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…

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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…

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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

Authority

Matthew 8:8-9 “the centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.   For I also am a man under authority…”

The words of the centurion are interesting there, “for I also am a man under authority”. We don’t often think of Jesus in the context of being under authority, but He was. Jesus ministry was centered on doing the will of His Father in Heaven, even to the point of death. “Not my will, but yours be done” was His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The centurion was very wise in this matter because he knew somebody who was exercising the power that Jesus exercised must be operating within a structure of authority. I’m not a person who craves authority, and yet throughout life I have often found myself entrusted with it. In large part, I attribute that to honoring the authority that God has placed in my life.

I believe to be a good leader you have to know how to be a good follower.  In 2007 I was pastoring an independent church here in Redding, California. The building we were renting was putting a strain on our budget, so I gave my wife the task of searching out a new facility for us. She has a real eye for those things. She set up a meeting between me and the pastor of a church that owned a little A-frame building near where we were currently located. In my meeting with him he suggested that consider joining the Foursquare denomination. I asked him, “Why on Earth would I want to do that?” His answer to me was “because the Foursquare is a family, man.” I’ve since found that to be true, but it’s not primarily why I joined the Foursquare. I realized that I didn’t like being independent very much. There was a void of authority in my life, and I was beginning to pay a price for it, along with my wife, kids, and our church. I was introduced to the Divisional Superintendent of the Foursquare in our area, Pastor Jack Witt, and immediately I knew this was the type of leadership I needed in my life. We gave him license to speak into our lives, and into our ministry. He became to us a man of great authority. But we knew him also to be man under authority, and we honored that. As I now serve as Executive Pastor at the City Church, I can say without any doubt that had I not honored Godly authority I would have never been granted this opportunity.  Likewise, had the Centurion not honored authority his life would have been radically different. It’s not just that his servant wouldn’t have been healed; he would have never even risen to the rank of Centurion or merited having a servant.

As Kingdom minded people we have not only different ideas of success from the world, but we have different ways of achieving that success. This is not only true concerning issues of authority. We as Christians have different financial goals. We settle conflicts differently. Here are just few statements I’ve found to be true.

  • To be prosperous you have to know how to give.
  • The quickest way to end up with nothing is to try to hang on to everything.
  • To be lifted up you have to know how to humble yourself.
  • To get the victory over an enemy you have to know how to love them.
  • To be a good leader you have to know how to be a good follower.

Being a good follower results in power! Jesus did what His father wanted:  John 5:19-20 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.  20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.”

I believe the key to advancement, whether things related to the Kingdom of God or this world’s systems, is to take the lowly place, honor authority, and work hard.

-Pastor Chris Light

Fishing for Solutions

quarter1Matthew 17:24-27  (NIV)

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”

25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?”he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

This short passage describes a problem that Jesus solves with a miracle.  That is not so unusual for Jesus. What is a bit different is that this is the one and only time that Jesus performs a miracle concerning money, and the one and only time that the miracle brings help or provision for himself.  Those two things alone should send us exploring this setting and digging behind the event to see larger principles that can instruct and guide us.

The problem begins when Peter is approached by tax collectors from the temple who were seeking from Jesus what was called a “temple tax.”  This tax was instituted back in the Old Testament and required every male over 20 to pay an annual fee for the support and upkeep of the temple.  When Peter is asked whether or not Jesus paid that tax, Peter answers without hesitation, “Yes he does.”  In this answer we find that it was Jesus’ custom and practice to pay whatever taxes, duties, and fees that were expected of Him, even if He did not agree with the reason for them.  This is an important point right off the start that merits deeper examination.  Jesus accepted the situations that created the need and did not seek to change them.  This is a common mistake that many people make in prayer.  We can easily find ourselves asking God to do what He will not do.  We do this by asking Him to use His power to change the person or circumstance that has created the need.  Praying for God to remove legal demands, unfair penalties, or wipe out fines and tax burdens is one way to address our needs before Him, but is it a way He will answer?  I regularly see what appears to be God’s favor in those matters where fees are reduced significantly or some form of compromise is provided so that the debt or obligation is able to be satisfied, but God did not change the system that created the need.  The fact that you got relief from a ticket that you had no idea how you were going to be able to pay does not provide that you won’t get ticketed for speeding or “barely” running that red light if you do it again tomorrow.  As a rule, God does not intervene to change the things that create the need.  If God were to do that, He would be creating a utopian world here and that is not part of His plan.  At least not yet…  We would be better to do as Peter intended to do, which was to present the need to Jesus and seek His solution for paying what was due.

As soon as Peter turns from the tax collectors, he goes to find Jesus.  Before he has a chance to even bring up the matter, Jesus (knowing what was going on) begins a short Q & A with Peter about taxation.  It can seem at first glance that Jesus is saying that the tax being requested was unfair, but as we already noted, the temple tax was instituted by Moses and followed by Israel into the time that Jesus walked upon the earth.  What Jesus appears to be pointing out was that He was the Lord of the temple and as such neither He, nor those who served Him (His disciples), should be required to pay the tax.  While this was true in the largest sense, Jesus also knew that a refusal to pay the taxes on the basis of that argument would have created an unnecessary offence, so He then gives Peter instructions on how to gain the provision to meet the demand.  There are a couple things here that should be pointed out.  First, we all need to grow in our belief that Jesus does know about our needs before we have had the chance to “fill Him in.”  I find that so many of my prayers are informational, as if Jesus has lost track of me and needs to be briefed.  In this setting we get the idea from the Greek language that Jesus starts this conversation even as Peter enters the door or as the question was forming on Peter’s face and he was opening his mouth to speak, Jesus interrupts him.  I wonder how much my life would improve if the first act of my prayer life was to sit and listen, rather than dive in and spill the details of what Jesus already knows.  The other point I would offer is how Jesus was able to make a value decision about the taxation matter even though He could claim the higher ground of being justified in refusing to pay it.  This is a level of wisdom all of us could stand to gain.  I see it in myself and in others with a great deal of regularity where our point of clarification on a matter quickly becomes THE point of contention.  I’m sure you’ve had the same experience I have in watching people who are pressing a matter with someone else that goes beyond wisdom and will not end well.  I’ve found myself muttering things like “let it go… just back off now… please don’t step into that…” under my breath as a very self-righteous and determined friend has turned a pleasant conversation into an awkward and unnecessary brawl.  Jesus was able to say, “This is not worth provoking or offending them, so let’s pay the bill.”

The decision to pay the tax instead of starting a debate brought Jesus and Peter right back into the place of need.  Don’t be afraid to go there with Jesus; He always has a plan.  His plan, as it turns out was to send Peter fishing.  Jesus told him that he would catch a fish (which in my fishing experience is the real miracle), where to look for the coin and the value of the coin.  The takeaway for us is to realize that the path to God’s provision will frequently involve instructions for us to follow.  Trust and obedience, more often than not, are a required part of the way that God meets needs.  You may want to argue about the fishing expedition, but you would be better off to trust and obey.  Another important observation about this is that the money provided was just enough to meet the need.  I’ve seen people turn down a job because, “while it might help today, it won’t take care of my needs in the future.”  I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but Jesus is pretty focused on today and He wants us to confine our obedience to today as well.  Trust is for the outcomes, the eventualities of tomorrow; obedience is about what He has instructed us to do right now, today.

Let your mind wander a bit back down the trail of this miracle.  When did the coin fall into the sea?  Who lost it and how did that happen?  When did the fish swallow the coin?  What kind of forces does God impose on creation to place them in cooperation with this specific timing, location and appetite?  As you think through these questions and wonder at them, let your soul be comforted in the assurance that long before you came into the awareness of your crisis, God was setting things in motion; lost things, found things, swallowed things, hooks, worms, the tug on a fishing line, the warm sun on a happy fisherman’s face.  It’s a good day to go fishing.  It’s a good time to be following Jesus.

The last thing I want to point out from this event is that the money harvested from the mouth of the fish took care of Jesus’ needs and Peter’s.  We are not let in on where the other eleven were at this point or how their taxes were paid.  All we know is that the need was created by a question that concerned Jesus alone.  The question was asked of Peter, but the object of the question was his “teacher.”  When Jesus spells out the plan to secure the provision, he tells Peter that the money will be enough to pay the taxes for both of them.  Here we find ourselves needing to make another shift in our thinking.  The acts of God that involve your needs are always intended to do more than merely meet your needs.  We are inclined to seek provision that is enough for the immediate need and include some bit more to insure our comforts against tomorrow’s needs.  The provision for Jesus’ needs extended to and included Peter’s.  I think that God is seeking a specific kind of person to bless with His full miraculous measure of provision.  God delights in meeting needs by giving creative solutions to His people who are willing to hear, interested in others, and ready to act in faith.  I want to be that kind of person.  I need His creative solutions.  The need is greater than what the effort of hands and intelligence of heads can provide.  Will you believe God enough to ask for His solutions?  Are you willing to follow His instructions?  Are you ready to share what you receive so that the needs of others are met?  God is looking for those who will say yes in all these places and follow Him.

-Pastor Jack Witt

“This is a Day of Good News…”

easter2_2A coaching word from
Pastor Jack Witt

 I was reading in 2 Kings chapter seven a couple days ago and fixed my attention on this odd story of the city of Samaria (capital of Israel at the time), having been surrounded by a vast Aramean army for so long that they suffered a great famine as no provisions could be brought into the city due to this besiegement.  Four leprous men stood at the gate of Samaria and reasoned that they were certain to die of starvation if they stayed in the city, so perhaps they should go over to the Aramean soldiers.  They would either receive mercy from them and enjoy the provisions of food and water that they needed, or the Aramean’s would kill them on the spot.  They weighed out the options of: (A) dying a thousand deaths through starvation in Samaria, or (B) a quick death at the sword of an Aramean soldier.  The second option, however, included a slight possibility that as lepers, they would not be killed, but rather given mercy by their enemies.  They decided to take option “B” and set out at dusk to go to the Aramean camp.  When they arrived they found that it had been deserted… in haste.  God had caused the Aramean soldiers to hear the sound of a huge army rushing toward them.  In crazed fear they left everything behind, even creating a trail of belongings that they threw down along the way of their escape; trying to lighten their load as they ran away.

When the four leprous men discovered this abandoned city of tents, they started having a private party among all the food, wine and possessions left behind by the fleeing army.  They even took some possessions out of the camp and hid them in case someone else would discover this gold mine and chase them away.  At some point their consciences were stirred about keeping this abundance to themselves while the inhabitants of Samaria were going to sleep hungry and suffering.  “We’re not doing right,” they said to each other, “This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.”  Even though it was now well into the night and the people would be settled in their beds, they would rouse them and tell them this good news.  Matthew Henry in his commentary on this passage wrote, “Though it wake them from sleep, it would be life from the dead to them.”

This story and the decision of the leprous men to not conceal this good news from the famine-stricken city reminded me of the call that we have been making for believers to “invite, invite, invite” friends and family members to Easter services this weekend.  Part of this appeal is based on the fact that people in our society are more inclined to attend church on spiritually significant days like Christmas or Easter, but the greater reason is that the night of a protracted spiritual famine is upon the lives of the inhabitants of this city.  You may be concerned about their reaction to your invitation; wondering if they will be offended or put off that you are poking into their lives or recommending something to them that is none of your business.  You must not be intimated by that fear, or allow your perspective to be informed by those who claim that spirituality is a private matter, relegating it to some politically correct “off-limits zone.”  The reach of the church into the unbelieving world must be driven by a Biblical belief in the radical power of the Gospel that must be communicated in order to be received, and a Biblical understanding of what is truly at risk for those who live a spiritually besieged life; cut off from God and His life-giving Spirit.  If we adopt Scriptural beliefs and understandings, there is no other conclusion we can reach besides this:  This is a day of Good News… we are not doing right, keeping it to ourselves!

Getting Right With God…

There are 2 reasons why the phrase “getting right with God” has been mulling around in my head for a couple of days now.  Firstly, because as I sold all my stuff last year, I could see my shopping addiction from a new perspective.  All the things that I was sure would make me happy at one point were now being sold for a quarter.  It promised me everything, and gave me nothing (quite the contrary, it cost quite a bit).  For some of these items, I can remember specifically what sorrow I was trying to escape at the time of purchase.  Those sorrows are long gone, my life is very different, much more happy and fulfilled.  But I am left with a new sorrow, and the need to make things right with God about my shopping addiction.  I want to learn to process my pain differently.   The second reason is that an old friend passed away recently.  I knew it was coming, I’m ok, and have peace.  I am just in prayer for the family, who also knew it was coming, but that doesn’t really matter does it?  Painful either way.  I wonder if he “got right with God” before passing.

It occurred to me this morning that because of Jesus’ work on the cross, getting right with God is so simple.   But I have observed that many of us fall into one of two categories when we think about getting right with God.

The first is that it’s a painful, guilt ridden, long, drawn out process.  This is where I tend to go.  Though, the Lord is changing that.  Getting right with God used to be awful.  So much guilt.  I lacked an accurate understanding of grace.  I would feel horrible for weeks about something.  Never was this validated by anyone I knew.  All my Christians friends have only ever told me that I am too hard on myself.  It’s true.  And I am deciding to recognize the truth that getting right with God is a simple thing.  Jesus suffered so that I would not have to.  I don’t know how to do this, but Jesus will help me.  I do know that the work to get right with God was done by Jesus on the cross.  All I have to do is decide that I want to take him up on his offer.  It’s not supposed to be a bunch of work on my part.  Looking forward to embracing that truth.   If you struggle with the grace and guilt thing, may I recommend Daniel Brown’s “Embracing Grace”?  Practical book on grace.  Loving it.

The second perspective that many people have is that they do not need to get right with God in order to have a relationship with him, or in order to get into heaven.  I obviously don’t fall into this category, and here is why.  I do not subscribe to the old saying that “love means never having to say that you are sorry”.  That’s called denial, actually!  Lol!  There is not one intimate relationship that I have where I have not had to apologize, to “make things right”.  Some relationships have required many apologies (parents, spouse), and some far less (friendships).  But every genuine relationship requires an apology now and then.  If you have, on occasion, offended your family, what are the chances that you have never offended God?  Intimate relationship allows and even requires a certain amount of honesty.  For many years, I thought that certain things would not offend my husband, because, after all, he’s almost 6’ tall, he’s a tough guy, he’s strong, and he can “take it”.  But I was wrong.  He does not want to be treated with disrespect any more than I do.  The same is true of God.  Just because he is God does not mean that we never need to square things away with him.  This may bring up the question “why does he never need to ‘make things right’ with me?”  All I can say is… take time to get to know him.  He has much to say to you.  He has incredible good for you, and offers much relief from the things that torment your soul.  Getting right with him is easy.  The following video has a great prayer for doing just that.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tj4hV2lkAjg

I’d love to hear from you if you are interested in getting right with God, no matter which category you fall into.  Come to the City Church and learn to be a part of a family of grace.

Katrina

Letter from Pastor Jack…

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To the Family of the City Church,

I hope this letter finds you doing well.  I am excited to write to you this month and talk to you about some of the things that are going on in around the City Church.  I think you’ll be encouraged by these things and that you will find them to be helpful in the next steps you are taking in Loving God, Growing Together and Serving Others.

We announced in the beginning of February that our church council had made the decision to bring Pastor Chris Light on our staff as an Executive Pastor.  This is huge step of faith for us, so I am asking for your prayers and financial support toward this decision.  There has already been a significant improvement in our church in terms of staff organization and cohesion.  Pastor Chris is a very gifted leader and is stepping into this role at one of those points that we recognize as coming at just the right time.  His title sounds like he should be doing my job, so some of you have wondered if I am going anywhere.  Nope, I’m not.  He is taking over a lot of the day to day functions of pastoring so that I am free to work on the larger matters of vision, teaching, and leading City Church into the full breadth of what we know God has called us to do in our part of the expression of Christ’s Body in this community.  With the addition of Pastor Chris to our church staff we have a really complete and functional team of leaders who have the right heart, right gifts and right roles to break out in an all-out sprint into our future of Loving, Growing and Serving for the growth and glory of God’s Kingdom.

Another exciting development that has been in the works for some months now is a revamp to our School of Church Leadership called Qadash.  From the very beginning of this school (nine years ago) we have had to turn people away who wanted to get in on the deeper levels of Bible training and study that we offered in Qadash because the design and intention of the program was to equip those who were preparing themselves for primary leadership roles in the church or as a step toward vocational ministry.  The question has been asked for years now, “Why can’t we have a Qadash-lite?”  I always think, “Same taste, half the calories!” and that has not been helpful at all.  I’m happy to announce that in June we will offer a parallel program to Qadash that we are simply calling “GROW.”  Brad Fulton and I have been working on reformatting the teaching content in Qadash so that we could offer the basic Bible track in a 6:30pm to 8:00pm time slot on Tuesday evenings.  GROW participants could sit in on the Bible training along with the Qadash students and then from 8:00pm to 9:30pm the ministry students would be taken through the personal, spiritual and leadership development training that is geared for their future as leaders and pastors.  The Bible track classes will be offered as open enrollment and without cost unless you wanted to purchase the textbooks that are prescribed for that course.  In order to make this as available as possible we pushed the start date for the next trimester of Qadash three weeks later than what we normally would.   That date is Tuesday, June 3rd which falls after the end of the spring session of our Community Groups.  The course theme for the next trimester is a survey approach to the New Testament with a particular emphasis on the book of Romans and is 10 weeks long.  Look for enrollment information to show up for GROW at the resource center, your weekly bulletins, and announcements over the next few weeks.

Beginning this Sunday we will start a new teaching theme that I am calling “Everything for Everything.”  I thought this teaching emphasis would focus primarily on the first eleven verses of chapter one of Second Peter, but as I’ve continued praying, reading, and planning I’ve decided to take a verse by verse approach to the entire book.  This will take 15-16 weeks to do and push into the end of July to complete.  Peter’s first letter was written to encourage people who were facing great persecution for their faith and following of Jesus.  When he set out to write this second letter, much of that persecution had subsided, but new threats faced these believers.  It seems that the calmer things are around the church, the riper the environment is for false teachers and problems to arise within the church.  All you have to do is spend a few minutes reading the titles of Christian books or pay attention to the “spiritually-sounding” things that people post on Facebook and it is evident that there is a lot of confusion around who we are as Christians and what we believe.  If you don’t think that this kind of environment is being populated with people who have self-serving motivations to mislead people or who are deluded themselves, I would encourage you to shake yourself a bit, sit up, and take this thing a bit more seriously than that.  The warnings that Peter offers in this letter are right on point for our times and the conditions of Christian spirituality today.  That’s not all that Peter says in this powerful letter, but it is one of the reasons I decided to teach through the whole book.  The assurance is true; God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.  We need to find a way to access and persist in the great truths that center on Jesus and His power to make us into new people not just those who are slightly improved.  This focus of teaching and preaching will saturate our thoughts in the wonder of God providing “His Everything for our Everything”.  But along the way we will also glean some important warnings and reminders so that we can keep our hearts anchored in the truth that belongs to Jesus alone.  Remember that teaching theme starts this Sunday.  Invite and encourage others to join in.

We are just about three weeks out from Easter Sunday.  I want to encourage you to go out of your way to invite, invite, invite!  The first expression of our mission is to introduce people into a loving relationship with God.  Easter Sunday is an extraordinary opportunity to do that.  We have some great things planned for the service, but most importantly the message of Christ’s Gospel will be declared clearly, passionately, and creatively.  Don’t miss this opportunity to ask even those people who have said “no” to you in the past.  That was yesterday… this is today.  You have no idea what the Holy Spirit has been doing to draw them to Christ while you waited, slept, and watched American Idol.  Ask again.  We won’t be able to see with our own eyes what kinds of things God is able to do unless we step into the realm of faith and Kingdom risk.  Remember also, that there are those e-invites now available under the “Contact” tab on the new and improved CityChurchRedding.org website.

Community Groups are firing back up next week.  The depth of God’s work in these groups is growing session by session.   We will again have groups that focus on marriage, some that are gender based, some on a themed bible study, and a couple that take the messages given on Sunday and talk and pray them into a deeper application in a mid-week small group gathering.  There are plenty of places and times to work this important point of connection, fellowship, and holy interaction into your schedule.  Don’t wait around for a better time; you will wait yourself into spiritual stagnation.

Lastly, I wanted to let you know what was going on with Pastor Steven Lennstrom.  Steven and Amy became a part of City Church a few years ago, moving to this community to attend Simpson University.  At the end of April Stephen will graduate from Simpson.  He has applied to Cambridge University in the United Kingdom and they are moving to the Seattle area for a few months to prepare for a move to England in the fall.  Stephen and Amy have been great servant-leaders here leading greeters ministry, serving in Children’s ministry and most recently leading our ministry to young adults.  We are sorry to see them go, but very excited with them for their future.  We will be praying for them and saying a formal goodbye in the Sunday service on April 13th.  Be sure to thank them for their role among the pastoral leadership here and bless them with us as they prepare to move away.

I think that’s it for now.  Thank you for sticking with it to read through this novel-sized letter.  There are just so many good and exciting things going on, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share them with you and encourage your faith and participation in them.  I noticed something about Paul’s letters recently.  Almost every letter begins with a pronouncement of grace upon those reading, but every one ends that way.  I usually sign with “blessings”, but I’ll go with the great Apostle Paul as an example for me…

May you grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, our King and Savior,

Pastor Jack

Children

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Children. They’re everywhere.  Do you see them?  Do you even notice them?  I do.  I notice them in parking lots, at school, at the playground and parks, on the streets, at church.  Everywhere, children.  That word for me conjures up images of bodies in motion, lots of laughter, chatter, and non-stop action.  Ever heard someone say, “Wish I had half of their energy?”

Children.  They’re important to Jesus.  And they’re important in the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, they should be important to all of us who consider ourselves to be Kingdom builders.  If you’ve been in a church service where a baby dedication took place, did you accept the challenge Pastor gave the congregation to pray, be involved, set an example, and help raise that child?  Is there a child in your life?  There should be.  You would be blessed.

Children.  Yes, they’re messy, and noisy, and full of energy.  But they need us.  They need us to love them and show them the way to the Father’s heart.  I’ve been reading The 5 Love Languages of Children, and it’s no surprise that children need words of affirmation, physical touch, and quality time, the same as adults do.  My own life was marked by an elderly gentleman who always had lemon drops in his pocket, which he loved to share with children.  Is it possible that the simple act of greeting a child, stooping to talk or ask a question, listening, and remembering his name, could have a bearing on that young one’s eternal future?  I think so.

Children.  Don’t miss an opportunity.  Here are several ways you could show kids you care:

  1. Notice them.
  2. Smile a lot.
  3. Learn their names.
  4. Seek them out.
  5. Look in their eyes when you talk to them,
  6. Listen to them.
  7. Be nice.
  8. Listen to their stories.
  9. Share their excitement.
  10. Kneel, squat, or sit so you’re at their eye level.
  11. Answer their questions.
  12. Point out what you like about them.
  13. Keep the promises you make.
  14. Wave and smile at them when you part.
  15. Give them lots of compliments.
  16. Give them your undivided attention.
  17. Mention something you’ve noticed about them.
  18. Thank them.
  19. Tell them about yourself.
  20. Ask them to help you.
  21. Do something together.
  22. Do what they like to do.
  23. Give them a special nickname.
  24. Notice when they grow.
  25. Hug them.
  26. Love them no matter what.

One more for good measures:

  1. Volunteer to help or teach in a Sunday School Class.

“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’.” Matthew 18; 2-4

-Pastor Dora Clarkson