Our Vision: The Gospel Creates Community

As a church for all people, our vision is to engage our city with the gospel of Jesus Christ that transforms lives, creates community, promotes justice, and renews culture both locally and globally.

If the Gospel of Jesus Christ creates community, how can we engage this practically?

First, we can recognize our human longing for community. We find community in and around so many things. Even when we find ourselves sitting in a room with ten other people, and all of us are on our phones, we can see that in one way or another we are driven to connect. We don’t want to be left out.

Second, look at what God has done in the Gospel. Christianity offers community that is stronger and more enduring than community that is built around education, geography, ethnic background, family, or interests because it finds its origin in the eternal community of the being of God. God sent his Son into the world, to manifest the community of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in human community. The Holy Spirit continues to mediate God’s presence to us.

To be a Christian is to be a person who has, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, entered this community. And that means that we have the opportunity to enter into community with other Christians. In fact, all the fellowship we experience as believers is an extension of the fellowship between the Father and the Son, as John notes in 1 John 1:3. Additionally, all our fellowship is a dramatization of the fellowship between the Father and the Son. In other words, the Holy Spirit is working in our relationships so that our Christian fellowship is a reflection and a display of the fellowship within the Trinity. Every time you get together with your community group you are acting out a human representation of the being and love of God.

To be on Christian mission, either locally or globally, is to look for ways to extend that fellowship and love to other people. This might happen by inviting someone into your community group, because of what Jesus has done for them. This might look like you, as someone who enjoys the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, entering another community, like a group of refugee families who have just moved into the area.

Remember that when you enter any community, whether that is a business community, or a group of soccer moms, or a support group for people who are fighting cancer, don’t get paralyzed thinking about strategy. I believe God’s main strategy is found in the promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” God is with us, because he has made a way for us to enter into fellowship with him.

Because of Jesus, the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Spirit go with you into every room and community you enter. Let’s engage our city, and trust God to create community.

Posted in Apply, Gospel | Tagged

Access Goes to Passion: A True Love Encounter

On January 2, 2017, at 6AM, 16 singles ages 18 years old and above, four leaders, and three vehicles met at Redeemer church in Chesapeake, Virginia with one mission – to experience a true love encounter with God. Access, Redeemer Church’s singles ministry, was en route to the “Passion Conference” in Atlanta, Georgia. Most of the group had never attended a Passion Conference. After everyone separated into three vehicles, thus commenced the nine-hour voyage to the Georgia Dome where more than 50,000 young adults gathered to worship the Lord.

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The Access group got to hear from a variety of renowned speakers, which included Francis Chan, John Piper, Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Levi Lusko, Katherine and Jay Wolf, and the Passion founder, Louie Giglio.

The worship team varied from session to session. The worship bands included the Passion band, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Housefires, a riveting appearance from Hillsong United, and more.

20-year-old Access member Alaina Orth elaborated on the extent to which a message by Christine Caine moved her.

“So often my thoughts are driven to the there, the future,” said Alaina- “God reminded me that he has put me in every place I’m in now for a reason and purpose. He has appointed me for this season. And everything now is perfectly preparing me for what is to come. He has not called me to be passive about the present, but to be present in the now, fully committed in every area of my life.”

While many from the Access group felt that the sermons truly resonated with them and prompted a profound, heart transformation, some said that the worship in which they engaged served as the true highlight of the event, especially for Jordan Hunt, a 22-year-old member of Access.

“… If there was a moment that I had to pick as my favorite part about Passion, it would most definitely be the hours we spent in worship,” he said. “To just be free in my expression to God in thankfulness through worship was by far my favorite moment.”

Another Access member, 23-year-old Laura Cagle, reflected on these lyrics from the song, Heart Abandoned, by the Passion Band.

“God give me a heart abandoned

Ever after you alone

Gold and silver, You can take it

All I want is You my Lord”

For Laura, the lyrics directly related to the work of God in her heart.

Following the opening night, the mornings began with small group break-out sessions at 8:30AM, and then a series of main sessions took place until another break-out session, ending around 11:30PM. The schedule allowed for a brief lunch break, consisting of various group members searching for restaurants not filled to their capacity or requiring two hours of wait in line. Nevertheless, even after sacrificing a great deal of sleep and a normal eating routine (which quickly morphed into something resembling a “dog-eats-dog/every-man-for-himself” starvation mentality), and surviving more than 18 hours on the road, the Access group concluded that the trip was well worth it all.

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Justin Hunt, age 20, enthusiastically affirmed: “I would definitely go back!”

So what exactly is Passion? What makes the annual event so impactful and deeply meaningful for so many?

The founders of Passion define the conference as “more than a conference” as it “exists to see a generation leverage their lives for what matters most… Jesus…”

Google defines the word “passion” as a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” Such an emotion entails a desire to unload the contents of one’s heart with utter abandon, like true love. Many Christians attest to having experienced this emotion early on in their Christian walk, but as time goes by, many find that the emotion weakens and becomes more controllable, the flame more quenchable, the gospel less awe-encompassing, the Christian lifestyle more routine, and the true love less true.

However, several Access members expressed that the Passion Conference played a significant role in resurfacing the passion of expressing their love to God that had slowly dissipated over time. Moreover, in various ways, the conference served to remind them of God’s passionate love as He exposed weaknesses in their hearts and expressed His grace as He prompted them to yield those areas to Him in different ways.

Laura shared that from the beginning of the conference, the Lord began exposing areas of herself that were not wholly committed to Him—areas of money, comfort, and self-centeredness. As Passion unfolded, the messages and challenges from each speaker shed more light on how the past year had found her pursuing her own happiness rather than pursuing higher priorities in her walk with God. She experienced a powerful moment on the final day of the conference:

“The last morning, I stood in prayer asking God to change the sinful desires in my heart and to create a clean heart within. A friend was impressed with the word ‘hope’ as she prayed for me.”

image-2As Laura considered the word, she was reminded of the hope in Scripture, that He who “began a good work” in her would bring it to completion. “There is hope for change in my heart because of Christ’s blameless walk, sacrificial death, victory over death, and the Holy Spirit that lives within me!”

Jordan added that his Passion 2017 experience resulted in a feeling of increased intimacy with the Lord, and upon leaving, he felt more grounded and emboldened in both his personal faith and ability to receive the love of Jesus in his life: “I believe that God opened my eyes to a lot of things… through my time spent at Passion.”

When Alaina reflects on the conference, she recalls the simple, powerful presence of God as one of the most outstanding features of the event. She felt her heart stir with “fresh, new focus” and “excited for all that the LORD is doing now in my life and how it is going to prepare me for all that he has in-store for my future.”

Ultimately, the Passion Conference resulted in more than just a gathering of Christian singles, more than just an experience, and more than just another memory. Rather, it served as a catalyst for transformation and reignited a flame of passion within many hearts. If asked how I would describe Passion 2017, I would call it a passion encounter, a passion renewal, a passion awakening, but overall, I agree that it meant so much more than just a passion conference. With a mission to encounter true love, true Love had encountered us.

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Posted in News and Events, Thoughts and Reflections, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Of Sermons and Mom’s Home Cooking

It’s a weekly routine for me: I transfer the sermon I preached on Sunday out of my preaching notebook and into the notebook that contains all the printed sermons for the year. Because of the holidays, I just finished transferring the final sermon I preached in 2016 and closed yet another folder full of the year’s sermons. It’s always a bit surreal to look at this folder: it’s full of sermons that represent so many hours of my work life, so much struggle with the Lord and with the text, and so much crafting, prayer, and even disappointment when I wish the preaching of the material would have been better.

img_1982But here’s my point: Do you know that a preaching notebook is more like your mom’s cooking than you know?

Here’s what I mean. I would venture to bet that, if pressed, most of you wouldn’t be able to remember any of the sermons from this past year! Go ahead, try! And I don’t blame you. I typically preach a sermon and rarely can remember half of what I said by Wednesday of the same week! Now maybe you remember parts of some of the sermons, moments that God used to really encourage you through His word, or times when you felt He opened your eyes to see something you hadn’t seen before. I hope you saw Christ and were stirred to love Him, trust Him, rest in Him and obey Him more. But by and large, not many sermons were especially memorable, if at all!

And that is OK –why?

Because neither were the vast majority of the meals your mother cooked (and I mean no offense to your mom)!

Sure, you might have a few favorites; everyone does! Maybe you can taste her signature meal even now (I feel like I can taste my mom’s green chili chicken enchiladas as I sit here typing this). But the vast majority of the meals your mom prepared, slaved over, tirelessly shopped for, prepped and put together for you and your family to enjoy is relegated to the category of utterly forgettable. Three meals a day times 365 days is over 1000 meals. One-third of those were probably cereal or oatmeal or the occasional eggs and bacon and pancakes. Another one-third were most likely bagged lunches with your favorite chips or Hostess treats. And the final third were home-cooked labors of love.

And all that these meals did for you, though utterly forgettable, was provide nutrition to you that allowed you to grow healthy and strong in mind and body. That’s how food works. Sometimes a meal is memorable, but mostly three squares a day simply contribute to growth and strength in 1000 ways we’ll never see as our food is digested and then nourishes our cells. The benefit is mostly unseen. The benefit is certainly cumulative. And above all, memorable or not, if you don’t eat – you die.

It’s a lot like God’s word, isn’t it? Every time you read God’s word, or listen to God’s word spoken or preached, the believing soul is nourished. It’s no surprise that God’s word is often equated with food (Deut. 8:3), and the job of shepherding involves the task of feeding the people of God with the Word of God (John 21:15-17). And how much comfort do you think every preacher derives from this promise:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Your mother’s cooking and every pastor’s now-closed 2016 Sermon notebook are pretty similar. You’ve heard another year of preaching and as His word was digested, it nourished your spiritual cells in 1000 ways you’ll never see. The benefit to your soul is mostly unseen. And the benefit is certainly cumulative. Pastors want to preach memorable sermons, mom’s love to cook favorite meals, but both know the deeper joy and responsibility of seeing health, growth, and strength come through faithfully feeding those we love.

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Two Lost Sons

rembrandtThe painting on the right is a Rembrandt inspired by the parable of the Prodigal Son.  This painting reflects both the glory and the problem of this famous parable as we know it.

The glory captured in this picture is the reality that God, because of Jesus will welcome all who return to Him no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or how far you’ve run. Because of what Jesus has done for us the Father will not let us define ourselves by our sin, nor require us to work our sin off before we receive His full welcome and eternal joy. The gospel opens up a new way to relate to God, by His grace! Though we have run and rebelled, the gospel is the good news of what Jesus has done for sinners like us to bring us back to God. That’s the glory of the gospel that shines through this painting.

The problem is their were two sons! I don’t think Rembrandt ever painted a picture of the Father entreating his obedient yet self-rigteous and angry older son, did he?  However, the older son according to Jesus was just as lost.  Why?  Because he used the Father to get what he wanted as well.  The difference is he saw his obedience as the way to get what he wanted from the Father. His obedience didn’t come from a place of love and gratitude and relationship; but as leverage. He didn’t see his Father as gracious and generous, but as a slave-master, so he would bide his time till he could get all that he wanted and deserved. His didn’t understand that as he despise a kind of grace that allowed the “outside” to become an “insider”; he the “insider” was on the outside of this party of grace and love.   So, the Father went out to him as well. And his welcome would include laying aside his self-rightreousness and outward obedience and recognize and receive the full grace of the Father that he needed just as badly.

There are two ways to be lost. You can be far from God by your running and active rebellion and sin, of course. But did you realize that you can be far from God even in your obedience, rule keeping and outward morality? Because Jesus was addressing the Pharisees in Luke 15, we must realize the danger of using our obedience as a form of self-salvation.  We already know that Jesus is our hope, is our Savior when we sin and repent and turn to him for forgiveness.  But we also need the constant reminder that our obedience doesn’t save us when we are not sinning!   In both, Jesus is your only hope. Salvation is a welcome into the Father’s grace and eternal joy only through faith in Jesus alone. Older sons (like me) and younger sons must renounce both our sin against God and any outward obedience we believe earns our reward and instead must cling to Jesus alone.

The Father’s welcome is a welcome into an eternal reward, an eternal party, an eternal celebration not because of what we have done or not done; but because of Jesus alone.

If you are interested, there are several outstanding treatments of this story:

1.  Dr. Ed Clowney preached a sermon called Sharing the Father’s Welcome.  A transcript is available if you click the title.

2.  Dr. Clowney’s sermon deeply impacted another preacher named Tim Keller, who wrote a book called The Prodigal God; which is one of the finest books on the true nature of the gospel I’ve read.

3.  You can also listen to last Sunday’s sermon, where standing on the shoulders of these two men, I preached about how the gospel results in Shattered Categories.

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Attn: Redeemer Church

BLM

Dear Redeemer Church,

In light of the events of the past week we are planning to take some time tomorrow morning to pray for our country and those directly affected by the tragedies. Please come so that we can see each other and approach the throne of grace together to find mercy and help in our time of need.

Also, we realize there are so many thoughts and emotions and questions, and opinions and voices and yet we are persuaded that as Christians, we must not take our cues or talking points from the world, but from the Scriptures. 

We are attaching a talk and ask you to take time this next week to listen to it.

We believe this message will be incredibly helpful for us as a predominantly white church to understand the reality, history and theology of the race issue in our country.

May the Lord lead us. And may we see significant healing and reconciliation in our country with the church leading the way with the message of hope found in Christ alone.

On behalf of the pastors,
Eric

 

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/is-black-lives-matter-the-new-civil-rights-movement

 

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What You Complete is Completely Done

The man I met was from El Salvador. Even though he had lived in the US for 13 years, his accent was still thick and reminded me how I love Latin American speech patterns. We only talked for a short time. He told me he was a concrete worker and whenWWII Recruiting Poster (2) I saw the “fish” decal on his truck I asked him if he went to church. What he said next was classic. He said, “Yeah, you know, I try to do all the right things for God.”

We had only just met and we only talked briefly, but I took the chance to tell him I could
relate. But then I added what good news it is that our hope is really found in the fact that Jesus has done it all for us. How great it is that Jesus has done all the right things for God for us! He nodded in what seemed like polite agreement, but I hope this small see
d of gospel truth will go deep into his heart to change what he, along with millions around the world, think Christianity is all about.

As I drove away his statement stuck with me. He reinforced once again the
default thinking of both Christians and unbelievers around the world.

Maybe you are not a Christian and Christianity appears to be just another lifestyle choice. Everyone has to choose what will drive them, what values will occupy the center, what “kind of person” they will try to be. Some people go the route of religion. Therefore, Christianity is just one option of many to choose from. All things considered, it’s a pretty tame option (with the plus of a good amount of spirituality mixed in for th
ose who like or need that stuff). But in the end, you might think it really seems a lot about what you have to do. What do I need to do to get in? What do I need to do to stay in? If I convert or walk an aisle and get saved, isn’t Christianity then just about a life of doing good things and not doing bad things? Like my new friend’s brief commentary: isn’t Christianity about trying to do all the right things for God? Meh. I could see why you could take it or leave it!

Surprisingly, even Christians get trapped in this mindset.   Most Christians tend to think about their lives in 3 Phases: 1) Life before Christ, 2) Became a Christian, 3) My Christian life now .

Most would admit that Jesus was the main player in phase 2. We sing Amazing Grace because we are amazed that Jesus would save even people like us “t
he hour [we] first believed.” Something about His death in our place for the payment and forgiveness of our sins melted our hearts, and we believed and were saved. Something about being restored in a reDo itlationship with a loving God who made us seemed more than attractive–it seemed like the answer to the deepest longing of our heart. And something about eternal life in a perfect new heaven and new earth gave a glimmer of real hope that made much of this life make sense for the first time.

However, after becoming a Christian, most people begin to live like the rest is now up to them. The work begins. The work of staying on track, the work of pleasing God with obedience, the work of staying on the straight and narrow, the work of feeling sufficiently convicted of sin, repenting of sin and trying to stop sinning. Of course, the Bible has plenty to say about each of these categories and their place in the Christian life, but the subtle tone of most people’s view of the Christian life is it’s all about my performance. A good Christian performs well and deserves God’s blessing. A horrible Christian performs badly and deserves whatever punishment one gets in this life.

In our most recent series on Sundays we keep seeing something different than this all-too-common mindset. We are studying Christ in the Old Testament, and how all of stories of the Bible point to good news found in Jesus Christ. And we have seen again and again:

Christianity is not about what we do for God;
Christianity is about what Jesus has done for us!

This is the message of the whole Bible! At no point can sinful humanity reach to God; at every point God must reach to us and rescue us by doing for us all that is required to get back to Him. Every story proves this. We fail. God relentlessly intervenes and saves.   And each facet of His salvation points to the true and greater salvation to come in His Son Jesus Christ who came to do what we could never do.

And this the only way the gospel is good news: if all that needs to be done has already been completely done for us and is offered to us to be received.   Jesus didn’t come to give a little boost in our efforts toward God, but to completely do everything we couldn’t do for us. As the Son of God wrapped in flesh, He lived the perfect life we could never live, in our place, for us. And He died the perfect death in our place, for us.

All that God requires of us is to receive this good news, to take it in, to believe it and trust it. We must simultaneously remove all trust in our ability “to do” for God, and place all of our trust in Jesus’ “done” on our behalf.   And it’s only when His “done” for you truly sinks in, when the completeness of His salvation for you and freeness of His grace to you and wonder of His eternal love for you truly sinks in–only then will the Christian life be something different than you ever thought. The Christian life will become one of joy and gratitude and rest; and then worship and obedience and response, instead of drudgery, external duty and exhausting performance.

Christianity is not like my new friend thinks. It is not about trying to do all the right things for God. Here’s some good news: One already came and did all the right things for God for us! He now offers, “and all that I have done can be yours.”

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Good Friday

Good-Friday-HPFor a little over 5 years, our church has partnered with other Gospel-centered churches in Hampton Roads in an organization we call the 64 Gospel Alliance.  We chose this name because of I-64!  As you know, this highway runs through our entire region so our vision was to gather other like-minded churches in our region to join together for encouragement and fellowship and to participate in periodic events together.  While a number of pastors have joined us over the years, the core group of churches include Redeemer Church, (Eric Hughes, John Butler, Alex Brodine), Redemption Church (Scott Osborne, Josh Jones), Cornerstone Bible Church (Stacey Potts, Jordan Heijermans), Anchor Church (Kris Hassanpour) and Eastminster Presbyterian Church (David Zavadil).  We meet once a month, and this has proven to be one of the most encouraging meetings on our calendar as we have grown in our friendship with and affection for these pastors leading churches in our area.  These men have become friends and we thank God for that.

We also thank God that there have been times when we have gathered our churches together for events.  In the first few years we hosted a Church Planting conference here at our church, and then a joint Men’s Conference.  And what a joy it was to have Redemption Church join us for our Christmas Eve Service this past Christmas.

We are gathering together again on Good Friday.  Redeemer Church will host our annual Good Friday service, and we will be joined by other churches in the 64 Gospel Alliance. Also, the pastors of these churches will be involved in leading us through the service.

Please plan to join us as we spend time reflecting on Christ’s work on the cross through singing, Scripture readings, a brief message and communion together.

The service will begin at 7:00 p.m. and we encourage you to bring your kids.  Afterwards, we will have coffee together in the lobby and have a chance to meet folks.

I hope to see you there,Eric

Eric

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18a)

 

 

 

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