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Waiting in the Spirit

“Be still, and know that I am God!
    I am exalted among the nations,
    I am exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NRSV)

Have you ever been forced to sit in silence? Most people today fall somewhere on a spectrum between being aware that they hate every excruciating second of silence and simply being unaware how much the quiet bothers them because they have never had to experience it.

If you have been in the church for any length of time, you have probably sat through some youth group or leadership training that uses this fact about people as a sort of parlor trick. It usually starts with the leader asking, “Have you ever noticed how we can’t sit in silence anymore?” and then proceeds to make everyone sit in uncomfortable silence for minutes while pretending they’re immune or very spiritual.

My first experience with this of silence idea was in college. I was taking a class on Christian spirituality—a crazy, fun, and sometimes boring dive into some of the ancient practices of the Christian faith. Our professor wanted to expose us to various means of interacting and communing with God. We dove into fasting, scripture reading and memorization, study (duh), and even celebration. However, far and above anything else, our professor wanted us to experience silent, contemplative prayer. We would begin every class with 5-10 minutes of unmoving, penetrating silence. He claimed being able to sit in this would lead us to a quieter inner-self through which we could commune with God.

I could not imagine a worse, more boring fate.

I became a Christian in a charismatic church, and, at the risk of generalizing, if there is one thing we are not especially good at, it is silence. It might be hard to understand if you haven’t experienced it. It’s not that we think silence is bad, it’s just that, in a church movement that places special emphasis on things like speaking in tongues, giving words, prophetic speaking, full praise bands, 24/7 prayer rooms, and extemporaneous worship, there isn’t a lot of room for us to sit in silence. We’re busy! The buzz words for us are “activity,” “manifestation,” “works,” “power,” and, perhaps most of all, “expectation.” These aren’t words that often coexist with words like “silence,” “waiting,” and “stillness.”

So now it’s 2018 and I’m reading a book on contemplative prayer, having traumatic flashbacks of what seemed like endless silence I was forced to sit through in college (thankfully, I had my smartphone to entertain me), and wondering how the author could claim that this type of prayer, prayer that calls us to simply listen and focus on a phrase or two, could possibly help us hear from the Lord when we have good worship music, books, and sermons that help us do that. Despite my skepticism, I decided to give it a try.

My first go at contemplative prayer started like most. I found a quiet place to sit comfortably for 20 minutes and started breathing deeply, focusing on the oxygen going in and out of my body. I meditated on these words:

 (Breathe in) Be Still and Know that I am God

(Breathe out) Be Still and Know

(Breathe in) Be Still

(Breathe out) Be

(Start over)

For the first 5-10 minutes, my thoughts flew to a million places. The conversation my wife and I had yesterday. The stuff on my to-do list. The homework that was literally piling up as I sat being “unproductive.” Boredom. Anxiety. Fear. Self-doubt. Pride.

And then, out of nowhere, I felt God’s presence. I refocused on the words I was meditating on.

Be Still and Know that I am God

Be Still and Know

Be Still

Be

It was so different from what I had experienced before. I had received words for people that proved accurate, spoken in tongues in joy and mourning, and been brought to tears in loud worship rooms, but never had I felt so in tune with the Holy Spirit than in that moment.

Some of you will read that as a critique of the charismatic or supernatural gifts and either be disappointed or satisfied. It’s not that. Some stopped reading the moment I started talking about contemplative prayer because you think it’s mystical nonsense. That’s fine.

What I’m learning is that we need the charismatic and the prophetic in its robust pneumatology that brings heaven to earth in profound and mysterious ways as the Holy Spirit moves. We need to look for the Spirit’s very real guidance in our lives and be expectant so that we may fill the world with praise for His glory.

However, at times we also need to stop, sit down, and acknowledge the Spirit’s smaller, more intimate voice. We need to give ourselves permission to stop moving and producing and know that He accepts us without all of that. We can quit filling our minds with movies and TV shows and music and noise and take a moment to hear that He loves us in the loud and in the quiet.

Glory to God. Amen.

 

 

 

Jordan McCain, New City Stories Contributor

New City’s Heartbeat: Our Core Values and Questions

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28 NRSV

When my wife Kristin and I heard God’s call to plant New City Church here in Lexington, we specifically heard God call us to begin a community marked by rest.  As we developed this vision and listened for God’s intent in and for our ministry, we landed on four core values of Love, Rest, Risk, and Send that we utilize to lead all of our decision making. I believe that not only knowing who we are (landing our core values) is essential but that these specific DNA markers have been God ordained for ministering to our context. I have seen unconditional “love” draw hurting and burnt people into our community, “rest” attract exhausted and performing Bible-belt Christians, “risk” free us up to think outside the box, and “send” get tested early in our lifetime as we are generous to other churches and as we look to plant new expressions.

New City Church

As I personally continue to wrestle with these 4 markers of New City Church, I asked myself some questions about the foundation of this community of God. I share these with you so you can marinate in what your community is built on; you can utilize these questions in a huddle, during your quiet time journaling or praying, or even in a conversation with another New City family member. Here they are:

            Love                               

  • What is the root of my love for others?
  • How is my love expanding the hospitality in my life?
  • How is my love speaking dignity into everyone around us?
  • How am I complicating loving others? How have I simplified and missed out on loving someone in a unique way?
  • Who is someone in my life I’m not excited to love on right now?

            Rest

  • How do I rest well?
  • Where in my life am I competing, comparing, or striving?
  • What do I see God creating in my life? How can I partner in what He is creating instead of stirring something up myself?
  • How am I living in the reality of abiding as portrayed in John 15?
  • How am I experiencing the truth of rest taught in Matthew 11:28-30?

            Risk

  • Where in my life am I quick to “play it safe” or choose comfortability?
  • Who might God be asking me to risk on?
  • What is something I am holding as a “sacred cow” that I might need to risk and give up?
  • What question do I not want to be asked OR need to answer that I might need to engage in?
  • How am I engaging in dark, risky areas in our community?
  • What do I see the Spirit leading me into that freaks me out?

            Send

  • How does my life express the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:16-20?
  • How am I celebrating sending in this season?
  • Do I live a “commissioned” lifestyle?
  • How can I be radically generous this season?
  • How could I be a part of New City’s sending in this season?

My prayer is that you would grow in ownership, understanding, and comfortability with these concepts as you dive into them. My desire is that our entire community, every brother and sister, would make these their own as we partner in ministry together in 2018.

Zach Meerkreebs, New City Church Head Planter 

Advent Fulfilled: The Incarnation

“…that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us…so that our joy may be complete” 1 John 1:2,4 (CSB)

This week of Advent celebrates the Incarnation of Christ. Nearly everyone recognizes the incarnation as the Christmas narrative: Jesus born of Mary, who was a virgin, in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem. The details of this historical event are found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as well as recounted in famous Christmas Carols and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special, so I will not relate them here. This storyline has become so familiar during this season of the year, that people hear it often with little more than a sense of comfort.

Instead, I wish to point our eyes and hearts to a third narrative of Jesus’ birth. This passage recounts none of the details, but conveys the profound meaning of the Incarnation.

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life —  that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us —  what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1-4 (CSB)

Let us unpack this passage a little. Advent calls us to reflect with a renewed interest in the miracle of Christmas; the miracle of the gospel. Advent softens our heart and draws us into a richer relationship with God, if we let it. So, there are some deep truths here and I ask that you sit with each one of them just a moment rather than breezing through them. Take time to meditate on the implication of each revelation.

Jesus (referred to here as “the word of life”) preexisted all of creation because he “was from the beginning.”
Jesus was present “with the Father” in relationship with Him from eternity.
Jesus did not come to life; He IS life. He is “the eternal life” revealed to us.
Jesus came to us here within His creation as a man who could be “touched with … hands”, “seen with … eyes”, and “heard” as a human being.
The entire purpose in the incarnation and in John’s testimony about Jesus’ birth is for our “joy [to] be complete.”
Jesus invites us into “fellowship … with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

There is simply too much here and too few words available to flesh out all that these four short verses offer. I trust that if you took the time to reflect on each of the assertions I drew out of the passage, then the Holy Spirit has spoken something special to you. For me, I am awestruck as I contemplate God stooping down to my broken existence by coming in the flesh in order to for me to be in relationship with Him (Romans 8:3). Who am I to receive such an invitation? What have I done to deserve this? No one. Nothing. And yet…

I have not, nor can I, make my way to God. Every other religion tells me I have to find a way to reach Him. Every other religion has special people who tell me what to do and how to behave to get to God. The Christmas story, the Incarnation of Christ, destroys that whole paradigm of earning eternal life. God came to me … to you … to us … as a vulnerable baby (1 Peter 1:1). He did everything required for me to be in fellowship with God here and now and evermore. He is not only in the Christmas narrative, but in me – incarnate.

By Greg Napier, New City Stories Contributor