Living Our Values

Yesterday we wrapped up our four part series on the vision and values of missio Dei: Falcon.  As we come out of one of the most difficult seasons the American church has ever endured, it is more important than ever that we:

Create a space for all people to encounter the person of Jesus through the transforming study of His Word, experience the love of Jesus through the love of His people, and engage the work of Jesus through missional discipleship.

If you missed any of the weeks that we discussed the three core aspects of our vision statement I highly encourage to go back and watch them by following the links above.  However, it is the topic of this past Sunday that I believe is the most integral for us to ensure that our church is that space that is conducive to people encountering, experiencing, and engaging Jesus.  I also encourage you to watch that service by following this link

The reason this past Sunday’s theme is so important is because the only way that our church will be a space that is conducive to encountering, experiencing, and engaging Jesus is if collectively we all embrace and live out the values that we discussed.  Too often churches—ours included—can slide into a passivity that sees the mission as something that we can leave to other people to fulfill.  But this last year has shown us that it is only when we all live out our values that the vision is guarded and the mission advances.

To that end, we are setting aside this summer as a season for everyone to spend some dedicated time praying through and seeking the Spirit’s help in increasingly becoming a place that demonstrates the following values:

  • Scripture Saturated: The Word of Christ, dwelling in us richly, permeates all we think, say, and do (Colossians 3:16).
  • Gospel Centered: The Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Christ as the anchor for all of life (Ephesians 2:1-10).
  • Relationally Intentional: Being moved towards another person because of the unsurpassable worth they hold in Jesus’ eyes (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
  • Authentically Loving: Desperately wanting what’s best for another person, for their own sake (John 13:34).
  • Missionally Discipling: Maturing together in Christ as we love people who don’t know Jesus with gospel intentionality (Colossians 1:28).
  • Kingdom Multiplying: Giving ourselves for the glory of Jesus beyond our local church setting (Matthew 28:18-20).

The way that we would like to grow in our ability to embody these values this summer is by prayerfully and meditatively working through these questions with each of the six values listed above: 

  1. How has Jesus worked through this value in your life?
  2. How are you currently living out this value?
  3. What next steps can you take to grow in this value?

I think the best way to process these questions is first alone with a journal or in contemplative prayer with Jesus.  Then share what you are learning with your spouse or a close friend.  And finally, if you have children, include them in the discussion processing how your family can be defined by these values.

As we collectively pray through these questions this summer our desire is that growth in these ways will allow us to be even more intentional about cultivating a space where all people can grow in their relationship with Jesus.  Will you join us in that prayer? 

Spiritual Gifts For The Missio Dei

This past week we studied 1 Corinthians 12 and Paul’s teaching on the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts in the life of the church. The main point of this passage of Scripture is that a spiritual gift is where our individuality lives out our interdependence in a local church. Since all Christians have at least one spiritual gift, and since those gifts are designed to build up the church for the good of others (1 Cor. 12:7), it is essential for our church to be filled with Believers who use their gift(s) for the glory of God and the good of the Body.

Unfortunately many of us remain uninformed (1 Cor. 12:1) on what our gift(s) might be and how to best use it in our church. To help us all become better equipped in this area we have put together a list* of the gifts Scripture identifies, though most commentators agree that the sample lists that are given are not exhaustive (it is quite likely there are additional gifts not enumerated in the following list). As you read through the list take some time to pray about how the Holy Spirit may have gifted you, and how your use or failure to use your gift(s) might bless or harm the church. Additionally, remember that no gift comes to us fully-developed. We should earnestly pray that we would grow in effectiveness with our gifts, as well as that the Spirit would bless us with additional gifts (1 Cor. 14:1)!

  • Wisdom: The Spirit-empowered ability to give guidance based on biblical truth (1 Cor. 12:8).
    • The church needs wisdom in order to apply the truth of God’s Word to our decisions and lifestyles, without this gift in operation we will lose the distinctiveness of a community that has been given the revelation of the Word of God.
  • Knowledge: The Spirit-empowered ability to understand biblical truth (1 Cor. 12:8).
    • The church needs knowledge in order to properly understand the truth of God’s Word, without this gift in operation we will miss out on the depth and beauty of the Bible.
  • Faith: The Spirit-empowered ability to see God working in mundane and extraordinary ways (1 Cor. 12:9).
    • The church needs faith in order to be reminded God is always working, without this gift in operation we will become discouraged and feel that God has left us on our own. 
  • Healing: The Spirit-empowered ability to be the channel through which God heals the sick (1 Cor. 12:9).
  • Miracles: The Spirit-empowered ability to be the channel through which God shows His power (1 Cor. 12:9).
    • The church needs gifts of healings and miracles in order to see that God is sovereign and powerful, without this gift in operation we will come to believe in a deistic religion that believes God is unable to work in our world.
  • Apostleship: The Spirit-empowered ability to start new churches and bring the Gospel to new places (1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11).
    • The church needs apostleship in order to see the mission of God (the missio Dei) advance to new places, without this gift in operation we will not see the Kingdom advance with the power of the Gospel.
  • Teaching: The Spirit-empowered ability to impart biblical truth (Rom. 12:7, 1 Cor. 12:28, Eph. 4:11).
    • The church needs teaching in order to see the blessing of God’s Word applied in our lives, without this gift in operation we will miss out on the feast that Scripture offers.  
  • Service: The Spirit-empowered ability to come alongside others, lifting their burdens (Rom. 12:7, 1 Cor. 12:28, 1 Pet. 4:11).
    • The church needs service in order to lift the cares and burdens we all experience, without this gift in operation we will find ourselves buried under the weight of our burdens.
  • Administration: The Spirit-empowered ability to know what to do or direction to lead (1 Cor. 12:28).
    • The church needs administration in order to know which decisions will lead to the greatest health of our church, without this gift in operation we will find ourselves directionless or handicapped by bad decisions.
  • Evangelism: The Spirit-empowered ability to see non-Christians come to faith (Eph. 4:11).
    • The church needs evangelism in order to see people far from Jesus come to faith in Him, without this gift in operation we will become a group of families who only baptize those who were born into Christian homes.
  • Shepherding: The Spirit-empowered ability to help, care for, and invest in God’s people (Eph. 4:11).
    • The church needs shepherding in order to be cared for as Jesus desires His people to be, without this gift in operation we will stray from His Body or fall prey to wolves.
  • Encouragement: The Spirit-empowered ability to strengthen the discouraged (Rom. 12:8).
    • The church needs encouragement in order to find the strength to endure amidst the hardship of life, without this gift in operation we will drift towards passivity or cowardice.
  • Generosity: The Spirit-empowered ability to meet needs (Rom. 12:8).
    • The church needs generosity in order to accomplish the ministry God has called us to, without this gift in operation we will see ministry opportunities pass by due to a lack of resources.
  • Leadership: The Spirit-empowered ability to mobilize people for a cause (Rom. 12:8).
    • The church needs leadership in order to gather and motivate people to do the work of ministry, without this gift in operation we will not see the mission advance.
  • Mercy: The Spirit-empowered ability to come alongside hurting people (Rom. 12:8).
    • The church needs mercy in order to demonstrate the compassion of Christ, without this gift in operation we will not fulfill our call to comfort those who mourn.
  • Hospitality: The Spirit-empowered ability to welcome and love strangers (Rom. 12:13).
    • The church needs hospitality in order to be a place that is welcoming to those who are in search of a community, without this gift in operation we will become increasingly cold and distant towards outsiders.  
  • Tongues**: The Spirit-empowered ability to speak to God in unlearned human languages (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 29-30).
  • Interpretation: The Spirit-empowered ability to translate gift of tongues in corporate worship (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 29-30). 
  • Prophecy: The Spirit-empowered ability to impart truth from God in specific situations (Rom. 12:6, 1 Cor. 12:10, 28, Eph. 4:11).
  • Discernment: The Spirit-empowered ability to evaluate origin and authenticity of prophetic messages (1 Cor. 12:10).

One thing to note about these gifts is that the lines of distinction, in some cases, are blurry. For example, when a gift is that of mercy and when it is a gift of encouragement can be difficult to tell! The important question, however, is not which gift is being used as much as what is the result of the gift in operation. Is the Spirit more tangibly visible because of this action? Is the Body of Christ built up through the use of this gift, or is it merely drawing attention to the gifted one? Ultimately none of us will have all the gifts, therefore we are dependent on the Spirit to empower and the other members of our church to be faithful in the utilization of their gifts!

But perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind regarding spiritual gifts is seen in the actual Greek word Paul uses: Charisma. One scholar believes the best translation of this word is not “spiritual gifts,” but rather “grace-gifts.” This concept is helpful because it reminds us gifting is not the result of our merit or natural abilities, rather, it is (like our salvation itself) a gracious act of God on our behalf! Just as you cannot earn your way to redemption, you cannot earn your own gifting! Gifts are not about ranking which Believer is more important than another but rather reminding us that we are all dependent on the grace of Jesus in all that we do.

*This list is heavily reliant on the commentaries of Gordon Fee, Thomas Schreiner, Roy Ciampa, and a sermon by Mark Driscoll.
**Tongues, interpretation, prophecy, and discernment will be discussed in greater detail in our study of 1 Corinthians 14 in a few weeks.

New Testament Reading Plan | 2021

This year missio Dei will embark on a New Testament reading plan as a church. This 365 day plan of the New Testament will encourage us to be in God’s word daily. This plan provided by The Bible Project, can be used with the Bible App on your phone. To look over the reading plan and watch some of the videos associated with the plan click here. For a free printable PDF version of the plan click here.

Advent 2020 | Weekly Practices to Prepare Him Room

Each year Advent seems to sneak up on us as Thanksgiving comes to a close; and this year is no different. 2020 has been a hard year for many of us and yet in God’s grace He has allowed us to finish it out in the season of Advent: a season of hope, love, joy, and peace.

Advent is a season set aside for waiting and watching, longing and looking for the Messiah. Through liturgies, calendars, wreaths, and more, we lean into the tension of anticipation, counting down the days until Christ’s arrival with expectancy and hope. Even as we celebrate Christ’s first arrival, we watch and ache for his promised second coming, when God will dwell with us forever and everything fractured will be made new (Rev. 21:3–5).

The Gospel Coalition | 2020 Has Felt Like Advent All Year

If we’re not careful, we can fall into familiarity and miss the beauty of this season. We can surround ourselves with busyness and distractions and at the end of the month realize that we got sucked into consumerism once again. Perhaps you know that feeling all too well. This is why, as a church, we have decided to be intentional about setting aside weekly practices to prepare Him room in our hearts. These disciplines are from the book The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, by Justin Whitmel Earley. They are designed to intentionally resist what the world tells us is important and embrace the good that God has created for us to partake in. Earley explains that he put them into practice “to get my body to believe the peace that my head professed but my heart refused.” This is the hope for our church this Advent.

Each Sunday we will pair an Advent candle with a practice that we can all do together throughout the week. You can learn more about each discipline below.

Week One: The Hope Candle | Fasting

As we light the Hope candle on the first Sunday of Advent we will commit to fasting in some way throughout our week. There is something uniquely biblical about fasting from food for a set of time, but you can also choose to be intentional about fasting from social media, shopping, or television. The goal here is to remove a distraction for a set period of time and commit to prayer. It is in fasting and prayer that we are reminded on our total dependency on God and find our true hope in the coming of Jesus.

Week Two: The Peace Candle | Scripture Before Phone

As embarrassing as it is to admit, most of us find ourselves looking at our phones first thing in the morning. Perhaps it is your alarm clock and you’ve justified having it close to your bed. Unfortunately, once that glowing light is in our faces, it is so easy to find this urgency to reply to texts, emails, or scroll through social media. This habit is subconsciously forming us to find our identities in what our phones yell at us versus what God says matters in His Word. In the second week of Advent we will light the Peace candle and commit to reading scripture before getting on our phones each day. Our devices promote hurry and anxiety, but steeping our souls in the Word first each morning will bring us back to the peace on earth that Jesus came to bring.

Week Three: The Joy Candle | Sabbath

Sabbath is a spiritual discipline that we can all benefit from but perhaps you’ve had a difficult time figuring out what that looks like for you and/or your family. When we remember the Sabbath we set aside time to enjoy God by ceasing from work to appreciate the good gifts He has put in our lives. As we follow the gifts upward to the Giver, we find ourselves in a place of worship where we are brought back to the truth that joy is found in Christ alone. As we light the Joy candle on the third week of Advent, we will commit to observing the Sabbath together as a church. For more encouragement on what this day of rest could look like, check out this sermon from Kolburt, but it needn’t be any more complicated than setting aside 24 hours to worship and rest.

Week Four: The Love Candle | Kneeling Prayer 3x A Day

In our final week celebrating Advent we will encourage kneeling for prayer three times a day. In setting aside this time throughout our days we reorient our hearts to our dependency on the Lord and His Spirit within us. While it may feel awkward or uncomfortable to kneel in prayer, we have to remember that this physical act is doing something to our hearts. In his book on Prayer, Tim Keller says,

Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change—the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.

Prayer by Tim Keller

It is in this frequent and intimate conversation with God that we can most experience His love and cultivate our relationship with Him. In His mercy and justice He sent His Son to live the life we couldn’t live and pay the penalty we deserved for our sin — all to restore this right relationship with Him. During Advent we celebrate this nearness of God as we reflect on the radical love shown in Christ’s coming. So as we commit to this life-giving habit of kneeling prayer three times a day, let us treasure in our hearts the love we have received from Emmanuel: God with us.

Calling For Justice, Lamenting Sin, Listening To The Hurting. -A Statement on the Cross and Race

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? —Psalm 13:1-2

It moments of cultural upheaval and crisis we desire answers and search for the right words to say.  As the events of the past week have shown us, however, it is precisely moments of crisis and upheaval where answers seem elusive and words feel inadequate.  Yet, as our church has been reminded through our study of 1 Corinthians, the power of the Gospel is seen in the vulnerability and atrocity of the cross.  The cross is where the power structures of the world collided with the creator of the world and the innocent victim became the triumphant victor.  So, in the midst of searching for how to respond and what to say we want to say, with the Apostle Paul,

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:2-5)

As we rest in the power of God seen in the triumph of the cross, we want to do three things as a church: 1. Call for justice, 2. Lament the effects of sin, 3. Listen to those who are hurting.

1. Calling For Justice

The call for justice was beautifully and eloquently made by our church’s network, Acts 29, in the  document, A Call To Justice, Restoration, and RenewalAs our church stands in agreement with what it says, we encourage you to read and wrestle with the truths it communicates.

Wrestling with this document must involve more than a simple reading or a bland affirmation.  It means we must confront areas of our hearts that require repentance.  Repentance of judgmental attitudes, arrogant indifference, and in some cases, silent racism.  Calling for justice as a church means we need to be willing to stand with and for our brothers and sisters in Christ who have too often felt the evangelical church is a passive bystander in the work of seeing Christ’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. 

The triumph of the cross means that we call for justice in the shadow of the most unjust act in human history—the crucifixion, knowing that just as Jesus defeated sin and death He will one day defeat all sin, evil, and oppression. 

2. Lamenting The Effects of Sin

The practice of lament is one that, in God’s grace, we became more acquainted with this past year as we studied the book of Lamentations and several lament psalms.  We drew heavily on the work of Mark Vroegop and his analysis of the biblical act of lament in his helpful book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy.  As our nation grieves the events of this past week and the all too present effects of the sin of racism we want to faithfully turn to God through the four steps of lament we studied:

  1. Turn to God in prayer: There is no where else our country can find the hope and restoration we so desperately desire.
  2. Complain about the effects of sin and brokenness: The murder of a handcuffed man is yet another example of the pervasiveness of sin, and we must be righteously angry about the death of a fellow image bearer.
  3. Ask that God would move in this situation: Riots and conflict (as opposed to peaceful and just protest) are but the surface sin of the deeper need for God to work, we must humbly pray that God would bring healing, restoration, and justice.
  4. Trust God to remain true to Himself: God is a God of justice whose compassion is bent toward the oppressed and broken, may all the hurting find comfort in Him.

The sign of a heart transformed by Jesus is caring about the things He cares about.  We have ample evidence from Scripture that God cares for the oppressed, broken, and marginalized.  Whether or not we have experienced the effects of racial injustice, we show our love for Jesus by standing in unity with those He loves.

Again, the triumph of the cross means that we can lament the effects of sin and brokenness knowing that ultimate triumph is a hope deferred.  Christ has demonstrated the power of the cross through the emptiness of the tomb, but while we await the consummation of His Kingdom we lament, grieve, and pray, as our persecuted brothers and sisters have throughout the ages, “Come Lord Jesus, come.”

3. Listening To Those Who Are Hurting

The truth for many in our church, myself included, is that we do not have the faintest idea of the hardship our African-American brothers and sisters have experienced.  In my pride I think that I understand the pain the black community has experienced, but the truth is apart from relationship and conversation I don’t have a clue.  Yet, in my pride I offer suggestions and solutions that are devoid of empathy and love.  We all must heed the words of James, 

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. —James 1:19b-21

For me personally my perspective on this issue changed radically over several years as I came to know and love my friend Brandon Washington and his wife.  As I listened to his story, and heard with new ears the stories of other black men and women, I was broken over the pain that he has endured.  A pain that my privilege had blinded me to.

As we grapple with what we can do to help this situation I believe the act of listening to those who are hurting is perhaps the most important step for our church in particular to take.  The best place for conversations like this to begin is with those we know and love already.  But as our church seeks to grow in empathy one thing I would strongly encourage all of us to do is watch these two videos linked below.

The first is a panel discussion from some of the leadership of Acts 29 (Scroll to the bottom of the page for the full video).  It was recorded in 2016 after an event that stirred the same emotions that we are seeing now.  While the entire thing is worth watching for the way it will help white Americans better understand a topic we know far too little about, the most impactful segment begins at 29:40, where one after another these five pastors share the encounters they had that shaped their experience with race.  The truth is that these stories are foreign for most white Christians because we’ve never taken the time to listen, and in failing to listen we have failed to love.

The second is a sermon given at an Acts 29 conference that lays out not only the theology of reconciliation we see in the New Testament, but shows us how the Gospel must compel us to act for justice.  In the words of my friend Brandon, “It is the church’s job to be the frontrunner in opposing injustice. Everyone else is trying to do it, but they are putting band-aids on bullet wounds. We have the Gospel.”

Please take the time to watch both videos as a step towards our church growing in love and empathy.

  1. Understanding Race and Reconciliation in the USA, Acts 29.
  2. Engage Justice, Brandon Washington.

For us, the power of the cross means that we can listen without fear because when our guilt and indifference is confronted we know those sins, of what we have done and what we have left undone, have already been paid for by Jesus.  

As we call for justice, lament the effects of sin, and listen to those who are hurting, our prayer is that missio Dei: Falcon would increasingly be a place where all people can experience the love of Jesus through the love of His people.

How to Pray a Prayer of Lament

This Sunday we started at 6-week series on the book of Lamentations. Although every Christian goes through periods of grief or profound sadness, we are pretty unpracticed with the biblical concept of lament. In this series we’re going to see how a four-step process frames the idea of faithful lament. Each of these are necessary to turn raw and powerful emotion into worship of a wonderful God.

TURN to God in prayer. Just by going to God with our grief, we are doing something distinctly Christian. It says that, no matter the sheer weight of emotion we feel, we are going to approach God with our fear or anxiety, not run to something else. When looking at Psalms of lament or Lamentations itself, it might be easy to miss this first step. But typically, just the very act of writing a prayer illustrates the turn to God the author took in the first place. When we turn to God, we are rehearsing an ancient biblical practice of faithfulness even in trials.

COMPLAIN to God about the effects of sin and brokenness. Complaining to God sounds a bit contradictory to what we’re taught about him. Who are we to complain to our sovereign God, the one who sent his Son to die for us? But a complaint is not simply whining about our situation. It is bringing to our Lord and Father something which is causing great distress in our lives. It is to say that we are feeling the effects of sin and our fallen world in a very specific way. Our complaint might be the loss of a job, or a recent medical diagnosis. It could be a family member’s death, or the rejection of Jesus by someone we love. But the common thread of lament is the proclamation to God that something is wrong and broken in our lives, and we need him desperately.

ASK for God to bring healing and wholeness. If God desires children who are bold enough to bring complaints, he surely expects them to ask for him to help them as well. By requesting to God that he heal our pain or cure our sickness, we lay bare the fact that we cannot fix our situation on our own. By asking for God’s help, we are confessing our own weakness. It is a realization that, in our human brokenness, we are utterly dependent upon a God who is capable where we are not.

TRUST that God will fulfill his promise and stay true to his character. As Mark Vroegrop says (and more on him below), if you never get to the trust part, you’ve only been really sad for a certain time. Trust in God means that we believe what God says about himself and what he will do. This is where we as readers in 2020 have a huge advantage, even over the authors of the OT books. When David or Solomon wrote their prayers of lament, they trusted that God would deliver them in some form, a Messiah who would redeem Israel. But over 2,000 years later, we as Christians know exactly how God’s promise was fulfilled. It was in the person of Jesus Christ, sent by God to live and die and rise again. He was (and still is!) the great hope for all of God’s people, and we can say today that we trust in God’s promises and his character because we have already seen it come through in the biggest way- through the Messiah himself.

We wrapped up this week’s sermon with a lament prayer of our own. In it we turned to God because we have nowhere else to God, complained to God about the brokenness felt in our world and in our own lives, asked God to be near from us in our pain, and trusted in the grace we have already experienced through Jesus.

A Prayer of Lament

Oh Lord our God,
To you we cry out,
To you we run,
For where else would we go?

We feel the weight of our broken world,
Through wars, famines, and disasters,
In injustice, hatred, and oppression.
The nations desperately need your deliverance.

We weep at our own brokenness
For the guilt, shame, and pain we feel
Weighed down by sin, held back by fear
We mourn our distance from you.

Be near to us, Oh God
Remember not our sin or failures
Reveal your Kingdom to our hearts and our community
Restore us to an awareness of your presence.

But, we have experienced your grace
And we will experience your restoration
Through your atoning death our sins are forgiven
And in your return we will be made whole.


Finally, a very helpful resource used in preparation for this series was Mark Vroegop’s Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, published earlier this year. Mark is a pastor in Indianapolis, and he wrote the book after preaching through Lamentations and the lament prayers from Job and Psalms. He also gave a talk at the 2019 TGC National Conference, which is a great audio resource on the topic of lament. In both the book and the podcast, he walks through the concept of Turn, Complain, Ask & Trust, so that we can become more proficient at this ancient and faithful Christian practice.

The Common Rule

Last Sunday we preached our vision sermon for 2020 focusing on how being a healthy church will naturally flow out of it having healthy members.  That sermon is linked here. One of the things we discussed was the daily and weekly habits proposed by Justin Earley in his book, The Common Rule.  In it he offers eight habits, either daily or weekly, that would help us to find clarity and purpose when things like distraction and “busy-ness” feel so overwhelming.  

The Habits of  The Common Rule  (IVP)

We don’t necessarily recommend tackling all eight of these habits at once, but just adding one to your rhythm and seeing how God uses it to speak to you in a new, powerful way.  At his website, Justin offers a short video explanation on each of the eight habits he wrote about, if you would like to know more. We pray that we become a people driven by gospel intentionality and purpose, and that our church grows out of the health of its people in the 2020 and the years beyond it.

Resources for Advent, 2019

December 1st marks the beginning of Advent. Advent (taken from the Latin for “arrival,” or “coming”) is the annual time in the church calendar where we look back to the first coming of Christ on Christmas and forward to the second coming of Christ when He fully consummates His Kingdom.

As a church we are prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit to orient our hearts away from religious activities that only create the appearance of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5), and towards an authentic and life-transforming worship of Jesus as the King of Kings. Our hope is that over the course of the twenty-five days of Advent we can collectively participate in two formative practices that will serve to orient our affections towards Jesus. The practices are:

Scripture Before Phone
For most of us, our day begins by reaching for our phone first thing, checking texts, email, news, and social media. This habit has a formative practice of its own, training us to find worth/value/significance in the messages that our phone sends us. But our souls have a far greater need to hear from Jesus. So, as a church family we are going to commit to reach for our Bibles every morning before we touch our phone. This discipline will remind us that what God says about Himself (and about us) is far more important as we begin our day.

An excellent resource on this practice is Justin Earley’s book, The Common Rule. He has put together many helpful resources on “Scripture Before Phone” that can be accessed on his website, including a short summary of the practice, and a video explaining why the discipline is important.

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, by John Piper
We have purchased a copy of John Piper’s book, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy for each household in our church (so make sure to grab one Sunday!). This short devotional has a reading for each day of Advent and only takes a few minutes to read aloud. Our hope is that we would read these devotionals over a meal (with your children, roommates, or coworkers) as a daily reminder of why Christmas is so significant. If you would prefer an electronic copy one can be dowloaded for free here.

As I mentioned above, our hope is that every person in our church family would participate in these two practices this Advent season, so that we can collectively experience the joy of Christmas in a fresh way. Let us all be praying that our church would not be a place with the mere “appearance of godliness,” or a place where we only “play church,” but rather that we would be a people transformed and strengthened by the authentic grace of Jesus.

Resources For Studying 2 Timothy

We desire to be a place where we can gather to encounter the person of Jesus through the transforming study of His Word, and to that end the vast majority of our sermons are verse-by-verse studies through whole books of the Bible. Last Sunday we began a seven week study of the book of 2 Timothy, and in order to glean as much from this amazing book as possible we want to share some additional resources. Our ultimate authority should always be the written Word of God, but secondary literature can help to expand our knowledge and understanding of what was written. This will fuel our love of the Bible when we devote time to comprehend it better. Below is a compiled list of resources about the book of 2 Timothy.

  • As an overview of the book of 2 Timothy, The Bible Project has a great video, you can watch here.
  • Additionally, Nancy Guthrie talks with John Currie about how to teach the book of 2 Timothy in a podcast interview. She also provides additional written resources on 2 Timothy.
  • John Stott wrote an amazing commentary on 2 Timothy and I would highly encourage you to spend some time reading it! You can purchase it here

Let’s all be in prayer for our church that this study would be used by the Holy Spirit to grow our affection for God and His Word, and enable us to better proclaim His truth to our neighbors!

Resources for Studying Malachi

We desire to be a place where we can gather to encounter the person of Jesus through the transforming study of His Word, and to that end the vast majority of our sermons are verse-by-verse studies through whole books of the Bible. On May 19th we will begin a seven week study of the book of Malachi, and in order to glean as much from this amazing book as possible we want to share some additional resources. Our ultimate authority should always be the written Word of God, the Bible, but secondary literature can help to expand our knowledge and understanding of what was written. This will fuel our love of the Bible when we devote time to comprehend it better. Below is a compiled list of secondary literature about the book of Malachi that speaks to this fascinating prophetic book.

  • As an overview of the book of Malachi, The Bible Project has a great video, you can watch here.
  • Additionally, Nancy Guthrie talks with Lee Gatiss about how to teach the book of Malachi in a podcast interview. She also provides additional audio and written resources on Malachi.
  • Peter Adam wrote an amazing commentary on Malachi and I would highly encourage you to spend some time reading it! You can purchase it here.

Let’s all be in prayer for our church that this study would be used by the Holy Spirit to grow our affection for God and His Word, and enable us to better proclaim His truth to our neighbors!

Lent 2019

Lent

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are at the very heart of Christianity. It is by means of these truths that we come into an understanding of our rescue. A rescue brought about by God as He has acted in history to conquer evil and reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For those who find their identity in that truth, they have been united with Christ in His death and will one day be united with Him in His resurrection.

Romans 6:4–6 (ESV) We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

If we have been united to Christ, then it seems as if we should take some time to meditate on this truth. The early church believed that we should take time to meditate on our union with Christ and therefore added a period of time into the church calendar right before Easter. The preparation for Easter dates back to our early church fathers.  Prior to denominations, church calendars and papal decrees, we can find the second century church establishing a time of reflection, fasting and preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

This time of reflection is commonly called Lent. References to fasting during Lent can be found in the early church writings. Irenaeus (130-202AD), the disciple of Polycarp (who was the disciple of the Apostle John), wrote concerning the time allotted for a lenten fast.  Concerning a season for fasting as part of the Easter preparation, Irenaeus writes: “Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers” (Eusebius, History of the Church, V, 24). This quote lets us see into the early church, that very early on they were discussing a time of fasting and preparation for the Easter celebration.

Our modern Christian calendars begin the Lenten Season on Ash Wednesday and proceed for 40 days (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter Sunday. The word “Lent” comes from the Greek word which means “forty.”  Although the English word Lent partially takes on that meaning, it literally means “lengthen.” The concept of the term lengthen comes from the lengthening of the sun during the days of Spring. Sundays themselves are not counted in these forty days, as they are generally set aside as days of renewal and celebration (“mini-Easters” of sorts).

The number forty carries great biblical significance based on: the forty days of rain Noah and his family endured in the flood, the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness, Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness, the forty days Jesus spent on the earth after his resurrection, and so much more. Forty days have been used by God to represent a period of trial, testing, and preparation. Likewise, Lent is a season of preparation and repentance during which we anticipate the death (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter Sunday) of Jesus. It is this very preparation and repentance that gives us a deep and powerful longing for the resurrection and joy of Easter.

Why Celebrate Lent?

For many throughout history, Lent has been a time of abstinence and self-affliction. As Reformed Protestants, we believe it is important to point people to the early churches’ perception that Lent is about preparation. As the church of Christ, we are preparing our hearts and minds for the Passion Week, the days that mark Christ’s atonement for our sins and victory over Satan and death. These days carry a much greater significance when we have properly prepared for them and retrace Christ’s journey to the cross. Lent helps the church focus on why Jesus had to die and why we need a Savior.

Some will find it helpful during this time to abstain from certain pleasures because you have found them to become idolatry for you. But never forget that as people who are centered on the Good News — the Gospel — we recognize that we need a Savior. Therefore, we put off idolatry because we have a Savior, and not because we are trying to be worthy of one. As with any ritual or symbol, Lent can be abused and made meaningless, so it is imperative to consider our motives before we begin.

Others will find it helpful during this time to add to our everyday rhythms. Consider spending extra time reading the Gospels or other theological books centered on the death, burial, and resurrection.  These activities are always encouraged, but especially during this season of preparation. The goal is to create a noticeable break in our regular schedules to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter.

Philippians 3:8–11 (ESV) Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Preparing for Easter Resources:

Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis 

Journey to the Cross (Walker) 

Fifty Reasons Jesus Came to Die (Piper) 

Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy: Morning & Evening Meditations for Holy Week (Desiring God) 

The Cross of Christ (Stott)

Redemption, Accomplished and Applied (Murray)

Hebrews Resources

As we continue in our study of the book of Hebrews over the next 20+ weeks, we want to provide some additional resources to make sure that we get the most out of our time in this amazing book. Our ultimate authority should always be the written Word of God, the Bible, but secondary literature can help to expand our knowledge and understanding of what was written. This will fuel our love of the Bible when we devote time to comprehend it better. Below is a compiled list of secondary literature about the book of Hebrews that speaks to this fascinating book of the New Testament.

  • Each week we will record and upload the previous weeks sermon to our website, so if you missed one you can catch up on the material by clicking here.
  • As an overview of the book of Hebrews, The Bible Project has a great video, you can watch here.
  • Additionally, Nancy Guthrie talks with Sam Storms about how to teach the book of Hebrews in a short video and she also provides additional audio resources and books on the book of Hebrews.
  • Kent Hughes book, “Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul, can be bought here.
  • Some other sermon series on Hebrews include ones by Piper, Chandler, and Storms, you can access by clicking on their names.

Writings on God’s Glory

Last Sunday we wrapped up our series on the 5 Solas of the Reformation with a message on Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone). This powerful concept answers the question of the ultimate purpose for each of our lives, but it is a message our sinful flesh wars against.  One of the ways we battle our tendency to make life “all about us” is by filling our minds with concepts that draw our affections heavenward. Two such resources are Glory Hunger, by J.R. Vassar, and The Weight of Glory, by C.S. Lewis.

Both of these authors deal with the fact that we try to steal glory from God and hoard it for ourselves, and both authors awaken in the reader a desire to live more for the glory of God–a task worth pursuing with every fiber of our being!  You can buy both books online easily, but if you want to read the Lewis essay on “The Weight of Glory,” you can do so here.

May God increasingly make our church a place where He alone is glorified! Soli Deo Gloria!

Sola Scriptura: Definitions and Bible References

Last week we kicked off our study on the doctrines of the Reformation with the topic of Sola Scriptura, or Scripture Alone. We saw that as humans we all appeal to an ultimate authority for our understanding of what truth is, therefore our task is to make sure we are appealing to the correct authority! Some of the different authorities Christians submit to include:

  • Institutional Authority: Those in power have the ability to define truth.
  • Individual Autonomy: No one except the individual has the ability to define truth.
  • Hopeless Agnosticism: Truth may indeed exist, but we have no way of knowing for sure what it is.

The Roman Catholic Church has historically appealed to their institutional authority as the ultimate arbiter of truth, while modern evangelicals have often wrongly interpreted Sola Scriptura to be a license for individual autonomy (Often seen with the refrain, “Me and my Bible is all I need.”), totally void of any reliance on tradition or the historic Christian creeds. These differing approaches have left such a wide chasm that many in our day are now feeling the pull of hopeless agnosticism.

Contrary to these three approaches is the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura, which can be defined the belief that:

The Bible alone is our authority (not Institutional Authority), we study it in the context of community and historic orthodoxy (not Individual Autonomy) where we find truth (not Hopeless Agnosticism).

Out of this doctrine four principles regarding Scripture can further be affirmed, leading us to say, Scripture is:

  • Authoritative: It carries God’s authority and accomplishes His will.
    • Isaiah 55:10-11, Nehemiah 8:1-9, Acts 17:11.
  • Clear: The truths God has chosen to reveal can be understood through reading the Bible honestly.
    • Deuteronomy 29:29, Luke 16:29-31.
  • Sufficient: The Bible reveals all we need to know in order to follow and obey, particularly when understood correctly within the Church community.
    • 2 Peter 1:3, 1 Timothy 3:15, 2 Peter 3:16-17.
  • Necessary: No other writings reveal the Word of Life.
    • 2 Timothy 4:3, Isaiah 55:8-9, John 6:68, Psalm 119, Romans 10:13-15.

One of the great treasures of the Protestant Reformation was its emphasis on Scripture and the fact that it led to the translation and propagation of the Word of God into many different languages. With this being the case, may we be a people who study God’s Word, look to it as our authority, and share the Good News it communicates with all those we meet!