Holiday Schedule

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Photo by Ümit Bulut on Unsplash

As discussed last week, we are going to postpone our regular schedule for November and December. We will have one gathering in each month. A Thanksgiving meal in November and another gathering in December. We will post the dates and times in all the normal places.

Things to pray through during the break:

  • Rest and Healing for our family.
  • Both focus and clarity for the future.
  • How can we be one part of many regarding the Church?
  • What can our response be to what God is calling us into?

When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live.
E.M. Bounds

The Road

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As long as people of our Christian faith are merely coming to a service, listening to a message and leaving, they will never come face to face with their personal questions, failures, shame, and curiosity. They will continue to deny the need for a savior and life transformation. They will continue to believe that they can pick up the mantle of Christianity by saying some cheap prayer and going about their business. Authenticity is not just a best practice, it is a requirement. Jesus spoke directly to the obstacles in the hearts of men and women, and if we cannot emulate that, taking an honest look within, we can never even begin to see His footsteps, let alone follow them.

The biggest liars derailing an authentic community are ourselves, believing our lives to be complete, without sin, and the process to be over. We are always to be on a path towards Christ, which includes conviction and confession and then celebration. If we continue to skip the conviction and confession we are celebrating our own spiritual deaths.

We must know that the road to Jesus is paved with humility and love. Putting others first; sacrificing and the giving up of one’s life for others. The first will be last and the last will be first. Obedience is better than sacrifice; if you have an offering to the Lord but strife with another, first seek humility and harmony, then you can please the Lord with your offering.

But mustn’t we also know, then, that the road to destruction is paved with fear and pride. That they are one in the same, just as love and humility are. That it is not the poor who fear being poor, but the wealthy who fear being poor which drives their ego towards pride, and then greed, and then judging others. In this same way it is not the unsaved who fear hell, but the saved who live under this fear that drives the ego towards pride, and then self-righteousness and then the condemnation of others. This is what the world sees that the tower of pride we build has blinded us to. We talk so much about how a Holy life should be lived, but instead, lay our foundation on our own ability to accept, create, and control God, and in practice we don’t even believe He is real.

This is in direct opposition to the road to Jesus.

Do you have a child age 8-13 that have experienced a traumatic event such as the loss of a loved one, divorce, abuse, or other traumatic event that has had a significant impact on their life? Children who have experienced such trauma can go on to develop long-term mental health difficulties, not only causing considerable distress but also compromising their educational and social potential.This summer we are hosting a summer camp “The Healing Hearts Club” the week of July 17th, Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3:30pm. The Healing Hearts Club, designed by the American Bible Society, is a Bible Based program that gives an opportunity to change that trajectory. Children will learn how to work through their emotional and spiritual pain, through interactive, story-centered, activities. They will learn to take their pain to the cross, helping them to overcome anger, fear and loneliness, and experience God’s love for them.If you would like more information please contact healinghearts@northlandchurch.net.

Source: Healing Hearts Club Camp Tickets, Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 8:30 AM | Eventbrite

Everything
Man Holding Scrolls by Ben White

The Law and Free Will

Everything, Liturgy and Devotion
Scrolls

Scrolls by Ben White

Free Will

We talked about the Law last night, preceded by some thoughts around “Free Will”. I think John Piper’s post A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Free Will’ is an excellent place to continue. It was hard to talk about our notions of free will purely in a biblical context, wasn’t it? While it is good to use our minds and our hearts to explore who we are, it is better to do that kind of reflection aiming to land on God’s Word. We read from the Book of Galatians. Specifically, Galatians 1:6-7, Galatians 1:11-24, Galatians 4:8-9, Galatians 5:1-12. This week, please read all of Galatians. I suggest reading it in one sitting first, then, take it slowly and think about what Paul has for the Galatians, because it is for us as well.

The Law

The discussion quickly and obviously stayed around “the (L)law” for a while, and with good reason. It is worthy of our effort to understand what it is, and what it is for. There are many ways that the word law is used in the scriptures. Here are a few:

  • Ceremonial Law or Law of Moses. These laws are what was given to Israel. 1Kings 2:3 HCSB “and keep your obligation to the LORD your God to walk in His ways and to keep His statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. This is written in the law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do and wherever you turn…” This also can include the laws given to the Levites, and other tribes in order to maintain order and sacred practices.
  • Natural Law. These “laws” aren’t necessarily written; rather observable in nature, whether that be what we see in our own lives, or what happens around us. Interestingly, I like to consider the idea of supernatural laws, i.e., the laws that happen in the spiritual realms in the same “category” when thinking about this subject. To me, there is no better place in scripture than Romans 7:7-25.

These are just my two broad categories, and they are by no means the only way to understand the law. Ultimately, the question that always surfaces when I study these topics is simply this: What good is “free will” if there is a sin nature in me keeping me from completing the law?

Have additional thoughts? Feel free (pun intended) to share them below.

In the Face of Uncertainty

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In the face of uncertainty we often forget that we are not yet in our forever home. We, in fact, are not even close to home. We are far from the feeling that we have arrived, and that we can rest, and that all is right in the world. We are far from the notion that we are safe, and it is a time to lie down in the green pastures and bask in the peace that is promised.

Where we are now, we have the charge of toil, and testing, with a promised companion, but without the relief we so desperately seek. Let us not forget that all things here will end. We can no more hang on to the homes we live in as we can the flesh we embody. We are here as aliens, and much of what we encounter is foreign and strange, and difficult to understand.

Our companion serves as a guide in this foreign land, and will lead us to our promised forever home, but we must not become distracted by the troubles of this world, lest we lose sight of our guide. Rather, let us fix our eyes upon the one who gives life, let us be vigilant, long suffering, and steadfast in our faith. Let us remember why we are here. Let us remember that our presence here is to ease some of the suffering around us. Let us not believe the lie that we are here for our own comfort or glory.

Instead let our hands and feet be tired from lifting others out of despair. Let our hearts be saturated with the burdens of our brothers and sisters of faith. Let us lean into the promise we are given, and the truth on which we stand. For we were not promised a life of ease, rather a new life at the end of this temporary one.

Life without Lines

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Featured photo by Shayan Sanyal

Church as a child was a Sunday occurrence, filled with donuts and coloring pages in service. Today, my husband and I host a church of 30+ in our home. The journey between these two points is filled with an amazing awakening of my heart by the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Needless to say the definition of church has changed drastically for me over the years.

It began as a place that I would go to think about God, which had very little to do with the other six days of the week. Church has now become so much a part of me I could not distinguish it from myself. It describes how I feel about God, how I feel about His people, how I live my life, how I love my husband, and even how I raise my family.

The change was so gradual that I almost missed it. Little by little the lines defining each area of my life were being erased, and what was left was complete continuity of my faith. First was my friendships, they began to take on the sound of church conversations. As I was excited for the second chance at life that I had been given, and as I began to realize that it was not a temporary change, I couldn’t help but share my heart changes with my friends. I felt more alive than I had in years. I felt like for once, my situation was not defined by my circumstances, but rather my God, who is literally the creator of the universe.

Next came my relationships with my children.

I began to think about the principles that God laid out in His Word as more than something to help me sleep at night.

They were really handy for knowing how to react to every situation I ran into. Now I must say that my life was not without real struggles. I was a single mom with two children under the age of two, but for every heartache, I turned to the scriptures to see if there was an answer, and to my amazement and increase of faith, there was.

I began to hunger for the Word as it healed, very specifically, every heartache that I had endured. I was so hungry for the Word that I began to read my bible during lunch in the break room of my very corporate and secular job. After a few weeks I was joined by other Christians with their bibles, and even curious agnostics who just wondered what this crazy book reading club was all about. I spent my time daydreaming about all of the purpose that God was infusing into each moment of all of the lives lived. It was all I could do to stay focused on the little things in life, when my eyes were so recently opened to the greater things.

I learned over the years that the excitement I was experiencing was quite common for the recently converted. What was not common was for that excitement and passion to endure. I have often seen newly converted Christians get corrected by over political, mature Christians that are in essence discouraging others out of acting passionate about their faith.

There is an unspoken rule to be faithful, but not too radical, to be a lover of Jesus, but not so strange that you give Christians a bad name.

I guess I have never been one to conform, because I still can not follow all of the political rules to Christianity. I am still moved to tears with passion at the thought of all that I have been given and forgiven each day. I am still compelled to speak of God with reverence, and the Bible with awe at its power.

Fast forward to today, my husband and I want nothing more than to share with others that they are not forgotten, not alone, that their pain and suffering is not for nothing.

We long for others to experience the freedom that comes with knowing that there is a God who can heal their hearts, use their heartaches to reach out to others, and that Jesus can forgive them of anything they may be carrying around.

It turns out that my faith can not be contained in one day of the week, or in one song, or even in many of these combined. God has brought me through so much, and given me so many blessings that I thought could never happen. Today I spend 6 days a week in my church building doing my day job, and every second of every day being the church everywhere. My job feels nothing like a job most of the time, and my faith feels nothing like it did long ago. The lines for me of separation between my life and my faith are completely gone. I no longer think about God only on Sundays, and I no longer eat donuts, but life without lines is much sweeter than the church I once knew.

Wedding Dress

Everything, Liturgy and Devotion

Lindsay and I had a heated discussion yesterday while we assembled paper crafts for children’s ministry. Such is the life to be married to a prophetic voice.

After, we passionately discussed what God has laid on our hearts and how we can best serve the church in our lives.

We discussed how the church is sick with consumerism. And over tears we pleaded with each other to commit to what we knew to be true. A statement was uttered.

The church has forgotten she is the bride of Christ and she is cheating on Him with Christianity.

It made me think of a song Pastor Vernon shared with me almost 8 years ago.

This song is real and offensive. And we all need to hear it.

May we seek His face and beg for forgiveness and repent. 

The Lamb

Everything, Liturgy and Devotion

It can be hard to filter out the noise in the celebratory season; take a moment today to remember and consider the Lamb that entered in history so that we might be reconciled to the Father.

“And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

— Luke 1:30–33 KJV


“And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough—because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!”

— Luke 2:4–14 HCSB

Merry Christmas!

Future Church

Everything, Liturgy and Devotion

The future church is cresting on the horizon. We are poised to be used by God to usher a new reformation like the one that happened 500 years ago. That reformation reclaimed a theological understanding that was lost. The Gospel of Grace was re-learned and accepted.

Now, we need to reclaim not the theology, but the practice.

Practice defined is the repetition of an action so it can become habit, muscle memory or skill. Our current church practice is attendance on Sunday for one hour. The “holy” Christians might go to a “bible study” on Wednesday. Our practice of church has created lethargic consumers.

First and foremost, I am not asking you to do anything different. This conversation isn’t about the “how” but of the “who.”

I was floored by Lance’s reading of Acts 4:32-35 at Abel House recently. Seriously pause and read it and reflect for a moment:

Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35 ESV)

I believe each of you are experiencing parts of that passage. However, truly ask yourself, “Is that the norm for Western Christendom?” It isn’t.

We need to band together, to employ the gifts that God has graciously granted us. The giftings of apostleship, preaching, evangelizing, pastoring and teaching have been not been working as one body. An unhealthy balance of expectations and laziness has been allowed for too long.

We have been practicing the wrong song. We are out of tune. We need people that are hearing from God, about the change in the Church, to rise up and acknowledge the shift; the metamorphosis.

If any of this sparks something in your soul, please reply and let us know that you hear God calling you to something greater; to the future church.

What Is Reformation Day?

Everything, Liturgy and Devotion

Martin Luther, a scholar, took quill in hand, dipped it in his inkwell and penned his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. These were intended to spark a debate, to stir some soul-searching among his fellow brothers in the church. The 95 Theses sparked far more than a debate. The 95 Theses also revealed the church was far beyond rehabilitation. It needed a reformation. The church, and the world, would never be the same.

Source: What Is Reformation Day?