Sunday – 3.3.13 – Jonah and the Whale

The story of Jonah being swallowed by the whale is one of the most well known stories in the Bible. We think of it as a cute story of a man swallowed by a fish but there is more hear than meets the eye.

Jonah has just allowed himself to be thrown from a boat into a raging sea. In doing so he has accepted the responsibility he has in disobeying God, running from God and endangering his own life and the lives of the sailors on the boat. If he wasn’t already sure he was going to drown in the sea then surely he thought being swallowed by a fish was going to be the end.

Finally, when he realizes that he is completely helpless, Jonah prays. From the belly of the fish Jonah cried out to God. We tend to think that coming to God in the midst of our biggest troubles is a bad thing. The truth is that we always come to God totally helpless. Whether we know it or not we always come to God in the midst of a war that is going on around us; a war in which we are completely helpless. God wants you to come to Him in times of trouble. It took both the storm and being swallowed by a fish for Jonah to realize this. The storm and fish were God’s grace towards Jonah to show him that Jonah’s suffering in his current situation was about him and God and nothing else.

What we see in Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish is that Jonah realizes that he has been putting his hope in idols. And that those idols can never save him. At long last, Jonah realizes this and gives us this stark reminder “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD! (Jonah 2:8-9 ESV)

Band for the Week was:

  • Zack Van Hoy – drums
  • Julie Watkins – vox
  • Scott Wenger – bass
  • Ben Davis – guitar + vox
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox
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Sunday – 2.24.13

This past Sunday we were back in Jonah chapter 1. God had told Jonah, a successful prophet, to go to Nineveh and preach against the city, but instead, Jonah fled from God and God’s command and went the opposite direction towards a town called Tarshish. As the story goes, while on the boat to Tarshish God sent a storm so great that even seasoned sailers were terrified. They prayed to all their false gods to save them from the storm but nothing worked. The captain finally went into the bottom of the ship to wake up Jonah, who was sleeping, and told him to pray to his God that they would be saved from the storm. Eventually, the sailers figure out that they are in the storm because of Jonah. Jonah tells them why God has sent the storm and that in order to be saved they need to throw Jonah overboard. Eventually, the sailors do throw Jonah overboard and the storm calls down. When the sailors see that God can calm the storm the fear God greatly.

There are obviously plenty of analogies to our lives today. What storms are you currently in? Who’se fault are they; yours or someone else’s? How are you going to respond to that storm? What is God trying to teach you through the storm?

There is so much to learn from this story:

  • God is always working beneath the surface – on the surface, God is sending a prophet to preach a message to Nineveh but God is also working to change Jonah’s heart and the heart of the sailors who end up fearing God by the end of the story.
  • God is always sovereign over the storm – no matter what storm you may be encountering in your life know that God is sovereign over it and is in complete control.
  • Those closest to you will feel the effects of the storm you might cause – it’s just a fact that sin does not stay within us. It inevitably spills over onto those around us and those closest to us will feel the effects of our sin. Whatever storm you may bring upon yourself will surely be felt by others.
  • Rejecting God’s commands leads to a spiritual deadness or slumber – when Jonah intentionally disobeyed God and fled from Him he somehow found himself sleeping in the midst of a storm so great that presumably seasoned sailors were scared to death. When we intentionally disobey God and run from his commands we bring abut a spiritual numbness that God will have to shake us from.
  • Someone else’s storm can turn us to God – by the end of this story the sailors, who had been seeking comfort from any and all false god’s had turned to God. In the same way, we should see other people storms and recognize that God is using them to bring people to Himself.
  • Whoever is causing the storm may need a wake up call – God may have put you in someone’s storm so that you can wake them up. Jonah was clueless as to the storm that he was causing until the sailors came and woke him up and showed him the consequences of the storm that he had caused.

Eventually Jonah realizes what he has done and he consequences of his actions. He fled from Nineveh to get away from God, but God used a storm to show Jonah that he can’t get away. He eventually gets to a place where he agrees with God that he has sinned and he is willing to do what he needs to do to deal with the consequences of his sin.

What storms are you facing in your life right now? Are they caused by someone else or have you brought them upon yourself?

How is he using them to bring you closer to him?

If you are the cause of some storm in your life, get the place where you can admit that the storm is a result of your own sin. God is always working to bring you closer to himself.

Band for the week was:

  • Kendal Quinn – djembe
  • Jon Pritchett – banjo
  • Katie Pritchett – vox
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox
  • John Enzor – bass

Heart Surgery

What follows is a post that my amazing wife Jessica wrote on her blog several weeks ago….you can find it here.

She had a procedure on her heart a little more than a month ago and I won’t lie to ya…I was more than a little concerned. We had planned on her taking it easy from a recovery standpoint but she is determined not to let heart issues keep her down.

She has been a runner her whole life so, knowing my wife, it is not surprising to me that she is already back to running and working out. I ran with her for 30 minutes yesterday and she was the one pushing me up the  hills.

I looked back at her blog just to remind myself of where we were a little more than a month ago. God is good.

I just wanted to repost her blog here on my own blog so that everyone was in the loop on what’s going on.

I think she is an awesome writer so..enjoy 🙂

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Yesterday, as many of you know, I was admitted to Rex for a routine heart procedure. The procedure I had was called a cardiac ablation. I got to the hospital at 7:30 and waited for quite a while before I was actually taken back into the operating room. I guess waiting is typical when you go to the hospital.

First, we waited to check in with someone about insurance. That wait felt like an eternity, but it was probably only about 15-20 minutes. Once I met with the insurance guy, things moved quickly, for about an hour. I changed out of my clothes, they checked my vitals, drew some blood, and gave me an IV. Then we waited some more. I bet we waited once all of that was done for about 1.5 hours. Me and Patrick were both getting anxious. When you go back to the prep area, you’ve got a bed, a TV, and a chair. I had an IV hooked into me so I wasn’t doing much moving around. And I could only handle so much Sports Center. I started joking with the nurses that it wasn’t fair that patients that got there after me were heading in for their procedures before me. It was totally my turn! Of course there was nothing they could do. We all had to wait.

At about 10:40, they came to get me and rolled me into the “heart lab.” As soon as I got back there, I immediately got up and walked out to go to the bathroom. They weren’t going to give me a catheter, so I needed to go one more time. And of course my nerves were getting the best of me by this point.

Once I was back there for good, the very first thing I noticed was how cold it was! I had been hot all morning, but the minute I got back there I had goosebumps all over. There were three great nurses prepping me that immediately covered me with warm blankets. That was the best! They worked so hard to make me feel comfortable and were so encouraging. I felt so relaxed, even though I knew surgery was imminent by this point.

I asked a billion questions to keep my mind off of the surgery. I also looked around the room while they were prepping me to familiarize myself with everything. There were huge EKG machines, a big computer hanging over the bed, and sinks and counter tops on both sides of the bed about 15 feet away. There was also an observation room where my doctor hung out until the nurses told him I was ready.

The first thing the nurses did to prep me was stick a bunch of electrodes all over me. There were about 30 that stuck on my front and back. They joked that they didn’t have enough real estate to stick them to. Some were huge and some were tiny. Somehow they managed to make them all fit. Once they were stuck to me, they all showed up on that big computer screen I mentioned.

Once I was hooked up to all of the machines, they prepped my neck and both groins for surgery. At this point, I was also getting medication to make me sleepy. I was dozing in and out, but every time I heard a new noise, I’d open my eyes to see what was going on. When they told me I’d be awake, I didn’t really believe them, but I was. I woke up throughout the procedure and listened to what they were doing. I had 4 different wires going into veins in my body. I had one in my neck, one in my left leg, and two in my right leg. I didn’t feel them get the ones in my legs ready, but for some reason, my neck was really bothering me. Anytime I was in pain or was feeling discomfort, they would give me more medicine. I remember talking to a nurse at one point during the procedure asking for more medicine because I could feel Dr. Shah working in the neck catheter.

The part of the surgery I felt the most was when Dr. Shah was speeding up my heart to try to separate the two sacks of my heart from my lung. I didn’t know this before my surgery, but your heart actually has an outer sac and an inner sac. Weird! He was trying to separate all of this because I had a group of cells sitting on the outside of my heart, near a nerve running in between my heart and my lung. This was one of the things he was hoping to burn during the surgery so my heart rate would go back to normal. Unfortunately, this made the surgery too risky. Burning those cells would’ve caused my recovery to take years, instead of weeks. Having to wait for a nerve to regenerate doesn’t sound too fun, so I was thankful he made this call. Anyway, my body was moving all over the table because he was upping the amount of adrenaline and caffeine he was putting into my body. He told me after the surgery that at this point during the procedure I was moaning, so he knew my body was having trouble dealing with the trauma. I remember him doing this twice…and the second time I remember asking the nurse for more meds. I didn’t like that feeling. Again, I was amazed that I was awake and able to communicate with my doctor and nurses. I’m still blown away that I had surgery yesterday and I was discharged from the hospital at noon today. Thankful!

my dinner came, i took a bite, then napped before i could eat the rest.

my dinner came, i took a bite, then napped before i could eat the rest.

All in all, the doctors were very pleased with the procedure. Here’s what Dr. Shah relayed to my husband post-op. Patrick sent this in an email to friends after the surgery.

“Jess’ situation was REALLY complex. He had never seen anything quite like it. She basically had two problem spots in her heart. One of those problem spots was causing the VAST VAST majority of the rapid heart rate and discomfort. However that particular spot was pretty easily fixed. So they the doctor burned that spot and it shouldn’t be a problem ever again. The SECOND problem spot (which is causing a small part of the problem) was NOT able to fixed due to its proximity to a nerve on Jess’ lung. So that spot will continue to act up. So, all of that means that the vast majority of the problems should be taken care off. The doc said that she will occasionally have something akin to a heart flutter but that it shouldn’t last long and shouldn’t be nearly as uncomfortable as what she has been dealing with for the last 6 months or so.”

drawing Dr. Shah made for my family to help them understand the procedure

drawing Dr. Shah made for my family to help them understand the procedure

Of course my situation would be complex. Nothing with me is ever simple. I’m hopeful about the outcome. I still have to wait a couple weeks to see how things take. My heart has gotten into a routine and has to work to get out of it. Expecting to feel 100% at this point is silly. I will be taking one medication to help regulate the beat and another, as needed, to eliminate flutters and palpitations. I have an appointment with Dr. Shah in 6 weeks so he can check on things and see how I’m doing. God is good and I know He will use this situation to further his kingdom. I’m thankful for all of you, for your prayers, and for your words of encouragement.

last night, 2 hours after surgery. i was beat!

last night, 2 hours after surgery. i was beat!

Take care of your heart, my friends. It’s the only one you got!

 

Sunday – 2.17.13

This week we kicked off a new series in the book of Jonah! Most people know the story of Jonah as the simple story about a man who was saved by God from the belly of whale, but there is so much more to the story than that.

Jonah was a very successful prophet, but when God told him to go to preach to one of the greatest ( but most evil) cities in the world at the time, Nineveh, he fled and hopped on a boat headed the other way. God gave him a simple command but in this case Jonah rejects God’s command and runs. He simply said no to what God was telling him to do. He was in active rebellion. The truth is, in so many ways we are all ‘Jonah’. Either we are actively obeying what God tells us to do or we are actively disobeying. There is no middle ground.

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The essence of discipleship is change. It’s being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. This is one of the most basic purposes of our church. If you are not changing; if you are not growing; if you are not actively seeking to be conformed to the image of Christ then you are not obeying God.

However, this is not a simple of matter of following the rules. Throughout the book of Jonah God is working to bring about real change in Jonah’s life and in Jonah’s heart. What we see is that Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh ultimately because he hates the Ninevites. God sent him to tell the Ninevites to repent but, ultimately, Jonah doesn’t want them to repent. He wants them to be destroyed. This shows an arrogance in Jonah. He correctly believes that the Ninevites don’t deserve God’s grace. But Jonah’s error is that he believes that he does. We see throughout the book of God is working to bring about that change in Jonah’s life. The story of Jonah isn’t just one in which God wants Jonah to go to Ninevah. It’s also a story of God using that situation to change Jonah’s heart. And heart change is something only God is capable of doing.

As disciples of Christ we should want to follow what God tells us to do, but we know it’s not possible for us to do so. Like Jonah, we run from God’s commands and in doing so break them constantly. And like Jonah, we need God to change our hearts. If God has given you a command and you are rejecting that command, then there’s a specific way that he is trying to change you. Turn and face the command that you are fleeing from. Realize that it is not in you to follow it. You need God to show you his grace and let that change your heart. Christ died so that we could be in relationship with God. He came and died to fulfill all of God’s commands. “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 5:20-21

Band for the Week was:

  • Brent Francese – drums
  • John Bass – bass
  • Alex Dellapenta – guitar + vox
  • Jon Pritchett – guitar
  • Katie Pritchett – vox
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox

Setlist for the Week was:

  • God is Able
  • Holy
  • Nothing but the Blood
  • How Deep the Father’s Love for Us
  • The Wonderful Cross

Guest Blogger – Lane Wood

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Hey everyone,

Thanks to Patrick for letting me promote something great going on in the Triangle here shortly. On March 19-21, the Advance 2013 conference will be invading downtown Raleigh (Progress Energy Center). Since attending the last Advance conference, I have been greatly looking forward to the next one! The theme for this year is “Building a Faithful and Effective Church.” This event is open to ANYONE who is even remotely interested in that statement… from pastors to worship leaders to secretaries, to church janitors. I guarantee that after attending this conference, you will feel spiritually refreshed, challenged, and encouraged to further the “Good News” that we have been called to spread. Another great aspect of the Advance conference is the opportunity to “lock arms” with others from all around the region, and worship and fellowship together. It’s like one great big 3-day party! Some of the amazing speakers this year include: John Piper, Matt Chandler, Bryan Loritts, David Platt, J.D. Greear, Tyler Jones, amongst many others. There will also be many vendors set up with materials, books, etc. that can be very beneficial to your life and ministry.

For more information, and to watch a promo. video, I strongly encourage you to go to advance13.com.

Thanks and I hope to see you all there!

Worship Has to Be Fun??

My friend Daniel reminded me of this quote from a book called Worship By the Book. Weighty.

“If we know the characteristic sins of the age, we can guess its foolish and fashionable assumptions – that morality is simply a matter of personal taste, that all silences need to be filled up with human chatter or background music, that 760 percent of the American people are victims, that it is better to feel than to think, that rights are more important than responsibilities, that even for children the right to choose supersedes all other rights, that real liberty can be enjoyed without virtue, that self-reproach is for fogies, that God is a chum or even a gofer whose job is to make us rich or happy or religiously excited, that it is more satisfying to be envied than respected, that it is better for politicians and preachers to be cheerful than truthful, that Christian worship fails unless it is fun.”

Sunday – 2.10.13

This week was the final week in our series called Helpless: Where Would We Be Without God. This week Jeff asked the question, “how does the story end?”

Consider this – all good fairy tales have happy endings; sleeping beauty wakes up and gets the guy, Pinochhio becomes a real boy, Nemo finds his dad, etc. They don’t write fairy tales with sad endings. If they did, you wouldn’t read them. Most of us have a built in optimism that makes us believe “things will end well” against all odds. Honestly, this is not logical. For the most part life is not a fairy tale. Some people are miserable. Most people don’t “go out in a blaze of glory”. They don’t “have it all together” and “live happily ever after”. Life is messy and can be very painful at times. So why is it that nearly all of the stories that we write end with such optimistic, happy endings?

However, the Bible gives believers good reason to be optimistic. Think about those fairy tales; when you read them you don’t flip to the last page and see how it ends. You spend the whole story NOT knowing how it will end and NOT knowing for sure that it will have the happy ending that you want it to. The Christian life is not like that. The Christian life is grounded in the Bible and the Bible is a book in which we should read the ending first. We do know how our story ends. It ends with Jesus on the throne in heaven. It ends with no more pain and suffering; no more tears. No more separation from God. The dwelling place of God will be with man. The whole story is basically this: God made the world and mankind perfect, but sin has wrecked and twisted everything. God is putting it all back together and God WILL finish the job.

The Church today can have a tendency to avoid talking about “how it all ends” for fear that focusing on the end will lead people to be passive and uninvolved in the world today. But knowing how the story ends should lead to a few different things. 1) It should change the way we live today. We should have less anxiety about our present situations. We are guaranteed to go through hard times but by knowing the end of the story we should remember that God is in control and will make everything right in the end. 2) It’s natural to wonder why we go through times of suffering in life and the truth is we don’t always know why. But we can be assured that God DOES know why. He has a plan and everything is unfolding in exact accordance with it. God is for us and working all things together for good and for his glory. What’s the worst that could happen? Even physical death does not compare to an eternity of life with Christ. Finally 3) we are able to focus more on the needs of other people. True salvation will result in a concern for the needs of those around us. The knowledge that everything will end well for us should lead us to lay everything on the line to help others hear the good news and see the light of Christ in their lives.

In the end, be assured, if you are in Christ then your story ends well. It ends with you in heaven with Jesus where you will spend eternity with him. Pain and suffering in this world is of little consequence in the light of eternity. Our prayer is that we would keep this in mind throughout our lives and live with the knowledge that the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, ever-present God has guaranteed us that our story has the happiest of endings.

Band for the Week was:

  • Jake Taylor – guitar + vox
  • Aaron Chappell – guitar + vox
  • Julie Watkins (back after having a baby!!!) – vox
  • Brent Francese – drums
  • Scott Wenger – bass
  • Ben Davis – guitar + vox

Sunday – 2.3.13 – God is with Us

All of us go through times in our lives when it can be hard to believe that God is truly with us every second of every day of our lives, but this is exactly what the Bible teaches. There are few places where this is more clearly seen than in the life story of Jacob’s favorite son Joseph found in the book of Genesis. Numerous times throughout the story of Joseph we read about how things went horribly bad for him, but that God was always with him (Gen. 39:1-2; Gen 39:20-21). God was orchestrating the events in Joseph’s life to accomplish a purpose. Joseph famously said to his brothers who had some him into slavery that what they meant for evil, God meant for good. God was always with Joseph and was always working things together for good.

We will face many different kinds of trials in life. Some of them we deserve and have brought on ourselves. Some of them are the results of other peoples bad decisions or poor treatment of us, and some trials are just part of life. The book of James tells s to take joy in trials of “various kinds” because God is using those trials to accomplish some purpose. This seems counterintuitive to us. We think when people love us, they do good things for us, not bad things. It’s counterintuitive for us to think God is with us in the midst of bad things happening. God knows this and this is why we have the command to “consider it joy” when we are in the midst of suffering. It might not be natural to think about taking joy in trials but we are commanded to think of them that way. James says that God uses trials to test our faith to see if it is real; to build our faith and make it stronger and to make our faith beautifully seen by others.

Often times it is impossible to tell what God is accomplishing through our suffering and it can be easy to get frustrated and get angry with God. We ask, “How could a good God who loves me let this happen”? The truth is God could be and probably is accomplishing endless things through our suffering.  Sometimes we have to cover our mouths and confess, in faith, that we cannot possibly grasp all that God is doing, but we know that he is trustworthy. We know that he is faithful. We know that He is good and know that He knows what He is doing. We know that because He sent his Son to suffer on our behalf. Jesus bled and died for our sin. God allowed his only son to be mocked, beaten and killed by sinful men, but what they meant for evil, God meant for good. He is faithful to us in trials and in suffering and he is worthy of our trust.

Band for the Week was:

  • Aaron Chappell – guitar + vox
  • Zack Van Hoy – drums
  • John Enzor – bass
  • Christy Gould – vox
  • Alex Dellapenta – guitar + vox
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox

 

 

 

Sunday – 1.27.13

This Sunday we continued our series called Helpless: Where Would We Be Without God.

Hope is a future-oriented thing and we all hope for something. Some of hope for money and then hope that money will change our lives for the better. Some of us hope our spouse will change and then hope that the change in our spouses will change our marriages for the better. Ultimately, change is what we are all hoping for. There is a sense that we are not what we were originally created to be. We know we should be different and so we want to be. That’s part of the story of the Bible as well.  The world’s a broken place, we are broken people, can somebody put us back together?

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Jesus Christ, the son of God, was crucified on a cross. He died. He was dead. In the tomb. But God. Raised him from the dead. His death and resurrection doesn’t just reconcile us to God, they bring us new life. It is the ultimately the resurrection of Jesus that holds the key to understanding how God says we can expect to change. The Bible presents two realities for mankind – You are either dead in your sins or you are alive in Christ by the power of the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead. And if you have been made alive in Christ then you have received the Holy Spirit who comes in and makes you alive. The spirit of God now lives in us. The old person has passed away and the new person has come. The Bible says that you have been born again. You have been adopted into the family of God. You were a slave to sin but you have been set free and are living a life in which you are being “sanctified” and transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

But sanctification is a process. When the Israelites were set free from Egypt, they found themselves wanting to go back. When someone is adopted into a new family they don’t just forget the ways of their old family right away. It takes time. Personal change can be a long, arduous process. We struggle with our old, ungodly ways. We struggle to change. Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, was not immune to these struggles. In one passage, he bares his soul and talks about how he keeps doing things he doesn’t want to be doing and not doing things he wants to be doing. This is where most of us live. God is calling us to change a certain area of our lives; to surrender to him. But we he is also calling us to see that this is not something we can do by superhuman strength. Only God can change us by the power of the Holy Spirit. And this can be a long process that God uses to bring us to a point of complete dependence on Him.

Paul goes on to conclude that the answer is a life spent ‘setting your mind on the things of the spirit instead of the things of the flesh’. There is hope for change but only through the power of the Holy Spirit; only by surrendering to God and allowing his new life to come into you. And by learning to live in daily dependence on Him.

Band for the week was:

  • Katie Pritchett – vox
  • Kendal Quinn – djembe
  • Jon Pritchett – banjo + mandolin
  • Scott Wenger – bass
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox

Setlist for the week was:

  • Open Up Our Eyes – Elevation
  • You Never Let Go – Redman
  • Nothing but the Blood – Visio Dei
  • Christ is Risen – Mahar

Sunday – 1.13.13

This Sunday we continued our series called Helpless: Where Would We Be Without God.

Our culture works to teach us lots of things. Among those things are the fact that people are basically good. Everyone has a good nature. They just sometimes do bad things. It also teaches us that getting from where you are now to where you want to be is simply a matter of working hard to do it. You have what it takes. You just have to find it deep inside you and tap into it. Whether it’s running a marathon or passing the bar exam, if you put your head down and keep working then odds are you can get from where you are now to where you want to be. Allow me to state the obvious here: this is true because of the fact that you are physically alive and active and have the ability to improve your physical situation. However, this same mentality incorrectly gets translated to our spiritual lives. People like to think that working hard to do good things and making God happy will get them where they want to be spiritually. But when people think this, they make an incorrect assumption: that they, in their natural state, are spiritually alive and active and have the spiritual ability to improve their spiritual situation.

The Bible teaches a hard truth: that before you know Jesus you are NOT spiritually alive. You are spiritually dead. It teaches that you are not naturally good; you are naturally sinful and wicked. And it teaches that, by nature, you deserve God’s wrath. This is obviously bad news. Spiritually speaking, it’s not possible to work to make God happy. It’s not possible to do ANYTHING to make God happy. Everything you do apart from Christ comes out of your sinful nature and is therefore – sin. Getting in touch with God has nothing to do with getting in touch with something inside you. There is nothing but sin inside you. And because you are dead, you don’t respond to God in any way whatsoever. The truth about who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus is completely lost on you.

But here is what Ephesians 2:1-10 says…

You were dead in your trespasses and sins…but God….made you alive. That is REALLY good news. 

Those who have trusted in Jesus Christ are no longer dead in their sins. God, because he is rich in mercy and loves them so much, has raised them up to spiritual life in Christ. That’s the clincher of the whole thing – in Christ. It means this: God sent his son to earth to die to pay the price for our sin. And so Jesus died and he rose again 3 days later. The Bible teaches that when Jesus died, we died with him. And when he rose again, we were raised with him. And now we are “in Christ”. So what’s true of Jesus is true of us. Jesus is holy so we are holy. Jesus is perfect so we are perfect. We can’t keep God’s perfect law so we aren’t justified before God, but Jesus did keep God’s perfect law. So if we are in Christ then are justified, just as He is justified.

The wages of sin is death and this is what we have all earned, but the gift of God is eternal life through his Son Jesus and what he did on the cross. You were dead, but God made you alive. Great news 🙂

Band for the week was:

  • Jake Taylor – guitar + vox
  • Alex Dellapenta – guitar + vox
  • Jon Pritchett – guitar
  • John Enzor – bass
  • Brent Francese – drums
  • Christy Gould – vox

Genealogies and Christmas

It might be a sickness but this type of thing excites me a lot. According to Luke….

  • God
  • Adam
  • Seth
  • Enosh
  • Kenan
  • Mahalalel
  • Jared
  • Enoch
  • Methuselah
  • Lamech
  • Noah
  • Shem
  • Arphaxad
  • Shelah
  • Eber
  • Peleg
  • Reu
  • Serug
  • Nahor
  • Terah
  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Judah
  • Perez
  • Hezron
  • Ram
  • Amminadab
  • Nahshon
  • Salmon
  • Boaz
  • Obed
  • Jesse
  • David
  • Nathan
  • Mattatha
  • Menna
  • Melea
  • Eliakim
  • Jonam
  • Joseph
  • Judah
  • Simeon
  • Levi
  • Matthat
  • Jorim
  • Eliezer
  • Joshua
  • Er
  • Elmadam
  • Cosam
  • Addi
  • Melchi
  • Neri
  • Shealtiel
  • Zerubbabel
  • Rhesa
  • Joanan
  • Joda
  • Josech
  • Semein
  • Mattathias
  • Mahath
  • Naggai
  • Hesli
  • Nahum
  • Amos
  • Mattathias
  • Joseph
  • Jannai
  • Melchi
  • Levi
  • Matthat
  • Heli
  • Mary & Joseph
  • Jesus

When I look back at that genealogy I see so many characters who play a major role in the story of what God is doing and what God has done. So many details of each of their lives were orchestrated by God for the purpose of bringing Jesus Christ into the world. And something in my soul moves when I think about how God is sovereign and in complete control over thousands and thousands of years. I personally don’t know any details about a large number of the people on that list. We just don’t have lots of information about them. We know they were Jewish. And that they came to be oppressed by foreign nations who had occupied their homeland. And we know that in that oppression, the Jews were looking and waiting for a messiah. They had prophecies for centuries that foretold that a messiah would come and would rescue them.

I went through a book one time called “What the rabbis know about the Messiah”. It went into painstaking detail about Old Testament prophecy and what the Hebrew people were looking for in a Messiah from prophecy. The sheer number of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled is mindblowing.

All of this was God’s plan from the beginning. He is eternal. Ageless. All powerful. And the salvation of the world is something that he is doing. It’s something that He has done.

This is what I always think about this time of year. Jesus came. Just like God said that He would. In the way that God said that He would. And He accomplished everything that God said that He would.

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[6] For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
[7] Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV)

 

 

Pride

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or more good-looking than others. – CS Lewis

Sunday – 12.16.12

In week 3 of our series “Incarnate” Jeff began by looking at Jesus’ words in John 20. Here Jesus tells his disciples ,”As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” In a sense, Jesus is saying that we, as his disciples, are to go into the world the same way that He came into the world; humbly and with love. We have said throughout the series that Jesus came to the world so that He could be with his people and to provide a way for his people to be with him. In short, Jesus got “down and dirty” in order to be with us and He calls us to do the same thing for each other.

Socialmedia, things like Facebook and Twitter, make it easy to “feel” connected to people but the reality is that many of us are living in an isolation that would have been unimaginable to our ancestors, and yet, we have never been more accessible. In this, our temptation is to constantly put our best foot forward. We like to appear to be constantly happy and healthy and most of us would never want to appear to be anything but. What we have to realize is that Jesus didn’t do that. He gave up all of the happiness and health in the universe to come to earth. And in that He found joy. Jesus’ incarnation calls us to stop putting up a front; to stop focusing on our own happiness; and to get involved in each other’s lives and truly love one another.

Our culture has never been more in need of people who would “go” to them the way the Jesus came to us. Not concerned most with our own happiness, but the happiness of others. Not constantly self-promoting but looking to build up others around us; to be willing to look foolish and needy and incomplete; and leaving our own wellbeing up to God. We need to work to be present with one another; to truly be with each other; involved in each others lives. Jesus calls us to tell others that He loves them, but if we approach the world with the same facade that they themselves have, we will never get through to them.

We shouldn’t be sending the message that we “have it all together.” The message we should be sending is, “I don’t have it all together – in fact I think I’m realizing that I have it less together than I used to – but I know and trust the one who does have it all together, and he is putting me back together.’ Jesus didn’t protect himself from messy relationships. He came to earth on purpose and got in them. This is what His incarnation calls us to.

 

Band for the week was:

  • Kendal Quinn – cello
  • Katie Pritchett – vox
  • Patrick Downing – acoustic guitar + vox

This Coming Weekend….

Truthfully, I had a long blog post typed up just now. I was going to talk about the emotional effects of music and how that affects a congregation at church. I was going to talk about “worship experiences” and the dangers of thinking that music “ushers you into God’s presence”.

But I’m going to scratch all that and just say this: Music is not your mediator. If you are in Christ, then you are always in God’s presence. You don’t need music and you don’t need worship leaders to bring God to you or to bring you before God. Whether or not you are “feeling” the music at any particular point doesn’t make any difference in terms of being in God’s presence. (If it did, what would it mean that you weren’t “feeling it” during a particular service? Would that mean that God wasn’t present? And then what implications would that have….??) I think so many times we rely on a “emotional feeling” to evaluate whether or not we have had a good time of praise and worship or not. And I don’t believe it should be based on that.

**Note – I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t manifest himself in unusual ways sometimes. He does.

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This weekend at Visio Dei the “band” will consist of just an acoustic guitar and a cello. The music won’t be super loud and it won’t be super high energy. Not like we usually have. Truthfully, I am expecting that at least a few people will tell me that they really missed the band and that it was hard to connect with such a minimal setup. People say things like “I really just didn’t ‘feel’ it like I sometimes do”.

I would just say this: intense musical experiences are emotional. It’s meant to be like that. I think that’s a good thing and I get that as much as anyone.

But first and foremost, I don’t want you to be wrapped up in a musical experience. (you can get wrapped up in the music at a Coldplay show…) I want you to be wrapped up in worshiping our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The songs we sing contain truth. Truth about God and truth about our salvation through the gospel. And so we sing those things to worship God and to encourage one another.

All of us are tempted to value “emotional experience’ over truly worshiping God. That can lead to all kinds of problems.

It can make us believe that intense emotions equal an encounter with God. And they don’t.

It can mean feeling disappointed when we aren’t emotionally affected during times of worship. And we shouldn’t be.

If we get more excited about intense musical experiences than we do about the fact that Jesus came to die for our sins and rise again to new life to reconcile us to God then we really are focusing on the wrong things. So the problem with focusing too much on the music and thereby letting your feelings on the time of worship be dictated principally by emotion is that your focus is in the wrong spot.

This weekend at Visio Dei we will have praise and worship like we normally do. But know that our goal is not to impress you with our musical expertise or trick you into getting wrapped up into an emotional musical experience. It’s to serve the church by providing an opportunity to worship God and encourage each other through song.

Opportunities like this really excite me. I am as prone as anyone to “getting into the music” and forgetting about worshiping God. Sometimes it helps to refocus 🙂

Sunday – 12.9.12

This week we were in the second week of our 3-part series called “Incarnate”. Last week Jeff spoke about why Jesus would come to earth. The simple answer is this: “God wants to be with us.” You see this message throughout the entire Bible. This week we asked another important question: “Why did Jesus come the way that He did?” Most of us would think that if God was going to come to earth he would come as a part of a great nation; a nation with power and beauty and wealth. At the time Jesus was born there was no greater nation than Rome. The Roman Empire had all of the power, beauty and wealth in the entire world. Not only that, the ruler of the Roman empire, Augustus, was thought to be a god on earth. It was thought that he would bring salvation to mankind and peace on earth. That’s some real messianic language!

When it came to the coming of the true messiah, God had actually promised to make the Hebrew nation a great nation but at the time that Jesus came, they were anything but. Jesus came to a nation that, at the time, was tiny and had no power; and no wealth. Jesus did not come in splendor. He didn’t live like Augustus did. He was born in a feed trough; in a barn; to  poor parents. Angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds – perhaps the lowliest class of person in Roman society. The Bible says there was nothing beautiful about Jesus. Nothing that would attract you to him at all.

At the time, Jesus doesn’t come to us in power. In heaven, he had power and wealth, but he gave all of that up when he came to earth. He gave that up to be able to have a relationship with us. He comes in quietly and inconspicuously. He doesn’t come into our lives the way rulers of world do. The power, beauty and wealth that our sinful hearts are so often attracted to usually leads us away from the relationship with Christ that we so desperately need and often resist. Make no mistake about it, Jesus intends to rule the entire world but not in the same way that Augustus did. He will do it on heart at a time. And in each heart, he will expand his kingdom little by little and in spite of our resistance.

Our prayer is that God would help us open our hearts to him and to the way he wants to become everything to us.

Band for the week was:

  • Jake Taylor – guitar + vox
  • Alex Dellapenta – guitar + vox
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox
  • Brent Francese – drums
  • John Enzor – bass

 

Sunday – 12.2.12

This Sunday Jeff kicked off our new series for the month of December called “Incarnate.” We finished Proverbs last week with a message about cynicism and how worldly foolishness is actually the path to wisdom. And we talked about how God gives us something absolutely unbelievable to believe in and it’s through that that you discover the wisdom of God. The fact that God would come to earth and put on human flesh may be somewhere near the top of the list of things that are hard to believe.

The birth of Jesus was prophesied for centuries before it occurred. Few of those prophecies are more famous than the one we find in Isaiah chapter 7 where the prophet tells us that, “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” What is often forgotten about this prophecy is to whom and under what circumstances if was given. King Ahaz was perhaps the most wicked of all the kings of Judah. He had offended God in the worst ways at every opportunity, but it was to this king that God promised a sign that God was with his people. It is almost as if God was saying to him, “I don’t care how unfaithful you are to me. I am faithful to you and I want to be with you.”

Throughout the entire Bible, we learn that there is a God who created us and that that God desires to be with us. He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. He came to Abraham. He had Moses build a tent for him and Soloman build a temple so that he could dwell with his people. And then finally, he came to earth as a child born in Bethlehem.

God wants to be with you. He wants to be with you even when you don’t want to be with Him and he came to this world so that He could be.

Band for the week was:

  • Amaree Davis – violin
  • Aaron Chappell – electric guitar + vox
  • Jon Hathaway – acoustic guitar + vox
  • John Bass – bass
  • Zack Van Hoy – drums + perc

The Perfect Sacrifice

A few weeks ago, in this post, I hit on how Jesus is the Perfect High Priest. Today I want to talk about the fact that Jesus is also the perfect sacrifice.

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From the dictionary:

a·tone·ment  (-tnmnt)

n.

1. Amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong; expiation.
2.

a. Reconciliation or an instance of reconciliation between God and humans.
b. Atonement Christianity The reconciliation of God and humans brought about by the redemptive life and death of Jesus.
3. Obsolete Reconciliation; concord.
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Under the Mosaic covanent, (aka ‘the law’) the people of God were constantly making or offering sacrifices to God. There were all kinds of sacrifices that were made for all kinds of different things, but more often than not they involved killing animals of some sort. In short, this is because God accepted the blood of those animals as atonement for the sins of the people. See this is because when the people of God sinned, first and foremost they sinned against God. They broke God’s law. They broke God’s covenant. And when they did that they became unclean and unacceptable to God. The blood of the animals atoned for their sins. And made the people clean and acceptable to God. And gave them access to God until they became unclean again.
But the people were always sinning.
And so they were always sacrificing and spilling the blood of more and more animals.
They always had to because those sacrifices were incomplete. They were imperfect. The blood of goats and bulls could never really clean consciences; souls.
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But Hebrews 9 says this:

[11] But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) [12] he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. [13] For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, [14] how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The Bible teaches that Jesus died on the cross. And when he did that he shed his blood to make atonement for our sins; much in the same way that the blood of goats of bulls made atonement for sins under the old covenant. The blood of Christ cleans us. It reconciles us to God. It makes us acceptable to him. And allows us to have access to him.

But read Hebrews 9 again (see above). The difference between Jesus’ sacrifice and all the others is that Jesus’ sacrifice was so pure, so perfect that it only had to be done once. It was sufficient in the eyes of God to atone for all of our sins for all time.

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The New Testament DOES refer to sacrifices that we are to make as believers; things like sacrifices of praise and offering ourselves as “living sacrifices”, but those things are done in response to the sacrifice of Christ. Those things do not make atonement for sin. They aren’t what make us acceptable to God and aren’t what give us any kind of relationship with God. Only the perfect blood of Christ does that.
Religion tells us that we have to earn the right to be with God. We have to be good enough or we have to offer something to God that will make us acceptable to him. But the Bible teaches that there is absolutely nothing we can bring to God that will accomplish that. No amount of right living or moral behavior. No amount of great worship or Bible study. No amount of serving the poor or feeding the hungry.
Exactly one thing makes atonement for our sins for all time: the perfect blood of Christ shed through his perfect sacrifice.
So its done. No more atoning sacrifices. Christ’s sacrifice has made it possible for us to be completely clean in the eyes of God. There is nothing more to do.

Sunday – 11.25.12

This Sunday Jeff wrapped up our series from the book of Proverbs by bringing a simple message from the book of 1 Corinthians. Simply put, there is a difference between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God. The reality is that we in the world only know God through something that, for those who do not believe, comes across as foolishness; we believe that we are all sinners and Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose again and will one day return. This is what God calls us to believe and to believe this is Godly wisdom but it’s worldly foolishness.

Our church and in some ways our entire generation has a particular aversion to playing the fool. This can lead to a mistrust of people and their motivations, a lack of faith or hope in the human race and in the end it leads to cynicism. Our church, Visio Dei, sees this in our culture but we, in making an appeal to the untrusting and the cynical can sometimes have a propensity to be just as cynical as the world around us. In so many ways, cynicism is just a mode of self defense. It presumes the worst about everything and everyone and then defends against it. And because cynicism thinks it sees ‘what is really going on’, it feels real, authentic. We can be so afraid of looking foolish that we sometimes decide it’s better not to believe anything. How this can be detrimental to our faith should be obvious. In the eyes of the world we are called to believe something foolish. And God calls that ‘wisdom.’ Our existence as a church and our walk as believers is based on faith and is inherently something we have to choose to believe. We live in a world that cynically says, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’. But we follow a God who says, ‘You’ll see it after you believe it.’

God calls us out of our cynicism and into faith and “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” To fight the cynical spirit that says, ‘I can’t count on anyone but myself’ and believe completely on Jesus.

[7] The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
                  (Proverbs 1:7 ESV)

Band for the week was:

  • Julie Watkins – vox
  • Brent Francese – dejmbe + perc
  • John Enzor – bass
  • Patrick Downing – guitar + vox