What Our Toddlers Are Up To!

In August, we implemented a new curriculum in our 2 & 3 year old class. This is one of our biggest age groups right now, and we have struggled to figure out how to make the most of our time with these sweet kids on Sunday mornings. One month in, this curriculum seems to be exactly what we needed! The kids have done so well and remember the lessons and Bible verses. It has worked so well for us that we’ve decided to implement it in our 4K/5K class also. I want to take a few minutes to tell you about it, in case any parents want to know what the toddlers are up to on Sunday mornings!

The curriculum is based on The Bible App for Kids (download here) and is a free resource from Life Church. We spend 4-5 weeks on one unit, which means there is a lot of repetition so that the little ones will remember what we are learning. Understanding that most kids thrive on structure, the class time is broken down into six segments: Play, Clean-Up, Prop Talk, Movie & Music, Picture Passes, and Story Time.

Play: Play time isn’t just a free-for-all! We divide the kids into areas where they play with blocks, Little People, puzzles, or other toys, and each group has a teacher who is talking and engaging with them while they play. After 20 minutes of play time, we begin Clean-Up by playing the cute clean-up song that is included with the curriculum. The kids are awesome at helping during this time and have learned quickly where everything goes!

The Prop Talk is an object lesson that relates to the lesson somehow. For example, we used a welcome mat to teach that God welcomes everybody who loves and follows Jesus; and a globe to show that God’s family is big! We do a little game or activity with the prop, then move on to Movie & Music.

The movie includes a Scripture memory verse, a simple Bible story (from The Bible App for Kids) and two sing-along songs at the end. The movie is very simple but engaging, and moves at a slow enough pace for the toddlers to take it in. They love it! During this time, they sit on the rugs in small groups with their teachers, and teachers are interacting with the kids as they watch.

After the movie, we do Picture Passes. The Picture Passes are in an “adventure bag” similar to the one used by the character Emily in the movie. They look like the images below and also serve as a sort of object lesson. We have three picture passes per unit, they coincide with the items we use for Prop Talks, and teach the same little nugget of truth (God’s family is big! Or God welcomes everyone who loves and follows Jesus.).

God’s family is big!

God’s family is big!

God welcomes everyone who loves and follows Jesus!

God welcomes everyone who loves and follows Jesus!

We wrap up with Story Time and coloring Adventure Books. During Story Time we read the story simplified onto three picture cards. We ask the kids questions about the story, and do hand motions to keep them interested. We also review our memory verse during this time. At the end of the story, we say a simple prayer related to our lesson, then move to the tables to color the Adventure Books until parents arrive. The Adventure Books summarize that lesson and have a question for parents to ask their kids. Our first month, the question/answer was: What is the church? The church is God’s family! By the end of the four-week unit, nearly all of our sweet little toddlers could answer this question!

I have loved seeing how well the little ones have adapted to this new curriculum, and the teachers have been amazing as well- embracing this completely new way of doing the toddler class! Several parents have shared how their children are listening, remembering and telling their parents about the things we learn together on Sunday mornings. That just fills my heart with joy! I am so thankful for the privilege of pouring into their tender little souls. Thank you, parents, for trusting us with your precious babies!

 

What's In A Name?

canadian-geese-swim-on-pond.jpg

I am a big fan of podcasts. I love listening for information. I love learning. I love hearing people dialogue. I love hearing about what’s going on here, over there, in us. At the core of it, I really just love a good story. I think at some level we all do. I wanted to share a story that has stuck with me for years. 

In the podcast, the interviewee was sharing about his uncle, Jean who loved nature. He and his wife (Jan) knew the names of the different trees and the names of all the different birds in their area. Uncle Jean shared his experience with driving around a local lake with someone that wasn’t from the area. As they drove around the lake they noticed about 10 different species of birds because they knew the names of the birds. Because they knew their names, they noticed them. Their out-of-town friend would say, “Oh man, I missed those birds. I missed all of them.” The couple responded, “Well, that’s because they are just birds to you. Once you know their names you start to notice them.

Once you know their names, you start to notice them.

This story really stands out to me because it made me ask myself, do I notice the people around me? I mean sure, I see them. I see people in the grocery store. I see our servers at the restaurant. But do I really see them and notice. Although I see they are physically there, it’s easy to look past them because I’m focused on my own agenda and simply put, I don’t know their name, therefore I don’t know them.

A name is a big thing. People are identified by a name. People are known by a name. A name shows that attention has been given to them. Scripture shows that God values names. Isn’t it interesting how God had a say in naming people? With the first man and woman (Gen 2:18-23). With the naming of babies (Gen 16:11, Gen 17:19). Even in the New Testament He tells Mary what to name Jesus (Matt 1:21). What’s even more crazy to think about is He knows each of us by name (Isa 43:1-2, John 10:14). Of all the billions of people on earth and in all the hundreds of different languages, He knows us by name. 

“Ok, that’s great Arthur. But, where are you going with this?”

“Ah, let me tell you.” 

As New City Church, I don’t want us to look past people. I want us to be known as a people who love and care for others, a people who hasn’t lost focus of the mission God has placed before us, a people that is missional everywhere their feet take them. Amidst the chaos of soccer schedules, softball schedules, work schedules, to-do lists, the priority of sharing the gospel can easily fall by the wayside.We all have our daily and even weekly routines and places we visit regularly: restaurants, grocery stores, department stores, etc. I wan to encourage you to learn people’s names. The workers that you see once a week. The family that is there every time you are. Learn their names. The great thing about that is it’s really easy. All you have to do is ask. 

If I know someone’s name, I’m less likely to overlook them. I actually notice them. I’m reminded they are people. I’m reminded they are people who feel and have hopes and dreams. I’m reminded that they are fellow image bearers who have forgotten they were created in His image. I’m reminded that they are in need of a Savior as much as I am. It starts with a name. 

Pop-Up Church is Back!

pop+up+flyer+colors.jpg

Have you heard of Pop-up Shops? Here’s a snap shot description of a pop-up shop from Wikipedia:

A pop-up retail space is a venue that is temporary: the space could be a sample sale one day and host a private cocktail party the next evening. The trend involves "popping up" one day, then disappearing anywhere from one day to several weeks later. These shops, while small and temporary, are used by companies to build interest in their product or service, and seed their product with cultural influencers. 

Pop-up shops have been a trend in recent years. Pop-up shops have been used to successfully introduce products and the companies selling them. Pop-ups are attractive because they reach potential new “shoppers” and do so at a low overhead when compared to major marketing campaigns and opening new stores.

So if pop-up shops are successful at reaching people, why not a Pop-Up Church?
Over the summer we asked this question and decided that there was no reason NOT to give Pop-Up Church a shot! So we did. It was a pretty awesome day!
We played games in the park, threw the Frisbee, met a few people, sang songs together, had a short message and sang again. After the day was over we talked and overwhelmingly everyone wanted to do it again… when it cooled off a little.

What are we doing and when?
We’ve picked three dates for this round of Pop-Up Church - September 8, 15, and 22.
At 5:00 pm we’ll gather near the fountain for several songs and a short message. Just like last time.

So - here’s what you can do!
* Mark your calendar and plan to join us. If you can’t make all three nights, pick one or two!
* Pray. Pray for the day, for people to come, for the gospel to go forward, for lives to be changed.
* Invite a friend or family to join you - especially if they are unchurched.
* Help spread the word by sharing our Facebook event.
* Come early and enjoy one of Macon’s most beautiful parks. Bring a ball, a Frisbee, a picnic.
* Meet us near the fountain for a church service at 5:00 pm ready to sing.

What Should We Expect?
Our goal is to reach people with the good news of Jesus, to see them come to love and follow him.
Will that happen?
I have no idea! That’s partly what makes this fun!
I don’t know what people will think or how they will respond.
BUT
I do know what to expect if we don’t… NOTHING.
So we will try!
And as we pray and try, we’ll dream of reaching those who don’t know Jesus, helping them meet Him! We’ll imagine what it would be like to grow the Kingdom through afternoons in the park! We’ll look forward to baptisms and baby dedications and new MC Leaders and church elders coming because we tried.
Then… we’ll plan the next one, and we’ll plan a month of Sundays, and we’ll plan pop-ups all over Macon, and why stop in Macon when there are people in places all around us who need the same thing!?
And from them, maybe we’ll plant new churches who do new pop-ups that reach new people and raise new leaders who also plant new churches, that also do new pop-ups… you get it.

We’ll never know if we don’t try!
Come try with us.

How to Judge the Success of a Church

I read an article last week that hit me hard. I won’t intro the article very much, because I really just want you to read it. J.D. Greear (Pastor at Summit RDU & SBC President) blogged about how to judge the success of a local church. His take is that the ultimate metric of success is whether or not that church makes disciples. The hard-hitting truth for me was that sometimes I can spend so much time strategizing about the best ways to make disciples that I sometimes end up failing to even begin making disciples. I often over-complicate disciple-making and I don’t think I’m alone. Read on and I hope you are challenged and encouraged!


Many skills make for effective ministry. Great leadership. Great vision. Entrepreneurial grit. Disciplined execution. But all of those skills mean nothing if we aren’t making disciples, one by one. Apart from that, all the money we raise, buildings we build, ministries we organize, sermons we preach, and songs we write don’t move the mission forward. Without that mission, we’re wasting our time.

Thus, everything we do in ministry should flow from or lead toward making disciples. Disciple making is, after all, the key component of Jesus’s Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20), and it ought to be the standard by which we judge every ministry in the church.

Make Disciples

In his classic book The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman said, “The Great Commission is not merely to go to the ends of the earth preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15), nor to baptize a lot of converts into the name of the triune God, nor to teach them the precepts of Christ, but to ‘make disciples’—to build people like themselves who were so constrained by the commission of Christ that they not only followed his way but led others to as well” (104).

Everything we do in ministry should flow from or lead toward making disciples.

daniel-mccullough-FwjWUGbrxOU-unsplash.jpg

Coleman points out that in the verses that comprise the Great Commission, there is only one real imperative verb: “make disciples.” Everything else from Matthew 28:19–20 that we translate into English as a verb is actually a participle. I know you’re about to pull up Wikipedia right now to remember what a participle is, so let me just jump ahead to the point: it means that Jesus saw everything else he commanded in those verses—baptizing, going, teaching—as pursuant of the primary thing: disciple making.

This means the criteria upon which any church should measure its success is not how many new names are added to the roll, nor how much the budget is increased. Not even close. The success of the church is in how many Christians are actively making disciples and training them to win the multitudes.

Sheep Stealing ≠ Disciple Making

How many of our members can look around on a Sunday morning and point to someone (outside of their family) who is there because they brought them to Christ?

How many can point to someone who is there because someone they brought to Christ brought that person to Christ?

Maybe that’s not fair.

After all, we can’t control how many people come to Jesus. Okay, how many of our fellow members have been inside the home of one of their unbelieving neighbors in the last month?

Swapping members is not advancing on the gates of hell; it’s reshuffling soldiers into new platoons. And then hanging out in the barracks.

If you told the people in your church to pull out their phone and text a non-Christian they were on close enough terms to that they could arrange a spontaneous coffee for later in the afternoon, how many could do it? How many of the people in your church who read their Bible daily have made an attempt to read it with an unbeliever some time in the past year?

One more: if God answered, in one fell swoop, all the prayers members in your church prayed last week, how many new people would be in the kingdom?

The uncomfortable reality is that many of the fastest-growing churches in America aren’t growing because they’re winning and discipling new believers but because they are importing them from other churches.

A familiar scenario unfolds in many of our big cities: some new hot church with great music comes into town, and everyone flocks there. That church boasts “New Testament-level” growth, but the total number of people in church in that city on any given weekend doesn’t actually increase.

Of course, this isn’t disciple making.

If anything, it’s sheep stealing.

Swapping members is not advancing on the gates of hell; it’s reshuffling soldiers into new platoons. And then hanging out in the barracks.

Life on Life Discipleship

For many years we wanted disciple making to be the priority in our church, but our college ministry finally led the way. Each year they launch about fifty students into ministry, most of whom come from non-Christian backgrounds. A couple of years ago they sent a full-time church planting team to Southeast Asia that consisted of eight college graduates, seven of whom had become Christians at our church during their time in college. The next year fourteen interns joined our staff to help reach more college students in the area, all fourteen of whom had become Christians at our church during college.

What are they doing right? They’re playing on flag football teams with lost people. They’re eating meals with lost people. They’re reading the Bible with lost people. They’ve taught us what the word discipleship meansIt was simpler than we imagined. Life on life. Real friendship. Hard conversations. Intentionally missional.

Life on life. Real friendship. Hard conversations. Intentionally missional.

As one of our college pastors says, “Seventy-five percent of all our discipleship is informal. We teach our students that almost every step of their Christian life is to be shared with someone else. When they get to whatever finish line they are headed toward, they should look around and see three or four people they have brought with them.”

To reach more people, we don’t need better gathering techniques; we need a more intentional focus on discipleship. This takes an entirely new way of looking at relationships.

Read the Bible as You Go

I asked one of the most effective disciple makers I know to share with me his discipleship method. I was expecting a fancy curriculum with a silver-bullet technique. Instead, he sent me a scanned list of thirty-one Bible verse references he had typed out on a word processor back in the ’80s. He told me that he gives this list to someone and asks them to take one verse a day and write beside each of the references what God might be saying to them through it. He meets with them weekly to discuss their answers. After that, he said, he asks them if they want to read a book of the Bible together and do the same thing.

That was it.

No secret sauce, no electrifying jolt of discipleship genius, no magic formula, no Jedi mind tricks. Yet just about every time our churches had a baptism service, that disciple maker had somebody represented in the lineup—either from him directly or through someone he’d led to Christ bringing someone else to Christ. Just last weekend I met a guy who had been led to Christ by a guy who had been led to Christ by a guy who had been led to Christ by a guy who had been led to Christ by a guy who had been led to Christ by a guy who had been led to Christ by this guy. If you’re counting, that’s six generations. That means he is a spiritual great-great-great-great-grandfather, and he’s not even fifty years old yet!

Oh yeah, he’s not seminary trained.

What about you?

What a tragedy if we spend our whole life busy doing good things but overlook the one thing Jesus told us was paramount, the one thing he identified as the Great Commission!

As you go through the normal rhythms of life, invite someone to travel alongside you and read the Bible together along the way. Let the pressures of life, God’s Word, and the Holy Spirit carry the heavy load. You’ll be amazed at the results.

You may be good at many dimensions of the Christian life, but are you good at making disciples? Can you point to others serving in the mission now who weren’t believers when you met them? Are you reproducing yourself?

What a tragedy if we spend our whole life busy doing good things but overlook the one thing Jesus told us was paramount, the one thing he identified as the Great Commission!

Who's to Blame? The Root of Mass Shootings

In His Image

Photo L.A. Times

Photo L.A. Times

Dayton, Ohio – 9 dead, 14 wounded
El Paso, Texas – 22 dead, 24 wounded
Chicago Illinois - 1 dead, 8 wounded
Three mass shootings in the span of only a couple of days.  One appears to be driven by racial hate, another by gang violence and one has an unknown motivation. 

Human nature is to respond immediately with blame. 
It is the President’s fault.  His racism has incited racist violence.
It is the Republicans fault. They have done nothing to enact stricter gun laws and have stood in the way of those who have.
It is the Democrats fault. They didn’t do anything when they had the opportunity and now their proposals are extreme.
It is the video games, parents, school bullies, mental health, the NRA and on and on and on we go. And again and again and again there are deaths, injuries, lives changed forever.

 Blame is what Adam did in the garden.  We read about it in Genesis 3, after Eve and then Adam disobeyed God.“8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Do you see it? 

Adam, did you do what I said not to do?  It was the woman’s fault – she gave me the fruit. And it was your fault, God, you gave me the woman!

Eve, what have you done?  It was the serpent. He deceived me.

 Here’s the thing – there is a degree of truth to their blame.  God did give Eve.  Eve did give the fruit to Adam. The serpent did deceive Eve.  But there is more truth than that. The roots are much deeper.  Eve acted, as Adam watched, from disbelief. She didn’t believe that God was good and gracious.  She didn’t believe that He was providing all that she was due.  Apparently, Adam agreed.  Disbelief led to sin and sin led to death.  What I am getting at is this. All of our blame for gun violence and mass shootings has a degree of truth. But until we get to the deeper root issues, we will never stop the violence.

 Genesis 1 tells us of the creation of all things, including humanity.  We read, “26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  Humanity was created in the image of God.  Humanity still bears the image of God, though it is marred by sin and imperfect.  What that means is that all human life has value.  All human life is meant to reflect Him, and does.  All human life.  All – Red and Yellow, Black and White, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Socialist… All.

 This is the truth that we fail to believe (or at least one of them).  If we believed this truth, then guns would not be an issue, neither would bombs, and knives and cars and airplanes.  If we saw ALL people as image bearers of God to be respected and honored and heard there would be no mass shootings.  If we saw His image in all people we would be much kinder, much more helpful. We would be more patient, more giving.  If we saw one another as image bearers we may blame less, listen more and work together for real solutions – heart solutions.

In His Image.png

 This Sunday we start a new series on Sunday mornings – In His Image.  How timely. 
Consider this an invitation to explore what it means to be created in His image.  The implications are incredible!  Join us.

Intro to Community Bible Reading (with links to download the app)

What is CBR?

About two years ago we introduced a Bible reading plan to our entire New City body, Community Bible Reading (CBR).  We hoped to encourage more people to read the Bible daily.  Here’s how it generally works for us:

Our Missional Community leaders introduced the idea to everyone in their MC.  Those participating in the Community Bible Reading plan were encouraged to download the CBR app to their phone.  We chose to do the two chapter daily reading.  Each day the CBR app gives everyone the same two chapters to read, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.  After reading each day, participants are encouraged to share through group messaging something that stood out to them from what they read, something God seemed to be teaching them or maybe something that they found challenging or encouraging.  Most of our groups use the GroupMe app for messaging.

The results have been great.  There are more people reading the Bible regularly than before we started and there is a lot of encouragement in seeing what God is teaching others in our groups.  There have also been questions and for some, a little uncertainty on the best way to approach Community Bible Reading at New City.  So Greg Wood and Keith Watson, two of our Elders will share their approach.

From Greg:

There are good things going on in the church with people getting into the Community Bible Reading (CBR)!  Throughout the week people are sharing their thoughts with their Missional Community (MC) from their time in God’s Word.  During MC gatherings there are conversations that encourage people to join in the reading. And we are reading what each other post at various times during the day, giving us opportunities to be reminded of what we had read earlier and think upon our glorious Savior.  This is a wonderful grace that the Lord has provided us:  to be enjoying and sharing His word together.

At the same time, several people have mentioned to me that they struggle with the CBR, and have asked me how I use it during my alone time with God.  Others haven’t started reading the CBR, and I would love for you to have the joy of fellowshipping with God through His Word. 

I too struggled with it at first as I had already established a routine in the Psalms each morning, but one that did not include the community aspect this one has.  And the CBR was too much material for to read slowly and carefully, so I have had to adapt it down to just one chapter.

So, here is the way I use the CBR to enjoy God each morning.  It’s only one example, but I hope you may find one or two ideas that you can implement in your own devotionals.

Preparation for Approaching the Lord

I read in the same place every morning, and get there about 30 mins. before the kids wake up.  I get my cup of coffee and settle onto the couch in our sunroom.

I don’t use my phone/tablet for the reading and meditation because of the distractions those bring, plus the audio in the app keeps me from reading slow enough to meditate on what is being said.  I use my Giant Print ESV which has no study notes – I’m not aiming at study really, but instead I aim at making my heart glad in the Lord.

I approach the whole thing as a time of prayer.  My goal is to have communion with God first.  Yes, community with my MC and others is a secondary goal, but I starve spiritually if that becomes primary. 

Praying the Scripture

First, I briefly ask my Heavenly Father to fellowship with me and grant me understanding of the text.  I write this prayer our in my journal, expressing my need for Him.

Next I read the Scripture.  I just read one chapter, usually the NT chapter or Psalm for the day, because that one chapter will provide all I need for roughly 45 minutes of meditation and prayer. As I read carefully, following the flow of thought within its context, usually something will stand out… perhaps something that connects with an earlier reading and helps me see God’s magnificent authorship. Or, it may be something that exposes my sin, or something about God that is awesome, etc.  If nothing is jumping out, I’ll try asking the 4 questions: Who is God? What has He done? Who am I? What should I do in light of this truth? I am really just trying to shake some fruit down from this tree as one hungry for the Lord’s supply.  I’ll use whatever I can to get what I know must be there that will lead to seeing God’s glory and greatness, or be glad in the Lord’s grace or goodness. 

Once I have the verse or paragraph that stands out to me I begin to write out my prayer.  Writing the prayer aids in keeping my mind from wandering off to the day ahead.  I usually pray through the acrostic ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.

·       Adoration – What is the showing me about who God is?

·       Confession – How have I fallen short of this glory?

·       Thanksgiving – What has God done that I can thank Him for?

·       Supplication – How do I need to ask for more grace to respond appropriately to the text?

Community Sharing

Lastly, I try to figure out how to say something brief to the MC, DNA group, and other elders.  I’m not looking to say something very profound, just what I enjoyed about the Lord through this passage we all read. This can be tough because there is so much to choose from.  Sometimes I’ll summarize my prayer, and other times just summarize what has stood out to me.

I hope you find one or two things to use in your pursuit of joy in Christ.  Grace and peace to you through God’s Word New City!

From Keith:

Preparation for My Time With CBR

I am NOT a morning person. Not. I do, however recognize my need to start the day off with Bible reading as opposed to a million thoughts about all that I need to do in a day.  So I set my alarm a few minutes earlier than I might otherwise.  

After the alarm, I head straight for the coffee!

After a little morning news and a cup of coffee I am ready for another cup of coffee.  I’m not kidding.

After coffee and some news in the morning quiet, I usually get a shower and dressed for the work day.  Now my mind is ready to think.

As I sit down for a little breakfast I open the CBR app on my phone and begin reading just as it is laid out – the Old Testament passage and then the New Testament passage.  Occasionally there are days that my mind may wonder or when it seems that nothing really jumps out to me.  If I have time I will re-read the passages.  If not, I just don’t share anything with my group(s) that day.  That is a rare day.

Posting

Almost always there is something God encourages me with or convicts me of from His Word. Before cleaning up from breakfast, I share that encouragement or conviction with my group(s).  Sometimes I copy and paste the verses and nothing more. Sometimes a type out a sentence or two about my encouragement or conviction.

I probably spend 10 to 20 minutes total with my reading and posting, but it is incredible how much good I receive from that time.  Jesus promised that he would send the Holy Spirit who would teach us, lead us and convict us of sin and righteousness.  He does that in many ways, but I believe primarily he does that through the Word of God. 

My encouragement?

Jump in and read believing that He will teach you, lead you and bring you conviction of sin and righteousness as you read His Word!  He is faithful and true.

Ready to get started? Download the CBR app: iOS & Android

Learning and Remembering

children-cute-drawing-159823.jpg

“A, B, C, D, E, F, G…” 

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star…”

“Are you sleepy? Are you sleepy…” 

This is my life right now. I have a 3 year old daughter and I absolutely love her to bits! At this age, she’s learning more and more words. She’s learning to speak in full sentences. One thing that can’t be ignored (because of her loudness) is learning to sing these children songs. By the way, have you ever noticed that many of these songs have the EXACT same melody? What?! Mind BLOWN!!! Anyways, back to the subject. 

As some one who loves music, I absolutely love hearing her little voice singing. Recently she has been singing “This is the Day.” You know it!…

“This is the day,
This is the day 
That the Lord has made

I will rejoice, 
I will rejoice
And be glad in it.”

There’s something magical that happens when words are combined with the highs and lows of a a melody and a backdrop of notes, chords, and instruments. It’s pleasing to the ear. It’s enjoyable. And for some strange reason, the words become a little more memorable. We see this as we teach our children. Toddler’s learn the “ABC’s.” There’s the “Chemistry Element Song” for chemistry. There’s the “U.S. President’s Song” for U.S. History. It’s usually hard to initially learn these songs. But, once they are learned, they are remembered. Songs are a wonderful tool to help us now only learn, but remember! 

As we look in the book of Exodus in chapter 15, we see this very idea of songs as a tool to help us learn and remember. God calls Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery and into the promised land. After a series of plagues upon the Egyptians, Pharaoh finally lets God’s people go. (“Let my people GooOOO!!) As they were nearing the Red Sea, Pharaoh’s army began chasing them because Pharaoh had changed his mind once again. God then commanded the Red Sea to part and the Israelites were able to cross the sea on dry ground! When Pharaoh’s army tried to cross, the waters subsided and God defeated Pharaoh’s army for His people. I’m sure there was much celebration and much relief. The interesting thing is they didn’t just have a big party and continue on their way. They sang. Moses took the time to write a song about how God delivered them from the Egyptians, taught the Israelites the song, and they sang!!! 

Recently, I had someone express how much they enjoyed the music at New City. They stated how much they really enjoyed how everything sounded but really noticed and saw the story of the gospel displayed: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. This is our goal each and every Sunday morning at New City Church. We sing through the gospel story. We sing in response to our Holy and magnificent God who created all things. We sing confessing the brokenness of this world and us and our need for a savior. We sing and celebrate the beautiful, wonderful name of our Savior, Jesus. We sing and remember His life, death, and resurrection. We sing with hope that God is working in us making us more like Jesus through His Holy Spirit and will one day bring us home. 

Even though God had just delivered His people out of Egypt in a miraculous way, I mean, walking on dry land between walls of ocean water…come on!! He knew that people would forget, no matter how spectacular. Moses’ song was used to celebrate and remember what God had done for them. Not only that but this was a song to help teach future generations of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Again, why? Because people forget. They forget. We forget. As believers today, we forget. We forget the miraculous act of salvation that has taken place in our lives. We forget. We misbelieve. We NEED the constant reminder of the gospel on Sunday mornings as we gather as a family. We need songs to help us remember that God is still good and faithful, that it’s His glory we pursue and not our own. 

I want to encourage you with a couple of things that will help us as we gather on Sundays:

  1. Arrive on time. The music portion at New City is not just something you can skip before the MAIN event. Music isn’t just the previews before the movie. It’s the walk through of the Gospel story: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. When we come late, it’s almost like we are just jumping into the middle of the story. And at that point, it’s really easy to lose interest.

  2. Stay tuned in. Think about the lyrics and the scripture that’s being presented. Why are we singing this song at this point of the service? What does that passage of scripture say about who God is and what He’s done? What does the liturgy say about who I am and what my response should be? I know it’s tempting to worry about this or that. There’s a purpose to singing and we lose that if we aren’t focused.

  3. SING LOUDLY!!! Sing so that these words become engrained in your heart and minds. Sing to remember why we sing. Sing to celebrate and remember what Jesus has done for you, what He’s done for us. Sing with conviction. Sing as though the person next to you needs to hear these truths…because they probably do!!! What an encouragement it is to hear your brothers and sisters in Christ singing and rehearsing the truths of God. Sing because it is an example to non-believers that the Gospel is real. Sing lest you or I forget.

Praying for More than Me

adult-background-belief-1451361.jpg

This summer while being off, I’ve had the joy of just sitting down early in the morning and thinking. I actually think sometimes.   I thought about how wonderful it is to experience the clear move of Jesus in my life.  The experience of having Jesus intervene in my affairs is nothing short of joyful and amazing.  The testimonies that He’s given me over the years have been indelibly etched in my heart and spirit.  Whenever He moves in my life or in the lives of others, it’s just an amazing thing and a magnificent statement on His part that I am His and that He is constantly affirming His love for me.

I thank God for the fact that He supplies all of my needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.  In Him I have everything.  He is my provider & protector.  He opens and closes doors for me.  In addition, He is constantly at work in me perfecting the good work that He began in me when He saved me.  When I pray often times He withholds in order to guide me, strengthen me, help me think according to His will, perfect my faith and transform me more into His will.  Other times he comes through instantly and in a way that I know for certain it was him.  He gives me all things pertaining to life and godliness.  In Christ Jesus I have so much for which I am truly grateful.  For months now I’ve been praying and petitioning God for a number of PERSONAL things.  As I was meditating on the many prayer requests that I have I began to think about where the central focus of my prayers are.  The central focus of my prayers are for the THINGS that I want and “NEED.” During this contemplation, I thought about the prayer requests I have for the unsaved people around me and my requests for opportunities to share the gospel.  They were not very many.  Then I just sort of surveyed the many requests that we have for ourselves and our loved ones.  While nothing is wrong with any of these prayer requests, it’s interesting that I’ve not concentrated my prayers on opportunities to share the gospel, to see certain people saved, or for visitors in the church coming to know Jesus, to the same fervor and consistency that I’ve asked for things.  It hit me that my thoughts are so “ME” focused that somehow I may have lost the fervor and joy of seeing Christ save people.  As upset as I presently am about the degradation of our culture, and believe me I am very upset, wouldn’t it seem reasonable that I would be praying for lost souls as hard as I pray for things pertaining to my life?   Paul said pray for me that a door would be opened to share the gospel.  Jesus came from heaven into the world to save sinners.  My point is this.  In analyzing my own personal prayer life the focus has been predominantly me, what make things better for me and very little missions.

If God answered all of my prayer requests right now most all the things that I’ve asked for are temporary. Only people and the things that we do for Him will count for eternity.  Please understand that my requests are legitimate (I think).  Some are real needs and some are just wants.  So then how does the gospel address this prayer dilemma in which I’ve found myself?  Because of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus and He has called us and made us missionaries, then my fervor for praying for people to be saved and to be used by Him to see people saved should be just as great.  So then how should I pray thinking about who I am in light of what God has done for me in Christ Jesus?  I can still pray for those personal things.  However, there should be an overwhelming passion growing inside me by God’s grace to see and be involved in seeing people come to know Jesus.  I should be praying for the salvation of people.  For me, I want and need live out my identity in Christ Jesus as a missionary.  My prayers should also be focused on this as well and at least as much as all of my other personal prayer requests.  Now then, what am I to do because of who Jesus is, the savior of the world?  What am I to do (in praying) because of what God has done for me in Christ Jesus?  How should I be praying in light of who I am, a missionary?  Pray for the salvation of others. Therefore I need a list of people in my immediate sphere of influence.  Pray for the unexpected opportunities therefore I need to always be ready to give an answer of the reason of the hope we have in Jesus. Pray for the grace to share.

Why did I feel that it was necessary to share with  you what’s in my head and heart.  If you analyzed the focus of my prayer requests, those  of your own life and even in your MC group, your analogy may be similar to mine.  Don’t stop praying for what you need and desire but do increase the intensity of your desire and requests to see people saved and to be used by God in the identity He gave you as a missionary.  Sometimes the things in life and the tribulations of life can divert us to the real meaning and focus of life, to know Him, to worship Him, and to live in eternity with Him. While we have Jesus others do not.  They cannot ever know the joy of our salvation or the hope that we have in Him unless they come to know Him. How can they hear without a preacher (missionary, you)?  How can we preach unless someone is sent (goes)?

Let one of the focus of your prayers be for the salvation of people around you and opportunities to share the gospel.

 Pastor Lawrence

Give Them Jesus

public.jpeg

This is my Isla. (That’s pronounced eye-luh. I know somebody read it “iz-luh” and I just can’t handle it!) She is ten months old and is the happiest, friendliest baby. She always smiles a whole-face smile, and when she wrinkles that nose, it’ll make your entire day. She is an absolute joy. 

Sometimes I look at that smile and think- she doesn’t know what life is like yet. She doesn’t know anxiety, fear, disappointment or the pain of loss. She doesn’t know the burning ache of broken trust or the deep sorrow of regret. She doesn’t even know physical pain really. 

There’s a part of me that wants to shield her, and all my kids, from feeling those things. I want to do everything I can to protect them from physical harm and emotional pain, but I can’t. This is life. Our world is broken. Bad stuff happens. I can’t protect her, or any of my kids, from pain.

The good news is I can do better than that. I can give them Jesus. 

When they come to me with boo-boos, as I kiss, clean and bandage it, I can tell them how Jesus was hurt for our sins, and that he cares about their pain.

When my 7 year old gets her feelings hurt by a friend, I can tell her how Jesus’ friends were nowhere to be found right before he laid down his life for them and for her, and that he is a good and kind friend who loves her. 

When one of my kids feels alone, I can tell them that Jesus was utterly alone in his last moments, but that he has promised he will never leave us. 

When my 5 year old is afraid, I can remind him that Jesus is his salvation, and we have nothing to fear.

When they experience loss, I can tell them how Jesus gave up everything so that we can know God and be his children. That because of what Jesus did, the best thing we can ever have is something we can never lose- a place in the family of God. 

When they are sad, hurt, afraid, anxious, lonely, discouraged...I can tell them that their savior Jesus felt all that too. That for our sake, he endured the worst suffering anyone ever has when he bore our sins to the cross. But! He overcame death, and is alive and with God, praying for us. That the Holy Spirit is with us and comforts us. That one day all will be made new and there will be no more suffering and pain.

I don’t know what life will hold for my kids. But of this I’m sure- it is better to know suffering and have Jesus than for life to be so good that I believe I have no need of him. I’d rather stumble through loss, betrayal, and heartache and end up at the feet of Jesus, than run anywhere else in happy oblivion to suffering. 

Do I want my children to suffer? Of course not, but they will. And when they do I will hold them, kiss them, weep with them, and I will give them Jesus.

What Are You Thinking? Our DFCS Partnership.

black-and-white-child-cute-48794.jpg

“The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) investigates reports of child abuse; finds foster and adoptive homes for abused and neglected children; issues SNAP, Medicaid and TANF; helps out-of-work parents get back on their feet; and provides numerous support services and innovative programs to help families in need.” (from the dfcs about page)

I have had to contact DFCS as a mandatory reporter when I witnessed child abuse. I have prayed for and with families who have been falsely accused of child neglect or abuse. I have been questioned by DFCS about abuse and neglect. I have been interviewed regarding cases I was connected with through family and friends. I have seen children with great needs go to families who were told the child had no special needs. I have seen children removed from good families. I have seen children go to bad families. And we have likely all heard stories of cases gone wrong. I have seen children weeping, biological parents weeping and foster parents weeping - each and all in some way devastated by circumstances and decisions.

Why in light of all of the negative interactions would you choose to partner with DFCS? That was the question that our primary DFCS representative asked recently. It is a fair question. It may be a question that you have had. This morning, though someone else had already answered the question, I emailed our DFCS contacts with my answer to that question as I also made a plea on behalf of one of our families. I deleted the plea from this post but wanted to share the WHY of our partnership.

Dear __________,
Amanda shared your questions with me a couple of weeks back about how we came to the decision to work to help DFCS as a church. You asked that in light of some of the negative interchanges our people have had with DFCS over the years. I want to answer that…

Theologically we understand our world in light of the Bible’s story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration:
God created the world and all that is in it, and created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden. Things were “very good.” Adam and Eve’s relationship with one another was exactly as it was designed to be and theirs with their creator was exactly as it was planned to be. At this point there was no sin or brokenness in the world.
Then Eve disobeyed God, and Adam followed. Sin had entered the world. Immediately everything changed – Adam’s relationship with Eve, hers with him, each of them with God. Brokenness from sin would quickly fill the pages of history – abuse, murder, wars, famine, death.

God promised a redeemer as early as Genesis 3:15 – one who would come to fix the brokenness. Over and over throughout the Old Testament that redeemer is promised.
We meet him in the Gospels. His name is Jesus.

Jesus lived the life that we cannot – perfect and holy,
He died the death that we deserve – the penalty for sin,
He was raised on the 3rd day defeating death and sin and Satan, ultimately for us.
He ascended to the right hand of the Father where now he intercedes for those who love and follow him, those who trust in his work of redemption.

He has promised that he is returning.
He is coming again to finish the work that he has only begun. When he returns he will judge his enemies and all those who are lost in their sin. He welcome those who are his own into his presence and into the Father’s presence and then, he will restore all things to what was intended in the garden, when there was no sin. Then there will be no more sin, no more suffering, no more brokenness and we will be with him forevermore.

Until then we live in the brokenness of a fallen world. We live with the hope that we have in him and the future that he has promised. Until he comes to fully and finally redeem and restore, we, the church are to be His Kingdom present. We strive to bring shalom to the world we are in. We work to bring a glimpse of what will be to what is now.
In that kingdom there will be no abused children – we will all be loved.
There will be no more suffering and all will be cared for.

That is your job.
God gave it to you through the government that he established (Romans 13).
He has given DFCS with all of its (own) brokenness to help with the brokenness of families. We want to help you help families and kids.

We want to bring an end to suffering and (to) care for others as best we can, as a glimpse of the kingdom that will be. So we have made a commitment to you and through you to families and children.

And our plan is to stick with you.

For all of the difficult situations I have been a part of with DFCS, I have also been a part of numerous good situations… good in a broken world. I have seen abused and neglected children rescued from terrible situations. I have seen them loved and cared for. I have seen the adoptions of families who have made these children their own. I have been in the attorney’s office and heard the judge’s declaration of adoption. I’ve seen tears of joy not just tears of sadness and hurt. I have seen foster children loved as if they belonged to a family as preparation was made for their forever home. I have seen kids cared for as parents work on addiction and other issues. I have seen DFCS workers who are under-paid and over-worked, vigorously pursue the best interest of children. I’ve seen them fight for the safety and well being of children. I’ve also seen them not only work to help mothers and fathers but go well past the extra mile to try to keep families together.

Their job is hard. I honestly cannot imagine doing it. But they do. Many of them very well.
They often do so with little appreciation from families on either side, only criticism.
Their job is important. God has ordained this government to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Children’s lives are at stake and at the very least, in every interaction their health and well being are at stake. That is a lot. It is a hard job.

DFCS is a broken government organization that is staffed by broken people (like we are all broken) seeking to work with broken children and broken families in a sadly broken world.
Jesus has come to mend the brokenness.
Though we will not see the brokenness fully fixed until He returns, the church is here, in part, by his grace, to give a glimpse of what will be. We are here to mend what can be mended, to serve as He would serve, to defend those who cannot defend themselves, and where we are able, to be instruments of healing.
I cannot think of a better partnership than this one.

We are thankful for the DFCS workers. May we pray more and more for you and all that you do.
We are saddened and sometimes angered by moms and dads who abuse and neglect. May our anger be righteous as it reminds us that this is not how things were intended to be and may our sadness lead us to prayer and action on your behalf and on behalf of your children.
We are brokenhearted for the children who suffer daily and need desperately to be loved. May we love you like Jesus loves you and serve you as His own.
We see you fostering and adoptive families! May we pray for you, pray with you and support you more and more in the days to come - you are part of his answer for now to all of this brokenness.

In all of it may we be reminded that we labor for a kingdom that is coming and for a king who will do all that he promised. May we hope in his promises because he is faithful and true.
And let us not grow weary of doing good… Galatians 6:9

Shaped by the Word of God

isaiah scroll.jpg

Last Sunday as we continued our look at II Peter we wrapped up the first chapter with a plea to read and study the Bible, to know it, to believe it deeply and to be shaped by that deep belief. That was Peter’s plea to the churches he wrote to. What we believe about the Bible shapes our reception of its teaching. If we see it as truly the Word of God, written with the authority of God then it’s teaching will shape our view of God, ourselves and the world we live in. Not believing that will shape our lives as well.
You can listen to the sermon HERE, “Who Are You Listening To?”

“We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the verbally inspired word of God, the final authority for faith and life, inerrant in the original writings, infallible, and God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Matthew 5:18; John 16:12-13).”

These deeply held beliefs about the Bible shape what we do as a church and a people. Below is an article from Mark Driscoll that further describes our beliefs.
The Bible is not simply an old book filled with the thoughts of sinful men; it is the very Word of God.

CHRISTIANS: WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?

As part of his teaching ministry, Jesus often taught his students (disciples) about the future. On a few occasions he promised them that one day he would leave them and send the Holy Spirit to perfectly remind them of his life and teachings so that they could write and teach accurately and truthfully to complete the Bible.1

The human authors of the Bible include kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, a doctor, and scholars. The books of the Bible cover history, sermons, letters, songs, and love letters. There are geographical surveys, architectural specifications, travel diaries, population statistics, family trees, inventories, and numerous legal documents.

Unlike any other book, the Bible is a book written by both God and man. But it was not coauthored, as is what you are reading. It was not God and humans collaborating, or a human writing a draft with God making revisions, or God giving ideas that the human authors put into words. They were not words dictated to humans, as with the Koran. The Bible is not human writings that become divine when the reader discovers spiritual meaning in them, as with the writings of many Eastern religions. It is not one of many books containing the religious insights of ancient sages, as many liberal Bible critics teach.

People who were providentially prepared by God,2 and motivated and superintended by the Holy Spirit,3 spoke and wrote according to their own personalities and circumstances in such a way that their words are the very Word of God.4 God’s supernatural guidance of the writers and their situations enabled them to receive and communicate all God would have us know for his glory and our salvation.

We call this divine inspiration. Putting it a bit more technically, the writings themselves have the quality of being God-breathed. It is not the authors or the process that is inspired, but the writings.

The belief that God wrote Scripture in concert with human authors whom he inspired to perfectly record his words is called verbal (the very words of the Bible)5 plenary (every part of the Bible)6 inspiration (are God-breathed revelation). Very simply, this means that God the Holy Spirit inspired not just the thoughts of Scripture but also the very details and exact words that were perfectly recorded for us as Scripture.

When we say verbal, we believe that the very words are inspired and important, chosen by God, so every word does matter. That’s why Jesus can say “not an iota, not a dot” of the Bible can be ignored.7 We cannot limit the divine inspiration to concepts that God put in the mind of human authors who did their best to put those ideas into words. Rather, his revelation comes to us in those exact words.

When we say plenary, we mean there are no parts of the Bible we don’t believe, don’t like, or won’t teach or preach or obey. We cannot be like Thomas Jefferson, who brazenly sat down in the White House with a razor in one hand and a Bible in the other and cut out the portions he rejected, asserting his own authority over the authority of the Lord. And we cannot be like those who are more subtle than Jefferson and simply ignore parts of the Bible as primitive, dismiss them as outdated, or explain them away with human reasoning. Paul shows us the proper attitude toward Scripture:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.8

He teaches us that the very words are miraculous revelation. Every part of Scripture is God’s word to us, the product of his creative breathing, just as the world,9 humans,10 and apostles11 were. It is profitable, or helpful. It is not helpful like a phone book, but helpful as a person who loves you, cares for you, converses with you, counsels you, comforts you, and confronts you. The Bible is how God speaks to us.

The leader of the Jesus’ disciples, a man named Peter, says this about the Bible:

We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.12

Peter tells us that the Bible is not just made up like a fairy tale. Rather, the authors were carried along by the Holy Spirit as a boat is carried by a breeze that fills its sails. Because the Scriptures come from God, they speak to things no human could know and do it with perfection. For example, the writers of the Old Testament could not have made up prophesied details such as a virgin birth in the tiny town of Bethlehem.13 If God had not moved them, they could not have seen the future in such detail. Because God alone is sovereign over and all-knowing of the future, he revealed exactly what would happen.

The biblical authors knew they were writing Holy Scripture. Paul told the Corinthians, “The things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.”14 He had the courage to give them a commandment from Jesus and then put his own command right alongside it, as having equal authority.15 Paul quotes the Old Testament as Holy Scripture: “For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’” and then he quotes Luke right alongside it, saying, “The laborer deserves his wages.”16 Peter also compares the letters of Paul to “other Scriptures.”17

Taken all together, the Scriptures make incredible truth claims. The Scriptures are:

  • given by God’s inspiration;18

  • the very words of God;19

  • all we need to know God;20

  • a perfect guide for life;21

  • pure;22

  • true;23

  • trustworthy;24

  • perfect;25

  • effective;26

  • powerful;27

  • not to be taken from or added to;28

  • for everyone;29

  • the standard by which all teaching is to be tested;30

  • to be obeyed.31

Speaking poetically, the Scriptures also claim to be:

  • sweet like honey;32

  • a lamp to guide our life;33

  • food for our soul;34

  • a fire that purifies and a hammer that breaks us;35

  • a sword;36

  • a seed for salvation planted in us;37

  • milk that nourishes us.38

Gathering to Remember

karl-fredrickson-JRsZWmRd_Ws-unsplash.jpg

Sunday morning rolls around again. We’ve hit the snooze button one too many times and we frantically hop out of bed and get ready for our gathered worship time. After ridding ourselves of the dreadful curse that is morning breathe we check the time. There’s a small sigh of relief because if we leave now, we can get to service just in time for the sermon! Wait…let’s stop right there. In that short moment, in that brief thought process, we are believing that the sermon is the most important part of service. If that’s the case, then why do we sing? Is it just extraneous? Is it just stuff for the artsy/musical types? is it just for those that are into that sort of thing??

I felt like it’s a good time to remind us (Yes, I’m including myself too!) of the importance of singing on Sunday mornings. By no means am I downplaying the importance of the sermon! It is largely important!!! But, it’s not the ONLY thing. There’s so much more that happens. There’s opportunity to serve, opportunity to be missional, opportunity to gather as a family of believers, and as it pertains to this blog, opportunity to sing together!

Take some time to read below and be reminded of what a great opportunity we have to sing and remember what Jesus has done for us and how we have been transformed!


“This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Is this song familiar to anyone? It has been engrained in my head ever since college. A friend of mine that served in the college ministry we were a part of would sing this every morning. Whenever we were at retreats or any overnight function, as soon as the sun came up, he would hop out of bed and start singing it over and over again at the top of his lungs while shaking everyone awake. Because of that, to this day I wake up randomly singing that song. 

In many cultures, songs have been used to help tell stories and remember them and pass them down from generation to generation. Songs convey ideas in such a way that help us to remember words and thoughts. One of the many reasons we sing at New City Church is to remember. The best thing that we can remember is the Gospel, the truth of God, the Lord and Creator redeeming and adopting our wandering hearts through the blood of Christ. 

Let’s face it, remembering is hard. How many times in a week do you forget something? Or even, how many times in a day do you forget something? I can tell you that if I don't write something down, I will probably forget. Forgetting is so common that there are numerous phone apps that help us jot down and remember, not to mention the endless wall of daily planners you find at bookstores. 

At New City Church, we gather as a family to remember the gospel. In preaching the word of God, the gospel is presented. Through music, the story of the gospel is presented through Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Songs are filled with the truths of scripture for us as a church to sing them together with one voice. The hope is that these songs would stick in our minds and hearts so that whatever comes our way throughout the week or in life later, we are prepared to respond in such a way that glorifies our Lord Jesus. Whether we just won the lottery or our kids got into the right school or the passing of our loved one, we remember our Sovereign Lord and Creator who continually loves us. We remember our Father who is for us and not against us. We remember our Lord, Jesus and His work on the cross. We remember that we are not alone. We remember our brothers and sisters in Christ. We remember the Holy Spirit that dwells in us richly. We remember that God uses these circumstances to shape us more into the image of Christ. We remember the Gospel. 

We have a Spotify playlist put together for the sole purpose of remembering. The playlist is filled with truth-filled songs that we sing on Sunday mornings at New City. Whether you are commuting to work or winding down at home, or maybe you're having a particularly tough day, listen, learn, and sing these truths and be reminded of who God is, who we are, what He has done for us, and our response.

spotify-logo.png

NEW CITY SOUND PLAYLIST

This next link below will take you to a playlist that changes every week. Each week we sing different songs, some new and some old. To prepare us for Sundays, this playlist was created to help us learn and prepare our hearts to sing together on Sunday mornings. It's hard when we don’t know the songs or aren’t familiar with them. Now we have the opportunity to learn and know the songs we will sing during our gathered worship. We can now come prepared to sing along with our brothers and sisters in Christ, unified through the truths of scripture in song. Create an account and follow this Spotify playlist to prepare every week for gathered worship.  

spotify-logo.png

NC SUNDAY MORNING

If you want to read more about what our Sundays look like at New City, check out our previous posts on Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration in the link below. 

The Songs We Sing…

CREATION

FALL

REDEMPTION

RESTORATION

Mission: Loving the People Where You Are

85KYouAreHere-715x400.jpg

My view of mission for the believer has been radically reshaped over the past several years. I once viewed mission as GOING to far away lands where languages and cultures were different - South America, Asia… I saw missionaries as those people who were especially sent by God to reach those foreign people with the good news of Jesus. It was what I learned. The great commission after all says, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…”

As I write this we have a team that just returned from a mission trip to Honduras and another that is currently in Guatemala, I love mission to far away places and peoples who are very different.
But I also have come to know that mission is as much “next door” as it is far away. You see, the great commission, I believe, is not a call to GO, but a call to MAKE DISCIPLES. And I believe that it what we translate as “go” in the original language would better be translated, “as you go.” I believe that because first, it is a participle and second because all of the disciples didn’t “go.” Most stayed where they were. There, where they were, as they went about their normal routines and rhythms of life, they made disciples. As they met new people and made new friends, they told them about Jesus.
They loved the people right where they were,in their neighborhoods and where they worked.

This is mission. Loving the people where you are and loving them enough to tell them about Jesus. It is intentionally living as a missionary right where God has you, as you go about your life.

Last week 2 of our MCs (missional communities) gathered in different places but with the same goal - meeting neighbors and through new relationships, telling them about Jesus. Beautiful!

These aren’t the only MCs intentionally reaching out to their neighbors! Others have had or regularly have neighborhood gatherings with food and drinks and games for the kids! This is becoming the norm - mission, loving the people where we are. What a grace!!

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of
mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel …
Philippians 1

You Are Not Enough, and That's Ok

You are perfect.
You are enough.
You have everything you need inside you.

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you’ve likely read a variation of one of those mantras. They are well intended but feeble attempts to move us away from the temptation to compare ourselves to others and feel “less than.” I say well intended because those statements do come from a good place with the purpose of being encouraging. I say feeble because, well, you’re not enough, actually. Neither am I. And it’s ok.

When I don’t finish my to do list, when I lose my patience and snap at my children, when I’m short with my husband, when I once again give into any temptation that I have been fighting, I am not enough. I am not productive, patient, loving or strong enough. And no matter how many times I say to myself “Tomorrow I’ll be better, tomorrow I won’t mess up as much,” I still struggle and fail the next day. This begins a terribly discouraging cycle of failing, trusting in myself to do better, but failing again, then feeling hopeless that I can ever change. I am not enough.  

The truth is, when I struggle and fail, I don’t need to be pointed back to myself. The very fact that I DO struggle and fail shows that I need something much greater than myself.

The Bible is clear that we are sinners in need a savior. Jesus is that savior. Through his life, death and resurrection, He has redeemed us. And that is not just redemption from sin and hell… it is redemption from work.

We are broken and needy, and we believe that we need to work to prove ourselves. We need to do better, do more, try harder, and then we will be good enough. If I have everything I need inside me, then I must work harder so that others will see it and know that I am worthy. But Jesus turned all of that on its head.

When he took on flesh and lived perfectly, bore our sin and carried it to the cross, when he died and rose again and overcame sin and death and brokenness, he did all the work. He accomplished everything that we need. When our brokenness and need and his goodness and grace collide, oh, it is glorious. It is beautiful. And it is freedom. Freedom to rest in his accomplished work. Freedom to run to him when we fail. Freedom to do our best and trust that His purposes will stand. Freedom to be “not enough” because he is more than enough.

I don’t need more of me. You don’t need more of you. We need more of Jesus.  

The Goal of Biblical Fatherhood

With Father’s Day right around the corner, I thought it would be great to reflect on what it means to be a Godly, Biblically-driven parent. As a father of an almost 2 year old and a soon-to-be newborn, I am learning that parenting is one of the primary means of sanctifying grace that God has given to me. At times parenting is frustrating, challenging, and confusing; while other times it is beautiful, joy-filled, and glorious.

Through the ups and downs my main goal in parenting, alongside my wife Hanna, is to help guide my children to love and follow Jesus supremely above all other things. This sounds great but the pressure to have trendy, well-behaved, smart, and nutritious kids is sometimes overwhelming. It sometimes drowns out my goal to create an environment where my children learn to love and follow Jesus above all of those things. It’s a process. I’m growing. But what I’m learning is that the sanctification and holiness of my family is so often directly related to the pursuit of Jesus that they see from me. Fathers, we have a weighty responsibility.

I came across a list that Ray Ortlund put together called “10 Things You Should Know about Fatherhood” and it has been extremely helpful in thinking through practical ways to be a godly father who leads his family well. Be encouraged and Happy Father’s Day!


1. Fatherhood began in God, since he is our Father.

God is our Father at two levels. One, he created us: “Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?” (Deut. 32:6). Two, he adopted us: “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom. 8:15). Ultimate reality is not mechanical but relational, not physics but fatherhood.

2. The fatherhood of God, rarely taught in the Old Testament, is strongly emphasized in the New Testament.

It was Jesus who taught us to pray to “Our Father” (Matt. 6:9) and to see God as our Father (Luke 15:11–32). What Jesus emphasized proves that perceiving God as our Father is a high-point in biblical teaching.

3. Fatherhood came down to us men as a grace from above.

“I bow my knees before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named . . .” (Eph. 3:14–15, ESV margin). We didn’t project our notion of fatherhood onto God. Rather, God handed down to us his own vision for what fatherhood means.

4. A father can enrich his children with a great spiritual inheritance.

“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old” (Psalm 44:1). Each generation does not have to relearn everything from scratch. A father can give his children a head start by passing along the old stories of what God has done.

5. Sadly, a father can also pass down to his children sinful patterns.

“And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers” (Nehemiah 9:2). Some family traditions need to die!

6. A father must guide his children toward what is right and good.

“The LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). Discipline is an important way a father loves his children.

7. A father is careful, in disciplining his children, not to become harsh.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger” (Eph. 6:4). After all, God our compassionate Father, “remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13–14).

8. A father boldly claims his entire family for the Lord Jesus.

“As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15).

9. A father provides for the legitimate earthly needs of his family.

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:18).

10. A man becomes a spiritual father by leading someone to faith in Christ, and a pastor is a fatherly presence among his congregation.

“I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment” (Philemon 10). “For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:11–12).

Abortion is the Antithesis of Christlikeness

womb-babies-daily.jpg

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Philippians 2

I write this morning to those who call themselves Christians, those who profess Him as Lord and Savior, those who claim to love and follow him.

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the believers in Rome said, “28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. “  (Roman 8)

This is a beautiful passage on God’s plan to shape us into what was intended before sin entered into the world - his people, holy and righteous - a people who look like Jesus.  This passage describes what we call “sanctification.”  Ultimately sanctification is our being shaped into the image of Jesus, one who loved God perfectly and loved others perfectly. Paul describes this process as a guarantee - we will be shaped into his image (glorification). If we are truly Christian, then our life on some level should reflect this process of sanctification. We should be growing more and more into the image of Jesus.

Which brings us back to the Philippians 2 passage.
Jesus left the comfort and glory of heaven, NOT considering his own interests only, but the interest and needs of others. He did not act selfishly, but selflessly.  He inconvenienced himself for those who were in great need and helpless to meet their own needs. Though he was creator, he willingly humbled himself for the good of his creation, even to the point of suffering abuse, torture and death at their hands. Jesus willingly set aside his rights for the good of someone else. He suffered so that someone else would not have to. 

This is the image that should mark our lives. It is the image we should reflect.

It is like Christ to be willing to set aside my rights for the good of another. It is like Christ to give myself for someone else. It is like Christ to be willing to be inconvenienced for others. It is like Christ to have plans changed. It is like Christ to put the needs of the unborn above my own needs. It is like Christ to do whatever is necessary for those who cannot do for themselves.
It is the opposite of abortion for the vast majority of people.
As Christians, we are the beneficiaries of such a sacrificial and selfless love and we are called to love like Jesus. It is part of bearing his image, of being Christian.

So I appeal to you as Christians, no matter what the Law of our state or country says, no matter how loudly our culture says that this is about your freedom and your rights, choose to live like Jesus, for the good of others, even the unborn… abortion is the antithesis of Christlikeness.

If you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant, afraid and need help, know that you are not alone. There are people and organizations who will love you, counsel you and help you. Here are two organizations in Middle Georgia: Caring Solutions and Covenant Care. You can also reach out to any of our New City Church staff and elders.

For those who have already chosen and carried out an abortion, know that in Christ, because of what we read in Philippians, you can receive forgiveness! It’s why he came. It’s why he suffered and died. You and I have sinned. And we cannot forgive our own sin and we cannot do enough good to make up for it and sadly we continue to sin.  Jesus came to live the life that we have not - perfect and without sin. He came to die the death that we deserve -the righteous died for the unrighteous. And on the third day he arose, defeating death and sin and Satan. And for those who trust in his work, those who believe in who he is and what he has done, there is grace - forgiveness of sin. The Bible says that our sins are cast as far as the East is from the West, never to be remembered by God!  Paul said to the Romans, because of the work of Christ and our faith, there is therefore no condemnation for us.  That is beautiful and amazing. Accept it. Rest in it.

Welcoming the Youths

Youth group was a big part of my teenage years. I was saved in youth group. I experienced community and growth in the youth group. I absolutely loved how God used our youth gathering times on Wednesdays to form and shape me and to help me realize that I was His, that I was in need of His saving grace through Jesus Christ. As I reflect on on things God has used to shape who I am today, Sunday morning church gatherings stand out!

Sunday gatherings were the time when I was able to interact with those older and younger than myself. I developed some truly great and deep relationships with those older than me that I still keep in contact with today. I didn’t realize how significant those relationships would be back then. I didn’t realize how witnessing those intergenerational interactions would form and shape how I interacted with others. 

Seeing and experiencing our Sunday gatherings with folks of all ages helped me realize that this Christianity thing wasn’t just something trendy or cool. It wasn’t something that just parents force onto their kids. It wasn’t just a fad that would soon end like trendy diets (Paleo…Keto…I mean seriously, what’s next??) Sunday mornings helped me realize that Christianity was for the entire life. I needed to witness young married couples point each other toward Christ. I needed to see fathers shepherding their family. I needed to see seniors worship through song that have been steadfast in their faith for 40+ years. I needed to hear the Word of God preached and learn to listen and apply the gospel to my life. I needed to see warm, smiling faces. I needed to sit next to my church family who loved and cared for me. I needed to feel my hand almost break from shaking hands with men I respected. I needed to feel the loving embrace of those who were my grandmothers in Christ. All of this has helped form and shape my views of what the gospel lived out looks like. 

I loved our Sunday gatherings because it was a chance to be with my church family. I was warmly welcomed by grandmothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. They would ask me how my week was going. They would invite me over for lunch afterwards or invite me to come hang out with their families during the week. I got to experience what a gospel-centered family looked like, both the good and the bad. 

Whether you are recently out of youth group or far from it, students need to see you live your life for Jesus. Not just from afar but relationally on Sunday mornings. I know it feels awkward to go out of your way to greet and welcome one of the students but it’s worth it. Don’t let the students just stand in the corner by themselves. Rather, greet them. Ask how they are doing. Invest in them and cheer them on at sporting events. When new families come and they have teenage students, be sure to recognize them as well. Don’t just focus on the parents. Students are also fellow image bearers of the King, whether they know it yet or not. 

I pray that you don’t just hear this as another to-do for Sunday morning. Like with everything, our motivation is not just to be nice or to add another box to check off. Why do we do this? Our motivation should be the Gospel. We have a great and mighty God who created each of us as image bearers to be in relationship with Him and with each other. Sin severs that relationship. We hide. We fear. We worry. We place ourselves above others. While we were wanting, needy, and helpless, Christ came to welcome all those who would place their faith in Him as our Savior. Through His life, death, and resurrection, He openly welcomes and invites us to know the Father and know life everlasting. He invites us to know true acceptance. This is the Gospel. This is our motivation. Christ welcomes us with open arms. As His children, we are to do the same. It’s often said before our greeting time at New City, “let us welcome others just as Christ has so lovingly welcomed us into His family.” It’s not just during that time. It’s when we’re getting coffee. It’s in between services. It’s before services. It’s after services. We welcome others because we have been so graciously welcomed into the family. We welcome because we want others to come into His family too. This includes students. The teenager off to the side who feels awkward and uncomfortable because he/she doesn’t know anyone or whose parents made them come. They need to see your smiles. They need to see your attentiveness to the sermon. They need to see you singing loudly the truths of God. Welcome and invite them in just as Christ has. I can honestly say that I would not be who I am today without God working and welcoming through His people. 

Pew Research reports that twenty-to thirty-year-olds identify with Christianity at half the rate of their parents and a quarter of the rate of their grandparents. These young adults were teens a decade or two ago, and many of them were active in church youth ministries. Many are asking what we can do to get them back into church. Maybe young adults are not actually leaving the church; they were never there to begin with.

Wright, Dave (2016). Gathering God’s People. In Cole, Cameron; Nielson, Jon (Ed.), Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry (pp. 110). Wheaton, IL: Crossway

Resources for Raising Tiny Theologians this Summer

Summer is here! We’ve made it through the school year to the time when schedules are flexible, days are longer, and your tiny people are home a LOT more than usual. Summer brings opportunities to change up routines, find new rhythms as a family, and try things out that you haven’t had time for in other seasons. So as you’re thinking about the next few months, I wanted to share some resources to help you pass on the faith to your kids!

Can kids be theologians?

Before we talk about resources, I wanted to spend some time thinking about why we should teach our children the Bible and the doctrines of the faith.

The Bible makes clear that it is the primary responsibility of parents to raise their children in the Lord and teach them what it means to love and follow Jesus, always aware that it is God who is at work to redeem their hearts. Our teaching is the kindling laid at their hearts, waiting for the fire of the Holy Spirit to ignite their faith. We can’t save them, but we can teach them and ask the Lord to use it.

Training our Kids in godliness is not something that happens once or twice a week, nor is it something we can put off until they are older, but it is part of the regular rhythm of life in the family of God. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 we read:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The local church is the family of God, partnering together to spur one another on, including in raising our children. So we want to come alongside parents, encouraging and equipping them in the joy of training our children in the faith!

Everyone is a theologian - everyone has thoughts and ideas about who God is. That includes our children. The real question is have we taken the time to be good theologians, and are we teaching our children to do the same?

My hope is that some of these resources will help you teach your children, especially in this approaching season!

1. Tiny Theologians (ages 3-12)

This small shop creates discipleship tools perfectly suited for parents teaching their children core tenants of the Christian faith! From attributes of God, to church history and the doctrine of union with Christ, this small company creates beautiful and functional products to teach deep truths to small minds (I love their vision so much that I borrowed their name for this post title!). Their products are high quality and intended to last, so they are on the pricier side. This would be good to choose one tool to work through for the summer!

2. The Gospel Project (ages 6-12)

If you have a kiddo who is in one of our elementary age classes on Sunday (meaning they just completed 1st through 5th grade), you could reinforce what they are learning in the classroom with some review at home during the week! Lifeway’s Gospel Project curriculum has tons of tools, one of which is intended for families to talk about at home! Their “Big Picture Cards” include the key verse, gospel-connection, and summary of each week’s story, so you could use them to help kids retain what they’re learning. They are very affordable and would be a simple tool to use at the breakfast table to have good conversation in between Sundays.

3. The Bible Project (ages 5-80)

The age range was tough to define here because the Bible Project videos are intended for a huge audience! While this isn’t a children’s resource, they are beautiful, creative animated videos of Bible stories, themes, and concepts that would be a lot of fun to watch together as a family. Bear in mind that these are written for adults so some of the concepts may be tough for young kids to understand, but they would be great conversation starters for older kids, and could still engage young ones in the biblical story! Just be sure to watch them first to make sure the content of the video you choose is appropriate for your kids’ ages!

4. New City Catechism (ages 4-11)

Catechism is a fancy word that means “oral instruction.” It is an ancient tradition of teaching new believers the core tenets of the Christian faith by memorizing key questions and answers for the purpose of growth in faith. Memorization of integral truths about who God is give our children (and us!) a framework and a language through which they can interpret an immensely confusing world. It is a method of teaching that has largely fallen out of practice but is seeing a resurgence in things like the New City Catechism. This collection of questions and answers has a full version intended for adults and a shortened version for children, available in both a book and a free app! Both guide learners through core doctrines of the Christian faith, rooting their understanding of God in Scripture and orienting their worldview through the lens of the gospel. It is a valuable tool in discipleship at any age.

5. Scripture Memory

Memorizing Scripture can seem like a daunting task if you’ve never done it before, but our kids are surprisingly well suited for it! And as they learn, we learn too! Hiding God’s word in their hearts is one of the most valuable and lasting gifts we can give our children. In moments of fear, pain, confusion, and despair, they can call to mind the very words of God to give them hope. He has given us his word! What a joy. This can be as simple as printing verses from biblegateway.com, or using cards like these at the breakfast table. Give it a try! Offer an incentive, make it a game, memorize with them, use funny voices, and see how amazing our kids can be at memorizing God’s word.

6. Risen Motherhood

My last recommendation is actually a list of recommendations. Risen Motherhood is a ministry geared toward helping moms view all of life through the lens of creation, fall, redemption, restoration. It is a gospel-centered ministry with a heart for passing on the faith to our children, and we love that! They have a robust list of resources for training children, and it’s worth a look all its own. They also frequently share new things they are reading on their social media, so give them a follow if you’re interested!

Just start

If you’re anything like me, you’re looking at this list and are completely overwhelmed. My encouragement to you (and to my own heart) is to just do one thing. Don’t try to catechize your children overnight, and don’t implement a homeschool program of Scripture memory over the summer. Just choose one tool that interests you and seems like something your family could use, and start there! Every intentional moment we spend passing on the hope of the gospel to our kids is valuable. So start small, but just start.

I hope this summer is full of fun, laughter, sleeping in, and good robust theological education! :)

Bonus

If you’re a podcast junkie like me, check out these episodes on why we can and should train our children.

Knowing Faith - Can Kids Be Theologians?

Risen Motherhood - Teaching Our Children about Jesus and How Do I Disciple My Children?

And all summer, make sure to jam out to our New City Kids playlist on Spotify! It is chock full of rich theological truth, Scripture set to catchy music, and it won’t make you want to pull your hair out.

Loving Our City: Small Visitation Room at DFCS

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a little with you about the work we are doing in a small room at DFCS where teenagers hang out while waiting for a placement. We were able to take furniture, a TV, a Wii and some books, games and coloring books and markers. We’ve still got some finishing touches to warm the room up a bit, but it is taking shape! We hope it will make the kids’ time at DFCS a little better. Check out the pictures below!

We still need some teen-appropriate movies for this room (G or PG-rated). You can bring them to church any Sunday and we will get them there!

IMG_6685.JPG
IMG_6693.JPG
IMG_6692.JPG
IMG_6690.JPG