Gospel Fluency in Your Relationships

I was recently asked by someone in my Missional Community how Gospel Fluency applies or works in personal evangelism. My conversation with her reminded me of a book I read this past year called The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathon Dodson. In his book, Dodson looks at how we have made the gospel unbelievable in our age and how we can make it more believable in the midst of a changing culture. He addresses concerns and fears about the state of evangelism in our churches. He’s not undermining the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation, for we certainly believe that salvation is a work of the Spirit solely based on the finished work of Christ. His approach to how we can make the gospel more believable addresses why our increasingly post-Christian culture has stopped listening to the church.

Reshaping Our View of Evangelism

Francis Schaeffer was once asked what he’d do if he had an hour to share the gospel with someone; he responded by saying he’d listen for 55 minutes and then, in the last 5 minutes, he’d have something meaningful to say. In other words, he listened in order to speak the gospel.

Far too often believers today have turned this around. We feel like we must preach to someone for 55 minutes and then in the final 5 minutes ask them to respond. Constantly, throughout the gospels, Jesus is always asking questions and looking to engage people. As we think about sharing the gospel we need to reverse how we think about it. Dodson says, “we should listen to people’s story, then empathize with their story, then look to redemptively retell their story with the hope of the gospel.”

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How the Gospel Speaks to People’s Needs

From my experience, most of the time when we dig deep enough people share in very similar needs and desires for life. Jonathon Dodson shares in his book 5 of the greatest needs all people experience and how the gospel speaks to each. This is what gospel fluency in relationship and in personal evangelism can look like. We should listen to peoples stories, hear their needs/hurts/pain, empathize with them, and then share with them the hope that the gospel specifically gives to their needs.

SEEKING ACCEPTANCE

One of the greatest needs people have today is to be accepted, to know that they are welcome and won’t be rejected. Though we may try to deny or hide it, we all carry with us a sense of shame, a fear that we will be found out, rejected, and judged when people learn who we really are.

When we explain that, through justification, the holy God offers perfect acceptance through his unique Son, Jesus Christ, it can bring tremendous relief and joy to those seeking acceptance.

SEEKING HOPE

The metaphor of new creation can be especially compelling for people who are longing for a new start in life. People whose lives have been littered with failure, scarred by abuse, humbled through suffering, darkened by depression, or ruined by addiction need the hope of becoming a new creation.

When we explain that, through new creation, their old life can be exiled and that God welcomes them into a new life in Christ, it can shed a bright ray of hope into the lives of the hopeless.

SEEKING INTIMACY

Our search for intimacy is in relationships seems to never end. Even the best friendship or marriage inst enough for our insatiable demand to be noticed, loved, and cared for. We all want a place where we can be ourselves and know that we are accepted. We want relationships that are secure, where we feel safe to share our innermost thoughts and darkest struggles.

When we explain that, through union with Christ, people can enter into the most intimate, loving, unbreakable, fulfilling relationship known to humanity, it can bring deep healing and joy to those seeking intimacy.

SEEKING TOLERANCE

Many people are seeking tolerance. Some don’t know the difference between classical and new tolerance. That alone can be an illuminating conversation that deepens mutual respect and admiration between people.

Others will not like the exclusive claims that Christianity makes. However, before scoffing at their perspective or trying to crush their worldview, ask questions to get on the inside of their perspective and appreciate their views. They often have good reasons or difficult stories attached to their objections.

Respectful dialogue can go a long way in over-turning bigoted impressions of Christianity. In fact, it will open doors that would remain closed otherwise.

Sharing that, through redemption, Jesus offers a redemptive tolerance that gives progressive people an opportunity to experience grace and forgiveness in a way that doesn’t demean other faiths, can be very liberating.

SEEKING APPROVAL

The thoughts and opinions of parents matter to their children. What my dad and mom thought about me as I was growing up meant a lot. Their thoughts and opinions could crush or lift me in a moment. We are made for approval, and though our parents are often the first ones to give this (or withhold it from us), the truth is that we seek this approval from others all the time.

Sharing that, through adoption, God the Father offers an undying approval in his Son Jesus can radically change people’s view of God, and thrill them with the hope of a Father’s love.

Next time you’re in a conversation with someone listen more and talk less. Listen specifically for areas of unbelief or struggle, empathize with them, then retell their story through the lens of the gospel, the hope of Jesus.

More New February Books!

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, there won’t be any getting away from the advertisements and social media posts about love in the next few weeks. So we decided to have a few special books on our resource shelves about singleness, dating and marriage. We hope they will be an encouragement to you, no matter what your relationship status is. Read their descriptions below and pick one up in February!

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Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating

By Marshall Segal

Life Is Never Mainly About Love and Marriage. So Learn to Live and Date for More.

Many of you grew up assuming that marriage would meet all of your needs and unlock God’s purposes for you. But God has far more planned for you than your future marriage. Not Yet Married is not about waiting quietly in the corner of the world for God to bring you “the one,” but about inspiring you to live and date for more now.

If you follow Jesus, the search for a spouse is no longer a pursuit of the perfect person, but a pursuit of more of God. He will likely write a love story for you different than the one you would write for yourself, but that’s because he loves you and knows how to write a better story. This book was written to help you find real hope, happiness, and purpose in your not-yet-married life.

Single, Dating, Engaged, Married: Navigating Life & Love in the Modern Age
By Ben Stuart

Our desires for intimacy are powerful. This power can be constructive or destructive. Our satisfaction and our safety will be ensured if we can aim these powerful desires toward divine purposes. Many have discovered that where there is a lack of intimacy, addiction often rises to take its place. How can a young person navigate such troubled waters? Is there hope out there?

Like a sailor on turbulent seas, we need to look up and see the North Star: the fixed points in the sky whereby we might navigate the objective realities in life. We need the skill-set to know how to journey through life and how to select the right people to journey alongside. In this book we will chart a course through the four relational phases that the vast majority of human beings on the planet will pass through in their twenties: singleness, dating, engaged and married. In each of these phases, we will look at what eternal purposes should be pursued in each stage, and how to pursue them.

Date Your Wife
By Justin Buzzard

Most men don’t know how to date their wives. They did it before, but they’ve forgotten how, or they’re trying but it just doesn’t seem to be working. Justin Buzzard helps men re-learn this all-important skill from a position of security in the gospel of grace. As a father of three boys and husband to a very happy wife, Justin offers guys a helping hand, good news, and wise counsel, along with:

·       100 practical ideas for how to date your wife

·       Action steps at the end of each chapter

·       Personal stories and real-life examples

All types of marriages—good ones, mediocre ones, and bad ones—will experience a jumpstart as a result of hearing, believing, and living the message of Date Your Wife.

The Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex, & RedemptionBy Matt Chandler

The Song of Solomon offers strikingly candid—and timeless—insights on romance, dating, marriage, and sex. We need it. Because emotions rise and fall with a single glance, touch, kiss, or word. And we are inundated with songs, movies, and advice that contradicts God's design for love and intimacy.

Matt Chandler helps navigate these issues for both singles and marrieds by revealing the process Solomon himself followed: Attraction, Courtship, Marriage ... even Arguing. The Mingling of Souls will forever change how you view and approach love.

 

 

What Color Is Your Library? [Revisited]

As you know (hopefully), when we are choosing books for our resource shelves, we try to provide diversity in our selections. In other words, we don’t just want to have books authored by white men. We make an effort to have books written by women and people of color, because we believe that different life experiences provide valuable perspectives. We want New City to be a diverse church, because God’s kingdom is diverse. 

For Black History Month, we will have these three books on our resource shelves. Check out their descriptions below and be sure to pick one up in February!

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The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors

By Thabiti Anyabwile

The cliché is that those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. But Thabiti Anyabwile contends that it is not the mistakes we must study; it is the people who have overcome them. So he presents three of the most influential African-American pastors in American history who can teach us what faithful ministry entails.

Lemuel Haynes (1753-1833) reminds pastors that eternity must shape our ministry. Daniel A. Payne (1811-1893) stresses the importance of character and preparation to faithful shepherding. And Francis J. Grimké (1850-1937) provides a vision for engaging the world with the gospel. While they are from the African-American tradition, they, like all true saints, belong to all Christians of every background and era. Distinctive for its use of rare and out-of-print messages, Anaybwile's work is valuable as a reference as well as a devotional resource.

United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity

By Trillia Newbell

On the Last Day every tongue and tribe will be represented in the glorious chorus praising God with one voice. Yet today our churches remain segregated. Can we reflect the beauty of the last day this day? 

United will inspire, challenge, and encourage readers to pursue the joys of diversity through stories of the author's own journey and a theology of diversity lived out.

It’s time to capture a glimpse of God’s magnificent creativity. In the pages of United, Trillia Newbell reveals the deeply moving, transforming power of knowing—really knowing—someone who is equal yet unique. As we learn to identify in Christ rather than in our commonalities, we begin to experience the depth and power of gospel unity. 

Black & Reformed: Seeing God’s Sovereignty in the African-American Christian Experience

By Anthony Carter

African Americans have a rich and compelling Christian heritage, one that stretches back to foundational figures such as the church fathers Augustine and Tertullian. Yet white Christians often expect their black brothers and sisters to embrace a Eurocentric theology that marginalizes their own experiences and traditions.

In this book, Anthony Carter draws both black and Reformed theology together, showing how Reformed theology's biblical stance addresses African-American experiences such as the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade and oppression by so-called Christians. Carter also explores a few of the ways that an explicitly black theology can enhance our understanding of God and his Word, no matter our ethnicity.

 

Hope for Forgetful People

Lately I’ve been frustrated with myself for how forgetful I can be. Not just forgetting to thaw the chicken for dinner, or move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, or why I walked into this room. I’ve been frustrated with how easily I forget the truth. The Lord has been reminding me of some things this week that I thought I had long settled. So why do I keep forgetting? It is frustrating to be so forgetful.

When I’m confronted with a truth I have forgotten and am failing to believe in my present circumstances, I often feel discouraged. There are truths about marriage I could have repeated to you when I was in the youth group that I still struggle to believe and apply. There are truths about motherhood that I parroted to friends before I ever held my own baby that are now so difficult to hold on to in moments of fear. There are truths about my identity as a child of God that are written in pretty script on lots of journals that I sometimes can’t bring myself to remember. I forget. And I get frustrated.

Why can’t I just figure this out? Why do I have to be reminded over and over of the truths of the gospel? Why do I still struggle with this? It’s enough to make a goal-oriented type-A gal like me throw up her hands in despair. Why can’t I just accomplish this already and move on?!

Because I am forgetful. Because I am broken. Because I need help.

And I’m not alone. Scripture and my own experience tell me that God’s people have a history of forgetfulness. The Bible recounts story after story of the Israelites forsaking the God who rescued them in favor of lifeless idols. Jesus’ disciples too failed to understand who he was and wished instead he would be a king like they expected. We believe, and then we fail to believe.

So what hope is there for us, a people who forget time and time again?

Mercifully, God does not throw up his hands in despair when his people forget. The Bible is full to the brim of God reminding a forgetful people that he is who he says he is and that he is faithful when they are not.

Deuteronomy 5:15 - You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

Joshua 1:13 - “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’

Psalm 78:35 - They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer.

Psalm 105:5 - Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered

Psalm 143:5 - I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.

So when I forget, I should not despair. Instead, I lock arms with the many people who have come before me, and I remember. I look to the wondrous works he has done and remind myself that he is my rock, the Most High God, my redeemer. I look to the cross and remember that the God of the universe – the One who created all things – loved me and gave himself for me. I rehearse this story over and over and ask God to help me believe in the midst of my forgetfulness. I pick up my Bible and ask God to teach me, I talk with my friends and ask them to help me remember, and I sing the gospel story in the gathered body of Christ on Sunday morning. The practice of faith is just that - a practice. A habitual process of repeating the truth of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and how that changes everything about me and the world.

I do not despair over how long it is taking me to remember (the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years because of their disbelief, but God still brought them to the promised land). Instead I preach the gospel to myself and praise God that he is merciful to remind me of the things I’ve forgotten. And I keep believing, a little more today than yesterday.

So if you are like me, and you are frustrated that you can’t remember all the things you should, know that God is not frustrated with you. If you put your faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross to make you a child of God, you can rest that your Father wants to remind you. Do not despair in your forgetfulness, but do not stay there. He wants you to look to him, remember all that he has done for you, and walk in that truth.

The Lie of Loneliness

Loneliness is a weird thing. I think because it sneaks up on you when you’re preoccupied with other things. And it’s usually the by-product of other struggles and insecurities. We are stressed, anxious, grieving, depressed, feeling like a failure, and we think we are the only ones who feel that way, and if we tell anyone about our deepest struggles, they will think badly of us, or run from us. So we keep it to ourselves. And we sink deeper into our worries and fears. And we believe the lie that we are alone. 

I’m probably one of the last people that others would think this of, but I have struggled with feeling alone for a lot of the last several years. At least some of it for me has been motherhood- spending so much of my days with little people, feeling like a terrible mom, wife, or friend at times, being physically exhausted, spiritually drained, and feeling socially isolated.

My fleshly tendency is to stay there. The last thing I want to do is admit weakness or vulnerability. My sinful pride would keep me from being honest about this struggle, from pursuing meaningful relationships with other women who may feel the same, from allowing anyone into my brokenness. My selfishness would cause me to desire convenience and ease over the sacrifice and effort of close friendships.

But here’s the truth: If you are a believer, because the Father turned his face from his Son in his dying moments, because Jesus was utterly alone as he took his last breath, your Father will never turn his face from you. Even if you feel lonely, you are NEVER alone.

One of the last things Jesus said before ascending into heaven was, “I am with you always.” And because he took on flesh and was tempted as we are, he knows our struggles. He has stepped into our weakness. He is not surprised or disgusted by the person we try to hide from others. In fact, he died to remove our shame and guilt, and to give us his righteousness.  

My sin and my struggles are not my identity. My identity is rooted in who Christ is and what He has done. This means I don’t have to fear letting others into my ugliness.  We were not created for loneliness. From the very beginning, God saw that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. His plan for humanity has always been for us to be in relationship with Him and with others. 

So if you’re feeling lonely - take it from me - you are not the only one. 

But hear this - really HEAR this - it’s not true. 

You have a Savior who loves you and stands ready for you to run to him. 

And if you are in Christ, you are a member of the family of God. 

And because the Holy Spirit has sealed us, nothing can make those things untrue. 

Remember the gospel. Remember who Jesus is, what he has done, and who you are in Him. And remember that He is with you always.

 

Radical Missionality - Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself

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“Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

Maybe you’ve heard or read Penn Jillette’s words about Christians sharing the good news of Jesus. Penn Jillette has a pretty unique perspective on this as an atheist. Take a minute now to play the video.

“How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? “ Maybe like me you have never really thought of it as hate. That description stings.
But isn’t it true?
At the very least it is loving yourself more than loving someone else and that might as well be hate.
If my house was on fire and you were aware and I wasn’t and you didn’t tell me because you were worried that you might not have all of the right answers to my questions or you were afraid that I might be upset that you rang the doorbell and made my dog bark then you really don’t care about me or the danger I am in - you care about you. And how you might be perceived. And that is not anything close to loving me as you love yourself.
If your house was on fire you would want to know.
If there was genuine danger, you would want someone to tell you.

And if I loved you more than I loved what you thought of me, or at least the same as I love me, I would tell you.
Ugh.
I’m stopping here… to repent for my own lack of love.
And to pray that God would help me to love my neighbor more and myself less.

** This is part 3 in a series of blog posts on Radical Missionality.
Click here for Part 1, “What’s Missing is Radical Missionality.”
Click here for Part 2, “Restore to Us Our Joy”

Radical Missionality - Restore to Us Our Joy

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Anna’s heart, it seems was bursting with joy.
She couldn’t keep what she had seen to herself.
Her story is in Luke 2:
36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem. “

I love this story. Anna had been waiting. She stayed at the temple night and day praying, fasting, seeking God and looking for the Promised One. Then it happened. Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple. Simeon the prophet saw them and recognized Jesus as the Promised One. Anna saw what was happening and she too realized that the one she had prayed for, the one she had been waiting for had come! He was there, the savior of God’s people.

We see then that after meeting the family, she talked about the child to EVERYONE who was looking for God to rescue Jerusalem.
Everyone.
Anna told everyone about what she had seen and heard that day in the temple. She couldn’t wait to tell them that the rescuer had come, salvation was near.

Anna was filled with Joy. That’s why she told everyone she could.
Her joy overflowed into telling anyone who would listen.
She didn’t tell them because she had a duty to tell them.
She didn’t tell them because she wanted to be obedient.
She didn’t tell them because she needed to, was expected to, or had to.
She told them because she couldn’t contain the joy. He was here!

He has come, the savior. And he has saved us, those who trust in his life, death and resurrection.
He has forgiven our sins - past, present and even future.
He has taken the righteous wrath of God that we as sinners deserve. He bore that wrath on the cross.
He has not only forgiven our sins but graciously he has granted to us his holiness. We are not just forgiven, we are made holy and pure, without spot or blemish.
He has made us sons and daughters of God, the King.
He has secured for us a place with our Father, forgiven and free forevermore.
He has promised that he is coming back to gather us, God’s children, and when he does he will right all of the wrongs, defeat all of his enemies, and fix all that is broken.

This is beautiful grace. It is a gift. It isn’t what we deserve.
It isn’t what you deserve for your wrongs.
It isn’t what you deserve for your willful rebellion, for the way that you have treated others, the way you have ignored what is good and shunned the father who loves you.
We don’t deserve forgiveness.
What we deserve is wrath.
What we deserve is sin’s penalty - eternal condemnation and separation from God.
This is beautiful grace… which should bring us great joy.

It did at one time, for me. It still does, but I remember those early days, the weeks and months after first seeing the gospel of Jesus Christ as the incredibly good news that it is. I was changed! I wanted to know more, to do more, to tell more because in the moment I believed, I was filled with joy. I understood for the first time the great depth of the Father’s love and the great grace that was needed for someone as sinful as me. That I could be so loved, so desired, so forgiven - it all filled me with joy, the kind of joy that cannot be contained.
That was Anna’s joy.
I want that joy again.
I want that joy for us, New City.
I am praying for it, that God would restore to us the joy of our salvation.
I’m praying that like Anna we would be so overwhelmed with joy, it could not be contained!
I’m praying that my joy and your joy in all that Jesus has done for us and the beauty of his grace toward us would overflow from us like a river of hope and life to everyone around us.
I’m praying that for you.

I think that is where genuine, radical missionality begins, with our own joy in salvation.
That missionality, like Anna’s doesn’t come from a sense of duty.
It isn’t a matter of working for obedience.
We don’t share because we need to, or it is expected or because we have to.
That missionality naturally happens when our joy cannot be contained.

Lord, Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. (Psalm 51:12-13)

Will you pray this with me? For me? For us?
Pray with me that once more we might be filled with that life giving, overflowing joy - for the good of His people and for His great glory.

** This is part 2 in a series of blog posts on Radical Missionality.
Click here for Part 1, “What’s Missing is Radical Missionality.”

What's Missing is Radical Missionality

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Something has been missing.
It has been for a little while, maybe a couple of years.
I don’t think it happened all at once. It was more of a drift. An imbalance.
I spoke recently with a pastor friend who expressed a similar drift… the drift away from radical missional engagement.

When New City Church started our deep desire was to see the gospel radically transform the people around us and even our city. Our passion for mission had an edge to it. We were willing and even excited to involve ourselves in places that churches weren’t typically involved. We were willing and even excited to engage with people that other churches wouldn’t engage with. In fact we started New City for that purpose! We planted ourselves and the gospel in the heart of a broken and broke down city because we believed God wanted to do something radical to rescue fallen people far from Jesus.

Below is a blog post from our first year as a church:


The Power of the Kingdom Present

Acts 26: 28 Agrippa replied to Paul, "In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian."
I had a great conversation this morning with a downtown friend. He may or may not be a Christian - though spiritual and having a 'Christian' background, I think C. wrestles with Christianity. He is also intrigued by New City's relationship with downtown. So, in the conversation this came up:
C: So, explain to me your vision for the church and the city?
Me: Well, the short is city renewal - we describe it as transformation. In leadership, we often ask the question, 'If the Kingdom of God were present in the city today, what would it look like?' We believe that the church should be a glimpse of the Kingdom, therefore we should see tangible transformation because of the presence of the church.
C: Like what?
Me: Well, if the Kingdom of God were present in Macon, would there be homeless people?
C: No.
Me: We don't believe that our presence will eliminate homelessness in Macon, just as we can't usher in the true and final Kingdom. However, if the Kingdom is present in and through us, then we should make a positive difference in the homeless community.
If the Kingdom were fully present there would be no crime. So, as a church, we ask, 'How can our presence make a difference in downtown crime?'
If the Kingdom were fully present, would there be ugly, broken buildings?
C: No.
Me: So we desire to see a tangible change to the buildings downtown. We will - through volunteers - help the Facade Squad when they line up facades to be worked on.
We believe that the church, as a glimpse of the Kingdom should be an agent of transformation in our city.
C: Keith, that's why I love you guys. 
Hearing what you say makes me want to believe. I feel like the King that Paul pleaded his case to.

The conversation was soon interrupted and C was out the door. I was awed that such a Kingdom vision would carry such power.
29 And Paul said, "I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains."


I miss those conversations.
I still have them on some level, but I cannot help but feel my own drift from radical missionality - from believing that God was going to do something only he could do to save the people around me.

Worse, I feel that I have contributed, as a leader, to the drift of our church from radical missionality.  For even that possibility, I am repenting!
I’m praying that God would re-ignite that passion for the miraculous salvation of those far, far from Him.
I’m praying that as a church, our hearts would burn for those who don’t love and follow Jesus.
I’m praying that we would engage the people that other churches won’t.
I’m praying that we would be overwhelmingly uncomfortable with the lostness all around us.
I’m praying that we would be willing to cross lines and take chances for the sake of those around us and for the glory of our great God.
I’m praying that for myself, for you.
I’m praying that for us - that we would be a people snatching others from the flames of judgment (Jude 1:23).

Lord, may we never be a church that does nothing more than church stuff for church people.  Help us to once more be radically missional - to believe that you want to do amazing things, miraculous things to bring your children close to you. Set our hearts on fire.

Want More Faith and Less Worry in 2019?

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A Practical Tidbit On How To Trust God In Life For All Of Living Life

Some people are enamored with preaching.  I’m not!  I really and truly love preaching on the one hand but I don’t like it on the other hand.  The reason that I don’t like it is because as I study this wonderful perfect word many of my sins and issues are revealed and in some ways my preaching is a pontification of my hypocrisy.  I do however strive to live life in light of the gospel even though often I fail.  With that said this Sunday’s sermon has prompted me to practice even more what I preach.  I stated in Sunday’s sermon that having a good year is more determined by how we honor and glorify Jesus in all things as we live this life by faith.  Therefore I want to share a few tidbits on some practical ways that we can apply the principles of living all of life by faith to my own life.  We can trust God

I.      Because of who He is -  One of God’s attributes is His sovereignty meaning that God controls everything.  For me I have some concerns and some desires of which I have been petitioning him about.  One concern is the opportunity to advance on my job.  So far that has not happen.  What is my responsibility and course of action where I am right now?  First my attitude is to thank God for the job I have and to truly be grateful. Next to work my job as unto Him. I am to be a faithful witness by what I do and how I go about doing it.  Since He is sovereign, He obviously have a reason for not promoting me right now.  One reason I may not have received that advancement is that I am not adequately prepared.  All throughout scripture before God uses a person, He prepares that person.  Moses spent forty years in the wilderness even though he tried to be a leader earlier and ended up killing a man.  David was a shepherd of sheep before he became a leader of people.  Joseph spent time in prison before he took over fully the control of the palace.  In each of these people’s lives while they were in what seemed to be their lowest position in life God was controlling all things for their good and His glory.  He is sovereign.

II.   Because of what He can do -  As a minister of the gospel, I would be the first to tell you how powerful God is and that He can do anything.  My words are perfectly accurate but my actions may contradict my words which ultimately points to the fact that I am not trusting God in life for all of life. The bible teaches us that the hearts of kings are in the hands of the Lord.  It tells us that He opens doors that no man can shut and He shuts doors that no man can open.  If I am truly trusting Him then my faith is not in my ability or my accomplishments but God’s ability to move me up if that is His will.  I know that networking is important.  What better network can any person have than to be connected to the all powerful God who can open doors?  Therefore I must trust in what God can do.

III. What God has promised -  Is there a promise that God has given me on which I  can hold on to by faith?  Here are a few for my consideration and maybe even yours

Ps 37:23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;

Prov 16:9 - The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Ps 37:5-6 - Commit your way to the Lord;  trust in him, and he will act.

6  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

Prov 16:3-4 -  Commit your  work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.   The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Once I remind myself of who God is, what God can do and the many promises God has given to me (us) then I (we) must go back to the hammer that drives and solidifies my (our) will to have a deeper faith and trust in Him.  That hammer is Jesus!  All that we know about God and have been given to us by God has all been done because of Jesus.  This is what His word tells us in Rom 8:32. “ He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?   It is because of Jesus that we can see how good it is to place our full faith and trust in Him.  So if (when) I (you) come to a circumstance, situation, or decision in life, the fact that God gave us Jesus should be the hammer that drives our faith and trust in Him in all things in life. 

As we move into the New Year my prayer is that these principles will help guide your (my) practice of living by faith in all of life so that 2019 will be your year to glorify our God and Jesus our Savior!

He Who is Mighty Has Done a Great Thing

HE WHO IS MIGHTY

VERSE 1
Oh, the mercy our God has shown
To those who sit in death’s shadow
The sun on high pierced the night
Born was the Cornerstone

PRE-CHORUS
Unto us a Son is given, unto us a Child is born

CHORUS
He Who is mighty has done a great thing
Taken on flesh, conquered death’s sting
Shattered the darkness and lifted our shame
Holy is His name

VERSE 2
Oh, the freedom our Savior won
The yoke of sin has been broken
Once a slave, now by grace
No more condemnation

BRIDGE
Now my soul magnifies the Lord
I rejoice in the God Who saves
I will trust His unfailing love
I will sing His praises all my days

Words and Music by: Kate DeGraide, Rebecca Elliott
© 2014 Sovereign Grace PraiseSovereign Grace Worship

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Waiting for Christmas

I am grateful that at New City we take time to dwell in the season of Advent. Many of us are unfamiliar with the traditional church calendar and the traditions that accompany it, and I’m thankful that we are learning to rehearse some of these rhythms of the faith. Advent in particular has been a sweet season of learning to treasure the coming of Christ and celebrate the miracle it is that God would come to dwell with us. Even the simple practice of talking about and planning for the four weeks preceding Christmas helps me to focus my attention on Immanuel and not the warm fuzzy feelings of the season.

Advent means “arrival.” So in this season we talk about, remember, and point to the arrival of the Messiah. We celebrate all month long that God stepped into human history, took on humanity, and walked among us. He entered into our brokenness, felt pain and want, disappointment and desire, was tempted and did not sin. God - the creator and sustainer of everything that is - humbled himself enough to become a baby. This is truly something to spend time pondering and celebrating.

This year, thinking about Advent has caused me to consider another piece of the story. Advent is certainly about celebrating the arrival of the Messiah, but it is also about waiting for him again. On this side of history, it can be difficult for us to imagine the thousands of years Israel spent waiting for the promised one. After Adam and Eve chose to go their own way and sin entered the world, God made a promise. After he gives his indictment to the serpent for bringing evil into his good world, God tells the serpent,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
    and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

From that day, God’s people would rehearse that promise. As the story of the creation of the world and it’s fall into sin was rehearsed and retold for generations, they would remember that promise. The seed of the woman - a human - would come and put an end to the evil and pain they had entered into and could not escape. It doesn’t take long to look around and see that our world is broken and in need of a savior.

The Bible doesn’t give us many timetables, but I think it is safe to say that Genesis 3 happened a long time before Matthew 1. Thousands of years passed. Abraham was called out by God and given another promise - that the promised One would come from his family (a family that didn’t exist yet) to be a blessing to the whole world:

“Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’” (Genesis 12:1-3)

Abraham’s family would grow and grow until it became the nation of Israel. They would become slaves in Egypt, multiplying even amid suffering and oppression, then be redeemed from their slavery and enter the land God had promised to them. After many years of waiting, the family of Abraham was a nation! God’s promises were coming true. But the world was still broken. The people God chose still hurt one another, hurt themselves, and hurt God’s good world. Evil had not been defeated. The Israelites rehearsed the promise of Genesis 3:15 again.

More years, more waiting, more remembering that God was going to send a human to crush the serpent’s head. A king was anointed - David - but he too gave in to the serpent and chose what was good in his own eyes. He was not the promised one. And yet, God reminded his people:

“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-13)

And so Israel waited. And waited. And waited.

Like Adam and Eve, Israel continued to choose their own way and not God’s. God’s judgement on their evil came and foreign nations took God’s people captive. Israel was in exile - strangers in a foreign land, living in the consequences of sin and death, longing for the promises of God to be realized and for healing to come to their land. Prophets called the people to repent, and again reminded them of God’s promise in Genesis 3.

Hundreds and hundreds of years went by. Eventually even the prophets went quiet. Israel waited - would the promised One ever come? Would God ever crush the evil and destruction we see and participate in every day? Or has he left us on our own?

They waited. Rehearsing the promises, telling the stories, singing the songs. Waiting.

And finally, Christmas. When no one saw it coming, a baby was born in Bethlehem. Fulfilling every prophecy more beautifully than they could have imagined, shattering expectations and surpassing them at the same time. Jesus. Immanuel. God with us.

We celebrate that in the season of Advent. But it’s not the end of the story. The story began with a promise, and it ends with one too.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are the answer to Israel’s waiting, and the answer to our longings to heal the brokenness we see and feel in our world. But it is also a promise. That one day, the whole world will undergo a resurrection and new creation. God’s promise in Jesus is that he cares for his creation, he has paid the penalty for our destruction, and he will fully and finally redeem and restore his good world. Jesus is the guarantee that God has not left our world to deal with our sin and brokenness alone. His promise to us is that he will come again to make this world new and everyone who calls on his name will be rescued and restored.

So we wait. Advent is a season to remember, to celebrate, and also to practice. To step into the longing Israel felt as they waited for the promised One, and to feel that longing in our hearts. We spend weeks waiting for Christmas, singing the songs, reciting the promises in Scripture, and waiting. Looking back at what he has done and looking forward to what he has yet to do.

Christ has come. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

The Gift of Disappoinment

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Christmas can be a wonderful time of year. Great food, time with family, giving and receiving gifts. As Christians we celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus, the greatest gift ever given.

But even for the Christian, Christmas can be a difficult time. Sometimes things don’t go the way we want. Sometimes family relationships are strained, so coming together brings tension. Or sometimes complicated schedules make it impossible for everyone to be together. Maybe a tight budget makes gift buying stressful. Maybe it’s the first Christmas after the loss a loved one, or a divorce. Or maybe you’re single and it’s yet another Christmas spent feeling alone, and though you feel you should be happy, you’re fighting sadness instead. Or the hustle and bustle of the season, which is exciting for some, just causes stress and anxiety for you.  

The fact is we often have high expectations of the way Christmas SHOULD be. In our minds we have an idea of the way things should go, or what would make this time of year perfect and special, but reality can be far from that ideal. And when it is, we are disappointed, depressed even.

Even the beauty and wonder of Christmas is touched by sin. A time when we think everything should be happy and perfect can actually be the most difficult time of year. So how can disappointment be a gift?  

What if it serves to remind us once again of our great need for a savior? What if when things don’t turn out the way we hoped, instead of feeling depressed, we remember that the baby we celebrate grew up to right all that is wrong in this world? We were not created for brokenness, but for wholeness and reconciliation with our Creator. Because of the gospel- Jesus took on flesh, became Emmanuel, lived a life pleasing to the Father, died on the cross in our place and defeated sin and death when he rose from the grave- our hope isn’t in the perfect Christmas experience, but in a perfect Savior.

Even more, what if our feelings cause us to long even more for Jesus’ return? Not only do we hope in what He has already done, but in what He will do when He comes again. The brokenness that we experience now will be no more, our tears will be wiped away and all will be made new. This pain and these difficulties are light and momentary compared to the glory that is to come. What a wonderful promise that is!

So as you go this Christmas season, wherever you go, remember that you take the hope, joy and peace, that our world so desperately needs, and that is only found in Jesus. Merry Christmas!

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

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It’s rare when you come across someone who doesn’t like Christmas music. The timeless melodies and tunes always seem to put a smile on my face and give me all the warm and fuzzier inside.  Among the numerous Christmas songs, this is one of my favorites…of course Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is on up there too but that’s a whole different blog. 

I wanted to take a quick moment to post and allow you to take some time to read through these verses. Often times routines in our lives can become well…routine. They tend to lose their meaning and flair. Before long it becomes more of an obligation than anything. Christmas falls into that category. Year after year it always catches us off guard in the aftermath of our Thanksgiving food-coma. Decorations have to go up in a timely manner. Gifts must be purchased and frantically wrapped because you’ve put it off to the last minute. Plans of getting together with family are stressfully filling the calendar. More layers must be worn in order to survive the cold. Language has to be changed so as to incorporate phrases like “ ’tis the season” and “the reason for the season.” And in the blink of an eye, it’s all over and we’re getting ready to bring in the new year. 

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” is a beautifully written Christmas hymn that reminds us of why we really celebrate Christmas. If you’re familiar with the first verse and can sing it in your sleep, then take a closer look at the other verses…

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King:
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!” 
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!” 

Refrain:
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King”


Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord, 
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’incarnate Deity,
please with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel. [Refrain]

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that man no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth [Refrain]

WORDS: Charles Wesley, alt. George Whitefield
MUSIC: Felix Mendelssohn

This hymn is so beautifully and poetically written. In just three verses we get a taste of who Jesus is and why Christmas is so important. Christmas is the day we remember “Christ, the everlasting Lord,” who veiled himself in flesh and brings peace between “God and sinners” (that’s us!). Though it doesn’t talk about his death, Christ took our pain and punishment that was reserved for sinners and took it all on Himself so that all who would believe in His life, death, and resurrection would be reconciled. Because of that He brings peace, hope, light, new life, healing, mercy, reconciliation, joy. 

Remember this. Take the time to stop and remember why we are truly celebrating Christmas. Remember what a beautiful and merciful gift of grace it was for our Savior to take on flesh. Remember the peace we have with one another is a grace that reflects the true peace found in Christ. Remember the beautiful lights and decorations that are visual reminders of redemption and the new light and life we find in Jesus. 

Prepare Him Room

With Thanksgiving right around the corner and Christmas music already playing in many of our homes (sorry not sorry), it is time to begin preparing for the most wonderful time of the year: ADVENT.

Meaning “arrival” or “coming,” Advent is the season leading up to Christmas where we remember the longing and expectation for the promised savior and celebrate his coming. We’re all familiar with the “reason for the season” but are we equally versed in why it is so significant? Do we know what the coming of Christ is the answer to? Advent is a beautiful season of remembering God’s promises to Adam, Abraham, David, and the whole world, and celebrating that they find their answer and fulfillment in Jesus. Christmas is a kept promise, and the promise of our future hope!

Prepare Him Room - in the Classroom

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This year, our New City kids are going to soak up the promises of this season and spend all of December in an advent curriculum titled Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski. This 4-week lesson plan guides kids through the promises of the Old Testament and how Jesus is the fulfillment of all of those promises.

The publisher, New Growth Press, describes the book:

Prepare Him Room … takes a biblical, theological approach to the Old Testament promises and New Testament fulfillment in Christ in a way kids can understand. With age-appropriate instruction and activities for three different learning levels—preschool, lower elementary, and upper elementary—Prepare Him Room builds gospel hope and enduring theological depth into each child’s celebration of Christmas.

Machowski is the author of the Gospel Story for Kids series including The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short, Old Story New, the Gospel Story Curriculum, as well as several other gospel-centered books and resources for children.

Each week will focus on a piece of the Christmas story and the corresponding prophecies, ultimately pointing our kids to our hope in Jesus to redeem and restore the world.

Prepare Him Room - at Home!

In addition to the classroom curriculum, Machowski has a family devotional that goes right along with the weekly lessons! This is a wonderful way to reinforce what they are learning on Sunday mornings and to celebrate the coming of Christ at home! We will be selling the family devotional companion at the Resources shelf on November 18 and 25 for $10. We have a limited number, so if you want one and they sell out, you can find them here and here.

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Finally, if you’re looking for some beautiful, Christ-centered Christmas music, check out Sovereign Grace Music’s “Prepare Him Room.” You’re sure to find many of the songs we’ll be singing on Sundays during the Christmas season!

Christmas is such a sweet time of the year, especially for kids, but it is most special when we realize how God’s promises are fulfilled in an amazing way in the birth of Christ. That’s why I want to take some time out of our normal routines and curriculum to dwell in this season and help our kids understand that Christmas is an amazing answer to all of God’s promises to redeem and restore our world.

A Place to Belong... and Chili

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Everyone is seeking it, a place to belong, a place where we are known and accepted and even loved. We were created for that, not only finding it with God but with one another.
What’s that got to do with chili?
I’m glad you asked, it’s why we have a chili cook off every year.

I’ve lost count now of how many chili cook offs we have had through our 11 years together but the goal in each is the same - win the chili cook off!! Nooooooooo. The goal is creating a place to belong - a place for our New City people to connect with friends and MC leaders, maybe to meet people they don’t know.

But more than that, our goal is to create a place where those who don’t belong in a gospel-centered family can. Our hope is to create an event that our New City family (that’s you if this is your church home) can not only come and enjoy, but an event that you can invite others to enjoy with you. Our hope is to provide a place where your unconnected friends can connect with your church family. The chili cook off is an opportunity to be missional through relationship.

Many people have given up on church, not because they don’t believe in God or even the work of Jesus, but because they have been hurt by people in the church. The chili cook off is an opportunity to reintroduce those people to your family.

Perhaps for others, their only experience with church is through the many stereotypes they’ve seen and heard about (imagine the strangest of those!). The chili cook off is a great opportunity for those friends to see and experience the truth about our family. Yes we may have a crazy uncle or two, but for the most part we’re just regular people.

In either case, the chili cook off, like our summer lake day, is a fun way to introduce unconnected friends to your family. Its an easy, non-threatening way to give others a place to belong.

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Here are 5 ways you should approach November 17’s Chili Cook off
1) Talk about the missional aspect of the event with your spouse and MC.
It’s easy to think of this as “just a church event,” but it should be more than that!

2) Pray and think about who you know that may need a church family to belong with.

3) Invite someone to join you.
Ride together, make chili together or just meet here but take advantage of the opportunity.

4) Come as an MC.
The mission was never meant to be engaged on by individuals. This is a family effort! If your whole MC is gathered, cooking s’mores over a fire and sampling everyone’s chili and hanging out, you provide a natural place for your unconnected friends to connect!

5) After the event pray for God to use the time to connect your friends to your family. Pray as well that they join you at a New City gathering or at your MC.

The Tower of Babel is About Jesus

Last Sunday, our elementary age students learned about the Tower of Babel in their classes. A story many of us are familiar with, we can probably recount the message: don’t build yourself up with pride. Ok, good. But is that all we should hear from that story?

Teaching kids about the Bible may not seem terribly difficult. After all, it’s full of good, moral examples of characters who obeyed God perfectly and were rewarded, right? Not really.

It’s difficult for adults to understand many of the stories and how they are relevant to our lives. So how do we teach it to our kids? Should we even try?

The Bible is the sacred text of the Christian faith, the way the Creator of the Universe has chosen to reveal himself to us. It is masterful, beautiful, powerful, and his very word to us. God’s word is powerful, active, and at work in the lives of his people, and he uses it to shape us and transform us (Heb 4:12; 2 Tim 3:16). It is not only worth it to teach the Bible to our kids, it is necessary for them to know and love God.

There is however a danger present whenever we attempt to teach the Bible to our kids. More often than not, we take stories in the Bible and teach our kids to behave in one way or another. We read about heroes of Old Testament stories and teach that we should have faith like Daniel or a heart like David’s. We read about Jesus in the New Testament and teach that we should love others because that is what Jesus did. Are these wrong? No! Of course not. We should desire great faith, a heart after God, and to love one another as Jesus loves us. But are they the whole story?

The danger of teaching kids a moral lesson from each Bible story is that we offer an empty hope. We present to them that faith in Christ is about trying to be good, honest, moral, and loving. We teach them to modify their behavior without ever reaching their hearts. This is a weight too great to bear. If we hope in our ability to obey well or live rightly, we will be disappointed and devastated by our failure over and over and over until we give up or fall into despair.

Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying. We should teach our kids right behavior. We must teach them to love and respect one another. These are good things and part of our job as their family. However, if we stop there, all we will do is raise good, moral children who behave well. We won’t raise Christians.

The hope of the gospel – and of every Bible story – is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. On our own, we will always fall short of perfect behavior, right motives, and good morals. We need a change that runs deeper than our behavior. We need a change of heart.

The story of the Bible is one of a fallen and broken humanity in need of rescue, and that God in his great mercy provided that rescue for us. It tells us that our hearts are broken – we need a repair in order to work properly.

So what do we take away from the Tower of Babel? Our hearts are like the people of Babel’s. We desire our own fame, glory, and recognition. We don’t desire to worship God for who he is. We need someone to change our hearts. The only way we will recognize and honor God rightly is if he changes us. Because of Jesus’s perfect life, his death in our place, and his resurrection and defeat of death, we can change. He gives us his power to live well and obey God when we trust in him. And when we fail, he forgives us again and again.

The Bible tells one big story – that God created everything to be good, and we have broken it. But he doesn’t leave us in our brokenness and promises to redeem and restore everything in his good world again. He does that by sending his son – God as a human – to be the perfect human and take our place. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells this story. Of God rescuing and redeeming the world he created through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son.

This is more difficult than teaching kids that they should change their behavior. It is harder to understand, and there are fewer quick takeaways they can color on a craft and take home. But it is necessary and so so important. There are lots of resources for teaching kids the Bible, and we’re grateful for the two we use now and the way they help us tell this story: The Jesus Storybook Bible for Pre-K ages, and the Gospel Project for elementary ages. Adults and kids alike, Jesus is our only hope.

Comfort When You're At Your Wits' End

We live in a day and age where it is not normal to tell people how hard life really is at times. We tend to cover up our difficulties from fear of judgement or rejection. We don’t share our suffering with others from fear of overburdening. We often don’t share the realities of how hard life really can be because we don’t want to give up the facade that we actually have our lives all together. We often feel we have to downplay our difficulties because we don’t have it near as bad as others; so words like “suffering,” “depression,” or “despair” are words we would never imagine using for our own circumstances.

My wife, Hanna, and I have been in the middle of a very difficult season over the past few months. At times we’ve felt alone, anxious, angry, and fearful. We know we are not alone in our suffering, but often times in the middle of it we can feel very alone. Our church family, friends, and blood family have been surrounding us with love and comfort but even so, there are times where life has you feeling out of options, pressed deep into a corner, without hope and in the dark—at your wits' end.

When we look to Psalm 107:23-27 we see a group of sailors in an equally dark situation:

Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.

The sea strengthens, the winds lift, and the men become incredibly fearful. They’re scrambling in their ship, searching for an escape, with nowhere to go but down. You’ve been there, too, pacing the halls of your home without answer. If there is relief, you certainly don’t see it. The cancer hasn’t left, you’ve lost your unborn child, your family is on the verge of meltdown, your spouse wants nothing but divorce. In these moments, we become desperate.

The sailors were there, too. They realized they were not able to create their own way out and “they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress” (Ps. 107:28).

Believe me when I say this: even when the days are dark, God hears and answers the cries of desperate people. Sometimes we become so enslaved to our depression or suffering that we cannot even believe there is hope. If you’ve never been there, you will be. When you are at your wits’ end, know and believe that God is not at His. He is near and He has not left you alone. Cry out to him. He loves His children and He will answer their cries for help.

Jesus has been there too, crying out to his Father is his despair searching for a way out. He wept in the garden and he will wipe your tears away. He’s felt the pain of being turned on by his closest friends. He’s suffered through the loss of loved ones. When you’re at your wits’ end, He has already been there. He suffered alone, so that we never have to. “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


The Call to Lead: Student Ministry

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Part 6 of our The Call to Lead series pertains to Student Ministry. 

Student Ministry. Jr. High and High School. I know what you’re thinking…”Oh man, working with Jr. High and High School students? I just don’t have the patience.” Sadly this is a common response I’ve heard over the past few years. 

As we have been talking about leadership this past month, Student Ministry is an area where leaders are desperately needed. We don’t just need the “ideal” leaders like college students and young married couples. We need leaders in every stage of life so our students can witness what it is like to follow Christ in other stages of life. 

Teenagers are a part of the church. This is so true at New City Church. Many of our students serve regularly whether its in New City Kids or at our MC’s. They need leaders to come alongside them and their parents to help train and disciple them in the gospel just like we ALL do. 

Our desire at New City is to train and disciple leaders so they are equipped to lead well in every area of life. The hope is to share the gospel with others. Whether its Team Lead on Connect Team or a Teacher in Kid’s Ministry, we want you to grow and take those skills to the world. Student Ministry is no different. Here is the Pipeline structure that New City has adopted:

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Leaders in Student Ministry don’t just hang out and babysit but they lead and serve. They setup food and clean but also have the opportunity to lead students into thinking about the gospel and applying it to their lives. Over the past month I have been working on a pipeline structure to develop leaders in our Student Ministry. Here is the Student Ministry Leadership Pipeline: 

  • Lead Self: Helper | Setup and clean up for MC gatherings along with any other needed tasks as well as support other leaders

  • Lead Others: Discussion Leader | Guide the conversations in our small groups to the Gospel

  • Lead Leaders: Speaker | Prepare and contextualize a message from the sermon

  • Lead Ministry: Student Director | Supports leaders and guides the overall mission and vision of the Student Ministry

We need leaders who are willing to love and invest in our students. We need leaders who are willing to grow in their leadership and set an example for our students. We need leaders to share the gospel with our students. We need leaders to invest in and disciple other leaders. Our mission is to love and serve these students and help them find their identity in Christ and to live in light of the gospel. 

Check out the other blogs in our The Call to Lead series. 

3 Ways to Engage the Bible from The Bible Project

I have recently been greatly encouraged by the work of a nonprofit based in Portland called The Bible Project. It’s an animation studio that makes short, beautiful videos about biblical themes, words, and how to read and interpret Scripture. In addition to these super helpful videos, they produce a podcast, print resources, and an app that guides readers through the Bible in a daily reading plan. They have a great respect for the Bible and believe it is one unified story that points to Jesus, and they want to help people all over the world engage with it. What an awesome project!

But they also recognize what many of us don’t: the Bible is not always easy to read. It is a beautiful and complex collection of books written in multiple languages and cultural contexts over hundreds of years. We believe it is God’s word to us and has implications for our everyday lives, but it’s not always readily apparent exactly how. Most of us haven’t been taught how to be good students of the Bible, so we are confused by what we read and give up too quickly. But if this is God’s word to us, shouldn’t we learn how to read it?

That is why I am so excited about the work of this group. They are combining deep biblical scholarship with beautiful visual storytelling to help all of us better understand how to read the Bible for ourselves. It is accessible, easy to understand, and inspiring.

God’s word is powerful, active, and at work in the lives of his people, and he uses it to shape us and transform us (Heb 4:12; 2 Tim 3:16). There are TONS of resources we can consume about God and his word, but if we never engage with his actual word we are missing out on his divinely inspired message. So I hope the videos produced by The Bible Project help equip you and encourage you to engage with the Bible. It takes work on our part to be good students, but God is faithful and is accomplishing his purposes through his word (Isaiah 55:11). We can trust him as we learn.


The following post was published by The Bible Project.

Here at The Bible Project we love the Bible. But you probably know that by now. We believe it's a divine-human book that speaks God's Word to his people and ultimately leads us to Jesus, the one who has power to change lives. Amazing, right? Through the Bible, Jesus transforms us.

Yet, most of us struggle to engage the Bible. For some, it feels like an oppressive book of outdated rules. For others, golden tablets that dropped out of the sky, offering no wisdom for the modern world. Then there's those who love the Bible, but can't find the time or energy to engage it. Or fear that they don't know how. And, of course, a lot of us are just in a Bible reading rut. We started strong in January, but we've kind of…faded. Better luck next year?

Wait! We Want to Help!

We think the Bible is worth engaging, even in February. Or March. Or any day really. That's why we create videos, podcasts, and study guides that explore the Bible's unified story, overarching themes, and individual books. It's also why we're writing this article. The Bible is just too fascinating for anyone to stay in a "Bible rut," so we want to give you simple ways to engage God's Word afresh and resources to help you towards that end. We have highlighted 3 ways to Engage The Bible.

1. Read the Bible with Other People

Reading the Bible in community is one of the quickest ways to get out of a reading rut. It's a practice that God's people have always done to remind themselves of who they are and what they've been called to. This remains true today. As we come together to read and discuss a passage, our pre-existing (and often staunchly held) stories about God, ourselves, and the world are challenged. We're forced to see the text in new ways and grapple with it, pushing us deeper into the biblical narrative, which in turn shapes us as God's people rather than us shaping it.

Reading alongside others also guards us from distractions and deception. If we only read the Bible by ourselves it's pretty easy (and all too convenient) for God's voice to start to sound like our own. Being part of a bigger dialogue about the Bible protects us from self-deception and keeps us focused on what we're reading. It also offers rich, redemptive fellowship. Something we all crave. If you want to know more about this practice, check out the "Public Reading of Scripture" video.

How to Start:

One way to read the Bible in community is to sign up for the Read Scripture series or download the app and ask someone to go through it with you. It's pretty straightforward. Read assigned portions from Scripture every day, meet with another person, people, or small group regularly to discuss what you've been reading, and then respond to God's Word together. It can be as formal or informal as you want.

Another way to read in community is to check out our suggested reading for each biblical book. When you read brilliant scholars you're entering the ongoing conversation taking place in the Christian community at large. Their area of expertise gives you new insight into the biblical books. Insight that's easy to miss when you're reading alone. You may never meet these scholars but you can benefit from being in community with them through their writing.

Finally, we'd invite you into our community, a community spanning 229 countries with over half a million subscribers committed to reading the Bible together. We're constantly learning new things about the Bible as we read and explore its story and create content to communicate that story to others. You can join The Bible Project Community HERE.

2. Meditate on the Bible in Private

Reading the Bible with other people doesn't mean you shouldn't read the Bible alone. Both are integral parts of growing as disciples. So, if your reading has grown stale another way to shake things up is private meditation. By "meditation" we don't mean emptying ourselves by chanting mindless mantras. Quite the contrary. Christian meditation is about filling our hearts and minds with the divine, not emptying ourselves.

In terms of Bible reading, meditation is the practice of entering into the text by reading and rereading it out loud, allowing it to speak to us in such a way that we listen and truly hear it. We fix and order our minds around the text, reading and rereading, until key words, phrases, and ideas jump off the page at us. Then we chew on these words and ideas and begin to form questions that lead us into deeper reflection. This causes us to slow down and experience the text in a way that affects our hearts and minds with the love of God. If you want to know more about this practice, check out "The Bible As Jewish Meditation Literature" video.

How to Start:

Choose a chapter or passage from your current reading plan and focus on it. If you're using our Read Scripture plan, pick a section from today's reading and read it out loud several times (the daily psalm would be a great place to start). Allow the text to roll around in your mind as you mutter the words aloud. Try to put yourself in the passage. What emotions are you feeling? What details do you notice? What would you think if you were hearing these words for the first time? What words or images jump out at you? Meditate on these questions and allow divine love and grace to fill you as you reflect on the answers.

Another creative way to meditate on Scripture is to listen to a text over and over again with a Bible app. We recommend YouVersion's free Bible App, which you can download on any device online at Bible.com. Once downloaded, choose your section of Scripture and play it over and over again doing the same practices mentioned above. Hearing a text repeatedly is a great way to actually hear the text, which is the goal of meditation. Not to mention, it's more accessible for some people, like young moms or busy caretakers, during chaotic seasons.

3. Respond to the Bible in Prayer

A wonderful way to engage the Bible is through prayerful reading of Scripture, a mode of reading with an eye towards finding language out of which we form a prayer of response. This differs from meditation in that meditation is an entering into the world of the text and allowing it to speak to us, while prayer is us speaking to God in natural response to the text.

To be clear, "prayerful reading" is not wrapping up our Bible time with general prayers about our lives. It's a specific kind of praying that uses words and ideas from the text to shape a prayer of response. The language and tone of the prayer should reflect the language and tone of the text. For example, if you're reading through lamentations you form a prayer of lament that's filled with grief over all the sin and wreckage in our broken world. Or, if you're reading through Philippians, you form a prayer of thanksgiving that's filled with joy in the midst of suffering using Paul's language. It's not reading and then praying, as if the two were disconnected. It's prayerful reading.

How to Start:

The best place to start is in the Psalms. God's people have always looked to the Psalms to give voice to their prayers. Plus, they were written to be prayed and sung aloud so they're perfect for practicing prayerful reading.

If you use our Read Scripture plan, we've built this practice into the reading. Every day you read a psalm slowly, meditating on it and then forming a prayer of response. Use the psalmist's words and make it your own as you respond to all that God has revealed to you in the text. Finally, take that prayerful language into your day's responsibilities and relationships, allowing it to shape your day and, when done over time, shape your life. It's a simple practice that yields huge benefits in terms of spiritual formation.

Don't Wait Until Next Year

We know it's easy to fade in Bible reading. We've all been there. But don't give up and buy into the idea that next year will be different. It won't be. Today is the best possible day to engage God's Word. So forget the guilt over "what was" and resist the temptation to think "what could be" and jump in right now. Try mixing things up with one of the ways listed above and use our resources freely-that's why they're there. And remember, God's Word is a living Word that speaks life to his people and leads us to Jesus, so it really is worth engaging.