Everywhere, In Ways We Cannot See, We're Being Served

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The older I get, the more I appreciate all things my parents must have done behind the scenes to care for me in ways I never saw. Children are unaware of all that goes into their parents’ love. They don’t see the hours logged at the difficult job, the struggles to keep the family car in working order, or the side conversations they have with other parents, encouraging each other to hang in there when times are difficult.

This unseen care, of course, extends well beyond the parent/child relationship. The truth is, we’re being served all the time in ways we do not or cannot see.

This past Sunday at Christ Presbyterian Church we saw a video which drove this home for me. In the clip, the Roach family talks about finding a place for their autistic son Nathan to serve in the church. Every Sunday, Nathan sets out the water bottles on the tables in the foyer—hundreds of them. Jesus said, “Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). Every week, each one of my children takes a bottle from that table—placed there by Nathan. Each week they are served by Nathan. And each week, Jesus sees it.

Nathan also helps fill the communion cups we lift to our lips every week to remember the body and blood of Christ, given for us. In this way, Nathan serves me—not just by filling my communion cup, but by equipping me to commune with my risen Savior and the people for which he died. Each week, Nathan serves me in this way. And each week, Jesus sees it.

Thank you, Nathan.

 

What Hypocrisy Denies

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Tim Keller wrote, “The only person who dares wake up a king at 3:00 AM for a glass of water is a child. We have that same access to God.”

That’s either true or it isn’t.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he is fighting for our hearts to believe we have this kind of access to the Father. When he tells us not to put on a show when we pray, fast, or give—not to act as though what we are doing is primarily for the sake of those around us—Jesus fights for us by shining a light on our motives. Why? Why would he want to purify our motives for these things and call us to practice our faith out of a genuine love for God, and not mere self-love?

The answer might seem obvious. We could say he’s fighting for us to stop our hypocrisy because he doesn’t like it. And of course that’s part of it. But aside from curbing negatives, Jesus is always after awakening positives in us too. When Jesus rebukes our hypocrisy, he is fighting for our joy.

What’s at stake when we live as hypocrites—play-acting our way through this life of faith? The Sermon on the Mount contrasts two worlds—the one we see and the coming Kingdom of God. Jesus is teaching us how to live now as citizens of another Kingdom. That tells us Jesus’ warnings against hypocrisy are not simply about our posture in prayer, fasting, or giving. They are about how we engage with a God who is real and who sees us and hears us.

God doesn’t give us commands because he is particular and easily upset. He gives us commands so that we might know how to love him and interact with his love for us. Commands against hypocrisy are not about how to keep ourselves from upsetting a cranky God. They are about how to draw near to a loving God.

Take prayer as an example. Prayer is a glorious concept where we, the meek and lowly, can address the High King of Heaven with the promise that he hears us! So Jesus says, in effect, “When you pray, don’t pretend, as though nothing is actually happening. Don’t waste the moment by making it all about how others see you. You’ll exhaust yourself. There is no end to that.”

What happens when we try to use our emotional expressions of worship to obtain the approval of others? What does that cost us? We all do it, don’t we? It costs us the ability to truly feel and express our emotions. Some of us try to keep ourselves so emotionally composed that we no longer know how to honestly emote. This costs us dearly. When we control our emotive posture, we rob ourselves of real joy, sorrow, and wonder. We lose the practice of celebration because our expressions of joy are measured. We resist the cleansing need to grieve because we have banned ourselves from feeling deep sorrow. We won’t permit ourselves to feel awe because we have trained ourselves not to see wonder.

Likewise, we won’t rest in the promised nearness of God when all our generosity, fasting, and prayers are offered either for show or for self-comfort.

Do you hear now the love of Jesus in the command to not pretend when we fast, give, and pray. He is not just fighting against hypocrisy. He is fighting for our joy, our delight, our learning to speak the language of glory, to which hypocrisy denies access. We are learning our native and eternal tongue when we fast, give, and pray. Jesus is fighting for our joy.

The Desire We All Share: Debbie and Sam's Story

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The following story comes from Debbie, a member of Christ Presbyterian Church. She and her son Sam (pictured above, right) are involved in the church’s special needs ministry, and they serve together on the hospitality team on Sunday mornings. This past Mother’s Day, Debbie, together with Sam, shared about their mother/son experience serving with the Host Team. Here is their story, as told by Debbie:

One Sunday in February 2016, our family visited Christ Presbyterian Church and we just never stopped coming. When we joined this church last June, we knew we wanted to serve and be a meaningful part of this church community. We were encouraged by the many possible options for our entire family, but particularly for our son Sam.

As new members, we were searching for the best way for each of us to get “plugged in.”  Sam had been a door greeter at our previous church and being the social person he is, he expressed an interest in joining the Host Team. After discussing the possibilities with the Host Team coordinator, Cameron Foltz - who was thrilled - we both joined the Host Team.

For Sam, being part of the Host Team has meant that he can serve Christ within our church community as an independent 21 year old. He has become acquainted with other people on the team he works with. He has become familiar with those he greets on Sundays. And just as importantly, his service has allowed others to get to know him, which has fulfilled in him a desire every one of us has—to be accepted, valued, and loved. It is priceless for my husband Jeff and me to see the joy and worth he displays when passing the offering plates, which has been a new serving opportunity for him. It has been a gift from God to see Sam flourish so well at Christ Presbyterian Church this last year in ways we could not have imagined. And this is due to the many ways this congregation has embodied and expressed the love of Christ so well to him and to our entire family.

If you ask Sam about his favorite part of serving on the host team, he will tell you it is being able to say hello to everyone and see his friends every week. This is the heart of hospitality.

For me, as a member here and also as Sam’s mother, being part of the Host Team has provided opportunities to serve and get to know others and to become familiar with the many faces and families coming through our doors. Offering a warm smile and a few sincere words ensures that those coming through our doors feel seen and loved, just as Christ sees and loves us. We all need that reminder.  

Serving on the host team with Sam means we arrive at church early together, get our morning coffee, join our team for a quick huddle, and then head off to serve in our respective assigned areas as two adults serving on the same team. 

It’s not news that those who serve often get more out of it than those being served. For Sam and me, being a part of the Host Team together has been our privilege and contributed to our sense of belonging at Christ Presbyterian Church. We’re grateful to be part of what the Lord is doing here.

 

How To Live Between Two Worlds

Why is it important that we read the Bible? There are many ways to answer this. Here is one. We should read scripture because it teaches us how to live in this world—and that is no easy thing.

The Bible begins and ends with a description of a created world that is thoroughly good. The difference between those two worlds is that one is completely unmarred by the fall of humankind, and the other is completely redeemed from the fall by Christ. We live in between the two.

The Bible opens with the creation account of Genesis 1 to let us know that the world God made was, at one time, good. Before shame, violence, fear, greed, envy, malice, betrayal, self-loathing, contempt, deceit, murder, or war found their way into the hearts of man, our first parents, Adam and Eve, walked with God in the garden in the cool of the day. They were naked and unashamed—at perfect peace with one another and their Maker. This was how things were meant to be.

But then the man and woman fell, and all of creation with them. Adam and Eve hid from each other and from God. They no longer dwelled in his presence. Now, things are not the way they are supposed to be and we feel it in our bones.

After the account of the creation and fall of man, the rest of the Bible is a declaration of the catastrophic damage of the fall, a desperate cry for deliverance, and the story of how God has redeemed his people and his creation through the life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ.

At the end of the Bible, the book of Revelation describes a redeemed creation—a time when the dwelling place of God will once again be with man. We will no longer be east of Eden. We will be his people and he will be our God. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and there will be no more death, or grief, or pain. Those things will be, at best, fuzzy memories of a distant broken past. Everything will be made new (Rev 21:1-5).

But right now, however, we live with the effects of the fall of humanity all around us and in us. We live between the originally perfect creation and the New Earth redeemed and restored by Christ—and everything in this book, the Bible, speaks in one way or another, to how we are to live in a world that is broken but redeemed by love.

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.

No One Has A Simple Story

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A healthy Christian knows they are far more similar in many ways to the doubter, seeker, and prodigal than they are different. Doubt, skepticism, and prodigal living are all born from a place deep in the human heart—they are a protest against pain, uncertainty, and frustration.

A Christian is a person who confesses daily our profound need for nothing less than Christ’s agony and victory over the grave to save us. This means Christians have no boast to make except for the grace and mercy of God in Christ—without which we would be adrift in this world. For that reason, we should be filled with empathy for people who are hurting or struggling.

No one has a simple story. One thing I have seen in my years as a pastor is that spiritual crises or seasons of searching can come to anyone—even life-long Christ-followers—at any time, and these seasons themselves are part of God’s way of bringing people to himself and shaping people’s lives.

Every sanctuary every Sunday is filled with people in various stages of spiritual crisis or questioning. Some of us are people who are curious about Christianity, but have never claimed this as our faith. Others of us are people who have walked as Christians for years, but have experienced more recent struggles, tragedies, losses, or abuses that have shaken our faith in the God we thought we knew. For others of us, our struggle is simply that we’re pretending to be Christians, though we know our hearts are far from Jesus—and coming to church reminds us that we’re pretending, and that we’ve gotten good at it.

We want Christ Presbyterian Church to be a place where people can bring their doubts, struggles, and questions—and not be criticized for having them. We want to be a place where we can wrestle with them honestly—and we want to be a welcoming community where we can bring friends and co-workers who are also searching for truth.

How will this happen? Through all of us loving our neighbors. One of the primary ways God brings truth into the lives of spiritual seekers is through the words and friendships of Christian people.

I know that not everyone will be open to hearing the Gospel, but that is more the Lord’s business than it is ours. What a non-Christian person does with the Gospel is not what makes them deserving of a Christian’s love and respect. The fact that we all bear the image of God is enough to oblige us all to honor the dignity of every person we meet.

For this generation, the door seems open for Christians to share their faith with humble transparency. Some may scoff, some may object, but when we are genuinely loving, and humbly transparent about our desire for those we love to know Christ, more often than not, that door is left open rather than slammed shut.

I am grateful for those who have let me in to their stories of struggle and searching. To stand with them there is to stand on holy ground. May the Lord continue to make us into a peculiar people who love without fear, as we join Jesus in befriending those who do not believe as we do. And may it lead to some of the best stories we’ve ever heard—some of the best stories we’ve ever had the honor to tell.

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.

23 Fun Things to do in Nashville this Summer

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New to Nashville? Been here for a while but looking for something new to try this summer? Nashville is an amazing city. The summers here are filled with all kinds of fun things to do. Here are some events you and your family, friends, and small group can take advantage of. And many are free.

  • Jazz on the Cumberland – ranked nationally as the #1 destination for Jazz in the city of Nashville
  • Catch a Nashville Sounds baseball game – the triple A team for the Oakland A's. Great family fun.
  • Shakespeare in the Park – This season features The Winter’s Tale and Antony and Cleopatra, August through September in Centennial Park. $10 suggested donation.
  • Movies in the Park – Every Thursday in June at Elmington Park, near downtown at I-440 and West End.
  • Westhaven Porchfest – June 17-18 in Franklin’s Westhaven Community. A music and art festival that transforms porches into performance stages and streets into a maker’s fair.
  • Leiper’s Fork Lawnchair Theatre: Free family oriented movies every Friday, June through August.
  • Zoovie Nights – at the Nashville Zoo on May 26 and June 23. Free to Zoo members. Otherwise, included with daily zoo ticket or $6.00 per person for movie only.
  • TN State Museum Free Tuesday – Sunday. The mission of the Tennessee State Museum is to procure, preserve, exhibit, and interpret objects which relate to the social, political, economic, and cultural history of Tennessee and Tennesseans, and to provide exhibitions and programs for the educational and cultural enrichment of the citizens of the state.
  • Crockett Park Summer Concert Series – A fun outdoor concert series in Brentwood’s Eddy Arnold Amphitheater. Free. This is a great option for 4th of July fireworks too.
  • Hike at Edwin and Percy Warner Parks – a 3,180 acre natural area park system just 9 miles from downtown Nashville. 
  • Hike at Radnor Lake – a peaceful and scenic retreat in Nashville with 1,300+ acres of forest and over 6 miles of trails and forests.
  • Catch a show at the Grand Ole Opry.
  • Visit Cheekwood Estate and Gardens – a 55-acre botanical garden and art museum located on the historic Cheek estate. 
  • Spend the day at the Adventure Science Center – an independent, not-for-profit science and technology center. We are dedicated to delivering innovative, dynamic learning experiences that open minds to the wonders of science and technology and foster a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. 
  • Musician’s Corner in Centennial Park – Come hear Nashville’s finest singer-songwriters every Saturday from May 19 through September 16.
  • Catch a concert at Nashville’s new Ascend Amphitheater – right in the heart of downtown.
  • Stock up at Nashville’s Farmers’ Market in Germantown at the Bicentennial Mall – maybe attend a cooking demos.
  • Go out swing dancing (or learn how) at Big Band Dance at Centennial Park – Every Saturday from 7:00-10:00.
  • Cool off at the Spraygrounds at the Cumberland Park on the riverfront in Downtown Nashville next to Nissan Stadium.
  • Check out East Nashville’s Tomato Art Festival – August 11-12, 2017.   Located in Historic East Nashville’s Five Points, this free, costume-encouraged event provides a wildly entertaining, fun-filled day for all types and all-ages. A community builder to celebrate this beloved fruit / vegetable and enjoy the day’s memorable festivities. 
  • Go see Bluegrass Nights at The Ryman Thursday nights, from June 22 through July 27. Every summer for more than two decades, Ryman Auditorium has celebrated their distinction as the birthplace of bluegrass music with this signature Bluegrass Nights summer series.
  • Catch a show at Live on the Green – Nashville’s free music festival in Public Square Park near the downtown Courthouse.
  • Full Moon Pickin’ Party – 7:00 to 11:00pm on the Fridays closest to the full moon (5/19, 6/9, 7/7, 8/4, 9/8, 10/13), at the Warner Park Equestrian Center. These laid-back, family-friendly fundraisers feature Middle Tennessee’s finest bluegrass music under the light of a full moon.

© 2017 Christ Presbyterian Church. All Rights Reserved.