Changes in New City Kids!

This week brings two exciting changes in our New City Kids program! The mission of New City Kids is to partner with parents to build a firm gospel-centered spiritual foundation for their children. As we continue to grow, we want to keep our methods flexible but our mission the same, so we have a couple of changes to help us to do that.

1. 9:00 AM Classes

With our recent move to two services, we've seen a shift in class attendance and want to make sure we are making the best use of our available resources! To open our classes to as many kids as we can, our 9:00 AM service will offer these four classes beginning March 25:

  • Nursery/Toddlers (anyone in diapers) will meet in the "Hot Air Balloon Field"
  • Pre-K & Kindergarten (potty trained through K) will meet in the "City Park"
  • 1st & 2nd grade will meet in the "New City Zoo"
  • 3rd, 4th, & 5th grade will meet in the "City Theater" or "New City Cafe" (depending on size)

Our 11:00 AM service will remain the same as it has been:

  • Nursery/Toddlers (anyone in diapers) will meet in the "Hot Air Balloon Field"
  • Pre-K will meet in the "City Park"
  • Kindergarten & 1st grade will meet in the "New City Zoo"
  • 2nd & 3rd grade will meet in the "City Theater"
  • 4th & 5th grade will meet in the "New City Cafe"

We will continue to keep this model flexible as New City grows and we welcome more families each week! 

2. Classroom Curriculum: The Gospel Project

This Sunday also launches a series in a new curriculum in all of our classes (except the nursery). We have been using the Jesus Storybook Bible for some time and love it's focus on Jesus throughout all of Scripture. However, it is just shorter than a calendar year, and that has us teaching important lessons like Christmas and Easter at odd times! We want to incorporate these church-wide celebrations in to our lessons and reinforce what our kids are learning at home, so we are taking a break from the JSB to get back on track. In the meantime, we are going to teach Lifeway's The Gospel Project.

From Lifeway's website:

Every story casts His shadow.

66 books. Dozens of authors. A holy canon thousands of years in the making. Every word, every verse, bears His testimony. Of the Holy Messiah. Jesus Christ. Eternal King.

The Gospel Project® is a chronological, Christ-centered Bible study for Kids, Students, and Adults that examines how all Scripture gives testimony to Jesus Christ. Over the course of three years, participants will journey from Genesis to Revelation and discover how God’s plan of redemption unfolds throughout Scripture and still today, compelling them to join the mission of God.

We are excited to teach through a portion of this program on the New Testament letters this Spring, showing our kids how all of Scripture points to God's ultimate redemptive plan in Jesus. This week's lesson will focus on Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and next week will take us to the crucifixion and resurrection as we celebrate Easter. I encourage you to read more about the Gospel Project, and talk with your kids about what they're learning in class!

"Getting children to meet in the morning and the afternoon is a waste of their steps and yours if you do not set before them soul-saving, soul-sustaining truth." -Charles Spurgeon

At New City, we want to use every opportunity to help others live in light of the gospel, and our kids are no exception. Pray with me that these changes serve our families well and open doors for the gospel to be proclaimed - with kids, parents, visitors, and friends. Thank you to our faithful volunteers who love and serve our kids and their families week after week!




Preparing for Easter with Kids

At times it can be hard for us to slow down long enough to ponder and be amazed by the jaw-dropping truth that Easter represents. It is another day, another family function, another event to plan around, and we can lose our sense of awe at the magnitude of what we're celebrating. So how are we supposed to share the awe and wonder of Easter with our kids?

From the beginning of time, our all-knowing God has been preparing a plan to save and restore a broken and sinful world to himself. His design for us is to live in relationship with him, but our selfish and sinful hearts forbid it. There is nothing we can do to repair that relationship on our own, so he made a way. He sent his perfect, holy, divine Son into our brokenness to take the punishment we deserve and give us his righteousness. Jesus lived a perfect life, died on the cross, and was raised on the third day, forever defeating death and sin on our behalf. What an incredible, glorious day to celebrate. 

But what practical things can we do to teach our kids of the big picture of Easter - not just the springtime fun, but the culmination of God's redemptive plan for the world?


This Easter I want to encourage you with some resources that can help you communicate the mind-boggling, beautiful truths of the holiday with your family. One of these resources is a sweet little book called, The Garden, The Curtain, and the Cross. Drawing kids into God's big story - creation, fall, redemption, and restoration - this book beautifully depicts the heart of the gospel. 

The book traces God's story from creation, through the fall and our separation from God, and finally Jesus' triumphant sacrifice on the cross. As it describes the effects of the fall and our separation from God, the book repeats the refrain, "because of your sin, you can't come in." But at the end of the book (spoiler alert) Jesus beautifully says, "God says it is wonderful to live with him. Because of your sin, you can't come in. BUT I died on the cross to take your sin, so all my friends CAN now come in!" This sweet rhyme reminds us all - adults and kids alike - that we were hopeless and desperate, unable to come to God. But because of Jesus, we are welcomed and loved. Incredible.

We will have a few copies of The Garden, The Curtain, and the Cross available at the Connect Bar this Easter season if you'd like to purchase one to read with your family.

If you want to read along with what your kids are learning in their classes this season, we will have a two-week unit on Easter beginning March 25th. Our first series in the Gospel Project curriculum, week 1 will focus on Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Matthew 21:1-17;
Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; and John 12:12-19. Week 2 will turn to the crucifixion and resurrection in Matthew 26:36–28:10; and John 18:1–20:18. Read these passages with your kids beforehand and talk with them about it!

I also wanted to share some other resources that one of my new favorite podcasts, Risen Motherhood, put together about celebrating Easter with your little ones. There are lots of great books to read, both for you and your kids, and some fun activities to do together to talk more about what Easter means.

And of course, don't forget that we have several events centered around Easter coming up! The goal for each of these events is not just to put something on the calendar, but to joyfully celebrate the most amazing thing that has ever happened: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Don't miss the opportunity to invite someone in to hear this incredible truth!


Disciple-Makers Build Relationships


Let me be honest, I struggle tremendously with conversation. You may be thinking to yourself, "Wait, isn't he the community guy at New City? How could he struggle with conversation?" If I'm honest with myself, healthy conversation is not something that comes easily to me. I tend to talk a lot and listen very little. I tend to dwell on the surface, rather than diving deeper. I tend to forget details about others lives, rather than following up with them regularly. Healthy disciple-makers must be outstanding listeners. We must be willing to listen to hear people's concerns, pains, and hurts.

I have spent years in Latin America and have learned lots from Hispanics. Their culture is driven by community and conversation. It is not uncommon for a Dominican to invite a stranger walking down the street onto their porch for coffee and a conversation. During these encounters, they ask deep, thought-provoking questions and they listen to what you have to say. This creates a warm and inviting culture. I've long desired to be someone who listens well; so naturally, I've been drawn to Latin American culture in hopes that I would garner just a fraction of their care for others.

What I've learned is that mission starts and ends with relationship. Conversations create a foundation for healthy relationships. I don't believe I'm alone in my struggles with this concept. Many people struggle to have meaningful conversation and take the posture of an engaged listener.

When I examine my own heart and observe others around me (who likewise struggle with conversations), I see three roadblocks and potential areas for growth:

1. We don't pray.

Psalm 5:3 says “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.”

In Psalm 5:3, David models the attitude we should have when we pray—that of eager expectation. We should believe God will answer our prayers and diligently watch for his hand at work. As we pray for God to reach our City and as we pray for 625 people, we should pray expectantly. As we pray for our list of people far from God, we should pray expectantly knowing that God desires to set the captives free and save the lost.

2. We aren't effective at asking good questions and listening.

Specifically, we struggle to do this in a way that digs deeper into someone’s life to get to know who they truly are and how the Gospel would even be good news to them and their story. When we don't ask good questions we get stuck talking about fantasy football, weather, movies, etc., without ever getting past the small-talk that most people (including me) are most comfortable with yet longing to break free of. Good question-asking and listening allow us to turn the corner from the superficial into authentic relationship-building. This begins with a transition from “what do I say?” to “what should I ask?”

3. We actually don't know what to say.

Let’s assume we’ve become great listeners and feel like we have an opportunity to get to know someone better! But what now? What do I say? Many times, all you need to do is ask questions to get a conversation going.

By no means is this an end-all-be-all list but here are 10 simple questions to help you become a better listener, which will in turn help you build deeper relationships.

  1. What was good about your week? Why? How did it make you feel?
  2. What are you thankful for from this past week?
  3. What has brought you the most excitement lately? Why?
  4. What was difficult about your week?
  5. What are you learning these days?
  6. What has made you feel worried or frustrated this week? How did you deal with it?
  7. What has made you feel sad this week? How did you deal with it?
  8. What was growing up like for you?
  9. What advice would you give me? I'm struggling with _____________.
  10. What has been the most rewarding thing in your marriage lately?

By now, you should have your list made; continue praying daily for the people on your list. As God provides opportunities to have conversations with them, let's listen well and ask great questions. Would you join me on my difficult journey towards healthy disciple-making as I learn to ask more and tell less? Let's encourage each other to be more active prayers and listeners.

When they prayed together, the impossible happened


Acts 12:5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church...  12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

The early church prayed together.
In one accord, with one mind they made their requests known to God - the one who not only heard, but was able to do what they could not. And when they prayed together, He heard.
And sometimes, He did the impossible.

In Acts 12, persecution had begun in an attempt to stop the growth of Christianity. James, the brother of John had just been martyred. Peter had been arrested.
And the church began to pray.
As they prayed, God worked.

6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 

They prayed and Peter was set free as only God could do it.
If you are like me, most of the timeyou don't really pray BIG prayers believing that God will do them.  It's OK, we're not alone.  The next part of this chapter always makes me laugh, mostly because I can relate to it!
13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.

Can you see Peter at the gate, afraid, having just broken out of prison, looking for safety... Rhoda comes, sees him there as everyone has been praying - then she leaves him there at the gate to go tell everyone!
As if that isn't enough, when she tells everyone who has gathered to pray for peter that he there - NO ONE believes her! They even say she is crazy! Meanwhile, Peter is at the gate continuing to knock!

I get it! I'm not sure which is more like me - Rhoda who left Peter at the gate or everyone else who was praying for Peter's safety and didn't believe God had saved him.

When they prayed together, the impossible happened.
What if we prayed together? What if we prayed together for our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors who don't know Jesus or walk with Him? What if we prayed together that God would reach them with the Good News of Jesus? What if we prayed together for the impossible?

Starting this Sunday we will have a Prayer Box and Prayer Cards available on the table in the lobby. We want to join you in praying that God would reach the people around you with the gospel!  The cards will not be made public but will be shared with elders and staff who will join you in regularly praying with you for for the people on your list. 
What list?  This one.
So Sunday, stop by the table, take a card, write as many names on it as you like, drop it in the box, and know that we will be praying with you!

When they prayed, the impossible happened!

"I will not be anxious..."


I’m especially excited to be learning this song at New City. It is such a great reminder of the Gospel and the victory we have in Jesus. It helps me to put into perspective who is actually in control when my heart is anxious and my head is filled with fears

I have an almost 2 year old girl that is the definition of adorable! I love being her dad. I love that when I come home she drops everything and runs to me with both arms wide open. Now she’s yelling “Da-Da” as she runs toward me and it’s just icing on the cake. When I sit down and start to think of her future…man does my heart get heavy. I start thinking of  future education, athletics, music, etc. What is she going to choose? Is she going to be a good student? She’s Asian so she has to learn the violin right? Oh and did I mention she’s adorable?! Which boys are gonna holla’ at her? Which is the best shotgun? Will she end up with someone who loves Jesus who loves and treats her well? Will she grow up loving Jesus? 

When my mind spirals like this, my heart races and worry grips me because I realize I can’t control everything. My wife and I can try our best to live out the gospel in front of her, teaching and showing her the love of Jesus. We can teach her manners and proper etiquette. But, the truth is I can’t make her pursue this or that. I can’t control her likes and dislikes. I can’t pick her future occupation. I can’t make her fall in love with this guy instead of that guy. (Sidebar: let’s revisit this arranged marriage thing.) The funny thing is when I come to the realization that I am not in control, I try even harder to control things. When that inevitably fails I become even more anxious than I was before. It’s in those moments when I forget about who is really in control. Verse 1 of the song says:

"I will not be anxious, Jesus You are near
The peace of God surrounding me
is casting out all fear
The hand that holds the heavens
is the mighty hand that saves
The voice that calms the storming seas
is calling me by name"

When my mind is filled with the roaring waves of fear and anxiety, I forget that God is in control. I have to stop and pray and repent of my misbelief. I remind myself that the God who crafted me and holds the heavens up with His hand is mighty and He alone saves. Try as I might, I could never control something as big as my daughters fate, nor can I bear that weight and pressure. The beautiful and reassuring thing is that God cares for my daughter more than I ever could. He beautifully crafted her into the adorable little being she is and continues to poor out love and grace. I know that because of Jesus. I know that because of what the Son of God did for us. Because of His perfectly lived out life, He was able to bear the weight of our sin to the cross so that we who have trusted and believed could have everlasting life. Through all of this He was in control. He has shown Himself to be loving, caring, kind, gracious, and merciful. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we are able to sing of this victory over sin and death.

"When I have forgotten the fullness of your grace
Yes, I remember calvary, when You took my place.
I’m singing in the victory, the victory of the cross
And resting in the shadow of your redeeming love
I’m standing on the promise, the promise of new life
I am Yours forever and Jesus You are mine,
Jesus You are mine."

I don’t have to be anxious. I don’t have to worry and fill my head with thoughts of what could be. I am not in control. I say that again. I am not in control. There is One who is in complete control, who loves and cares for my daughter way more than I ever well, and His name is Jesus. 


I will not be anxious, Jesus you are near
The peace of God surrounding me casting out all fear
The hand that holds the Heavens is the mighty hand that saves
The voice that calms the storming seas is calling me by name

I’m singing in the vict’ry the vict’ry of the cross
Resting in the shadow of Your redeeming love
I’m standing on the promise, the promise of new life
‘Cause I am Yours forever and Jesus You are mine,
Jesus You are mine

When I have forgotten the fullness of Your grace
Yes, I remember Calvary when You took my place

There is no one like You God, love immeasurable and strong
There is no one like You God, so lead this heart to sing in awe
There is no one like You God, love immeasurable and strong
There is no one like You God, so lead this heart to sing in awe

Words and Music by Marcus Dawes, Brett Land, Aaron Ivey,
Jaleesa McCreary, Logan Walter, Dietrich Schmidt
© 2017 Austin Stone Music (ASCAP). All rights reserved.

Stop Now and Make a List

625 list.jpg

I am not by nature a list maker.
But I have started a list. And I am vowing to use it often, to add to it, to pray through it.
I should have had this list forever ago.
And so should you.

If you follow the blogs here at all you may have noticed a rekindled flame in me to see our city (and beyond) changed by the gospel. It has been a big topic of conversation with our staff and elders as well as others in leadership and the flame seems to be spreading!  It's exciting.  We are dreaming of what it would look like to maximize our building, staff, volunteers and other resources - to be good stewards of all that we have been given. And we are praying for that.  We are praying that over the next year we fill our 2 services, our children's space and all of our MCs. We're praying for 625 people. 

"I want to be a part of that," one of our people recently said. "What can I do?"
What a great question!  
Here are some simple things that we can all do.

Start with Prayer for Our City. 
The Bible tells us that God wants people to be forgiven of sin, set free from sin's curse and restored to Him. That's why Jesus came! So we pray His will - Father, redeem the people of our city!  Father, grow Your Kingdom here.
If you missed the sermon last week in Macon, that's what I talked about, from the Lord's Prayer - take a listen - Lord, Teach Us to Pray.

Stop Now and Make a List
I made mine this morning.  Make a list of friends, neighbors, co-workers or family who may not know Jesus or aren't walking with Him. Begin to pray for those names daily.  Father, redeem this city - redeem these people. Call out their name and plead with Him. Jesus says that we should ask and keep asking, knock and keep knocking. So do that.

As you pray for them, pray also for an opportunity to share with them what Jesus means to you, how He has changed your life - to simply share your story. Father, help me to see and take the opportunity to tell ____________ my story, to share with him/her how Jesus has changed my life.

Pray, Pray More and Wait on Him
Pray daily over your list. Add to it. Pray some more. And wait for the opportunity that you have prayed for.  Don't wait passively!  Wait actively, prayerfully, faithfully - looking for the opportunity!  It will come.
And if you have prayed expectantly, when the opportunity comes, you will be ready.

So what can you do, now?
Make your list.
Pray for those names.
Pray for our city.


Are God's Plans Really Better than Mine?

Photo by Hope House Press on Unsplash

I’m not much of a planner. By that I mean, I’m usually good with having a general idea of what’s going to happen, and letting the details work themselves out. This drives my detail-oriented friends and family crazy. Sorry guys.

Even with my fairly laid-back approach to planning, though, my feathers can still get pretty ruffled when the plan gets changed, by someone or something other than me. I’m like, hold up now…that’s not what we talked about. We had a PLAN.

I had a plan for 2018. We were going to get back into foster care this summer, a school-aged girl who could share my oldest daughter’s room and go to school with her, our son would go to half day preschool, and the baby would go to MMO or something so I could have a little time for work. It was going to be neat and tidy (as much as foster care can be) and convenient and good.

Then, on New Year’s day, no less, we had a pretty big surprise- a positive pregnancy test- and the plan went right out the window. Don’t get me wrong, I believe with all my heart that every life is a gift, and we are so thankful. But it took me a little while to get over the very sudden, and very huge, change of plans. (Add to that the fact that I haven’t quite recovered emotionally from the trauma of my last birth and have had a ton of anxiety. I’ve had to layer the gospel pretty heavy on that too…but that’s a whole other blog post.)

As I grieved my plan and worried how things would work out with this new development, someone asked me, what are you believing about God right now? Was I believing that his plans are good, even better than mine? Was I believing that his heart toward me and my family is good? Was I believing that he is in control and that this was not a surprise to him? Was I believing that he will provide for us, just like he always has?

The answer was no. I was believing that my plan was better, that God isn’t in control, isn’t looking out for me and that I must figure all this out on my own. Of course, thanks be to God, none of that is true.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

Here’s the thing about our plans- they don’t often involve hard things. Yes, we may set challenging goals for ourselves. But the point of a plan is generally so that things go smoothly. When difficulties arise, they catch us off guard. They’re not “part of the plan.” Depending on what we believe about God, these hiccups can either throw us for a serious loop, or we can take them somewhat in stride, knowing that our lives are ultimately in God’s loving hands. I confess, I didn’t take the change in my plans in stride, not even somewhat. Thank you, God, for your grace toward my unbelieving heart.

But these “hard things” that God calls us to do, as much as we don’t want to do them, are such gifts. In the thick of the struggle, we may not see it, but God is faithful to teach us to depend on him and his strength, not our own. It is an opportunity to press deeply into the truths of the Bible and the promises God has given to his children.

Through these hard things, God is also giving us stories. In the Bible, the Israelite people had several feasts throughout the year to celebrate what God had done for them. They would look back and remember specific times God had delivered them. Each of us has stories too. We have times in our lives where we doubted and struggled, but God delivered us. When we face trials again, we can look back on these times in our lives and be reminded of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and provision. He has proven himself over and over and over. Will he not do it again?

And your stories aren’t just for you. You will almost certainly have a friend or loved one who, in the midst of a trail, will question God’s plan. They will wonder if he’s going to come through, if he really has his hand on our lives. In these times, you can walk alongside your struggling friend and share with them the times God has provided for you, even in times of doubt. Your stories can point them to his goodness on our behalf.

Let me be real with you- I still have moments of thinking, how am I going to do this? I still get scared. I still sometimes question if God really knows what he’s doing. But I always have a choice to either let my fear and doubts rule me, or to take my thoughts captive and remind myself of what I know to be true- God IS good, he IS in control, he DOES love me and his plans ARE better than mine. You have the same choice. I pray we choose trust.


What Color is Your Library? (Cont'd)



Last week, Pastor Keith wrote this post about his desire to see more diversity in his personal library and our book selection at New City. With that in mind, he recommended Fear & Faith by Trillia Newbell as a resource specifically for our women. Trillia is an incredibly godly, gospel-focused black woman who has so much wisdom to offer, and this book was so encouraging to me.

In Fear & Faith, Trillia addresses many of the most common fears women face: fear of man, the future, other women, tragedy, not measuring up, physical appearance, and sexual intimacy. I believe every woman can identify with one, if not most of these fears. I know I can. She clearly explains how these fears manifest themselves in our lives, and how the gospel helps us fight back. Each chapter is filled with loving, truth-filled reminders of what God has done and what that means for us.

Honestly, this is probably one of those books I could read every year as a refresher! We will have a limited supply available for purchase at the bar this Sunday for $5. Get a copy and I’m sure you won’t regret it. This would also be a great book to read through with other women. If we run out before you get one, they’re less than $10 on Amazon right now. (Be sure to support New City by going through AmazonSmile!)

Another great reason to give this book a read is that we’ve invited Trillia to speak at a New City Women’s Conference next spring! We are working through details but will let you all know as soon as we have a date. It is sure to be a great event. To read more about Trillia and her other books, visit her website here.  

Following the Signs to a Successful Relationship

A Valentine Gift to You

A few Sundays ago I was engaged in a very delightful conversation with some of our single ladies.  One of the question I asked them was, “Are you afraid to bring someone that you like to me for my consideration?”  They answered yes!  Our dear young daughters stated that they were somewhat afraid to bring that guy around because they feared that we would run him off. 

Out of that conversation about relationships it was suggested that since Valentine's Day is approaching, it may be helpful to provide some guidance for getting into a wholesome and beautiful relationship.  Therefore, I decided to offer some insight that may help singles work through the difficulties of finding the “right intended” by moving them through the process of building good relationships. The bible teaches us that God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness.  Christ has provided some good signs in His word to guide us in matters of the heart?  I’ve decided to use road signs to provide a more visual picture of what God’s word teaches us about relationships. So let’s look at some of those signs and see how they can guide you in the way of building good relationships..

wrong way.gif

The First sign that Christ gives us involves Deprogramming and reprogramming ourselves about dating -   Whenever we are driving and about to turn down a road going the wrong way we see a sign like this.  This sign means that the way we’re about to go is the wrong way.  If we continue driving in that direction it can be catastrophic. Before anyone gets into dating, it is necessary to learn how to date the right way so that it does not turn out to be hurtful or heartbreaking.  It’s necessary to go through a deprogramming process and then re-program our hearts and minds so that we can be open to the signs God gives us and then follow them as God reveals them to us. Rom 12:2 states, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (ESV).”  

When it comes to dating almost all of us have been fashioned or trained by the world in the manner in which we date.  Basically, we see someone to whom we are attracted. We go out on some dates and we start becoming physically and emotionally attached.  In our dating world that is basically the pattern we follow which often ends up in frustration and sometimes in catastrophe.  The reason that these things happen is because that worldly process causes us to sidestep the signs that God gives us.  Therefore, one must deprogram himself or herself from the world’s way of dating and get reprogrammed so that he or she can date successfully.

The second set of signs involves understanding the real purpose for dating which goes along with deprogramming and reprogramming. 

One major purpose for dating is forFINDING OUT THE FACTS!” – This is the main one that gets sidestepped the most.  People will say that they are spending time with each other in order to get to know one another, but usually that does not happen to the degree that is necessary to have a good, vibrant, long lasting relationship because when we date the way we’ve been fashioned we miss the signs that God gives us.  Often, couples get physically and emotionally caught up too quickly and miss out on learning the important facts that they need to know before moving deeper into the relationship. They usually do not learn the facts until a crash has occurred. 

It may take several conversations and even dates in order to obtain the facts but staying on a “fact finding tour” will do several really cool things for you.  Firstly, staying on a fact-finding tour will help control the speed of the development of the relationship and minimize the disappointments that can occur in a relationship.  Secondly, staying on the fact-finding tour helps develop the quality of the relationship should the signs allow you to continue. Thirdly, if the person doesn’t work out you find out early and your heart does not hurt nearly as bad. Both parties should be searching for the facts. What are the facts to look for?  For this blog all we will cover is fact #1.

Fact #1 - Does he or she have the basics to enter a relationship? Often, Christians want to know if the person whom they have taken a step to spend time with goes to church and have some measure of godliness.  I suggest that this shallow piece of information grossly limits one’s ability to ascertain the pertinent information to answer fact number one. There are five components to fact number one just to know whether an individual in whom you are interested has the basis for entering a relationship. The great and safe part in dating about finding out this fact is that it guides what you do on a date and it prevents you from becoming too involved with someone who will not work out.  Here are the basics that someone should have before you even consider going further.

  1. Salvation has this person placed their faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus for his or her salvation? At some point very early when getting to know one another this question has to be answered by both and the sooner the better.  I realize that some people have a little difficulty with seeming too pushy about Jesus but this has to be a matter of conversation.  Having a thorough discussion about one’s salvation will begin forming the basis for having deeper and more intimate conversations down the road. I’ll reserve communications for a later discussion.
    You may begin that conversation by simply saying, “Tell me how you came to know Jesus.”  This type of prompt gives him or her the opportunity to share his or her testimony, if he or she has one.  2 Cor 6:14-15 states, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Your first signs are a bold STOP SIGN and a DO NOT ENTER SIGN!! Stop here and proceed no further.   Do not enter!  You have all the information you need. You are spiritually incompatible and to continue id putting God to the test. You will be saying to Jesus, “I know that he or she is not saved but I think that I can make it work.” Don’t put God to the test.  You must be equally yoked to have God’s favor for the relationship.  However, being equally yoked is still not enough. Is he or she…

2. Growing spiritually & maturing is this person habitually living out the gospel in his or her life and growing in his or her commitment to Jesus? This is so important. When people are living out the gospel in their personal lives they ought to be able to cite evidence of their transformation and Christ’s dealings in his or her life.  The more a person becomes like Jesus the more likely he or she will follow Jesus in the relationship. Conversations along these lines gives you additional things to talk about while all the time you are gathering good facts.  How can you tell if a person is growing spiritually? The following can be a quick guide in helping you determine if this person has the basics for a good relationship.
–       There is a desire for Gods word. (Psalm 119)
–       There is a desire to fellowship w/ God and His people. (Psalm 27:4; 42:1,2; 133; Hebrews 10:24,25)
–       There is a desire to tell others about Christ. (Acts 4:18)
–       There is an increasing awareness of sin. (Ps. 139:23)
–       There is an increased exercise of faith. (Romans 1:17; Hebrews 11:6)
–       There is a greater or growing concern about pleasing God.
–       There is a greater commitment to give (finances, gifts, talents, time; 2 Samuel 24:24)
–       There is a commitment to faithful service.   1 Peter 4:10,11

3. Basic maturity is also essential in a person’s life. You want to know whether or not a person is…
–       Maturing as a person? 1 Corinthians 13:11. Immaturity can be embarrassing and disastrous.  You give birth to babies. You don’t date babies!
–       Are they growing professionally, educationally, socially? Does he or she read? Is he or she seeking to advance in his or her profession.  Does he or she have good manners?

If you have spend time talking about these things you may possibly have a candidate but if you cannot adequately see the growth you may find yourself on a slippery course. 


4. Responsible – Does he or she reasonably handle the basic affairs of everyday living?  Is he or she responsible in that he or she has a good work ethic, holds a steady job, pays his or her bills, completes tasks, etc.  This is important because the last thing you want to do is to get tied to an irresponsible person.  I understand that these things can be personal.  However truthful conversation about them can reveal quite a bit about a person. ?  Psalms 37:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; Proverbs 26:13-16; 24:30-34 

  • Accountable – Are there people who can tell your intended what to do or when they are wrong and they will listen? Prov. 1:25,30-33; 12:15; 13:10; 19:20,21; 18:2; 24:7 Usually a person who is not accountable to someone often will not be accountable to God or His word. If you went so far as to marry this person and ran into difficulty, he or she will not seek help because he or she is their own authority.
  • Do they demonstrate a submissive spirit in relationships where there is a higher authority? Hebrews 13:17, Ephesians 5:21, 6:1-3,5; Rom. 13:1-7.  People who do not submit to human authority usually will not submit to God’s authority or God’s word in areas where he or she may disagree.  How can you tell if this person is not accountable?  They are one way. It’s their way or their opinion. 
one way.gif

4. Teachable – Are they in the habit of learning from others?  Proverbs 1:5 ; 12:15; 18:2.  A person with a teachable spirit will grow. He or she will learn from others and particularly learn how to respond to God’s leading in his or her life.

As you can see already if in spending time with a person you are always looking for the facts, just simply trying to determine if a person has the basis to enter a relationship can keep the interaction safe and protect your heart from heartbreak.  It doesn’t mean that you won’t be disappointed because sometimes that person is just not the one though he or she may appear to be.  The great part about choosing to be reprogrammed in dating, the dating process becomes a vehicle of being transformed into the image of Jesus by simply walking in His wisdom by faith in the manner in which you date. Please understand that Jesus is for you. He loves you and the person that He has for you (if he has one for you) will be a lifelong blessing to you.  Just follow the signs that He gives.

I hope that you look forward to part 2.

Pastor Lawrence

What Color is Your Library?


The Color of your library may tell something.
At New City we value diversity. We understand from Scripture that the Kingdom of God will be made up of peoples from every tongue, tribe and nation - peoples who form 1 people, 1 family. The Kingdom will be joyfully made up of peoples of all colors and backgrounds and from all socio-economic groups. It will be a beautiful people - a beautiful family. We not only value diversity but we also intentionally pursue diversity. Merging with Macon Community Baptist Church 4 years ago was an intentional effort to BE the Kingdom present in our city.  Much of our music is aimed at bridging some of the culture and color gap in worship. But...

The truth is, we have a long, long way to go. Months ago I realized that my own library was lacking color - most of my books have been penned by white, male theologians. Equally bad, our resource books at the Connect bar are all white and all male.  Theology is theology, its true. It is also true that good theology is colorless. But people are not. Experience is not. Theology applied in real life is not.  So this month I am adding a few books to my library and to the resources available at the connect bar.

It Happens After Prayer, by H.B. Charles, Jr is a very inspiring and encouraging book on prayer. It challenged me to pray more, to pray bigger and to believe that my Father hears my prayers, loves me and is always working in and through those prayers.  It was this book that has led me to pray for New City to be maxed out in space and resources as we reach more people with the Gospel!

Blood Work, How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation, by Anthony Carter comes for me at a perfect time - getting ready for Easter.Our preaching team had already agreed that this year we would expand our preaching during Easter to talk more about Jesus' sacrifice in the theological terms of expiation and propitiation - subjects covered by Carter. Don't let the terms scare you - Carter gives great clarity to the depth and breadth of Christ's sacrifice. This book will go great with our upcoming series!

What color is YOUR library?  White?  Well, here's a start!
Two outstanding books that should be added to your library by two strong, solid  men of God and men of color. We have limited copies at the connect bar but these books are easily available online.  Next week we'll add another!

Praying God-Sized Prayers

I discovered an unread book at home recently - It Happens After Prayer by H.B. Charles, Jr.  I don't remember getting the book or purchasing the book. I have no idea where it came from.  God's timing is always perfect.  It was just what I needed.  So this post is both an encouragement for you to pick up the book and read it and an encouragement for you to pray... and to pray God-sized prayers.

If I am honest, I don't often pray truly God-sized prayers.  I mean, I do pray for healing, for restoration of marriages, for people to know Him and those sorts of things - and those are indeed BIG prayers.  But they are really normal, big prayers. I'm talking about the kind of prayers that can only happen if God brings it about. I mean prayers that are completely beyond me. Prayers that are completely beyond us. Prayers, again for things that could only come about if God brought it about.

HB Charles quote.png

I was reminded, reading It Happens After Prayer, of Nehemiah's prayer for his home city - Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been utterly destroyed by the Babylonians. Nehemiah was serving the Babylonian ruler at the time because of Israel's defeat. Nehemiah heard, one day, how bad the city and God's people there were doing and Nehemiah was broken. So he began immediately to pray. His prayer was something only God could do. He prayed that the king would grant him, a servant of the king, great favor - favor to gather some men and go to Jerusalem (an enemy city) and rebuild its walls. He would also need all of the king's resources to accomplish that great task.

The job of rebuilding the walls was itself a God-sized task, but to do it with the blessing and resources of the enemy king was even more monumental. Nehemiah could have been killed by the king for even asking. Nehemiah was asking for something that only God could pull off.  This is the kind of prayer I don't often pray... the impossible.  But now I am.

We talked this morning in our staff meeting about Nehemiah's prayer and our prayer - to reach 625 people this year... to max out our staff, volunteers and facilities. This is beyond us. We can't do this on our own. We need to do what seems to be the impossible - reaching more people than ever, doubling and even tripling areas of the church like Missional Communities. 
So we pray. Like Nehemiah.
We pray because we believe that this is God's will - reaching people, seeing them grow in their love and walk with Jesus, that we be good stewards of the resources He has given to us. We pray, this God-sized prayer because we know that only He can make it happen - that means only He can receive the glory.

So what are you not praying for?  Have your prayers been too small? 

HB Charles Book.jpg

Charles writes, "Well, what is it that you need to God to do in your life? Whatever it is, I have great news for you: God is able!
     God is able to put your marriage back together.
     God is able to bring your wandering child back home.
     God is able to heal your sick and hurting body.
     God is able to straighten out your finances.
     God is able to save your loved ones.
     God is able to break the sinful habit you struggle with.
     God is able to fulfill every holy desire you have and accomplish every deed prompted by your faith."

It Happens After Prayer has been right on time for me. Buy a copy. Read it.  Join me and let's pray together God-sized prayers for one another, for our church, our city and the beyond!

Gospel-Centered Music for Your Kids!


I love to hear kids sing. I really love hearing them sing gospel truths. With children you never know what they will pick up. They may pick up your mannerisms, speaking inflections, the way you say things. They are walking sponges. With that in mind, why not let them listen to and learn songs that teach scripture? Why not learn these songs together as a family? Sovereign Grace Music puts out some great albums with the purpose of teaching kids the truths of the gospel in fun and eclectic styles. Their latest album, entitled “Listen Up!” features songs that revolve around the parables of Jesus. Take a listen! 

Their previous album is filled with theologically rich songs that teach who God is and what He has done for us in fun ways. It will definitely get everyone in the family singing. This one has become a favorite. Listen to it here!

It's Time - 625

625 MCs.png

"True belief," Mrs. Dr. Talley said, "always changes behavior. Our actions are indicative of our true belief." I think she was right. When we truly believe something we live our life as if it is true. I was having this conversation with a friend at our gym and used the example of a burning building. If I told you the building was on fire and we needed to run but you didn't believe me, you wouldn't run. At best, you would probably look around. But if you believed the building was on fire, you would act.

I posted a blog asking you to pray for 625 people. We, elders and staff, believe that this is where God would have us for 2 reasons - 1) As good stewards of our resources, God would desire that we max out what we have for the kingdom. We believe 625 people will max out our current staff and facilities for 2 services. 2) We believe that God has called us to reach people with the gospel - this is His mission. We asked for you to join us in praying for 625 because God has chosen to work through prayer. So we are praying that through this, God's name would be hallowed, His kingdom would come and His will would be done.
We believe that this is His will.
So, we believe that He is going to send 625 people, soon.  Why wouldn't He?

This means, it's time!  It's time to get ready for 625!
Because we truly believe this is what God desires (I mean it is according to His will), we need to act now. Our actions, or lack of action will be indicative of what we truly believe - right?
So, pray with us - yes!
Believe with us - yes!
Get ready with us...


We need to add MCs!  For the most part our MCs are all nearly full. 
We have the staff for 625, the training for 625, the building and services for 625 and we have the volunteers for 625 on Sunday, BUT we don't have enough MCs.  We need some of you to consider leading in the next 6 months!
We'll train you.
We'll set you up with a team of co-leaders.
We'll support you and continue to walk with you as you lead.
So, let's do this!

Our next training for potential leaders and co-leaders (YES - we need co-leaders as well) will begin in March. If you are willing to explore the possibility of leading, co-leading or hosting an MC please let Caleb know!  Email him now,!

Pray with us - “Pray that God’s name would be hallowed. Pray that God’s kingdom comes. Pray that the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven.”  H.B. Charles, Jr.
Believe with us - God is going to max out our current systems, structures and resources - 625.
Get Ready With Us.

6 2 5

625 (1).png

As 2017 edged closer to an end I began to pray about 2018, “Lord, what does this year hold? Where would you have us to head in 2018?”  2016 and into 2017 was largely about our new building, getting the work done and getting moved in. It also involved filling staff positions. After the move in, 2017 was a period to settle into all the changes and new roles. It was a really good year for us in all of those areas and by God’s grace New City Church has grown. In fact, we closed out 2017 preparing to move to two services in order to handle the growth. 

As I have been praying and as we’ve started our two services, I have been reminded of a few things about God:

1)      God calls us to be good stewards of what He has given us.
In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the disciples the parable of the talents. The parable is in response to their questions about His return and the end of times. Jesus is telling them that no one knows when that time will be so everyone should continue the mission with zeal – investing in the Kingdom for the King.  Invest what God has given you for His business.

2)      God has called New City Church to join His mission of redemption and restoration through Jesus... its why we exist.
This is His business. Redeeming. Restoring. He has called us to see others live in light of the good news of Jesus.  Ultimately this is what our resources are to be spent on, invested in.  God is redeeming sinners and in Christ restoring us to Himself.

[Let me pause here…
As I have been praying it has been clear that God is calling us to maximize our “talents” for his mission… our time, our abilities and our resources… our giving, our facilities, our staff, our volunteers… all of it.]

Here’s the third thing

3)      God works through prayer.
I am reading, It Happens After Prayer by H.B. Charles. We’ll be ordering some for the coffee bar soon. I have been reminded that God wants us to pray, that he hears and answers our prayers, and that our lack of prayer and lack of BIG prayer is indicative of our faithlessness.  What happens after prayer? Forgiveness, Wisdom, Deliverance, Mercy, Salvation, Healing, Help… God has chosen prayer as a means to meet the needs of His people and accomplish His purposes and He is able to do far more than we can dream or even imagine.

“Lord,” I began praying, “how do we maximize the stewardship of what you have given us to help others live in light of the gospel?” As I did, a new question arose… maybe from the Lord!  What is our max?  What will max out our current resources – giving, facilities, staff, volunteers and systems and structures?

So I asked our staff and elders, “without adding facilities, staff or new teams and systems what is our max? How many people can we reach?” The staff began calculating, writing, talking, figuring, comparing numbers and ideas and then settled. If we max out our current systems, structures, facilities, volunteers and staff we can handle 625. (but we’ll have to add quite a few MCs).

625 – that’s people. Six hundred and twenty-five people gathered to hear the gospel through our songs, liturgy and preaching. 625 people invited to become a part of a family.  625 people redeemed, restored and sent on mission. 625 missionaries to Macon and the ends of the earth. 625 – that’s not just a number.

So we are praying - staff and elders – for 625, praying to maximize our time, talents and resources for His glory and the good of His people. Will you?
Will you pray with us? Will you join us in simply doing what we know God wants us to do – being good stewards of what He has given us, joining Him in His mission and praying for the people around us?

“Pray that God’s name would be hallowed. Pray that God’s kingdom comes. Pray that the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven.”  H.B. Charles, Jr. p31.

Resolved to Read the Bible More


I have a confession to make.
I have always struggled with daily spending time reading the Bible.  I don’t mean as a study or as preparation for sermons or teaching. I mean as care for my soul. I mean as simply reading to know more about God and to know Him more deeply. It’s not that I don’t get that as I prepare to teach, I do. But I have always desired more time there.

I often allow busyness to steal my time.  I wake to thoughts of the things that need to get done on a day and then spend the day doing them with little thought for my lack of time in the Word. In the past I’ve made New Year’s resolutions to be more disciplined.  They have usually started well and ended poorly. 

I feel OK making this confession because I know I am in good company! The Apostle Paul wrote this in Romans 7:
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Paul was talking about the Christian struggle with sin. We often want to do the right thing, like read the Word of God and seek more of Him, but we fail. Maybe it is the sin of busyness. Maybe it is the sin of pride – not recognizing our need for Him. Whatever it is, it is a problem common to us all.

So, how do we overcome this problem?
Should we just be OK with not spending time in God’s Word?  NO!

Paul says that it in Christ that we find delivery.  Part of that delivery is the work of His Spirit – prodding us, encouraging us, reminding us, but there is another way that Jesus helps us. Community.

Jesus gives us a family, he brings us into a new Community. In this community we receive encouragement, reminders, and even prodding… yes the Spirit works through the people of God!  Aaaaaaannnnnnnnnddddddd there is a way that this gift works with the gift of His Word!  It is called Community Bible Reading (CBR)!

CBR is like a Bible reading plan, only it is designed to be utilized in community!
Rather than me resolving, alone, to read the Bible more, I belong to a community of New City folks who are also reading the Bible with me.  Each day my CBR community reads the same 2 chapters of the Bible. Then each member of my CBR community who has read, sends a short note via text (or GroupMe) to the community, sharing something that stood out to them or something that spoke to them from their reading.

I’ve been using the CBR plan since last Spring. It has been amazing! It is always encouraging to see what my community is learning. It is also a reminder ever morning to slow down and spend a little time in the Word.  I still have my days of busyness and pride. I still miss some readings. BUT because I am not a part of a community who is in this together, I don’t stop!  I just start over.

Later this month and into February, New City will begin organizing more CBR communities through our Missional Communities! We are really excited about this. We have spent the last several months going through this with our elders, staff and many of our other leaders including MC leaders.

So what can you do to be ready?
1) Check out the Community Bible Reading website for more information. If you want to use a CBR Journal, order yours now through CBR.

2) Go to your phone app store and download the Community Bible Reading app. When you open the app you’ll notice an option for 2ch or 4ch. We’ll be using the 2ch.
It may also be helpful to download the GroupMe app as well. Group me will allow you and your community to group together rather than using standard texting.

3) We’ll talk more about this at our Partners meeting January 12th. After January 12th, ask your MC leader when they plan to start their Community Bible Reading! 

You don’t have to wait to get started! Once you download the CBR app for your phone, start reading!

The Most Important Thing About You


Life is hard, isn't it?

We have physical sickness and death. Financial problems. Depression. Anxiety. Marital conflict. Family conflict. Stressful jobs. Abuse. Car problems. Infertility. Singleness. (Yes, married people, this can be a trial. Don't dismiss it!) Addiction. Trouble in school. Conflict with friends. Loneliness. Rejection. Miscarriages. Chronic illnesses.

That doesn't even scratch the surface of the effects sin has had on the world and in our lives. We have people at New City who have experienced all of those though. Our world is broken. I am broken. So are you.

A very dear friend who discipled me throughout college was in town a few weekends ago, and she and her husband visited New City. Over lunch after church, I was sharing some discouraging circumstances that I was struggling with. I told her about our Four Questions and how those had helped me apply the gospel to those situations. She replied that when she is feeling that way, she asks herself, “What is the most important thing about me? Jesus loves me and died for my sins.”

That stuck with me and I've said it to myself often since then. I love the Four Questions and use them often. But I'll be honest with you. Sometimes, the chaos in my house is so overwhelming, my anxiety is so crippling, the feelings of depression and hopelessness are so heavy, that by myself, I cannot do the Questions. Or I have three little kids all making different demands, and in that moment, I just need a short, quick reminder.

What is the most important thing about me?
Not that I've lost my temper half a dozen times before lunchtime.
Not that I was short with my husband over something stupid last night.
Not that my house is a mess.
Not that I sometimes get too depressed to do anything but the bare minimum.
Not my failures, weaknesses and shortcomings.

The most important thing about me is that Jesus loves me and died for my sins.

Without that truth, the best we can hope for in life is to have fun, make a lot of money and avoid pain as much as possible. Good luck.

But WITH that truth, wow, it just changes things, doesn't it? When we understand that depth of love- that our perfect, blameless Jesus took our place, bore our sins, and cast them as far as the east is from the west, and our Father remembers them no longer- such hope.

So what's the most important thing about you?
Not your debilitating illness.
Not that failed test.
Not your paycheck.
Not that missed deadline at work.
Not your struggling or failed marriage, or your marital status in general.
Not your troubled child.
Not your addiction.
Not your ability to have kids.
Not your failures, weaknesses and shortcomings.

The most important thing about you is that Jesus loves you and died for your sins.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8 ESV

Live there, in that truth. Set it in your heart and remind yourself often. That's where your value lies.

Christmas Week Reflections

T-3 days until Santa comes shimmying down the chimney with all his goodies. Until we hear reindeer hooves on rooftops and jingle bells all the way. But what are we missing in all of this Christmas cheer?

For as long as I can remember, I have dearly loved Christmas. Growing up I had the privilege of big Christmas celebrations with lots of family, a big Christmas breakfast, and a house decorated to the nines. Some of my favorite memories involve the plastic Santa we would install on the roof and the smell of homemade biscuits and gravy greeting me as I awoke on Christmas morning. It was a sweet time--full of love, joy, and family, and I loved every minute of it.

Since then, Christmas has stayed dear to me. I can't wait for Christmas music to start playing, I love decorating the tree, and I watch White Christmas over and over. It's the most wonderful time of the year. But as we all know, it can also be the busiest time of the year. With year-end projects at work, holiday parties with friends and family, and (Lord have mercy) the Christmas shopping, the days and weeks of the season fly by for most of us.

I suppose this is a painful reality of early adulthood I'm just now facing, but this year was the first time I have watched the Christmas season come and go in a flash. Since we've been so busy, I've missed a lot of my favorite Christmas traditions, and that has caused me to realize something:

I've been missing the point of Christmas.

Without my decorations and traditions (we currently have a Christmas tree with 4 ornaments and mostly burned out lights), and with the hustle and bustle of a busy December, I've been left with a pretty plain Christmas season. In that plainness, without the Christmas "magic" I'm accustomed to, I've been struck with the realization that these things I love have been distracting me from the most amazing thing that has ever happened. 

The things I love so much about the Christmas season are good things, but they all wildly miss what Christmas is about: God becoming man to save and redeem the world. I knew it in my mind, sang it in lots of Christmas plays, and had a light-up nativity scene set in my front yard, but it has never sunk so deeply as it has this year. Maybe it has something to do with being another year older, or imagining what Christmas will look like with a baby next year, but I've been overwhelmed this year by the story of Christmas. The beginning of God's incredible redemptive work on our behalf. God the Father sending his Son to be wrapped in human flesh, to live among us, teach us, and die for us--making a way for us to know him and dwell with him forever.

Last Sunday we sang "Who Would Have Dreamed" by Sovereign Grace Music, and I was nearly knocked off my feet by the third verse:

Wondrous gift of heaven: the Father sends the Son
Planned from time eternal, moved by holy love
He will carry our curse and death He’ll reverse
So we can be daughters and sons

These are things I knew! Truths I've learned since I was a child! But never before have I seen how incredible and incomparable this is. Christmas is magical. It is special. It is God's unspeakable, irreplaceable, matchless gift.

When I compare my understanding of Christmas and all the fondness I have for it to the reality of the Creator of everything coming to dwell with us, I am dumbfounded. How could I let myself worry about the ribbons on the tree and if my gifts are wrapped nicely enough? How could I spend my time thinking (and singing) about Santa and his reindeer when Christmas is the story of how everything changed? 

I don't want to stop celebrating and enjoying those traditions and festivities that I have always loved, but my eyes are a little more open to the depth of the season I've been overlooking. I will still watch White Christmas, wrap gifts, and (hopefully) do a little better with my decorating next year. But I also hope and pray that God continues to reveal the gravity of Christmas, so that I see his glory more and more.

Three Gifts to Give Your Kids This Christmas

Three Gifts to Give Your Kids This Christmas.jpg

While Christmas may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” it’s also one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year.  Often times, we rush around to decorate our homes, attend Christmas parties, make memories with our families, make and send Christmas cards, and buy gifts – all on top of our normally packed schedules. For those of us who lead in the church, from elder to staff member to dedicated volunteer, our service to our church family crowds our schedules even more.

We are just a few days away from Christmas and many of us are probably finding ourselves short on time to finish up our Christmas to-do lists,. The hope of making this year’s celebration meaningful and memorable seems to be a fleeting thought. Whether or not your children get their “must-haves,” there are a few gifts that won’t show up on their lists that may just be the most important.


For kids, there’s nothing like presents piled high beneath a tree on Christmas morning. But even if you got them everything on their list and more, it’s far more important that you remember to give them the gift of yourself. It can be tempting to think that because we sought out, paid for, wrapped, and gave a bunch of great gifts that our parenting duties for Christmas are done. That is far from the truth.

As parents, we are called to represent the heart of God the Father to our children. He doesn’t simply give us gifts that we want because we want them. What He wants most is for us to enjoy Him, not the gifts He gives us.  That’s what we really want and need, anyway – to be known and loved by our Father God.

He doesn’t simply give us gifts that we want because we want them. What He wants most is for us to enjoy Him, not the gifts He gives us..jpg

Our kids, too, want something more than a new toy.  They want to be known and loved by their parents, and to be secure in that love. And as you give them that gift of yourself, you are pointing them to their deeper desire to be known and loved by a heavenly Father.

So, after Christmas lunch, resist the urge to go take a nap, watch TV, or get some “me” time in. Take time to play with all the new toys that you just gave your kids. Watch your favorite Christmas movie with them, even though you've seen it ten times already. Get beaten at that new video game over and over again.  Build a tower with their new blocks, watch them knock it down, and help them build it again.

By giving the gift of yourself to your children, you’ll be blessing them and yourself as well.  And after all, the best gift that God ever gave us was the gift of Himself, as a baby boy on that first Christmas morning.


In Acts 20:35, Paul quotes Jesus as having said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” As a new parent, this year will be the first year that I have the opportunity to stay up late on Christmas Eve and prepare the living room with Asher's presents. This is something I've waited so long to do; it will truly be much better to give than to receive this year. However, our children simply won’t believe it. Their Christmas lists are full of things that they want to receive, not things they want to give.

That means it’s up to us, their parents, to lead them to experience and understand this great truth. Find ways for your family to give to others together this Christmas. Talk to your Missional Community about any needs in the community, or simply make cookies to give out door to door to your neighbors.

I know of one family who wanted to serve children in the Dominican Republic over the summer, but they were having a tough time raising all the needed financial support. So, they decided to use most of the year’s Christmas budget toward their mission trip, and let their kids know about their decision. While it wasn’t the children’s favorite Christmas morning ever, after the trip, they expressed how thankful they were that their parents had made that decision. Their eyes had been open to the true joys of generosity.

As you lead them in generosity, you’re giving them the gift of joy. After all, Jesus Himself promised that it is more blessed to give than to receive, so it’s a promise you can count on.


Only the Holy Spirit can draw your children to know and trust in Christ. However, there is a lot that we parents can do to point our children to the joy of knowing God and to their need for a Savior. One of the best gifts you could give your kids this Christmas is a renewed dedication to leading your children to know and follow Jesus Christ.

He doesn’t simply give us gifts that we want because we want them. What He wants most is for us to enjoy Him, not the gifts He gives us. (1).jpg

Leading your kids to know Christ as Lord starts with you knowing and loving Him yourself. Your children are learning from your example each and every day, whether you think they are paying attention or not. That’s why Moses, when he is telling Israel how to lead their children to know the law, starts with this statement:

“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.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6)

It is only after he says this that Moses talks about teaching your children diligently as we go about our lives.

For some of us, the greatest gift we can give our children this Christmas is a renewed commitment to pursue Christ. Perhaps our habits of regular Scripture reading and prayer have slipped in the holiday busyness. Pray that God would renew your passion to know Him, and then dedicate yourselves to growing in your faith. It will be good for your spirit, and good for your kids too. I pray that all of us parents would be able to say with Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Another gift you can give your children is leading them to know God themselves, not simply by your example. If every child in your home doesn’t have their own, age-appropriate Bible, then I recommend adding that to the gifts under the tree this year. The Jesus Storybook Bible is excellent at pointing our minds to Jesus throughout all of the stories of the Bible. Also, pray with your spouse about how you can help your children develop the habit of reading the Bible and praying daily, either as a family or individually.

Even though these three gifts – the gift of yourself, the gift of giving, and the gift of knowing God – won’t make any child’s Christmas list this year, I guarantee our children will be blessed on receiving them. I pray that we all will find time in this busy Christmas season to make these gifts a priority.

O Come O Come Emmanuel

O Come O Come Emmanuel

Words by John Mason Neale, Thomas Helmore, Arranged by Mike Cosper
CCLI# 31982
© Sojourn Music 2011

Vocalists: Amanda Christopher, Mariah Gandy, Arthur Lin
Guitar: Arthur Lin
Cello: Mary Grace Bender
Camera: Andy Carter of Andy Carter Photography
Mic: Taylor Adams

As soon as December rolls around, people flood the stores, the weather is cooler, lights and decorations go up and of course, Christmas songs fill the atmosphere. Great Christmas classics such as "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Joy to the World" celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. My favorite Christmas song is "O Come O Come Emmanuel." I love the lyrics. I love the music and melody. It is a beautiful picture of longing for hope and peace in our world and the joy of the promised Savior, Emmanuel...God with us. John Piper wrote a great article about the song's meaning, and I encourage you to check it out. Hope you enjoy the video and take some time to read the article below. It's worth it!

This translation of an anonymous Latin hymn doubles as a prayer for the first and second coming of Christ. It takes us into the mind of old Israel, longing for the first coming of the Messiah. And it goes beyond that longing by voicing the yearning of the church of Christ for the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to consummate the history of redemption.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we put ourselves in the shoes of Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and all the pre-Christian saints. We ponder the promises. We strain to see the dawn of salvation. But we know that when it comes, the waiting will not be over.

When Emmanuel arrives — when the Dayspring rises — we learn that redemption has only begun. To be sure, it is a magnificent only. The final blood is shed. The debt is paid. Forgiveness is purchased. God’s wrath is removed. Adoption is secured. The down payment is in the bank. The first fruits of harvest are in the barn. The future is sure. The joy is great. But the end is not yet.

Death still snatches away. Disease still makes us miserable. Calamity still strikes. Satan still prowls. Flesh still wars against the Spirit. Sin still indwells. And we still “groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). We still “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:7). We still wait for final deliverance “from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We still “wait for the hope of righteousness” (Galatians 5:5). The longing continues. 

Still Longing at Christmas

The common tune, linked with these lyrics in 1851 by Thomas Helmore, captures the plaintive mood of longing. It is not the same as the exuberant “Joy to the world, the Lord has come,” or the vigorous and bounding, “Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King.” It is an excellent musical match to the mood of the song. Longing. Aching. Yearning. Hoping.

The Christian life oscillates between these two poles: the overflowing joy of the “already” redeemed (Ephesians 1:7) and the tearful yearning of the “not-yet” redeemed (Ephesians 4:30). Not that we ever leave the one or the other in this life. We are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

It is good to have Christmas carols that capture both dimensions of life. 

My guess is that, as we move toward Christmas, most Christians experience sadness and excitement. We must never let the sadness ruin the simple joy of the children. Most of them have not lived long enough to suffer. Let them see as much brightness as they can in Jesus. But let’s not think that Advent must be all jolly and jingle bells.

The Serious Sorrow in Our Joy

About 3.7 million people will die during Advent worldwide, half a million of them children. About 105 persons every minute. Most of them without hope. A tiny fraction of these make the news — like some victims of terrorism. The vast majority groan and die unknown except to a few close at hand. Such sorrows touch every Christian. We know someone who is dying, not to mention the hundred miseries that make living hard.

It is a wonderful thing that there are Christmas carols that are written for the real world of sorrowful joy, as well as the real world of exuberant joy. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is one of them. You can hear it in the “O” that begins ever verse: “O come, Emmanuel.” “O come, Rod of Jesse.” “O come, Dayspring.” “O come, Key of David.” “O come, Desire of nations.” This is the “O” of longing. 

Emmanuel’s Names

And every name for Jesus is full of hope. 

  • As Emmanuel (Isaiah 8:8) — “God with us” — he will pay the ransom that only a God-man can pay.
  • As Rod of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), springing from a dead stump, he will free his people, by death and resurrection, from Satan’s tyranny, and make them free forever.
  • As the Day-spring (Luke 1:78) — the dawn of God’s kingdom — he will be the light of the world, and banish the hopelessness of darkness.
  • As the Key of David (Isaiah 22:22), he rescues us from hell, locks the door behind us, unlocks the door of heaven, and brings us home.
  • And as the Desire of nations (Haggai 2:7), he will draw the ransomed from every people and make them a kingdom of peace.

This is who Jesus is. This is what he already achieved and will complete. And so with every verse, the refrain reaches down musically into our weak hearts and pulls us up, in faith, to see the certainty of the end. 

"Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee Oh, Israel"

Artistically, the rhythm of plaintive longing in the verses, punctuated with powerful bursts of joy in the refrain, are, to my mind, just about perfect. The mystery and the wonder of Christian living are captured. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Already. But not yet. Fulfillment of glorious promises — yes! But consummation in the new earth with new bodies and no sin — not yet. We are left confident, but still crying out: “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”

The Idolatry of Great Expectations


by Morgan Coyner

The past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about how much people have been letting me down lately. I like to think that I have simple expectations of people, but I feel like every time I need something from someone, they fall short. After a little (okay, a lot) of self-pity which led to some much-needed self-reflection, I realized that my disappointments stemmed not from others but from my expectations of others.

See, lately, I’ve let my focus shift. I’ve expected people to know exactly what I need at any given moment. I’ve expected that they fill the places inside of me that still sometimes feel empty. But how can they fulfill the parts of me they can’t access, that I don’t let them near? They can’t. Yet when they don’t, I end up hurt and disappointed and filled with resentment.

Yet, in these disappointments, I hear God whisper to me to pull closer.

He reminds me over and over that they are not my Christ. He is.

This isn’t new. Idolatry is one of the most common and pervasive sins in the Bible.

In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar builds a giant golden image and commands people to worship it. Aaron made a golden calf to worship not that long after God parted the Red Sea and made a way out of Israel. The entire book of Judges chronicles Israel’s wavering between idolatry and belief in God.

I think it’s hard for us to see our own idolatry sometimes. We think that since we aren’t worshipping golden statues or acknowledging the existence of other gods that we’re fine. As a kid, I thought that “have no other gods before me” was the easiest commandment. God is God, the only God. Done.

But literally, anything can turn into an idol. Exercise. School work. Friends. Husbands. Wives. Even our expectations of others can turn into idols. Anything that we put before God and deem more important than God becomes an idol. When I run to a friend instead of bringing my hurt to Jesus, that’s an idol. When I push quiet time out of my schedule for school work and socializing, they become idols. When I focus on exercise as a way to glorify myself through my appearance instead of maintaining a healthy body, it becomes an idol.

Here’s the thing about idols: they don’t fulfill us. They cannot satisfy the longings of our hearts. No matter how much we chase them and worship them, we will never be full.

Jesus is the one who fills. He tells us in John 6:35, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

When we draw ourselves closer to Christ, we can finally experience true, real, and everlasting satisfaction. We will neither hunger nor thirst, not physically or emotionally. Our hunger for success will fade into a hunger for Christ. Our thirst for love will be quenched by His love.

It’s hard to let go of our expectations, to consider the possibility that any work we do isn’t of us but of Christ. It’s even harder to give ourselves over on a daily, hourly, minutely basis. I challenge you today to do some reflecting of your own and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Where is my focus throughout the majority of my day?
  2. If it’s not Christ, why? What need or desire am I trying to fulfill on my own?
  3. What does the Bible say about this?

God gave us his Son so we could commune with Him, yet he also gave us His Word, a tool through which we can access Him. It’s only through Scripture that we can learn the unadulterated truth. So dig in, get your hands dirty, and let the Lord wash them clean.