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Deeper Roots + Wider Branches

Pursuing Sanctification, Community & Mission

The Meaning of the City (Tim Keller): http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/meaning-city

Show & Tell: Matthew 9:35-10:42 (Steve Huber): http://www.libertichurcheast.org/resources/multimedia/details/?id=91062

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For more details on how you can pray for the DRC visit: http://www.operationworld.org/cong

Also, check out what’s going on with our friends with Women in Warzones: http://www.womeninwarzones.org/

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Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. [Psalm 42:5]

I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. [Psalm 34:1]

Woke up this morning feeling down about some things, and reminded myself of a few passages that have become anchors for my soul in the past several months. I find the contrast between Psalm 42:5 and Psalm 34:1 to be really helpful.

Psalm 42:5 teaches me that it’s ok to feel down sometimes, and just to acknowledge it. There are days when I just don’t feel happy. There are things I’m sad or anxious about. And that’s ok. I can be honest about these feelings: “Why are you cast down, O my soul,  and why are you in turmoil within me?” This verse also teaches me to preach to myself in these moments: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him…” This verse speaks to the times when it feels nearly impossible to praise God, while at the same time recognizing that God will bring me through. He is my “salvation and my God”.

Psalm 42:5 seems to address emotions we feel like we can’t control, and pushes us to hope when all hope seems lost. I’ve had times when this is all I can cling to. Psalm 34:1 on the other hand calls me to make a choice to praise God regardless of my circumstances. We have a great example of this in Habbakuk 3:

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. [Habakkuk 3:17-19]

There are times of dissapointment and depression that are like walking on the most miserable winter day with the wind blowing in your face. And God can give us the grace and strength to hold our heads high, to face the chilling winds, and to walk with confidence that God is good, that he will provide for us, and that he will bring us through.

While these 2 truths that I’m talking about might seem sort of contradictory, I’ve come to treasure both of them. I have a God who is my refuge and shelter when all I can do is barely keep my head above water. And this same God is a God who nurtures and sustains me, who little by little nurses me back to health, who actually brings to a point where there are days when I really hurt or am really confused, yet somehow almost take joy in pressing on because I know that God is somehow working for my good and his glory.

 

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Please pray for the peace of our city. If our city has as many violent crimes each month as we did in January, we will average out to about 1 murder a day, as we did a few years ago. Here’s a blurb from a Metro Philadelphia article I saw this morning:

As of Monday, the city’s official murder count was at 24, not including a woman and seven babies allegedly killed by abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was charged two weeks ago. That number represents the highest year-to-date total since 2007, when 31 people were slain in the first month. Rapes are also up 36 percent from a year ago…

Many of these crimes take place within a few miles from where we worship. Let’s ask ourselves what it looks like to be the church in a city that experiences so much violence? What are some practical ways that we can serve our neighbors and work for the peace of our city?

We heard Steve preach on the beatitudes this past Sunday. One of them is “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” How can we pursue this call in our neighborhoods? How does the gospel uniquely equip us to be peacemakers?

It would be great if some of you could offer ideas in the comments section…

*Note: Photo found at http://www.malcomxpark.org

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For more info on how you can pray for Bosnia and Herzegovina visit: http://www.operationworld.org/bosn

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Although I am not currently a church-planter, church-planting is something that I have a growing passion for, and hope to be a part of in one way or another for the rest of my life. So don’t be surprised if I end up posting a bunch of church-planting-related stuff on here…

I just read a short post over at the Resurgence called “Plant Churches Like a Missionary, Not a Pastor”  by Dave Dorr, Pastor of Passage Church in Cincinnati, OH. Dave says that his biggest mistake as a church planter was “approaching a new church start like a pastor and not like a missionary.” He points out that the failure to see church planting as a missionary endeavor with the goal of forming a church out of lost people in that area can quickly lead to missing the very mission that church-planting is supposedly all about:

“I know church planters often don’t have to do evangelism to start churches domestically. They can start with a group of people from their sending church. They can recruit from other churches. They can find a group of people who are fed up with how other churches do things and launch from there. Some of these are legitimate ways to plant a church. Some of these are shady. But all of them miss evangelism.”

Jesus commanded us to go out and make disciples, not create consumeristic upgrades for believers who are not satisfied elsewhere. Our mission is not to create “cooler” churches that provide goods and services that other churches lack (See another recent post by Dave entitled “Consumers“); our mission is to lead lost people to life, and call them to become committed disciples. This is not to say that there should not be a core-group of believers when starting a church-plant, and Dave makes this point in his post. After all, we are not to be lone-rangers out calling people to come follow us, but rather a covenant community calling people to come join us in folling Jesus. In his concluding paragraph, Dave says “The church planter is a missionary first, doing evangelism, and leading the believers in his church to reach lost people.”

I think that a lot of newer (especially) urban churches on the scene right now would agree with this idea. The question is: Is this actually happening? When you look at your church and realize that it is not reflective of the neighborhood that it is located in, what does that mean? I think this is a complex question and the answer may not be as simple as it initially seems, but I do think it’s a question worth asking. Secondly, since many newer urban church plants do agree with this ideology, what can we adjust/change to be more faithful to what we actually believe? Is it possible that our baggage about the way we are used to doing church or small-groups is holding us back from reaching our neighbors?

I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do want someone who asks the questions. I pray that God would help church-planters and pastors as well as believers who are part of church-plants to be willing to rearrange the way we do life and community in ways that are more inviting to our neighbors and more faithful to our mission.

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This past weekend was the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the historic decision which made it legal for women in the U.S. to “terminate” unwanted pregnancies. The brief sound bites and the hand full of blog posts I caught over the weekend reminded me of just how frustrated I am with this issue, with myself, and with other young evangelicals like me. While fighting human-trafficking is rather trendy right now (with many celebrities picking it as their “cause”), not many choose to fight for the rights of the unborn. I am ashamed to say that although I have deep convictions that abortion is murdering millions of children, I do very little with these convictions. I’m ashamed to say that it often takes an election season to get me thinking about the issue again. I’m sure many are in this boat with me. And yes, we have our reasons: the issue seems tired; over-politicized; we don’t like some of the ways that the generation preceding us fought this battle; we feel frustrated that passionately fighting for this cause seems to pigeon-hole us politically and culturally; often those who are making the most noise for the cause are not necessarily the people we want to be associated with; and let’s be honest- while saving the lives of orphans in Africa, and refugees, and child sex-slaves, and other trafficked humans is “hip” and will win us the praise of our friends and coworkers, fighting for the rights of the voiceless unborn (and by implication against the “rights” of the women who carry them) is simply not cool, and not something anyone is interested in discussing. People may accept that we hold this position, but the general vibe is “keep it to yourself.”

I don’t know what the solution is, but I no that silence is not it. As Christians who who care about seeking justice for the oppressed this is an issue that we should be learning about and talking about. Ok, so there are some crazy pro-life people out there! And yes, I agree (and hope) that my church is not made up of political clones who all tow the Republican party line. And yes, this is a delicate issue. But regardless of your political leanings, let us not deceive ourselves into believing that this is a personal issue on which we all may come to any opinion we like. Abortion is the termination of a human life created by God. Last time I checked, that’s called murder. I honestly don’t know what it looks like or sounds like to faithfully fight this evil in our generation, but we must figure it out. We must talk. We must read. We must do something! I (and I believe many of us) need to repent for our apathy towards this issue. Father, forgive us.

In a broken world with so many issues, there is no possible way that we can each fight against every injustice. I will be honest: I do not necessarily feel called to become an expert on the abortion issue, or to make a career out of fighting it. But I am deeply disturbed at how absent this issue seems to be in the conversations and justice-related efforts of young evangelicals, as well as in the hip urban churches that many of us populate. While I may feel called in other directions such as serving refugees and being part of church-planting, I still feel a deep conviction that somehow I should be more aware and more involved in this issue which I believe is no less important that ending the trafficking of children and adults around the world.

I guess part of what I’m trying to do here is to echo the call of Isaiah 6:8: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Who will be that person for this issue? Who will be the voice of our generation for the rights of the unborn? Who will lead us in this fight? Who will help us figure out how to talk about this? Who will pioneer the new approaches that are so desperately needed? Where are you? Will you please start talking?