Story Saturday: Strategic Missional Opportunities

Hi friends,

We are about halfway through this experiment of me being the chaplain for the Phillies.  To be honest, this has been personally very challenging. Why I feel called to do what God has me doing with the Phillies, I also miss you terribly when I’m not with you.  I am so excited about the work God is doing to change people’s lives through our ministry and I just hate missing out any part of it. Because of this, I’m trying to change my schedule to allow me to be present on Sundays, even when I have to do chapel for the Phillies.  I’ll keep you posted on what happens.

However, there are two significant things though that I am very grateful for so far.  I want to draw your attention to these things, so that you can rejoice at how God’s grace is at work in our church.  I believe that both of these things are strategic missional opportunities given to us by God that will bear tremendous fruit for His glory.

1.  We are raising up future preachers who will help advance the mission.

It’s pretty popular right now for churches to talk about planting churches.  However, I think too much is at stake to just have that be a cool talking point.  We live in a city where well over a million people are waking up each day without knowing the love of God in Christ.  That’s a tragedy. I truly believe that God has us here, not just for our neighbors, but to be part of his movement of reaching our city through one neighborhood church being planted at a time.  My prayer is that God would use us to reach 1% more of Philadelphia in the next 50 years. That’s going to take us planting dozens and dozens of churches. In order for that to be more than a prayer and a dream, we need to start taking action now.  I can think of no more strategic action then training future pastors. I don’t know if any of the current guys in training will be used to plant churches, but I do know that if they aren’t trained, that we won’t be able to continue to grow and plant more churches.  And so having them step up and take on more responsibility has been huge. I’m so proud of how hard they are working, how much their families are sacrificing and seeing how well they are doing. Sure there have been a few bumps. They are obviously still learning and aren’t that polished yet.  But the only way to get better is to continue to get more experience. And so you are participating in their preparation and our future mission by hearing their sermons, giving them encouragement, feedback and prayer. I’d love for our church to be known as a place where many, many preachers are born.  I’m grateful for how you as a church are embracing that role.

2.  What God’s been doing with  the Phillies is starting to gain national attention

Starting in spring training it has just been one miraculous story after another of what God is doing in the lives of many of the men (and their families).  The staff has noticed and other teams have noticed. I regularly get questions about what is going on. This went to another level last week though when, during two of the games, the broadcast team showed footage of the Phillies praying together before the game and said they have never seen a baseball team that is so spiritual.  If you watched either of the last two games against the Giants, the faith of the players was mentioned several times throughout the game and the story was even picked up on social media. I have to follow a strict no media interview policy, but I’ve started getting interview requests (which if my boss is reading this, don’t worry I decline!) because so many people are curious about what is going on.  While I don’t think anyone is becoming a Christian because they see the Phillies team praying, I love hearing stories about how God is using this to give many people opportunities to talk about their faith. I have heard story after story about people talking to family members, neighbors, co-workers, etc… who had written Christianity off as something for only simple minded people, but now are giving it another look and asking questions.  So through your faith to support me in this role for this year, God is reaching literally thousands of people.

Friends, I am so grateful for what God has been doing.  We are a small church, but God is using YOU in a huge way.  Your investment into our mission through your time, prayer and support is making a huge dent in the kingdom of darkness.  I’ve never been more excited for our future!

Gratefully,

Pastor Jeff

Resources for further study about the Holy Spirit

Hi Friends,

I am really excited about our new sermon series on the Holy Spirit and how I believe God is going to use this time in the life of our church.  If you’d like to get further into study, here are a few recommendations.

Entry level

1. The Forgotten God by Francis Chan

Not a very theologically precise book, but it will whet your appetite to know more of who the Holy Spirit is and how He is meant to work in your life.

Intermediate

2.  The Sovereign Spirit by Martyn Lloyd Jones

At some point in their life, every Christian should read something that Martyn Lloyd Jones wrote.  This book is not a bad place to start.

3.  Keep in step with the Spirit by J.I.Packer

A great book by one of the great modern theologians.

4.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware

A great book on the doctrine of the Trinity.  Pretty thorough theological treatise, but very concise and easily read.

5.  Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves

Another great book on the Trinity that really emphasizes how the Triune God necessitates God being a God of love in his very nature.  Really powerful read.

Advanced

6.  The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson

One of the best books I have read on this subject.  I think he writes in a pretty easily understood manner as well, although the book is a bit long.

7.  Showing the Spirit by D.A. Carson

An exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 and in my opinion, the best commentary written on those 3 chapters of the Bible

8.  Empowered by the Spirit by Gordon Fee

An exposition of every single mention of the Holy Spirit in the writings of Paul.  Very long, very technical, but if you can wade through it, an incredible read that will stir your affections for God the Holy Spirit.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Baptism in the Spirit

Hi Friends,

Here is a question that came out from my sermon this past Sunday.

Question:  If all believers have the Holy Spirit at conversion, then what does that mean about the baptism of the Holy Spirit?  That was clearly a post conversion experience for the disciples at Pentecost, shouldn’t we look for that post conversion experience as well?

Before I answer this question, I want to state upfront that while my answer will be loaded with scripture, I recognize that there are many within orthodox Christianity who will disagree with me (mainly my Pentecostal friends).  I want to be clear that I don’t feel this is an issue to split over and that we have way more in common than we do that separates us.

OT Background

We have to understand the context of Pentecost.The Holy Spirit was not a novel idea to the New Testament authors, but something they expected from God’s revelation made to his people of old.  Thus, the New Testament refers to the Holy Spirit as the one whom God promised (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5, Acts 2:38-39, Galatians 3:14). In the majority of the Old Testament incidents involving the Holy Spirit, the Spirit acts as a channel of communication between God and man, usually through a prophet’s speech.  The prophets were the ones who made God’s will and wisdom known to his people through the revelation brought to them by the Spirit. Yet, the prophets pointed to a future time when God’s Spirit would rest upon all his people and no longer needed to be mediated through the prophetic office (Joel 2:28, Isaiah 32:15, 44:3, Ezekiel 39:29).  Each person will come to know the Lord for themselves (Jeremiah 31:34) and through this knowledge become transformed into people of true obedience (Jeremiah 31:31, Ezekiel 36:24-29, Isaiah 44:3-5). Thus, Ezekiel writes, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live” (Ezekiel 37:14). The people of God would have their very lives intimately connected to this indwelling of the Spirit.  And this coming outpouring of the Holy Spirit would be brought by the Messiah. He would be both filled with the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:1-4, 42:1-2, 61:1-2) and inaugurate the Spirit age for his people (Joel 2:28).

Now, it could be argued that this filling and indwelling of the Spirit that the prophets referred to is not meant to be interpretative for the New Testament idea of being “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, but rather limited to describing the experience of every Christian coming to faith through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit in converting their hearts.  However, it is important to note that the most common metaphor used to describe this coming experience of the Holy Spirit is that of “pouring” or “outpouring” and is usually coupled with images of water (Isaiah 44:3, Ezekiel 39:29, Joel 2:28). Thus, this coming of the Holy Spirit was always associated with an immersion like experience analogous to baptism of John and Jesus’ day.  The OT anticipated a day when the Spirit would come and pour over God’s people like water, a day when they, all of them, would be baptized in the Spirit.

Gospel Narratives

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is one of only a handful of subjects that are discussed in all four gospel narratives (Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33).  While these texts do not allow for definitive conclusions about the nature of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, second experience baptism versus conversion baptism, they do point to the fact that baptizing his people in the Holy Spirit was of paramount importance to Jesus’ redemptive mission.  In each of these four texts, John is comparing and contrasting his baptism with Jesus, stressing the point that just as John’s ministry was marked by water baptism, so will Jesus’ ministry be marked by this baptism of the Holy Spirit. Through these recorded words of John, this baptism of the Holy Spirit is shown to be not just an experience that Jesus’ followers will have, but part of the unfolding of salvation history.  In each passage John states that Jesus’ baptizing with the Holy Spirit would take place in the future. There is a sequence that is being stressed about the progressive nature of Jesus’ redemptive work. Jesus is born, he lives, he dies, he is resurrected and then he sends the Spirit. As Richard Gaffin concisely writes in his book Baptism and the Holy Spirit, “Baptism with the Holy Spirit was nothing less then the culmination of the Messiah’s ministry.”  This is because it is through the Spirit that the Christian acquires all the benefits of Christ’ works (1 Corinthians 12:3).  The baptism of the Holy Spirit was the final act of Jesus’ redemptive work for without this baptism everything else that he had accomplished would have been for naught.  Therefore, although these Gospel texts do not definitively indicate the nature of this baptism of the Holy Spirit, they do sow the seed for the coming baptism to be seen as a redemptive-historical event.  Thus, when Pentecost occurs it is first and foremost to be interpreted as a redemptive-historical act, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy kept through Jesus Christ. I think to read Acts 2 as an argument for a second baptism of the Holy Spirit that is meant to continue on to today misses out on the rich promises of God that were being kept in that unique moment of history.  The purpose of its inclusion in Holy Scripture was not primarily to be illustrative of a second experience that modern Christians should expect, but rather the historic event of the outpouring of the Spirit that the Old Testament prophets spoke about and which John the Baptist said Jesus would bring. Pentecost is part of the once and for all work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, just as his death is never to be repeated and his resurrection is never to be repeated, so too is this act of his work never be repeated.  The gospels set us up for Pentecost as a non-repeatable redemptive historical event of inauguration into the Spirit-filled age.

NT Writings

1 Corinthians 12:13 is the only epistle that explicitly uses the phrase, “baptism with the Holy Spirit.”  Paul writes, ““For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”  In order to interpret this text the context of this letter must be taken into account. Paul was writing to a church that was rife with division.  Spiritual elitism had run rampant through the congregation. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is building an argument for unity in the church through the unity that they share in Christ.  He grounds their unity in their shared belief in Jesus as the Lord, a belief that they did not come to in their own wisdom, but in the Holy Spirit (12:3).  This point reaches its climatic conclusion when in verse 13 Paul writes, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” With this context in view, it makes no sense for Paul to be making a distinction between those who have received the baptism of Holy Spirit in some lesser form, simply by being converted, and those who have received a more powerful filling of the Holy Spirit through a second baptism.  This would effectively create two separate categories for Christians which is the exact opposite of what Paul is trying to do.

How then are the other second experiences recorded in Acts meant to be interpreted?  First, it is important to recognize that there is not really a plethora of examples, but only one.  Acts 8 is the only text that clearly describes a situation where some people became Christians, but were not immediately baptized with the Holy Spirit.  From this record of the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon Samaritans, Pentecostals argue that this is strong evidence that Pentecost is not just a redemptive historical event, but an ongoing experience that Christians should anticipate.  However, this argument fails to take into consideration the cultural context of the significance of the Samaritans being saved. There was a history of animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. Thus, if the Samaritans were to be included in the church of Jesus Christ it was important that the highest level of leadership in the church testified to the fact that they were to be treated as full members, not second class citizens. The events in Acts 8 should be read as a “Samaritan” Pentecost, a unique redemptive historical event through the Apostles as a demonstration that being a member of Jesus’ church was not to be limited to people only of Jewish ancestry.

What about people today who have an experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit that is separate from their conversion? 

The final argument that Pentecostals will make for a second experience baptism of the Holy Spirit is that similar experiences to those recorded in Acts still occur today.  On this final point, I agree wholeheartedly, but would challenge the word that is being used to describe these experiences. I believe scripture is clear that baptism of the Holy Spirit happens immediately upon conversion.  However, this does not deny that there can be ongoing experiences of the Holy Spirit coming upon Christians in a distinctive way. These experiences are not to be understood as “baptisms of the Holy Spirit”, but rather “fillings of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4, 4:8, 4:31, 9:17, 13:9, Eph 5:18).  These instances are situations that call for an immediate and special endowment for a particular task or spiritual emergency. Thus, all Christians should expect, and in fact are commanded to desire (Eph 5:18), ongoing fillings of the Holy Spirit.

This blog post was way too long, but if it makes you feel better this is a cliff notes version of an academic paper I wrote at the Pastor’s College.  If you are interested in this subject more and have an affinity for Greek grammar, church history, etc… I’d be happy to provide you with the full version. Just hit me up on Facebook, twitter, instagram, email, or carrier pigeon.

Your friend,

Pastor Jeff

 

 

Hannah McCurley Follow Up

We were honored to have Hannah McCurley join us this past Sunday and share about what God has put on her heart for the people of the Philippines.  If you'd like to follow her journey you can at:

If you are interested in sponsoring her, you can do so at https://us.worldteam.org/give, and type in Hannah McCurley under “Worker”.

For God's glory!

Pastor Jeff

Surviving and Thriving in the Digital Age

Hi Friends,

I saw this article on Desiring God and thought it was way too good to not pass along.  It is entitled Twelve Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age.  However, I don't think this is just for parents, but for ALL of us who are living in this digital age.  if you do have kids though, this is an absolute must read.  If your kids are old enough to read, I'd encourage you to let them check it out as well and you can have some good family discussion together.  

Hope this serves you!

Pastor Jeff

Tony Reinke  / Sunday, May 20, 2018 7:02 PM

Who is iGen?

Kids between the ages of 6 and 23 fall into a generation now getting labeled Post-Millennial or Gen Z or iGen. I want to introduce you to the research on this generation, then process the implications for pastors, leaders, and parents: How do we steward teens in the digital age?

To be honest, I don’t know which sin is worse: the arrogance of speaking in generalities about an entire generation, or the sin of ignoring data-trends. With God’s help, we can avoid both.

iGen is a recent label given to those born between 1995 and 2012. It is 74 million Americans, or 24% of the population, and the most diverse generation in American history. It is also the most digitally connected and smartphone-addicted generation. iGen’ers were born after the Internet was commercialized in 1995. They have no pre-Internet memories. Each entered (or will enter) adolescence in the age of the smartphone. As parents, we face many challenges in shepherding these teens in the digital age.

Trends Among Teens

Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, has written the most systematic study about iGen. She ran the datasets, conducted the interviews, and has now voiced her concerns — first published in a feature article for the Atlantic, under the bombshell title “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The article was an excerpt from the book that soon followed, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

If Tom Hanks represented a generation in the movie Big — children impatient for adulthood — iGen is the exact opposite: children with the ability to postpone all transitions into adulthood.

Twenge’s extensive study summarizes the observations: iGen’ers are safe. They are the first generation to grow up with active shooter drills at school since kindergarten. They are the most protected generation by parents. By preference, they are the most self-cloistered generation of teens. Taking all the evidence together, iGen teens are more likely to be homebodies. Compared to previous generations, iGen teens are statistically less likely to go to parties, to go on dates, to get their driver’s licenses, to drink alcohol, to smoke tobacco, to ride in a car without a seat belt, or to experiment with sex.

Now many of these trends are good, and we should celebrate the turning away from foolish behavior. But as Twenge says, taken together, these trends offer a portrait of behaviors that mark a generation of delayed adulthood and prolonged adolescence.

Five Marks of iGen

Along with this delayed adulthood and prolonged adolescence, the iGen is marked by a few other things:

1. They are smartphone natives.

According to one study, the average age for children getting their first smartphone in the U.S. is now 10.3 years old. Many of these phones are hand-me-downs from mom or dad, but between 12- to 17-year-olds, nearly 80% identify as smartphone users.

2. They are always online.

iGen’ers are spending less time working jobs, volunteering, engaged in student activities, and doing homework. The result: they’re spending massive amounts of time at home and online. They’re virtually never offline — driven to their devices by social promise, by friendships, and by relationships.

3. They are secularizing.

Among iGen, about 1 in 4 do not attend religious services or practice any form of private spirituality. “iGen’ers are more likely than any generation before them to be raised by religiously unaffiliated parents” (Twenge, 121). Obviously there are many believers in this generation, but 1 of 4 is thoroughly secularized.

4. They perceive one another through fractured bits.

Using a skill Clive Thompson calls “ambient awareness,” it turns out that teens are good at taking little fractured fragments of social media — discrete images, texts, tweets — and fitting those bits into a better understanding of one another (Smarter Than You Think, 209–244). For me, it feels weird to connect someone’s online life to their real life when I meet them in person. Teens are more natural at this. Though separated, through screens they connect through this ambient awareness. They learn about one another, digitally, in fragments.

5. They are woke.

Twenge argues that Millennials are, at heart, optimists. iGen’ers, who grew up during The Great Recession, are more pessimistic, more sensitive to social tension, and more compelled to protect anyone they believe to be vulnerable. As we’ve seen, they can act on this woke-ness, too, evidenced in the Parkland rally, the March for Our Lives, the National School Walkout Day, and the #NeverAgain movement. iGen’ers may be homebodies, but they can rally. (Of course, this is not without layers of problems, as teens can get used to push the political agendas of adults, as pointed out in Alan Jacobs’s recent piece, “Contemporary Children’s Crusades”). Nevertheless, iGen’ers are socially woke, and this will play a major role in the 2020 election, as it shapes how pastors and parents interact with this generation.

What Challenges Does iGen Face?

By far, the most concerning takeaway from Twenge’s research, and confirmed by others, is the spike in teen depression. Between 2012 and 2015 — in just three years — depression among boys rose 21%, and depression among girls rose 50%. These upticks are reflected in suicide rates. “After declining during the 1990s and stabilizing in the 2000s, the suicide rate for teens has risen again. Forty-six percent more 15- to 19-year-olds committed suicide in 2015 than in 2007, and two and a half times more 12- to 14-year-olds killed themselves” (Twenge, 110).

It is “the paradox of iGen: an optimism and self-confidence online that covers a deep vulnerability, even depression, in real life,” writes Twenge (102), going so far as to say, “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones” (source).

Who is iGen? They are woke. They have ambient awareness. They appear confident online. They are never offline. Technology conveniently buffers and brokers their relationships. And technology feeds their loneliness and the toxic comparison that hollows meaning from their lives. Parents know most of this. They saw these problems long before we had books about iGen.

Twelve Tips for iGen Parents

When talking about teens and screens — or “screenagers” — we need to get concrete. So let me offer twelve practical suggestions to stir into the discussions you’re already having in your churches and homes.

1. Delay social media as long as possible.

Social media poses a dilemma. Journalist Nancy Jo Sales wrote a fascinating (and frightening) book titled: American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers. There she recounts a conversation when one teen girl said to her, “Social media is destroying our lives.” Then Sales asked her, “So why don’t you go offline?” The teen responded, “Because then we would have no life” (Sales, 18). Social media is where teens look for life, and it’s what costs them their lives. We must help our kids see this paradox. Social media, unwisely abused, will cost them something precious.

2. Delay smartphones as long as possible.

Once you introduce your child to a mobile-connected smartphone, with texting and apps like Instagram and Snapchat, parental controls are virtually futile. I’ll offer one example of how this plays out.

Your kids can be exposed to sexualized conversations and nude selfies and you may never know it. Again, in her book, Sales investigates the troubling phenomenon of girls receiving unsolicited nude selfies from boys in texts, often as a first step of showing interest in them. And boys often ask the girls for nudes in return. Obviously, we must warn our kids of this phenomenon before it happens. But there are virtually no parental filters to prevent a nude selfie from arriving on your child’s smartphone via text or Snapchat, even if your child does not ask for them. And 47% of teens use Snapchat, a premiere app to send and receive expiring images and “throwaway selfies.” In the smartphone age, sexting has become “normative” to the teen years. These are potent devices. Resist the pressure to give your kid one. And don’t leave old phones around.

3. Inside the home, take control of the wifi.

In our home the default is to keep wifi off until needed. Many routers allow you to pause service in a home. I’ve been impressed with a device called “The Circle,” which sits beside our router at home, and gives me the power to cut off the wifi entirely, or to a specific device, based on content filters, ratings, time limits, and bedtimes. It breaks a wifi connection between the router and the device or computer. Instead of setting up parental controls on each device, you can control the flow of data to every device. It’s brilliant. In fact, I can pause the wifi at home with my phone — our 2 smartTVs, 3 computers, iPods, iPads — all disconnected from wifi with one button, from here. When a child in our home wants to use the computer, they make a request and explain why they need it. More can be said here, but it’s a small way to help them to bring clear purpose to tech use, all made possible because the wifi is not always on.

4. Outside the home, connect without smartphones.

For ages 6–12, consider something like the Verizon Gizmo watch. The Gizmo is a smartwatch, with speakerphone, that receives and makes calls to a limited number of phone numbers set by the parent. It has a GPS locator built in for the parent to see via an app on the parent’s phone.

Parents want phone technology to deliver three things: (1) to call their kids whenever, (2) to be called by their kid whenever, and (3) to know where their kid is via GPS. You don’t need a smartphone. The Gizmo offers each of these things, and not much more — which is a good thing. Ask your mobile carrier for the latest options to meet these three criteria. And for ages 13+, consider a flip phone. They are inexpensive, and in many cases you lose GPS, but ask around for a phone with only the features you want. And be prepared for cellular salespeople to look at you like you’re an alien. As my wife says, go into the store of your mobile provider and ask the salesman for the “dumbest phone they have.”

5. Stairstep technology over the years.

I think the most common mistake parents make is in assuming that the smartphone is an isolated gadget. It’s not. The smartphone is the culmination of all the communications technology a child has been introduced to from birth. To be given a smartphone is a sort of graduation from several steps of technology mapped out beforehand.

Here’s how my wife and I outline those steps: Once you take control over the home wifi — that’s crucial — then you can begin to introduce technology that your kids can only use inside your home. On paper draw a big box. On the top-left side, write age 0, and on the top-right side, write age 18. Left to right, this is your child’s first 18 years with technology. Now, draw stairs diagonally from the bottom-left to the top-right. At some early point, you might introduce a tablet with coloring and educational games. Age 3 maybe. Or 5. Or 8. Whenever. One stair up. Then you introduce a tablet with educational videos, maybe age 6. Next step up. Then at some point you introduce a family computer in the living room for writing projects. Maybe age 10. Step up. Then you will introduce a phone like the Gizmo, or a flip phone. Step up. Then you allow Google searches on the computer, for research. Maybe age 12. Step up. Then perhaps at some point you introduce Facebook or messenger apps to connect with a few select friends, from the computer. Step up. And then comes the capstone, the smartphone — the final step up. Age 15 or 16 or 17 or I would suggest, 18. But you decide.

The advantages to this are twofold:

(1) You can accordion out the steps as needed while also showing your child where the smartphone fits into a digital trajectory you’ve set for him. As he proves reliable and wise on wifi in the home, he is stepping toward mobile outside the home. It shows him that being faithful in small things leads to faithfulness in big things.

(2) It also reminds parents that once you give a child a smartphone with a mobile data plan, you move from having strong parental control over your child’s Internet experience to virtually having none. You can draw a bold black line between all the steps on the left (wifi at home) and the smartphone on the right (mobile web everywhere). That’s a graduation — a major transition.

6. As a blanket rule, for all ages and all devices: Keep screens out of bedrooms.

Or, at the very least for 12 hours, like from between 8pm to 8am. Make a set rule here. No TVs, gaming devices, tablets, laptops, or phones. Break off the endless social demands. Break gaming addictions. Preserve sleep patterns. Make sure all devices are charged overnight in one place, not in a child’s room. A simple charging station in mom and dad’s room is a good solution.

7. Write a smartphone contract.

When you move to the smartphone, write a contract of expected behaviors, curfews, and family expectations that come along with the phone. Have your child share their login info. And get familiar with the steps necessary to temporarily pause or deactivate the phone. Most carriers make this easy. For parents who made the mistake of introducing a smartphone too soon, as well, it’s never too late to set in place a phone contract.

8. Watch how each child responds to the digital age.

This has been so fascinating for me. My wife and I have three iGen’ers, including two teens, and each of them uses digital media completely differently. I have one kid who will endlessly watch every Dude Perfect video 40 times and waste hours. I have another child who will buy a new music instrument, watch 30 minutes of YouTube, and master the basic chords without any paid lessons. She’s done this with the ukulele, then the keyboard, and then the clarinet, and those introductions led to formal training classes. I’m fascinated by YouTube’s power to unlock new tactile skills in my kids — and quite frankly, I want my kids to learn from YouTube tutorials as soon as possible, but not until they are ready.

Each child responds differently. Some teens will want social media so that they can follow 5,000 people. Other kids will want social media so that they can follow 5 close friends. Those are radically different uses. Parent each child uniquely based on what you see in them. And when your kids claim unfairness, refer back to the stairsteps, and explain why each child in the home is on different steps in the same progression.

9. Re-center parenting on the affections.

Smartphones do not invent new sins; they simply amplify every extant temptation of life, and manifest those temptations in pixels on HiDef surfaces. Old temptations are given new levels of attraction and addiction and accessibility. Which means that the tension and anxiety parents feel in the pit of their stomachs in the digital age comes from the realization that we are waging an all-out war for the affections of our teenagers. This is what’s so frightening. Parenting has always been a war for our kids’ affections, but the digital age exposes our parental laziness more quickly.

If our teens cannot find their highest satisfaction in Christ, they are going to look for it in something else. That message has always been relevant — it just comes like a hammer today because the “something else” is manifested in smartphone addictions. We are not just playing word games, or just saying that Christ is superior on Sunday. We are daily pleading with the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of our teens. They must treasure Christ above every trifle of the digital age or those trifles will overtake them. That’s why parenting seems so urgent today.

10. Take up digital discipleship.

It is not enough to isolate a handful of Proverbs and scatter them like general seeds of wise counsel. Discipling teens in the digital age requires all of Scripture planted and cultivated in all of the heart. And this is because we are dealing with all the facets of what the heart wants. This war for the affections in the digital age holds unprecedented new opportunities for discipling teens, if we can move from temptation to biblical text to Christ. This is our challenge.

Our parental passivity has been exposed in the digital age. I will not belabor this point, because that’s what my book does in taking 12 ways that our phones change us (and de-form us) and then showing us how to be re-formed from Scripture. Once we as parents (and pastors) are humble to self-criticize our own smartphone abuse, then we can turn and help our kids, too. The digital age is scary and exhausting, but it opens up phenomenal new opportunities to disciple teens.

11. As a family, redeem dinners, car rides, and vacations.

Make the dinner table and car rides together and family vacations phone-free zones. I am regularly amazed how the pressures of life get voiced at the dinner table. Unhurried time together, decompressing from the day, is very fruitful. What happened at school? Getting to know my kids happens so often at dinner. This fellowship carries over in more intense ways on family vacations.

12. Keep building the church.

The stats are in: iGen is now the loneliest generation in America — lonelier than the 72+ demographic. Twenge believes smartphones cause iGen loneliness. But perhaps it’s wiser to look at larger phenomena predating the iPhone.

Surround yourself with enough technology, enough machines, and you’ll need nobody else. Get the right gadget, and you can do anything. Dozens of sci-fi novels have already walked out a robot-saturated planet to its furthest consequences and it is pure social isolation (e.g. Asimov’s The Naked Sun). But once the tech age has rendered everyone else unnecessary to you, you soon discover that you have been rendered unnecessary to everyone else.

When no one needs you, we see catastrophic spikes in social loneliness. iGen teens feel this. The elderly feel this. Midlife men feel this. And into this age of increasing isolation and loneliness, social media “offers a rootless remedy for diseases incident to rootless times” (Kass, 95). The smartphone becomes a “painkiller” — promising to solve our loneliness problem, but only cloaking the pain for another moment.

The greatest need of our teens today is not new restrictions and new dumb phones and contracts and limits. Their greatest need is a community of faith where they can thrive in Christ, serve, and be served. They need to find a necessary place as a legitimate part of a healthy church. Keep building faithful families and churches. Listen to teens. Don’t mock them. Don’t laugh at them. Envision them for risk-taking mission — online and offline.

Family Worship

 

Hi Friends,

One of our core values at Christ Church is investing in the next generation.  I thank God for all the volunteers who are committed to building relationships with our kids and teaching them about Jesus.  One of my favorite things to do during our Sunday service is watch our kids engage in our community and to see so many people taking an interest in them.  

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. (Psa 145:4 ESV)

The key to impacting the next generation, though, is not what takes place on Sunday, but what takes place in the home Monday-Saturday.  There is nothing more vital for the sober task of parenting then developing a regular rhythm of family worship. If that has been a struggle for you, or is something unfamiliar to you, here are a few thoughts to get you started.

1. Keep it simple

If you have a skill with making puppets, doing crafts and creating songs that reinforce biblical truths, kudos to you.  Use those to bless your kids and I’m sure it will be wonderful. But if you are an ordinary and uncreative parent like me, I think it is really important to remember that God’s word is sufficient and powerful.  

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work  (2Ti 3:16-17 ESV)

Use a resource that will help you simply open God’s word with your family.

2.  Be consistent

We teach our kids what is important through how we spend our time.  A sporadic time of family worship teaches that we just fit God in wherever we can.  Develop a realistic rhythm that you can consistently keep and then make that a non negotiable part of your daily schedule.   

3.  Be evangelistic

If all we do is try to fill our kids minds with facts, we are wasting our time.  We must engage their hearts. Lead your kids in being reflective, share personally from your own life, ask questions, encourage them to come up with their own questions.  Also, don’t expect your child to love every second of it. Not only are they kids and probably always restless, they are also unregenerate. Have compassion and mercy. Be patient.  One day, by the grace of God, this time will become sweet to them. However, don’t be discouraged if right now it isn’t. Just keep sharing Christ with them through scripture.

Here’s what this looks like in the Boettcher household.  We don’t do this perfectly and are constantly refining our approach.  However, hopefully this gives you an idea to spur your own thinking for your family.

Breakfast

We are currently going through Long Story Short by Marty Machowski.  He has activities with most lessons, but we haven’t been able to fit them in.  I just read the scripture and then go through the questions with the kids. Takes about 10 minutes.  Each child then prays for the day and I pray for our family. Getting them to pray is a great way for me to hear what is on their hearts and know what I should be following up with them about one on one.

Dinner

First, we always have dinner as a family.  No toys, phones, devices, or TV allowed. Dinner goes for about 30 minutes and is just us talking about our day.  Each person answers the question, “What’s the best thing that God did for you today?” We are trying to create an awareness of how God is always at work and instill a discipline of gratitude no matter how hard the day was.  Each kid also takes out two prayer requests from our prayer jar. Our prayer jar is simply a small jar with little slips of paper in it about things that we are praying for as a family. Prayer requests range from things going on in our church to church plants around the world, to specific family requests or requests from friends.  This prayer time takes about 5 minutes.

Bedtime

We have two versions of our bedtime routine.  Business bedtime and extended bedtime. Business bedtime takes about 5 minutes.  We just put our kids in bed and pray for them and recite Psalm 23 together. Our goal is to move on to another Psalm after our kids master that one.  Extended bedtime takes closer to 15 minutes and includes a story, usually made up by me, prayer, Psalm 23 and a few songs (Amazing Grace and Jesus Paid It All are our staples, but we mix in others as well).

That's it.  Not very impressive.  I’m sure many of you have better ideas.  Our goal right now is just consistency and engagement.  God works through faithfulness over time. So that is what we are focusing on and seeking to be diligent about.  Now maybe even thinking of trying to get 15 minutes in the morning, 5 minutes at dinner and 15 minutes at bedtime is overwhelming.  If that’s you, then my encouragement would be to just start somewhere and build up from there. However, I would challenge all of us to remember that our busyness is our choice.  If you think you just don’t have the time to give to family worship, then ask yourself this, “what it is that you think is more important than investing in your family’s spiritual life”  That’s a pretty challenging question, but I think we should feel challenged. I work around 55-65 hours every week with a very full travel schedule on top of that, so I’m not immune from feeling pressed for time.  I know that I need to be challenged to make this time a priority. And I know that if a regular guy like me can do it, then you can do it too.

So start somewhere.  Grow from there. Focus on faithfulness over time.  

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Pro 22:6 ESV)

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff



 

Hi Friends,

Part of our mission at Christ Church is to see disciples of Jesus multiplied throughout our city and our world.  We want to be part of God's missional movement that stretches beyond our local community.  I'm excited that this Sunday we will get the opportunity to do that through hearing from Hannah Joy McCurley.  Hannah is currently preparing to become a missionary in the Philippines through participating in a church plant.  Check out her story below.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

 

Story Saturday: The Chase

Hi Friends,

This past Sunday I had the privilege of baptizing two ladies that God had done a profound work in.  Her is the story of one of them.  Her name is Rose, which is so fitting, because what Christ has done in her is so beautiful.  Our God is a God who chases after us even as we are chasing after other things.

Pastor Jeff

I did not grow up in a Christian family, and my identity throughout my life had been built upon two things—school and gymnastics. I was constantly searching for fulfillment through success in my sport and in school.  But even when I had success, I was still left empty and searching for more.  I had multiple meetings my freshman and sophomore years with my coach about her concern about me not being able to cope with failure.  I was struggling building any friendships and was left in loneliness.  

My junior year at school had begun—and I have vivid memories of sitting on the floor in my room crying for hours and days wishing that year would be over.  I was completely lost, lonely, and empty.  A few weeks into our preseason, I walked into practice holding back tears.  I couldn’t hide my brokenness any longer, and I broke down in the middle of practice. My coach walked over, and asked me what was going on.  Everything began to pour off my heart in that moment.  Life felt like it had no direction. As tears welled in her eyes, she looked at me and said, “Rose, God has direction for you.”

I left practice that day and began replaying those words in my head for weeks. I was completely empty and was looking for anywhere to turn.  Using her words, I decided to turn to church in hopes that I would meet people.

I continued struggling through that semester.  But one of my teammates Kristen Torres began reaching out to me. She began taking me under her wing with love and compassion--meeting me where I was at amidst my struggles.  Torres is currently on a two-year mission trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

Spring semester came, and our competition season began.  About halfway through our season, unable to cope with the stress of school and competitions, I began having panic attacks.  Life felt like it was spiraling out of control, and each panic attack was leaving me more powerless, empty, and drained.  After having a panic attack mid-competition, I was pulled out of every event but beam for the remainder of that season. 

But amidst all of this, two people continued reaching to me—Torres and my coach. They began guiding me, meeting with me, and sending me verses that began stirring my heart. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth” Psalm 145:18, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28. 

As our season ended and summer began, life continued taking turns.  I continued having panic attacks, I was living from house to house, I felt like I was alone, and I had stepped away from gymnastics determined that I was not going back.  And amidst this I turned my back from God as life continued spiraling.

My teammate halfway through the summer reached out to me and told me that I should start coming out to Crosspoint Gymnastics to work out with her.  I resisted for a couple of weeks, but decided to give it a try. The moment I walked into Crosspoint I was welcomed with open arms—and as I looked around, different bible verses were posted throughout the gym, Christian music was playing each day—and it became my only glimpse of hope that summer.      

Fall semester came, and God continued reaching for me.  Day by day, God began flooding my life with Christians who started investing in my life.  I began working at Crosspoint, I was welcomed to church with a couple of teammates, and I started becoming involved in FCA.  Through encouragement from those around me, I began reaching into the bible, journaling, and praying for community.

Right before Christmas, Brittanie DeMeno reached out to me and asked me what I was doing for Christmas.  My family was leaving Christmas day, so she welcomed me to come to church with her Christmas Eve. As I walked in, I was flooded with love and open arms.  It felt like immediate family.  Britt and I talked after the service, and with beautiful timing God had placed someone beside me that had come to faith in a similar stage in life.

As I sat at home on Christmas Day, I began journaling and praying for hours.  I had looked back at the title of the sermon from the previous day—“God’s Big Story” and began looking at God’s big story in my life. And in that time I was given clarity. God that year had stripped me down of everything I knew and identified with.  He had to strip me of my old self to lead me towards Him. Then with beautiful timing, He placed people before me to guide and encourage me as I began to seek.  

He has given me new life, and has brought me out of darkness—and I have never felt so much hope and peace. He has revealed himself in love, and continues to write my story.  Jesus Christ is my Savior!     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on our partnership

Dear Christ Church,

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Regional Assembly of Elders with Pastor Jeff and some of the other men who are in pastoral training. This was for the Northeast Region of our denomination, Sovereign Grace Churches. Pastor Jeff asked if I would be willing to share about my experience of our time at this event, and I was more than happy to.

 I found this time incredibly encouraging and walked away with a fresh excitement for our partnership in the Gospel with Sovereign Grace Churches. While I've been a member of Sovereign Grace Churches for the past fifteen years, I can honestly say I've never been more encouraged at what God is doing in our family of churches. Here are three ways that I walked away with a fresh excitement for what God is doing in our denomination:

1. I saw men with a heart for the poor: I saw men who care deeply about the Gospel being shared and churches being planted in poorer areas. It was so encouraging to hear updates from Stephen Bowne, who has preached at our church, about the recent church plant in the Frankford neighborhood of Philly. What was particularly encouraging was a proposal that was adopted by our region to increase giving to churches like this one significantly over the next few years, as it will take much longer for churches in areas like this to become self-sustaining. It was great to see how Sovereign Grace Churches are committed to planting churches in economically oppressed areas for the long haul by dedicating a significant portion of the annual budget to these endevours.

2. I saw men with a heart for the gospel to spread internationally. We had the privilege to hear from and fellowship with Sean Taylor and Joel Bain who are getting ready to plant a church in Jamaica. Right now, these men are being trained for pastoral ministry in two Sovereign Grace churches in Pennsylvania. We also heard an update from the Croatia church plant, which was planted out of one of our sister churches, Christ Community Church in Reading, PA. It was great to see God using our local churches to train, equip, and send men and women to other nations to spread the Gospel. I found it particularly encouraging that a percentage of our giving as a church goes to Sovereign Grace, which in turn helps fund international missions like these. We have people from nations from all over the world right outside our door in South Philly, I’m looking forward to seeing how God will use us in particular as a church as we partner with other Sovereign Grace churches to spread the Gospel internationally.  

3. I saw men who take their calling to pastor very seriously.  It was obvious that these men share a deep respect and affection for each other. Fellowship and encouragement flowed throughout our time together. There was much laughter and joking in our meetings and over meals. Yet despite the love this group of men has for each other, they are willing to have difficult conversations, and even challenge one another. Surprisingly, these disagreements and hard conversations may be what I found most encouraging about my time there. I saw men who took their charge to pastor so seriously that they are willing to vote down a proposal by a friend or push back on something shared by someone they respect if they felt it was not the best way to honor Christ. I saw men that wanted above all else to be faithful to Christ and be good stewards of the pastoral charge they have been given.

These are just three of the many ways I was encouraged by our time at the RAE. I could write much more about the churches that will soon be planted, how our new polity is strengthening us as a denomination, and the many other ways God is at work, but time does not permit.  Christ Church, be encouraged; God is moving, and bearing much fruit through our partnership in the Gospel with our family of churches!

In His Grace,

Matt Slingerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Story Saturday: Peace in Christ

Dear Christ Church,

We had the privilege of watching Jon Mayse be baptized this past Sunday.  Below is his testimony.

God is moving!

Baptism Testimony

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, -Titus 3:5

They that are whole have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.- Luke 5:31-32

I did not do works of righteousness…far from it…I do not deserve the grace that Christ has bestowed upon me, but He gave freely.

My family isn’t religious. My mom has faith, but she is private about it for the most part. My Dad doesn’t really talk about it. All of my brothers are Atheist, ranging from passive to militant. 

When I was a junior in high school, I started experiencing panic attacks. I didn’t know what they were at first, but by the fall of my senior year, they were crippling. I would hide for sometimes an hour in bathrooms or the nurse’s office. During these attacks, I would lose all sense of myself and just become my anxieties.  It’s like being cut by a thousand little knives. Every single bad thought or insecurity or anxiety pops in and out before you can even recognize it. There’s nothing that can be done during this, you’re completely powerless. At the end, you’re completely emotionally, physically, and mentally drained. I would have two or three of these a day.

I was sent to a special school, which was the only way I was able to graduate, then moved to Austin for college. I had met with a therapist and seemed to be doing better. But in Austin, I deteriorated. I had a panic attack registering for school, lied to everyone that I was attending classes, got cut off when they found out. I got a job, but by then was pretty much an agoraphobe. I would only leave my bedroom to go to work. I simply couldn’t handle the world.

On August 4, 2011, a little over a year after moving to Austin, I tried to kill myself. Around 4 am, I got in my car and drove well over a hundred miles an hour into a pillar under an overpass. By the grace of God, I survived with no injuries. My mom came and brought me home, but things still weren’t good. I still didn’t want to live. In the Fall of 2012, my uncle, my mom’s brother, committed suicide. To be honest, I was angry and jealous at him for being able to do it. I was entirely broken.

But God has perfect timing. I accompanied my mom to every funeral meeting and I watched something incredible. My mother is the strongest woman I know. Her dad was an abusive alcoholic who died when she was 12. He left the family broke, financially and psychologically. My mom had to work for everything, from school supplies to, sometimes, food for the family. She worked at an ice cream shop that got robbed at gunpoint multiple times. She became an ER nurse, working in Oakland at the height of the drug epidemic, strapping down patients who were high on PCP and amphetamines. This was a strong woman. Yet, I saw her breaking. I saw her hold back tears when discussing urns and spellings on tombstones. She always retained her composure until one time, after the meeting was over, we got in her car and she broke down completely. I couldn’t do anything to help. I simply sat there as my mother wept. As she was coming back, she began mumbling under breath and ended with a soft “Amen.” Then, as if a new person, she popped her hands on the wheel and, with a teary smile said “Let’s go see Dallas!”

I had never seen anything like that, like the power of prayer. I had nothing like that. I was a broken person. I wanted that peace, that comfort, that surety. I wanted that.

God got me through those years. When I couldn’t help myself, he guided me to health, he slowly worked on me, preparing me to be able to hear and accept Him. He is my shepherd, my physician. He leads me beside cool rivers, He restores my soul. He is faithful! I never called out to Him, even after seeing the power of prayer. He healed me, He restored me, He saved me even before I knew who He was.

I remember struggling with the parable of the prodigal son. Clearly, this guy had done immense wrongs and came back humbled. But if he was truly humbled, how could he accept such a gift? How could he, knowing the weight of his debts, accept such grace? He should be sentenced and punished! But Christ loves us and he meets us where we are. He leads us back to green pastures. He met my guilt and he led me to peace in knowledge of His love.

Just as Israel wanted a conqueror-king, but got a sacrificial lamb, I wanted judgement, but received Grace.  Coming to this church has taught me about God’s love and today I am so grateful to say that I trust Jesus now for my salvation and He is my peace.

 

Hope House Update

Hi Friends,

As you heard two Sundays ago, we have officially purchased what we refer to as Hope House!  We are thrilled as this is a huge step forward for us as we seek to be ambassadors and lights of Jesus into the dark world of addictions.  This house is under the umbrella of our addictions ministry called Transformation to Recovery (TTR). The house will engage in an intentional discipleship program, as well as various addictions programs and integration of the residents into the life of our church.  We currently have four guys who are living in the home and three more on the way. Please be praying for them and for us as we get this off the ground. We are excited to see how God is going to work!

As we step into this ministry, God is already opening doors and giving us tremendous opportunities to bring the gospel to those with this struggle.  As a result, the board of TTR has made a risky, but faith filled decision to hire John Carlson to be our full time Executive Director. We believe this is a strategic step that will position us both to establish a firm foundation for this ministry and respond to opportunities for growth.  This decision was a step of faith for John as we aren’t able to guarantee ongoing funding and faith for our board as we understand that this means that we have to find ways to increase our giving base. Yet, God has already blown us away with how He has provided for this ministry and we are confident that He will continue to do so.

If you want to support this ministry on an ongoing basis, you can give online at www.transformationtorecovery.com.  

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Easter Recap

This past Easter was a whirlwind of activity.  Thursday night we hosted a Packing Night for the annual Easter Outreach.  Easter Outreach is a collaborative effort of over 70 churches in Philadelphia to bless people in our neighborhoods with a free Easter meal.  We packed over 600 meals and distributed them to 8 churches in our part of the city for them to share with their neighbors. It was an encouraging night as we sang and prayed together as local churches as an expression of our unity in the gospel and commitment to the mission.

Friday we had a Good Friday service.  We had several people read various parts of scripture that speak about the different people who saw Jesus on the day He died.  Mary his mother, Simon of Cyrene, the Roman solider, etc… Kristen Catoe did a spoken word for each character to dramatically bring them to life.  

Saturday morning we had our first ever Easter Egg Hunt.  We did it at our local part and budgeted for about 500 people.  That was a big goal, but hey why not? We also had 250+ free meals to give out as a part of Easter Outreach.  Again, this was about 3x what we have done in the past, but we felt that God was telling us to take things up a notch and watch him work.  God did work, but didn’t prepare us for how much He was going to work. Over 1,000 people came out and we blew through all our Easter eggs and meals!  It was simply incredible to see so many people enjoying themselves, to hear so much encouraging feedback and to watch God sowing seeds in people’s hearts of His great love.

What was so encouraging to me about this busy week was the various people who worked so hard to make everything happen.  Many volunteers put in long hours and didn’t just work hard, but worked with joy and humility. It was truly an experience of watching the Spirit at work empowering the body for ministry.  

We are still a young church that is just getting our feet under us, but I have never been more excited for our future.  Please keep us in your prayers and please pray that God would reap a harvest from the many seeds that were sown this past Easter.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Thanks for praying for Spring Training!

Dear Christ Church,

Thank you so much for your many prayers as I was away at Spring Training these past 9 days.  It was an amazing trip, but it is definitely good to be home. 

I want to share some highlights with you, because while I was the one down there, I know that you all were participating through your prayers on my behalf.  So here are a few highlights:

I got meet almost all the support staff and they were enthusiastically welcoming.  This is incredibly rare. Usually these people are standoffish and avoid chaplains.  But God broke down those walls and gave me some great opportunities with them. Similar to the players, the staff are also not able to get out to church very often since they are always working at the games.  God gave me several opportunities to share the gospel, talk about what it means to be a disciple of Christ and start building relationships. Angie also was able to make some great connections and was given a wide open door to pursue ministry with the women.  I’ve been asked to do a staff chapel as well before the players chapel and might also start leading a bible study for them. God is moving!  Please be praying for 4 individuals (3 guys and 1 lady) whom the Lord has really put on our hearts and seems to be drawing.

I got to meet several of the key decision makers in the organization.  This is even more rare! But again, God showed tremendous favor. They expressed gratitude for me stepping into this role and offered their support.  When I told my boss who I was meeting and what they were saying, he couldn’t believe it.

From day 1, the players were very friendly, gracious and welcoming.  By the end of the week they were asking great questions about what the year will look like spiritually.  There is a solid core of believers, as well as, some guys that are definitely seeking. I as blown away to see so much spiritual hunger and it made me really excited to start working with them.

We really connected with one couple in particular.  They said they’ve been praying for people like Angie and I to come.  They are starving for fellowship and discipleship. They are both leaders and want to be helped to bring the influence of Christ more and more into their teammates lives.  It was incredibly refreshing to hear of their hunger for the Lord and desire to be used. We are looking forward to getting to know them well and going deep in discipleship.

By far though, the most exciting thing was that I was able to work with a player and help him share the gospel with another teammate.  We had a 3 hour dinner on Thursday night pouring into this young man who was exploring the faith. We met again early Friday morning and after some more conversation this guy surrendered his life to Christ right there in the dugout.  There is just nothing like watching someone be born again right before your eyes! God really blew my mind when, as we opened our eyes after praying, we saw that the sun had come up. What a picture of what had just happened in this young man’s life.  And let me tell you, this guy is on fire for Jesus! He kept texting me the next few days about how he was sharing with his teammates about what God had done in his life. On Monday night 14 players gathered together on the Sand Key beach to witness his baptism. I got to share the gospel, this young man shared his testimony and then I baptized him in the ocean right at sunset.  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The night before I left, the President of Baseball Chapel pulled me aside and said that he had rarely seen anything like this during Spring training.  He said, “I know it was a long and hard process for you come to a decision to take this role, but please communicate to your church that God has clearly brought you here for such a time as this.”

Christ Church, thank you for praying.  I was on the front lines, but what happened down at Spring Training was a team effort.  Angie and I felt your prayer coverage and we are profoundly grateful for you

My experiences this past week have made me all the more committed to our mission here and increased my faith even more for what I believe God is going to continue to do through us.  This is a full week for us as we have our packing night on Thursday, Good Friday Service, Easter Outreach and Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday and then celebrate Easter Sunday. As we participate in these things, let’s keep believing that God can take ordinary steps of faithfulness to do extraordinary things!  Christ Church, the Savior lives and He is still saving!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

 

Thanks for praying for Spring Training!

Dear Christ Church,

Thank you so much for your many prayers as I was away at Spring Training these past 9 days.  It was an amazing trip, but it is definitely good to be home. 

I want to share some highlights with you, because while I was the one down there, I know that you all were participating through your prayers on my behalf.  So here are a few highlights:

I got meet almost all the support staff and they were enthusiastically welcoming.  This is incredibly rare. Usually these people are standoffish and avoid chaplains.  But God broke down those walls and gave me some great opportunities with them. Similar to the players, the staff are also not able to get out to church very often since they are always working at the games.  God gave me several opportunities to share the gospel, talk about what it means to be a disciple of Christ and start building relationships. Angie also was able to make some great connections and was given a wide open door to pursue ministry with the women.  I’ve been asked to do a staff chapel as well before the players chapel and might also start leading a bible study for them. God is moving!  Please be praying for 4 individuals (3 guys and 1 lady) whom the Lord has really put on our hearts and seems to be drawing.

I got to meet several of the key decision makers in the organization.  This is even more rare! But again, God showed tremendous favor. They expressed gratitude for me stepping into this role and offered their support.  When I told my boss who I was meeting and what they were saying, he couldn’t believe it.

From day 1, the players were very friendly, gracious and welcoming.  By the end of the week they were asking great questions about what the year will look like spiritually.  There is a solid core of believers, as well as, some guys that are definitely seeking. I as blown away to see so much spiritual hunger and it made me really excited to start working with them.

We really connected with one couple in particular.  They said they’ve been praying for people like Angie and I to come.  They are starving for fellowship and discipleship. They are both leaders and want to be helped to bring the influence of Christ more and more into their teammates lives.  It was incredibly refreshing to hear of their hunger for the Lord and desire to be used. We are looking forward to getting to know them well and going deep in discipleship.

By far though, the most exciting thing was that I was able to work with a player and help him share the gospel with another teammate.  We had a 3 hour dinner on Thursday night pouring into this young man who was exploring the faith. We met again early Friday morning and after some more conversation this guy surrendered his life to Christ right there in the dugout.  There is just nothing like watching someone be born again right before your eyes! God really blew my mind when, as we opened our eyes after praying, we saw that the sun had come up. What a picture of what had just happened in this young man’s life.  And let me tell you, this guy is on fire for Jesus! He kept texting me the next few days about how he was sharing with his teammates about what God had done in his life. On Monday night 14 players gathered together on the Sand Key beach to witness his baptism. I got to share the gospel, this young man shared his testimony and then I baptized him in the ocean right at sunset.  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The night before I left, the President of Baseball Chapel pulled me aside and said that he had rarely seen anything like this during Spring training.  He said, “I know it was a long and hard process for you come to a decision to take this role, but please communicate to your church that God has clearly brought you here for such a time as this.”

Christ Church, thank you for praying.  I was on the front lines, but what happened down at Spring Training was a team effort.  Angie and I felt your prayer coverage and we are profoundly grateful for you

My experiences this past week have made me all the more committed to our mission here and increased my faith even more for what I believe God is going to continue to do through us.  This is a full week for us as we have our packing night on Thursday, Good Friday Service, Easter Outreach and Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday and then celebrate Easter Sunday. As we participate in these things, let’s keep believing that God can take ordinary steps of faithfulness to do extraordinary things!  Christ Church, the Savior lives and He is still saving!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

 

Prayer Requests

Hi Friends,

I can’t believe it, but this Sunday marks our 3 year anniversary of publicly launching Christ Church.  As I reflect on all that God has done in this short period of time, I am truly overwhelmed. God has shown tremendous favor to Christ Church as He uses us to pursue His mission of making, maturing and multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God.  

God’s favor makes me even more aware of our need for prayer.  Everything that has happened is only of God and so if we want to see God continue to do amazing things, we must remain dependent upon Him.  Charles Spurgeon said, “No person can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.” I think he was absolutely right.

Would you do this kindness for me and pray for Christ Church?

1.  Please pray that God would continue to add to our number those who are being saved.  We have a ton of baptisms that need to be scheduled as more and more people are coming to faith.  I am eager for this to continue!

2. Please pray for our children. They are the lost souls that are nearest and dearest to my heart.  Please pray that they would place their faith in Christ, stand up and own their faith through baptism and be used by God in powerful ways.  I think there is nothing more dangerous to a church’s future then the false assurance of salvation of their children and nothing more vital to their ongoing impact then children coming to genuine, saving faith.  We want to see the next generation rise up!

3.  Please pray that God would provide our church with all the finances we need to pursue the missional opportunities in front of us.  Our history so far has been one of incredible generosity of people both within and outside of our church. As we continue to grow and have more and more opportunities given to us, our finances are only getting stretched more and more thin.  Please pray that God would send money so that we can continue to follow the mission.

4.  Please pray for our potential leaders.  We have three men who are currently exploring pastoral calling through a 9 month internship and a pastor in training who is in the midst of studying for his ordination exams.  Having a team of pastors is crucial to our ongoing health as we grow as a church. Please pray for wisdom as I seek to shepherd these men through this process and please pray that God would continue to provide gifted, called and qualified individuals who can help take us further into God’s mission.

5. Please pray for our community outreaches

  • Easter Egg Hunt- March 31st

  • Easter Outreach-March 31st (Hoping to give out 75 meals)

  • Summer Festival- July 28th

  • Thanksgiving Neighborhood Potluck- November 10th

  • Furness High School Bible Study- Ongoing

  • Transformation to Recovery (Addictions ministry and Recovery House)- Ongoing

  • Sports team chaplaincy-Ongoing

  • Kid’s Circle Time- Ongoing

  • Kirkbride Elementary Faith Based Partnership- Ongoing

6.  Please pray for wisdom

We are growing as a church faster than I anticipated and opportunities are coming our way that I never imagined.  Please pray for wisdom for myself, and our leadership team, as we seek to be good stewards of all that God is giving us. I feel out of my depth on a regular basis.  But I think that is a great place to be! Please pray that God would bless us with supernatural wisdom and continue lead us, so that the glory all goes to Him.

Gratefully,

Pastor Jeff


 

3 Years in Review

This Sunday marks our 3 year anniversary as a church.  We are celebrating by welcoming over two dozen new members into our church community.  This truly has been an incredible journey and something that only God could have done. Here’s a timeline that shows some of the things that God has done.

 

September 2012 - After graduating from the Sovereign Grace Pastor's College, Pastor Jeff transitions to a full time church plant resident at Sovereign Grace Church of Marlton and begins to pray and plan out the planting of Christ Church.

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March 2013 - Christ Church has its first interest meeting in Marlton, NJ.  

April- November 2013 - Pastor Jeff meets with dozens and dozens of people interested in being part of this new church.  Through much prayer and discussion 30 adults, along with 15 children, commit to being part of the core team.  These people begin to move into South Philadelphia.

March 9th, 2014 - Christ Church is officially commissioned and sent out from Sovereign Grace Church of Marlton.

March 16, 2014 - Christ Church starts meeting as a team in the Gregory’s living room.  Pastor Jeff had just gotten released from the hospital the night before after suffering a flare in his Crohn's disease and spoke with a PICC line in his arm.

April 9th, 2014 - Christ Church signed a lease for the building at 229 Moore Street.  The plan was to have it renovated and ready by September 2014 for a public launch of Christ Church.

September 2014 -  Building renovations are behind schedule and are not done as planned.  Pastor Jeff goes into the hospital again for extensive surgery and is out seven weeks.  Guest preachers fill in, but the public launch has to be pushed back until January 2015.

January 2015 - The building is still not done.  Pastor Jeff is still very sick.

March 16, 2015 -  The Certificate of Occupancy is finally delivered.  The church building can be opened.

March 22, 2015 - First public service of Christ Church South Philly.  

April 5, 2015 - First Easter Service and baptism at Christ Church.

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May 5, 2015 - First Wedding at Christ Church. Dante and Zoe Gates.

June 2015 - First New Members of Christ Church.

July 2015 - First Summer Festival about 100 people show up.

November 2015 - First Neighborhood Thanksgiving meal about 75 people show up.

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March 13, 2016 - One Year Anniversary.  60 people in attendance.

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Fast forward to March 11, 2018

 

  • 91 members added

  • 172 people who call Christ Church “Home”

  • 14 baptisms (12 currently in the queue)

  • 17 babies dedicated

  • 3 Pastoral Interns, 1 Pastor in Training, 2 Deacons, 8 Small Group Leaders, 2 Sunday Ministry Directors, 2 Music Leaders, 103 Volunteers

  • Last Summer Festival had approximately 900 people in attendance

  • Last Thanksgiving Dinner had 175 people in attendance

  • We have served 300 meals to people in our neighborhood through Easter Outreach

  • We have formed a non profit called Transformation to Recovery which is our addictions ministry and are 1 week away from opening our first recovery home

  • We have a youth outreach in Furness High School and are opening up a relationship with Kirkbride Elementary School

It is amazing to think of all that God has done.  Between the building and our pastor’s health scare, we never should have survived our first year.  But through that adversity, God has lead us to become a thriving neighborhood church that by the grace of God is faithfully proclaiming the gospel in South Philadelphia.  Seeing all God has done makes us eager for what we believe God will do. We have never been more excited about the future, or desperately aware of our ongoing dependence on the Lord.

If you are in the area, come out to Christ Church this Sunday  and see some of what God is doing. If you haven’t been to church in awhile, or never have been and are skeptical, this is a safe place for you.  Everyone is welcome to come as they are and will be welcomed just as God has lovingly welcomed us.






 

 

Story Saturday: Conference Update

Friends, 

I gave the following update at our worship service this past Sunday, but for those of you who missed it, check this out.  God is doing some amazing things!

Last week Angie and I traveled to Dallas, Texas to attend the Baseball Chapel Conference.  Don’t worry, I was proudly sporting my Eagles gear most of the time.  It was a pretty sweet moment, since I have been around Cowboys fans all my life talking about how the Eagles have “no rings”.  

Baseball chapel is an incredible organization.  They hire, train and resource bible preaching, gospel loving, Jesus following chaplains for every minor and major league baseball team in the US and Latin America and beyond.  It was impressive to see their massive infrastructure and how God is using them to further the cause of Christ in the world of baseball.  In particular, Angie and I had three big takeaways:

1.  We are so encouraged by what God is doing all over the country

We met some great people at this conference who are doing really awesome stuff for the mission.  Coming in as the “newbies” we weren’t sure what to expect, but we were immediately greeted by many and taken under their wings.  I have never walked into a place and felt so welcomed.  We made several new friends.  One was Jon Talbert who runs a church planting network in the Bay area that connects around 100 churches.  His organization is financed by the CEO of VMWare and it produces resources for church planters, connects churches and helps to collaborate together for kingdom work.  He’s pretty much living my vision for Philly.  We talked long into the night and I think he is going to be a tremendous resource for us moving forward.

We met Ellis and Ginger Prince from Baltimore.   They planted a church that started with just them.  That two person church plant has grown into a thriving church that has planted 4 other churches in Baltimore and is doing great things in that city.  They took a special interest in Angie and I and I think this is a friendship that is going to last for a while.  

Finally, we met Chris Lane who runs a ministry called First Priority that serves 250 high schools in Florida.  I talked with him about how to pursue things further in Furness High School and our new relationship that is developing with Kirkbride Elementary school.  

One of the schools that Chris serves is Parkland High School and this past Wednesday, when the gunshots broke out, their minister was at the school.  He survived, but God had him there to minister the gospel at that critical moment.  It was powerful to hear about what God is doing in the midst of that tragedy and to pray for Chris Lane.

I don’t know about you, but it is so easy for me to just get so focused and wrapped up in what’s happening here.  I loved having my gaze lifted and hearing how God’s Kingdom is going.  I was challenged more than ever to not just be about the 4 walls of our church, but what God is doing all over for his glory.

2.  We received some great training that will be a benefit to our church

For the past several months, I have been talking and praying with our leadership team on how to grow in ministering to millennials.  We do a pretty good job reaching young families on up, but that millennial generation is a tough nut to crack.  It is the largest generation in our country and 70% of them want to have nothing to do with church.  This is a crisis that needs to be addressed.

The majority of baseball players are part of this generation, so Baseball Chapel has done extensive research on this demographic and we took away some great, missional insights.  

Also, I’ve been praying more and more about how to reach across racial barriers, particularly with people for whom English is their second language.  That’s what 50% of baseball players are, so there was a lot of conversation about that as well.

So here’s how God works, I have praying about how to learn and grow in these areas and I just got paid to learn about the very areas about which I had been praying.   Oh and they gave me a bunch of resources too for free.  At one point I just started looking around, because it felt like robbery.  Our God is so generous!

3.  Unique missional opportunity

We heard a bunch of former players share their testimonies about how they didn’t grow up in the church, knew nothing about the gospel, had never opened a Bible until they went to their club’s chapel service.  It was particularly powerful to hear testimonies of kids who Dads got saved through baseball chapel and now these kids are grown and ministering in baseball chapel.  I was so pumped when they said, “Don’t just run a bible study and preach a message. Challenge these guys to use their unique platform to influence your city for the cause of Christ”. Yes and amen!

Friends, it so amazing to me what God is doing through Christ Church.  We are only going to be celebrating our 3 year anniversary in March.  We started with 29 adults and 15 children, so a total of 44 souls.   Now we have 163 souls.  We have almost quadrupled our original team.  And those aren’t just numbers, but stories of life change.  Also,

  • We are opening a recovery house in the next month where men will be able to get discipleship and experience new life in Christ.  

  • We have a bible study at our local high school and they are the ones who invited us to come!  

  • Our local NA group asked to use our building for their meeting, which is one of the largest in South Philly.  Every Monday night we have about 70 people in our church and members of our church are there reaching out.  

  • We have opened our building and are partnering with an organization that provides resources for underprivileged children in our city.  They serve over a thousand households.  

  • We have started conversations with Kirkbride Elementary school about how we can partner with them and serve their kids.     

One of my favorite quotes is,, “A church’s impact shouldn’t be measured by the size of attendance on Sunday, but the influence they have in their community”.  It is just absolutely incredible to me the influence God is giving Christ Church in only three years.  This is all His doing as it certainly wasn’t in any of my plans.  

Friends, more than ever, I am freshly aware of our need for prayer.  We want to be good stewards of all these opportunities God is giving us, so we need His wisdom.  Please pray for Christ Church!  We are desperately dependant on the Lord.  May God continue to bring many into knowledge of Him for the glory of His name!

Grace and peace

Pastor Jeff

 

 

Repentance part 2

In my previous blog post we looked at what repentance is, why it is necessary and how it is meant to be part of our lifestyle.  

But What Does Repentance Look Like?

“And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.  17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:11-24)

This passage shows us that repenting means:

I.  See and Hear What You Have Done Wrong

In order for us to repent of our sin we first need to see our sin.  We cannot defeat what we do not see.

Verse 17 “But when he came to himself

“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5)

“Open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light.” (Acts 26:18)

Application question:  Do you see it as shameful or good to confess your sin to God?

II. Experience Genuine Sorrow

Verse 18,  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

“I am sorry for my sin.”  (Psalm 38:18)

In order to apply this it is important to understand the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow

1. Worldly sorrow is outward; godly sorrow is inward

Worldly sorrow shows outward signs of grief, but inwardly has no remorse.  Godly sorrow is deep within our hearts.                   

“They were cut to their hearts.” (Acts 2:37)            

2. Worldly sorrow feels bad about the punishment; godly sorrow feels bad about the offense.

The godly person is not sorry that they got caught, but sorry that they sinned.

3. Worldly sorrow is proud, godly sorrow is humble.

Worldly sorrow is proud and says, “I thought I was better than this”. Godly sorrow is humble and realizes that we are sinners in need of God’s forgiveness.

4. Worldly sorrow is condemning, godly sorrow is full of faith

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

“As our sin is ever before, so God’s promise must be ever before us… The weeping is not good which blinds the eye of faith.”-  Thomas Watson, The Godly Man's Picture

Application Question:  Do you believe that your sin is against God or that you just make mistakes?

III. Confessing and Admitting

Verse 18-19 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works"-  Augustine

1. Confess to God

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.   Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.” (Psalm 51:1-4)

Confessions of our sin must begin with God.  All our sin is ultimately against Him.  Therefore, He is the first One to whom we should acknowledge our sin.

2. Confess to others

“Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.”  (James 5:16)

If we are feeling condemned, our godly friend can encourage us with faith.  If we are feeling self righteous, our godly friend can call out a warning.  Confessing to others protects us from being victims of our deceitful heart.  It also helps us to hold one another accountable as we seek to repent.  All these things bring spiritual healing to us.

3. Confess specifically

“A general confession might save us from humiliation and shame, but it will not ignite inward healing.”-        Robert Foster

We like to remain vague about our sin, because we can find it embarrassing. We’d rather say, “I was really frustrated yesterday” instead of, “I became angry and cursed out my boss.”  However, if we are vague about our sin, then we feel vague about our forgiveness.  Jesus died for specific people, who commit specific sins.  If we want to feel the forgiveness of our Savior, then we must admit the sins that need His forgiveness.

Application Question:  Do you see confessing sin as embarrassing or a benefit?

IV. Turn from Evil (Put off)

Verse 20 And he arose and came to his father.

He left his old way of life

V.    Turn to God (Put On)

Verse 20 And he arose and came to his father.

Repentance is not just putting off sin (turning away from it), but it is also putting on godliness (turning to Jesus).

“Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

1. Put on faith in Jesus

A)  His righteousness

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:6-8)

Repentance does not start with our actions, it starts with belief in Jesus’ action.  He came, died and rose again so that our sins would no longer be held against us.

“For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

If we have faith in Jesus then, when God looks at us, He sees us not in our sins, but clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

B) His power

Jesus’ death on the cross has also freed us from our sins.  His death set us free from our slavery to sin.  If we try to repent in our own strength we will inevitably fail.  We must trust that Jesus is strong enough to break us free from any sin that we face.

“The power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56b-57)

2. Put on being filled with the Holy Spirit

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other” (Galatians 5:16-17a)

Our sin comes from inside us, but there is another force at work inside us as well.  The Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every believer in Jesus.  Our sinful hearts cause us to sin, but the Holy Spirit helps us to be godly.  The Christian’s life is not just about resisting sin, it is about pursuing godliness.

The Holy Spirit wants to help us do good things.  We put off sin and we put on godliness.

What does it mean to be godly?  If the Holy Spirit is at work in the root of our heart, then there will be good fruit in our life.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22)

Examples of putting off sin and putting on godliness:

·       Put off anger, put on love

·       Put off complaining, put on joy

·       Put off worry, put on peace

·       Put off harshness, put on gentleness

3. Remember how God embraces the repentant sinner

“Verse 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:20-24)

Conclusion

Friends, Jesus said he came so that, “my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (Joh 15:11 ESV).  Let’s continue to pursue repentance so that we might experience the unparalleled, all satisfying, glorious joy of the Lord.

Grace and peace,

Pastor Jeff

Repentance?

This past Sunday I preached from James 1:13-18 and we saw God’s call to us to turn from our sin and turn to Him.  He loves us too much to leave us to pursue our own destruction.  He has made us his beloved and so he calls us to pursue a lifestyle of repentance.  

This week we will have a 2 part blog series on what exactly it means to “repent of sin”.  

What is Repentance?

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Definition of Repentance: A heartfelt sorrow for sin, a turning away from sin and turning to obedience to Christ.

Repentance is not just feeling sorry that you sinned.  Repentance means taking action to change.

Why is Repentance Necessary?

1. There is no salvation without repentance  

But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.  Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, (Act 3:18-20 ESV)

2.  Not repenting is staying in rebellion against God

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. (Rom 2:5 ESV)

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,  but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. (Heb 10:26-27 ESV)

3.  Not repenting invites God’s discipline

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.  Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. (Heb 12:3-13 ESV)

4.  As Christians, not repenting harms the One we say we love.

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Joh 14:15 ESV

5.  Repentance brings us closer to the One we love

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Mat 5:8 ESV)

Repentance is a lifestyle

“Repentance is not confined to conversion.  It is an attitude of the heart that continues throughout our lives as Christians.  Jesus tells his disciples to pray daily, ‘Forgives us our sins’ (Matthew 6:12), a prayer that, if genuine, will certainly involve daily sorrow for sin and genuine repentance.” Wayne Grudem, Bible in Doctrine

“It is one thing to be a terrified sinner and another to be a repenting sinner...  Repentance depends upon a change of heart.” Thomas Watson, Doctrine of Repentance

I encourage you to meditate on these scriptures.  Pray through them.  And ask God for His help to continue to lead you in repentance, so that your joy in Him might be full and unhindered.

From one repenter to another,

Pastor Jeff