in Worship  |  By Michael Adler  |  Posted on Mon Nov 28, 2016

The arts and the Gospel

All of my adult life I have loved the mission of helping to creatively set the stage to tell the Gospel story. 

On many occasions I’ve gotten to work with brilliant, highly gifted people; artists whose virtuosity was heads above the rest. 

I’ve worked with those who aspired to be great, giving their all and working at every opportunity to refine and develop their gifts. 

I’ve worked with folks who were just hard working, devoted saints without a lot of flourish or flair. They could swing a hammer or paint a flat or sew a tunic. 

But collectively, when this group comes together and -- shoulder-to-shoulder -- they lean into their one big thing, something wonderful is about to bloom and flourish and find its place in one whose heart is ready to hear. 

Telling the Gospel story has been a part of the life and calling of believers since Jesus gave us the definitive “go” in Matthew 28. But Jesus didn’t just hang this centuries old command around our necks without an instruction manual. 

His methods for explaining this new life to the people of His time were simple. He could take something as common as a seed, or a pearl, or some yeast, or even a child to stimulate the mind and the imaginations of His listeners. He knew his audience, and He knew how to creatively use tools that were familiar to them in order to bring clarity to his message. He used every prop that was available to Him whether it was a fisherman’s net or a stick etching a compelling message in the sand. 

His storytelling, and the visuals He added to them, drew audiences from miles around. More often than not, He left those audiences with transformative questions and new tools for living life based on His Kingdom perspective. 

Time moved on, and His story was not only the subject of the preacher in the city square. 

His story was the subject of oratorios and dance, of painting and sculpture. Stories written to deftly intertwine Christian themes began to populate the landscape of both literature and entertainment. Writers such as Tolkein and C.S. Lewis brought God’s redemptive story to the populace through brilliant allegories and captivating storytelling.

And today a new generation of believers rises up to bring light to this world and life to those who will listen. Today, our calling remains the same.  

The ultimate Creator has called us, His creation, to declare His greatness to all the nations. While a bullhorn and soapbox might create the most volume, the creative gifts found within the body of Christ have proven far more effective in finding their way to a listening heart. Our message remains the same, and we are compelled to craft new ways to repeat the sounding joy.  

Joy to the World! The Lord is Come!

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Why it's important to be thankful as a family

Posted in Adults  |  By Stephanie Hartsell  |  Posted on Mon Nov 21, 2016

Why it's important to be thankful as a family

As we look forward to Thanksgiving this week, we are all more aware of the need to be thankful. As parents we desire for our children to say thank you and to be grateful for the many blessings they have such as nice homes, more than enough clothes to wear, food on the table, and so on. In our give me, give me world, helping our children (and ourselves for that matter) have an attitude of gratitude can be a challenge. 

So what does the Bible say about being thankful?

1 Thessalonians 5:18-  “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Having an attitude of gratitude is God’s will for us. 
Ephesians 5:20- “ giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” We are to give thanks always and for everything.
Colossians 3:15- “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”  We are to let peace rule in our hearts and be thankful. 

What does a thankful heart look like? It is a heart that counts blessings, is happy with simple pleasures of life, and expresses gratitude for everything given, both to God and to man. 

A scientific experiment done at the University of California showed that those who spent ten weeks journaling things they were grateful for had higher levels of well-being, had more optimistic expectations, felt they had more connectedness to others, and were more willing to help others compared to the other groups who either journaled about things that annoyed or irritated them or journaled about things that had a major impact on them. 

How can you practice thankful more in your home?

  • Model being thankful.
  • Pray asking God to help your family have an attitude of gratitude.
  • Initiate conversation around the dinner table by having everyone name one thing they were thankful for that day.
  • Once a month, have family members go around and say, “I am thankful for ________ because _________.” Everyone must say one thing they are thankful for about each person.
  • Volunteer with Urban Purpose or Jimmie Hale Mission and serve those less fortunate.
  •  Have a “no complaining” day.

It is God’s will for us to be thankful in all things, all the time. When we teach and model an attitude of gratitude to our children, it helps strengthen our families as well as our relationship with God.

Reference:

Emmons, R. A. & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389

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2016 Party Platform Comparison

Posted in Uncategorized  |  By Jordan Cox  |  Posted on Mon Sep 26, 2016

2016 Party Platform Comparison

"I don't prefer either candidate, so I'm just not going to vote."

Hold that thought.

Last weekend, we embarked on a journey during which we'll hear sermons on each of our six measures of personal spiritual growth. Part of these next two months, parallel to a study of our measures, will be a time of concentrated fasting and prayer for our nation and November's presidential election.

This is a not a post to tell you for whom you should vote. It's not a post to spell out any specific political leanings we have as a church. (Hint: There are none.)

What we're challenging is that we all spend intentional time praying for our country. Praying for the person that will lead it through much of the next decade. Praying for the men and women who serve to protect the freedoms we have to vote and also to worship freely.

Our own Cameron Smith put together an incredibly useful guide for the platforms of both major political parties. It's not editorialized, nor does it have the opinions of Cameron or our pastor. This guide examines 22 major issues and summarizes with bullet points where each party falls on each issue.

Read it. Study it. Pray. Be an informed citizen, and vote for whomever you feel would be most loyal to their party's platform and which platform you feel most honors God.

View 2016 Party Platform Comparison

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Marriage Conference | What Did You Expect?

Posted in Adults  |  By Jordan Cox  |  Posted on Wed Aug 24, 2016

Marriage Conference | What Did You Expect?

Expectations can be burdensome. We face expectations of ourselves and others at work, in our free time, and even at home.

Perhaps where expectations project the most burden and stress is in our marriages. Viewing ourselves and marriage through the incorrect lens can create crippling circumstances, but even when all is right within our marriages and life can't seem to get any better, it's beneficial to be reminded that our marriages are not for our personal satisfaction. Marriage is an act of worship of a holy God.

We were honored to host pastor and author Paul David Tripp in August for Marriage Conference: What Did You Expect? During our four sessions together, Paul cemented the Gospel in our hearts and minds. He didn't preach marriage; he preached the Cross of Christ.

If you missed one of the sessions, or were unable to be with us, associate pastor Chad Cossiboom sat down with Paul for a conversation. Parts one, two, and three are below.

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Shades Stories

Posted in Worship  |  By Jordan Cox  |  Posted on Sun Jul 31, 2016

Shades Stories

We're proud to announce Shades Stories, a campaign telling the stories of 50 people whose lives have been sent, transformed, and influenced.

The men, women, children, and families we will introduce to you during the coming months aren't special. They've been obedient to the work God has done and is doing in their lives. For some, it's been through tragedy. For others, triumph. Some may seem completely normal, but God is in the midst of each story.

As you'll see in the promotional film above, these stories will take place in a variety of different mediums: from print to film, art installations to posters.

No person is the hero. Shades isn't the hero. Our prayer through these stories is that you'll sit back and say, "Only God."

In a couple weeks, Shades Stories will have a new home on this website. There, you'll find a form through which you can submit your story or the story of someone you know. We'd love to tell yours or theirs.

You have a story. Every story matters.

Shades Stories.

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Several ways to be a thoughtful neighbor on the Fourth of July

Posted in Uncategorized  |  By Bradley Patton  |  Posted on Thu Jun 30, 2016

Several ways to be a thoughtful neighbor on the Fourth of July

The Fourth of July weekend is upon us. This calls for charcoal, meat, ice cream, lemonade, friends, family, fireworks, and America. Put on your red, white, and blue, and get ready to celebrate the long weekend!

Celebrations are good. There is value in gathering together with other people to celebrate a common interest. The Fourth of July is especially unique because almost every American citizen can appreciate this holiday. For this reason, Christians should be especially thoughtful in how they celebrate this weekend. As followers of Christ, we should let him be our guide for thoughtful celebrations (consider: the Lord’s Supper and Baptism for starters, alongside many other celebrations in Scripture like the wedding where he turned water to wine in John 2). That said, here are several ways to be a thoughtful neighbor over the July Fourth weekend:

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Summer Missions at Shades

Posted in Missions  |  By Jordan Cox  |  Posted on Mon Jun 20, 2016

Summer Missions at Shades

If you’ve been a part of the Shades family, you likely know this. If you’re new to Shades, you’ll find out quickly:

Living a life on mission is the core of who we are.

Summer is a great time to leverage our resources and gifts for the Kingdom of God. We send out more teams during the summer months than at any time during the year. We also see generations spanning one another to impact our world for Christ.

Through mid-June, we’ve sent out eight teams. We’ll commission and send out five more through August. 13 teams in the span of four months. Missions isn’t a value or call we’ve had to buy and sell; as a church family we’ve heeded the importance God placed in Scripture of taking the gospel to the nations.

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Adopted Women's Conference

Posted in Adults, Caring  |  By Jordan Cox  |  Posted on Tue Apr 19, 2016

Adopted Women's Conference

“What I say won’t get you through the next week, but the stories of the ladies around you can get you through seasons.”

That’s a profoundly humble, startlingly self-aware statement from a guest speaker.

It’s what Lisa Harper told a room of 300-plus women last weekend during Adopted, Women’s Conference 2016.

One of those stories is Holli Parker.

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