From Palm Sunday, to organ tuning, to Good Friday and then Easter, a staff retreat, and Youth Sunday, it’s been a busy month at CBC! Check out some some photos of what’s been happening!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I was raised in the Catholic Church and growing up I never liked Lent which begins this week on Ash Wednesday. You had to be a religious nerd to like Lent as a kid. My wife Kathy liked Lent! She was a religious nerd. If you are unfamiliar with Lent, it is a forty day season (minus Sundays) of spiritual preparation leading to Resurrection Sunday. It typically involves repentance, fasting, self-examination, and acts of service. Lent is about giving up things; what kid wants to give up things? I liked Advent! Advent was awesome with decorations, cookies, shopping, and the anticipation of gifts!
Even as an adult, and a pastor at that, I found myself chafing inside during the Lenten season each spring. That somehow this season should be different spiritually than the rest of the year seemed artificial and contrived. However, as you might expect, over the years I have come to think differently about Lent. I have come to recognize the benefits of spiritual consecration through denying self and focusing on the Lord. The apostle Paul said to Timothy, "train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (1 Timothy 4:7-8).
To that end I want to invite you to pick up a copy of "Seek God for the City: Prayers of Biblical Hope" and join us on a Lenten prayer journey. This prayer guide will take you beyond emergency fix-it praying and guide you to pray great things. Each day we will be led to ask God to do something he has promised to do and to ask God to do something he has done before. Additional daily prayer prompts will allow you to bring before the Father all the nations of the world as well as many concerns and topics that burden our hearts and God's. To do this you will need to give up some time each day, denying yourself and focusing on the Lord and his interests in the world.
We will also be using the weekly themes of “Seek God for the City” to guide our preaching; the discipleship groups will engage the prayer guide too. You might not consider yourself a religious nerd but I hope you will join us on this Lenten journey of intercession together, preparing the way for the Risen Lord! Our world desperately needs him.
A group of our youth attended the BCNE’s Youth Encountering Christ conference at the beginning of February.
YEC Update 2019
Over 750 youths and 180 chaperones gathered together to have some fun, engage in meaningful fellowship and point one another to a new or deeper relationship with Christ. Youth Encountering Christ conference took place over a period of three days. It was a wonderful opportunity to enrich one another and also see what God is doing across New England not only in the lives of the youth but also the volunteers that seek to share Christ with them on a weekly basis.
The theme verse was John 3:16, and the speaker was Anthony Knight. The first night he walked us through the why God loves us, why he gave his only Son and why we need to believe in him to gain eternal life. The Second day he asked how our lives would look like to be totally sold out to God and what is keeping us from being totally sold out? He finally drew our attention towards what is temporary and what is eternal. How our focus on each brings about the results that we see in our lives.
Joy in heaven
YEC was a picture of heaven with all people from different nations and tribes meeting under one banner of Jesus as Lord and exalting his name. Joy must have resounded through heaven as 21 youths made commitments to follow Christ and five sensed a clearer direction to missional vocations by the end of the conference.
It was also a wonderful opportunity for the middle schoolers to prepare care packets for veterans as a way to say thank you, especially for those who live alone and have no close family or relatives to care for them. Other care packets were prepared for the Quest missions team to take on their upcoming missions.
The conference provided an opportunity to sow seeds of faith through the plenary sessions, the small group interactions and the cross the table discussions that occurred during meals and fun activities.
Dear Church families,
February is the month for love. We share our love with friends and families by giving them cards, chocolate and other gifts. When Jesus was on earth, he shared the love of God to people around him by healing, forgiving, teaching. He also went to the temple courts, the streets, the mountains, the sea. He was even willing to go to the cross, took on himself our sin, gave us everlasting life with God as we believe in him. At that cross he poured out on us his unconditional love and forgiveness. Thus, as followers of Jesus, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we are called to love people and commanded to go share his love to others (Matthew 28:19).
On Sunday, February 10, Bible Blast families had the opportunity to go to MIT to share the love of God to MIT families. We shared one of my favorite bible stories from Matthew 19:13-15, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children.” Please pray for MIT families to experience the love of God through us.
As a Jesus follower where will you go and how will you share the love of God to others?
Dear Brothers and Sisters at CBC,
Merry Christmas and happy New Year! It is with a great amount of satisfaction that I give to you the Bible reading plan for 2019. While a daily devotional in God’s word is not all that we need, it is certainly foundational for the Christian life. The central reality of the Christian is God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We are meant to live in fellowship with God; this is our purpose, this is our privilege, this is our destiny. Scripture and prayer are core disciplines for the life God works within us that we then work out: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12,13).
I wanted to explain this plan and some of its nuances. First a brief explanation. You will be reading 4 chapters a day, 7 days a week. This will take you through the entire Bible once and Psalms, Proverbs, Matthew, Acts, Romans, and Hebrews twice. There are a few instances when you will read 3 chapters and a few when you will read 5. Most notably I tried not to break up the discourses in the book of Job so the schedule is a little uneven there.
Now for a full length explanation! The first column simply takes you through all the Psalms and Proverbs twice in the course of the year. The Psalms are the historic prayer and praise book of Scripture and reading a Psalm 300 days of the year will deepen your prayer life and worship. Proverbs is wisdom, much of it in bite size nuggets, and who couldn’t use a regular dose of wisdom?
The second column is the New Testament reading. It is one chapter a day for the year and it is presented in canonical order, that is, in the order you find in your Bible. The New Testament is completed as of September 17th so I added Matthew, Acts, Romans and Hebrews a second time to maintain the New Testament reading up to December 11th. Then to focus on Christmas I added selections from Isaiah and Luke to end the year.
The third column is the Old Testament, minus Psalms and Proverbs which are read separately in the first column. The Old Testament readings need the most explanation. I have chosen to follow the Jewish canonical ordering of: Law – Prophets – Writings. This was the ordering that Jesus himself would have known. The exact ordering I have chosen is slightly different than the standard Jewish canonical order and I found it in Dominion and Dynasty: A theology of the Hebrew Bible by Stephen Dempster.
The flow of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) begins with the Law (Pentateuch; 5 books of Moses) which establishes God’s covenant relationship with Israel. Israel’s pre-history, including creation, the flood, and the Patriarchs is included within the Pentateuch.
The story then continues with what are called the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings) which give the history from entering the land of Canaan according to God’s promise and power to being expelled from that same land also by God’s promise and power. Within that story is also the story of Israel’s kingship and God’s promise of a dynasty to David. It should be noted that the story of the Former Prophets concludes with a touch of hope in the midst of tragedy – Jehoiachin, king of Judah, is released from prison while still in exile (2 Kings 25:27-30; Cf. Jeremiah 52:31-34). This hints that the story of God and his people is not yet over, that the promises to Abraham and David have not been abandoned.
The storyline next turns to the Latter Prophets - the ones we usually think of when we think of the prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12 “minor” prophets. “Minor” refers to their length, not their content. Many of the prophets are closely connected with the exile: some in anticipation (ex: Isaiah, Habakkuk), some in the moment (ex: Jeremiah, Ezekiel) and some in the restoration (ex: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi). The exile is central to the story as Israel was unfaithful to the covenant despite God’s patience and calls for repentance. The exile itself was an act of covenant faithfulness by God; however the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is still the “compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6) so the exile was not the end of Israel’s story.
Fittingly Jeremiah is first (in the standard Jewish ordering Isaiah is first) since he lived and prophesied during the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile from the land. Jeremiah speaks powerfully of Israel’s guilt but even more so of God’s continued mercy shown in his promises of restoration, “”When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’” (Jeremiah 29:10-13).
This hope for a new heart is picked up in Ezekiel who declares that God will “remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27). Isaiah is next, speaking so clearly of Jesus as the suffering servant who gives his life for the sins of the people and also picturing the hope of a redeemed world. The 12 follow, each adding their voice to the story of Israel’s hardheartedness and God’s determined faithfulness to complete the outworking of creation: “They will be my people and I will be their God.”
The third section of the Hebrew Bible is called the Writings. This section contains several different types of writing in both prose and poetry, the most notable being the wisdom literature which give directions for righteous living in an unrighteous world. These works include Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations. There are also historical works which resume the storyline - Ruth, Daniel, Esther, Ezra-Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. Notice that the Hebrew Bible ends with 1 and 2 Chronicles which speaks a word of hope and comfort to post-exilic Israel reminding them once again of God’s covenant faithfulness and plans to work through his people despite their history of unfaithfulness. Second Chronicles concludes with Cyrus issuing the proclamation to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Israel is still under foreign dominion but once again we see that God is not yet done with his people and that there is hope for the story to continue…and it does in the New Testament with the gospel of Matthew and the birth of the Messiah! Notice how tightly the New Testament is tied to the Old Testament in Matthew chapter 1.
Reading the Bible daily and reading through the entirety of Scripture every year has been a well of living water to me. Every morning I look forward to reading God’s word, meditating on it, and responding in prayer. I hope this explanation of the reading plans helps you grasp God’s great story and that this year you can also deepen your fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through daily Bible reading.
You might want to consider reading like eating – three times a day. Read one column in the morning and pray to begin your day, read another at lunchtime, and the last in the evening. This may make it more manageable than trying to read it all and pray the first thing in the morning.
“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:2,3).
Back in March we decided that the time had come for the old drop ceiling in our fellowship hall to go, so we could replace it with a new one, along with updated lighting and fresh paint for the walls.
To our pleasant surprise, when the ceiling came down we discovered that what we above it was in relatively good condition, and had great historical detail!
A professional finish wasn’t in the budget, so we made the decision to do the work ourselves, slowly, and restore the ceiling. Many, many, many hours of work followed. Some of the people you see pictured here have put in dozens or even over a hundred hours of work.
By late September, the hall was looking much improved.Here’s a picture from our Fall Kickoff on September 29th.
Progress has continued since this date, but there is still more to do! If you can help out some Saturday we’d be grateful. There is finish painting to be done, and we are still hoping to install new lighting and sound dampening panels.
But more importantly, we look forward to using this room even more extensively for fellowship and ministry!
Dear Church Family,
We all have moved from summer break to fall and the school year routine. Most of us have jumped into hectic schedules. We are all trying to balance life, children’s school, sports and extracurricular activities. As a church we are focusing on rest. The following is written by Parenting Christian Kids newsletter and is a great reminder of how we can best handle the often hectic life we all face day by day, and then there is a fun activity to do as a family that illustrates the need for the “3 R’s” mentioned below.
Children and parents all need permission and space to unplug, reflect, and be renewed…We all need to make time for the 3 R’s: Rest, Renewal and Reflection.
Rest is also key for children’s faith development. God commands us to set aside the Sabbath day for rest and worship. God also reminds us to “be still” (Psalm 46:10) so we can know him and his will—and hear his voice. When children and families spend quiet time with God, they grow closer to him and become more comfortable engaging with him through prayer.
Learn from Jesus, who made time for rest and reflection after dealing with needy crowds. Hit “pause” often so you and your children can be refreshed and renewed.
1. To help your family value rest and incorporate quiet time into daily life.
2. To help you model health boundaries between work and rest.
3. To bless your time spent with one another—and with God.
Don’t Work Your Socks Off!
Try This fun teachable moment for talking about rest with your children.
Set out an assortment of clean, balled-up socks. Have family members each choose three socks and then sit across from one another.
Say: Let’s try to juggle. Start with two socks and then try three. If you drop a pair of socks, keep trying.
Allow time. Then say: Now let’s juggle with the person sitting across from us. Try to keep as many pairs of socks in the air at the same time as you can.
Afterward, ask: What was it like to juggle alone? together? What made it fun or frustrating? When do you have to juggle lots of stuff in life? How does that make you feel?
Read aloud Mark 6:31. Say: Jesus knew it was important to take time for quiet and rest. When he lived on Earth, he “juggled” a busy schedule but still took breaks to be alone and to spend time with God, his Father.
Close in prayer, asking Jesus to help your lives be less of a juggling act.
What We’re Learning
We started up Bible Blast again, which goes from September to May.
Little Kids Club
We are learning 1 John 4:8 “God is Love.” God loves us when we are inside or outside, happy or sad, scared or a sleep. He loves us all the time.
In the month of October we are continuing unit 9: the Gospel project curriculum. The children are covering the Book of Judges.
Growing In God
In GIG students are studying the book of James.