The Hills DNOW 2017

It is always so fulfilling to see how the Lord moves despite what may be going on around us. This past D-Now in San Antonio is a perfect example of how Christ can still work in peoples lives even when other things happen that try to distract us. We started off the weekend like we do every weekend, by meeting at the church and connecting with kids, then we head to our host homes to break into our first session. It became apparent after just one session that God was going to do big things this weekend. It was also going to be a tough weekend. For some of us, the devil was trying hard to distract us and keep us from doing what God had planned. Throughout saturday we have more sessions, along with a fun recreation time and free time to bond with one another. We discussed a different topic in each session, from discovering our identity in Christ, to learning more about our calling as christians and finishing with learning about our mission. As we progressed throughout the sessions, you could tell which student was effected by each lesson. On saturday night, students are given the opportunity to talk to a Glowing Heart member one on one about anything going on in their lives. What touched me the most this weekend was the story of one of the girls in my group. This girl had been dealing with feeling abandoned by her parents, and she was able to connect with a Glowing Heart member with a similar story. Through the sessions and that Glowing Heart member, this girl found that her identity was in Christ, not in anything else. This is just a small glimpse at how God moved this weekend. Through that students testimony, and through the multiple salvations this weekend, God reminded me that He can move in any situation, regardless of what may be going on around us. We just have to keep our focus on Christ, not let our distractions get in the way, and let God move. We had a ton of fun this weekend getting to know the students, and I am so excited to see how God continues to move in this youth group!

-Bethani Davis

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New Prospect Baptist Church 2017

As we arrived at New Prospect Baptist Church, there was a love in the air, not like in relationships, but the lovebugs that were flying around. We were swarmed by them, from the beginning of the weekend as we stepped out of the vans to during recreation as we played games, even to the moment I went to close up the trailer right before we were going to drive away and multiple flew out. These lovebugs we experienced at the beginning of the weekend, were just a foreshadow of the love that we would experience and teach about throughout the weekend, the love of Jesus.

New Prospect Baptist Church was a new church on your DNOW list this year. Trey Lewis, a former Glowing Heart member, is the pastor of the church, and has been trying to get Henry to come out for several years and finally we were able to get it into the schedule. The church is located in the community of New Prospect, Louisiana near Dry Prong. After all the band equipment was finished getting set up and rehearsal was over, I went and double checked all the computer stuff. When I got everything fixed, I went to join the other GH members and the students. I walked into the youth room and it seemed like we had always been there. It didn’t seem like two groups mashed together but one group that always knew each other. After awhile of hanging out and playing games, we went outside and had a bonfire (our DNOW theme this year) while we waited for the football boys to arrive.

Once the football boys arrived, we headed in to start the worship rally. We used this time to pump up the students for the fun, worship, and sessions that they would experience over the weekend. After the rally we headed to host homes, and chilled out for a little before we started sessions. The DNOW was on the smaller side, we had only five people in the middle school guys house, but that didn’t mean that the DNOW wasn’t any less fun or impacting. A student told us about how she felt like every problem in her life was chosen for her but the material reminded her, she was adopted by Christ and all that could be taken away by Him. Overall the weekend was amazing and a great way start to the semester and year.

The service on Saturday night impacted many students in many different ways. Austin brought an incredible message followed by Henry leading the invitation . One student told us that during the service, he felt God poking him hard in the chest, that he felt this pain and God calling him to the altar and that God would take away that pain and help him. One girl who connected with Austin’s testimony, she and Austin both have turrets syndrome, felt so encouraged by the fact that he was living a normal life and doing ministry to glorify God and that she wasn’t going to be held down like she thought she was. There were 4 salvations and multiple rededications.  Henry reminded us all that silence is not golden in our Christian faith and Trey reminded us that starting the race might be easy but finishing is hard and this went perfectly in line with our material talking about being on fire for God and running the race as Hebrews 12:1 says:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”

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“Theology on Fire”

The combination of mist and wind made for a chilly friday afternoon when Glowing Heart arrived at Cornerstone. It didn’t warm up much for the rest of the weekend. We quickly unloaded our equipment and finished set-up with haste. Once everything on my part was done, I went to my bible. I was planning a last-minute sermon. Because of some confusion, neither Bobby nor I had a sermon ready to preach for saturday night. On the short van ride to Cornerstone, we decided that I would preach, so I naturally went to where my soul and mind was at the moment: Psalm 42.
Psalm 42 is a beautiful chapter of the bible that clearly deals with a follower of God struggling with depression. It’s ultimately a song of hope in the midst of hopelessness, and is a Psalm close to my heart. I broke the chapter down into sections, followed its structure, and found inside the sermon I was going to preach. I knew it was going to be my most personal sermon yet, which challenged and frightened me. I discussed the sermon outline with my friend, Cameron, to make sure it flowed and made sense.
About the time I finished, we met with the brand new youth pastor and the long-time youth workers for our briefing. At one point during the briefing, the youth worker brought up how there were some in the group dealing with depression, and that they needed to see and hear about Christ our Joy. That was God confirming with me the topic and text of my sermon.
I worked on the sermon as much as I could. I prayed over it, sang over it, and cried over it. I rewrote it twice in one afternoon, and then I knew it was ready. I was ready, God was ready, and the youth group was ready.
Theology is not meant for dry textbooks and sharp minds. It is meant to be a steady anchor for the restless soul, a bed of grace for the weary traveller. Martyn Lloyd-Jones called preaching “theology on fire.” That is what God delivered to me, and hopefully that’s what God delivered through me on that saturday night. The book of Psalms is where the rubber meets the road, and I said as much in the sermon. The Holy Spirit warmed souls and brought them near, and two students accepted Christ and their Lord, Savior, and Joy. God had a plan all along, even though we didn’t.

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A View on Differences and Similarities

I love long road trips. They relax me. This trip was a little less than relaxing though, because instead of the usual two-vehicle caravan Glowing Heart travels with, we were all together in one van– for five and a half hours. I get tense sitting in between people for extended periods of time (I try to sit on the end of rows and pews), and yet, despite my discomfort I really enjoyed the time we had together. It gave me an opportunity to truly appreciate the diversity of personalities and humor within Glowing Heart, and will probably be a memory I’ll cherish for a long time. Not because the memory was a spectacular event, but that it was a normal day with spectacular people.

Henry was back for the first time since his surgery, and it was interesting. The relief on the whole team was good, since it wasn’t on us to completely lead each other. But with Henry returning comes the rekindled fire to purge some of the things that slipped by unnoticed while he was away. Immediately, the rehearsal was focused on fine tuning and correcting things musically, and was definitely “shaking the tree–” Henry’s words. Getting back in shape is rough, but also needed. The improvements were extraordinary.

Once we finished rehearsal, it was time to meet the students. I was actually with high school guys this past weekend, while I’m usually with middle school guys, and it was very different! With high school guys, I usually have a hard time “getting in” with the group, especially when it comes to sports and athleticism. Simply put, I’m not athletic and I never played sports. I lose that common ground, and it’s honestly a bit intimidating. I feel like I’m not connecting, and without connection, I can’t have the impact I desire. But then God reminded me that He placed me in that group for a reason, and He would show me that reason.

I only had one one-on-one (that’s a lot of “ones!”) and I started to realize why I was there. I was there for that one student. God placed me in that group, let me build that relationship, and then have the Holy Spirit speak through me to encourage, correct, and guide that one student. It ended up being a wonderful one-on-one, and I could tell it truly impacted that student. It was what he needed.

With all the different students and all the different leaders, it makes perfect sense to have specific leaders to connect with and impact specific students. We are made with our personality differences to diversify and connect in unique ways. God knew what He was doing (whadayaknow!).

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God of All Sound and Mercy

The Calvary DNOW in Ruston, Louisiana was one of the most unique DNOWs we’ve had in awhile. It brought unique challenges and lessons and unique blessings and illumination of who God is. And that seems to be the theme of Glowing Heart this year: the greater challenge we face, the greater reward of seeing Christ’s power revealed.

With Henry still at home resting from his surgery, the Leadership Team was leading forthright, with a little more experience now. The members on stage (which is every member, excluding me) were setting up with ease, and I was in the back with the soundboard, getting ready for soundcheck and only a little worried about what the evening may hold. Because, unlike most of our DNOWs, Glowing Heart wasn’t the only one performing. Phil Joel, formerly of Newsboys, and Brock Gill, internationally-known Christian Illusionist and speaker, would be sharing the stage, and I was the crosspoint of all three performers. I was in charge of running everything through our soundboard.

First, let me explain my experience with the soundboard: I have only mixed sound for Glowing Heart, and only for a few months at that, which means I have really only had to know how to turn the sound up and down. That’s it. So when Phil Joel and Brock Gill appeared with questions about how to add sound effects and patching in a wireless mic, and with a crunch on time, I was getting anxious. I have since learned how to solve all those problems (and they were actually quite easy!), but in the moment I was under trial by fire. Of course, Phil and Brock didn’t know that. They were doing what they’ve always done, and I was the “sound guy,” and I needed to do the sound stuff.

After finally setting up everything, and feeling confident that we were ready to go, I stepped back from the soundboard, and that’s when everything shut off. Someone accidently unplugged the power cord. I was almost in tears. I reset everything, hoping that everything was how I left it, and then it was time for the service. And this is where God showed off His power in my weakness, because the service flowed with relatively few hitches. When Phil Joel and the youth band played “Good, Good Father,” I was actually in full-out tears. I was reminded that God is good, and He is my father, and I was wrapped in the comfort of His grace that night.

Glowing Heart had a great weekend, and for the most part we were allowed to sit back a bit to solely worship God without thinking about playing, or preaching, and even on Saturday morning, without teaching! We were led into worship, preached over, and taught to. We saw the amazing power of prayer as we prayed that God would save one specific student, and He was faithful to do so! I even started praying over the soundboard before I turned it on. Oftentimes, Glowing Heart empties itself during the DNOW, but this time we were filled.

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Our Home

One of the most common things that surprises other people about Glowing Heart is that not all of the members go to the same college, church, or are from the same area. We go to school at UTA, Tarrant County College, the College at Southwestern, UNT Dallas, Arlington Baptist College, Texas Woman’s University, North Central Texas County College, and Christ for the Nations Institute. Our individual church homes vary just as much, and some of our members are from so far as Floresville, Texas and Tuscola, Texas, and we live in Arlington, Grand Prairie, Mansfield, Denton, and Scurry. It astounds people how we are all somehow tied to Glowing Heart Ministries without having any other common ground except for our faith in Jesus Christ. But if GH were to have a “home church,” it would be without a doubt South Park Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Over the years, SPBC has been so good to Glowing Heart for letting us use their building for an after-school hangout spot and ministry opportunity (Coffee Stop), for letting us stay there for late night practices, and for allowing us to partner with their youth ministry on a weekly basis. A lot of us aren’t church members of SPBC, but it still feels like home. So when we get to do a DNOW at South Park, it’s a very different experience. We’re used to jumping into a group of students without knowing names, faces, pasts, current struggles, youth atmosphere, etc., and having to catch up and get connected with them as fast as possible. But with South Park, we know most of the students, we know how their week has been, we know their attitudes and sense of humor. We know these students far better than we ever get the chance to know students at the other DNOWs, which means we can get a lot more impactful ministry done.

At the SPBC DNOW, we saw some spiritual and emotional barriers come down, we saw the Holy Spirit soften hearts, and most beautifully, we saw one young man whom we have known for years come to faith in Christ. Glowing Heart used different DNOW material for this event, and I think it’s safe to say we didn’t all feel prepared to teach it. Bobby and I preached that weekend, and we also felt under-prepared for those sermons. But the Holy Spirit wasn’t unprepared, and He knew how to use those relationships that were prepared beforehand to bring glory to God. That weekend wasn’t based on material and sermons, it was based on relationships that we have with the students on a weekly basis, and continue to grow for the weeks, months, and years to come. It was less like a “One Big Hit ’em” weekend, and more like a big step forward in building those better relationships.

Christ walked with his disciples for three years, and he considered them his friends. He took time to build relationships, answer questions patiently, and teach them slowly. There’s a lot that can be done in a weekend, but there is so much more ministry to see happen on a day-to-day, “walking through life with them” ministry. It’s a blessing for both the leaders and the students. And Glowing Heart couldn’t be more proud than to call South Park Baptist Church our home.

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Spiritual Warfare in the Jim Ned Valley

It’s no coincidence that our DNOW material this year is a discussion on spiritual warfare, the wiles of the devil, and the victory of Christ, because our weekend in the Jim Ned Valley was filled to the brim of all three. The Jim Ned DNOW is huge (if I remember correctly, we had over 200 students in attendance), so we recruited a lot of help (which is another tale of God’s providence altogether). It was an eventful weekend, and I should start at the beginning: we were three hours late. One thing after another, first getting a trailer hitch on, then fixing the tail-lights on the trailer, and then (of course) our bus breaking down before we could even get out of Grand Prairie, kept us from getting there when we expected. It felt like we were in a maze of mishaps, and there was no way out.

But we made it out. Out of the frying pan, and into the fire. Not only were we three hours late, but we were without Henry, our director, and without Bobby, our assistant director, due to circumstances we already anticipated. What we didn’t anticipate was our severely limited time to soundcheck, and that our speakers wouldn’t work properly. Basically, Murphy’s law was being seen in action, and the Enemy was throwing at us everything he had. But God gave us a great grace, and we were able to solve those problems and soundcheck before it was time to start (right on schedule!). Except that wasn’t the end of our troubles.

After the Friday night service, all the students and volunteers were scrambling to grab their luggage and get to their host homes. But there had been changes in host homes and groups, and it seemed like nobody really knew what was happening. In the midst of trying to find missing leaders and round up my students, one of our GH leaders came under very intense pain and had to be taken to the hospital. Seriously?? Again, it felt like it was never going to end.

But God is good, and God is God. We had prepared for a big weekend with many challenges, but I doubt any of us saw it coming like this. But God did. God worked in so many great ways, and we all learned so much that weekend, whether it was how to stop trying to solve issues with human hands, and pray to God, or if we needed to learn that giving grace is a grace on yourself, or even if it was to remember the greatest lesson: God has won! We may have seen many issues, but we also saw many students come to a saving faith in Christ. And I now believe that all those troubles were worth it, even if only one person had come to Christ.

 

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

– Genesis 50:20

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The Hills Church DNOW 2015

I was really looking forward to this DNOW. The Hills Church DNOW in San Antonio was certainly one of my favorites last year, and I couldn’t wait any longer to come back this year. When I try to explain why it was one of my favorites, I’ll mention that the students had similar music tastes to mine, from the Beatles to August Burns Red. I’ll mention that I never went by my name, but instead they called me Marco (as in Marco Belinelli, a basketball player who played for the Spurs – apparently we look alike), and that we spent so much time laughing and playing card games. I have so many great memories from last year’s DNOW, but all of those things together wasn’t what made it my favorite. It was, essentially, our hearts.

I think it happens very rarely, but it happens – when you meet someone or some group of people, and you understand them as they understand you. You’ve probably heard of “thinking on the same wavelength,” when you and another person often come to the same conclusions and thoughts at the same time. And while I was definitely “thinking on the same wavelength” with the guys from the Hills Church, it was more like we had the same pulse. We felt things the same, we struggled the same, our passions were the same. We were able to sidestep the small talk and jump into our lives. The Holy Spirit had an ultimate hand in letting me pour into the students almost seamlessly. This year was just as seamless.

The majority of the students go to a private Christian school, with Bible classes and Jesus references around every corner. I go to college at the second largest seminary in America, with Bible classes and Jesus references around every corner. I know the struggle against “head knowledge without heart knowledge,” and the feeling that Christianity is common and knowing the story of Jesus so well that I forget it. I could see the same thing in the eyes of the students at the Hills Church.

I’m in no way discrediting Christians schools. They’re an amazing blessing and I (literally) wouldn’t be where I am now without them. But I realized a while ago that learning without living is nothing. Learning without love, both for God and for others, is nothing. And while the schools can do their best to teach the students the Bible, they can’t force them to love like Christ. But what I am able to do is relate with them. I can tell them that I know that struggle, I feel that “common Christianity,” but I didn’t stay there. God didn’t let me. I can explain the difference between our “heroes of history” and Jesus Christ is that right now, before the throne of the living God, Jesus Christ ever lives and pleads for me. I can show them how exciting and fresh the Bible is when you see God’s salvation hand over it all. I can just be me, as Christ has changed me, and pray that they see the change.thehillsAnd after I intentionally live out my faith, it’s always awesome to see that God’s work was not in vain. During my one-on-ones, I had a great tear-filled conversation with a middle schooler who couldn’t get over the fact that God is so big (bigger than the entire universe! as he would say) and yet he actually came to earth as Jesus and died for him (like, really died for him). He said he had heard all those things at school, but it had been a long time since he knew it in the deepest part of his soul. And that’s where I saw life. I know that feeling of remembering the gospel. I have to remind myself everyday (even multiple times a day), and it’s so great that I wonder how I ever could forget it. But I do forget it. So I always need the reminder.

I encourage you to remember the gospel, feel it and realize it in the deepest recess of your soul. Don’t just learn it, but dwell on it, depend on it. I pray that it lights a fire in your heart, and I pray it continues to grow. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. I know.

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God’s Plan in Eustace, Texas

God has His own plans.

Glowing Heart went to Eustace, Texas one Wednesday afternoon for a youth rally. Earlier that morning, students all over the country (including those in Eustace), gathered around their school’s flag poles for “See You At The Pole” (SYATP) to lift up prayer and worship. Since our youth rally was after SYATP, we called it “Saw You At The Poles.” This was a particularly important event since we would be going back to Eustace in a couple weeks for a DNOW. “Saw You At The Poles” was not only these youths’ first impression of GH, but it was going to be a good time to get to know some of the students and invite them to DNOW. We were there to make good connections early, so the “real” work could be done at the DNOW.

God has His own plans.

First, we were not expecting the response we got at “Saw You At The Poles.” Ephesians 3:20 expresses that God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” and He far exceeded our expectations at the rally. Over twenty students asked to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. Being with Glowing Heart, I’ve seen things I would safely call a revival, and this was one mighty revival, for sure! We were all surprised. We always go into events with the expectation that God will do amazing things, but He just blew us away.

God has His own plans.

Second, we were expecting to come back to Eustace in a couple weekends for a DNOW. In a lot of ways, we were there to encourage and invite student to DNOW. But the Thursday before DNOW, it was cancelled. Of course, Glowing Heart was disappointed. But that didn’t stop God’s work in Eustace. We still went to FBC Eustace for a Sunday morning service. It wasn’t what we had on our schedule, but it was on God’s schedule. We were blessed to be there, and the congregation was so welcoming to us, eager to worship. Henry brought the Sunday morning sermon on why we come to church– because we are the church. The Holy Spirit did His work on convicting and comforting, and brought many people to the altar that morning.

God has His own plans.

There was an awakening in Eustace, Texas over the past couple weeks. I pray it continues to grow. When we watch the news or get on the internet, it looks like Christianity is sinking under political and social pressure. It is looking darker and dimmer down the scope of time, and many American Christians are worried. We are trying to come up with great church programs, fit in with the culture, and we have our own plans on how Christianity is going to stay alive in the West. But,

God has His own plans.

 

“Behold, the former things have come to pass,

and new things I [the LORD] now declare…”

– Isaiah 42:9a

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CWC Operation Reality 2015

“So shall my [the LORD God’s] word be that goes out from my mouth;

   it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

   and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

– Isaiah 55:11

 

This past weekend in Perryton, Texas, the Word was preached and taught. It went forth before us and worked in many student’s (and I’m also sure adult’s) lives. The gospel was explained with clarity and with passion across the board, from our bible study sessions to worship, and even dropped here and there in between. Every time I heard the word of God or spoke the word of God this weekend, my heart was warmed, encouraged, and convicted. This weekend in particular had a passionate focus on the life-changing, one and only, God-given gospel of Jesus Christ. And yet, while teaching right from the heart the need for a Savior, I saw some of the students unengaged, taking the truth like a chore, and simply not caring about the gospel. Why?

First, I personally thought about my methods. Was I meeting these students where they were at spiritually? Was I giving enough easy-to-understand illustrations to explain certain points? Was I sounding passionate myself, or did I sound just as bored as some of them looked? Then I remembered the above quoted verse, Isaiah 55:11. The Word of God does all the work, I am just to be faithful to the preaching and teaching of the Word. The Word of God is sent from God and the response is sent back to God, and only sometimes will I be there to witness that in the lives of those I teach. The Word of God is sent to accomplish the Lord’s purposes, not mine. I often want immediate, dramatic life-change in every student’s heart, but God has a more perfect purpose than immediate results. He wants a relationship, and oftentimes relationships need time. There’s not enough emotionally charged experiences I can share, enough passionate bible teaching I can do, or enough accurate illustrations I can use to change the heart of any person. Only God can take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. I can only share the truth and trust that God can and will use it, even when I don’t see the results.

We live in a world based on effort and results. If we work hard and do the right things and say the right words, we will see all the fruits of our labors. Advertisements change all the time based on results. Products work harder to become “new and improved” in hopes that more people will buy that product. Things are falling off the market everyday because people are simply not buying. Companies close their doors when there are no results. But that is not how the gospel works. We don’t improve the gospel; it is already perfect. We don’t change the message of God, because to do so would warp the truth. And we are not supposed to stop sharing the gospel when there are no results, because we are promised that there will be results, no matter how far down the road, and we are called to share the gospel no matter what.

That’s not to say that Glowing Heart didn’t see results this past weekend at the Community Worship Center in Perryton. In fact, over a dozen students came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ! But that was only after possibly years of hearing the gospel and multiple efforts by many faithful Christians who may never know that they had a part in their salvation story.

I encourage you to continue sharing the gospel. Never give up, never lose hope! Our God is faithful to save, so we should be faithful to share.

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