December Letter from Pastor Jack…. Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas!

I trust you are doing well and growing in your faith in Jesus.  I wanted to get out a quick note to let you know about the opportunities that are right in front of us and occurring around the Christmas season.  There are three events approaching quickly that I wanted to highlight.

  • This Saturday at 10:00am there is a Women’s Ministry brunch that apparently includes wearing an ugly Christmas sweater.  To be honest, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a non-ugly Christmas sweater, so that category for me is wide open.   You ladies will have a great time together.
  • This coming Sunday morning at the conclusion of our 11:00 AM service, we will be baptizing people in water. If you want to participate in this spiritually important step of following Jesus, bring a towel, a swimsuit, and a T-shirt that you can wear for the baptism.  It is going to be awesome!
  • That night, at 6:00 we will be celebrating the graduation of students from our leadership institute here in Redding and the first class from the satellite program in Red Bluff. Everyone is welcome to attend, so if you have been curious about what Qadash is and does, this is an excellent way to find that out and support some amazing students as well.
  • On 12/11 Encore will be hosting their Christmas party and white elephant gift exchange. If you are over 45 and have not attended one of these parties, you are missing something pretty fun.

Lastly, I wanted to give you a bit more information on our December 21st Christmas service.  The theme of that 11:00am service is “Unto us… Unto me.”  In addition to some usual components to that service we will be focusing on the gift of children that God has given into families.  God’s gift of His Son presents us with the opportunity of salvation as we receive that gift by faith.  God’s gift of children presents us with certain responsibilities that we accept and dedicate ourselves to do by the power of the Holy Spirit and with the support of the church.  Our plans are to provide a large scale child dedication that includes newborns and children up to age 11.  I know many parents who came to Christ well after having children and did not have the opportunity to make this commitment and offer their children in dedication to God.  We have put something together for parents that will help describe the purpose and process of child dedication.  You can find this by following this web-link http://citychurchredding.org/child-dedications/ or hard copies will be available in the welcome center beginning this Sunday.  We do need to have an idea of how many children will be included in this dedication ahead of time, so please call the church office to let us know or sign up at the welcome center.

Additionally, in that same service we will be praying over and offering words of blessing over each child in attendance.  This will include all children up to age 18.  Families will stand together and bless each child speaking prepared blessings and spontaneous words over them.  Groups of elder-leaders will be ready to stand in surrogate roles speaking blessing over youth who are in attendance without their parents or other family.  We have put together a simple guide for parents to use in preparing and writing out these blessings over their children.  You can find this by following this web-link http://citychurchredding.org/blessing-your-children/ or hard copies of this guide will also be available in the welcome center beginning this Sunday.

I believe that is it for now.  Look for another letter from me in the last week of this month that will outline our Seek Week dates and theme for 2015, and information on what I think are exciting changes and developments that we will experience early in the New Year.

Grace and peace to you,

Pastor Jack

That Sounded Way Different in My Head…

cupI’ve been told I can “carry a tune” as the expression goes.  When I try to match a note with my voice that someone is singing or playing around me, I think I do an okay job of doing that.  There are some notes I would really like to sing, that I just can’t quite pull off.  The pure, clear tone that I hear in my head sounds very different when I try to create it with my voice.  It comes out of my mouth strained, cracking, and not quite there in pitch; unpleasant was not my intent but it is the result nonetheless.  Some people are what we call tone-deaf.  The way they hear the note they are singing is not any different to their ear than the note that is being sung or played around them, and what they hear in their head is exactly what they hear when they belt it out loud.  The tryout rounds of American Idol provide enough evidence of this.  There are people who are convinced that they sing exceptionally well and they boldly stand in front of a panel of music professionals and tell them so.  I figure one of three things is happening in their lives.  One, they have no true friends who are willing to tell them, “Hey, that business management degree that you gave up so you could pursue a singing career… yeah, you might want to consider reenrolling in that.”  Two, they have friends and family who would like to tell them that they really can’t sing, but they don’t want to hurt their feelings or crush their dream.  Three, all of their friends and family members suffer from the same condition; they too are tone-deaf.

Last Sunday I ventured into some waters in the message that had some people a bit surprised and others perhaps concerned about what I said.  I talked about how too much of a good thing is not necessarily good for us and the one good thing that I feel has gone out of balance is our focus on personal and private devotions.  I wanted to follow that up with some additional affirmations on both sides of this matter, and to add back in some of the thoughts that wound up not being communicated because the clock and I are in a weekly, unhappy street brawl.

First let me affirm the practice of daily private devotions.  Yes, do that.  My encouragement on Sunday was for you to focus this time on prayer and seeking and meditation.  All three of those practices are helped and indeed dependent on the inclusion of Scripture, so don’t leave Bible reading out.  What I was contending for was a counterweight to the excessive emphasis that is placed on the learning and understanding side of private devotions.  This ideal has been reinforced by the personal testimony of spiritual people and an entire division of Christian publications.  You can log onto Amazon, Christian Book Distributors or any other number of websites today and purchase a topically themed book, a companion devotional guide, a small group workbook and in some cases a music CD that is provided to aid in your time of reading and meditation.

I identified that the accessibility of personal Bible study materials falls into a not-so-beneficial agreement with a strong cultural bent among American Christians.  We are people who passionately crave independence and fight for our rights of individualism.  The pursuit of Scriptural learning and understanding primarily in this private, individual fashion disallows the vital practice of getting what we think out into the open.  Just like an attempt to sing a particular note that you “hear” in your head, but when it comes out of your mouth it sounds very different, the spiritual ideas and conclusions we reach in private devotions also sound very different when shared outside of the realm of thought and imagination.  And for those of us who are a bit truth-deaf; making even the things we say out loud always seem “right on pitch,” the solo pursuit of learning and understanding will leave us without the necessary dissenting voices that can help us evaluate what we cannot discern for ourselves.   Some of us just need Keith Urban to say, “Yeah baby, that was not really good at all, sorry.”

The message last week identified three benefits of learning in community that I won’t use this space to restate.  Please check out the podcast on the media tab of the City Church website to catch those points or refresh your memory.  One important item that I left unsaid on Sunday has to do with thinking about this in terms of a sliding scale.  The newer or perhaps a better way to say it would be the more underdeveloped your Biblical understanding is, the more time you should spend learning and wrestling with the implications of the Gospel in community with other believers.  In that group you will likely have people who have read more of the Old Testament than you have, or understand the context of things that Paul or James wrote in the New Testament that will really help your reading and understanding of those passages.  The more developed and mature your understanding of the Bible is, allows for more private times of reading and study and more benefit from such times.  Just be honest in this assessment of your development.  Most of us know far less than we imagine and understand even less than we imagine we know.

One of the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the young pastor Timothy was to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13).  Some might assume that the need to read Scripture in public expired with the common availability of printed Bibles.  I believe that this is a wrong assumption to make, especially when taking the Bible “private” disallows for so many of the community-provided benefits that keep our understanding balanced, our “hearing” accurate and our personal application of truth from becoming, well… just weird.

Thanks for reading the thoughts I needed to get out of my head.  Perhaps now I can get back to sleep.

Pastor Jack Witt

Blessing Your Children…

handsOne of the most tender moments recorded in the life of Jesus is when the disciples were apparently forbidding little children from coming near Jesus.

Matthew 19:13-15 (NLT)
Some children were brought to Jesus so He could lay His hands on them and pray for them. The disciples told them not to bother Him. 14  But Jesus said, “Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” 15  And He put His hands on their heads and blessed them before He left.

We see the concept of blessing spread through the pages of the Bible.  The spoken or pronounced blessing over people is a form of prayer.  Instead of asking God to do something on someone’s behalf, we are given the privilege of affirming what we perceive that God already is or intends to do in or for them.  So a blessing may be as simple as saying “God’s grace and peace be upon you” as the Apostle Paul frequently said in the opening or closing of his letters to churches or individuals.  How do we know that this blessing applies to others?  Because it is a part of God’s promise to all people.

In the culture of ancient Israel, parents would perceive God’s unique gifts and work in their children and typically as the child entered adulthood they would pronounce the blessings that the Holy Spirit had allowed them to “see” over them.  That insight contributed even to the meanings in the names that they gave to their children.  The blessing often included the division of an inheritance if the blessing was given near the end of the parent’s life.

As contemporary believers we have taken the example of Jesus blessing the children as cited above in conjunction with other recorded blessings even for infants and recognized the value of parents blessing their children especially around significant points in the life of the child.  Both John the Baptist and Jesus received blessings that were prophetically inspired and spoken or prayed over them as infants.  A significant part of our practice of child dedication involves prayed and spoken blessings over the children.

What this guide is intended to do is encourage both your thinking and practice of writing, recording and speaking blessing over your own children.

Writing a blessing
It is amazing how soon the personality of a child begins to emerge from the squirms and squeals of infancy.  I believe that believing parents are given Holy Spirit provided insight into the kinds of things that God intends to bring out of these little ones as they mature and grow.  I would encourage you to pay attention to these insights and combine them with general promises from Scripture that you believe to have particular meaning to your child, and then write them down.  This written blessing can then be used at a dedication ceremony or other occasions like birthdays or graduations.  Writing them down can also serve as an important reminder to parents of God’s intention toward their children when they are moving through times of rebellion or making poor choices.

It doesn’t have to be 12 pages long; just a few sentences are fine.   In fact the shorter it is the more focused you have to be on the important essentials of what you perceive for them and the easier it will be for you to remember sections of it without having to find and read it.

The end of this guide provides some scriptural suggestions, a sample blessing and a couple of websites that may help you in this process.  For now I’d like to touch on the two other components to blessing that I referred to earlier:  Recording and Speaking.

Recording
At one particularly impactful time in our lives as parents we had a visiting speaker to our church who had a very strong and unique prophetic gift.  As he prayed and prophesied over a number of other leaders he came to Pamela and me and immediately asked about our children.  He described in Scripture and specific images our three children and the kinds of things God had in mind for them.  We recorded those words at that time and they became very important to us in the way that we thought about our children and the way that we blessed them.

My recommendation would be to pay attention to the way that spiritually minded people talk about your children, things they point out that they see in them and specific ways that they pray for them.  Record these things and revisit them in your own praying life and find opportunities to talk with your children and point at those things that have been recognized and spoken over them by others.

Speaking
Blessings or recorded words are only nice thoughts if they never make it from your journal or a folded page in your Bible and onto your lips.  You voice in the life of your child is significant for hearing instruction, wisdom, guidance and correction.  However, your voice in speaking blessing over is immeasurably important in its contribution to the way that their Heavenly Father sees them and the spiritual frame through which they see themselves and their world.  We have used significant birthdays celebrating a Christianized Bar-Mitzvah for our son when he turned 13 and Bat-Mitzvahs for our two girls when they turned 12.  There in front of their friends and family we prayed blessings and reminded them of the promises of God that overshadowed their lives.  These moments were not only significant for them, they were very impacting on their 12 and 13 year old friends, inspiring other families to do for their children what we were seeking to do for ours.

Find occasions of celebration and moments of decision in the life of your child to bless them and remind them of God’s provisions and promises.  The spiritual returns for this kind of investment are beyond measurement.

 

Here are a few Bible verses that you may want to consider using in writing this blessing:

  • Romans 15:13 – “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” OR – God of Hope, may You fill my son/daughter, __________, with all joy and peace as he/she trusts in You, so that he/she may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Ephesians 1:16-19 – “I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that…the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe…”
  • Ephesians 3:14-19 – “I kneel before the Father…I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
  • Philippians 1:3-6 – “I thank God every time I remember you. In all my prayers…I always pray with joy…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
  • Philippians 1:9-10 – “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.”
  • Colossians 4:2, 5-6 – “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful… Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 – “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 – “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 – “We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:5, 16 – “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance…Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”
  • 2 Timothy 2:1 – “You then, my son (daughter), be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
  • Philemon 6 – “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
  • Hebrews 13:20-21 – “May the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
  • 1 Peter 5:10

Here is a sample of a blessing for you to get an idea on how to approach writing one for your child:

(Example Blessing)

Father, I receive, welcome and acknowledge each of my children as a delightful blessing from You.  I speak your blessings upon them and over them.
Children, I bless you in the name of Jesus, proclaiming the blessings of God, my Redeemer, upon you. May He give you wisdom, a reverential fear of God, and a heart of love.  May He create in you the desire to attend to His words; a willing and obedient heart that you may consent and submit to His ways. May your eyes look straight ahead with purpose for the future. May your tongue be as the pen of a ready writer, writing mercy and kindness upon the tablets of your heart. May you speak the truth in love.  May your hands do the works of the Father, may your feet walk the paths which He has foreordained for you.

These websites are also really helpful in this process:

http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/spiritual-growth-for-kids/blessing-your-child/blessing-your-child

http://www.thrivingfamily.com/Features/Magazine/2011/blessing-your-children.aspx

Child Dedications…

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Why do we dedicate instead of baptize?
Some faith traditions baptize children as a way of affirming their security in God’s salvation.  We believe that God does not hold children responsible for things that they cannot understand so they are covered by God’s grace and live in that security until they reach the age at which they can understand the concepts of sin, faith, repentance and salvation.  We also believe that the Scriptures present the model of child dedication originally in the dedication of Samuel by his mother Hannah in the Old Testament  (1 Samuel 1:9-28).  Also, Jesus parents presented Him at the temple in dedication  (Luke 2:21-24).

What are we actually doing in bring children to be dedicated to God?
A number of people have rightly asked why we present children to God in dedication when He has given them to parents as gifts (Psalm 127:3).  What parents are actually doing is identifying their children as holy, or set apart for the Lord.  In dedication they thank God, recognizing that the child is a gift from His hand, and they also acknowledge God’s claim on the child’s life that they would live in a way that honors Him and that follows His purposes.  The dedication element to this ceremony is more about the parents than it is about the child.  Parents present themselves to the Lord with their children committing themselves to the responsibility of raising that child to know God and honor Him so that they may at some point choose to love and serve Him for themselves.

What happens in the dedication ceremony?
The parent or parents of the child along with supportive friends and family members stand before the attending pastor and the gathered congregation.  They will be reminded of the responsibility they have been given and asked to enter into two specific promises as they dedicate themselves to this important work.  The promises are:

  • Do you pledge as parents that, with God’s fatherly help, you will bring up your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, making every reasonable effort, with patience and love, to build the Word of God, the character of Christ and the joy of the Lord into their lives?
  • Do you promise to provide, through God’s blessing, for the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual needs of your children, looking to your own heavenly Father for the wisdom, love and strength to serve them and not use them?

After making these promises, prayers are offered over the parent or parents asking for God’s wisdom, strength and provisions to fulfill this vow and raise their child as they have promised.

The end of the dedication involves prayers of blessing that are prayed over the child.  These are affirmations of God’s promises and prophetic glimpses into the kind of person that they will grow up to be.

Does this dedication only apply to infants?
No.  We encourage parents to dedicate children up to the age of 10.  Some parents have been separated from their children for various reasons, or they have only come to know Christ themselves after their child turned 4 or 5 years old.  This dedication applies to these circumstances as well.

Do both parents have to be present for this dedication?
If both parents are believers and are together, they both should be present and involved in the dedication.  In the case of divorce or one parent being removed from day to day responsibility of raising the child, these single moms or dads are welcome to present their child in dedication.

How do I go about arranging to have my child dedicated?
We try to provide regular opportunities for child dedications, so watch for announcements about these dates.  Otherwise, just contact the church office and make this request.  Arrangements will be made within a reasonable time frame to schedule your dedication into one of our services.

Conviction or Condemnation???

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I attended a budgeting Community Group this summer.  It was a great class with a great group of people who were willing to be honest about their budgets and all of their emotions around their budgeting, or lack thereof.  There’s a lot of emotion around money, isn’t there?  Many people feel shame, or at least a nagging sense that they aren’t doing enough.  We discussed one of Satan’s most common tricks that he uses on Christians… guilt.

Guilt is a tough one, isn’t it?  I mean, I really did whatever it is that I feel bad about, so it feels very legit to feel guilty about it.  It even feels like we should feel guilty about it.  The Bible talks about godly sorrow, and surely I am supposed to feel it for a good long while, right?  In our last budgeting class we look at two well-known sinners in the Bible who committed some pretty serious sins, and how they each responded.

Judas and Peter were both intimate companions with Jesus.  They walked with him for 3 years.  They were both there at the famous Last Super, where Jesus spent His last meal with his friends.  And that night, in very different ways, they both betrayed their Messiah.  Judas turned Him in to the people that wanted Him dead, and Peter, though swearing he would die defending Him, denied ever having known Him, three times.  They both felt tremendous guilt.  But they handled their guilt very differently.

We know that Judas hung himself, unable to live with the shame of his actions.  Peter, on the other hand, responded by going fishing, going back to what he knew.  You can read the account of how Jesus interacts with Peter in John 21 (see the link below).  But I’ll give you the gist of it right here.  Peter, John, Thomas, and Nathanael went fishing and caught nothing all night.  At dawn, Jesus calls out to them from the shore “Hey kids, have ya caught any fish?”  They answer that they have not and He tells them something similar to what they have heard from Him before, the first time they met Him (see Luke 5).  He says to them from the shore, “Cast your net on the other side.  That’s where the fish are.”  And as before, they obeyed and caught so many fish that they could not even pull in the net!  John recognizes this miracle and shouts out, “It’s the Lord!”  And what does Peter do?  He immediately does the very opposite of what Judas did… He throws on his clothes, jumps into the cold water, and swims straight to Jesus!  The rest of the guys are stuck hauling this heavy load in on their own.  He doesn’t care… Jesus is here, and he finally gets a chance to talk to Him.  He trusts the Lord and knows that his sin has not separated him from God forever.

When they all reach the shore, Jesus has some fish cooking already, but asks them to bring some of their fish over as well.  Peter immediately jumps into action and grabs some fish for Jesus.  Jesus makes them breakfast.  How awkward is that moment for Peter?  “We’re just eatin’ breakfast, not talking about the fact that I recently denied ever having known the Savior of the world… who just made me breakfast.”  Awkward for sure.

After breakfast comes the famous conversation between Peter and Jesus where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loves Him.

“Peter, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord.  You know I love you!”

“Feed my lambs.  Peter, son of John, do you love me?”

“Yes, Lord.  You know I love you!”

“Tend my sheep.  Peter, do you love me?”

Peter is now grieved that Jesus is asking him again.

“Lord, you know everything, and you know that I love you.”

If it was me, I would be weeping by now.

Peter, in all his shame, gets to Jesus as quickly as he can, and faces a very emotional conversation with Jesus.  And Jesus gives Peter a job to do.  Something to obey.

The difference between the shame that Judas felt and the conviction that Peter felt is that Judas felt that there was nothing that could be done about his sin, and so he hung himself in a hopeless state.  Peter knew that he could run to Jesus, and Jesus gave him work to do!

Here’s how you know if what you are feeling is from Satan or from God.  Satan will give you a sinking feeling of guilt over what you’ve done, and that is all.  There will be no steps to take, no way out, nothing you can do to change those feelings.  Jesus, on the other hand, will offer forgiveness, give you steps to take to move forward, and give you the power you’ll need to take those steps!  Peter received his power on the day of Pentacost.  In Acts chapter 2 he preaches a heck of a sermon, sharing the gospel, and 3,000 people were saved!  I’d say he successfully fed Jesus’ sheep!

Do not let shame cripple you, my dear friends.  Take that shame to Jesus, confess your sin openly, weep and wail with Him if you must, and then listen.  I assure you that He will have something to say to you.  He will not stop at offering you forgiveness, but he will give you a task and then empower you to do it by his Holy Spirit.  Obeying those instructions will not bring you redemption.  That is the work of the Cross.  But it will restore you and your emotions, and move you along in growth and in the kingdom of God.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+21&version=ESV

Dreams & Fears… and Fears of Dreams

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I was speaking to a room full of adults about dreams recently. Now in a room full of elementary students that conversation topic is splendid; joyous even. But in a room full of adults with 25 plus years of life experience, the topic is devastating. In that room people brought up dreams like they were old relics, hardly recognizable because of the rust and decay that they were found in. Others expressed their dreams but with a faint laugh in their voice, as if they were talking about riding a unicorn one day or having tea with Big Foot. Sometimes, the chasm that exists between where we are and where we want to be is found too daunting and therefore the start of those dreams fades in our rear view mirror in our haste to leave the unattainable desires as promptly as possible.

Starting things is rough on anything. Think about your car in the morning; cold and collecting dew. Motionless and solid like a monument. But in one moment a key is turned and an electrical current sparks a highly flammable liquid that leads to an explosion; the most violent of reactions freeing up frozen gears. Solid frigid steel that was locked into place is forced to jar upwards and then a second explosion forces another reaction, hurling hundreds of once lifeless parts into a bustle of commotion and movement. Extreme temperature changes begin in a flash and friction radiates out only to be suppressed by a coolant that regulates the once rocketing heat. And your car goes through this hundreds, if not thousands of times in one year. The start is not the easiest thing in the world but it is the only way to begin. And who doesn’t want to benefit from something that is running, forcefully advancing even.

There are lots of people who only speak of a dream…only to dream about that dream beginning. Many people who, under the sleep of fear, do not start because it might be painful. Yes, it will be painful. It is guaranteed in life. Sons and daughters never arrive without pain, payday never comes without work and the car never starts without friction and an explosion. Is there a noble dream that has ever been tried and found to be wanting? Never! Only dreams untried because they were found to be too difficult. Do you want to move forward? Do you wish for the flowing of air against your face as you cut through to progress?

As we go through the beginning of anything like getting your financial world put back together, resolving conflict, or maybe even getting plugged into a community group, remember that the beginning will be rough. Don’t be surprised by it. Embrace it and push through it. There are no benefits of moving without the start. And here is some really good news. Everyone else has to start too. So join arms, take a deep breath and START today.

Pastor Jarred

Have You Heard the News???

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Ephesians 4:2-3

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace…”

To the City Church Family,

Many of you have been aware of the process we have been walking through to relocate the activities that we do as a church to a property where everything is under one roof.  I have not been the kind of pastor that is super interested in facilities.  Since planting this church in 1997 we have been somewhat nomadic and I have been pretty contented in that tent-dwelling life.  I have also loved the idea that sharing facilities with other churches, as we have now with the First Presbyterian and Seventh-Day Adventist congregations, has been a wonderful way to steward Kingdom resources.  I did have the sense when we began using the SDA facilities that this was going to be a very temporary landing spot for us.  When we crossed over the one-year mark of meeting there in February of 2013 I began asking specific questions in prayer regarding where we were to be.

The only answer that I heard as I returned home from my sabbatical was that it was time to bring the church into one place and under the same roof.  I initially imagined that would be coordinating to find a way to do weekend services around the Presbyterian’s service schedule.  When that door was effectively closed to us, I redirected my eyes toward facilities that we could rent or own exclusively, and then spent some time searching for buildings like that.  As I looked at locations and prices, and considered the costs of improvements, I found myself grieved at the prospect of putting very large amounts of money into walls and floors that might provide a place for us, but would, at the same, time financially limit or constrain the work of reaching people with the love of God, growing them up in disciple-making, and deploying people in ministry service to others.

When the property on South Bonnyview Road was pointed out to me as a possibility, I initially rejected it because there is a church already functioning there and I was well on my way towards looking for arrangements that would allow us to identify ourselves clearly in our mission and the freedom to do all that Jesus has placed in our hearts to do.  As I considered it further, I felt that I should reach out to the pastor of Destiny Fellowship at South Bonnyview, and as I drove to meet him, I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking to me that I was to make my heart and desires fully known to Pastor James.  So I laid out the cards telling him that we are not interested in another “tenancy.” We want a place of partnership and collaboration in ministry.  I knew that theologically both churches were almost identical.  What I did not know is how this request would provide an answer to prayer for their church.  It became apparent from that first meeting that God’s hand was involved in this process, so we began walking through the multiple meetings, seasons of prayer and negotiations that were necessary to bring us to this moment.

Work has already begun on the group of rooms that we will be occupying for our offices, meeting, and Children’s Ministry rooms.  We plan to move everything from the Presbyterian Church and be fully functional at South Bonnyview by the end of this month.  Finding a way to share facilities on Sunday morning presented one of the greatest challenges as both Destiny Fellowship and the City Church currently hold services beginning at 10:00a.m.  Ultimately a decision was made for Destiny to move their service to 9:00 and we will move ours to 11:00.  The change of service time and location will begin on Sunday, August 3rd.

I need to ask you for your help with two specific practical matters.  First, we are being generously welcomed to move into and use these facilities, but we are moving alongside an existing congregation of people.  My request is that you walk with “grace out front.”  This means that kindness, understanding, and a willingness to overlook faults show up wherever you go; just a couple of moments before you.  We will need to walk this way in relationship with the people and leaders at Destiny Fellowship and among our own family and leaders as we make all the necessary adjustments that accompany any kind of change.

My second request is that you reprioritize your participation at Sunday worship gatherings.  I know what the trends indicate:  the average Christian attends a weekend worship service once every three weeks.  Our lives are busy and weekends can get jammed with activities or projects that are hard to do during a work week.  I do understand all of that, but in a culture of low expectation around attendance at a Sunday worship service, it is really easy to allow this to fall into the lowest or last place of priority.  I’m not going to try to change your long-term thinking about this right here or right now.  What I am going to ask is that you, for the sake of our unity of spirit and community of thought, words and response, would do your absolute best to be in worship each Sunday through the next three months.

I was reading in Haggai a couple of months ago and in chapter 1:2-9 God speaks through Haggai to the people who were putting off the building of the house of God (the temple), so that they could remodel and improve their own homes.  He calls them to “… go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild My house.”  This Scripture is often used to promote building projects and physical church campuses.  The house of the Lord for us, however, is the expression of ministry that God has given us to do in this community; the calling of City Church to put our hands and hearts into the loving, growing, and serving mission He has assigned to us.  As we move to South Bonnyview Road, we find a physical house already built and waiting to be used for God’s glory.  The task that stands in front of us is to divide attention away from our self-interests and “go up into the hills and bring down timber” so that together we may rebuild the ministry house of reaching, teaching, disciple-making, loving, serving, encouraging, and investing in the lives of those who don’t know Christ and those who are needing help finding their way to follow Him.

We are excited and energized about the path and provision that God has brought before us.  I believe that this physical move will open up new possibilities along the path of ministry and mission which we have already been walking.  Hopefully you have already heard about the VBS being planned for August 4th-6th and the remaining summer Community Groups that will happen that month.  The Rendering, the City Church youth group, will be moving to a Wednesday night meeting beginning August 6th.  We also have our annual Church on Location at Whiskeytown Lake on August 24th.   Lastly, mark your calendars for Sunday, September 7th.  We are planning an after-service BBQ and potluck celebration of our move to the South Bonnyview location.  This will be a fun day of music, food, games, and community, all in honor and celebration of Jesus and His provision and work through this church.

 

Receiving Christ’s grace, and giving Him glory,

Pastor Jack

One Another’ing…

crowd2_people

Philippians 2:1-4
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

Many years ago, I would read scriptures like these and agree with them and believe them, but I was also left a little lost with them.  This was because I didn’t have a real place of service in the kingdom of God.  I didn’t have a great place to apply them.  I wasn’t consistently serving in my community, my church, etc.

When you aren’t doing these things, firstly, it’s pretty easy to be like minded (“of one mind” vs. 2) with the few people you have in your life that you are friends with.  That’s kind of why we have the friends we have, for the most part.  You have similar thoughts and ideas about life.  You naturally “get along” with them.  So this scripture isn’t referring to our close friends.  God is asking us to reach out past those that we naturally get along with.

Secondly, it’s hard to legitimately say that you aren’t doing anything “out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, not looking to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”, when you aren’t serving in your community.  Even serving your family to a certain degree is self beneficial.  But when you are serving in your community, at a shelter, or a club for kids, or through your church, by teaching children in Sunday school, leading a Bible study, serving in VBS, or cooking for someone in need, you are truly looking not just to your own interests (though we all know that these things do bring us joy, and that’s truly awesome), but you are now also looking to the needs of another.

There are many such scriptures that simply cannot be practiced well when we are not serving our community.  Did you know that in the English Standard Version of the Bible, the phrase “one another” appears 53 times in the epistles alone?  That’s a lot of “one another’ing”!

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer…
Romans 12:16  Live in harmony with one another.
2 Corinthians 13:11 Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace…
Ephesians 4:2 …with all humility and gentleness, withpatience,bearing with one another in love…
2 Thessalonians 1:3 … the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
James 5:9  Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged…
1 John 1:7  But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another…
Hebrews 10:25  …not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.

…to name a few!

If you find church uncomfortable, it’s okay.  You’re not alone!  Don’t let that deter you from being a part of your church body.  Those uncomfortable feelings are meant to be part of the refining process!  Find a place to serve, find someone to disciple you, and don’t be intimidated by your own short comings, or the short comings of those around you!  Church is not perfect… far from it.  It’s filled with imperfect people all trying to work out their salvation, as God is working in them, giving them the desire and power to please Him (Philippians 2:12-13).  But it is one of the places that we are called to do all this “one another’ing”!

-Katrina Brooks

Dads Make a Difference…

hands

It was easy to slip into the women’s dressing room without making eye contact with the gentleman sitting outside the room, obviously waiting for his wife….or so I thought. Soon a door closed, and what sounded like a young teen went out and spoke to the guy. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, but it was impossible to miss the conversation. She was seeking his opinion, and he was coaching his daughter about her clothing selections. He didn’t sound pushy, and he wasn’t negative about any of the choices. In a matter-of-fact tone of voice he told her why he liked one pair of shorts over another pair and commented on the pros and cons of some top she had tried on. They talked several minutes before she went back into the dressing room, and my amazement and respect for this guy simply ballooned.

One of the greatest needs a daughter (or a son for that matter) has is the approval and affirmation of a father. Whether or not children are sufficiently secure to not always be wondering if they’re really and truly loved will greatly affect their futures. If they’re not sure of what dad thinks about them, they will always be striving for his approval, acceptance, and affection. This can lead to a performance-driven life, and insecurity in relationships. Children need their father’s smile, his “Yes!” of approval, even when they make mistakes and blow it.

Our heavenly Father’s attitude toward us is one of joy so great that he sings and rejoices over us (Zeph. 3:17). For many, this is hard to believe wholeheartedly. Yeah, the Bible says it, but they still don’t see themselves as worthy or good enough, drowning in feelings of failure and shame, and still trying to measure up. An earthly Father who has experienced the unconditional love of God, knows that he’s accepted in the Beloved, is no longer striving for His approval, but is living by grace alone and enjoying the smile of his Father, can be a father who smiles on his children. Children need to know they don’t have to earn that smile.

On two occasions recently, I saw and read of football players who were asked who they were searching for when they looked into the stands. All of them said they were looking to see if their dads were there. A dad’s very presence and involvement can make a difference in a child’s life. His love and approval go a long way in that child’s becoming who he or she was created to be. When children are secure in a dad’s love, they can stop living for a father’s approval, and begin to live from his approval. Can you think of 5 things you love about your son or daughter? You need to tell them! And tell them often and in different ways! Let them hear you say positive things about them to other people. Do things with them that they enjoy doing. Speak often of God’s plans for their lives and point them to the destiny He calls them to.

When I left the dressing room that day, I felt compelled to speak to that father who was shopping with his daughter. I told him that was a fortunate young lady in that dressing room. Why?” he asked. “Because she has a father who cares enough to go shopping with her and coach her on her clothing choices,” I said, leaving him with a thumbs up and a “good job.” I’ve thought a lot about that day. If dads don’t care enough or aren’t confident enough to weigh in on things that are important to their kids, it will be the culture and their friends who end up influencing their choices. It will be the culture that molds their worldview. A loving, caring, involved dad really can make a difference. I hope every Christian Father will seize the opportunities to speak into his sons’ and daughters’ hearts and lives, giving them a hope for their future and a foundation of faith for living.

By Pastor Dora Clarkson

Hacky Sack Etiquette…

hackyWith many years of playing hacky sack at youth group we have observed every type of player and have created the following as etiquette for playing hacky sack at youth group.

Rule #1

Be there.

We know you have excuses why not to play, we all have one.  We’ve heard them all too:  You’re too tired; never played before; don’t know how to play; too tall; too short; bad hair day; you’re shoes hurt; you lost your legs in Vietnam.  Look, there is no excuse for not joining the circle.  Just be there.  If the hacky sack comes your way and you have legs that work, swing at it.  If you’re in a chair, stall it.  If you’re just unwilling, move out momentarily then come back.

Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews10:25

 

Rule #2

Play (your part).

Hacky sack itself is fun, but your presence adds to the dynamic.  Everyone’s presence adds amusement, drama, and performance.  You will encounter all kinds of players with all kinds of styles and they’re all there to play their part in the friend circle.

Aliyah – her role is to keep anyone from blaming their shoes as the problem with their hack game.  Andrew – his role is to help us reach our goals; but still no pizza yet.  Ben – his role is to compliment others in the circle while getting a couple good hacks in the air, which is unheard of in our hack circles.  Carolyn – her role is to bring life into a fading circle that hasn’t seen the hack count go past one in over five minutes.  Charllotte – her role is to join the circle when it starts then leave before we ever get a hack going and then return again just at the right time to complete the hack.  Danielle – her role is to inspire the next generation of hacky sackers while bringing a contagious laughter.  Dean – his role is to smile and serve it to you off of your torso.  Dom – his role is step on your hands if your reach for the dead ball by his side; Honey badger don’t care.  Hunter – his role is to tell you about his friend who can hack with his eyes closed while practicing incredible moves of his own.  Jasmine – her role is to test your patience.  Manny – his role is fight for the dead ball and make impressive stalls.  Megan – her role is to swat the hacky sack to the ground if it is not exactly where she needs it to be; tis noble to keep the ball in the circle.  Sophia – her role is to show us all that hacky sack was meant to be a girl’s sport.  You see?  Everyone has a part to play.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:12

 

Rule #3

Choose Your Attitude.

You don’t have to lie to kick it.  We want to hack with you; not a different version of you.  You want to be silly? Be silly!  That doesn’t mean you’re childish.  You want to be boisterous? Be boisterous!  That doesn’t mean you have to be unruly.  You want to be unhappy?  Go ahead, that’s your choice.  That doesn’t mean you’re without peace or hope or joy or love.  The spirit of the Lord is within you!  And you’re among friends.

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?  Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit?  Are your hearts tender and compassionate?

Philippians 2:1

 

Rule #4

Make our Day

Time to give back.  Did you think this was about you?  Of course not.  This is about the community, the nation, the kingdom.  Dazzle us with your moves, flatter us with your kind words, serenade us with your song, humor us with your laughter, and bless us with your presence.  All in the glory of God.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

-Eddy Clark
City Church Youth Director