It May Be Biblical, But It Isn't Christian

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"If your preaching never gets to Jesus, and particularly to his life, death and resurrection, then no matter how good it is, it isn't Christian."  I don't remember who said it, but it has greatly impacted my life. What makes Christianity unique is Jesus, the gospel. No matter how good our teaching may be, no matter how helpful it is with life's problems or how morally good it is, if Jesus makes no difference in the sermon or teaching then it simply is not Christian. Christianity is about the Christ.
Take a minute on that one.

I was reminded of that this week as our staff talked about an article by Tony Merida featured on The Gospel Coalition website.  Read the article below.  We say the word "gospel" a lot at New City, but does that make us gospel-centered?  We preach the Bible at New City, but does that mean we are gospel-centered?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Where would you see yourself in Merida's explanation of churches and the gospel?


Your Church May Not Be as Gospel-Centered as You Think

APRIL 10, 2018  | Tony Merida

"The book of Romans is about more than the “Romans Road.” It’s not just a book about individual salvation (though it certainly communicates this glorious message). It’s also about gospel-centered community and gospel-centered mission.

Michael Bird says Paul is “gospelizing” the believers in Rome. He wants every aspect of their lives to be shaped and empowered by the gospel. This is reflected especially in the latter half of the book. Therefore, Romans stands as a great book to consider, not only for theological clarity, but also for insights on gospel-centered leadership.

Before discussing the benefits of gospel-centrality, it’s important to understand how it differs from other approaches:

Gospel-Denying Churches

These shouldn’t be called churches. Various cults and extreme brands of liberalism would fit this category. They deny the essential truths of the gospel.

Gospel-Redefining Churches

Related to the previous category, these add to or subtract from the gospel. Examples include the prosperity gospel and the social gospel.

Gospel-Assuming Churches

These churches say they believe the gospel, but they rarely preach it plainly and deeply. It’s “Christianity-lite.” Leadership talks, therapeutic sermons, and practical-improvement messages fill the air.

Gospel-Affirming Churches

Like the previous group, these churches believe the gospel doctrinally, but the gospel is only meant for evangelism, and it is segmented out of the life of the church.

Gospel-Proclaiming Churches

These churches are known for preaching the gospel every week in corporate worship. But the gospel is still viewed as simply evangelistic. The gospel tips people into the kingdom, but it isn’t taught as that which also shapes and empowers Christian living. Often what is communicated to believers is some form of post-conversion moralism.

Gospel-Centered Churches

These churches preach the gospel every week explicitly—but not just to the unbeliever. They also preach and apply the gospel to Christians, as Paul did for the Romans (Rom. 1:15). It shapes and empowers Christian ethics and the life of the Christian community.

For example, marriage is taught by looking at Christ’s love for the church (Eph. 5:25); generosity is viewed through the lens of Christ’s generosity (2 Cor. 8:9); the call to forgive is rooted in Christ’s forgiveness of us (Col. 3:13); hospitality reflects the welcome of Christ (Rom. 15:7). Calls to social action—like caring for the orphan, the widow, the refugee, and the poor—are also made to believers with reference to their own identity in Christ.

Gospel Implications

We could give many reasons to pursue gospel centrality, but I’ll limit it to five.

1. The gospel changes lives

If you are a church planter, pastor, missionary, or ministry leader of any kind, it’s imperative that you have an unshakable confidence in the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). God loves to save sinners, and he does so when the gospel is proclaimed. Further, God loves to sanctify his people, and he does this as the gospel is applied.

If you are a church planter, pastor, missionary, or ministry leader of any kind, it’s imperative that you have an unshakable confidence in the gospel.

2. The gospel leads us to worship

The gospel transforms us from the inside out. And when affections change, everything changes. If a person loves Jesus deeply, it will change his or her behavior dramatically. Paul’s theology regularly leads him to doxology (Rom. 8:31–3911:33–36).

3. The gospel lifts us from despair

Sin, suffering, and death cause us to despair. The gospel lifts the saints from dark nights of the soul by reminding us that God’s verdict has already been pronounced; that though we suffer now, we’re still in the grip of the Father’s grace. Even death cannot separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:31–39).

4. The gospel unites diverse believers in community

In Romans 8, Paul is exulting in glorious gospel promises. It’s important to see the plural language Paul uses: “us,” “we,” “brothers/sisters,” and so on. Paul is seeking to unite both Jews and Gentiles in Christ, so he labors over the beauty of the gospel for several chapters in Romans. He wants to help them pursue unity in the gospel, and to consider how they should love one another practically (Rom. 12–14).

When we get to chapter 15, Paul’s appeal to unity climaxes with this prayer: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 15:5–6). Paul is applying his theology to build a unified, diverse people.

5. The gospel fuels our mission

You can endure opposition when you have promises like those in Romans 8. When you have a gospel this big, you’ll want to take it to the nations. Many don’t have a passion for the nations precisely because they don’t have a gospel worth preaching.

When you have a gospel as big as the one in Romans, you’ll want to take it to the nations. Many don’t have a passion for the nations precisely because they don’t have a gospel worth preaching."


Our desire at New City is to be gospel-centered in everything that we do, every ministry, every outreach, every service opportunity, every Missional Community and MC discussion. We pray that we might become gospel-centered in every area of life - where we live, work, play and worship.  We know that we can't be that church if we aren't those people - gospel-centered leaders, worshipers, church-goers, parents, children, students, employers, employees and friends. 

It isn't enough to use the word "gospel" a lot. It isn't enough that we are "biblical."  There are many religions and plenty of people who are morally good and who serve their communities. We must be wholly Christian.  We must learn to see all of life through the lens of the gospel - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - how we work, how we parent, how we relate to others, Christian and non-Christian... we must be truly gospel-centered.

How did you evaluate yourself?

Gospel-Denying?  Gospel-Redefining?  Gospel-Assuming?  Gospel-Affirming?  Gospel-Proclaiming?  Gospel-Centered?

 

The Gospel Advances Through Everyday Believers

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What comes to your mind when you think of the word missionary? Do you think of goals being accomplished? Do you think of the Great Commission? Do you think of people selling everything and living in a remote village in Africa? When you think of missionaries, do you think it's reserved only for the Elite or Top-Tier Christians? Do you think of yourself when you hear the word missionary?

The reality is this: most Christians do not live their everyday lives as missionaries. Barna Group says this:

  • 84% of Protestant churchgoers affirm that they have a personal responsibility to share the gospel with the lost.
  • 75% feel comfortable sharing their faith with the lost.
  • Only 35% of those actually share the gospel with the lost.

State of Modern Evangelism According to Barna Group

The final command that Jesus gave before ascending into heaven was what we call the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20). Mark Dever said in his book, Understanding the Great Commission, “During his ministry before the crucifixion, Jesus had said that his mission was only to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt. 15:24). But now, after the resurrection…Jesus’ rule extends beyond Israel to all nations. He asserted his authority, then told his disciples to make disciples.” Then in Acts 1:8, believers are given the promised Holy Spirit and commanded to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Six chapters passed in Acts and the gospel still had not gone outside of Jerusalem. Then in chapter 7, Stephen was stoned which began persecution in the church on a large scale and caused the believers to be scattered all throughout the regions.

The interesting thing that we see in Acts 8, according to verse 1, is that those who were being scattered were all the believers except the apostles. It wasn’t the church leaders or elders taking the gospel to new places. It was the normal, everyday believers spreading the gospel into new regions. Verse 4 tells us that wherever they went, they were preaching the Word. Don’t see the word “preaching” and assume it is talking about a pastor in a service, the word preach here simply means “to proclaim.” It was normal, everyday believers proclaiming the gospel in word and deed.

This is the picture we see in Acts 8—God’s saved people proclaiming the gospel to people who did not know Jesus. God certainly used church leaders and preachers in the New Testament, and still does today, but the gospel first spread out of Jerusalem through normal, everyday believers.

What about the church today? We gather every Sunday to worship God, hear the preaching of the Word, fellowship, pray, take communion, and sing the gospel. Then we scatter. Week after week we scatter into different communities, into different offices, into different jobs, into different families, and occasionally into different parts of the world. This is what the church does. We gather and scatter. The challenge is this: as we scatter, preach the gospel. God is working behind the scenes in all of our scattering to ordain relationships, conversations, interactions, and even tragedies—may it be so that we see these as opportunities to proclaim his gospel.

I want to, but I'm just not sure how.

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For years I wanted to tell more people about Jesus, but I lacked the “know-how” and the confidence so I rarely actually did. I read the evangelism tracts and even took classes for programmed methods to share my faith… but I felt a little like a used car salesman (no offense to the used car salesman reading this). “What would I have to offer you for you to say yes to driving home in this car this afternoon?”  The “canned” gospel presentations felt so cold and impersonal, like being in a “time-share” sales meeting. I know that a lot of people still use those and I am sure that there are countless thousands who have found grace and forgiveness in Jesus through them – they just never felt comfortable to me.

I know I’m not alone. Most professing Christians never lead someone to Christ. They never share their faith and see someone become a follower of Jesus. Statistics vary, but according to many, somewhere between 48% and 62% of Christians who say they have a responsibility to share the gospel simply don’t.

Why? Why do so few share the good news of grace and forgiveness in Jesus?
I don’t think that it is for lack of caring. New City has recently begun praying together for people that we know who need Jesus – friends, co-workers, children, family.  HUNDREDS of names have been shared and thousands of prayers prayed. Clearly our people care.

If not a lack of caring, could it be a lack of know-how and confidence?
Could it be the same aversion that I have for “canned” gospel presentations?
Maybe.  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe that’s you.

For the past several months, the elders and staff have been talking about this. How do we become better at telling our own friends and family about Jesus?  How do we do so relationally?  How do we help one another and how do we help New City?

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Well, we’ve been praying. You’ve been praying. Now let’s talk about turning everyday conversations into gospel conversations!  That’s the subject of our next Quarterly Training – May 5. This should be a really great day of practical help with relationally sharing the good news of the gospel in everyday life.  We’d love to have you!  Jump over to the Facebook Event for more information. Let us know you’re coming.

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone proclaiming? 15 And how are they to proclaim unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  Romans 10

50 Years Later

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I turned 50 a few months ago. The older I get, the younger that seems. So much of my life "seems like yesterday." 50 years ago, months after my birth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Instead of feeling like yesterday for me, it might as well have been centuries ago. That's how it feels- so, so long ago. 

I think that the reason so much of my life "seems like yesterday," is because it is mine - my life, my memories, my sadness, my joy. It's mine. 50 years of life shaped by all the things that have impacted me, personally, deeply.

The reason the death of Dr. King, and ultimately the fight that killed him, seems so distant to me is that it hasn't really been mine. It is so difficult to believe that there was a time when people of color couldn't vote, couldn't eat in restaurants, watch movies and were required to ride in the back of the bus (just to name a few). I have no memories of those days and yet they were in my lifetime. Because they didn't negatively impact me or my family, because they were not injustices toward us, they don't "seem like yesterday."

A lot has changed in 50 years, voting, marriage, sharing space, admittance to schools and universities... but a lot remains the same.  

Like most of my life the impact of what hasn't changed escapes, or I escape it because I am white, because I am a part of what always has been the majority and the power. I don't see the same wrongs, the same prejudices. I don't experience them. They are rarely my life experiences.  But that isn't the case for everyone, even 50 years later.  

For a moment, watch the video below and imagine this being you. This isn't 50 years ago and it is a very small glimpse at the reality of life that still exists for people of color...

50 years later much has changed. But much has not.

I am thankful that God raises up men and women like Dr. King and the thousands who joined him to call for justice. I am thankful for the resilience, persistence and bravery of those who took stands and those who still do. But there is still work to do.

I am a very, very small fish with a very, very small sphere of influence. I can't do much to change much. But I can do something:

  • I can be honest and open my eyes to the world around me. Rather than excuse or making excuses, I can simply acknowledge that there is a lot of life that I have never experienced, but it is real. Racism is real. Prejudice is real. And these truths have not only divided us, they have shaped us in one way or another and they continue to shape us and the world we live in.
  • I can stop being indifferent.  Indifference is never truly indifference. Indifference allows and even feeds continued racism, prejudice and injustice. I can speak to my children, to my family, to my small group, to my church. I can stop being indifferent and use the voice I have in the places it can be heard.
  • I can be the one who tries. Let's be honest - there is fear in change and fear in trying. What if I fail? What if I try and am met with resentment? What if? What if? What if?
    There is fear and uncertainty and distrust deep within and it isn't limited to any color. Some is reasonable fear and some is not. I can face the fear. I can take the chance. I can move toward genuine friendship and understanding. I can be the one who tries, the one who not only tries to understand but who tries to wade through the awkward unknown and be a true friend. I can take the first steps. I can open my heart. I can open my home.

At New City Church we are committed to trying, to doing what we can do. We are committed, not because it is trending and popular but because we deeply believe it is connected to the gospel. Racism, prejudice, injustices, they are all sins. Jesus has come not only to forgive sin, but to empower us to break sin's curse and overcome it. The gospel also fixes what has been broken and unites what sin has divided. In Christ there is no divide; there is only one new people - His people.  If there is anywhere that love and unity should be brilliantly seen, it is His church.

"Father, I plead that your Spirit would be mighty to do what Jesus said He would do. Convict us of our deep and dark sins. Remind us of the work of Jesus that leads us to love and unity. Move in your people to be just that- your people- holy, different, set apart. Help us to be the Kingdom present here and now for your great glory and for the good of your people. Father, may our children and our children's children have no understanding of the division that we live in. In Jesus' name we pray this together. Amen."

New City Student Fundraisers!

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This Summer our Student MC (youth group) will be taking our 1st youth trip! We will be heading to Auburn, AL to be a part of Radius Camp. The dates will be July 16-20. The theme of this years camp will be, “ The Missionary God and His Missionary People.” Here is an excerpt from their website:

God is a missionary God. All of history, right up to this moment, he has been on a mission to reclaim the entire world for himself, to save people from all tribes, all tongues, all nations. When we read the Bible, we hear this reality proclaimed through a grand story that is not so much about man trying to find God, but of God coming to man. How amazing is it that this glorious God comes to seek and save the lost. Because of the missional pursuit of Jesus, we are now ‘the people whom God has loved, chosen, redeemed, shaped, and sent into the world in the name of Christ.’ We are his missionary people, and we must live out this mission with urgency, as we await the day when Jesus will return to make all things right and complete the mission to the glory of his Father.

Our days will be filled with gospel teaching, discussion times, activities, and opportunities to serve and be missional. We are so looking forward to this!!

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          There are a couple of fundraisers that I wanted to share with you that will help raise funds for camp. Many of our families have multiple students involved in our Student MC who desire to go. For some families it would cost a small fortune to send all of their students to camp. We wanted to help lift that financial burden so that these students have the opportunity to go to camp. Here are the fundraisers we have planned:

 

 

Boston Butt Fundraiser - April 28, 2018  

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          We will be holding Boston Butt Fundraiser and the proceeds will go toward helping our students go to camp. Our very own Grill Master Jeff Adams will be cooking on the pit and trust me…it’s going to be DELICIOUS! Boston Butts will be $35 each and can be picked up later in the day from 5:00pm-7:00pm. There will also be a sign up sheet at the bar in our main lobby. After Easter, Students will have sign up sheets as well as tickets for those who purchase from them.
          If you want to go ahead and purchase one now, you can make a payment to our PayPal account: nccbostonbutt@gmail.com

Macon Bacon Game - June 26, 2018

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          Students will also be selling tickets to a Macon Bacon game. Tickets will be $15 and includes a Macon Bacon ball cap and all you can eat concessions during the game. Seriously…ALL YOU CAN EAT!!!  MC’s what a great way to spend time together this summer at the baseball game and what an awesome opportunity to invite friends, neighbors, and co-workers who may not go to church or don’t know Jesus! Use this opportunity to reach out to them while helping raise funds for our students to go to camp. Win, win!!
          You can go ahead and purchase tickets here: 
https://NCC2017.eventbee.com/event?eid=105861873

          One other way you can help our Student MC is through prayer. We have both believers and non-believers that make up our Student MC. They need your prayers as they are trying to navigate the difficulties and challenges of school and the pressures of culture. They need your prayers for the Holy Spirit to lead and convict them of the truths of Jesus. Pray that we would get the funds raised so that all of our students and maybe their friends can join us at camp. Pray that each would continue to grow in Christ and they would know the love of Jesus. Pray that lives would be changed and hearts would be made new by the Gospel. 

A Call for Punctuality

You may or may not have noticed this before, but the trend at New City is to be late. Events almost always start on time, but our people are usually trickling in up to 20 minutes after the service starts. And hey, I get it. Sunday mornings can be crazy, especially if you’ve got kids. Stuff happens that is out of your control. I understand. However, there’s one really good reason why it’s worth the effort to make being on time, or even early to church the rule, rather than the exception. Are you ready?

It’s missional!

Have you thought of it that way? Missional means “of or relating to a mission.” What’s our mission? To help people live in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The first step toward that mission is for people to hear the gospel. And they will hear it every single week at New City. So here’s how it’s missional to be on time to church.

Do you know who is almost always going to show up on time or early? A first-time visitor. They don’t know exactly what to expect, so they will usually want to show up a few minutes early, to make sure they can figure out where to go and find somewhere to sit. How will you be able to greet those new people if you’re not here? Maybe you’ll have a chance after church, but maybe not.

Visitors often have kids, too. The check-in process takes a little bit longer the first time. Our kids area can get pretty chaotic when everyone shows up right at or before the service time. If you’re able to come a little early, get your kids checked in and move on upstairs, that makes check-in smoother and less overwhelming for new families.

Usually visitors will be early, but not always As you’re moving upstairs, they’re usually easy to spot. They often look a little unsure. Sometimes they’re stand-offish, waiting for someone to approach them. And they’re not wrong to do that! We should each be keeping our eyes open for new faces and intentionally reaching out to them. Yes, we have a Connect team who greet and almost always catch new people. But, truly, we are all responsible for making newcomers feel welcome. If you’re always running late to church, rushing upstairs to the service, you likely won’t even notice the first-time visitors who might be standing there wondering where to go.

Here’s the point: When you come early, get your kids checked in (if you have them), get upstairs and help make visitors feel welcome, you’re removing barriers to the gospel being heard, and increasing the likelihood that those visitors will come back and hear it again. You're being missional!

So come early, be friendly, and welcome others as Christ has so lovingly welcomed us into his family.
And remember, prelude starts at 8:55 and 10:55!

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!

Gratefully,

Heather

 

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?

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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

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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

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MACON
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..."

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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. 

Lyrics

VERSE 1:
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

CHORUS:
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

VERSE 2:
When I have forgotten the fullness of Your grace
Yes, I remember Calvary when You took my place

BRIDGE:
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

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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.

#625

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)

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MACON

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..

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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?
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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. 

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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 

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  • 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. 
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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?

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MACON
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

Macon.
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.

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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? 

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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!

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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

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"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!
AND
Get ready with us...

How?

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, Caleb@newcitymacon.org!

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.

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MACON
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.