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Why Is It “Good?”

April 18, 2014

Good Friday from Real Life Vancouver on Vimeo.

Tenebrae services date back to the early centuries of the Christian church. The name comes from the Latin word for “shadow.” Tenebrae depicts the flight of the disciples and the approaching agony of the cross. At this Good Friday service, we will look at the events and teachings that occurred on Maundy (“the day of Christ’s great mandate”) Thursday and Good Friday.

Good Friday is a time for us to remember and give thanks for the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on the cross for the sins of man. The service follows the journey from the upper room of the Last Supper to Judas’ betrayal and the harrowing hours in the garden of Gethsemane. From there we walk with Jesus to Pilate’s judgment hall, up Calvary’s Hill and down to the tomb of Joseph.

We remember this day not with sorrow – for we know the truth of His resurrection – but with reverence, as we are reminded of His great love and sacrifice on our behalf. Scripture says, “come, let us gather and remember the Lord is good!” So let us gather on Good Friday and remember as we prepare our hearts for the joy of the empty tomb and new life in Christ on Easter!

The whole family is invited to this special service. Childcare will be provided for kids ages 4 and younger.

We hope to see you tonight!

Renewal

April 16, 2014

I think the best way to describe how I felt about the arrival of spring is relieved. I actually said “oh thank God” out loud in my car when I drove past the first patch of daffodils several weeks ago. Sure, I enjoyed that late snow we got, but seeing the daffodils reminded me that the world was still capable of color. After so many months of gray and rain, I had almost forgotten that spring would happen.

Now we’re coming up on Easter, and color is everywhere. Flowers are blooming, people’s wardrobes are taking on brighter shades, and I probably don’t even need to tell you about the displays of Easter candy and toys in the stores. I’m loving all of it. Everything, from the return of the farmer’s market to the magazines’ recommendations of spring lipsticks to the trees flowering and going to leaf, reminds me of the time of renewal that’s come to us again. God renews the earth each spring, and each spring, Holy Week and Easter give us the opportunity to renew ourselves in Him.

If we’ve come to know Christ, we know that we can be renewed no matter what we’ve been through or what we’ve done. A couple weeks ago, Jeff told us how Jesus Christ is grace and truth in a person. Jesus is truth. He is forgiveness. His sacrifice is grace. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap our heads around that, and it can be even harder to accept that grace and forgiveness as the gifts they are. But we don’t ask the flowers to bloom for us, nor do we ask the sun to shine through the clouds. They are all gifts to us, so we give thanks and worship, especially this week.

Spring is nothing less than the time when God wins our souls. We invite you to join us on Friday at 7 PM to observe Good Friday, traditionally the night on which Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples and was betrayed, leading to his crucifixion. On Good Friday, it seems that the enemy has won, but come Sunday we celebrate Easter and see the truth: Christ is risen! We’re offering three services, at 9 AM, 1030, and noon, so there will be plenty of opportunity for all to come and celebrate with us!

We’re never so far gone that we can’t be renewed, and we can be renewed over and over, as often as needed. Join us and see for yourself!

-Laura

Lent 2014: Positive Impact

April 3, 2014

During this season of preparation and anticipation of Easter, we want to have times as a community where we collectively pray and fast. Our purpose is to draw closer to God, open our hearts and minds, and listen for the Holy Spirit leading us. Each week, we will share a prayer focus for the week and a fast for Friday that we may all participate in as a community.

The fast is a spiritual discipline designed to better connect us with God. As a church, we are fasting in order to deepen our relationship with God and to walk in step with His plan and purpose. This is accomplished through substituting something physical, typically food, and replacing it with a spiritual activity, like Bible reading, praying, or journaling. The overall goal is to experience a genuine hunger for spending time with God.

Week 4 Prayer Focus:

This week as we pray together, let us ask God for impact. The words we say and actions we take may have a positive impact in someone’s life. Paul pleads that he will be all things to all people – that by all his possible means, some would be saved through him. His prayer was not just for people to come to Christ, but that God would allow him to be a part of their journey.

As Easter approaches, my prayers mirror Paul’s. I want to have an impact on the people around me that leads them to Christ. So I pray for opportunity, for the right words, and for a receptive heart. I confess to you there are some people that I have been praying for over several years, and honestly, I think this may finally be the year. Let’s pray to have positive impact in the lives of those around us.

Week 4 Fast Focus:

Tomorrow, as a community, let us fast and focus on generosity. In light of God’s great gift of His journey – from the cross to the tomb to alive within us – I am filled with a spirit of generosity. Join me tomorrow in fasting from money. Set aside money you would have spent on yourself tomorrow – on coffee, treats, a movie, whatever – and give it away. Is there someone you know that could use a little help? Give to the Salvation Army or Share to help the homeless. Give to the Real Life Fund we use to help those in need. Give to the Red Cross. God says He loves a cheerful giver. We are all given much to be used for good. Be generous– imagine the positive impact it will have!

I love my church,

-Jeff

The Heart of Worship

March 28, 2014
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During Lent, this time of preparation before Easter, we as a church have sought to draw closer to God and gain a greater understanding of our relationship with Him. This Sunday, March 30th at 6pm, I want to invite you to come to a night of worship.

Why?

Good question. Worship for me is a time of drawing closer to God. When I sing about His greatness, I am reminded that God is bigger than I can imagine; when I sing about my need for Him, I am reminded of His faithfulness; and when I sing about how God works through man, I am reminded that I am here for a purpose.

In Scripture, worship is described as a sweet offering to God. The Psalmist writes: “Bring your sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord.” What is my sacrifice? For me, it starts with presence. I need to show up to be present, to choose to worship above the 47 other things I want to do on Sunday at 6 pm. I need to put action to my faith if I expect it to grow.

Secondly, I sacrifice my attention by taking it off myself and directing toward God. Finally, I know worship in community is also about the person standing next to me. As I worship, as I open myself up to God, my actions create an environment that encourages others to do the same. I think that is how to truly lead in worship.

As I look forward to celebrating Easter on April 20th with you all, I am reminded of the great sacrifice Jesus made for you and me. He did what I could not: He made a way back to God and forgave my sins. When I think of that for even the briefest of moments, how could my heart not be moved to worship?

I look forward to worshipping with you on Sunday!

-Jeff

 

Lent 2014: Looking Out, Looking Within

March 27, 2014

During this season of preparation and anticipation of Easter, we want to have times as a community where we collectively pray and fast. Our purpose is to draw closer to God, open our hearts and minds, and listen for the Holy Spirit leading us. Each week, we will share a prayer focus for the week and a fast for Friday that we may all participate in as a community.

The fast is a spiritual discipline designed to better connect us with God. As a church, we are fasting in order to deepen our relationship with God and to walk in step with His plan and purpose. This is accomplished through substituting something physical, typically food, and replacing it with a spiritual activity, like Bible reading, praying, or journaling. The overall goal is to experience a genuine hunger for spending time with God.

“Irvington Neighborhood Street” by Sarah Kercheval

From the devotional “Ashes to Fire:”

The word “repentance” is the English translation of the Greek word metanoia. Metanoia is often understood to mean a “change of mind” or a “change of heart.” But a close look reveals that metanoia may be understood as a military term, a command that clearly means to do an about-face—to turn away from the old way of living and thinking and face a new direction. And apparently this change of mind and heart, away from the things of this world and to the things of God, is required. It is a command. It is not an option. In fact, Luke reports Jesus saying that we have but two options—repent or perish (see 13:3).

The confession of one’s sins is a great start: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But confession must be followed by repentance. “Unless you repent, you will all perish,” said Jesus (Luke 13:5). There is no ambiguity here. Kingdom people repent. One cannot become a true Christ follower without repentance, and one cannot remain in close fellowship with the company of the committed without continued repentance. Repentance is, after all, Jesus’ first doctrinal statement: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matt. 4:17). To illustrate the importance of repentance, Jesus told a parable about a fig tree that bore no fruit (Luke 13:6-9). No fruit? Then cut it down. The point? The truly repentant person is a fruit-bearing tree. Without the fruit of repentance dangling from the branches of one’s life, conversion—life change—has not taken effect.

Turning away and turning to are all part of our walk with Christ. The season of Lent offers us an opportunity to look closely at, and make the necessary corrections in, our relationship with Christ.

Let’s look inside and outside this week.

Week 3 Prayer Focus:

Let us look outside. Pray for the people in your neighborhood. Maybe you know them by name, or have just seen them from a distance; maybe you are on friendly terms or things are a little strained. It does not matter. Pray for them.

Pray for :

  • Health
  • Peace in relationships
  • Protection from harm
  • Openness to God

Think about taking a walk around your neighborhood and praying this prayer for each house. Let’s look outside of ourselves.

Week 3 Fast Focus:

Let’s also look within this week – by fasting from technology. Let us set aside TV, computers, phones, etc. from 5pm until bed. Replace this time with reflecting on your life and relationship with God. Where are you? Where do you want to be? Open yourself up to the people in your life. Let them in and listen to them, really listen. Let this sacrifice open you up to God and the people around you!

I love my church,
-Jeff

(Neilson, Merritt (2014-01-01). Ashes to Fire Year C: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 842-847). Beacon Hill Press. Kindle Edition.)

Our Worship: “All To Him”

March 26, 2014

Need to get familiar with a new song? Want to listen to one of our favorites again? Explore the “Worship” category for more worship songs!

Here’s a new song we just learned on Sunday! Don’t forget to join us Sunday evening for a special worship service!

Lent 2014: Bridging to Peace

March 19, 2014

During this season of preparation and anticipation of Easter, we want to have times as a community where we collectively pray and fast. Our purpose is to draw closer to God, open our hearts and minds, and listen for the Holy Spirit leading us. Each week, we will share a prayer focus for the week and a fast for Friday that we may all participate in as a community.

The fast is a spiritual discipline designed to better connect us with God. As a church, we are fasting in order to deepen our relationship with God and to walk in step with His plan and purpose. This is accomplished through substituting something physical, typically food, and replacing it with a spiritual activity, like Bible reading, praying, or journaling. The overall goal is to experience a genuine hunger for spending time with God.

Week 2 Prayer Focus:

As we enter the second week of the Lenten season, I would beseech each person in our family to pray for the mission of our church. Mission is the scope and breadth of our commission, which is to reach the lost and broken of our community with the gospel. Our first week kicked off with a prayer for passion-infused hearts that are full of revival and a turning to Jesus. This week, we seek to set in motion that catalyst and look for opportunity to act upon that mission given by Christ Himself in the last chapter of Matthew. Opportunity from God can be as big as a bold conversation directly about His Son out of the blue with a stranger, or as small as listening to a friend share their grief in silence and compassion. Our Father knows no limits to those He might place in our path for us to interact with, where we can rely on the gospel that we not only know, but live out, day by day.

May grace and peace be ours this week as we keep our spiritual eyes open for those canyons we are called to build bridges over, in and through authentic relationships, as we seek to live out our mission.

Week 2 Fast Focus:

Fasting is a broad pen stroke that involves many different varieties that many of us may or may not have thought of. My challenge to us as a family this week is to fast from being fast!

What!?!

Oftentimes, we fly too quickly through our days, missing what the Lord has placed in our path for interaction, all in the name of efficiency and diligence. We pride ourselves on a “quick” run to the store, or a fast phone call to a friend, which often loses quality of relationship and quality of opportunity to see the quality of God’s handiwork in nature all around us. Let’s fast from being fast one day this week by doing something – anything, really – that is out of our normal character. When visiting WallyWorld and you have but a few items, choose the longest line rather than the quickest to practice the art of slowing down! Let that Bieber-haired teenager behind you go ahead of you in the line and show him grace. Choose to take a new unexplored route home and get to know some new sights while talking with God. Turn off the radio the whole drive and just use the silence to listen and talk with your Father, who longs to hear from you. When getting your Black Rock, don’t just grab and go, but glance in your rearview mirror and buy a cuppa joe for the car behind you. Who knows? You might just get a honk out of it, and a smile that can change not only your day, but theirs as well.

Live for today. This is my challenge to us, church. Grace and peace be with us all as we fast from being too fast in these fleeting days.

-Matthew Clair

Lent 2014: The Heart of the Church

March 13, 2014

During this season of preparation and anticipation of Easter, we want to have times as a community where we collectively pray and fast. Our purpose is to draw closer to God, open our hearts and minds, and listen for the Holy Spirit leading us. Each week, we will share a prayer focus for the week and a fast for Friday that we may all participate in as a community.

The fast is a spiritual discipline designed to better connect us with God. As a church, we are fasting in order to deepen our relationship with God and to walk in step with His plan and purpose. This is accomplished through substituting something physical, typically food, and replacing it with a spiritual activity, like Bible reading, praying, or journaling. The overall goal is to experience a genuine hunger for spending time with God.

Week 1 Prayer Focus:

This week, I am asking you to join together in prayer for the hearts of our church. Pray for hearts to be moved with compassion for those who are far from God. I want a revival to start inside our hearts and our buildings as we learn to see the world and people around us through the eyes of Jesus. Much like the good Samaritan whose heart was filled with compassion for the traveler who was in need, compassion may compel us to move, to act, to help.

Let our prayer be to have hearts moved by need and strengthened by compassion.

Week 1 Fast Focus:

Okay, since this might be your first fast, let’s start with something easy. Remember, our goal is to draw closer to God. We don’t have to make a big deal about fasting – in fact, keep it to yourself! Fasting is a private discipline which reaps a public reward: a breakthrough in your relationship with God, which will impact more than just yourself. Let us set aside tomorrow’s noon meal and replace it with a focused time on God. (You may drink water, and as always, be mindful of any medical conditions that make fasting from food unwise.) Expect something good to come from your sacrifice! We are developing spiritual disciplines that will reap a harvest to due time.

I am glad to be on this journey with you.

-Jeff

Ash Wednesday: Contemplation and Cleansing

March 4, 2014

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. It’s a day for repentance, a day to remind ourselves of our need to confess our shortcomings and to turn always to God for forgiveness and cleansing. Ashes are used throughout the Bible as symbols of repentance (see Jonah 3:5-9, Job 42:6, and Matthew 11:21).  At our Ash Wednesday service, you’ll have the opportunity to participate in worship, quiet reflection, and communion, along with the administration of ashes to the forehead in the shape of a cross.

Here is Psalm 51:1-17, a prayer by David which sums up both our attitude and our needs on this Ash Wednesday:

Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
that my mouth may praise you.

16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

You may recognize these words from a worship song we sing frequently:

Join us Wednesday evening at 7 PM to honor the beginning of the Lenten season and start our journey towards Easter.

Ten Things To Know About Lent

February 27, 2014

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1. Lent and Easter worship the death and resurrection of Christ, making this season one of the most important in the church calendar, along with Christmas.

2. Lent is the 40 days preceding Easter (excluding Sundays, see #9). It’s a season for reflection, repentance, and renewal, observed through fasting, praying, and giving.

3. The term “Lent” comes from an Old English word for “spring,” which was introduced in the late Middle Ages to help introduce the practice to a larger, non-Latin-speaking audience.

4. Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday (April 13th this year) and includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper and Jesus’s washing his disciples’ feet (“maundy,” from Latin “mandatum”). Good Friday observes Jesus’s death on the cross.

5. So if Jesus died that day, why is it called Good Friday? Without the crucifixion, there can be no resurrection – no triumph over death, no redemption for us, no payment for our sins. Terrible and brutal as Jesus’s death was, it showed God’s great love for us in that He would sacrifice His own Son to give us new life and new relationship with Him.

6. Lent has been observed since the 3rd century!

7. Fasting is more than just giving something up. Sacrifice alone doesn’t help us grow. Fasting asks us to “detach” ourselves from the physical world and “attach” ourselves to Christ through prayer and sacrificial giving. If you’ve never fasted for Lent before, don’t worry about plunging off the deep end! During Lent, we’ll be inviting you to participate in guided Friday fasts. Each Wednesday, we’ll inform you what to fast from on Friday (social media, sugars, etc.) and suggest devotionals or readings to turn to instead of the earthly substance you’re fasting from.  This is a good starting point for those unfamiliar with Lent or fasting!

8. The Lenten period of 40 days has lots of biblical significance. It reflects the 40 years the Israelites spent in the desert, the 40 days Moses spent on Mt. Sinai (twice), Jesus’s 40 days of temptation, and the 40 days between his resurrection and his ascension to heaven.

9. Why not Sundays? Sundays during Lent are observed as “mini Easters,” or weekly anniversaries of the resurrection.  This means they are spent worshipping with a spirit of celebration, not repentance or sacrifice. They don’t count towards the 40 days of Lent.

10. The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday (March 5th this year). Ashes are applied to the forehead as a symbol that “we were made from dust, and to dust [we] will return” (Gen. 3:19) and we have a deep need to repent and turn humbly to God for forgiveness. Join us for our Ash Wednesday service 7pm for personal reflection, worship, prayer, and communion.

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