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PASTORS SHAUN & AMY GUSTAFSON

 
 
 

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With Biblical teaching from Pastors Shaun & Amy Gustafson 
 
 

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FROM THE BLOG

Insight and wisdom from High Point Leadership
 
 

God’s Kind of Marriage

God’s kind of marriage is like two masterfully trained and highly skilled tennis players who are experts at playing doubles together. Whenever a ball comes at them, they know instinctively how to work as a team to be most effective. At times they get tired, yet they don’t give up. They win the large majority of their matches because of their diligent practice together and acquired skill, and when they do, the victory is exhilarating.

Likewise, because of living in an imperfect world, there are challenges we encounter. When we realize we are on the same team and face obstacles together, we become much more effective, plus the process is abundantly more rewarding.

To be the best team possible, we could think of our daily prayer time together as our marriage unity practice. Just as a sports team practices together daily before they ever come to game day, we practice unity through prayer before trials and obstacles come in order to be consistently victorious. This prayer time gets us on the same page as a couple. It builds a unified vision and increases respect between us. It fuels us to experience increased marriage stability, joy, and emotional peace.

We like to compare daily prayer to a welding torch. When a truly good weld is made with two pieces of metal by an experienced welder, it is stronger where the two pieces come together than at any other place on the metal.

This is what prayer does to a marriage. It welds it together so perfectly that when challenges occur, rather than having anger and division, the marriage will not bend to the pressures. Both husband and wife continue to walk in love towards each other, refusing to allow strife in their relationship, and it causes the enemy not to get access. It’s really putting James 4:7 into practice daily. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

  

Matthew 18:19-20 says, “That if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.” If you study the word used for “agree” in the original Scripture, it means to be of one heart on something. In other words, not only your words have to be in agreement, but your hearts also have to be in agreement.
 
A married couple in unity is definitely two in agreement. There is no stronger union between humans than the marriage covenant made before God, because it represents our relationship with God. Therefore, the enemy tries to make married couples ignorant of their power together.
 

We experienced a large challenge in our early years of marriage. There were some inappropriate situations going on where I worked. Amy and I had discussed that I should start looking for a new job. One day after another situation occurred, I resigned and had to go home to tell Amy I had left my job and we were going to have to move quickly because my work was connected to our housing.

As I walked in the door, I wasn’t sure how to give Amy the news, so I just blurted out, “I left my job and we have to find a new place to live within ten days!” To my surprise, Amy got a huge smile on her face and said, “Praise the Lord! It’s about time! Let’s praise God right now for the great things He’s about to do for us!”

In challenging times, it’s essential to remember nothing catches God by surprise! We praised God with all of our hearts, thanking him for the new job I would soon have and the better home we knew by faith He had already prepared for us. Within one week we met an amazing couple who had a beautiful home for rent. It was significantly better than we had before. As crazy as it sounds, we told them we didn’t have money for a deposit and I didn’t have a job yet, but would soon. They actually said yes, lowered the rent they were asking by one-third each month in exchange for us shoveling their driveway in the winter, and even waved the deposit because they said they just liked us! God did miracle after miracle!

Within three weeks I had a new job which paid twice as much! The job also came with great insurance benefits which we didn’t have before! In addition to all this, the new company I worked for even reimbursed my college tuition. That’s the favor of God!

As we walked through this trying situation, we never became angry at each other nor allowed bitterness to enter. We trusted God would continue to keep us in his will. Sure, we were tempted at times to worry and be upset. We could have cried and said “Why did this happen God? It isn’t fair!”

It didn’t look good and it definitely didn’t feel good, but prayer time together had built our unity in advance just like the sports team analogy we shared. Prayer had prepared us for a tough spot in the game and when it came, we passed the test and received the victory God had prepared for us!

As we practice unity by praying together when things are up, it empowers and equips us to be good at unity when things are down. When life gets tough and other couples may have breakdowns, you and your spouse will be prepared to win!

With love, 

Pastors Shaun & Amy 


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Staying Power: Part 2

Doing things God’s way isn’t always easy. Anything worth having requires effort! During hard times, remember this great quote from Charles Kettering: “No one would have crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in the storm.” This is also true with marriage. If we give up when things are the worst, we will never be able to experience God’s best. A rainbow comes after the storm, not before it.
 
It’s often in the early years that many couples face their biggest challenges. Studies show most divorces take place within the first seven years of a marriage. The wedding is joyous, but then the challenges of life in a crazy world show up and people have to daily make the choice, “…as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Many couples happily married over thirty years have told us the toughest years were in the first half, but they are thankful they worked it out. They wouldn’t have had all the joyous years together if they had not persevered and worked through those early challenges!
 
Studies have shown couples who choose to stay together and work out their problems are more often happier than those who choose divorce. One article stated, “Researchers also found that two-thirds of unhappily married spouses who stayed married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. In addition, the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of 10 who avoided divorce were happily married five years later.” Research also showed “Divorce did not typically reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, or increase a sense of mastery. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier on average than those who stayed married.”
 
To achieve success in life and marriage, it’s essential we learn how to ride out the rough waves. Through challenging times, many couples begin to take their frustrations out on family and associate feelings from life’s disappointments with their spouse or kids. They may be disillusioned with their marriage, thinking the relationship is their main problem. However, in reality, marriage was designed by God to be a haven from life’s challenges. If something seems out of sync, it’s wise to look to those with a strong and long-term marriage who can give us some perspective and direction, rather than just jumping to another ship.
 
When a couple puts God first and builds a spiritual bond with each other, this is the first step in building a strong relationship that will weather the test of time. When hard times come, we will have a strong foundation that isn’t easily shaken.
 
A couple can be so spiritually out of touch with God and each other that they don’t even know this important bond is missing in their relationship. Then one day something major happens, and they realize they have lost (or never developed) their spiritual foundation. Once a couple chooses to put God first and build or renew their spiritual bond, God is able to move mightily on their behalf. He can and will establish deeper love and joy, as well as reveal His divine plan and purpose for their relationship together.
 
I pray this encourages you, 
Pastor Shaun

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Staying Power

We really love each other and we know it was God who brought us together. We just don’t understand why we fight so much! On a regular basis one of us gets upset or irritated with the other about something.”
 
Ben and Shelly verbalized thoughts experienced by many couples. Through further conversation we found they were both raised in broken families. Ben had never met his father nor had any male role model in the home. He was raised in abuse and poverty, struggling to help his sickly and mentally ailing mother. Shelly had some role models, but was raised in a separated family much of her life.
 
Unfortunately, stories like theirs are very common in the day in which we live. Many people have grown up with either poor examples or no examples of the skills and unconditional love required to make marriage last a lifetime. Within a short time, they begin to follow the behavior patterns they observed in their parents, or they do whatever feels good in an attempt to love based on what makes them feel valued. Many people enter marriage hoping to receive unconditional love, but have little to no idea how to give it!
 
Ben and Shelly longed for the connection and joy God intended for marriage and asked us if we would impart any secrets we had discovered. They told us they had been viewing us from a distance and they could tell by reading our body language we were happy with each other. We got together with them and visited, sharing the big key to unity God had graciously caused us to stumble upon. He helped us see if we would pray together for a time each day (preferably morning), we would be much more likely to have peace, unity, and single-mindedness in our marriage relationship all day long.
 
This may be hard to believe if you have a lot of strife right now, but it really does help! We’re not saying couple prayer time will make you see eye to eye on everything, but it will help you be more like-minded, as well as humble, compassionate, and honoring as you work through your differences. Sometimes our likes, desires, and ideas are different than each other. The more we pray, the more we’ll find both of us stepping away from demanding “It’s my way or the highway!” Instead, when we’ve developed a habit of humbling ourself before God in prayer, it yields more humility of listening to and working with each other. Prayer turns our me to we.
 
In the Bible there’s a story about a group of believers gathered together years ago. It shares the amazing results of their prayer time together.
 
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. (Acts 4:31-32 NIV)
 
Did you notice the three things unified prayer caused with these people? It brought boldness for sharing the love of Jesus, unity, and selflessness. Prayer together resulted in them having one heart and one soul, meaning clarity for direction and motives. This would really help a lot of couples! James 1:8 tells us “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (KJV). A marriage with two people trying to go their own direction, rather than God’s unified direction, is also unstable.
 
When you and your spouse daily pray together, double-mindedness goes out the back window and single-mindedness walks through the front door to help unify the two of you as one heart and one soul. If you’re a skeptic by nature, we realize this may sound a little pie-in-the-sky happy, but it really is profound! We’ll talk more on this in a moment, but don’t just take our word for it. Try it yourself for a month and see what happens! When you two humble yourselves before God and pray together, humbly asking for guidance and help, like-mindedness and unity just start kicking into gear!
 
The people’s prayer time together resulted in selflessness rather than selfishness. Selfishness is a huge problem in many families today, but this Scripture shows us how to overcome this destructive habit. When we pray together, we are putting Christ at the center of our relationship. Through this humble act, we are inviting God to grow a selfless and serving attitude within both of us. This is the way God intended marriage to be – two people trying to out-serve each other for fun, just like He loves us!
 
Now back to our story – after we explained all of these benefits to Ben and Shelly, Ben (a skeptic by nature) shared how he really doubted whether prayer time together would help deal with their bickering. “Let’s do this,” we said. “You have disagreements almost every day. Why don’t you try praying together at least fifteen minutes every morning for just one week? Then come back and tell us the results.” We also added, “One more thing, make sure you do your prayer together first thing, before you engage in conversation with each other, otherwise you may get in a disagreement first and end up not praying at all.”
 
One-week later Ben and Shelly arrived for our meeting. As they strolled through our door, they didn’t even have to say a word. We could tell by their lollypop grins and deer-in-the-headlights gazing at each other that things had improved. Their countenance had brightened to put it mildly. Their body language towards each other was like a graceful combination between a great Fourth of July fireworks display coupled with the tenderness and awe of holding a brand-new puppy.
 
They excitedly shared with us that in only one week there had been dramatic changes. They both agreed the arguments had diminished by about ninety percent. With a sheepish grin Ben said, “The other ten percent of disagreements happened only when we didn’t start the day with prayer first.”
 
Ben and Shelly had quickly experienced how God’s Word will work for us when we put it into practice. Just a word of warning here though – prayer time together is something to do daily for the rest of your life – like brushing your teeth. It isn’t something you only do for a couple of months and then stop because you haven’t had any cavities lately!
 
Isn’t it good to know God didn’t just throw a man and woman together with their opposite strengths, gifts, and abilities and say, “I don’t know how they are ever going to get along with each other?” No, God made marriage to be a work of art, and He gave us a manual to follow on how to have strong relationships. He made man and woman’s opposite characteristics to complement each other and be a powerful force in the earth for His kingdom. Marriage is meant to be a gift, and it can be for you each day! It definitely takes intentional effort, but the lifelong rewards are worth it.
 
Even if your marriage currently feels like you’re in the 8th inning and down twenty-five to nothing, there is hope. Remember God said, “Love never fails.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:8.) We can take God at His Word and ask Him for help to love our spouse with His kind of love, even if they (or we) are currently a challenge!
 
In Love, 
Pastor Shaun

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4545 N Frontage Rd Rochester, MN 55901