I’m not really big on giving things up for Lent. I understand the practice, and can even see value in it, it’s just never really been for me. This week we start, as we start our journey to Easter, we start a new series about giving up. Read on for the front page of this week’s announcements as you prepare for the sermon this weekend.
There are times when wars end in a stalemate, where both sides just decide to stop fighting, but more often they end when one side surrenders. Generally speaking, you don’t want to be on the side that surrenders, because surrendering means defeat. It means the victor gets to impose their will on yours. But in God’s upside-down view of things, surrendering is actually the path to victory.
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Romans 7:22-23
There is a war waging inside us. It’s a war between our own sinful nature and the Spirit of God. The Spirit is calling for our complete surrender. No terms. No demands. But total surrender. And in return, the Spirit offers freedom. It is only through surrendering to God that we can win the war raging in our body. Paradoxically, surrender leads to victory.
This week we start a new series about surrendering, about Giving Up those things in our lives that keep us from God. Check inside for a complete list of what we’re called to give up. This Lent, we walk with Jesus towards Golgotha, the hill on which He would surrender His very life to win our freedom. This Lent, we give up more than chocolate, TV or some other bad habit. This Lent, we heed the Spirit’s call to wave the white flag. This Lent, we surrender and experience true freedom in the process.
We wrap up our Pain Killer series this weekend talking about the Pain of Rejection. As I reflect on this pain, I’m reminded of the pain God experiences when we reject Him, and how he continually takes us back. Read on for the front page of this week’s announcements as you prepare for the sermon this weekend.
Nobody likes to be rejected. Whether it’s applying for a job and not getting it or asking a girl or guy out on a date, only to get the cold shoulder. Rejection hurts. After several rejections, it’s easy to just give up and not try anymore. How many times can I hear the word “no” and still keep going? Eventually, it’s just easier to give up and not risk rejection.
Have you ever considered how God feels about rejection? He calls us to Himself, to trust Him more than anything else, yet we continually reject Him. Jesus lamented this on His way into Jerusalem:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Matthew 23:37
God is continually inviting us into His loving arms and we are continually turning our backs on Him. But He is a loving God. Unlike us, He doesn’t get tired of inviting. He doesn’t give up on us because we continually reject Him. He keeps inviting us, drawing us back to Him. And when we do return, He’s waiting with open arms. In the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15, we see a picture of the Father’s love for us. When the son finally decides to return to the father, we hear of the father’s great love:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
As you struggle with the pain of rejection, maybe it’s time to return to your loving Father. He’s waiting for you, with open arms, ready to forgive all the times you’ve rejected Him.
A while back, I wrote an article for thESource, an online publication for youth workers about technology in ministry. There was a recent call out for writers again, so I decided to write a series of devotions about Jesus. The original topic I had been given was about prophecies fulfilled. They gave me a list of 7-10 prophecies to choose from and were looking for four devotions.
The devotions are now published on thESource. For quick reference, they are:
- Called out of Egypt (Based on Matthew 2:15)
- Called a Nazarene (Based on Matthew 2:23)
- Filled with the Spirit (Based on Luke 4:18-19)
- Signs and Miracles (Based on Matthew 8:16-17)
It was an interesting writing experience. Some of the options seemed almost impossible to write about—Called a Nazarene? What spiritual significance could that possibly have in my life?!—while others were fairly straight forward. The most difficult ones ended up being the most fun to write though, as I had to do some serious thinking about them before putting ink to paper… Or fingers to keyboard anyway.
I’m preaching this weekend for Pastor Chuck. We’ll be looking at Jesus’ appearance to the two people on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13ff. I’m working on the sermon right now and can’t get this verse out of my mind:
But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. (v. 21a)
I guess I’m struck by the fact that these people could spend so much time with Jesus and still not see Him for who He is. It’s a reminder to me how important it is that we spend time regularly with Jesus, not just learning about Jesus. As Pastor said this weekend in the sermon, it’s about following Jesus, not about following a set of teachings.
I’ve been delinquent getting some Confirmation Audio online. Here’s the last several in case you were eagerly awaiting them!
Confession and Absolution:
Apostle’s Creed 1:
Apostle’s Creed 2:
Jesus Video for Apostle’s Creed 2:
Apostle’s Creed 3:
Jesus Video for Apostle’s Creed 3:
The videos come from Vintage 21. We use them as a starting point for talking about Jesus under the guise of “This is what Jesus isn’t like.”
Today at Sunday School, we started our new series on Encountering God. The series focuses on spiritual disciplines, part of an annual emphasis on the topic of habits for spiritual growth. This year we are spending one week on each of the following:
- Time in God’s Word
Mark Driscoll has a great post that summarizes this discipline. In an effort to make the study more “hands on” this year, we’ve issued a challenge to the kids to spend 30 days with Jesus. There are 30 days between today and Easter, not counting Sundays. So each day, students will be reading a story about Jesus. You can follow along if you’d like. (This chart [and others] comes from Zondervan; our version just adds the dates we’re reading it.)
Each Sunday, we’ll check in with the youth to see how its going and what they’re learning. You may also be interested in a series I wrote a while back about reading the Bible.
Neil Diamond’s song “Pretty Amazing Grace” on idol last night was interesting. I assume he is a Christian as there were definite overtones of such in the lyrics. The fact that the title and several lyrics are re-workings of the famous hymn by almost the same name point that way as well. But do I only think he’s Christian because I am Christian? Does a non-Christian hear those lyrics and think the song is about what God has done for us? The song could be talking about any god, not necessarily our God, couldn’t it?
1 Corinthians 1:22-24 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
Paul shows us how we’re different from all the other religions of the world. We don’t just worship “God”, but rather the Triune God: Father, Son, Spirit. We preach Christ crucified because He is the only way to know the true God. We find common ground with lots of religions when we talk about “God.” Lots of people believe in “God.” But do they know the Triune God? Do they know Christ? We bear His name, are we being little Christs to our neighbors? Is it clear we preach Christ crucified, or are we preaching the same message every other religion preaches?
Google just released their Zeitgeist 2007 statistics. Basically, it’s a snapshot of what people are looking up online through Google. One interesting piece is the “Who is …” search ranking. Here’s the list:
- who is god
- who is who
- who is lookup
- who is jesus
- who is it
- who is buckethead
- who is calling
- who is keppler
- who is this
- who is satan
People are searching for God and we have an opportunity to share Him with them this Christmas season. Considering inviting a friend to Christmas Eve services this year!
Also interesting to note are the top entries from the “What” and “How” categories. They are: “What is love” and “How to kiss.” I guess that means our “Best Sex Ever” Crossroads series that kicks off in January should be a hit. I’m excited about looking at what the Bible has to say about this topic with our youth. Should be a blast!
Ever since my first Call, I’ve been encouraged to serve the greater church in some way. This fits well with my personal philosophy for ministry: that churches who can afford to hire multiple staff have a responsibility to help those who can’t. It’s the greater body working together, not competing with one another. One of the areas where this is happening is in the 30 Hour Famine planning process. The event was happening before I came to First Trinity. I was hesitant to get involved at first, but I love how God has used it for the greater good in Buffalo. Some of the things I like about it:
- It’s planned by a core group of 3-4 churches each year.
- The core planners work really well together and it’s led to relationships continuing beyond the planning process.
- It’s leading to cross-church relationships amog the youth. We saw this most recently at the Lost and Found concert when our Famine youth recognized youth from other churches because of their involvement in the Famine.
- It’s growing in numbers of participants and churches so even more people will get to benefit from it this year.
- It helps fight hunger around the world.
In addition, we’ve also used the Famine as an opportunity to bring in a special event geared at youth and their families. Last year was the Jami Smith concert. This year, we’re bringing in Mike Lewis, AKA The Jesus Painter. Mike was at the National Youth Gathering in Orlando this summer, where our youth were first introduced to him. We sent information to other churches that participated in the gathering from our area and already sold 21 tickets to the youth group at St. Michael’s in Akron, NY.
Tickets are now on sale to the general public, so get ‘em before they’re gone! Artist’s Circle (front few rows) is $10, General Admission is $6 in advance and $8 at the door. Call 716.835.2220 to order or leave a comment here.