If you missed last Sunday’s worship service and the first day of Advent, click here to view the recording.
It’s here! The Advent season is finally upon us! And for those of you who didn’t grow up in a liturgical setting and might not know what that means, it’s the weeks leading up to Christmas. It’s a season of anticipation of Christ’s birth.
When it comes to Christmas, I guess most of us are no strangers to anticipation. As kids we burn through our years by counting down each day till this glorious holiday. But I think that, because of this, we are desensitized to the true meaning of the Advent season – the anticipation of a savior.
You see, before we can have a savior, we have to recognize our separation from God. We have to fully grasp our own sinful nature. The harsh truth is, we have to indict ourselves before anything else.
In traditional liturgical church settings, it’s customary to light a candle each week of Advent leading up to Christmas. And each candle represents something different.
We lit the first candle on Sunday; the candle of hope.
I am not oblivious to the ways in which I fall short. I am fully aware of my indictments, both self-imposed and otherwise, and I’m completely certain that I need a savior. That is why Advent (and Christmas in particular) are so important to me. They give me hope. The coming of Christ and the sacrifice he came to bear is proof to me that I’m not too far gone. There is a God who loves me and wants to be close to me. So badly, in fact, that he would send his son for me.
If that’s not hopeful, I don’t know what else is.
If you missed last Sunday’s worship service, click here to view the recording.
Well, we did it; we reached the end of The Apostles’ Creed. Naturally, the last line we talked about was simply one word: amen.
We say this word at the end of all our prayers, but some of us don’t actually know what it means. In case that’s where you’re at. So I’m here to help you out a bit.
“Amen” is a form of affirmation. It’s kind of like, “So Be It”, or “Right On”.
Think of it like a verbal high five or fist bump.
Even still, amen is so much more than that. By saying it at the end of all our prayers, we are stating, in just one word, many things about God. “Amen” means that God is real. It means that he hears us. It means that whatever we have prayed for that he will acknowledge and respond in his own way.
Therefore, its place at the end of The Apostles’ Creed isn’t just another way to say, “The End”. This one word line is another important line in The Creed that proclaims something monumental about our Christian faith.
And so, we’ve not only come to the end of The Creed, but also our series on it. To learn more about these statements of faith, or just about Jesus in general, feel free to email me by clicking the CONTACT US button on the site.
To catch up on last Sunday’s message by Pastor Ted, including musical worship, click here.
Can you believe it? We’re almost to the end of our journey through The Apostles’ Creed. This past Sunday, Pastor Ted talked about the line, “I believe in the resurrection of the body…” which refers to many important things: Jesus being raised from the dead after he was crucified, the fact that he was actually dead, the fact that we, too, will be raised from the dead…
And there’s no doubt that these are all amazing things. But I’d like to take this blog in a different direction.
According to the good ol’ dictionary, the word “resurrection” not only means “the act of rising from the dead”. It also means this:
a rising agin, as from decay or disuse; a revival.
The thing about being a follower of Jesus is that we don’t have to wait until the end to be resurrected. Because we are followers of Jesus now we get to experience this kind of resurrection every day.
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes that “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (NLT)
You see, before coming to Christ, we are all slaves to the things that break us. We are bound up and defined by the ways in which we fail. We are our hangs ups, we are our mistakes, we are our pasts.
With God’s grace, through the sacrifice of his son, we are free from all of that bondage. We are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). We are raised again from decay or disuse. We are each a revival.
We had a lot of great things happen in our service last Sunday — a baptism, new members, and some guest speakers. If you missed it, click here to watch the recording and remember you can always join us live on Sunday mornings by clicking here at 9:30 AM Eastern.
A few months ago my husband and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. Over dinner, as we do each year, we discussed the past year and how far we’ve come since saying, “I do”.
“I’m just so glad we made it out of that first year alive,” I said relieved.
“Because we fought, like, all the time!”
“It wasn’t that bad,” he shrugged.
My jaw dropped in disbelief.
I don’t know how it goes for most marriages, but the first year of ours was a bit rough. As we transitioned from just people who were dating to people who were also roommates, we found a lot to fight over. Some of the times, I was the instigator and some times it was my husband. And the memories, while they do fade with each passing year, are still deep within the recesses of my mind.
My husband, on the other hand, has the worst memory when it comes to fights. Once he has said either the phrase, “I’m sorry,” or “I forgive you,” it’s as if the issue never even happened.
(In related news, I’ve got it good.)
This past Sunday as we continued our journey through The Apostles’ Creed, we touched on the section that says, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
For those of us who know Jesus, this part of the creed transcends so many areas of our life:
- FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS: We believe that, by sending His son Jesus to die for us, God has redeemed all of our failures already. We may not live perfect lives, but we have a perfect God who loved us enough to pay the price for us.
- FORGIVENESS OF OTHERS’ SINS: Let’s face it; it felt really good to be the “right” one in a fight with my husband. But what felt even better was, after he apologized, being able to say, “I forgive you”, and let the weight of my anger float off of my heart.
- FORGIVENESS OF OUR OWN SINS: Honestly, the hardest part about fighting with my husband is forgiving myself for wronging him. I always feel so plagued with guilt after an argument in which I was the perpetrator. Maybe I’m wrong (actually, I hope I am) but I’d argue that one of the hardest things for us to do as a society is forgive ourselves. But when we are in Christ, and we say this part of the creed, we have to believe that we, too, are forgiven. Completely. When we accept forgiveness, it means we can’t feel guilty about our failures anymore because it’s as if they never happened.
Sometimes grace doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem sensible to mess up but still be loved. But that’s what this whole thing is about.
It’s easy to write someone off when they’ve failed. And that’s what makes Jesus so radical. Because when we say that we’re screw ups, he says that we are forgiven. And then when we say to God, like I say to my husband, “But don’t you remember that time when I screwed up so badly?”, He says, “No.”
If you missed last Sunday’s worship service, you can watch the recording by clicking here.
As we continue examining The Apostles’ Creed, this week we’re focusing on the line that says:
“…the communion of saints…”
A few years ago I got kind of into organic food. Not crazy into it, mind you (I mean I can’t give up McFlurries JUST YET) but I was still really interested in learning how to use locally grown food in my house more often. But I didn’t know where to go.
When I did some researching I found a local farmers’ market and got up early one Saturday morning to scope it out. I wasn’t really sure what I’d find — maybe a couple dudes standing around with baskets of some corn they grew in their backyards or something — but I had an open mind.
Those of you who are familiar with farmers’ markets are probably going to laugh at this, but I was shocked to see what I saw when I got there. There were not just “a couple” dudes but rows and rows of tables and tents manned by folks with dozens of baskets filled with all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and even some handmade goods. It was like a real grocery store, but outside! And without food corporations! Just a bunch of people who, like me, liked organic and locally grown food!
The best part about it was feeling like I was part of something, you know? By showing up to the farmers’ market I was no longer just some weirdo who liked organic food; I was one drop in a sea of weirdos who like organic food.
We learned this past Sunday that this line in The Creed — the communion of saints — refers not to the act of taking communion, like we do each week, but to the joining together of believers here on earth as well as those who have passed before us.
There is something to be said about gathering around people who share your passions and beliefs. It can be comforting and validating — like when done at a farmers’ market — but it can also be really transformative and spiritual when it involves God. In the 18th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus explains that when believers are gathered together in his name that he is there among them (verse 20).
So not only do we get to enjoy each other when we experience the “communion of the saints”, but we also get to enjoy God. And what more could we want?
If you missed last Sunday’s worship service, you can watch the recording here.
We’re still chugging along through The Apostles’ Creed and this past Sunday we talked about the part that says…
“I believe in the Holy Catholic Church…”
Now, if you read that and you found yourself saying, “Hold on, I’m not Catholic, so…” have no fear. I’m with you. I’m also not Catholic.
But that’s not the point. When we say, “Catholic Church”, we really mean the Universal Church, all of the Christians around the world as one body. Don’t let the term hang you up.
I’ve always been a bit “on the edge”, if you will. I’m progressive. I like to push buttons. I like to challenge the status quo. And, as I’m sure you can imagine, growing up in a mainline denomination church didn’t exactly mesh with my, ahem, brash personality.
When I was about nine years old, the children’s ministry director at our church pulled me into a meeting with her and the lead pastor to explain to me that I was a bit “too rough around the edges” for the church.
“You’re just a bit too, um, loud and boisterous,” the children’s director said.
“And God doesn’t like that,” the lead pastor chimed in.
I furrowed my brow as the nine-year-old gears in my nine-year-old brain began to churn.
“But didn’t God make me this way?” I honestly inquired. “Why would he make me a certain way if he didn’t like it?”
I don’t remember their answers but I do remember feeling like I couldn’t be myself in church. I knew in my heart that God loved me regardless, but I wasn’t so sure about his followers. Because of this, I stopped going to church altogether. My faith in God stayed pretty stable, but my faith in Christians was shaken.
When I got to college, I decided to give church another try because that annoying Bible says that we are called to do this life on earth together in a community and that when one or more of us comes together, God is with us. But because of my previous experiences, I didn’t want anything to do with traditional, mainline denomination churches.
The church where I ended up worshipping was anything but traditional or mainly. It was actually a hollowed out, converted barbecue restaurant with cafe tables where pews should be and a rock band where a choir loft should be. It was safe. It was unassuming. I felt like I could be my messy self around Christians once and for all.
But then I moved here and joined this church. This traditional, mainline denomination church.
And I was scared at first. But after getting to know everyone here, I’ve learned that it really makes no difference in which building we worship.
If it’s a building at all.
But what matters is that we are all a part of this world-wide movement. A giant series of interconnected groups of people that now spans centuries in time who all have one thing in common — our faith in Jesus Christ.
And that’s all the creed is saying, really. We’re all a part of something bigger than ourselves, something that transcends time, generations, worship style preferences, and traditions.
We are the holy church. Each of us.
If you didn’t catch our worship service on Sunday, you can watch the recording here.
As we continue our journey through The Apostles’ Creed, we have finally come to the part that I didn’t want to come to:
“… [Jesus] descended into hell…”
This part of The Creed has actually caused so much controversy that some denominations choose to ignore it completely. That’s right; they just take it out and pretend it never happened. And I can understand why. It’s a scary thing, to think that the Son of God was sent into complete separation from God, even if it was for a relatively short period of time.
When Jesus was on the cross, right before he died, he cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was still breathing and yet he already felt disconnected from God. Because he took on the world’s sin, he felt what we feel in this life for the first time. He felt isolation from God. Though he literally didn’t descend into hell until he actually died, in my opinion, that must have felt a little bit like hell to Jesus.
What a creepy feeling.
There have been times in my life (as recent as last week, actually) where I have felt separated from God, too. When I have lost loved ones. When I have struggled in my career. When I have failed as a mother. When I have disappointed my husband. And when I have done a lot more personally damaging things. And I have done the same as Christ did. I have cried out in desperation, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Where are you God? Why aren’t you hearing me? Why aren’t you caring for me? Why aren’t you stepping in here?
I think the important thing to remember in these times when we may feel like we, too, are falling into a hell of sorts, is that these feelings are not unique to us. Jesus had them, too. The savior of the world, in his most impressive moments, felt alone and scared, aware of God’s absence.
But in three days he turned that separation upside down.
If you didn’t happen to catch last Sunday’s worship service, feel free to catch up on it here.
We’re still chugging through The Apostles’ Creed and last Sunday Pastor Ted spoke about the part that says that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…” and then “crucified, dead, and buried.”
This may come as a shock to some of you reading this, but I have not “arrived” yet, as they say. I am a full-blown work in progress, covered in metaphorical scaffolding and sawdust. As much as I hate to admit it, I constantly make mistakes and find myself being called out by close friends in the ways I don’t live up to the life that God has called me to. The latest example happened a few weeks ago.
I sat down with a friend of mine complaining about some people who I thought were being *huff* unreasonably cruel to me. Immersed in my suffocating self-pity, I told my friend that I was going to point out their wrongdoing in a passive aggressive fashion (that is, citing some scriptures that would defend my position for wanting justice brought down on them). I’d put all of two minutes of thought into it so I figured it was a fool-proof plan. When I turned to my friend to find affirmation and support, he looked at me with concerned eyes.
“I’ve been in a similar situation,” he started.
“Oh, yes, then you know exactly what I’m talking about!”
“Yes, and I had to really examine myself to find out my motive for wanting to call those people out. Did I want to convict them because I thought they were in need of it, or did I want to convict them because I wanted to appear holier than them?”
My heart deflated and my lungs turned to ice. And it was at that moment that I realized that my motive was all off. I cared more about hurting other people than I did about “convicting” them of their sins.
The next week I suffered a “death” of sorts. I crucified myself over and over every time I thought of how terrible I’d been, particularly in the name of Jesus. I didn’t think I could even pray, because I was so ashamed of coming into God’s presence when I was so screwed up.
But the thing about having a savior who was crucified, suffered a death, and was buried inside a cold tomb, is that there is no hurt or shame or darkness he doesn’t know. There is no pain he hasn’t experienced. There is no low he hasn’t fallen to. Because of this, we can always come to the foot of the cross expecting to see open arms, not pointed fingers.
If you didn’t catch Pastor Ted’s message from last Sunday, you can view the recording by clicking here.
We’re still trucking on through The Apostles’ Creed and on Sunday we focused on the part that says, “… and in Jesus Christ His only begotten son our Lord.”
So. God had one son. And Jesus was it. But God’s son Jesus was also was born into an actual earthly family, just like the rest of us; his earthly mother Mary gave birth to him, but she also gave birth to other children which means that Jesus had earthly siblings. Mary was also someone’s daughter, who was someone else’s daughter, who was someone else’s daughter, and so on and so forth. So even though Jesus was God’s only son, he was also Mary’s son, Jesus of Nazareth.
In the scriptures (I’m thinking of Mark in particular) there are instances of Jesus being made fun of for being where he’s from and the bearer of such genealogy. Mary, if you recall, was an unwed teenager when she became Jesus’ mother. And Nazareth wasn’t exactly Beverly Hills. But, regardless, these things made up who Jesus was and I would argue that they were highly influential to his ministry. They gave him prime position to minister to the outsiders and the scorned. They gave him a sense of empathy and compassion that I think other religious rulers of the day lacked. They made Jesus more than a teacher. They, along with his divinity, made him a humble savior to all.
I’m not exactly proud of where I grew up. It’s not a terrible town by any means (a little town outside of Daytona Beach, Florida) but things like Bike Week/Biketoberfest (yes, there are two bike-related events a year) and the NASCAR scene and the small-town-everybody-knows-everybody’s-business aspect were enough to make me eager to grow up and move away. Furthermore, I was one of the few kids who, in that time/area, grew up in a “broken home” (ugh, hate that term) so I regularly felt misplaced and misunderstood. When I turned 18 I was elated to pack up and bolt out of there, leaving my biggest influences in the dust.
When I was in college, I began volunteering in youth ministry. I was scared at first, mostly because teenagers can be scary but also because I had no idea how I was going to relate to those students and effectively show them the love of Christ.
It wasn’t until when, on a beach retreat, a 7th grader tearfully opened up to me about a situation she was going through at school that mirrored a similar situation I’d been through that something finally clicked. Because of my previous experiences, I was able to minister to her in an authentic and empathetic way and explain to her the ways in which Jesus healed me and could heal her, too. Just like Jesus was scorned and ridiculed for his earthly background but still was able to minister to other “outsiders”, I was able to show that student that she wasn’t as far from God as she thought she was, either. She was just like me. It was in that moment that I finally looked back on my upbringing with gratitude.
I’d venture to say that there are things about where you’re from that, despite what you may initially feel about them, would yield the same result. Whether you know it or not, there are parts of your story that can have significant impact on the kingdom, just because they normalize someone else’s.
If you missed our service this past Sunday, click here to watch it!
We are continuing our series exploring The Apostles’ Creed. This is where we’re at right now:
I believe in God the father, almighty maker of Heaven and maker of Earth.
So, we’re talking about God as a creator.
Before I was born, my mother bought a tiny house. I was born into that house and lived in it until I moved away to college. The entire time I lived there, my mom spent money, time, and effort building on to, decorating, rearranging, and adding to the house’s value. While she did not actually physically build the house herself, she did “create” it into a home. She took something that was only bricks and mortar and turned it into a place of safety, solace, and security for me to grow up in and later come back to. She was actively invested in her creation, and still is.
So. What does it mean to believe that God is our creator?
In the book of Genesis, there is a beautiful account of the beginning of the world. Now, of course we know that the people who actually physically wrote the book of Genesis weren’t actual witnesses to the birth of our planet. Furthermore, there are some obvious scientific details that just aren’t present in the narrative. But while the documentation of the chemical formulas and processes surrounding the beginning of the earth aren’t blatantly spelled out in the text, what is there is the fact there never was a time when God wasn’t here, even at the very beginning.
To know that God is our creator is to know that, like my mom with her house, God is actively involved in his creation every single second of every single day. It means that he is here. He is there. He is with you. He is with me. God is not a passive creator who formed this orb filled with little creatures made in his image just to let it rot. Rather, he pursues us daily and walks alongside us, even when we feel like we’re alone. To know that God is creator is to know that God is with us.
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