Advent 2017 | Day 23 | Jan George

Please join us over the next several days as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church member, Jan George.

Every year at Christmas time, I love to have Christmas music constantly playing! I listen in the car and on the Holiday stations on the Pandora app in my home. Of course, I love all the traditional Christmas songs, but the song I am always listening for and hoping to hear is  the  20-year-old Christian song called, “A Strange Way to Save the World.” It is written from the perspective of Joseph. Here is the chorus that resonates with me:

"Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade?
Why Him, with all the rulers of the world?
Why here, inside this stable filled with hay?
Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl?
Now, I’m not one to second guess what angels had to say
But this is such a strange way to save the world."

Over the course of my adult life when I have asked God in my prayers the “Why?” question, I always recall this song.  Joseph and Mary must have wondered and asked “Why” also when God let them in on the plan to send Emmanuel, His Son, to earth to rescue the world from sin. 

 Matthew 1:18-22

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do no fear to take Mary as you wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins.”

I think I would have had a similar response as the song imagines, “Why God? Why me? This is such a strange way to save the world!”

Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, might have doubted God’s plan to save people from their sins. 

He might have thought it was too much to ask of a single man betrothed to a young woman.  He might have thought, “This IS a strange way to save the world!” 

But he obeyed

Matt 1:24: “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” 

His obedience led to the front row seat and life’s privilege of being an earthly father, to God incarnate, Emmanuel.  The Word in flesh who still needed an earthly “Daddy” to protect, defend, teach and guide. 

I’ve asked God a lot of “Why” questions over the years. 
Why did my friend die so young leaving behind a family? 
Why do you think I’m capable of raising  a special needs child?  
Why do we have to move again?” And on and on it goes. 

Especially, at Christmas, I try to remember God uses every-day, ordinary people to bring about His plans, just like He used Mary and Joseph.  In fact, believers are the ways and means that God accomplishes His work on earth. He uses our hands, our feet, our eyes, our mouths, our creativity to advance His message of love for all people. Even though I might doubt His plan or my abilities, similar to how the song imagines Joseph must have surely felt, can I still trust that God’s plans are better than my own?  Do I obey when He asks something of me?

So, when God is on the move and asks of you something that feels monumental and your first question is “Why me?” how can you take comfort knowing that His plans are better?  As Jeremiah 29:11-12 says,  “For I know the plans, I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope for a future.”

God intervened in Jospeh and Mary’s lives and they were forever changed. Their obedience to His plan shows us that God will provide the endurance, strength and peace to accomplish what He asks.  How would our lives radically change if we stepped out in obedience and faith, when God asks of us something that seems unusual, strange, or even impossible? 




Advent 2017 | Day 22 | Arden Whitehurst

Please join us over the next several days as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church member, Arden Whitehurst.


In seasons of waiting one of our first responses is to doubt God. Doubt His hand in things, His nature, His very presence. We wait and wait and wait for Him to show up. We wait for Him to show up in illness, grief, unmet expectations, failure, change and so much more. And when He doesn’t we are quick to ask, “Where are you, Lord?” We grumble, get angry and lose hope. Our worlds come crashing down when, in waiting for our Lord, it feels like He will never come.

In these times, there is Truth to be spoken over every weary heart in waiting: Immanuel. That is the Truth we all need when waiting for our Savior. Immanuel, God With Us.

It is in remembering His with-ness that we realize the One we are waiting for has already come. The One whose presence we are both doubting and longing for is whispering gently, “I am here. Where are you? I am with you. Are you with me?”

In a painful diagnosis, I am WITH you. In loss too great for words, I am WITH you. In big moves and lost jobs, I am WITH you. In failures and friendlessness, I am WITH you. In every disappointment, every unmet desire, I am WITH you. It’s who I am. Immanuel, God WITH you.

It is not about waiting for the Lord to show up. He already has. It’s about looking around, looking up, getting on our knees in the dirt, to find Him in this place, wherever “this” place may be.

When we stop waiting for Jesus our Savior to come, we free up space to see Him in our midst. Then, and only then, will we be able to say with full confidence, just as Jacob did, "Surely the LORD is in this place" (Genesis 28:16).

Throughout this Advent season and all of our lives, may we long not for the coming Savior, but for Immanuel, the Savior who has already come and dwells with us.


Advent 2017 | Day 21 | Dr. Debbie Buchanan

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church member, Dr. Debbie Buchanan. 

Today, December 21st, the sun will rise at 7:04 a.m. and set at 5:35 p.m. This is the shortest day of the year with the sun offering only 10 hours and 31 minutes of daylight. The winter solstice will occur in the northern hemisphere at precisely 10:27 a.m. This is the exact moment that the sun will appear to stand still in the sky and seemingly waver between continuing to rise and returning to set. We know that the reason this occurs is because the sun has reached its southern-most position as seen from earth and seems to stand still before it reverses its direction. However, during these moments of sun-stillness some of our ancestors were gripped with fear that the sun would choose to begin its descent once again and return the earth to darkness. They waited in hopes that the sun would choose to share its light with the world. And the sun always did!!

Growing up in Michigan, I recognized the winter solstice as the longest and darkest night of the year. It was gloomy and frigid during most of the winter months anyway, but the shortness of sunlight on this one day every year seemed particularly difficult.  Day after winter day, I stared out of our picture window as the snow relentlessly fell from the sky filling our world with a soft puffy white that would soon turn the roads and sidewalks into salty gray mushy hazards. Yes, enduring a dark winter season was a challenge, but I knew with a biblical hope of confident expectation that spring would return and our part of the world would once again be filled with light and life. And spring always returned!!

Is it possible that God, in His infinite wisdom, intended for us to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the one true light of the world, during the winter solstice? As it happens, from this point forward, the days begin to increase in daylight. Could it be that in this way He shows us that there will always be light coming out of the darkness? Consider the words of Daniel 2: 20-22, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever .... He changes the times and the seasons; ... He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.” This was evidenced when God offered salvation to all by delivering His son in a period of literal darkness on earth. I truly believe that during winter seasons in our lives, God longs for us to release our darkness to his care and be confident in our hope that the warmth of summer will return. His light serves as an assurance of great things to come. And He will come!!

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”


Advent 2017 | Day 19 | Rev. Jack Carter

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from our Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Jack L. Carter.

Take Up and Read

In Chapter 12 of Book eight in The Confessions of Augustine he writes of his experience of the saving power of God’s inscripturated word, the Bible.  Under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, who convicts of sin, Augustine was crying, literally, out to God for cleansing and forgiveness.  And as he prayed, prone under a fig tree, he heard the voice of a boy or girl, he knew not which, coming from a neighboring house, chanting and oft repeating, “Take up and read; take up and read.”  He interpreted this as a command from heaven to open the book, the Bible, and read.  His eyes fell upon Romans 13:13-14:  “Let us live honorably as in the day; not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”  His life was never the same.  That “word” entered, as he wrote, “by a light, as it were, of security into my heart—all the gloom of doubt vanished away.” 

During the season of Advent we meditate upon the reality of the Incarnation, God becoming man and John’s specific use of the Greek word “Logos” to designate the second person of the Trinity.  We usually translate John 1:14 as “And the Word (Logos) became flesh and lived among us.”  Yet the Greek “Logos” has a wide range of possibilities for English translation.  The late theologian Gordon Clark insisted that the best English word for Logos is Logic.  While there is some truth in this, the Word made flesh as “Logic” always seemed a bit cold to me.  Pope Benedict in 2007 wrote that one of the translations for Logos is “meaning”.  He wrote, “…the eternal ‘Meaning’ of the world made himself tangible to our senses and our minds.  The ‘Meaning’ knows us, calls us, and guides us.”  The “Word,” “Meaning”, is not simply some universal law of logic, but rather a Person who is concerned with every individual person:  He is the Son of the living God who became Man in Bethlehem.

In the Letter of Paul to the Colossians he echoes the theme of John with “…in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”  1:19 and 2:9 repeats this with, “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”  The ancient liturgical text set to music declares, “A wondrous mystery is declared today, an innovation is made upon nature:  God is made man.” 

Christ Jesus is the living Word of the Father and also the Bible is the inscripturated word of the Father.  The 4th Century theologian, Jerome, wrote, “When we pray, we speak to God.  When we read the Bible, God speaks to us.”  It was the newly resurrected Son-Word of the Father who declared to the two walking the road to Emmaus, “Then beginning with Moses and the Prophets, He interpreted to them the things about Himself in all the scriptures.”  (Luke 24:27).  The Bible is all about Jesus.  Here we will see Him as the Light of Light, the source of intelligibility itself.  In Christ, the meaning and meaningfulness of all things can be seen.  And, wonder of wonders, all things now “ruined by the Fall”, can and shall be remade in Christ.  A comprehensive salvation was accomplished by His coming. 

Advent is the time in which we connect the two “comings” of Christ.  We are living in what the Bible calls, “The last days”, the old age is passing away, but we know that the best is yet to be.  In the meantime, we must not be idle.  Oliver O’Donovan, British theologian, has written, “Man’s life on earth is important to God; he has given it its order; it matters that it, we, should conform to the order he has given it.” 

Being a disciple of Jesus entails a number of things, but few are more important than becoming saturated with the Scriptures, the living word of God.  Jesus himself lived by “every word that proceeds form the mouth of God.”  We must also know that Word in order to live by it.

“Take up and read”, dear brothers and sisters.  Carve out time to read the Bible, all of it, over and over.  Read with prayer that we be taught by the Holy Spirit.  Read with perseverance and diligence.  Read with a heart to obey your great God and King Jesus.  And we shall be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We shall be both informed and transformed.

 I close with a testimony from the late J.B. Phillips, Anglican pastor and translator of the New Testament.  He began translating in modern English in the 1940’s for his own congregation and first published what he called Letters to Young Churches, the letters of Paul.  In the preface, following C.S. Lewis’ great introduction, he wrote, “Without holding fundamentalist (read, no place for the human writer) views inspiration, I am continually struck by the living quality of the material on which I am working.  Some will, no doubt, consider it merely superstitious reverence for ‘Holy Writ’; yet again and again I felt rather like an electrician rewiring an ancient house without being able to ‘turn the mains off.’ 

 God’s Word, living and powerful!  Indeed!

Advent 2017 | Day 18 | Jeremy DeBord

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church staff member, Pastor Jeremy DeBord.

I have recently begun reading more G.K. Chesterton. Let me tell you, it is not easy. The reason I have been drawn to him lately is because of his call to God’s people to rediscover the awe and mystical parts of Christianity. We live in a world that deals with rational facts. Sure, we enjoy a good escape into the imaginary world through movies and tv, but ultimately what really impacts our lives are rational facts. What Chesterton does is point us back to the wonder and awe of the faith. What follows is Chesterton’s take on Advent and wonder. My hope is that it will help you see the wonder of Advent in a new light…

"Men of the people, like the shepherds, men of the popular tradition, had everywhere been the makers of the mythologies. It was they who had felt most directly, with least check or chill from philosophy or the corrupt cults of civilization, the need we have already considered; the images that were adventures of the imagination; the mythology that was a sort of search the tempting and tantalizing hints of something half human in nature; the dumb significance of seasons and special places. They had best understood that the soul of a landscape is a story and the soul of a story is a personality. But rationalism had already begun to rot away these really irrational though imaginative treasures of the peasant; even as systematic slavery had eaten the peasant out of house and home. Upon all such peasantries everywhere there was descending a dusk and twilight of disappointment, in the hour when these few men discovered what they sought. Everywhere else Arcadia was fading from the forest. Pan was dead and the shepherds were scattered like sheep. And though no man knew it, the hour was near which was to end and to fulfill all things; and though no man heard it, there was one far-off cry in an unknown tongue upon the heaving wilderness of the mountains. The shepherds had found their Shepherd. 

And the thing they found was of a kind with the things they sought. The populace had been wrong in many things; but they had not been wrong in believing that holy things could have a habitation and that divinity need not disdain the limits of time and space. And the barbarian who conceived the crudest fancy about the sun being stolen and hidden in a box, or the wildest myth about the god being rescued and his enemy deceived with a stone, was nearer to the secret of the cave and knew more about the crisis of the world, than all those in the circle of cities round the Mediterranean who had become content with cold abstractions or cosmopolitan generalizations; than all those who were spinning thinner and thinner threads of thought out of the transcendentalism of Plato or the orientalism of Pythagoras. The place that the shepherds found was not an academy or an abstract republic; it was not a place of myths allegorized or dissected or explained or explained away. It was a place of dreams come true. Since that hour no mythologies have been made in the world. Mythology is a search."

-G.K. Chesterton

Advent 2017 | Day 17 | Joy


Today marks the Third Sunday of Advent.  And Today’s candle represents “joy”. 

In September of 1955, author C.S. Lewis’ spiritual autobiography was first published and its title was Surprised by Joy.  In that text Lewis described his first experience of Joy – at the age of six. 

He described a sensation overcoming him as “enormous bliss.”  For years he sought, to “imprison joy”, and at times – got brief stabs of it through music, books and walks…but when “joy” did not remain, he became worried that it would not come again.

He wrote, “all my waiting and watching for “joy”, all my vain hopes to find some mental context on which I could, so to speak, lay my finger and say, “this is it!”, has become a futile attempt.”  Joy – as an idol – is always inadequate.  All the experience of joy in the end were saying to Lewis, “It is not I.  I am only a reminder.  Look!  Look!  What does joy remind you of?”  It was when God closed in on Lewis and in turn he believed and confessed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that he awoke – for the first time – to Joy as a person. 

In response to the First Advent– we now know that our whole life is based on delight – true joy – on what God has done in Jesus Christ.  No wonder the Angel says to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” 

The Old prophet Isaiah reminds us that we who are ransomed obtain both joy and gladness:  And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there.  But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. (Isaiah 35:8-10)

This is the Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.


Advent 2017 | Day 16 | Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Today's entry is simple, but powerful. This year, our series for Advent is "Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus." The lyrics to this song speak so much truth. Today, we ask that you take a moment to read and contemplate each word of this wonderful Advent carol written by Charles Wesley. 

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus
Written by Charles Wesley

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set Thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now Thy gracious kingdom bring.

By Thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by Thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to Thy glorious throne.

If you would like to listen to this song, please click below!

Advent 2017 | Day 15 | Resources

What is Advent and Why Should We Celebrate It?

Advent is a preparatory season in the historical church calendar that focuses on the “coming” or “visitation” of Jesus, culminating in the celebration of Christmas (adventus is Latin for “coming”). The Bible doesn’t command that we celebrate Advent but we at City Church believe that is it a helpful practice for the spiritual formation of our church. Why?

1. Advent helps us align our December calendars with the Story of God. Often we spend more time thinking about the demands of Christmas than the glory of Christ. Advent helps us use December as a time to reflect on Jesus’ gracious and radical intervention in the world (as opposed to the consumerism of our current culture). Through gathered worship (Sundays) and family devotions/readings, advent helps us worship Jesus – the God who humbly became a baby in order to establish His Kingdom and give Himself up for all of us so that we might have a restored life with God.

2. Advent stirs our longings for the second coming of Christ. Even as we celebrate the incarnation of Jesus, advent reminds us that though Christ’s Kingdom is already present in the world (and in us!), it is also not yet fully realized. Thus, advent stirs our hearts to pray for Christ’s return, groan for the current brokenness of the world (and ourselves), and give ourselves more fully to participating in God’s redemptive purposes in the world.

3. Advent gives us a strategic opportunity to share the hope of Christ’s coming with our friends/family who aren’t yet connected to Jesus or the church. Both as the church gathered (on Sundays) and the church scattered (throughout the week), Christmas/advent affords us a great opportunity to share the Gospel. Many of our friends/family who aren’t connected to Jesus will consider coming to church and talking about Jesus during the holidays. We want to capitalize on this God-given opportunity for the glory of Jesus and the good of our loved ones.

Below are some resources we hope you will find helpful for further reading:

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus - edited by Nancy Guthrie and including works by John Piper, R. Kent Hughes, Tim Keller, Charles Spurgeon, etc.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room – a family Advent Devotional written by Nancy Guthrie

Prepare Him Room – a family Advent Devotional written by Marty Machowski

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent – by John Piper (he also has another book of Advent readings titled Good News of Great Joy that is available as a FREE download)

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas – by Ann Voskamp

We hope you find one or more of these resources to be beneficial!

Advent 2017 | Day 13 | Rose Lantz

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church member, Rose Lantz. 


Our ‘Gospel-Drenched’ Hope

In Luke 1:26-31 we read, In the six month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

This passage gets me every time. This angel who stands in the presence of God is sent to deliver “Good News” to Mary. When she seems confounded by this greeting, the angel responds to her by saying, Do not be afraid, Mary. Those words spoken to Mary resonate deeply in my soul.  My faith is being encouraged and strengthened as I read God’s plan unfolding in the book of Luke Ch.1:

God’s redemptive work is at hand.
Jesus, our Rescuer, is on the scene.
And, when Jesus steps onto the scene, hope is made possible.

Two years ago this December, I held my Dad’s very fragile hand and looked into his tired eyes as his body was failing him. Sitting next to him, he would shake his head side to side and tell me how much he couldn’t take the pain. With every breath he could get out, he’d ask, “How much longer?” And he would then say, “I’m scared, Mija.”  

Squeezing his hands so gently, I’d lean in and tell him, “You do not have to be afraid, Dad!” Because of Jesus, we do not have to be afraid. There is hope.

As my pastor would say, it is Gospel drenched hope. It’s not wishful thinking or holding a positive thought. Real hope, Gospel drenched hope, comes from a response to God’s promises that are as real today as they ever were. The ultimate promise being the Lord Jesus Himself.

My very last conversation and my last time praying with my dad, I would share the “Gospel drenched hope message” of our Savior, coming to be born to set the people free. Jesus coming to release us from our fears and sins. The Lord Jesus Himself making the impossible possible.

Friends and family, as we journey through this Advent season may we be reminded that Jesus CAME and HE’S MADE A WAY. As we wait, may we wait with great expectation and be reassured that whatever our current situation is, whatever our future holds that we can bank on His promises.

We do not have to be afraid because our hope is secure and solid in Christ Jesus.  

Advent 2017 | Day 12 | Rev. Jack Carter

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from our Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Jack L. Carter.

In the Meantime

In writing to the church in Ephesus, Paul reminds them of the “immeasurable greatness of His power for us who believe, according to the working of His great power.  God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the age to come.”  Note the emphasis upon two ages, “this age and the age to come”.  Also note that the people of God have always lived in a kind of “in the meantime”, in the time or age prior to the coming in fullness of the “age to come”.

“The “saeculum” (Latin for ‘age’), in which we find ourselves is a long “between”, and overlap of realities that are both now and not-yet.  To live in the “saeculum” is to move in a world over which both the cross and the coming kingdom cast long shadows.  The kingdom has come, but the former administration won’t leave the building,” writes James Smith, author of Awaiting the King.

God has always been King.  He revealed Himself as such to Israel and they were taught how to live as a redeemed people under the only true King, Yahweh.  They were called to live in faith, faithfully seeing and obeying the word of the King.  And so is the Church.  We are to be faithful, in the meantime, until the full manifestation is given of Jesus—King.  We don’t shuttle between the jurisdiction of two kingdoms; we do, however, live now in the age of a contested rule, where the “rulers of this age’ grasp after an authority that, in reality, has been taken from them.  “All authority, both in heaven and on earth”, has been given to the Son, our Lord Jesus, who now rules.  In the meantime, we, the church which is His body, are called t be the place, the site, for seeing what Christ’s kingly rule is supposed to look like.

The core conviction of the Gospel is simply this:  that Christ Jesus now reigns; that the kingly rule of Christ is God’s own rule exercised over the whole world.  This peaceful, righteous, and holy rule is, ought to be, visible in the church, but not only there.  “Peace on earth and good will toward men” is spoken to all men everywhere.

Everyone is now answerable to God’s King.  Only God’s rule is ultimate.  All other authorities are penultimate.  All legitimate authorities are in reality “stewards” and will give an account for that stewardship. 

Our high calling is to live out this theology.  And all biblical theology is intrinsically dramatic; we are to become living Bibles, living letters written and empowered by the Spirit of God.  We, the church, act out the doctrines of scripture.  We perform the script.  Thus we emphasize that theology, right doctrine, is very practical.  The idea of a dichotomy between doctrine and practice is toxic.  Doctrine, teaching is simply direction for both understanding and obeying King Jesus.  We believe the Gospel; everything is now in subjection to Christ; He has already disarmed the principalities and powers.  But we yet live in the not yet, the meantime.  SO we bear witness, faithful witness, “until HE comes.”  As John Donne, 17th Century pastor and poet,  said to the boarding pilgrim passengers of a small ship bound for the colonies in 1630, “Act out the Acts of the Apostles.”  Four hundred years later this is still our task!


Advent 2017 | Day 11 | Jennifer Whitehurst

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church member, Jennifer Whitehurst. 

It is exciting to see our children excel in their gifting and interests.  Our family has had the blessing of daughters who love ballet, and at Christmas, that means The Nutcracker.  For about 20 years we have supported and cheered them through the tiniest of roles to the coveted Clara to being a guest artist.  It was not without a lot of discipline and bloody feet.  If you have seen Tchaikovsky's masterpiece then you will remember the music, the backdrop, the lively characters that come to life in a child's dream, the costumes, the beautiful dancing.  Of course there is all of the backstage drama as well (choreography, make-up, quick changes, and all the people that are so important to the success of the show) that the audience will never see.  I am always amazed how each role is a small part in what comes together as a big, impressive production.   

On the stage today, we all are characters and performers racing through the production we call life.  You may be a student, a musician, a teacher, a doctor, a mom.  God has invited each of us to join in His 'company' in a very important role.  His grand production is seen throughout history starting with creation and continuing throughout the Biblical narrative.  The drama has always been pointing humanity to Jesus.  Each scene prepares us to receive our King.  However, until that silent night in Bethlehem, the main character, the expected Messiah, was only a promise and a future hope.   In the fullness of time, the stage was set and all the characters were in place.  God, in His infinite love and grace, sent His only Son to our earthly stage to be our rescuer and redeemer.  In this most dramatic of scenes, Jesus' birth was announced with an angelic symphony and a brilliant star shining on a tiny baby in a stable, but humanity missed it.  The audience had their eyes on a different stage where they thought the action would take place.  They had no idea that Jesus would enter the chaos through the mundane rather than through a palace.  But nevertheless, the star was born, and our narrative will forever be changed.  

Our lives, just as in the Nutcracker, are primarily 'off stage.'  The time spent during the months of rehearsing before the curtain call far surpass the event itself.  What if we, just as the characters during the birth of our Savior, have missed the main event?  What if the behind the scenes hard work (the studying, the preparing, the praying, the praising, the patience, the wrestling, the sacrificing, the counseling, the memorizing, the loving the hard to love, the faithfulness when circumstances are grim, etc.) is far more important than the trivial things that we think are so dramatically important?   When Jesus is the focus of our activities and our script, He fulfills our dreams far greater than any Nutcracker that comes to life.    

During this Advent season, instead of trying to be the 'star' or control the 'star' don't miss the real Star.

Look to Jesus Christ.  Super Star. 



Advent 2017 | Day 10 | Love

Advent Second Sunday:  Love

Today marks the second Sunday of Advent. And Today’s candle represents “love”.

One of the beauties of following the Church calendar is that it reminds us that we are connected to the church historic. In other words the Christian church did not begin when you joined it and it will be here long after our time has past.  And when you go back and study the rich magisterial history of the church in western civilization you will see that the Christians who came before us greeted Advent as we do today.  Hear the words of St. Paul to the Church in Rome: Owe no man anything…but love one another.

That simple verse of Scripture: Owe no man anything...but love one another is such a reminder especially during this season.  You see Advent celebrates a freedom, a dissolution (if you will), the dissolving of all obligations in the face of the great obligation the love which God commands for Himself and for our fellow human beings; Both the vertical love of God and our horizontal love to one another are represented to us in the face of Jesus Christ--the God-Man.  The horizontal direction of love to our fellow man resounds all kinds of responsibility for our fellow man.  But that is the essence of what it means to love one another.  We give ourselves for one another.  We demonstrate this principle of my life for yours with our neighbors.  But why?  Because ultimately it is God who has demonstrated this principle of perfect love with us through the sending of his own son Jesus Christ.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  8 Love never fails.  ~ I Cor. 13:4-8

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.  8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. ~ Romans 13:7-10

Advent 2017 | Day 9 | Danielle Tucker

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church member, Danielle Tucker. 

Over the past year, and leading straight up into the Advent season, has been a time of learning what it means to truly trust in the Lord for our little family - trusting in the Lord to be faithful, to keep His promises, to provide, to take care of us. The list can go on and on depending on our situation or season of life. How difficult it must have been for the Jewish people to trust in the Lord during their centuries of waiting or even once their Savior had come, but just not quite in the way they expected.

I believe one of the most important lessons we can learn is to fully trust in Him and His timing. Our life circumstances rarely turn out as we expect them to, when we expect them to and yet, we can usually look back and see how our Father weaved everything together perfectly and better than we could have imagined. That’s the delight of trusting in the Lord! When you believe He will take your imperfect life and use it for His perfect plan. That kind of trust is so incredibly difficult to learn but something that takes you to a place of joy and life-giving peace once you embrace it.

What are you waiting on that you need to give to the Lord this Advent season? How can you get to a place of being able to say, “I trust you, Lord” in each and every moment? During Advent, I urge you to meditate on the words of Mary in the first chapter of Luke:

-        “I am the Lord’s servant….may your word to me be fulfilled.” (verse 38)
-        “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” (verse 46)
-        “The Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” (verse 49)

I want to trust in the Lord the way Mary did. I want to glorify His name no matter what life brings. Do you?

Advent 2017 | Day 8 | Pastor Dave Lescalleet

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from our Lead Pastor, Dave Lescalleet

On this Day:  Snow!

On this day, December 8, 2017, those of us living in South Texas, were given an early Christmas present.  It snowed!  In light of the winter wonderland that we experienced today (it lasted nearly 15 hours!), I thought it only appropriate to offer eight scriptures that reference snow in the Bible.  I offer this for today’s On-Line Advent Calendar. 

Job 37:6
God says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

Psalm 51:6-7
Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.  Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 147:16
God spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.

Proverbs 25:13
Like the cold of snow in time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.

Proverbs 31:20-21
She extends her hand to the poor, Yes, she reaches out her hands to the needy.  She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet.

Isaiah 1:18
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 55:10
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater

Mark 9:2-3
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them.


Advent 2017 | Day 7 | Rev. Jack Carter

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from our Pastor Emeritus, Rev. Jack L. Carter.

Jesus is King

The Advent of the King changes everything. The consistent record of the doctrine of the church is that the initial disciples saw in Jesus a King and His rule as absolute.  Even the revilers of the message of the Apostle Paul in Thessalonica understood this.  In Acts 17:6-7 we read, “And when they (a mob of wicked men) could not find them (the leaders of the church in Thessalonica), they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is ‘another king, Jesus.”  And they were absolutely correct in their appraisal.

            In the fullness of time, born of a woman, Jesus comes as the Son of David who will and did fulfill God’s promise to David that a descendent would occupy the thrown forever.  The new era, therefore, has come and the old era is passing away.  We proclaim and testify that the kingdom of God has come, is coming, and shall yet come.  We preach both “Christ-crucified” and “Repent for the Kingdom of God is here.” 

            “Advent is the act of divine authorization of Jesus as the Son of God; the Kingdom arrives in Jesus,” says James Smith.  The Church’s basic confession is that “Jesus Messiah-King is Lord of all.” We declare in this that all providential institutions, all political systems, all rulers and authorities, are subject to the reign of God in Christ.  John heard a cry from heaven at the sounding of the seventh trumpet.  “Sovereignty over the world has passed to our Lord and His Christ; the Kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.”


Advent 2017 | Day 6 | Amy Allen

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church Member,  Amy Allen.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the word come.  When we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” what do we mean?  What are we asking for?  Answers?  Justice?  Or maybe just relief?

The Old Testament is full of people exclaiming “How long?”  They were waiting for Jesus, the anticipated Messiah, and sometimes that waiting got a little…well…long.  Even wearisome, perhaps.

Maybe you feel that way today.  Tired and weary from the waiting, and you’re asking, “How long?”  Maybe your waiting has led to discouragement or hopelessness like David in the Psalms: 

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
    heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.  My soul is in deep anguish.
    How long, Lord, how long? Psalm 6:2-3

Let me sit down beside you and say “Me too, friend.  I understand.  I’ve been there.  But hold on!  Your Savior is here!”

While Advent is indeed about waiting for Jesus to come, the great thing about where we sit in history is that Jesus HAS COME.  Why is that important?  Because Jesus is THE ANSWER!  Always.  But often times, we forget that and  waiting can make our gaze turn blurry.   We  need to refocus.  But, how? 

We come

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

However, we usually make this part overly complicated.  So let’s think about how Christ came.  Interestingly, He came as a baby!  Vulnerable.  Nothing in his hands.  And that’s exactly how we should come— with nothing to offer, and everything to receive.  

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Let me assure you from experience, the time you spend with Him is not just fluff.  It is not an item on your to-do list that you may check off for extra credit.  It is vital, my friend.  He asks you to come, but you have to choose.  And when you come—when you say yes to that invitation—you receive.  Receive everything you ask for?  Not likely.  But you receive Him.  And that’s what you need.  His love.  His protection.  His leading.  His peace.  His joy.  His counsel.  His wisdom.  His freedom.

Your job is simply to come, and He will change everything.   

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8





Advent 2017 | Day 5 | Stacy Kempf

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church Attender,  Stacy Kempf.

Seasons of Waiting

Four hundred years…that is the amount of time that historians believe separated the prophetic words of the Old Testament and the writings of the New Testament. Four centuries of perceived “silence”, approximately 146,000 days or 3,504,000 hours of waiting to hear from God. As someone who grows frustrated simply waiting for the light to turn green, it’s not much of a stretch for me to imagine what the wait must have been like for the Jewish people during that time, especially considering their track record. I can only envision that they were like many of us today…impatient one moment, hopeful the next, then back to doubting and questioning God’s plans. This season of waiting that they experienced, along with many stories in the Bible, reveal to us that God’s timeline rarely matches up to the one desired by His children. Yet it is always perfect, as it was the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

With so many examples of God’s flawless timing, why are we still terrible at waiting on The Creator of time itself?  Why do we find ourselves trying to hurry Him along as we rush towards the next blessing, the next milestone, the next day off, the next __________ (fill in the blank)? We all can probably shake our heads in agreement at C.S. Lewis’ frequently quoted words of, “I am sure that God keeps no one waiting unless he sees that it is good for him to wait.” So why then do we struggle with it so much still? It’s distressing to me how I can sometimes push my agenda on God or even leave Him out of it completely, all because I don’t care to wait. Yet the Bible shows us over and over that waiting is simply a part of God’s divine providence, and He uses it to refine us and to draw us closer to Him.

With all that being said, it seems that all the signs point to one reason, as to why we are dreadfully defective at waiting….it all comes down to sin…to the very reason that Jesus came down to earth in the first place. How very fortunate then are you and I that we have a loving and merciful God, who is quick to forgive us, and who loves us enough to keep us waiting for as long as it takes. He is also gracious enough to invite us to have an intimate relationship with him, which enables us to face difficult times of waiting with the peace and contentment that only He can offer.  I think that’s one reason that I enjoy the Advent season so much. It’s a reminder that I am desperately in need of Savior, and it is through Him that I am able to embrace the wait - to wait with joyful expectation for the celebration of Christmas Day and to wait for the glorious Advent yet to come!

Advent 2017 | Day 4 | Karissa Hass

Please join us over the next several weeks as we journey through this Advent season.  We will be hearing from many of our City Church staff as well as members of the congregation as we all ponder the mysteries of this season.  Today’s contribution comes from City Church Member,  Karissa Hass.

In Whom Is My Expectation?

Expectation holds excitement.  It’s straightforward definition is , “A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future,” and, “A belief that someone will or should achieve something.”  Some of us have high expectations of ourselves and others.  Occasionally we and others fulfill expectations,  but we are always left wanting something else, something more.  What do we seek?  In the end, we desire something that lasts. Perhaps we are looking for something eternal?  Do we want eternal comfort, or emotional security, or sense of purpose, or friendship?  Do we want to be loved and understood perfectly?  Do we desire to love and understand and serve others perfectly?  But how?

For thousands of years, God promised His people salvation. In Psalm 9:18 we are told, “The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.”.  Jeremiah 29 promises “... a future and a hope….” and that God’s people “...will call upon Me and go and pray to Me….And you will seek Me and find Me….”.  What do we expect to find in God’s long promised salvation? Is it personal fulfillment?  Sometimes, I think, we forget the object of our expectation.  Our long awaited expectation is Jesus Christ, the person.  God’s salvation brings us the perfect and eternally fulfilling gift of Himself. God did not forget His promise.  Christ’s first advent brought salvation, full and free just as Simeon testified in Luke 2:30 upon seeing the baby Jesus, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation.”  We believe what Christ accomplished in the first advent and eagerly await the second advent, His reappearing.  

May our testimony be like that of Abraham in Romans 4 that “...being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.  And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  Our righteousness is Christ.  Our expectation is that every emotional, spiritual, relational desire will indeed be met through Christ alone.  1 John 3:2 reminds us,  “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

We live in excited expectation that Jesus will never leave us wanting.

Advent 2017 | Day 3 | Hope

(Note:  The following is a summary of the Advent Reading that we had today at City ChurchIt is offered for you as an Advent meditation on this day of the Advent season). 

From it’s beginning in Church history, the season in the Church Year called “Advent”, which means “coming”, was seen as preparation for Christmas.  In the early years of this observance, Advent was seen as a season of great seriousness, and as such repentance and preparation for the coming of Christ was always front and center.  The Christmas holiday season actually begins December 25th and ends January 6th with the celebration of Epiphany.

The time leading up to December 25th, the time we are now in, is the celebration of Advent, the celebration of remembering Christ’s First Coming (His First Advent).  This is a time that sits along side the anticipation of Christ’s return at his Second Advent.  Both Advents recognize the prayer:  Come, oh Come Emmanuel. 

The people of Ancient Israel hoped for Emmanuel’s coming, the coming of God’s Savior, and that is our same hope today.  The church has the same hope as we look to the second advent of Christ’s return. 

This morning at our Sunday worship service, we lit the first advent candle, which represents hope.  It was just a few months ago when we were devastated by Hurricane Harvey that in a television interview a resident of Port Aransas said, “We could sure use some hope right now.”  He is correct.  But that message of hope isn’t just for those who went through storms like Harvey, much of our current world suffers from a crisis of hope.  Hope is not wishful thinking or holding a positive thought.  Real hope, Gospel drenched hope, comes from a response to God’s promises that are as real today as they ever were.  The ultimate promise being the Lord Jesus Himself. 

In response to the advent of Christ, the church as God’s people, became a gathered and gathering community.  At the first Advent that gathering began in Galilee, the very point of juncture between ancient Israel and the Gentile people.  It was a time of darkness, having no hope in the world, when they saw a great light and the gathering began inviting all people, lepers and centurions, Jews and gentiles, rich and poor and everyone in between. 

It was the old prophet Isaiah in 742BC who first heard God’s call and “saw the Lord high and lifted up” and he was never the same. 

From the Prophet Isaiah chapter 60:  “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. 3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. 21 Then all your people will be righteous and they will possess the land forever. They are the shoot I have planted, the work of my hands, for the display of my splendor. 22 The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the Lord; in its time I will do this swiftly.”