Skeletons

The skeleton: a collection of hollow and lifeless bones with no agenda beyond a slow and sluggish decomposition.

The skeletons in our lives: the past. Maybe it was a single event or a phone call. Maybe it was a series of events or a season. Or maybe it was a lifelong battle that has led to shame and guilt, destruction and disaster, heartbreak and hurts and habits.

Maybe you feel as though you’ve failed as a spouse, a parent, a child, a professional, a friend, or a Christian.

Or maybe you regret things you’ve done or didn’t do, things you’ve said or didn’t say, things you’ve felt or dismissed or gave in to.

In this context, we often speak of skeletons as objects in closets - as if they are hidden behind a door and waiting to be discovered, not necessarily influencing our lives until we (or someone else) opens the door and exposes the bones.

But, maybe for some of us, the bones of failures and regrets are experienced as if in a backpack we choose to wear every day; they are everywhere we go, and with every step and movement, the bones are felt and heard.

When we try to stand up, the pull of the bones draws us back down.

When we try to move forward, we quickly grow weary and exhausted from the added weight on our backs.

When we try to lie down and rest, our comfort is hindered by stabbing in our backs or pressure on our chest and heart.

No movement or position or posture is comfortable or light until we remove the backpack, expose the bones, and hand them over to the only One who can destroy them: Christ.

FROM BONES TO BELIEF: GRACE AND...

From a scientific perspective, the skeleton is educational, informative, and has been crucial in developing our understanding of life. Any medical professional will tell you that the ability to see, feel, and experience a skeleton is critical for learning and growing in knowledge.

Can the same be said about our personal skeletons? Dare we proclaim that our very own real and tangible “bones” - our failures, regrets, habits, wounds, and burdens - are critical for growing in faith, inflaming our hearts for Jesus, and moving toward the future of God’s calling?

From the beginning of creation, God has used the failures, hurts, and regrets of an individual’s past to be a very real and active part of his or her redemptive story; some of the most incredible acts of faith in the Bible are the direct result of God’s grace infusing the hearts of His children.

GRACE AND THE GOSPEL FOR THE LONELY/LOST

The woman at the well: would she have shared her story to a city full of her condemners if Jesus hadn’t exposed her past of failed marriages as He declared Himself as the Messiah?

“Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?’ They came out of the town and made their way toward him” (John 4:28-30).

GRACE AND A PLAN FOR THE DOUBTERS

Peter: would Jesus have dictated him as the “rock” on which the Christian faith would be built (Matthew 16:18) had he not been confronted by Jesus for his very lack of faith and denial of His friendship three times?

“Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the first time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep’” (John 21:17b).

GRACE AND A MISSION FOR THE WICKED & EVIL-HEARTED

Saul of Tarsus: would he have grown into one of the most influential disciples, author of 13 books of the New Testament, and a ruthlessly devoted missionary had he not been converted from a Christian-killer to a martyr for Christ?

“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15-16).

GRACE FOR THOSE WHOSE PLANS CHANGE

Naomi and Ruth: if they hadn’t experienced heartbreaking loss of loved ones and, in turn, developed a divine loyalty to one another based on compassion and boldness, would Ruth have bore a son whose bloodline involved Jesus Himself?

“The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth… He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:14-17).

GRACE AND DIRECTION FOR THE ABANDONED AND PERSECUTED

Moses: would he have been compelled to free his people from the Egyptians had he not felt a personal connection to and compassion for the Hebrews of whom he was abandoned from as a child?

“One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, one of his own people. Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:11-13).

The reality of living in a broken, sinful, and corrupt world is that none of us are without skeletons. Every day, we pack our backpacks full of stuff of our past that keeps us from living and acting in the way God calls us: the pressure of the bones makes us feel sluggish in our faith; the sound of the bones jostling distracts us from hearing Him; the constant weight reminds us that we are not free from the heaviness.

But the truth of the Bible is this: Jesus wants you to give Him the backpack. He is waiting, with outstretched and pierced hands, to accept your invitation to let Him unzip the backpack, remove each and every bone so it is exposed by the Light, and then bury it at the Cross in healing.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Sure, this action requires work on your part. It requires initiative and boldness and courage as you confront that person, event, situation, feeling, or habit. But the redemptive accounts of the Bible - of the woman at the well, of Peter, of Paul, of Naomi and Ruth, and of Moses - are proof that God’s grace outshines every sin, every failure, and every regret. But a skeleton hidden in darkness cannot be used until it is brought into the light.

Because of the unconditional grace of God, Paul (the persecutor-and-murderer-of-Christians-turned-missionary) can boldly write: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weaknesses’. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). If God can use Paul’s past to propel him into a confident hope, how might God use yours?

Anonymous

Answered Prayer

A lady at work was having a really bad day on Wednesday. A literal cry out to God. She walked out onto her porch and found a GoWeek gift bag with cookie mix, coffee etc. and said it was such an amazing gesture. God truly answered her silent prayer of feeling love. So yea volunteers for making an incredible impact in this life and an open door to God!!

Tammie

Grateful!

On Tuesday of this week we had a wonderful group here (Harbor House) from Pathways.  Just wanted you to know they did a fantastic job, were so kind and respectful and did a TON of work! We also received another $1,000 from Pathways!  Warms my heart to know such generous people are part of our community. I am truly grateful!

Beth
Executive Director | Harbor House

Unexpected Benefits

My wife and I regularly attend Pathways Church, and heard about the weekly Thrivent workshops that were being offered.  One Sunday we talked with the Church Groups representative from Thrivent about what topics would be covered each week.  There were three that particularly pertained to our situation, but they also had tailored sessions for young couples and families, young children, and teenagers.  The Thrivent folks were there to minister to the Church.  There were no services or products being sold.

Being part of the "Boomer generation" I expected a presentation of financial facts that would help us in our decisions regarding retirement planning, social security, and passing on a legacy.  Indeed, it was all of that.  But the workshop turned out to be more than just rules and options.  The Thrivent workshop leaders presented a godly and biblical view of money and our role in being good stewards.  Did you know that the Bible has a lot to say about money?  Our personal money mindset determines a great deal about how we use our wealth (whatever that happens to be).

Consumerism is a temptation that is intentionally directed at all of us.  It tells us that we deserve a break today.  It pushes us to spend our money on material things, and is how most modern advertising works.  I really liked that these workshops presented the cure for consumerism.  And that cure is generosity. 

We enjoyed meaningful interaction with the workshop participants and the Thrivent team.  It was helpful, fun, and thought provoking.  I even found myself touched at times as people shared their personal stories.  In addition, I made some new friends.  The content not only stimulated me to get my own house in order, but also to ensure that our daily walk with Jesus is a generous one.  Once we've put our trust in the Lord for our salvation, there are few things that are more important than striving to live generously.  I think that many Christians would find significant value in these workshops.

Tom

Growing Relationship

I had a coffee scheduled with a new person attending Pathways who submitted an In Touch Card indicating he recently asked Jesus to be Lord of his life. I followed up and we were scheduled to discuss next steps but he became sick and could not make it. However, he sought me out at church this past weekend and wanted me to know that he was faithfully attending services and that he wanted to re-schedule our meeting. He also wanted me to know that he grabbed one of the NIV Bibles in our Lobby and that he was almost to the Ecclesiastes passages that Adam referenced this past Sunday in his sermon. He had started reading in Genesis a few weeks ago and was closing in on Ecclesiastes already! He told me he would return the Bible when he finished reading through it. I told him not to worry about it, but keep it and encouraged him to keep going after it. Such an encouragement that God used Pathways to draw this individual into a saving relationship and the stack of Bibles in our Lobby to help him anchor his relationship and learn about God and how much he loves him.

Dan

Christmas Card Blessing

I wanted to give you an update on the Christmas cards that were handed out at church in early December.  You had challenged us to use the cards in the coffee line to pay for someone’s coffee and offer them the Christmas card.  I don’t frequent coffee shops (I guess I am too cheap and just make my own) but I did come up with some other ideas.  We had a total of three cards.

With the first card, my wife and I went to a Kwik Trip in Kaukauna, a week or so before Christmas.  I went inside and asked the cashier if there was anyone currently pumping gas outside that was going to come in and pay.  He looked at me questioningly and said that there were three people.  “Why did I want to know?” I explained that I wanted to pay for a strangers gasoline purchase as a Merry Christmas and have the cashier give the Merry Christmas card from Pathways to the individual when they came into pay and say Merry Christmas!  I paid for the person’s gas, gave the Christmas card to the cashier and scurried out. I am not sure of the persons response, but I expect they were pleasantly surprised and hopefully thought about Pathways church and the true meaning of Christmas. I know the cashier seemed to be touched by the experience.

For the second card, I bought a nice box (ok, not too nice, because remember that I am still cheap).  I attached the card to the candy and then on Christmas Eve, myself, my wife and four of my kids delivered the box with a Merry Christmas wish to the ER at Appleton Medical Center.  When we first walked in they seemed a bit concerned and asked if we all wanted to be seen.  They were much happier when we said no and that we had brought them candy instead!  We thanked them for their service on Christmas Eve and gave them the card from Pathways and the candy.

Our final card was also used on Christmas Eve.  After the hospital, we went to the Appleton Police department with our nice but not too nice candy and the Pathways card.  This delivery was a bit more awkward.  I had never been in the police department before so I was not even sure we could get in at 8pm on Christmas Eve.  We were able to enter, however, all the workers were behind glass windows with small slots: too small for that nice candy box.  So they sent out a fully armed and vested policewoman to receive our candy.  Maybe they thought it was really, really bad candy!  In any case, we wished her a Merry Christmas, mentioned the card and pathways church and thanked her for her service on Christmas Eve.

All in all, the cards were a great way for us to express our love for others and possibly open a door for Christ.  I can hardly wait for next year as I think this will be a new family tradition on Christmas Eve.

Mike

Representing Jesus

Last week I did something I haven’t done ever and that is reach out to my community.  Which is crazy considering I adore Appleton and the Fox Valley.  But at Pathways, you all provided a venue for anyone to get connected.  All you asked was for 2 hours or so of my time for each event which is the perfect amount for someone who isn’t sure that he actually wants to do something like this.  And I LOVED it.  I would not have had that opportunity or even be open to it if it wasn’t for how we do Church.

I go through my week and for the first time ever I am anxious for Sunday morning Church.  I can’t wait to be there and it hurts when I leave.  I did not expect this to happen when my family and I decided to leave our old Church family to come to Pathways.  I am just blown away.

Another first for me is inviting people to my church.  I actually have invited people to church because I love it there and truly believe that what they are looking for – JESUS – will be presented in a way that I agree with and truly appreciate.

I just wanted to let you know that for the first time in a LONG time I am feeling my life get changed again and I am actually growing closer to God thanks to the love and teaching I receive at Pathways.  

Erik

Compassion

It was put on our hearts to sponsor a child through compassion international.  We went to the table with our son and picked a boy from Asia.  Our son had quite a few questions about who this was.  We were explaining that Jesus has blessed us so much and this boy doesn't have what he needs because his mommy or daddy can't give that to him, so we need to help him.  He asked why the boy was standing there and why his parents can't give him what he needs, etc.  Since yesterday Sayan's card (the boy we sponsor) has been at the table with us when we eat and our son has been praying for him.  What an amazing surprise to see how much compassion our not yet 3 year old has for this boy he doesn't even know.  He can't wait to color him a picture and send a picture of our family to him.

Thank you for providing this opportunity for our family to help Sayan!

Miranda

Opportunities

Back in January, at my work Christmas party, I had the opportunity to talk to a co-worker who I rarely get a chance to see since we work in different areas of the building. After the usual pleasantries, the conversation turned to my marriage & how, she wondered, we kept the spark alive after all these years (we will have been married 14 years in July & together for a total of 20!). She was asking because her new marriage, is on the rocks...  I felt honored that she opened up to me with such a vulnerable topic & after sharing a few words of encouragement, the subject changed & the party continued.

The very next day at church, she was on my mind- I keep thinking how much I wished she were there with me to experience all that Pathways has to offer. I couldn't get her & her troubles off my mind. It kept nagging me that I needed to invite her to come to church with us...  I feel that we have always had a good relationship, one full of love & commitment, but it was when we joined Pathways & committed to the church & to God, that something deepened within our relationship. It's hard to put into words, but my relationship with God has made me love my husband more, love my family more, & love my life more & I thought I was already "there"...  This is made want my co-worker to have the same with her husband...  She said herself she's "trying to find herself & who she really is". What better way to do that, than to find God?!?!? 

The very next day, I marched into work & she was the first person I saw... I told her I had been thinking about her all weekend & I invited get to come to church with us...  She was very receptive & a few days later, thanked me for my kindness & invitation & said she'd like to join us sometime (however, we didn't set up a date). Well, yesterday when I got to work, I was pulling my Easter service/egg hung postcard out of my purse, when it slipped out of my hand, fluttered to the floor, & literally slide over to her feet!!!  I laughed & said "funny how this landed right at YOUR feet!  When are you coming to church with me???"  She laughed as well & said that if that wasn't a sign, she doesn't know what is!!!!  And yes, I believe that was God at work... 

Rachel

Welcomed

Thank you for making me feel so welcomed at Pathways. I had been attending another church for awhile, but never truly felt like I fit in. I started coming to Pathways in January.  From our first visit, I felt that there was something different about this church. I feel like the people at this church care for each other and care about making visitors feel welcomed. I have been attending the Wednesday women's group too, and love it.

The child care provided is wonderful. I am a single mom to twin 2 year olds.  Taking the twins anywhere generally results in a lot of curiosity, and when people discover that I am a single mom to them, I can usually see wheels turning in people's heads about why I'm single, and can feel them making judgments. I have not felt that at Pathways and can't tell you how grateful I am for that. I feel that this is a church that truly welcomes all, no matter what their past.

I have never tithed in the past,  I have never really felt called to do so until now. I had some hesitation when I signed up for the automatic payments, I'll admit that hitting the submit button was a little hard. I have only my income to provide for the girls, but I feel that it's right and that God will make it work. Thank you again for creating a place where all can feel like they belong.

Sara

Can't Afford NOT to Tithe

I was going through a very difficult time in my marriage in 2013. I was paying all the bills while only receiving a little bit of money from my husband. I eventually told him he need to move out because of infidelity. I was running low on money and never knew where my dogs were gonna get their next bag of food or where I was gonna get the next dollar to pay the next bill. Someone asked me if I was tithing and I said no. I can't afford to tithe. I can barely pay the bills I have. They told me that I can't afford NOT to tithe. This is the only area where we can test God. So I decided to test God for 30 days. In that time I received rebate checks I forgot about, I got a job 2 days after losing my job of 6 years, there was a $30 gift card on my front door for Pet Supplies Plus with a box of toilet paper, Kleenix, and laundry soap. God was pouring out His blessing to me every time I turned my back.

After my divorce I knew God would still take care of me and I continued to tithe even off child support. I always have money in my account. When I had lost my job and was on unemployment I was blessing others with the little money I had to pay bills and God STILL blessed me. I received a check in the mail from auto insurance for having accidents free, and another check from another financial institution.

GOD IS GREAT! You CAN'Tafford not to tithe!

Susan

Happy to Be Here

God is so unbelievably amazing and he's always working in our lives. Today's service like every other was amazing! I am so grateful that God put you in the lives of everyone at Pathways. We really needed you. Being a Pathways Kids leader I have decided I needed to start getting back into the word so I could help make a bigger impact on the kids.

I just wanted to share with you a few things that have happened as a result. I started with the New Testament and one of "my few" had only a New Testament bible. I asked if she reads her bible and she said no she likes the Old Testament because of Jonah so I was able to share some cool stories that I just read that I knew she'd like. Today I asked her if she's been reading her bible and she said yes. I then decided I would start a bible reading plan, 2 weeks in the life and teachings of Jesus. Two days after I finished a lady I work with that I haven't spoken to in at least 6 months walked past my desk and we had a great conversation. She let me borrow Jesus 90 days with the one and only devotional by Beth Moore digging deeper into what I just read. After my Jesus bible reading plan was over I started reading 2 weeks in the life and teachings of Paul.....and you know what today's message was about....Paul!

I am so in awe of how God has worked in me over the last month by doing these things. I also have a community who is right now going through the exact same thing with one of their kids as we are and we were able to talk about it and handle it together in a Godly way. Also we want to do missions more than anything and that is your goal as well.

So thank you so much for who you are and what you do. You are making an impact on people and I'm so excited to see where you and God are going to lead us next! I thank God every day for you and what you are doing at Pathways.

Jenny

Progressive Healing

For many years, I’ve had problems along the entire length of my back; but the last 3 1/2 years have been the most difficult. My left shoulder muscles completely locked up (what they termed a “frozen shoulder”), causing great pain and severely limited motion. Therapy has given me increased mobility in my arms and upper back and the pain in my arms is gone. When my arms were locked up, the worst part about it was that I couldn’t raise my arms in worship. Now I can. They tell me my back will never be 100%.

During all of this, I was praying to God for my healing, and others in the church were praying for me. I asked that God heal me or make me a testimony in my pain. Through His healing power and the wisdom He gave the doctors, I can now testify about progressive healing. When Pastor Adam gave his sermon about it was the first time I had ever heard of progressive healing. I realize now that it was happening to me. God’s been there for me, even when I didn’t know He was there. His love has healed me emotionally also. Since I was abused as a child, I thought the word “father” was evil. God has shown me how a father and a friend should be. He taught me what real love is. I used to feel that I was nothing, but God has shown me I am worthy to be loved.

Raye

Pathways Kids Influence

So today I was volunteering at Alex's school and there is another child in his class from pathways. I was so proud of them both.

We do small groups at school where there are three leaders and the kids are all broke up into groups of three and swap around the room. So these two were put together for the first time ever of me helping out (I help every Thursday so this is rare) Anyways I've heard them both previously talk on their own about church but most of the time the conversation dies quick because well... It just does.

So the fun part today was one of them brought up church and basically the entire 20 minutes of group time the two of them kept talking none stop about church and how fun it is and what they learn about. It was really cool to watch and witness such young minds open up and feel comfortable because they weren't alone about their excitement and love for Jesus and our church.

Such a great moment. wish I could have videoed it for you so you could see how awesome Pathways Kids really influences the minds and hearts of the kids you impact. Really inspired me a ton. Thanks to you and the entire pathways kids team for doing what you do.

Bekah