Gospel

Singing Helps Us Feel the Gospel

God has taken the most precise way of communicating truth, which is words, and combined it with the vaguest way of communicating truth, which is music - and he’s put them together to make singing. The purpose is that what we know with our minds gets connected in our hearts.
— Bob Kauflin paraphrasing Harold Best

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One of the biggest joys for me at New City is singing gospel truths together. At our Sunday worship gatherings we walk through and sing the gospel story. We sing old hymns and new songs, all in response to who God is and what He has done for us. In an interview with Bob Kauflin, he states that not only does singing help us to know these truths intellectually, but it helps us to actually feel the gospel. As we are singing, we slow down and take time to read and repeat certain lines “and in doing so, the weight and significance has longer to ring in our souls and penetrate to our depths,” says interviewer David Mathis. Check out the rest of this interview with Bob Kauflin.


by: David Mathis

You were made to sing. God created music, and designed humans to sing along. 

Mere naturalistic theories cannot adequately account for this global phenomenon, present among every people group on the planet. The fingerprints of the creator mark the sound of music.

And what nature makes plain, God’s own word makes even clearer. The Psalms alone issue nearly thirty commands to sing. Another thirty passages include promises that we will sing praise. The Bible celebrates song from the very beginning, as Adam sings for the woman God made for him (Genesis 2:23), through to the very end, as the bride of heaven sings for the groom God gave her — with choruses old (Revelation 15:3) and new (Revelation 5:914:3).

Jesus himself — fully God in full humanity — sang on earth (Matthew 26:30Mark 14:26), and he sings even now among the happy congregation of heaven (Romans 15:9Hebrews 2:12). One day soon his Church will be fully gathered with him, and she will enjoy endless music with him.

Sing to Stir the Soul

Something mystical and seemingly supernatural works in us when we sing. Music cultivates the happiness and wholeness of the human soul. Singing stirs and engages the heart, celebrating our greatest joys and consoling us in our deepest sorrows.

Ask songwriter and beloved worship-leader Bob Kauflin about the place of song in the church’s corporate worship, and he’ll direct you to two times the apostle Paul explicitly mentions singing. Ephesians 5:19 speaks of our “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Colossians 3:16 instructs us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Colossians 3:16–17 comes in the context of Paul describing what it looks like to live a gospel-fueled life as a community in the midst of a pagan society,” says Kauflin. That picture is increasingly relevant in our day. 

“Right in the middle of it, he talks about singing. It’s similar to Ephesians 5where he goes right from singing to household relationships. Why does he do that? Why is singing so important?”

Connect Mind and Heart

Kauflin’s answer is penetrating, and it is instructive for why God would have music and song occupy such a prominent place not only in worship, but in all of life.

“There’s something about singing that both enables and encourages the rich indwelling of the word of Christ in our hearts. The ‘word of Christ’ is the gospel. It’s who Jesus is, what he’s done, and why it matters. That gospel is to dwell in us richly through singing. Singing is what helps us do that and express that.”

Paraphrasing musicologist Harold Best, Kauflin says, “God has taken the most precise way of communicating truth, which is words, and combined it with the vaguest way of communicating truth, which is music — and he’s put them together to make singing. The purpose is that what we know with our minds gets connected in our hearts.”

God designed singing “to help us feel the truth. More specifically, it’s meant to help us feel the gospel.”

Affect the Affections

How, then, does singing help us feel the gospel? One way, among many, is “singing helps us meditate and reflect on the words we’re singing by drawing them out. We slow it down, we repeat it” — and in doing so, the weight and significance has longer to ring in our souls and penetrate to our depths. This slowing down and repeating sets song apart as markedly different than mere speech.

“If we spoke like that, it would be odd. People would wonder what your problem is. But when we sing, it makes perfect sense. It allows time for those truths to seep down into our souls and impact us and affect us and change not only our emotional state but the choices we make, the things we do, because we do the things we love.

“God gave us singing to affect the things we love, to remind us of the things that are most important about what Jesus Christ has done to save us, to redeem us — those things are most important in life. We want to be amazed by those truths.”

God Gave You a Song

Singing serves our true happiness and wholeness as humans, but that doesn’t mean we all incline toward music with the same intensity, or have the same skill in song.

Some of us simply don’t like to sing; others, as the expression goes, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Yet that shouldn’t keep any human — and especially any Christian — from the power and pleasure of music and song.

“The question isn’t, ‘Has God given you a voice?’ but, ‘Has God given you a song?’ I’ve worked with guys who are tone deaf, literally tone deaf . . . . I would rather have them sing and express what God has done in their lives, in their hearts, than just remain silent.

“God has given you a song. You just need to find out the ways you can sing it, and use every opportunity you can to sing it — because God means for song not only to express what’s in your heart, but to encourage what’s in your heart, or what should be in your heart.”

What should we do in corporate worship when we don’t feel like singing? Kauflin has a hopeful remedy. 

“Confess your weakness, confess your inability, ask God to reveal his glory to you in Jesus Christ, and start singing the truths of God’s word. Most likely, it won’t be too long before your perspective changes, and you’re not thinking about whether you feel like singing anymore. You’ll be thinking about how worthy Jesus is to receive the praises of his people.”


Dear Church: Be a Foster Parent or Be the Village

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Many times we struggle with living out what we know. As a church, we tend to gravitate to 'knowing' more but flounder when it comes to transferring our knowledge to action. I mentioned adoption and fostering in last week's sermon in connection to living as a community, a family. As a foster/adoption parent, I can tell you from experience that the following post is a simple, but powerful way to reflect that you not only understand the gospel, but you are choosing to live it out.

- Patrick

 

(The following post by Katie from Loving Well Living Well is a practical, tangible way to live out the gospel in the specific area of fostering/adoption.)

Two years ago I ran into a friend who I hadn’t seen in weeks. “How are you?” I asked.  She had just started fostering a sibling group of three kids about two months earlier. Tears formed in her eyes and she began to weep. “You are the first person in weeks to ask how I have been,” she said.  I was stunned; partially because this woman was clearly struggling and isolated, but even more so because this woman was an active member of her church and lead bible studies. She was plugged into her church community and it was no secret to anyone she was fostering.

“Has anyone brought you a meal or asked to watch the kids to give you a break?”  “No”, she said. “But plenty of people tell me they are praying for me. “

Where was the church body in this? The body of Christ?  The Village?  Why was it in a church full of young families, constant play dates, and VBS, this family was receiving no support from the church body?

Unfortunately, this family is no longer fostering and joined the staggering statistic of 50% of foster families who stop fostering after their first year.

Two months later I attended a national adoption/foster care conference. Clones of my friend’s story were told over and over by various women from across the country.  While they are actively living out James 1:27 in every moment of their life, their church family was playing a meager role in supporting them outside of a flippant “I’ll pray for ya.”

Fast forward two years and my husband and I began fostering.  It wasn’t long before we took in 10 different placements at various times, over a 2 month period.  Our first placement was a little boy, and the second another sweet boy, and the third placement was a sibling set of two boys and a girl.  The flood gates opened and we were on the front line living life with these kids; all precious and all traumatized.  With each placement, we found a member of our church at our door, bringing meals, boy clothes, pull ups, and formula.  A friend brought over her therapy dog and bubbles to keep the kids occupied one afternoon, and another friend showed up with a crate of fresh eggs from her coop.  Teenagers from the youth group came over and handed my husband Josh and me iced coffee (my personal love language) then stayed for hours playing with the kids to give us a breather.  Josh and I were running a marathon and this love and support gave us the continuous cup of cold water needed to keep running the race.  Our experience is rare; embarrassingly rare, especially when other foster families catch wind of our support that they have been so desperate for.

Is the church filled with terrible and apathetic people? No. But perhaps the church has blinders on and doesn’t realize their role in foster care.  Not everyone is supposed to be a foster parent, but every Christian is supposed to play an active role in orphan care.

What actions can the church body do to live out James 1:27?  First, recognition must take place that taking care of orphans is a commandment, not a calling.  James 1:27 uses the word   “visiting” when describing orphans.  The word visiting is an ongoing word of action, not simply a one-time event.  Within this commandment of “visiting orphans” are individual callings.  Some people are called to be foster parents and others have a place to support those families.

Here are some specific yet simple ways to be the village and the body of Christ, to foster families in your church.

Create a Meal Calendar- A one-time meal is nice, but this foster family is running a continual race.  If you have more than 10 families in your church, each family can sign up to bring a meal once a month.

Free Babysitting- In most states, there is a “normalcy” clause when it comes to foster children. That means, if you would allow a babysitter to come over to watch your kids for a couple hours, then that is also appropriate for foster kids.  Offer free babysitting to the foster family.

Clean the foster family’s home for an hour– Tell the family you are coming over for an hour to clean/organize, or do their laundry.

Give Care packages– Diapers, food, formula, kids clothes, car seats.  These kids are dropped off at this family’s house at a moment’s notice with typically nothing besides the clothes on their back.

Send members of the Youth Group over to play with the kids on Saturdays- These foster children will be blessed by the love and the fun with the teens, and this is also a great experience for teenagers to see their important impact.

This is not an exhaustive list but is a good start.  These meals, these acts of love are the game changer which keeps foster parents in the game verses throwing in the towel. My hope is that this list is shared and then implemented in churches around the country.  It will change and refresh foster families and will also change churches.  It’s time for the Church to play their part, to be the village and the body of Christ which is so clearly articulated in the Word.

EXPOSED BY THE MISSION

In a recent conversation about 'Life on Mission', we explored what that could look like and some of the reasons we try to push it away. Jeff Vanderstelt does a great job at exploring the importance of living on mission in community, as well as some of the reasons why we try to excuse it away.


Yes, we can pretend to have it all together while sitting in a pew on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture. But mission exposes our inadequacies and need for grace.

If you are in a small Bible study group, one of the best things you could do is move the study out into the neighborhood. When you read a command in Scripture, ask, “How are we going to obey this command together on mission?” In other words, ask yourselves what this passage says you should do together (life in community) and how you might do it in the middle of a mission held together (life on mission).

Doing this will bring up all sorts of opportunities for discipleship: excuses will be expressed, fears acknowledged, lack of confidence or courage realized, and inadequacies verbalized. Then you’ll be getting somewhere in terms of people’s discipleship.

In this process, you will discover the truth about everyone’s present state. When you actually get out of the comfort of your Christian community and onto the streets of mission (in your neighborhood, at a café, in the park, or at a local high school), you will discover together where everyone still needs to be discipled. The junk will come out, and then you will be able to disciple one another in the everyday stuff of life.

I was surprised by this on my first mission trip, but after a few of them, I knew it was coming. Soon, a part of me began to hate taking mission trips because I knew things would get bad—we would fall apart and we would be seen as needy.

Yet that was why I continued to lead them. Such brokenness has to happen if real discipleship is going to take place.

Sometimes I wonder if this exposure is why Christians avoid getting on the mission of making disciples together in the stuff of everyday life. We know we will be exposed. We will be seen for the needy, desperate people we really are. Our junk will come to the surface. Yes, we can hide and pretend to have it all together while sitting in a large gathering on Sunday or while impressing one another with our knowledge of Scripture in a weekly Bible study. But out on mission, the need for grace and power from God will never be more clearly manifested.

That’s exactly what we need. We need to see and know our need for Jesus. We need to see and know others’ need for Jesus. Then we need to give one another the truths of Jesus to change us, empower us, and allow His Spirit to work through us effectively. We also need to experience God using weak, tired, and broken people to do amazing work.

This happened in the early church as well. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples to wait for power from God—the Spirit of God was going to come upon them and empower them for the work (Acts 1:8). The disciples were sent out with God’s power and presence with and by His Spirit. They faced persecution. Many died for their faith. They lost possessions and family members. Many messed up and grew in the grace of Jesus as a result. And they grew in their love for one another, their devotion to obey God’s Word, their prayerful dependence on God, and the powerful proclamation of the gospel. They all grew while on mission (Acts 2:42–47).

The mission revealed their need and required God’s help!

I’m amazed at how often Christians want to experience the presence and power of God apart from the mission of God. I’m also surprised at how many people believe they can grow people up toward maturity in Christ apart from getting them involved in the mission of making disciples.

This stuff can’t happen in a classroom. It does not happen in one-on-one meetings. And it does not happen if we just hang out together as Christians all the time. We have to get out on mission to fulfill the mission of being disciples who make disciples.

I used to think we should take people out on mission trips once or twice a year. Now I’m convinced we need to help people see they are on mission all the time.

Unfortunately, many disciples of Jesus don’t get beyond seeing church as just attending an event on Sunday or Wednesday or doing a Bible study together. They are not experiencing what it means to be on mission together in the everyday stuff of life. So they live with the facade that everything is OK. On the surface, they look as if they are all in for Jesus. But brokenness, pride, insecurity, and selfishness are all there under the surface.

(taken from Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life.)

 

Welcome to New City Church - You Are Invited!

OUR VISION

What’s in a name? In this case, everything. We believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed transformative. Therefore, we believe that as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of our city, our city will be transformed and made new, but not just our city, the world! 


Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed...
— Romans 12:2

Because of this, we dream of seeing the gospel transform everything within our reach  - ourselves, our church, our city and the world.

OUR MISSION

Our mission is to help people live in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

OUR IDENTITY

We believe that we will best fulfill this mission and see this vision come to be as we live as a family of missionary servants, disciples of Jesus making disciples of Jesus.

YOUR INVITATION

If you do not currently have a church home or maybe you have never had a church home, we would love to have you be a part of New City Church.

Join us this Sunday!     

Milledgeville Campus
197 Log Cabin Rd

Coffee 10:00         
Worship 10:30  

Macon Campus
533 Cherry St
         
Worship 9:30 or 11:00

Death Has Lost Its Sting

(In order to see the highest quality version of this video, please click on HD in the bottom right of the video and select 1080p)

Words by Isaac Watts, adapted by Rebecca Dennison Arranged by Mike Cosper
CCLI Song # 5939116 CCLI License #1888971 © Sojourn Community Church 2011
  

My God, how many are my fears
How fast my foes increase
Conspiring my eternal death
They break my fleeting peace

The lying tempter would persuade
My heart to doubt your aid
And all my swelling sins appear  
Much greater than your grace

Arise, Oh Lord, fulfill your grace
While I your glory sing;
My God has broke the serpentʼs teeth
And death has lost his sting

But you my glory and my strength
Will on my tempter tread
Will silence all my threatening guilt
And raise my drooping  head.  

Arise, Oh Lord, fulfill your grace
While I your glory sing;
My God has broke the serpentʼs teeth
And death has lost his sting

And though the hosts of death and hell
All armed against me stand
No more will terrors shake my soul;     
Secure within your hand.

Arise, Oh Lord, fulfill your grace
While I your glory sing;
My God has broke the serpentʼs teeth
And death has lost his sting

Taking Hold of Our Habits

My parents have owned Chinese restaurants as long as I could remember. If there was any definition of habits or routine, it would be them. Everyday, they would leave for work at 8AM and work until 11PM. Dad would habitually make and prepare the ingredients for the day while Mom would habitually ready the cash register and the tables for the customers. They did this for years, day in and day out. 

Forming habits is such an interesting concept. You can consciously choose a particular habit you want to cultivate and exercise and yet the goal is to do it so regularly that you do it unconsciously. Most of the time habits form without our notice. We live in a world where feelings play a huge role in the decisions we make. This spills over into our spiritual lives: prayer, Bible reading, scripture memorization, etc. If something doesn't feel right we don't do it, even if it's for our benefit. Maybe we're scared of forming habits because then it feels like that activity loses its significance in some way. Or maybe we're scared of habits because they just feel "forced." The list goes on.

If you think about it, we are as they say, “creatures of habit.” We form routines without even thinking about it. What if God had a grand plan in wiring us this way? What if God’s plan was to use our habit-forming ways to help release us of the dread and anxiety of making decisions ALL the time? What if this inclination to form habits was intended for us to grow in Christ, bringing God the glory? David Mathis is the author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines. Here is a brief article by David on how habits reveal who we are and shape our hearts.


The word “habit” can have such a negative feel. It can bring to mind smoking, alcoholism, or drug addition. Or something simply unappealing and annoying, like nail-biting, lip-smacking, or loud public itching of dry skin. Habits can be nasty little things.

They can also save your life. Like the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street. Or putting on your seatbelt, and pressing the brakes when the light ahead turns yellow. Or the habit of making a beeline for the Bible first thing in the morning.

Habits make Stephen Curry the NBA’s best shooter, Mike Trout baseball’s best hitter, and Jordan Spieth the world’s most promising young golfer. Habits keep a NASCAR driver from losing control and going airborne when he’s nudged going into Turn 3 at Daytona. And organizational habits make Fortune 500 companies excel beyond their competitors.

Science of Habit

While the human brain remains the final frontier of medical science, today’s cutting-edge research continues to put some of the enigmatic pieces together related to our habits. Bestselling books like Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives now are popularizing this new science and helping us to think about our habits—where they come from and how to improve themAt the heart of habit is the brilliance of our Creator. Making decisions takes time and energy, and habits keep us from having to make the same decisions over and over again:

Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. Left to its own devices, the brain will try to make almost any routine into a habit, because habits allow our minds to ramp down more often. (The Power of Habit, 17)

And when our minds ramp down related to our routine actions, they stand ready to engage with something new or more important. With a habit, the decision is already made, and the bandwidth of our mind, so to speak, is free to us to focus our energy and attention elsewhere. “The real key to habits is decision making,” Rubin writes, “or, more accurately, the lack of decision making” (Better than Before, 5).

Habits for Receiving God’s Grace

For Christians, the so-called spiritual disciplines—or, as I like to call them, “habits of grace”—free our minds from preoccupation with technique and skill, and the depleting energy of making the same regular decisions, so that we can tune our attention elsewhere, to the most important thing. Habits that get us into the Bible and prayer, and that keep us deeply connected in the body of Christ are spiritual life-savers.

We shouldn’t want to wake up every day, weigh the options, and make the decision all over again as to whether the first voice we hear that day will be Jesus’s in the Scriptures. And when we’ve heard his voice in the Bible, we don’t need to stop and consider all over again whether we should pray, speaking back to God in response to having heard him speak in his Word. And it’s not most productive, and most spiritually advantageous long term, to make the decision all over again every weekend whether to be in corporate worship, or to attend community group. Make the decision and form the habit, for your own good and the good of others, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (Heb. 10:25).

The danger with having to make the decision all over again every time about these vital means of God’s ongoing grace is our wandering hearts may choose not to avail ourselves of his goodness. These are habits worth forming, because hearing his voice (in his Word), having his ear (in prayer), and belonging to his body (in the local church) are the lifeblood for the Christian life.

Habits for Enjoying Jesus

The power of habit not only keeps us from the folly of bad decisions; it can also transform spiritual exercises, like Bible meditation and prayer, from exhausting ourselves with Martha’s tiring exertions to coming alive through Mary’s life-giving receptions of grace (Luke 10:38–42). If we had to learn Bible meditation and prayer all over again each time we engaged, we’d be continually distracted, anxious, and troubled by our own doing. But forming good habits can make Bible intake and prayer into opportunities to sit at Jesus’s feet, and listen to his voice, and choose the good portion that will never be taken away.

The signal joy in forming “habits of grace” is being freed from focus on self, on our technique, to turn our soul’s gaze to Jesus. After all, the great goal of the spiritual disciplines—the end of the means of grace—is knowing and enjoying Jesus. The final joy in any truly Christian discipline or practice or rhythm of life is, in the words of the apostle, “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). “This is eternal life”—and this is the goal of the means of grace—“that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

When all is said and done, our hope is not to be a skilled Bible reader, practiced prayer, and faithful churchman, but to be the one who “understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth” (Jer. 9:23–24). So our heartbeat in the habits we develop for hearing every word, speaking every prayer, and participating in every act of fellowship is, “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hos. 6:3).

The means of God’s grace in Word, prayer, and fellowship—and their many good habitual expressions—will serve to make us more like him, but only as our focus returns continually to Christ himself, not our own Christlikeness. It’s in “beholding the glory of the Lord” that we “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18). Spiritual growth is a marvelous effect of such practices, but in a sense it’s only a side effect. The heart is knowing and enjoying Jesus. And the science of habit serves that.

What Are Your Habits?

Your habits are, in fact, one of the most important things about you. Those repeated actions you take over and over, almost mindlessly, reveal your true self over time as much as anything else.

Our habits are windows into the deep things of our souls. “Character,” Michael Horton says, “is largely a bundle of habits.” Take a careful assessment of any person’s habits, and soon you can tell, with little margin for error, what really captures his heart.

But our habits not only show our hearts, but shape them as well. We’re always reinforcing habits or forming new ones. If Jesus truly is our Lord, Savior, and the greatest treasure of our lives, we’ll desperately want to have him reflected in the habits of our lives. And we’ll find it well worth the effort and energy to cultivate a modest new habit or two toward making him increasingly to be our greatest joy

 

Taking What We Do For Granted...

Not every church preaches the Bible verse by verse and chapter by chapter. Not every church even preaches the Bible!  I have listened to more than one or two sermons where a passage was read from the Bible, some stories shared and a prayer was had with no explanation or connection to what was read from the Bible. 

I received an email from one of our New City folks and below is part of that email. It is a great reminder that what we enjoy here at New City every week doesn't happen everywhere.

I also wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the way you all set up the preaching plan. I was talking with a friend in Oklahoma last week and he mentioned he's had a real difficult time finding a church that preaches through the Bible. I think I'm so used to you all picking a book and working through it that I take it for granted sometimes. So thank you.

Our regular preaching pattern at New City is to preach from an Old Testament book followed by a topical sermon series where we address certain topics like marriage, family, mission,... or a holiday. This is followed by the preaching of a New Testament book and that by another topical or holiday series.  Longer books of the Bible, like the book of Acts, are often divided into sections. One section may be preached and followed with another sermon series either topical or from another book before coming back to the original longer book. Over time we will cover every book of the Bible and address additional needs through short, topical sermon series.

So now you know, there is a method to our madness! We really are seeking to teach the whole counsel of God.

In Need of Servants for Students

Middle through High school was such sweet time for me. It was at this stage of my life when God changed me forever. I was in 8th grade when I really started to search for my identity. Who am I? What am I about? What do I like? What do I dislike? I began searching and hanging out with different people. Some were good influences while others were not so. After a while, a group of guys started inviting me to youth group at church. I figured they seemed nice and all, why not?

Hanging out with them was different. They weren’t like the others. They were genuine. It seemed like they really cared about me, not only them but the adults and volunteers that were at the youth gatherings.  I felt comfortable. I felt safe. I began to really listen to the message at youth group and began to attend church on Sunday mornings. It was then that God through the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the gospel message; that God, the Lord and Creator of all things created me to be in His image, man sinned and turned away from God (I sinned and turned away from God), and Jesus Christ came to welcome us into God’s family. This was the beautiful truth I embraced and loved, confessing my sin and placing my faith in Jesus. God pursued me even when I was oblivious of His love and authority. He gave me new life through Jesus Christ.

There was not a lot going on when I was going through school.  Can you imagine being a teenager nowadays?? Constantly being caught up in the wave of social media, pressures to look a certain way, bullies in person or online. I want students to know that they are loved and cared for. I use the term “students” because they are constantly growing and learning things and habits that they will carry with them the rest of their lives. They are young people who will soon reach adulthood. I want students to know that they are created in God’s image and that they are loved by Him, that Christ died for them, to cleanse their sins and redeem them into His family.

Please pray for our students at New City Church. Pray that they would come to know and love the Gospel. Through Christ they are given a new identity, a son or daughter of Jesus. Pray for servants who would be willing to love and invest in students. Ask yourself if you would be willing to serve our students. If you aren’t currently serving, consider investing in our students. I would love to talk with you about what that looks like here at New City. Please contact me:

Arthur Lin
Director of Worship and Youth
New City Church
arthur@newcitymacon.org
229-942-0669

Thursday - Freedom in Confession

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Eph. 3:14-19

 

Sin is so destructive. I hate it when I sin. My first instinct when I sin is to hide it, to ignore it or to blame someone else. It shouldn’t be a surprise to me that I respond to sin just as Adam and Eve did. Like Adam and Eve, the last thing I want is for my sin to be known.

But this is usually a horizontal response – I don’t want my family or friends to know that something is wrong with me. When we treat our sin like this, we are valuing our horizontal relationships more than we value our vertical relationship. Maybe you are like me and respond in this way because you want others around you to think you are perfect. We may never say we want to appear perfect, but our actions reveal our hearts.

Jesus’ response to our sin is quite the opposite. Like the Father in the Garden, He wants to bring the sin out into the light so it can be dealt with, and we can be free. Paul tells us that if we truly comprehend and receive the love of Christ, then we will not hide it. We will not pretend that we are not broken.

It always makes me cringe with sadness when I’m with brothers and sisters during prayer and someone responds that they have nothing to pray about…they are good. This usually indicates that this person is not in tune with their Father spiritually, or more often than not, they simply don’t trust enough to reveal where the Father is growing them spiritually.

Spend some time today with your Father. Ask Him to reveal areas in your heart that you do not trust others with and confess those. Talk to someone you love and trust, and share where God is growing you spiritually. Be reminded that Jesus offers grace and forgiveness and freedom in our confession.

You Are Here, Be Where You Are!

New City has always attracted a transient group of people - college students, grad students, young families from other places. Many times transient people know they are transient, they have no intention of seeing Macon or Milledgeville become their home. Macon and Milledgeville are just stops on the way... on the way to a new life, a new career, a new place.

In a way, it reminds me of Israel's captivity to Babylon - not in the sense that transient people can't leave, but in the sense that Macon is simply not the final destination. The captive Hebrew people wanted to return to Jerusalem. They had no desire to be in Babylon. This caused them to withdraw from Babylon, to separate from life in Babylon and worse, to remove themselves from God's intention for them.

These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon... Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
— Jeremiah 29:1-7

Jeremiah wrote to the people in Babylon on behalf of God to call them back to God's intention and call them out of their absence and withdrawal. God, through the prophet is telling his people to invest in the city, to thrive in the city, to LIVE in Babylon. He is calling His people to "Be Where You Are!" 

I want to shout this loudly to all of our transients - BE WHERE YOU ARE - Here. God has brought you here for a season. Maybe it is a short season, maybe it is a long season, I have no idea. But while you are here, be here. Find a church home, become a member, serve in the church, serve through the church. Become a part of the community of the church - the family. Be a blessing to the church and to the city and its people. Remember that as a Christ follower, you are always on his mission - "as you go" - being His hands and feet, proclaiming His glories, serving as His ambassador and as a part of His family.

And remember... being here, I mean really being here - participating, investing, LIVING - is not only for the good of the city, it is for your good.
You are Here.  Be All In. Be Where You Are!


For more info on connecting to New City:
In Macon, connect with Patrick
In Milledgeville, connect with Andy

Monica Lewinsky breaks her silence and admits thoughts of suicide. Are you thinking about suicide? If you're not, chances are someone you know is. This story will blow every circuit in your brain!

depressed-man
depressed-man

Years ago my wife and I rented a house out in the country in Manassas, VA.  It was our first house together.  We lived on a commuter road, which means that there was heavy traffic in the morning as folks drove to work and heavy traffic in the evening as folks went home from work. One day shortly after we moved in as I was watching all the cars drive by our house, I felt a strong conviction to put a sign out by the road that said something about God.  Then I thought, that’s crazy.  I prayed about it for a couple days and said, “Lord are you wanting me to put a sign out by the road about you?”  I told the Lord, “I tell you what, if you want me to put a sign out by the road about you I need you to provide a sheet of plywood and the paint.”

Later that week as I was push mowing the tall grass in my new back yard, I heard a thump sound as the mower went over the grass.  I backed up the mower to see what made the sound and it was half a sheet of plywood.  I thought well that’s funny.  All I need now is some paint.

I picked up the half sheet of plywood and decided it to put it in the unfinished basement of our new rental home.  This would be the first time I went to the basement.  As I began to walk downstairs with the plywood, I noticed several shelves of paint.  What?!

Well Lord in just a few short days you provided the wood and the paint.  What message do you want me to write?  The only message that kept coming to mind was simple.  The message was, “Jesus Loves You!”

I painted it that night and put it out by our mailbox late on a Sunday night.  As I stood back to read it I noticed I had painted the letters too small to read if cars went flying by.  I said, “Lord, the only way people are going to be able to read this sign is if they are driving very slowly.

The next morning I woke up and there was about six inches of snow on the ground.  A surprise snowstorm hit our area.  Cars were driving very slowly past our house and more importantly past the sign.  I could not believe it.  There was no snow in the forecast.

I decided every Sunday night I would repaint the sign white and put a new message on it.

About six months after the first sign went out I received a note on my car windshield in my church’s parking lot one Sunday after church.  Our church was about thirty to forty minutes away from our house.

The note was from a man who attended our church.  He wrote about how six months ago his world was turned upside down.  His wife left him and he lost his job all in the same week.  He felt depressed and worthless.  He decided he was going to end it all and take his life.  As he left his house one morning, he told God that he did not want to live any more and he blamed God for all his trouble.  He did not believe God loved him.  He prayed and said, “God if you are real and if you love me and don’t want to take my life, please give me a sign.”

As he turned down my road, moments later, he saw a sign that read, “JESUS LOVES YOU!”  He burst into tears.  He prayed for a sign and he got a literal sign.  He decided because of that sign he was not going to take his life.

As he was going through the church directory one night he saw that a couple from church lived near him.  When he saw the address, he realized that was the address of the house where he saw the sign.

As I read the letter I began to weep.  I could not believe that our little sign was used in such a powerful way.

Are you thinking about suicide?  Have you been asking God for a sign of His love for you?  The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “but God shows His love for us in that while we are still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus Christ is the ultimate sign that God loves you.   One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 John 5:12 which states, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”  The life referred to here is eternal life.

Do you have the Son?

Charlie Colgan thumbs up
Charlie Colgan thumbs up

What You Need to Know to Be Who You Need to Be

2peter1.3

"Discipleship" seems to often take one of two directions, either the Bible study and knowledge path or the "practical life application" and How To list path.  In the Bible study and knowledge path we believe that spiritual maturity is the result of knowing more of the Bible and moving deeper into study.  This path often fills heads with more and more knowledge and leads those taking it to be less and less interested in anything that isn't new, deep, and exciting.  Those who take the Practical Life Application/How To approach often reduce the Bible's teachings to lists for self help and improvement. Along this path are signs that read, "7 Ways to a Happier You," 6 ways to Be a Better ______________ "(you fill in the blank: dad, mom, friend, boss, Christian...).

While we need both - Bible study and practical application for life neither of these is the end that we really need - in fact, even the combination is not the end that we really need. What we really need is to know Jesus.  Peter says it this way,

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (II Peter 1:3)

All that we need for life and all that we need for godliness has been given to us - NOT through more knowledge about the Bible and NOT through more practical life application of biblical principles - but through the knowledge of Jesus and specifically the knowledge of Jesus and the Good News of the Gospel.  The Gospel isn't just for unbelievers!  It isn't Good News only for those who don't know Jesus - it is really incredible news for believers as well!

How you ask?  How does the Gospel help me with being a better husband? That's a great question!  When we want to know how to be a better husband wee need look no further than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (the gospel = the life, death, resurrection of Jesus).

  • Life: Take a look at Ephesians 5:25-33. Jesus shows us what real love for a spouse looks like. The life of Jesus is our example for good, godly, pure love. If I can love like Jesus I will be a great husband.  In I Corinthians 13:4-12 the Apostle Paul tells us what love looks like - patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way... If we read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John we see in the life of Jesus those very qualities - even in the midst of suffering and persecution!
  • Death: In the Ephesians 5 passage we see that the ultimate love of Jesus was to sacrifice Himself for His bride - the church. Likewise the ultimate picture of a husbands love is to be in his sacrifice for his bride. Most likely that won't include death! But it is a daily call to sacrifice SELF for the good of her, to sacrifice your wants for her wants (all of course in keeping with God's wants!). John tells us in I John 3:16, By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us... John then calls on us to love in the same way. Another beautiful thing that His death reminds us of is forgiveness (Eph 1:7). Even when we fail to love like Jesus, His blood, through faith covers our sins!  We are forgiven. This moment is a new moment to try again. In fact, in that we see another glimpse of His great love for us - that He would be so kind, merciful and full of grace with us! That should remind us to do likewise with our spouse - be kind, merciful, and full of grace.
  • Resurrection: The resurrection is His victory over Satan, sin and death! It is also OUR Victory over Satan, sin and death. Just as God promised throughout the Scripture, starting in Genesis 3:15, the enemy would be defeated and he would redeem His people and restore all things as He intends. The resurrection not only reminds us that because we are in Christ, His victory is ours and we are no longer held captive by the enemy or by sin and death, it also reminds us that God will fulfill all of His promises to us.  Promises to protect us, to keep us, to watch over us, to strengthen us, to empower us, to transform us, to shape us into the image of Jesus, to work all things together for good, to lead us, to convict us, to redeem us, to save us... and on and on and on we could go.  Jesus is victorious!  And because he is, all of the promises of God find their YES in Him! (II Cor 1:20). It is the power of the Spirit of the  resurrection that now indwells me, shapes me, encourages me, strengthens me, enables me... to see Jesus and follow Jesus to love like He loves.

The Failure of Bible Study or Life Application/ How To lists comes because they are powerless to do what Jesus, through the Spirit can do - transform my very identity.  The Apostle Paul makes clear in II Corinthians 5:17 that when we believe and are found in Christ, we are made new creations - the old is passed away and ALL is made new.  I am now a Son of God. I am now sealed with His very Spirit. He has softened my Heart. He has opened my eyes. He has started a good work in me that He will complete (Phil 1:6) and I will be shaped into the very image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). This is good news! And I know that it is true because of the victory of Jesus in the Gospel. Knowing more about the Bible and creating "How to" lists at best produce self-saving, self-righteous Pharisees and at worst lead us to terrible despair because in our own strength we cannot be what we want to be - we cannot be sons and daughters. We cannot accomplish what we want to accomplish - being good, being loved, being somebody. But Jesus never fails! In Him we have all of that because He has made it so. All that we need for life and godliness we have - in Him.

One More for Good Measure For those who may still be doubting I offer one more passage, II Corinthians 3:18:

18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The way of transformation may include learning more Scripture and studying the Bible - these are good things! It may also include making some simple lists to help us remember things - this too can be good, but ultimately if we are not looking at Jesus - beholding His glory in His life, death, and Resurrection, change will almost always fall short and there will be no real and lasting transformation.

 

The Great Unveiling

unveiling  I sat down at my desk this morning to the loud bangs of work which drew my attention across the street.  The banging and clanging was the noise of workers taking down the scaffolding that has stood for months, draped with tarps hiding the busyness behind.  What is being unveiled is pretty amazing.  The eyesore of broken decaying buildings that was hidden behind the tarps is no more. It has been replaced with a thing of beauty!  Every few minutes I find myself walking to the windows of my office to see what else is being revealed. With each piece of the scaffolding removed and each stare from my window, I have stronger and stronger feelings of thanks.

I am amazed at the changes I have seen and experienced in my city over the last 6 years!  This beautiful unveiling reminds me that it wasn't just these buildings that were broken and decaying, it was this city... the city that God called us to plant a church in... the city that those around us in the church world said was hopeless - don't start a church there, it will fail! It can't be done. I am reminded with the clanging and banging of the intense labor that went into our building, The 567. I am reminded of the work next door at The Rookery and Dove Tail.  I reminded of The Warehouse Lofts and The Dannenberg project. and many, many others. I reminded of all that has changed, and how it has changed so slowly that many of us don't even notice.

This is not the same city that we came to just over 6 years ago!  There are new people and new places and new life.

I am thankful that the thing that we dreamed of is happening.  Downtown Macon is becoming a NEW city. I am thankful that we, New City Church and The 567 not only get to watch it happen, but by many accounts have been a big part of helping it happen by God's grace - bringing new people downtown, bringing new music downtown, bringing new art and new business... bringing life and hope... bringing light.  "What would change," we asked, "if the Kingdom of God were dropped right in the heart of our city?"  "Everything," was the answer.  And so it seems to be - changing - becoming something new.

Another tarp falls. Another level of transformation is unveiled. I am reminded now that what I see in this building is not just a picture of God's work in our city, but a picture of His work in me... in my heart. I am thankful that as that tarp falls I see me. Changed. Changing. God transforming me.

The picture you see doesn't do justice to the great changes that have taken place.  It is amazing, an incredible transformation from brokenness to beauty... the building, the city - me. We have a long way to go - my city and me. But I see today that we are on our way. And I am thankful. Thankful for redemption. Thankful for transforming restoration.

Why Is There a Different Preacher This Week?

For those who may visit New City Church Macon or who may be new, what or who you see on Sunday mornings may seem a little... different. You aren't imagining things!  What we do is different and yes there is a very good chance that the preaching pastor this week is different than last week!

This past summer, 2013, an incredible thing happened - Macon Community Baptist Church merged with New City Church (Below is a video describing the merger).  This merger was an answer to much prayer and has been an incredible blessing.  The merger allows both congregations, as one, to better reach a very diverse city and to become a church that better represents the racial diversity of the city. More than that, the merger brought to New City a very able and gifted Pastor and Preacher - Pastor Lawrence Robinson (left in picture).

Having Pastor Lawrence as a member of the New City Elder Team allowed New City Church to quickly take steps toward launching a second Macon site in North Macon, something that we had been pursuing for a couple of years.  North Macon is not a separate church... New City Macon is 1 Church, meeting in 2 locations.  We share staff, we share resources, we share Missional Communities, we labor together to see the gospel transform ourselves, our church, our city, and the world.

We also share preachers.  Rather than having people choose which site they would attend and connect with based on who is preaching (some will like Pastor Lawrence's preaching better, others may like mine), we ask people to choose a location that meets their geographical needs as well as fits their missional context (who are the people in their sphere of influence and where are they more likely to attend?).  Our primary preachers, myself and Pastor Lawrence will rotate between sites. For this month, January 2014, the rotation is weekly - one week I am in North Macon and the next week I am downtown.  After January the rotation will become "random" - there will be no set pattern for who preaches where.  We hope that this will encourage greater diversity at both sites and will help the people of New City better BE New City Church and follow Jesus rather than following a preacher.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DuYXLNUYhaY#t=13