Resources for Lent

The season of Lent begins on March 6th, 2019. For those unfamiliar with the season, or thinking it is something observed only within the Catholic church, we wanted to provide some resources to help you and your community follow Jesus together.

The word “lent” simply means “spring season” where the days grow longer, and it is a time in the Christian calendar that marks the 40 days before Easter. Where Advent in the Christmas season is a time of hope, joy, peace and love, Lent is a time that is meant to prepare our hearts and lives through confession, repentance, self denial that culminates in the celebration of Easter.

Lent is in no way mandatory or required for Christians, but can be a helpful time to intentionally evaluate our lives, invite Christ to work, and lead us toward becoming human the way we were created to be.

We will have an 8 week series entitled “The Final Days of Jesus” that will lead us through Holy week (the last week of Jesus life) up to Easter. There is a free devotional from Crossway that goes with the series that can be found here.

If you choose to observe Lent in 2019, or simply would like to learn more, we wanted to provide you with some additional resources:

A Prayer for Lent - Pastor Scotty Smith

Why Bother with Lent? - Chuck Colson

Lent Guide (free) - The Village Church

Lenten Devotionals (free) - Tim Keller and Redeemer Church

Journey to the Cross - Lent Devotional from Will Walker and Kendall Haug

Additional Lent Resources - Chuck Degroat

For families: See attached images for a reading plan this Lenten season through the Jesus Storybook Bible.

We pray these are helpful for you as your journey with Jesus this season.

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Advent: Love

"So how did it happen that this birth, this Jesus birth managed to set so many of us back on our heels in astonishment and gratitude and wonder? And continues to do so century after century, at least at this time of year? The brief answer is that this wasn’t just any birth. The baby’s parents and first witnesses were convinced that God was entering human history in human form. Their conviction was confirmed in angel and Magi and shepherds visitations; eventually an extraordinary life came into being before their eyes, right in their neighborhood. More and more people became convinced. Men, women, and children from all over the world continue to be convinced right up to the present moment.”

“Birth, every human birth, is an occasion for local wonder. In Jesus’ birth the wonder is extrapolated across the screen of all creation and all history as a God-birth. ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’—moved into the neighborhood, so to speak. Incarnation, in-flesh-ment, God in human form in Jesus entering our history: this is what started Christmas. This is what keeps Christmas going.”

Eugene Peterson

Advent: Peace

“Keep your eyes on the Prince of Peace, the one who doesn’t cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, ‘Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness’ (see Matt. 5:3–11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace.” Henri Nouwen

Advent Resources

With the Advent season upon us, there is endless opportunity for you and your family to celebrate the coming of Christ, and long for His return. Advent places us in that tension. We want to walk through it well. 

Below are resources you can pick from depending on your current season and schedule. We pray these help you and your community as you journey together with Jesus.

History of Advent (for those that want background)

Paul Tripp on Advent (short, sweet, and #thatmustache)

Jesus Storybook Bible reading plan for Advent (good for families)

Good News of Great Joy (daily devotional for adults)

Advent Guide for Families and Kids (great for those with little ones)

Advent Jesse Tree Idea (for those that need creative help)

Advent Guide from the Village Church (detailed, in depth, really good, for the ambitious.)

Not Your Average Christmas Music (Christmas playlist, with modern, fun arrangements)

 

 

Updated Prayers

Here are our latest prayers for our gatherings:

Prayer of Confession:

Father God,

We confess our sin to you.
We have not loved you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have strayed from Your story to idols.
We have fallen short, and humbly repent.

We thank you that in Jesus we find forgiveness and freedom.
Make us human the way you have created us to be. 
In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Corporate Prayer:

Our Father in Heaven,
We thank you for this time to gather and be formed by Your story. May Jesus be our center, our song, our everything. Help our community to show the hope of and love from Jesus as we look to carry your name into all of life. Take our brokenness and make it beautiful. We ask this for your glory and the good of those around us. Amen.

#mondaymatters - Scripture and Prayer

As we talked about in yesterday's gathering, if we are to imitate God, we must know God. We get to know God as we pray and read His word in community. A couple of the tools covered were "Lectio Divina" and "The Daily Examen" 

Here is a quick recap of both:

Lectio Divina is an approach (not the only, but a helpful one) to reading scripture that focuses on slowing down, meditating on the truth of scripture, letting it sink into our hearts and minds. The process is:

Reading: Bible as Story/Light/Truth - Slowly, attentively
Meditation: Think/Chew/Ask Questions/Read again
Pray: Thank/Confess/Ask
Contemplation: Just Be. Commit. Enjoy

The Prayer of Examen is an aspect of prayer that causes us to remember the presence of God, cultivate gratitude, confess our sin, and grow in awareness of God and His work. The typical pattern of the prayer is:

Recall - The presence of God throughout the day (pause)
Review - Think and pray through the day with Gratitude (remember)
Renew - Remind your heart and mind with truth and the promises of scripture (preach to yourself)
Look Forward - Anticipate the coming day. (Pray for help and wisdom)

#mondaymatters - The Practice of Confession

As we wrapped up our series on confession, Pastor Landon gave the 7 "A's" of confession that were adapted from Ken Sande's book "The Peacemaker" 

They are:

1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
2. Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
7. Ask for forgiveness

To encourage us in this endeavor, this song from The Brilliance points us to the hope we have in Jesus:

Prayer of Confession

"Our Father in heaven, when we see Your story, Your design, and Your intent, we recognize that we have fallen short. We have missed the mark. We have sinned in what we have done, and in what we have left undone. We have pursued idols over You. We have sought control instead of trusting You. We have not reflected Your love to the world. 


We confess our sin. We humbly repent. Let us feel the weight of our foolishness and see the depths of your grace. We thank you for forgiving us by the mercy of Jesus. Take our brokenness and make it beautiful. 


We ask for Your Spirit’s help to walk in your ways and truth that we might experience life as you intended, become human the way we were made to be, and reflect Your love to the world well.

In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

#mondaymatters - You Can Change

From author Tim Chester:

"In my book You Can Change I identified four liberating truths about God. I suggested that underlying  all our sinful behavior and negative emotions is a failure to believe one of these truths at a functional level. Embracing, believing, trusting, delighting in the appropriate liberating truth therefore has the power to set us free from sin – though we need to recognize that this typically involves a daily struggle – the fight of faith. These four liberating truths offer a great diagnostic tool for addressing sin in our lives and in the lives of others. The four truths are:

1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control

2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others

3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere

4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves"

You can find You Can Change for purchase here.

#mondaymatters Knowledge vs. Knowing

As we talked about at the gathering, it is all too easy to mistake knowledge about God for actually knowing God. When we get facts or more information, it always presents a fork in the road; will we become more self righteous and prideful, or more loving and humble? Self awareness is critical. Below is a list of how Jesus moves us by the Spirit to be more like Him in all of life. 

Knowing God Moves us From:

Isolation to Community

1st Peter 2:9-10 -

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."

Judging to Compassion

Psalm 103:13-14

"As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust."

Elevating (self) to Humility

Philippians 2:3-5

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus"

Spouting Information to Listening

James 1:19

"My beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger"

Demanding to Serving

1 Peter 4:8-11

"Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ."

Camping to Collaborating

Ephesians 4:1-3

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Deconstructing to Restoring

Romans 12:9-13

"Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality."

Assuming - Asking

1 John 4:7

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God."

#mondaymatters - True Story Symbols

As we discussed yesterday at our gathering, to see who God is, what must look at the entirety of the story. To better understand the story of scripture, our friends at Missio Dei Communities developed the "True Story Symbols" as a helpful tool to better know, understand, and live out scripture.

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They published a helpful summary of what scripture is that is worthy of our reading and discussing together in community. Find it here

#mondaymatters - Life as the Beloved

Aren't you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire? Don't you often hope: 'May this book, idea, course, trip, job, country or relationship fulfill my deepest desire.' But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death..

You have to keep unmasking the world about you for what it is: manipulative, controlling, power-hungry, and, in the long run, destructive. The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this. Every time you feel hurt, offended, or rejected, you have to dare to say to yourself: 'These feelings, strong as they may be, are not telling me the truth about myself. The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now, is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God's eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting belief. - Henry Nouwen

We live this together. We practice this in community. We carry the name into all of life as we live FROM the love God has shown us in Jesus.

 

#mondaymatters 2018

It is the first day of 2018. The craziness of the holidays is behind us, and a new year awaits us. 

This post isn't to give you more "resolutions" but it is meant to help you reflect well and give resources as you move forward in life and flourishing with Jesus and His community.

Here are some questions to consider as you look forward to 2018:

- What do you hope to "leave behind" from the previous year(s)? What unhealthy patterns and habits need to be turned from? What new practices need development and growth as you follow Jesus?

- How do you plan to pursue Jesus and His community this year? Growth is never automatic, it takes prayer, planning, and help from others. 

- If God were to answer your prayers just as asked, would the world change or just your world change? 

If you are looking at a help for the next year, this resource "Seasons" from the Village Church is a helpful intro the the church calendar and helps with family discipleship.

Luke Simmons (a member of our management team) wrote a blog on "Resources for Spiritual Growth" which contains some helpful ideas, books, and podcasts.

Advent: Christmas

There’s a feeling common to most of us; it usually comes on in late afternoon or early evening Christmas Day. After all the presents have been opened and most of the food has been eaten (at least the first round of it), you look around at the remnants of Christmas morning and a sense of sadness begins to creep in. All the buildup over the last month (or half of the year for your favorite craft store)—the decorations, the music, the parties, the shopping—has led to this moment, and now it’s over. Christmas melodies fade into post-Christmas melancholy.

It’s because there is more. We’re conditioned to think that Christmas is an end in and of itself—that the gifts and the lights are the real stuff. And so, when the day has passed, we’re left with 365 days to wait until we do it all over again. But here’s the truth—Christmas does not signify an end, but a beginning. As Jesus begins His earthly ministry in Mark’s Gospel, He proclaims, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The good news is that Jesus has come to reign as our King and is coming again soon to fully realize His kingship.

REFLECTION

What was Christmas typically like when you were growing up? What event signaled the end of Christmas for you? How did you feel as the season came to a close?

What are some practical ways you can continue to live in the joy of the Savior’s reign, even after the Christmas activities are all finished? Isaiah reminds us that Jesus is the Prince of Peace and of His government and peace there will be no end.

Where might God be leading you to be a messenger of His peace this season? What steps can you take this week to speak words of Jesus’ peace?

From "Seasons" by The Village Church