gospel

What Are You Thinking? Our DFCS Partnership.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And our plan is to stick with you.

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

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

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

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

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

We Are New City: Discipleship like Jesus'

New City is a little different. But different isn't our goal.
Discipleship is.
That's the task Jesus left his original disciples with; that's the task of the church - discipleship.
Just after the resurrection and just before his ascension, Jesus gave the disciples their orders, "18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Matthew 28

A disciple of Jesus is someone who loves and follows Jesus. That should describe every true believer - we love Jesus and follow him. Following him means that as disciples we are growing in our own knowledge and walk with him, becoming more and more like him (Romans 8:29). Following him also means that we are "making disciples," sharing the good news of Jesus (baptizing them) and helping others grow as his disciples (teaching them to obey his commands).

So - the church is people who love and follow Jesus, disciples. And the mission of the church is to be disciples (growing in our own walk) who are making disciples, helping others come to love and follow Jesus (or, helping others live in light of the gospel). Really that's it.
Love and follow Jesus and help others love and follow Jesus.

While there are many ways for discipleship to take place in and through the local church, here's how New City approaches discipleship following the model we see in the life of Jesus:

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Jesus Discipled the Multitudes
There are many stories in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) of huge crowds gathering to hear Jesus teach. So he taught the multitudes who gathered. 
For us, that's our Sunday morning gatherings. Every Sunday our liturgy, songs, sermons and kid's classes declare the gospel to both believers and unbelievers with the goal of seeing people come to love and follow Jesus. This is discipleship but not all that effective for deep growth.

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Jesus Discipled the Twelve
Jesus didn't spend all of his time with the multitudes. In fact he often tried to escape the multitudes with his disciples. Jesus spent a great deal of time with the twelve. They ate together, ministered together, did mission together. They celebrated weddings together and mourned funerals together. They faced adversity together. In all of that, Jesus was teaching this small group and preparing them to continue as disciples and make other disciples even when he was away.
We do this through our Missional Communities. Missional Communities (MCs) are like small groups but with a heavy focus on discipleship - helping others love and follow Jesus. Our MCs seek to apply each week's sermon to the life of those in the MC, learning to follow Jesus. Each MC is also on mission together, reaching out in a variety of ways to see others come to love Jesus as well.  Here discipleship deepens and becomes much more practical than a Sunday morning sermon. Here we live the "One Anothers" of Scripture which includes, Colossians 3:16, "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. "

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Jesus Discipled a Few
Throughout the ministry of Jesus you find him spending extra time with three of his disciples - Peter, James and John. These three were closer to Jesus than any of the disciples. Jesus was investing more deeply in them and in their discipleship. These men would become primary leaders and evangelists in the first church. Jesus was preparing them to lead.
At New City we call these small groups DNA Groups. "A DNA Group usually consists of three people—men with men, women with women—within a particular (MC), who meet together regularly to be known and to bring the gospel to bear on each other’s lives so that they grow in and live out their gospel identity. DNA Groups are not about self improvement, but God’s unending grace to transform us through the gospel–Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection. (Galatians 1:102 Corinthians 5:21)"  (from www.saturatetheworld.com).  We'll be talking much more in the coming months about DNA Groups and getting more DNA groups started in our MCs.

Jesus made disciples who, by the power of the Spirit, changed the world.
We believe his method is worth repeating - reach the multitudes, disciple small groups, pour your life into a few who will also pour their lives into a few, disciples making disciples.  This is our focus. This is where we invest our time, talents and resources. This is how we make disciples who make disciples.

 

Good People Don't Go to Heaven

You believe they do, and, very practically thinking, so do I.
Most of us spend our time with people who are like us. They enjoy the things that we enjoy. They speak our language. They watch our television shows. They have jobs or go to class. They pay their bills. They dress decently. They are nice. They are like us.
And we are believers - Christians.
They live in our neighborhood.
They work with us.
They look like us.
They act like us.
They talk like us.
If we are Christians, they must be Christians too.

We give it little thought. We assume.  We assume that because they are "good" to us, they must be "good" with God. Honestly, we probably don't even give conscious thought to this because they are so good, so much like us. But the truth is, no matter how good they are to us, good people don't go to heaven.

The Bible is clear that we are all sinners: we have all failed to love and follow God, and there are no "good people." The Bible is also clear that sin separates us from God. Our separation from God is unending apart from forgiveness of our sin. At the very least, this separation means that we won't be with him in "heaven." Worse, the Bible teaches that there is unending condemnation and even suffering when we die separated from God. Those forgiven will spend forevermore with him in a world free from sin and the consequences of sin. Those not forgiven will not.

The difference between those two groups - those who will be forevermore with him and those who will suffer unending condemnation - isn't measured by behavior, but belief. It won't depend on whether or not a person was "good," nice, hard working, a great dad or mom, neighborly, honest, dependable... but on whether or not they believed the good news of Jesus.  The good news of Jesus is a proclamation that by trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we are forgiven of sin, made right in God's eyes and restored to a right relationship with him. By faith in his good work for us, we are made truly good in God's eyes (righteous and holy).

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 10:8 "But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Paul is explaining that forgiveness and restoration with God comes through faith, faith that is centered on the work of Jesus!  This faith is very specific. It isn't faith that God is good. It isn't faith that God is loving. It isn't faith that all roads lead to one great God. It is faith that God has provided for us, in Christ, a way of forgiveness - salvation. 
There is no other way of forgiveness, no other way of salvation, no other way of being good. It only comes by faith in the work of Jesus.

Then Paul adds this...
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone proclaiming to them? 
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be forgiven and saved.
But how can they call on him if they haven't believed?
And how can they believe in him when they haven't heard?
And how can they hear without someone proclaiming the good news to them?

The "good" people around us don't go to heaven- only the forgiven who trust in the good news of Jesus. And our niceness, service in the community and church attendance isn't the gospel. The gospel is the good news of his life, death and resurrection proclaimed. Our good neighbors, good co-workers and good friends need to hear about Jesus, and they need to hear from us.
My friends need to hear it from me.
Your friends? They need to hear from you.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

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The Idolatry of Great Expectations

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by Morgan Coyner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Why I Pray In Response To Tragedy

photo:  Pascal Bovet

photo: Pascal Bovet

by: Morgan Coyner

I prayed that God would strengthen my own faltering beliefs, that though I know God is good and sovereign, that when lives are taken en masse, it seems like he is neither of those things.

Waking up to the news of the Las Vegas shooting, I felt broken. I thought of one of my favorite worship songs, Hosanna, and the line that says "break my heart for what breaks Yours." I felt it. In the very core of my being, I felt sorrow and pain and anger about the loss of lives I do not know, will never get to know.

The first thing I did after getting out of bed was open my bright pink, glittered prayer journal and write. That's the easiest way for me to talk to God. I write him letters, open and honest, my heart leaking onto the page through purple ink.

I prayed for peace and comfort for those who may not have physical injuries but are most certainly going to be dealing with mental and emotional trauma after what they witnessed. Peace and comfort for families who have lost their worlds, their shining stars, the dearest parts of their hearts.

I prayed for understanding, that we would somehow glean meaning from what is an otherwise senseless and meaningless act of violence.

I prayed that God would strengthen my own faltering beliefs, that though I know God is good and sovereign, that when lives are taken en masse, it seems like he is neither of those things.

I prayed for God to reveal himself through this tragedy, for it to somehow, some way, bring people to Him.

What happened in Las Vegas, in Orlando, in Blacksburg, is a constant reminder that we live in a broken world functioning within broken systems being led by broken people. It's no wonder we often feel that things are falling apart. When the shoe rack hanging on your closet door breaks (which mine just did), you don't rehang it with its only remaining hook. You take it down and create a plan to get a new one, a fully functional one that will hopefully be more effective than its predecessor.

It's clear to me that we need a plan of action. We need to act on that plan of action. But that doesn't mean we don't pray. Prayers are not platitudes. Prayers are not meaningless words whispered or shouted into the abyss. Prayer is a real connection to our living God.

When the Israelites were in slavery, they prayed constantly to God. I imagine their prayers weren’t always faithful prayers. They were probably desperate prayers of anger. “Why are you doing this to us? How could you let us be treated this way?” Don’t we pray the same way?

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.  — Exodus 2:23-25
"Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them." — Exodus 3:7-9

God knew the suffering of his people. He heard their cries. He reached out to Moses and set in motion a plan to give them victory, to deliver them from slavery in one of the most majestic and awe-inspiring stories in the Bible.

God tells Moses that he does this so that “his wonders might be multiplied” (Exodus 11:9), so that the glory is given to Him. We, as Christians, are to recognize God’s glory, proclaim God’s glory and reflect God’s glory. He gives us those opportunities.

...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saint — Ephesians 6:18

God sent his Son to die for us, to carry our shame, to pay for our sins on the cross. When He did this, he gave us a connection to him, a way to speak to Him. The Bible tells us that we can pray all kinds of prayers and all kinds of requests. That doesn't mean every request will be granted, but we can ask for whatever we want with the confidence that, at the very least, it will be heard. This verse is written as a command. We are commanded to pray, not only for ourselves, but also for the Lord's people.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. — 1 John 5:14

I know this post has been kind of scripture-heavy, but I want to make sure you know I'm not making this up based on my own personal ideas. It is written that he hears ANYTHING that we pray. And I know that things like peace and comfort and justice are part of his will. He hears these things.

I understand the heart behind the frustration with “thoughts and prayers” being a common and empty response. The frequency of violence and subsequently, the frequency of hearing that people are praying has desensitized us to the power prayer yields. God hears us, and God acts on our prayers. We can ask him for any request; we can ask him for changed laws, for better equipped politicians. God’s people still had to work to get out of Egypt. He didn’t simply pluck them up and place them into the land of milk and honey. We have work to do. We have senators to call, rallies to plan and attend, books to write, hard conversations to have with friends and families. But that work begins in prayer.

Why You Should Stop Trying to Numb Your Pain

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Today, across our nation and world, people are hurting. Maybe you are hurting over the tragedy in Las Vegas, or maybe it's from the pressures of life. Instead of masking and numbing your pain, there is a better way.


by Adriel Sanchez

As a pastor, part of what I do is deal with wounds. I’m not talking about scraped knees, or broken bones (although I do deal with those as a father of three kids!), but the deep spiritual wounds we all have. It doesn’t matter who you are, you have pain. I do, too. Right now, you might not be aware of your pain, but that’s not because it isn’t there. It’s because you’ve been numbing yourself.

Numbing yourself is a way of dealing with pain. The hurt is still there, the wound may even be infected, you just don’t feel it. Israel’s false prophets helped the Hebrews numb themselves, and God rebuked them for it. God told the prophet, Jeremiah, that those prophets had “healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” (Jer. 6:14) Instead of exposing the wound, and making it felt, they put a band-aid on what was broken.

You see, it’s much easier to put band-aids on ourselves (and it’s easier for pastors to do this for their parishioners) than it is for us to deal with our pain. You might not be feeling your wound because you’ve stacked so many band-aids on it.

We all have different ways of masking our pain. It could be excessive alcohol consumption, binging every night on Netflix, pornography, shopping, or eating. The list goes on and on, but quite simply, band-aids are those things which we use to escape our painful reality. They’re the stuff that helps us not to feel. They’re the things that say to us, “Peace, peace!” when deep down we’re a mess.

Stop and think for a second about what that might be in your life. What do you use to escape reality? How have you been medicating yourself to avoid having to feel your wounds?

We’re all guilty of this, but Jesus offers us a better way. You see, there’s something about his wounds that should bring us healing. The prophet Isaiah wrote of Jesus, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5) This is not peace like the false prophets promised, artificial and temporary, but true healing.

Here again, we’re not talking about physical ailments per se, but the deep spiritual injuries caused by sin; the pain from broken homes and relationships, insecurities, anxieties, betrayal, hatred, and sexual failure. This list also goes on and on, and it’s difficult to talk about, which is why we try to avoid it at all costs.

But Jesus says we don’t have to avoid it. We don’t have to numb ourselves until we die after years of self-made-morphine. Instead of numbing our pain, we can be open and honest about our wounds so that the true healer can operate. We can see the wound for what it is, and not be terrified of feeling it. In fact, God would have us be aware of those wounds, and the pain can be a means of bringing us into his presence daily (yes, sometimes the hurt doesn’t go away).

Instead of trying to mask your pain, let it make you desperate for the one who knows what it feels like to be pierced, crushed, chastised, and abandoned. Find solidarity with his suffering, and healing in his stripes. Christianity doesn’t offer us an escape from pain, but the ability to truly feel it, because we don’t have to fear it. Our God, Jesus, is intimately aware of pain, having experienced it in his body, and he can deal with our wounds in a way that Netflix and six beers can’t.

Next time you’re tempted to numb out, turn to the One who felt pain for you. Allow yourself to feel your brokenness instead of pretending like it isn’t there. There may be tears, and that’s okay, God keeps track of them (Ps. 56:8). Ask God to do what only he can do, and grant you peace.

You may find yourself praying that prayer on a continual basis, but perhaps that’s one of God’s points in allowing suffering in the first place. It’s in our weakness that God’s grace often shines the brightest (2 Cor. 12:8-10), and should God be pleased to shine in your sorrow, let him. When he does, you’ll find the experience to be infinitely better than the band-aids you’ve been stacking.

 

The Gospel & Social Media

In a 20-mile radius of Milledgeville, Facebook has the potential of connecting with 45,000 people and the same distance in Macon has the potential to reach 190,000 people. A recent study showed that the average time spent per day on social media is 116 minutes, that’s a day. This is a powerful tool that businesses, non-profits, and affinity groups use to reach our cities with their messages. Think of the reach that a simple click of a button has in our cities!

I was thinking about the power of social media and the gospel this morning and just wanted to encourage you. As God’s people, we can accept, reject, or redeem our culture. Facebook has become one of the most important ways for people to find information about others and organizations. As much as we may not like it, it’s the reality in our day and age. It is worth redeeming.

Let’s be a church that is known for our deep love of Jesus and the community He has called us to reach.

As a church, this is actually a huge advantage for us because people who are moving into the area or checking out churches, inevitably turn to social media to research churches. A simple way to promote the church is to like and share whenever something is made public on the New City Milledgeville or New City Macon Facebook pages. As an example, when Chris or Arthur shares a Spotify playlist for us to prepare for Sunday morning, like it and share it. Maybe even place a comment if there is a specific song that you like in the list.

By liking, sharing, and commenting, this does two things. First, it helps with curb appeal. When someone visits our page, it shows activity. It’s like driving by a house that you are interested in buying. If the grass is cut, the bushes are trimmed, the paint is fresh, you are more likely to stop by and take a look.

Second, it directly affects the Facebook algorithm. This is the formula that Facebook uses to automatically have the post pop up in others Facebook feed. We aren’t trying to become the church with the most ‘likes’, but we are trying to be a church that is known in Milledgeville and Macon. This is a quick and simple way to help support the mission.

So, keep an eye on the Facebook pages (and Instagram if you use that app), and like, comment, and share! Let’s be a people who are so passionate about the Gospel that we choose to take every advantage to make Jesus known in our cities.

I am the Bad Neighbor

by Caleb Beddingfield; adapted from a sermon by Joe Thorn at Redeemer Fellowship

by Caleb Beddingfield; adapted from a sermon by Joe Thorn at Redeemer Fellowship

 A common belief about neighbors in the States is that to be a "good neighbor" you need to be one who causes no trouble, doesn't impose, and typically keeps to himself. Most people think they should avoid interrupting others lives as much as possible. This sentiment is far from biblical.

Asking The Wrong Question

This whole conversation tends to revolve around the idea of what we want from our neighbors. Typically, people don't want confrontation. This is what I want most of the time. When my day is wrapping up, I want to kick back on the couch and spend time with my wife, not engage in meaningful conversations with my neighbors. This way of thinking makes me not expect my neighbors to intrude on my life, as well as hinders me from intruding on their lives. It is much easier for me to walk to the mailbox with my head down so that I don't notice my neighbors, rather than making eye contact which could lead to a "hello," which may lead to a conversation. If I'm honest, I don't want that after a long day.

The question seems to be "what do I want from my neighbor?" much more often than "what do I want for my neighbor?." When we remain distant from our neighbors, we potentially sin.

Asking the Right Questions

"Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me." (Romans 15:2-3 ESV).

Remaining distant from your neighbors does them no harm, but it can be a kind of evil because God doesn't command us to ignore our neighbors. God calls us to invest in their lives personally and genuinely care for their well-being. When we begin asking "what do I want for my neighbors?" we begin to see our hearts change and our neighborhood affected by the gospel.

This sounds like something we can all do, right? Here's the catch: when God commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, to invest in them, and care for them, He is calling us to intrude upon them. God doesn't want us remaining distant, he wants us to have them over for dinner, and he wants us to be invading their space.

This is not just a call to intrude on our neighbors who are easy to love, but this is a call to love even our ‘bad’ neighbors. When we ignore our neighbor's lives, but they see us pack up the family for our church gathering every Sunday morning, what does that portray to them? When we ignore our neighbors, we are robbing them of the ministry God has called us to fulfill on their behalf.

What To Do

As in our MC's, it is smart for each of us to assess our influence and begin thinking about who our "neighbors" are. Once you know who they are, begin praying for them individually. This will serve them, whether they know it or not, and it will also begin to prepare your heart to better serve them. Christians have a unique opportunity in their communities that the world doesn't have. God has blessed us with the opportunity to impact our neighbors in both temporal and eternal ways. This can range from hospitality and generosity to seeking out real needs they have and meeting them, to inviting them to church or sharing the gospel with them. We have been called to bless our neighbors in ways the world simply cannot.

The Motivation

Here's the reality: I can read and believe this, feel guilty for my passivity, and even prepare a course of action, yet still do nothing. If I suppress these convictions for long enough, the guilt will disappear, and I will forget about the issue. The only thing that will move me and evoke change in me is Jesus.

Jesus is the only one who showed me perfectly how to love my neighbor and even took it a step further by saving me. Jesus did not merely talk about this; He sought my good and my redemption. Jesus loves me, the bad neighbor, enough to leave His throne and intrude into my life and rescue me from slavery to sin. Jesus refused to remain distant from me and chose to pursue my heart and seek my good. I am convinced that, because of this, I am called to interrupt the lives of my neighbors with the gospel. Let us be Christians and MC's who are marked by being in the mess of our neighbor's lives, for the sake of their welfare and the gospel.

Pop Culture Catechism, (Part 1)

Recently, I have been having conversations with one of my children about the differences between fiction and reality. This has led to poignant conversations about themes from a cartoon called Max Steel. Our conversations have spanned topics such as fostering/adoption, morality, and Jesus. I've used some of the direction in our conversations from the following article. As we head into the Christmas season, our kids will most likely be bombarded with Christmas-themed stories. Take a moment to read Derek Heibert's article below and don't let an easy opportunity to shape your children's thinking pass you by.

Patrick

Your kids need to see how the story of Jesus’s redemption is distinct, unique, better, and greater.

Taking stories from popular culture—especially movies—and relating them to the story of the gospel is one of the best forms of catechism. (By catechism, I mean that process of training a young person in the biblical story and core truths of the gospel.) Here is why pop culture stories are helpful in this process:

First, the entertainment industry is delivering stories to us by the truckloads. Unless you live in an Amish community, chances are your children and those in your church are engaging these stories on film at least on a weekly basis, or they are hearing about them from their peers. As parents, we should be intentional about how we use these pop-culture stories to train our kids in the Christian faith.

Second, we might as well enjoy the fact that we have such a thing as stories and appreciate them as the natural outgrowth of humanity and culture. The human ability to create stories is one of the benefits of being created in the image of the storyteller God, who invented the whole idea of story. Every human being, young and old, naturally loves stories. In light of this, we should not dismiss or escape them but engage them well for the sake of discipleship.

Third, stories from pop culture are always exploring important questions and ideas. Most good stories, whether a movie, TV show, or book, are created not merely for entertainment but for teaching. They are telling their story to say something meaningful and significant about life, about the world. Much like Jesus’s parables, the authors of these stories have an agenda: They are telling their stories in such a way to ask thought-provoking questions and offer ideas to those questions. In light of this, it is important to become skillful in understanding how stories work, what to look for in their question-asking and ideas, and how to compare and contrast them best with the biblical story.

Here is a three-step method I seek to practice in our household:

Step 1: Before the Movie

First, ensure you know the essential storyline of the Bible: Creation—Fall—Redemption—New Creation. This storyline is found more or less in every story common to humanity. Others may use different words, but the core movement of this plot is the foundation of every story.

Creation (beginning): God creates a perfect humanity and world to be in close relationship with him.

Fall (problem/conflict): Humans do not trust God’s goodness and love. As a result, they rebel and set into motion a death-curse of decay and brokenness that affects every human and all of creation. Death, not good and perfect everlasting life, is now the reality.

Redemption (solution): God in Christ comes to redeem and forgive, reversing the curse and recreating a new humanity. As the hero, he achieves this victory at great cost to Himself and by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Those who believe this story are brought into this new life and future.

New Creation (“happily ever after”): God recreates the entire universe into a “new heavens and new earth” that can never die. He and his new humanity are united forever in perfect relationship.

Prepare your kids for the conversation before the movie starts. Let your kids know you’d like to have a short conversation with them after the movie. Encourage them to look for, if possible, these main parts of the story:

Creation: The beginning of the story. What does life look like in terms of the characters’ family and community? What does the story say, if anything, about the origins of life?

Fall: What the main problem is in the story. With what do the characters come into conflict?

Redemption: The hero’s solution to the main problem in the story. Who is the main hero, and how does he or she solve the problem?

New Creation: What everyone experiences now because of the hero’s solution. What is the “happily-ever-after” ending of the story? (“Happily-ever-after” may be more useful language to use with children, depending on their ages.)

 

Step 2: During the Movie

As you watch the story unfold in the movie, be on the lookout for the Creation—Fall—Redemption—New Creation themes played out through the main character—who typically is the hero—and the situations in which he or she finds himself or herself. The most important themes in every story are the main problem, the hero, and their solution to the problem. No good story exists without a clear picture of these themes. Then think through how this compares and contrasts to God’s storyline in the Bible.

Step 3: After the Movie

Ask your kids what they thought was the Creation—Fall—Redemption—New Creation themes in the story. Then do step two with them, helping them connect the biblical storyline with specific details of the movie storyline. Help them to contrast the story of the movie with the Story of God, pinpointing the difference between Jesus as our true Hero with His solution to our problem of sin, and the hero and solution offered in the movie’s story.

Comparing and contrasting the Hero Jesus with the hero of the movie’s story is the most powerful part of this process. Your kids need to see how distinct, unique, better, and greater the story of Jesus’s redemption is compared to pop cultural stories. When lining up any story with the true Story of the Bible culminating in our redemption, that story is ultimately shown to pale in comparison because it fails to solve the most universal problem of humanity and the whole world: sin and its brokenness. Furthermore, most stories will tell of a hero who saves the day through personal strength, ingenuity, or some kind of magic. The biblical story, however, is unique and compelling because it offers us an upside-down example of a hero, one that is so counter-intuitive to what we usually imagine in this world: a hero who wins through weakness, self-giving love, suffering, and ultimately death. The Hero Jesus then achieves total victory over sin and death through His resurrection by the power of God.

In part two of this series, I will provide an example of how to do this engaging a recent family movie.

The Gospel Isn't a Cul-de-sac

The cul-de-sac was a phenomenal invention for the suburbs.

It created a safe and peaceful place for families to raise children.

No one passed through. In fact, the only time strangers can appear is after a wrong turn and they find themselves at the dead end. The design made it simple for those who don’t belong to quickly turn around.

It also kept everyone who belonged there in one place. Once you came in, you didn’t have to leave. You could remain the rest of your days with likeminded folks, playing games in your asphalt sanctuary.

The cul-de-sac is the epitome of the suburban life and vaues. However, the gospel is not a cul-de-sac. It isn’t a safe sanctuary that separates you from the dangers of the world—it throws you into the world. It isn’t your private enclave to secure your values and doctrines. It ushers you into a hospitality for the other—the not like you.  The gospel is doctrinal, changing what we believe. It also is personal, changing who we are. But it is more than that.

THE GOSPEL IS MISSIONAL: IT CHANGES WHERE & HOW WE LIVE.

If we just focus on the doctrinal and personal aspect of the gospel, we will neglect its missional aspect. If the doctrinal gospel changes what we believe, and the personal gospel changes who we are, then the missional gospel changes where we live and what we say. It is the hopeful announcement that God is making all things new in Christ Jesus! The gospel ushers us into a new kingdom and new world. We no longer live in a world dominated by death and deconstruction but one of life and re-creation!

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” —Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61

THE GOSPEL CHANGES EVERYTHING

The gospel changes everything. It is not only good news for us, but also for our neighbors, the poor, our city, and the world. It affects the social, cultural, and physical fabric of the universe. In Luke 4, Jesus preached the gospel to the poor, marginalized, and oppressed. It is good news for them because through his death and resurrection he has defeated sin, death, and evil (1 Jn. 2:13; 3:8). The gospel announces the in-breaking reign of Jesus, which is in the process of reversing the order of things. The poor become rich, the captives are freed, and the old become new.

THE GOSPEL SENDS US ON MISSION

Those who follow Jesus join his mission by making disciples of all ethnic groups by going, teaching, and baptizing (Matt. 28:18-20). We are sent to teach, speak, counsel, discuss, and proclaim the gospel to others so that they might be baptized into God’s new creation and join his mission of making all things new. We are called “ambassadors of reconciliation” and given the privilege of sharing in Jesus’ ministry of reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:17-20). Those who have been changed by the gospel share its life-changing power with others. We should announce and embody the good news by caring for the poor and rebuilding cities (Is. 61:4). In fact, the future for the people of God is an entirely new city in a new creation (Rev. 21). The church should be a movie trailer of this grand, coming attraction, when all things will be made new!

REMEMBER, THIS IS WHO YOU ARE

The result of the church—you, us—being sent is that we live as a community of disciples—not only devoted to Jesus and to one another—but devoted to our neighbors and our city, too. When we come to Christ, we are all sent on his mission.

We are new and have a new purpose. Christ reconciled us to himself and we are a new creation. Our old way of finding identity and our broken ways of finding meaning are over. We are reconciled and ushered into a vibrant and living relationship with God. This is the gospel, that Christ has reconciled us to God through his death and resurrection and is making all things new—even us. We are recipients of the gospel, messengers of the gospel, servants of the gospel, and are representatives of the gospel’s work. See, you cannot separate our identity in Christ from our purpose in Christ. That identity and purpose requires some sort of expression of gospel focused community on mission:

  • We live on mission because we have received the gospel.
  • We live on mission because we are messengers of the gospel. He is making his appeal to the world through us.
  • We live on mission because we are ministers of reconciliation—servants of the gospel.
  • We live on mission because we are ambassadors—representatives of the gospel.

New City Sessions: “Death Has Lost Its Sting”

Death Has Lost Its Sting

Words by Isaac Watts, Adapted by Rebecca Dennison, Arranged by Mike Cosper

Amanda Christopher - Vocals
Adam Crosby - Vocals
Arthur Lin - Guitar
newcitychurches.org/

Video by Andy Carter Photography
andycarterphoto.com/

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 serpent’s 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 serpent’s 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 serpent’s teeth
And death has lost his sting

Functioning in a Racially Torn Culture

We were one week removed from the Sterling /Castille, Dallas police shootings, when three more policemen were killed in Louisiana.  Since then there has been other killings. Truly our society is broken. Typically our mode of operation is to express anger, hurt, and then dialogue in various places.  After things die down we continue life under “business as usual” until the next tragedy and then we go through the cycle again.   The reason for not moving forward lies in the complexity of moving forward.  People often ask, “What can we do to prevent these tragedies embedded in racial hatred?”  The problem lies in the question.  The question is too broad and too complexed because there is no single task that we can do to address all of the issues embedded in the hearts of people.  We don’t have any kinds of laws or legislation to cover all of these things.  However, I would like to put forth a proposal for the Christian community to function.  The reason that I sight the Christian community is because we are bound to each other (whether we admit it or not) by God’s law.  Others can join in but Jesus commands us to love one another.  This command is not just a command to white people, African Americans, or any particular race that have accepted Jesus.  The command to love is incumbent on all who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  So then what does love on all of our part look like and how does love for each help us to function particularly at a time where killing people because of their race seems to be a justified action for someone’s hate?  Let’s take a look at it.
The outcry, rage, and anger was tremendous in what we, particularly in the African American community believe is the murder of Sterling and Castille.  Equally, the outcry, rage, and anger are tremendous in the murder of the policemen in Dallas, Louisiana, and other parts of the country.  In both communities the discourses began and continues.  I choose not to comment on the various reactions or responses on either group’s part.  I do however choose to comment on what I believe is the right response from the Christian community from both groups because we have a higher calling to live out the gospel and we have the power of the Holy Spirit working in us to empower to live out the gospel even in tragic situations.  
So then what should be the response of African American and White Christians in a time such as this?  Our response is not going to be easy at this very difficult time in America but I believe that the right response is to put love in action.  Jesus said this in John 13:34-35.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  True love is an action on the part of one that benefits the other.  When we are loving each other, we must stand for what is biblically right and speak up for our brothers and sisters of a different culture.  First and foremost we must identify with our Savior & Lord more than our race and our culture.  In the many conversations we may have with our peers, identifying with Jesus will often be counter culture.  We must stand for what is biblically right as opposed to what may be racially acceptable among our peers.  The fracture exists among us because are taking sides.  In some cases black folks are right.  In other cases white folks are right.  The righteousness of Jesus dictates that we stand for what is right even if that stand is unpopular with others in our culture.  We can’t take sides.  For example in all of this much of the blame has been laid at the feet of white people in general, instead of the few who harbor hate and prejudices in their hearts.  Many of our brothers and sisters are white.  Many of them are hurting at the loss of lives “period” and that our nation is in this hate rut.  Some are emotionally devastated. Some want to reach out to many of their black friends but are afraid to try and because they don’t know what to say and are afraid that they might say the wrong thing.   America is in such a dilemma trying to overcome the race issues we have ignored the fact that our white brothers and sisters are hurting too.  How do we as black Christians love them?  First we say thank you for their compassion and willingness to try and understand our hurts and pains as difficult as it may be for many of them to understand what we are and have been experiencing.  Therefore we should join with them in their hurts and pains as they grieve.  1 Corinthians 12:25-26 states, “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.   Next on their behalf we must say to our people that nothing in the past or present justifies killing policemen. Some of our African American brothers and sisters feel that the killing of these policemen are justified and shouldn’t be mourned.  That is the wrong spirit.  We live by a different Spirit, the Holy Spirit.  We are compelled to do and say what is right and reflects the righteousness of Jesus.  Any attitude among our people that is different is sin not love.  At a time like this we must reach out to our white brothers and sisters in love and comfort them and to understand them just as we want them to see our hurts and pains.  It is true!  We’ve been suffering a long time. It is true the injustices seem to mount.  It is also true that we live in a fallen world under a condemned enemy that seeks to destroy us all through seizing our emotions and marring the image we have in Jesus Christ.  We cannot allow that under any circumstances.  So by faith in full confidence that our God and Savior set a wonderful criteria by which we operate, we can love and put our arms around our white brothers and sisters who are also hurting, angry, and distraught over what is happening in America.  Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2.  This is our calling.  This is who we are and under no circumstance should we succumb to the cries of our cultures.
So to my white brothers and sisters thank you for expressing compassion and hurt to us at a time like this.  We also want to say to you that we’re sorry as well for the needless killings of the policemen.  It was wrong and it is our prayer that it won’t happen again.  You must also express your love to us.  You cannot turn your head or be ambivalent to what we’re experiencing.  In our community and from our perspective we see these murders of African American males as not only an expression of the America’s disdain for African Americans, but we also see a display of a devalued attitude of African American lives. We experience a major disparity in the justice system.  White perpetrators of crime get far lesser sentences than blacks for the same crimes.  We are the last hired and the first fired.  We are witnessing the rise of immigrant cultures to a better socio economic status than us while it seems that we have been “selected” by this country to be in a perpetual status of being second class. We are constantly reminded by the attitude and practices of white people on a daily basis on our jobs and in various walks of life, that we are inferior to them. Our opinion doesn’t count. Our expertise doesn’t count.  We have to continually prove ourselves even when our credentials justify our qualifications.  We get scrutinized and evaluated differently than our white peers.  If you think that I am imagining things or that I am too sensitive  take something minor like football and the position of quarterback.  The really good African American quarterbacks will almost always be described as talented.  Your average white quarterbacks will be described as intelligent and manages the game well. The indication to us is that talent doesn’t require intelligence and that intelligence is far superior to talent. i.e. the white quarterback is superior to the black.  You may think that I am reaching for straws but African Americans view life from this perspective. We believe that these killings are outright murder by “guardians of the system. ”  When the perpetrators of killings like these go unpunished after going through the judicial process, we see that as a major expression from America “that we don’t count.” If our white brothers and sisters are going to love us, then you cannot turn your head to this hurt we’ve been experiencing and that we’re experiencing right now.  So what must you do as a white Christian to express your love to us?  You have to make sure that you are not part of the problem.  You have to call your white brothers into account who may still hold on to a mentality towards African Americans that is not godly.  You have to be mindful that your actions affirm to us that we are equal.  
The action of loving each other on both of our parts is major.  It takes work. The real challenge for us is to live out the gospel in every aspect of life particularly when we interact with people of another race.  In times like these we should go the extra mile in expressing love to each other.  We should stand together in Christ Jesus and demonstrate to the world that we do love each other and that we bear one another’s hurts and pains.  We cannot succumb or acquiesce to the cry of our cultures.  We stand together in the call of our God and Savior.

Lawrence Robinson

 

To The Ends Of The Earth

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Ecclesiastes 3:11

When New City Church launched weekly gatherings in January of 2008, understanding, living out and proclaiming the Gospel was at the very core of who New City intended to be in Macon and beyond. Over the past eight years, New City’s vision has never changed - we dream of seeing the gospel transform everything within our reach - ourselves, our church, our city, and the world. Over the years, we have been a part of God’s work in Middle Georgia launching New City Milledgeville and New City Warner Robins (now known as Sojourn Church). These three campuses have been instrumental in proclaiming the Gospel in their perspective city, loving their city, and equipping people to live in light of the Gospel. A passionate preaching and living out of the Gospel through Sunday morning services, missional communities, and local community partnerships have all been at the heart of seeing this vision come to fruition.

But a local focus has only been a portion of how God has used New City’s vision of seeing the Gospel transform everything within our reach. New City has always played a vital role in sending out people for global missions, both short and long-term. A year ago, the Elders of New City asked Seth Ralston and Caleb & Hanna Bedingfield to begin praying and dreaming about how God might use New City in a new way globally. Little did we know that God had a slightly different plan than we had in mind.

Caleb and Hanna Bedingfield are now serving in the Dominican Republic as Student Life Directors with SCORE International. "SCORE is an organization that seeks to evangelize the lost, engage people in missions, equip disciples, and encourage others through serving." Soon after, Seth announced his plan also to enter full-time mission work serving Witness Kicks Foundation as their Director of Global Outreach. "Witness Kicks exists to plant the seed of God’s word and spark a flame of His joy in the hearts of anyone and everyone we can, one pair of shoes at a time."

Other New City folks like Sophie Green are serving on the Campus Outreach staff reaching college students in the Philippines. The vision of Campus Outreach is "Glorifying God by Building Laborers on the Campus for the Lost World." And some folks we can't even mention their name or location because of the danger they face in-country.

Celebrate God's goodness to us as we keep these New City global missionaries in our prayers. I recently asked Seth to share some thoughts on his own journey at New City as he transitions to this new missional focus with Witness Kicks.


People come and go. Opportunities appear and vanish. Doors open and close. After only 14 months, my time in Macon has come to a quick end. However, I’m leaving with countless new friendships, a stronger faith, and a greater understanding of our heavenly Father. It was during my time in Macon that I learned a valuable life-lesson and comprehended just how perfect God’s timing is on everything…literally, everything.

The journey that I’m about to embark on is a complete leap of faith—something I don’t think I’ve ever truly done before. I’ve always been big on routines, making sure everything I do is planned out perfectly and organized entirely. But God has shown me recently that He doesn’t work like that. He is a courageous and unfailing God; asking us to trust in the unknown, serve the unwelcomed, and do the undesirable. This new opportunity has been presented to me solely because of the people that God has placed in my life during my time in Macon, especially at New City.

As I move on from Macon and pursue a career in global ministry, I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged by the work God is doing through the body of believers that make up New City Church. If God didn’t bring me to Mercer, I would have never met people like Hayden Blessing…a friend who is now my partner with the Witness Kicks Foundation. Or Caleb and Hanna Bedingfield…a selfless couple who shares the same passion as me for mission work and are now international connections for Witness Kicks in the Dominican Republic. And even Keith Watson and Patrick McConnell…mentors and leaders throughout the Macon community who lead New City Church on a weekly basis. The list goes on and on with the friends and people who have made an impact in my life this past year.

“…God works so that people will be in awe of Him.” - Ecclesiastes 3:14

I’m writing this because I stand in awe at how God never stops working in our lives. Even if it’s for a split second, God places people and events in your life that can—and will—change your life forever. Regardless of what you’re going through, remember that His timing is perfect, and He has placed you in that very moment for a reason. As I look back on the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met in recent years, I see now that it all led up to this moment and place in time. Being human, my comprehension of things is very limited. But we serve a God who is omniscient and omnipresent. The trials or triumphs that we experience on a daily basis are only a small detail of God’s plan for our life. Cherish those around you, embrace the moment that you’re currently in, and trust that God’s promise is waiting for you at the end of the process.

Thank you, New City Church, for taking me in and now sending me out.

Living Sent,

Seth Ralston


 

Sorting Through the Emotions of Another Black Killing

I asked Pastor Lawrence if he would share his thoughts in the wake of last week's violence and all that has happened since. He was reluctant because sorting through the emotions has been tough. Here are his thoughts...

"Man Against the World" by fMoya

"Man Against the World" by fMoya

A Proper Response To a Reeling Culture
    This morning as I finally weigh in on the trauma that has happened in America, I do so with a very heavy heart.  I do so fighting the emotions of anger and praying through the attitude of reverting back to viewing our country AND LIFE through the lenses of race and racism.  I weigh in hopefully having taken the time to discern appropriately for where I am as an African American Christian and where we are in America.  My goal is to hopefully help us respond to those who are like us appropriately and to relate properly to those different from us racially and socially. I also want to empower us to effectively engage our world and to not shrink back from our duties as citizens and our responsibility to live out our true identity in Christ Jesus in a time such as this.  Someone once said that when the darkness is really dark the lights become brighter.  I hope that we become lights to those around us.  
American citizens are reeling from the murderous atrocities that took place this past week.  African Americans are angrier than ever before at the horrendous murders that took place at the hands of white policeman.  This outrage is escalating because the recent killings are being linked to the memories of numerous past killings and injustices perpetrated upon among African American men.  Some of the talk among the African Americans that I’ve encountered is that they feel that a prejudice and racist system will move craftily, and I emphasize craftily, to exonerate the white policemen thereby fueling their outrage and anger.   Years of incidents filled with injustice, racist remarks, and practices are being rolled into these events.  The anger and the outrage from the African American community is one that is fueled by a mentality that is “fed up” with so many injustices and the seemingly “it’s okay business as usual" attitude towards African Americans in America.  The issue is not just the unnecessary and uncalled for killings by policemen who have taken an oath to be serve and protect.  The issue is that all across America there seems to be (from our perspective) an indifference to the complete plight of the African American community.  
So how do gospel centered Christians white and black respond to a crisis such as the one we’re facing right now where there seems to be an undercurrent of mobilization from “a few” in the black community who have decided that a proper response to the needless, uncalled for, and free season killing of black men is to kill white policemen?  First and foremost the driving position of our hearts and minds must maintain the fact and keep at the forefront of our hearts and minds that our race is secondary to who we are in Christ Jesus.  This means that we must respond in a manner keeping with the standards of holiness and righteousness even though the outrage from which ever position you hold may be justified.  Secondly, we are our bothers keeper.  We have a duty and responsibility of love for each other to understand each other’s hurts, way of thinking, and to engage each other “with compassion” (Definitely not pity or revenge) from the position of what is right.  For example the retaliation of killing the police officers is definitely wrong!  No action on the part of one justifies this type of reaction on the part of another.  In my conversations with my African American peers, some see this retaliation as acceptable, IT IS NOT!  I listened to a video post on Facebook by Kalyn Chapman James, the first African American woman to win Miss Alabama.  She shared her grief and mixed emotions of outrage at the numerous killings of African American men by police officers.  She stated in her grief, that she believed that the Dallas shooter was in “many ways a martyr.”  She is wrong and any attitude to suggest the possibility that the Dallas shootings, as well as the others that took place are justified, is a wrong and dangerous attitude.  On the flip side the proper response from our white brothers and sisters is to see the hurt that we’re experiencing in the African American community.  The real truth is that the African American community is in a tail spin downward.  We are and have been for years.  As citizens we are the last hired and first fired, last in education, and last in economic standing.  The seemingly readiness by police officers to kill black men so easily tend to say to African Americans that the attitude of America towards us has not really changed.  We have been hurt “TWICE AGAIN IN ONE WEEK” by these killings by police officers.  As a Christian who is white now is the time for you to step up, speak up, and stand with your African American brothers.  As a Christian who is white you must try to see what we’re experiencing right now and stand with us in love. You have to walk with us as we work through this.  You must not agree with your peers that we’re making a “mountain out of a molehill.” Presently from the videos and regarding the fact that no crime was being committed in either case, the cause for lethal force, in my opinion, was not warranted.    
Our engagement with each other must be one of compassion and understanding from both groups.  We have the scriptures to guide us and the Holy Spirit to empower us to shine in this dark hour in America.  1 Corinthians 12:26-27 states, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”  We are in this together therefore we must take this tragic time in our country and use it to engage our culture through Christian love, care, and concern for our brothers and their hurts.  This is not the effort of one race but one body, the body of Jesus. 
The darkness over us created by these killings has also given us the opportunity to respond to our culture in a manner that they see Jesus in us.  If we respond in any manner less than what Jesus would do (because we have the Holy Spirit in us to empower us) then our response would be no better than the attitudes of those who perpetrated these crimes or the ones who reacted wrongly to them.

Prayerfully & Respectfully,
Lawrence Robinson

 

It is time for us to patiently listen, to love like Jesus, to weep with those who weep...

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."    I Corinthians 13:1-7

New City Planting a Missional Community in the Dominican Republic

Caleb and Hanna Bedingfield are leaving Macon in August... but they aren't leaving New City! Here's where they're headed, a little on how we're already a part of this journey and more on how you might help!


We have always had a love for the mission field. It’s something that defines who we are as a couple. We have been blessed with the incredible opportunity to serve many times in numerous countries. We have a deep love for the Gospel and a desire to see the light of Christ shown into the nations. We also have a strong desire to raise up passionate Christ-followers who are committed to serving the Lord on His awesome mission.

This August, we will be moving to the city of Juan Dolio in the Dominican Republic to serve as Student Life Directors for the GAP Program with SCORE International. SCORE is an organization that seeks to evangelize the lost, engage people in missions, equip disciples, and encourage others through serving. The GAP year is a program for high school graduates who will live and study in the Dominican Republic; it’s designed to provide students with the opportunity to become fluent in Spanish, study theology and missions, be immersed in the Hispanic Culture, be discipled in a Missional Community setting, as well as experience what it is like to be a missionary. We will personally be responsible for life-on-life discipleship, mentorship and accountability with these students as well as helping them adjust to a new culture and way of life.

Throughout the past 6 months God has been preparing our hearts for what, at the time, was unknown. We have been going through New City’s training MC under Patrick McConnell’s leadership for the past 17 weeks with the hopes of launching a new MC as leaders for New City. This training has reshaped the way we both see the gospel, given us a passion for building genuine community, and lit a fire in us to live on mission in the day-to-day. We have to admit, when Patrick approached us about becoming MC leaders, we were thrilled. Little did we know, God was using this training to prepare us to essentially launch an MC in the Dominican Republic this Fall. Missional Communities have been a catalyst behind our faith and we see the gospel spreading, the global church growing, and disciples being made through the community that MC’s build.

We have some specific needs as we go on mission to the Dominican:
1.    We need your prayers.
•    94% of the Dominican Republic people are professing Christians with only 9% of them being Evangelical. Pray that the gospel will break down the walls of false religion and legalism and that their eyes will be opened to the glorious grace found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Pray for boldness and clarity as we share the Gospel.
•    Pray that healthy, meaningful and God-honoring relationships form with the locals as well as with the students we will be leading and mentoring.
•    Also, please join us in praying that our transition into a new culture and into full-time ministry will be smooth. Life will be very different living in the DR, it will mean the world to have your prayers and encouragement as we move and adjust.

2.    We need financial support.
We are asking you to consider partnering with us financially by supporting us monthly or by giving us a one time gift. You can easily donate to us online HERE -  just put either or both of our name(s) in the info box.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23-25


The New City, Macon Elder Team has already committed to supporting Caleb and Hanna as they work in the DR!  We are excited for them, excited about what God will be doing in and through them and excited to see what opportunities we might have as a church to travel to the DR and work with the Bedingfields! 

Music that is Deep and Wide

Music can move the soul. It can set the feel, mood and atmosphere of a gathering. Music plays a huge part of our worship gathering at New City.  At New City we believe that music should move us to worship deeply. It should move us emotively. But more, we firmly believe that it should move us theologically. Music should point us to the beautiful news of the gospel. It should move us to hope in our great God and Savior. It cannot simply be "good," it must also be theologically good. Music must be both deep and wide.

Mike Cosper and Sojourn Community Church greatly influence New City's music because this is exactly what they strive for, to the glory of God and for the good of His people. Below is a great article from Mike Cosper written for the Gospel Coalition.  Take a couple of minutes to read it, its worth it.


Sojourn Community Church (where I serve as the pastor of worship and arts) is about to release a second full-length record of Isaac Watts hymns. Here are a few thoughts on why Watts should matter to worship leaders and many others today.

In his excellent biography of Isaac Watts, David Fountain describes his early days like this:

It is the year 1674; the place is God's House Tower, Southampton. A woman sits on a horse-block outside the prison, nursing her child. It is a hard seat, but not so hard as the hearts of her husband's persecutors, for he is inside, imprisoned for refusing to conform to the laws of the land relating to the worship of God. He is prepared to pay the price, as he would rather serve God than man, for he believes that Scripture alone should be our guide in worship.

He and his wife had been married but a year, and although he could not see the child's face, the sound of his crying would give him pleasure. How much more pleasure it gave him in later years when that child, who was born so small and sickly, was to influence the worship of the nation more than any other single man.

Watts was born the son of an English nonconformist, a reformer who faced the threat of persecution for much of his life in the name of faithfulness. Out of that furnace of suffering, the pressure of that trial, came Isaac, a brilliant pastor and poet who would profoundly change the culture of worship in England and far beyond.

Watts was raised with a rigorous classical and theological education. After spending some time studying in London, he returned to his father's home in Southampton, staying for about two and a half years. He was 20, and it's believed he spent this time there in prayer, study, and preparation for ministry.

They gathered for worship with an Independent congregation, and part of the practice (as was the common practice in English-speaking churches) was psalm-singing. The translations they used were metered and essentially literal—they sang the texts as they were written—but Watts grew concerned for the sake of the congregation. He appreciated the tranlations' precise language. But they lacked beauty and emotive power. It was a pastoral concern: The Psalms should be moving, powerful, and emotive, but they weren't. People didn't understand what they were singing.

When he expressed his concern to his father, his dad essentially said, “See if you can do any better.” This began one of Watts's most significant contributions to church history. He began rewriting the Psalms with an eye for poetry and theological clarity. He wanted people to sing the Psalms and hear the gospel. A while later, as he considered widening his project and publishing these Psalms, his brother wrote him a letter, urging the project on. “Yours is the old truth,” Enoch Watts said to Isaac, “stripped of its ragged ornaments, and appears, if we may say so, younger by ages, in a new and fashionable dress.” Of the English versions of the Psalms that were widely sung in their day, he said, “There is in them a mighty deficiency of that life and soul, which is necessary to raise our fancies and kindle and fire our passions.”

What Enoch Watts affirmed was Isaac's pastoral vision and passion. Congregations needed to hear the Psalms with fresh ears, vivid poetry, and deep passion. Watts's love for God's Word made him feel an urgency in wanting to help people understand and connect emotionally to what they sang.

Meditating on the Gospel

One of the main thrusts of Watts's work was to theologically interpret the Psalms. As Watts saw it, Christian worship should be a meditation on the gospel. By exclusively singing Psalms, it relegated the church to singing in language that was prophetic and predictive, excluding the accomplished work of Christ that illuminates all that the Psalms foreshadowed.

As Watts put it himself:

Where [the Psalmist] speaks of the pardon of sin through the mercies of God, I have added the merits of a Savior. Where he talks of sacrificing goats or bullocks, I rather choose to mention the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God. . . .

Where he promises abundance of wealth, honor, and long life, I have changed some of these typical blessings for grace, glory, and life eternal, which are brought to light by the gospel, and promised in the New Testament. And I am fully satisfied that more honor is done to our blessed Savior by speaking his Name, his graces, and actions in his own language, according to the brighter discoveries he has now made, than by going back again to the Jewish forms of worship, and the language of types and figures.

One of my favorite examples of this is his hymn setting of Psalm 3. The text of the Psalm is:

1 LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me! 

2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, LORD, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high. 

4 I call out to the LORD,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 

6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, LORD!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the LORD comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.

And the Watts hymn is:

PSALM 3

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

The lying tempter would persuade
There's no relief in heav'n;
And all my swelling sins appear
Too big to be forgiv'n.

But thou, my glory and my strength,
Shalt on the tempter tread,
Shalt silence all my threatening guilt, 
And raise my drooping head.

What though the hosts of death and hell
All armed against me stood, 
Terrors no more shall shake my soul;
My refuge is my God.

Arise, O Lord, fulfill thy grace,
While I thy glory sing;
My God has broke the serpent's teeth,
And death has lost his sting.

This work was, for its time, scandalous. Driven by pastoral priorities, Watts took liberties with the Psalms that many interpreted as bold and dangerous. But Watts's deepest concern was for the hearts and souls of his congregation. He recognized that for the sake of contextualization, Christians needed help with language, imagery, and metaphor. His goal was to pastorally exposit the Psalms, through song, for the sake of building up the church.

This marked only the beginning for the way that Watts would bring reform to worship. In the ensuing years, he would make the argument not only for his theological interpretations of the Psalms, but for new hymns—new songs written for the church—that brought no small amount of scandal itself. In this way, Watts is considered the father of the English hymn, and rightly deserves a place amongst the greatest names of the Reformation. Watts can be credited as paving the way for not only the rich history of Reformation-era hymns, but also as establishing the ground upon which our understanding of music's role in the church is seen today.

Enduring Legacy

Here are a few things worship leaders can learn from Watts's legacy:

  • Worship leading is pastoral. Watts was first and foremost a pastor. His work in bringing reform to worship practices flowed from concern for the people of God. In an age of celebrity worship leaders and pastors, we can be reminded that Watts, with his profound contribution to the church, was concerned primarily with shepherding and encouraging his flock. People don't need a rock star who can wow them with talent. They need a pastor who can help them sing, discerningly choose songs, and craft a culture of worship that effectively shapes the spirituality of a congregation.
  • Contextualization is about comprehension. I don't think anyone would ever accuse Watts of watering down the gospel. His version of Psalm 22, which reflects on Christ's suffering and victory, contains the lyric “all the kindreds of the earth shall worship or shall die.” Worship or die is not a phrase often heard in compromised congregations. For Watts, contextualizing meant ensuring that the offense of the gospel is made clear to both insiders and outsiders. He is a hero of contextualization, willing to buck tradition and risk persecution for the sake of presenting the gospel in a way that was fresh, clear, and compelling.
  • Worship should be concerned with truth and beauty—but beauty is a servant of truth. This is one of the most interesting facts about Watts; he was the consummate pastoral artist. He found the English Psalms written by his contemporaries to be wanting for their lack of beauty. He wrote many times about the power of poetry to stir emotions, and it serves as a reminder that worship should not only be concerned with truth. It should also be beautiful. The Psalms themselves are magnificent poems. New Testament hymns like Colossians 1 and Philippians 2 are beautiful and poetic, and the work of the pastor should include wrestling with language that illumines the beauty of the gospel and the glory of Jesus. But we can also see that beauty is a servant of truth—it is put to use for the sake of illuminating and illustrating the truth, not for its own sake.
  • Worship should be both wide and deep. Even a brief summary of Watts's hymns reveals a breadth of content that stands in contrast with the songs we sing. He wrote hymns of adoration, lament, thanksgiving, confession; even the imprecatory Psalms found a place (like the aforementioned Psalm 3). Here's a challenge: Spend some time with Watts's hymns, make some notes on their breadth and diversity, and contrast that with you own “hymnal” (your own collection of songs). See where you're strong and where you're weak.

The Water and the Blood

About four years ago, I began to notice how many of the hymns we sang at Sojourn were written by Isaac Watts. When I began to look at his body of work, and when I discovered what he'd done for the culture of worship in the English-speaking world, it sent me (and Sojourn music) on a pretty radical journey. In 2009, we released Over the Grave: The Hymns of Isaac Watts Volume I, a collection of rewritten and re-imagined Watts hymns. Now, two years later, we're releasing Volume II: The Water and The Blood.

If you include tracks from other Sojourn releases, we've now recorded 26 Watts hymns. Some are nearly verbatim, while others are pretty radically re-imagined. It seems in the spirit of his work to adapt his language (while at pains to retain the concepts) for the sake of modern congregations.

The Water and the Blood is available for pre-order now, and will be available at Sojourn's booth at The Gospel Coalition national conference. It was recorded essentially live, to tape, over a few icy days this January, and it shows. The record is warm and intimate. Below you'll find an mp3 of “Death Has Lost It Sting,” our reworking of Watts's “Psalm 3.” It's a good sample of what you'll hear on the record.

Watts has profoundly affected on our congregation, providing a model for gospel-centered singing. We're eager to share this incredible body of texts with the broader church.

Come by our booth and see us, and join us for Sing Them Again: An Evening of Old and New Hymns.

Audio: “Death Has Lost Its Sting” [audio:http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/files/2011/04/11-Death-Has-Lost-Its-Sting.mp3|titles=11 Death Has Lost Its Sting]

Transforming Lessons From Renovating a Building

One of the most awesome and satisfying feelings you can have comes from taking on a challenging renovation project.  The feelings are those of accomplishment and satisfaction you get when you take something that was ugly and broken and make it beautiful and useful.  I’ve had numerous experiences of changing things in houses and now at New City, this is my third experience in the ministry with renovating an old building and making it useful for kingdom building.  There are numerous life changing lessons that we can learn just from buying and renovating an old building. Let’s not waste this wonderful opportunity that we have at New City to grow as Christians just by praying, participating, and learning about our God and Savior and His love for us just by looking at a building. 

Lesson #1 - "…The righteous shall live by faith." Romans 1:17 – It has been my experience over the years that usually when churches begin a project they design that project based on what they believe they can do.  They typically do what many believers do.  They do what they think they can do as opposed to what God can do through them.  This is the normal way that people who do not know Jesus operate.  Often times those endeavors are accomplished within their power and they fail to see God’s power, God’s hand, and God’s favor visibly and actively working in their lives. Transformed people rarely will attempt to do things within their own power.  A transformed person seeks God’s will through prayer, (careful research mind you), and a step of faith that fully requires God’s hand the whole way.  This has been the direction that was taken in the two previous churches I’ve been a part of and in the purchase of this building by New City.  In all three cases the project was larger than the ability of its members but, “The righteous shall live by faith." 

Example #1 – In Birmingham, at Ensley Bible Church we were in a store front building.  By faith we stepped out to purchase a building from another congregation.  At first we began renting at a price that was not in our budget with an agreement to purchase.  By faith God enable us to pay rent (even though barely).  When it was time for us to purchase the building we didn’t qualify but we kept praying and trusting by faith.  Guess what people?  The owners gave us the building!  Praise God!

Example #2 – At Macon Community Baptist Church we attempted to buy and renovate a building with a total of eleven people in the church, (Please get this!), with no money.  God provided first a new owner of the building who agreed to lease it to us.  Next God provided the $10,000.00 down we needed to move into the building.  Next God provided skilled workers, a project manager, and numerous workers from other churches to do the labor.  Next He provided over $100,000.00 worth of renovations that we did not owe one dime on at its completion.  God provided in such a way that all of his workings are indelibly graved in my heart. 

Example #3 -  At New City by faith through Pastor Keith’s leading, God has provided (1) a building.  (2) He’s provided a contractor, architect, electrician, and other skilled professionals who are donating much of the cost.  Presently we are operating way under normal cost even though the cost may be high.  Praise God! (3) God has provided finances through many of you AND donations from unexpected resources. (4) As we walked through the building this week with the contractor after tearing out so much we realize that we need so much more through which God has already provided.  We just don’t have it yet but by faith we will have it!

So then what do these steps of faith by the church do for us?  They remind us that our God is able to do exceedingly more abundantly than all we can ask or think.  He doesn’t need us to do anything or to be anything because He can do everything.  Our job is to believe in Him and His power for all of life’s challenges.  The challenge or situation you are facing right now is really your opportunity to live by faith.  The more we live by faith, the more we can live by faith and the easier it gets to trust Him.  The more we trust Him, the more transformed we become in all areas of our lives and it gets easier to trust him.  Living by Faith becomes a normal and regular expression of a transformed life.  Pay special attention to the purchase of this building and learn the transforming lessons in the process.  Become as much a part of the process as you can so that you can experience God’s power and see firsthand that our God is exceedingly Awesome and you can trust Him!  The righteous shall live by faith."

Pastor Lawrence

To The Ends of the Earth, Sending

For months now, Erik and I have talked about his desire to serve in a far away place. It was clear that God was stirring in Erik's heart. We talked and prayed. And before long, the opportunity to "go" was presented to Erik. We talked and prayed again. Erik, by faith began the application process and soon received his OK.

This Summer, we'll host a fund raising dinner for Erik. Until then, please join me in praying for and encouraging Erik!  Here's the official word from Erik's mission agency:

In August Erik Pelttari is moving to a country on the boarder of Europe and Asia to teach math at an international school. The school exists to serve Christian families, from around the world, who have been called to bring the good news of Jesus to people in desperate need of the Savior. Erik’s role is to support these families in their work by delivering a quality education, as well as caring for the spiritual needs of students.

Please pray for this region. Erik is going to a country with a population of 78,000,000 people that has fewer churches than the city of Macon, GA. Pray that God opens the hearts of people to know true salvation, and pray that Erik’s teaching leads the students of these Christian workers to follow after Jesus. If you would like more information please email epelttari@gmail.com

It is an honor to pray for Erik and an honor to be involved in seeing the gospel go to the ends of the earth!  Thank you Erik for your faithfulness.

Growing in the Gospel is a Journey

Tim Keller has said many times, "The gospel is not the A-B-C's of Christianity - it is the A to Z of Christianity." I find that I am learning this truth more and more, seeing how deep and wide the gospel's application is to my own life. No part of my life is left untouched by the gospel. 
But I have not always seen this. I haven't always understood it. In fact, even now I don't understand this fully and when I look back, even over the past year, I see that I am not now where I was then - I am growing (and some might say I have a long way yet to go!).

In the podcast below, Dave Harvey puts to words this process. Though he speaks as a pastor on preaching, I think that the process of becoming more gospel-centered is similar for all of us: 
* an awakening to the truth that the gospel is for believers as well as unbelievers
* a growing use of the word "gospel"
* moving toward describing the gospel rather than just saying the word "gospel"
* applying the gospel - how the gospel speaks to our fallen world and my life - past, present and future

I find this incredibly encouraging in my own walk with Jesus. I also find it helpful as I consider the truth that we are not all at the same place in our gospel journey, I am reminded that my process has been years long. I also find it helpful as tool for evaluating and coaching other pastors and church planters - how can I help them grow in their journey? Finally I am encouraged and challenged as a Christian and a preacher to listen and learn from others - my journey is not complete - I have a long way yet to go!

What about you... where are you in this gospel journey?

Monday - Exposed By The Cross, Part II

The Cross also exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of my depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross and am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes. Indeed the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill; (75) and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide.

Thankfully, the more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others ongoing issues of sin in my life. (Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross already told them I am a desperately sinful person?) And the more open I am in confessing my sins to fellow-Christians, the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace filled counsel and prayers.(76) Experiencing richer levels of Christ’s love in companionship with such saints,(77) I give thanks for the Gospel’s role in forcing my hand toward self-disclosure and the freedom that follows.(78)

75-Golgotha was the place where Jesus was crucified. John 19. “(17)…and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of the Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (18) There they crucified Him…

76-James 5:16. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed…”

77-Ephesians 3. “(14) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,…(17)…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ…”

78-Ecclesiastes 4. “(9) Two are better than one…(10) For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up…(12) And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”