We're starting a new summer sermon series this Sunday.

The biblical story is full of bizarre moments where God meets his people. There's this one story, in Genesis 15, when God speaks to Abraham. Abraham has this existential dilemma where he doubts God's goodness and ability to deliver on the promise made to him earlier. "How will I know?" he asks. Then God speaks to him while "a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed through the pieces [of dead animals]."

Wait, what? 

Like I said it's bizarre. 

There's another moment where God appears to Moses while there's an unburnt, burning bush nearby. He's curious, but who wouldn't be. As he gets closer, God says: "Take off your sandals for where you stand is holy ground." 

Again, this is odd. 

These examples are theophanies, which are incredibly unique expressions of God's presence. In fact, they are visible expressions of his presence. Scripture is full of them. Recently, renowned biblical scholar Vern Poythress wrote 400+ pages on this subject. There's a lot to digest and reflect upon in these encounters. 

This coming summer we'll be looking at these God-encounters, that will eventually culminate in Jesus. As a church, we're a space where people can come to meet God, know oneself, and love others. But none of that is possible without knowing and meeting God. These bizarre encounters that Abraham and Moses had are then incredibly significant for us. 

How to read the bible?

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This post is a follow-up and companion to this past Sunday's sermon, Take and Eat.

Recently I was at the American Bible Society, located in Philadelphia. They presented some fascinating research, looking at "the state of the Bible" in America. It's no secret that America is a post-Christian nation, which provides ample opportunities to speak about Jesus and scripture to others. But one sad statistic is 50% of church-goers do not read the bible on their own initiative more than once a month. Christians, followers of Jesus, don't find Scripture relevant, or they find it boring or have a hard time creating a habit of engaging Scripture. Yet the more we center our lives on Scripture and engage God's word, the deeper our life with God will be.

The One Story of Scripture

The Bible, while a collection of 66 ancient books, is actually one story. It is the true story of the world. God created the world good, perfect, beautiful, and true. He made this world out of love and delight. The first time we see and read about humanity in Scripture, Adam sings and delights in Eve (Gn. 2:23). Every aspect of life was good and beautiful. Yet we vandalized this perfection... the consequences of that act are devastating (Gn 3:1-7; Rm. 1:18-22). Humanity, now, is a deeply flawed creation, where we have a propensity to mess things up. Thankfully God, who is rich in mercy and full of love, could not tolerate his creation remaining broken, corrupted, and vandalized (Eph. 2:4). So he promised redemption and launched a rescue mission (Gn. 3:15). That mission includes his people, who are meant to be a blessing to the world (Gn. 12:1-3). God worked in his people's lives, speaking with them so that they could have a life with him for the life of the world. As God continued to work in their lives, he promised that a great rescuer would come; this rescuer would be the king whom we need, a king that could deliver us from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. God spoke about this rescuer to prophets; he sporadically appeared to his people, and poets wrote about him. Every story whispers his name; Moses spoke about him, the psalms are about him, as are the prophets. His name is Jesus (Luke 24:27). 

The Bible, in other words, is one story about redemption in and through Jesus.... and it includes us! It is a story about what God is doing in this world through Jesus Christ. Everything in Scripture hinges on him. The Old Testament promises redemption. As you read the prophets you can feel this emotional tension. God's people long for redemption and wait for him to provide it. Jesus accomplishes just that. So the New Testament, specifically in the books of Luke and Acts, show what Jesus is up to through his people.  

We need to remember the alien world in which Moses, David, Isaiah, and Paul lived. It is very different from today. Yet despite our changing world, God's word is eternal. It's true for all time, regardless of our cultural moment. So we cannot forget the context, whether literary or historical, that it is written in. All of this needs to bear on our scripture reading.

So what's the way forward? 

Questioning Scripture

So as we take and eat God's word, there are three questions we need to ask of Scripture. When we ask these questions, we are simultaneously asking God them and we're checking our own beliefs. When we have questions, it reveals our relationship with God and cultivates a deeper one. Consider Genesis 1, where the one, true and good God creates the world and everything in it to be good and true. How does Scripture present God? Do I believe that? 

So here are the three questions to ask:

  • Eternal -- On the basis of this text, who is God? If every story speaks about God, then Scripture reveals his character and personality to us. We learn who it is that reigns over us; we learn who it is who we worship; we learn more about the God who loves us. 

  • Personal -- On the basis of this text, who am I? This is a question that we long to answer, and almost every problem in this world exists because we've forgotten who we are. We aren't gods. We cannot be everywhere, we cannot do everything, we cannot know everything. We're creatures who live in a specific time and place, meant to live and enjoy God and be loved by him as his children.  

  • Mission -- On the basis of this text, what's my role in this world? God made humanity to do something. We are made, and we image the maker by making. We're meant to fill the earth and subdue it. So we have a cultural mission, and we also have an evangelistic mission. "You are his witnesses in Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Jesus sends us into the world to love people, places, and things.... just like he did (Jn. 3:16; 17:18). 

These questions invite us to dwell with God, to inhabit his story, because God is up to something in this world. He is making all things new, and he includes us in that endeavor. As you engage God's story, you'll find that your story is included in it. 

 

Introducing our Summer Reading Series

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Summer is around the corner. After a long, cold winter, we are really looking forward to it. We'll be able to enjoy the beach, have getaways to the mountains, go on family vacations, perhaps have some work trips, enjoy our children, and celebrate our community. 

West Chester, if you haven't noticed, comes alive when the sun is out and the temperature is above 50. Restaurants put out their heaters and set up their outdoor seating. Our borough's park and recreation department have an impressive summer schedule, starting on Sunday, May 6th with "May Day: A Celebration of the Arts" over at Everhart Park. 

So this summer we want to seek the good of our community by being good neighbors and celebrating our communities. This is part of following Jesus. Consider Jeremiah 29:7, "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city that I have carried you to." Later Jesus summed up the law by saying, "the greatest commandment is to love your God with your entire being, and the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:37-40; Gal. 5:14).

Neighboring is essential to following Jesus for the good of West Chester. 

How we want to neighbor well this summer is by:  

The Art of Neighboring takes a great idea, loving your neighbor, which has often been reduced to a slogan, and personalizes it. People are real. We want to love our neighbors in reality and not just have it be a cliche for us. 

So here's how the reading series will work: 

  1. Get your copy. You can purchase one from our book table beginning this Sunday. (It is also available on Kindle.) 
  2. Participants need to get a reading partner, and together you'll go through a reading guide that will be emailed to you. (If you would like a hard copy, just let us know and we will print one off for you.) 

Each week Pastor Robbie will interview various participants, digging into key ideas, and exploring what the Art of Neighboring looks like in various life stages and circumstances. These interviews will be included in our sermon podcast, so if you are traveling this summer you won't miss a beat. 

Thinking about goals, resolutions, habits for 2018

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With every New Year it seems most everybody is talking about resolutions and goals for the upcoming new year. To one degree or another, there's this hope that 2018 will just be better than 2017. Perhaps it is to feel better, to lose weight, to travel more, to keep a job, to move past tragedy, to find healing. Every year I've had my own list of goals: be a better neighbor, read the bible in a year, to use my vacation days, and so on.

It's noble to say, "I want to take better care of myself this year." And it is good to long for a better year than before. No wonder, then, when we fail at keeping our resolutions or goals we feel shame. 

Nonetheless, if you are like me, you persist. But we need to remember a few things.  

All that is different between 2018 and 2017 is the hours you were asleep. January 1st is just another day. Life has the ups and downs or the joys and trials. Life goes on, and we cannot escape reality... we cannot escape the habits we've formed over the years. Those habits partially make up the realities we live in. 

We need to have new habits if we want to grow and change. 

The Christian faith, centered and motivated by Jesus Christ, is a practice shaped faith. God saves us to seek the good of our neighbors and participate in his work in this world (Phil. 4:9;Titus 3;Micah 6:8).  

My goal for this year is to grow and become more like Jesus Christ. There are established practices like reading Scripture, prayer, living in community with other Christians, worshiping together and more than forms us into the image of Jesus. The lesson of every resolution-keeping failure is that if you want to form new habits, then you also need to make goals, commit to them, and open yourself up to accountability. 

A friend reached out to me asking if I wanted to join them in doing Whole30, which we've done in the past. She sends out regular encouragements and invites you into a support group -- cause you need it. 

As my goal is to grow and become more like Jesus, then I need to take his life seriously. When I read the gospels, I see Jesus being very present and undistracted. So what are the new habits I'm seeing to create, which also means what habits am I striving to stop? (The Apostle Paul's language in Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians is 'put off/put on.')

A few months ago I was reading Andy Crouch's book the Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place, and I was struck at how I used technology. So I'm rereading it this month and seeking to make some technology changes... including deleting the facebook app from my phone. 

I want to start off my day with Scripture and prayer, undistracted by the notifications on my phone. It'd be better to read Scripture and pray, while being distracted by my son running around at 6am. This is what Jesus did throughout his earthly ministry. "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he prayed' (Mark 1:35). While Jesus even did this at night (Luke 22:39), I'm embracing my fatherhood realities by waking up early to read and pray. 

I offer the above as just an example. If you're thinking about goals or resolutions for the new year, spend some time identifying the habits you have to put off in order to put new ones on.

 

Advent and waiting this Christmas season

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What does it mean to have a church calendar? 

Our lives are ordered by calendars and seasons. It could be the tax year or school year or autumnal year or the civil year. Some framework guides our lives. Every year we have a cycle that affects our lives, our decisions, our travels, our shopping, our eating. This is true even for our giving, ever since  #givingTuesday was created in 2012. This calendar is meant to shape us into good Americans citizens.

The church calendar celebrates the entirety of Jesus' life. Lent remembers how he battled temptation. Easter celebrates his triumph over death. Pentecost notes how the Holy Spirit descends upon and empowers his people. Ordinary time, well, is the ordinary moments of Jesus life. Christmas is the joyful celebration of God's generosity to us, embodied in the birth of his son. But it all kicks off with Advent. Advent, which starts on December 1st, is New Years Day for the Christian Calendar. 

The Christian Calendar shapes our hearts and minds, forming us to be "little Christs" (i.e. Christians). 

So what is Advent, and what does it mean for me this Holiday season?

Advent means a “coming” or “visitation.” Advent remembers the coming of Jesus. So it is of vital important to consider the purpose and mission in Jesus' coming. Jesus came to rescue his people from sin. This specific Advent season we're looking at how Jesus came to rescue his family from the scandals that they caused, by making their scandals his own. (You can listen to our sermon series here.) He comes to us, yes as a rescuer, but also as a king. So we wait for Jesus to come again where we can both be fully rescued from our sins and fully realize his kingdom reign. 

Waiting is hard. Culturally we don't wait. My family has a rule that we are not allowed to buy anything for ourselves after Thanksgiving. But when you see all the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, it's a hard rule to follow. In that moment it is not just waiting, you're potentially denying yourself from getting something you want. 

The Advent waiting is similar. You have longings for hope, joy, rescue, and more. In Advent you're waiting to fully realize how Jesus rescues you and fulfills all your true, good longings. An Advent waiting is a waiting and working for the things that really matter. 

My friend Joel put it this way: 

"This waiting frames our experience as Christians in this holy season. We learn how to groan with creation, to lament, and to long for the restoration of all things. This practice of waiting for things of ultimate concern helps us prioritize life in an age obsessed with the temporality of the now and the new. This is truer in the month of December than in any other month, for our culture’s conception of these Holidays (Holy-days) is largely focused around what one will buy or be given. The Christian conception of this season begins with the realization that what, or who, we really want and need cannot be bought and is not “just a click away,” but must be waited for with patience, submitting to God’s timing, embracing our limits and finitude."

So what do we do in our waiting?

The Christian Calendar's emphasis is on prayer and worship so that our hearts align with Jesus' life and work. There are two NEW resources that I'm using this Advent season, and I encourage you to join me in using them. 

The first is music. One of the best gifts the church has given the world is songs for the Advent and Christmas seasons. My friend Melanie Penn released her third album, and it is a collection of 11 songs. She looks at the Christmas story and seeks to tell it afresh by considering the unique perspectives of witnesses. She's coming to Iron Works on Friday, December 8th for our first annual Christmas Party. You're invited to come and celebrate with us. (See our facebook event for more details.

The second is a devotional resource. My friend Joel Littlepage has produced some amazing prayer books for the past few years. Each year they continue to get better and better. But what excites me about this Advent prayerbook is that you can receive the readings and prayers via email, text, or you could just download the e-book to read. 

 

Sermon | Saved to Serve

Jesus saves us so that we would thrive and flourish through our worship. Eugene Peterson put Romans 12:1 this way: "So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him." How we live our ordinary, everyday life is how we worship God. 

But what does that look like? Check out Pastor Robbie's most recent sermon and find out. 

Our apologies for the audio quality. This will be rectified by our next worship gathering. 

BIG NEWS!

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A year ago I was talking with my fellow Iron Works Network pastors, Darin Pesnell and Stan Gale, sharing with them my strategy for launching public worship services. There are really two schools of thought. One is setting a date and doing your best to ensure you’re ready. The other is setting tangible milestones (i.e. launch indicators) that you check off as you reach them. When they are all checked off, then you’re ready to launch. The second option is more organic and natural. Each church plant also has a unique story, so you want to be careful to not do anything just because another church or pastor did. So we’ve set those milestones before God and prayed for a music leader, a committed launch team, an administrator, new home for us, a kid’s church director, visitors, community groups, and more. 

God has answered each one.  

Stop for a moment and reread that. God has answered each one. That’s awesome; so we need to praise and thank God for that! 

We are launching our weekly worship gatherings on Sunday, November 26th. 

It's the Sunday before Advent, the season in the church calendar that anticipates the coming of Jesus. God sent his son Jesus to love this world to life, and Jesus sends his church to love this world to life (Jn. 3:16; 17:18, 21). Advent shapes us to that task.  We stand in awe of God. We've heard of what he has done. "Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known" (Hab. 3:2). We anticipate and look forward to seeing what God is going to do in and through us.  

But we need your help.

There are a number of ways you can help us start out on our best foot. 

Come and worship.

It may be obvious, but we exist to delight in God and to share that delight with others. Years ago Jennifer traveled to the Grand Canyon, and her first thought was 'Oh, Robbie needs to be here and see this.' That's awe combined with love. If we are in awe of God and if we love our neighbor, then we will invite others to share in our delight.

Serve on a ministry team.

There are a lot of things that happen behind the scenes to make a worship gathering happen, and there is a place for everyone's gifts and talents. 

  • Hospitality (led by Christin Hensley) 
  • Music (led by Josh Hensley) 
  • Kids (led by Kelli Stewart) 
  • Liturgy (led by Robbie Schmidtberger) 

Give. 

This point is not so obvious as every church is structured in different ways. We depend on the generosity of God through his people. Each of us are stewards of our time, treasure, and talent; God calls us to use each of those to expand his kingdom and care for his church. You can give online or get something from our wishlist to help us start off on our best foot. If you get something off our wishlist, please email us for directions. 

What is the gospel?

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Gospel literally means good news in Ancient Greek, and do I have some good news to share with you.

Jesus saved you.

He saved you from the penalty of sin.

This is where we have to start. You won't see the good news as good until you fully grasp this point. Jesus saves you from the penalty of sin. 

Apart from God’s grace, we are rebels against God. We live self-centered lives revolving around me, myself, and I. That’s not God’s design for this world. Our rebellion against God’s reign and order is sinful. Sin is when we insist on our own way instead of living under God’s way. Scripture tells us over and over again that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). In our rebellion, we deserve God’s wrath, for we are complicit in vandalizing the world. 

But Jesus did something on the cross. He bore the wrath that you deserved. He died the death that we should die. Jesus’ death accomplished something: he rescued you from the penalty of sin. 

Here's the good news: You are no longer guilty. You are no longer condemned. Jesus bore your guilt and shame. In fact, you’re innocent and free. You no longer have to fear other people as your Creator proclaims: "this is my child, in whom I am well pleased." 

Jesus is saving you! 

Jesus is saving you from the power of sin. 

“As death came into the world through one man, so did sin” (Romans 5:12). 

Francis Spufford described sin as “the human propensity to mess things up.” We’re enslaved to sin. This is why Jesus lived and died -- for our freedom. “For freedom, Christ set you free” (Gal. 5:1). What this means is that through Jesus we are different people! We find this pattern all throughout Scripture, where the Apostle Paul wrote about the old man and the new man. There is the old me (i.e. the one before Jesus) and there is the new me (the one changed by Jesus). Jesus lived so that we can have abundant life and joy. 

Here's the good news: Jesus frees you from repeating the same sins over and over again. You have a new heart with new passions and desires. The very same power that raised Jesus from the dead now resides in you. 

You're a new person. Jesus "sets you free from your past that you cannot change, and opens you up to a future in which you can be changed" (adapted from one of our prayers of confession). 

Jesus will save you.

He will save you from the presence of sin. 

But we know life is a mess. We see brokenness in ourselves, our families, neighborhoods, and world. We see sin left and right, and we continue to find our complicity in it. That's because sin is real, it is powerful, and it remains in you, in others, and this world. 

One day, however, Jesus will return and make an end to all sin, suffering, evil, and brokenness. "Behold, I am making all things new" (Rev. 21:5)! 

We cannot escape cancer or war in this life, but in the New Heavens and the New World, it will all be gone. There will be no presence of sin. Jesus is greater than our sin. 

This is our hope. This is our comfort. This is the good news. 

This is the story that we center on. 

Sermon | The Way of Jesus

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One of the most poignant accounts of Jesus' love is in John 8:1-11. It is a tale of three ways of living. The way of the Pharisees, where you demonize and use people for your agenda. The way of the woman, where you do whatever you want only to find guilt and shame. Then there is the way of Jesus who loves people to life. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:16-17). 

Take a listen to discover what this means for you. 

to whom are you sent to love?

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If you've ever heard of Jonah, I assume it is because he was swallowed by a big fish. But there's more to him than just that. 

Jonah was one of God's prophets, specifically during the Assyrian Empire. Assyria harassed Israel for the past 50 years, but by the time Jonah came to the scene Israel was enjoying a military comeback (2 Kings 14:25). Jonah, along with the prophets before him, called Israel to turn from their faithlessness to faithfully walking with God. 

"He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah."

So Jonah enjoyed quite the successful ministry in Israel, so one would expect this successful prophet to be sent to Nineveh. But Jonah did not want to go - at all. 

Assyria, to put it kindly, was not one of the good guys. Violence was their way of life, and they were proud of it. Historians tell us they flayed their enemies, putting their corpses on pikes around conquered cities. 

And they attacked Israel, conquering towns and cities. It is no wonder Jonah ran the other way. He hated them, believing that being an Israelite is better and more deserving of God's love. 

This is where we see Jonah hated the heart of God. God loves. This is why he sent his son, Jesus, and it is why Jesus sends his people into the world (Jn. 3:16; 17:18). This has always been God's design. Even in the beginning, God created his people to be a blessing to the world (Gen. 12:3). In other words, God loves THROUGH his people. God loves us so that he can love others. Later, in an intimate back-and-forth with God, we see Jonah saying: "I did not want to come to Nineveh because I know your heart. I know you'll save them, for you are gracious and kind" (Jonah 4:3). 

This raises two very crucial questions for us. We are a church committed to being an open door to all those who are curious in the way of Jesus. It is our job to love others well so that they too can know the love of God. 

So here are the two questions: 

  • What prevents you from loving others?

There are many manifestations of pride throughout our culture, even within our heart: politics, class, ethnicity, age, generation, income, education, where you live, etc. What is it that prevents you from loving others? 

  • Who is God sending you to? 

God has put people in your life to love so that they can know the love of God. Who are they? 

Why do we sing the songs that we sing?

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For centuries Christians have gathered to hear God’s word preached, partake in the sacraments, enjoy one another’s company, and sing. But what and how Christians sung has never been the same thing. Have you ever heard Gregorian Chants, participated in the Scottish practice of lining, enjoyed a cappella singing, or embraced the meditative repetition of Taize? God’s worship is truly diverse, as every people, community, and city are all different. It’s beautiful. 

There’s a tension in the church today — what should we sing? Should we sing the songs of old or the new songs? For us at Iron Works, the answer is BOTH! We value old songs. Just because songs may be old, does not mean they are the best. We should write and sing new songs. “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!” (Psalm 96, NIV). Throughout the biblical story, we see a pattern. Every time that God rescues his people, his people respond in worship. They don’t exclusively rely on the old songs, they write new ones too! The greatest moment of our salvation, the climax of our redemption is finished by Jesus’ atoning work. We even have a picture into heaven, where the angels are singing to God: “Worthy is the lamb that was slain, holy, holy, holy is he” (Rev. 5:12). That picture is what our worship should be like. 

Before I continue - let me state the obvious - songs should be singable by a congregation. Our worship should be participatory, where young and old are able to unite their voices together in praise of God.

So how do we pick our songs? 

The songs we sing must glorify God. 

Glorify means to make much of God. So we want to make much of him - singing songs that speak to his character, to his deeds and more. We want to make much of God so that he is famous. Worship, after all, is primarily for God. He’s made this world. He loves us to life. It is good; it is right to worship him. We worship God for who he is and what he has done. The classic hymns, Holy Holy Holy and Rock of Ages, are two great examples of this. 

This means that we sing songs that are true

We’re not the judge of truth. God is, and his word is true. So the songs that we sing take their cues from Scripture. One of my favorite contemporary musicians is Sandra McCracken, and she has a whole album dedicated to the Psalms. Another contemporary songwriter is Dustin Kensrue, who wrote Rejoice! So another way to look at this is that we sing songs that are born through thoughtful meditation of Scripture. When we do this, then we are going to sing songs from the whole range of human experience. 

We sing songs from the whole range of human experience

If you look at the songs throughout Scripture, you will see some songs that are pure adoration and praise of God, you will find other songs are that are laments and protests at the brokenness of the world, and you will see songs celebrating life with one another.  Singing should make us more human; singing should help us discern what to do about our love, grief, anger, and hope. Singing should help us act out our faith. 

But what do you do when you don’t feel like singing? What do you do if you don’t believe what the song says? 

The reality is that life is messy and emotions are complicated, and worship helps us be more fully human. It's true that life is messy, and our emotions are complicated. So we ought to expect that everyone is coming to worship God from a different place than everyone else. Perhaps some had great weeks, and perhaps others did not. Perhaps a couple got engaged, and perhaps others received a cancer diagnosis. Whatever music we sing is going to pastor and help one another along by modeling: “Hey, this is what you should feel in this moment.” So whether you are confessing sin, you should feel conviction; if you are hearing the gospel then you should feel loved and the relief that comes from being fully known; if you are lamenting, then you should ache about the world that is. The psalms do this beautifully, but so does Bifrost Arts and Sojourn Music

Worship should help us become more emotionally aware of ourselves, where we are able to encourage one another as we follow Jesus together. This is a reason to sing intentional and pastoral songs that help us become more human as we worship our one, true king.

Why do we use a liturgy?

What is liturgy?

Throughout the week we go through various rhythms, habits and routines. Parents know that these are highly formative, which is why parents are disciplined about getting their child to sleep by a certain time. A certain rhythm and routine will teach them how to sleep as they grow. Basketball coaches know how important practice is, which is why they have their athletes practice free throws by the 100s AFTER they have a consistent technique. Muscle memory kicks in. 

So as we go through everyday life, every week, we must be aware of the formative influences that shape our lives and priorities. So when we come to worship God, we go through a liturgy. Liturgy is "the work of God's people." When we gather for worship, we sing and pray, read Scripture and hear a sermon, we greet one another, we confess our sins to God, we hear of Jesus' love and forgiveness, we celebrate the Lord's Supper, and God sends us out to love our communities. We do these things to recover our humanity. Each of these parts of worship help do that. So worship is incredibly important.... We do these things because God first loved us. We get to experientially rehearse the good news of Jesus together several times throughout our worship

Every church follows a liturgy (i.e. an order of worship). So when we use the word liturgy we want you to know two things: 

We value the ancient practices of the historic church.

We live in an era where we celebrate the latest thing, thinking we know better and reject the past. CS Lewis, writing in WW2, called this 'chronological snobbery.' I mention Lewis to show that this is not just a millennial generational trait but a human one. 

When we look at Scripture, we see that God loves extemporaneous prayers. So we create space for praying like this via prayers of adoration and a pastoral prayer in our gatherings. But we also recognize the beautiful language and wordsmithing that is found in various prayerbooks (i.e. Book of Common Prayer, Canyon Road, Valley of Vision, just to name a few.) 

I personally learn a lot about what it means to follow Jesus from this prayer: "Forgive us from the things we have done or left undone.... Set us free from a past that we cannot change, and open up to us a future in which we can be changed." (This is taken from the Penitential Order found in the Book of Common Prayer.) 

We value the ancient practices of the church because they help us follow Jesus in the 21st century. 

Liturgy should be engaging and hospitable. 

But when many people think of liturgy, then think "old," "stale" and "dry." While this may be a true description in some churches or in your own experiences, this should never be the case as there is a lot of drama to worship. 

Here's what really happens when we gather to worship God: 

God calls us to come to him: "Come to me all who are weary, and I will give him rest." "Come, let us reason together... I will make your sins, which are crimson red as white as snow." So we come. We praise him. We shout prayers of adoration. And we acknowledge that we sinned this past week, even though we tried not too. So we know that we don't deserve to be there, yet God loves us and welcomes us. We puts out the fine wine and artisan bread on the table and invites us to sit down with him. 

That's dramatic. We should feel this tension every week. It should be engaging our emotions and minds, challenging our unbelief and answering our questions. Liturgical worship is participatory. This is why we have a responsive tone to worship, and this is why we don't have a pastor do everything in our gatherings. 

Liturgical worship ought to be hospitable. The words that we use to confess our sins should be part of your everyday vocabulary. The prayers that we pray in worship are meant to help you learn how to pray from your home, with your family, at work and when you are with others. It should be easy to pick up, as every week we follow the same rhythm. So if it still feels unfamiliar to you after worshiping with us 4 times, then that is my fault as the pastor! We'll unpack this in our next blog post, as this is a big reason for why we sing the songs that we do. 

Simply put: when the ancient practices of the church are in our everyday language, then it is a powerful, formative experience where we become more like Jesus. 

Job Posting: We're hiring a Children's Ministry Director

"Let the little children come to me." With these words Jesus demonstrated that children have a place in his family. He wanted them there. That was counter cultural for his day. Kids were extra mouths to feed, yet they could not help 'bring home the bacon.' They were obnoxious and loud distractions when the adults 'needed to talk.' Jesus strongly disagreed as he made room for them. 

Children are important, not because they are the church of tomorrow, but because they are part of the church today. 

So we are looking for a children's ministry director to help us love, nurture, and protect our children. We're looking for someone with a loving heart, creative and entrepreneurial spirit to join our team as we substantially create ministry teams and plan preview services. 

You can download a job description here. Any inquiries should be directed to Pastor Robbie via our contact page.

The Gospel Root of Hospitality

Hospitality.

We all know what this is. Or, between hospitality management majors and Martha Stewart, we are supposed to. Neither are right. On one hand the hospitality industry - comprised of hotels, restaurants, and more - teaches that hospitality is a business transaction that is only available to you if you have money. If you want a bed, then you got to pay. If you want a meal, then it is going to cost you. Then on the other hand: Martha Stewart, Instagram, and kinfolk all give us the notion that hospitality is all about presentation. 

If we buy into either of these lies, we never truly practice hospitality and completely miss the life-giving, life-changing impact that it has on our lives. If we believe that hospitality is more of a business transaction, then we are always looking for something in return when we practice hospitality. If we believe hospitality is about entertaining, then we are always putting on a show. We never let people into the mess of our lives. 

So what is hospitality? 

Hospitality is making room for other people amid the craziness of our everyday lives. Hospitality is the practice of creating space for people at work, at home, around the dinner table, at the sporting event, going grocery shopping, and sharing a drink with others. Hospitality is about making room for others in our schedules, in our places, and in our hearts. 

Hospitality is throughout all of the Bible, from the Old to the New Testament. We see Abraham greeting angels unaware. God commands Israel to make room for refugees and nomads as they travel through their land. We see Jesus coming “eating and drinking.” God even requires leaders in the church (i.e. elders) to be hospitable. While hospitality is throughout all the Bible, it actually is a dominant theme. 

Romans 15:7, “Therefore welcome one another, as Jesus has welcomed you.” 

The Gospel is a story of hospitality 

The Apostle Paul situates the Christian practice of hospitality in the gospel. The good news of Jesus is that he made room for us. He told his disciples: “In my father’s house are many rooms… I am going there in order to prepare rooms for you.” Perhaps this reality is best seen in one of the most well known stories that Jesus told, ‘The parable of the prodigal son.’

As the story goes: there were two brothers, one older and one younger. The older brother was reliable, professional, and competent. He was the perfect older sibling who kept all the rules. The younger brother, on the other hand, was rebellious. He always fought against his dad. So one day he told his dad: ‘You’re dead to me. Just give me my inheritance and I’ll leave you alone.’ The dad did just that. The younger brother went away and partied, while the older brother stayed and helped out his dad regain the financial loss. 

The younger brother partied and spent all the money his dad bequeathed him. So he decided to come home and ask to be a servant. When the dad saw him walking up the long driveway, the dad ran to him! The father embraced him and told his servants to throw the best BBQ smoke the town has ever seen — all in honor of his son's return.

Then we come to the older brother. He saw everything that was going on and refused to join the celebrations. It wasn’t because he resented his brother; he refused to join the party because he shared the same attitude his younger brother had. He was only a good son to get all the good stuff from his father, which is what the younger son did through his rebellion. 

The Father saw that his older son was not at the party, so he came out to him and asked: “what’s wrong son? Will you come into the party?” 

The Father, despite his sons’ resentment of him, loved them both. When his younger son embraced his folly and spiritual poverty, the Father threw the biggest party. But what kept the older brother from enjoying the party was his own refusal to join the party, out of a deep resentment for the lavish celebratory love of the Father. 

So here's the questions before us: 

Have you experienced the welcome of God? 

Do you welcome others as God welcomed you?