Sermon Recap | Pray Like Jesus - Part 1


This week in our Personal Liturgy series, we began to look at the third enemy of our spiritual health, self-reliance.

Self-reliance: living our day-to-day lives depending primarily on our own strength and resources.  

Compared to the other enemies we’ve looked at so far in this series, apathy and distraction, self-reliance is a bit harder to identify and fight in our lives.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Matthew 5:1-3

Jesus says to live life in His kingdom, we must be poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit means we do not expect to make it through a normal day outside of the mercy and help of God and others. It means our need is not circumstantial, but rather, perpetual. Being poor in spirit means recognizing that we don’t have what it takes to help or save ourselves.

Those who are “rich in spirit” never need help, even in life’s crazy circumstances. They have enough resources to take care of themselves no matter what happens.

However, we are more “middle class in spirit”. When we inevitably come face to face with our own inability to change something and our own weakness, we pray. But on our normal days, we try to handle things on our own with no view of our need for God’s help.

Our culture, both secular and Christian, believes that we can handle anything that comes our way if we put our mind to it. We think that God will never give us more than we can handle, but that is not the case. This leads to people never asking for help and feeling crushed whenever they are forced to face their weakness. The truth is God will never give us more than He can handle. We need to acknowledge our weakness and need for God’s help in our lives.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6

How do we fight against self-reliance?

How do we fight to grow our dependence on God so that over time we experience more of His strength, power, and victory in our lives? The answer is, prayer. Prayer is meant to be an admission of our need, a reminder of our weakness, and an invitation for God to show off in our lives.

Prayer and self-reliance are inversely related.

When self-reliance is high, prayer is negligible. When we know we are in trouble and need help, prayer is flowing. We can use this to our advantage - we can use intentional prayer to decrease our self-reliance.

In Matthew 6:5-13, Jesus gives us a tool to help us cultivate and walk in our poverty of spirit - the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus is teaching us how to depend on God through prayer and reject reliance on ourselves through this prayer. This prayer is short enough to memorize and use as a helpful daily reminder of our dependence on God.

The Lord’s Prayer as a Daily Prayer Guide:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

Being poor in spirit starts with acknowledging that God is God and we are not. He is capable of answering prayers - we are not. We are to reset our mind on God’s worthiness to be prayed to.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Pray that more and more people would submit to Him as their King.  Pray that the earth would look more and more like heaven does and that God would powerfully work to reverse everything that has gone wrong in the earth because of sin.  

Give us today our daily bread.

Asking God for daily bread means asking Him to provide for us physically, but also in every other arena of life - spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. This is again acknowledging our utter dependence on the Lord and asking for Him to provide.

And forgive us our debts,

This is a prompt for confession and a request for forgiveness. This is a chance for us to accept the gospel for our day and confess any outer, behavioral level ways we’ve sinned against God, as well as any inner, hidden ways our hearts have turned from Jesus.

As we also have forgiven our debtors.

If the gospel is true for us, then it’s true for others as well. If God’s grace is sufficient to free us from the debt we owed Him, then that same grace will release the debts of those who’ve sinned against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

This is a chance for us to pray for protection and deliverance; to be honest about any areas we feel especially weak, tempted or attacked in right now. Acknowledge that you need God to help you with those things.


Let’s fight our self-reliance by incorporating the Lord’s prayer into our regular lives as a daily prayer guide. Even on our normal days with the regular frustrations and mundane tasks, let us become people who daily confess our need for a Savior and look to God in prayer to do the work that only He can do.

Taking a Break From Social Media: One Member’s Reflections


Stephen Bateman has been a member at Midtown since 2008. He has served on our production team, creative team, and helped create the Personal Liturgy app. The following are his reflections on fasting from social media.

In October 2017, I made a rather awkward public announcement and turned off the social media and news faucet. While social media falls inside the “it depends” category that we talked about in week 2, I knew that for me it tends to beg for my attention, shape my thoughts, and affect my friendships. So after a good deal of thought, I decided to walk away entirely.

Over the past several months, I've experienced more of a mental shift than I expected. The following is a summary of my experience.

I needed to acknowledge the addiction.

Social media addiction works because of biology. I'm no biologist, but I'm told that our brains have two systems that work together to get rewards – the dopamine and opioid systems. The dopamine system is built to tell your brain that you want food, shelter, sex, relationship, etc. Seeking those things releases dopamine. Once you actually get the reward, your opioid system is triggered, telling your body that you've had enough.

But the dopamine system has a problem. The shut-off valve sometimes gets stuck on "open.” This is why it's easier to snack on potato chips than broccoli and also why it feels good to get a text message or an email. The brain's reward system forgets to tell the "wanting" system that it has had enough. Scientists have compared the effect of social media use on your brain to the effects of gambling and illegal drugs, in the sense that they both short-circuit your reward system to keep you wanting more.

My first step to breaking social media addiction was acknowledging that it's an addiction. Quitting wasn't easy.

Facebook wanted me back.

Facebook knows. They knew when I quit. They tried to cajole me. They sent an email saying "they miss me" (they don't.). People started to send me messages. They posted on my wall for the first time in five years. I'm not 100% sure that Facebook mounts a "please come back" campaign through friends, but it sure felt like it.

To put it bluntly, Facebook was selling my time for several hundred dollars over the course of my life. They planned on keeping me addicted while delivering little of lasting value.

Peace came with Do Not Disturb.

I turned off all email and phone notifications. I am still working towards keeping “Do Not Disturb” on, but the peace and quiet are transformative. I have a short list of phone applications which are allowed to ping me: Groupme and text messages. I want to pull information instead of having information pushed at me. There's no reason for Yelp or BedBath& to have the privilege of my immediate attention. By pulling most of my information, I'm reducing the number of dopamine hits I get through the day, cooling my reward system over time.

I needed to start with a trial period.

Leaving forever is sad. Leaving for three weeks is vacation. I started by punting social media for a trial period to see how it felt. After three weeks, I had a ton more headspace to think and learn. I evaluated what social media was providing and found that I was having few meaningful, one-on-one interactions with friends. Rather, I spent most of my time scrolling through videos of dudes falling off trampolines.

I see leaving social media as a first step, not the last step.

The temptation to live an edited life is constantly looming. I want you to think I'm happy and funny and a little goofy and politically-savvy and sensitive and wise and good at cooking. But sometimes I'm just a mess. The good news of the gospel is that the God of the Universe has seen me chase sinful desires and He chooses to display His glory in me by giving His grace as a gift, while I was sinning. 

I believe that leaving social media can create some more room to live in community and pursue the Lord. But leaving social media, by itself, won't do much. We need a positive vision for the kind of life we want to live. A life filled with meaningful interactions between real friends. A life of surprise, joy, sorrow, suffering, fear, love, and hope. A life of learning more about who God is and learning more about who He made us to be.

I read the book "Deep Work" by Cal Newport last year. Several of the ideas included here are inspired by his work. That book had a very positive influence on the quality of my work and focus.

Member Spotlight | Fighting Distraction


Throughout our “Personal Liturgy” series, we’re interviewing members of our church family to hear how they are impacted by and actively fighting against the “joy killers” in their lives. This week we interviewed two different missionary members: Sammie Mogabgab and Patrick Coker. Sammie is a member of Midtown Downtown and for the past two years has worked in College Ministry through our Residency program. Patrick has been a part of Midtown since 2007. He and his family now call Midtown Lexington home. Patrick works at Colonial Life as a Senior Motions Designer concepting and creating marketing videos. 

How does distraction most often show up in your life? 

Patrick: It doesn't have to show up; I seek it out. I have a big sinful tendency to look for an escape (a root idol of comfort) and that usually shows in watching TV shows and media consumption. If I have had a hard day, I subconsciously race to the end of my day to get my "reward" of watching Netflix until I get sleepy. I also subconsciously look at Twitter a lot. Whenever there is some downtime, my first thought is usually to pull out my phone.

Sammie: One major thing I get distracted by often is 'improving myself' in a vain way. I could be on Facebook or Instagram for two minutes, but I get off of social media and I immediately feel worse about myself. I see someone who is prettier or who has cooler clothes or something more spiritually profound to say and I have a list of things I need to do to be more like that. Eventually, I get exhausted by the ways I 'need' to be better and instead of leading me to the gospel, I'm led to more distraction because I need to do something to feel better.
Where have you seen personal growth or victory in this area?

Sammie: Something that the Spirit has been impressing upon me is that I cannot simultaneously be seeking to look prettier, have better clothes, and be more impressive to my followers and be moving towards the Spirit. So I am in large part off of social media. I don't have the apps on my phone and the websites are actually blocked. 

Another victory is that I’m becoming increasingly aware that my thoughts are connected to what I'm seeing. Now when the hyper-critical thoughts pop up in my mind and I start to feel overwhelmed, I stop and realize, “I felt fine about myself 10 minutes ago and the only things that has changed is that I saw this girl's really cool Instagram, hmm.” There is now no stronghold in the voice that's telling me that I'm not good enough and hopefully the slippery slope ends there.

Patrick: When I first get home, I put my phone somewhere out of my reach. My kids have started noticing my phone use habits so I’ve started making a conscious effort to not have it on me when they are awake. I’ve recently even switched back to reading a paper Bible because I realized that when I was reading my Bible App on my phone, to my kids, it looked no different than when I was playing a game or checking Twitter. 
Media consumption remains a daily battle. I still usually watch something before I fall asleep but I have to make a decision to not “check out” while I do. On a good night, I choose conversation and prayer over media consumption. 
Are there any habits that you’ve established to help fight distraction in your life? 

Sammie: I stay off social media the majority of the time. This just takes away the temptation to find people or things to compare myself to. I've also realized that being alone in nature is a really helpful way to fight distraction. When I get distracted, my eyes are down and I am hyper-focused on myself. When I am in nature, my eyes are up and I am reminded of the glory of God. Another helpful habit I’ve established is going on walks by myself to pray. My thoughts often lead me to want to distract myself by doing something but when I'm on a walk, there's not much else I can do but talk with my Father.

Patrick: One simple approach for me is just to ask people how they are doing. There is always somebody hurting and usually something I can do, whether that’s stopping to pray for that person or meeting a physical need. When I take small steps to consciously make life not about me, it stirs in me a desire to play and seek people out and care for them physically and emotionally. 

How has your understanding of the gospel specifically impacted how you deal with distraction? 

Patrick: Because of the way Jesus loves me, I do not have to be a slave to my comfort idol. As I remember what Jesus has done for me and as I look to Him first, I have the strength to now run towards the things that are hard; I can hurt with the hurting or take on part of someone's pain. 

Sammie: When I am tempted to distract myself, I am ultimately seeking to make myself feel better—to deal on my own with the fact that I’m not okay. The gospel reminds me that while it’s true that I’m not okay, no efforts on my own can fix the soul-level reality that I’m broken. Now, while I’m still aware of my depravity, I can rest knowing Christ has been victorious over sin. I have assurance that I have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and now get to be in relationship with the Father because of what He has done. So when those feelings of inadequacy creep in, I don't have to distract myself and numb myself, but they can actually serve as a reminder to give thanks to the Lord that the gospel is true!

Have there been any scriptures, books or teachings that have been particularly helpful as you have dealt with distraction?

Sammie: Isaiah 55:1-3

“Come, everyone who thirsts,
    come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
    and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;
    hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
    my steadfast, sure love for David."

The book Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer has been an incredible gift in fighting distraction. When I am distracted, I am not finding God to be all that interesting or inspiring. The Knowledge of the Holy goes through the attributes of God and it has led me into worship over and over again. 

Patrick: Weirdly, it was a Midtown sermon on suffering (Luke: Jesus and Suffering). There was a part of it about voluntarily suffering alongside people and why we do that. It didn't deal with distraction specifically, but it made me realize, "your problem is not your problem - it's our problem."  And that sobering realization helps me fight distraction, by focusing on what's real. 

Sermon Recap | Redeeming the Time

This week in our Personal Liturgy series and focus on distraction, we looked at busyness distraction. Throughout the past three weeks, we’ve defined distraction as: the inability to focus on God because of lesser things. 

Busyness Distraction is: the inability to focus on God because our lives are overfilled.

Types of Busyness:

  1. Some “busyness” is just life responsibilities. 
  2. There is a category for “good busy” that acknowledges the hard things and responsibilities in life that we have to carry.
  3. Some busyness is self-induced. There is another category of busyness that we bring upon ourselves by building our lives in a careless and disorderly way.

Paul addresses this type of busyness in Ephesians 5:15-17. 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

- Ephesians 5:15-17

We are called to walk with intentionality and take stock of the way we’re living. Paul is warning us against walking through life in a careless way: always busy, always distracted, rushing from one thing to the next.

When Paul says, “because the days are evil”, he is reminding us we don’t live in a neutral world. This means we don’t naturally or accidentally drift towards the vibrant, flourishing life that God wants for us - we have to actively fight for it and choose it wisely.

The translation, “make the best use of the time”, can also be translated “redeem the time. Paul actually uses the same Greek word for how Jesus redeems us - purchasing us out of slavery to sin. Then he takes that same word and tells us to rescue our time, to buy it back from slavery.

To do so, to redeem our time, we need to understand what the will of the Lord is.

Jesus was absolutely clear on God’s will for his life and as a result, he was freed up to say no to lots of good things that weren’t His things. (Examples - John 6:15, Luke 8, Mark 1:28, Luke 4:42-43, 5:15-16, etc.)

This is a big implication of Ephesians 5. If we don’t know what God’s will for our life is, we’ll never know when to say ‘no’. Saying no is good, but we also need to know what to say yes to. And that requires understanding God’s will for our lives:

What is God’s Will For Us

There are some non-negotiables for all Christians (Luke 10:27). God has called us to:

  • A Jesus-centered life.
  • Love Jesus’ family.
  • Love those who aren’t a part of Jesus’ family (yet).

In addition, there are personal non-negotiables:

  • Are you married? God’s called you to love your spouse and take care of him/her as a privilege, not a burden, to encourage them with sacrificial love as a little picture of Jesus’ love for them.
  • Do you have kids? God’s called you to take care of them, providing for them, protecting them and shepherding them to do everything you can to help them see God’s love for them in Jesus. 
  • Other family members to take care of (elderly)?

On the other hand, there are some personal negotiables that should be coming after our non-negotiables:

  • Where are you going to work and live? 
  • What hobbies and other pursuits are you interested in?
    • How might you use your God-given passions and specific interests to serve back into God’s call on your life to be Jesus-centered family on mission?

Questions to ponder and pray over this week:

  • What has God created your life for?
  • What are your rhythms and intentional ways to get up with God?
  • Who are your people? Who has God given you to love?
  • What do you need to say no to? Where is the tyranny of the urgent keeping you from making the best use of your time? 

None of this is about salvation. None of this is about convincing God to love us. All of this is about the privilege of stepping into God’s invitation to walk in a focussed awareness of His presence and purpose in our lives. We are never better than when we are well aware of God’s presence and purpose in our lives. 

Resource Round-up | Distraction

“The mind will always take on an order conforming to that upon which it concentrates.”

– Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline

This past week, we began examining the second enemy to our spiritual health: Distraction. We defined distraction as the inability to focus on God and others because our attention is taken by less important things. As a church, through our “Personal Liturgy” challenges, we are taking daily steps to fight distraction in our lives. We specifically looked at the ways our technology addictions are preventing us from focusing on God and the people He has placed in our lives. Here are a few additional resources we’d recommend if you’d like to dig deeper into the topic of technology distraction.  

Book: The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch

Drawing on in-depth original research from the Barna Group, Crouch shows readers that the choices we make about technology have consequences we may never have considered. Drawing from his own family’s experience and fight to put technology in its proper place, Crouch offers much guidance for families (and individuals) seeking to reclaim their real life in a world of devices. 

Article: Ruling Over Screens Crouching at our Door by Lore Ferguson Wilbert

In this article, Wilbert shares she and her husband’s approach and practical steps for putting screens in their proper place. 

Book: 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke

Drawing from the insights of numerous thinkers, published studies, and his own research, Reinke identifies twelve ways our smartphones have changed us—for good and bad. Reinke looks at the positive sides of technology and how God uses it to advance His purposes, while also looking at the potentially harmful effects overuse can have. 

Article: I Used to Be a Human Being by Andrew Sullivan

Written from a non-Christian perspective, this article is a jarring piece on what the pace of distractions in modern life does to us. After 15 years of being addicted to the internet and social media, Sullivan reflects on his decision and journey to “quit the web and live in reality.”

Article: 6 Wrong Reasons to Check Your Phone in the Morning by Tony Reinke

Senior Writer for and author of 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, writes a helpful piece examining why our mornings matter for the quality of our days and spiritual health. In collaboration with John Piper, the article contains insight into the unhealthy ways we can turn to our phones. 

Article: How Giving up TV for a Month Changed my Brain and my Life by Stephanie Vozza

Written from a non-Christian perspective, Vozza recounts what happened after going cold-turkey on TV. She thought it would be easy, and it wasn’t. But the end result surprised her greatly. 

Resource: Time Well Spent

Tristan Harris, a former product manager at Google, has started a non-profit to help people be more proactive about the way technology invades their lives. This site has lots of information and ideas, with the basic premise that we can’t expect tech companies to change and make their products less addicting, so we have to be the ones to change how we interact with them. His Ted Talk on the topic as well as various news clips and articles can all be found on this site. 

Sermon Recap | Be Still and Know that I Am God


This week’s Personal Liturgy challenge may be the hardest one yet. So to equip and prepare ourselves for this challenge, we turn to Psalm 46. 

Verse 1 of the Psalm describes God as our refuge. Whenever we encounter chaos in our daily lives, He is firm, solid, secure, and unmovable. He’s a very present help, not a distant aloof god who cannot be concerned with our everyday troubles of life. Because God is our refuge, strength, and help, we do not have to fear when our world falls apart and we’re overwhelmed with the broken situations around us. 

The psalmist introduces the idea of God as our fortress in verse 7. The Hebrew word for fortress = “misgab”, and it literally means “high place, secure height, or retreat.” 

Instead of being on the ground encircled by our problems and fears, we can go up to the fortress of God and look down at them. Because God is our fortress, not only do we get safety, security, and rest from the chaos, but we also get perspective, wisdom, and clarity. 

The psalmist hits the peak of this song in verse 10: “Be still and know that I am God.” The whole idea of a fortress is that if we are in it, we can catch a breath and be still and not worry about our life. 

But for it to be our fortress, we have to go there. Otherwise it’s just a rock. If we’re not going to God’s misgab, God is still a fortress, but He’s not our fortress.

The Spiritual Discipline of Solitude

Throughout Christian history, this idea has been described as the spiritual discipline of solitude. 

Solitude - getting away from everything that distracts us to focus on God. 

We see this stillness modeled throughout the life of Jesus. He consistently gets away to be still before His father. Frequently the Scriptures tell us, “He withdrew and went out to a lonely place.” 

Another way to say this would be that Jesus had a hidden life. Not a hidden life of sin or frivolous things, but a hidden life marked by practices that helped Him commune with his Father. When He went away, He came back strengthened. 

He meditated on scripture and practiced the disciplines of prayer, feasting, fasting, and serving. And Jesus is both our Savior (He walked with the Father perfectly and paid for all our failure to seek God above all else) as well as our example. He calls us to follow Him and do the things He did. (1 John 2:6)

“I can flip a switch, but I don’t provide the electricity. I can turn on a faucet, but I don’t make the water flow. There will be no light and no liquid refreshment without someone else providing it. And so it is for the Christian with the ongoing grace of God. His grace is essential for our spiritual lives, but we don’t control the supply. We can’t make the favor of God flow, but he has given us circuits to connect and pipes to open expectantly. There are paths along which he has promised his favor… they are the stuff of everyday, basic Christianity—unimpressively mundane, but spectacularly potent by the Spirit.“

- David Mathis, Habits of Grace

Practicing the spiritual disciplines and developing a life where we incorporate them into our daily liturgies is flipping the switch. We can’t guarantee that electricity and growth are going to come, but we can flip the switch over and over and wait expectantly for it to come. 

This week, our daily challenge is to spend 30 minutes alone with God each day in an effort to be still and know that He is God. 

Tips for Practicing Solitude

  1. Pick a place and time.

  2. Start by reading the Bible.

  3. Pray.

As we fight for our solitude and time alone with God, let’s not get upset over our distraction or inattention, but go to God, our fortress. 

Sermon Recap | You Were Made to Behold


This week we begin examining the second enemy to our spiritual health - distraction.

We typically view distraction as negative and frustrating, but not necessarily dangerous. Spiritually speaking, however, distraction can have profound long-term, negative impact. For the purpose of this series, we are defining distraction as the inability to focus on God and others because our attention is taken by less important things. 

Beholding God’s Glory

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Paul says that as we behold the glory of the Lord, we are transformed, slowly and gradually over time. 

Behold = To see or observe; to take in; to pay attention and notice.
Glory = Magnificence or great beauty.

When Paul says that we are to behold the glory of God, with unveiled faces, he is referring to Exodus 34:29-35, where Moses returned from beholding God’s glory on Mount Sinai while receiving the Ten Commandments. When he came down, Moses had to put a veil over his face while speaking with the Israelites because of how brightly his face shone after his experience.

This story is a literal picture of how looking at God in all of His infinite glory affects us. God is more glorious than anything else He created and therefore is more worthy of our attention than anything else. He is supremely and unimaginably worth looking at. God is the ultimate source of glory in the universe. 

Even though we might not use the words, we are hard-wired to behold glory. We love to admire and talk about and look at and think about amazing, magnificent, good things -- from sunsets to athletic feats to youtube videos showing people doing amazing things. And, in all the ways that we behold glory, those things are telling us what the Bible has already told us: we were made to look at God. Our souls were made to behold God, to be caught up in Him, and be overwhelmed by Him.

He is the glory behind all other glory

Paul says that the act of beholding the glory of the Lord, with the help of God’s indwelling Spirit, is what actually changes us. It transforms us from one degree of glory into another - into the image of Christ and the people God created us to be. 

Distraction as Enemy

Though our souls were made to behold God’s glory, distraction turns our attention to lesser things. Distraction keeps us from becoming people whose faces metaphorically shine with the glory of God.

Today, we have more distractions available to us through technology than we can even consume. The technology that promises to release us from boredom is actually making it worse and is making us more prone to seek empty distractions than ever before. 

While the Internet has only been around for about 25 years and smartphones for about 10 years, technology is now integrated into almost every area of our lives.

  • 46% of adults surveyed said they could not imagine living without their smartphones.
  • The 2016 Nielsen survey showed that the average American spends 8 hours and 33 minutes per day consuming media on all screens (television, smartphones, computers, tablets, etc.).
  • Another study found that we check our phones 85 times a day. With 16 hours of the day spent awake, that means we check our phones every 11 minutes. 

With technology being such a major part of our lives, it’s no wonder that our attention is more and more turned away from God. As we’ve explored earlier in this series, our habits are doing things to us - some of us are addicted to distraction and it is dangerously affecting us more than we realize. Our faces don’t glow with the glory of God because they are always glowing with our screens. 

Personal Liturgy Challenge

If we would begin to limit our distractions and technology usage and simply look at God, our souls would fill with his majesty and glory, and we would gradually be transformed from one degree of glory to another. 

In order to fight for our attention and redirect our time to focusing on God, our challenge for this week is to spend one hour a day completely technology-free. Try using this hour without technology to spend intentional time with God or other people in your life. Practice saying no to the distractions that are keeping you from beholding God’s glory. 

Member Spotlight | Fighting Apathy


Throughout our “Personal Liturgy” series, we’re interviewing members of our church family
to hear how they are impacted by and actively fighting against the “joy killers” in their lives. This week we sat down with Vision and Teaching Pastor Adam Gibson as he shared with us how the gospel motivates him to repent against the natural drift toward apathy.

How does apathy show up in your life? 

I see apathy the most when the day is almost over and I am tired. My work day is full of thinking, reading and talking to people and my kids are young, loud and tiring. So once the kids are in bed, on most days I am exhausted. That's the place where I feel my indifference the most. At that point, I don't want to talk to anyone or have to think about anything at all. I just want to lie on the couch and turn my brain off. 

How has your understanding of the gospel specifically impacted how you deal with apathy? 

I love Jesus’ word for people stuck in apathy in Revelation 3. He describes them as being "lukewarm", neither hot nor cold. Then says: Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Apathy often feels unavoidable to me. When I don't care, I don't care. And there is nothing I can do about it. Even if there was something I could do about it, I don't care enough to actually do it. But the truth is, Jesus has redeemed me, given me His spirit, and promised that I now have all that need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Because of this, I am able to "be zealous and repent" when I otherwise would've been stuck in my apathy. In other words, because of what Jesus has done for me, I am never a helpless victim of my own apathy. There is always something I can do about it. And in moving towards God and being honest with Him through prayer, I usually find my apathy lifting. 

What are practical steps or habits you practice to fight apathy in your life? 

Planning ahead helps with my evenings. If I can decide in advance that my evening, once the kids are in bed, will be spent on something productive, I am usually less inclined to feel like it's killing me to do anything other than lay on the couch. The problem seems to come when I have already attempted to "shut it down" for the night. From that point forward I perceive everything as a nuisance that prevents me from being able to shut off my mind. 

Where have you seen personal growth or victory in this area?

Prayer has always been an apathy killer for me. I find that talking to God about the things going on in my life helps me to have the appropriate amount of concern, neither worrying nor being apathetically indifferent.

For another great resource on apathy with lots of practical application, check out the Apathy sermon from our “What’s Killing Me” series. 

Resource Round-up | Apathy


Over the last three weeks, we’ve been examining how apathy is one of the biggest obstacles in our lives that keeps us from living the abundant life that God offers us. We hope that the sermons and “Personal Liturgy” journal challenges have been helpful in making you aware of where apathy may be stealing your joy as you begin to take steps to shift habits and practices from the “it depends” category of life to the “Spirit” category. If you’d like to dig deeper, here are a few resources specifically related to Apathy that we’d recommend. 

Book: Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Framed around one ordinary day, this book explores daily life through the lens of liturgy, small practices, and habits that form us. Warren sets out to show that every area of our lives is designed for communion and engagement with God. 

Book: A Theology of the Ordinary by Julie Canlis

This short booklet is comprised of three lectures that Canlis first presented to Whitworth University’s Academy of Christian Discipleship. After returning to America, Canlis was struck by how much emphasis many American Christians placed on being “radical” or “extraordinary” for God. In her lectures, Canlis meditates on the goodness (and challenge) of living our “normal” lives for God.

Sermon: “What’s Killing Me: Apathy”

In 2015, Midtown went through a series called “What’s Killing Me” which looked at the internal hang-ups and frustrations that most often steal our joy and ensnare us; we then examined how the good news of Jesus frees us from each one. 

An e-book was created to go along with this series and we’d recommend checking out the “Priorities Worksheet” and “Apathy Inventory” found on pages 28-29. There’s also a page of LifeGroup discussion questions that you could work through on your own (or with a friend) after listening to the sermon.  

Sermon: “Proverbs: Wisdom and Sloth”

As part of our “Proverbs” series last May, we examined the characteristics of the sluggard and how his life is in direct contradiction to the life God has intended for us to live. As we’ve dug into how apathy prevents us from caring about the things God calls us to care about, we feel this sermon may be worth a re-listen as you reflect on where you are tempted to fill your life with “mindless consumption.” Perhaps the sermon will expose some “weights” in your life that you need to lay aside. You can check out the study guide questions as well if you’d like to dig a little deeper after listening to the sermon. 

Article: 12 Powerful Habits by Thomas Laurinavicius

This is a non-Christian response to the problem of apathy. In a roundabout way it describes that the things we do do things to us. Laurinavicius gives his best practices for structuring his life to fight agaight drift and apathy. While we would not wholly endorse everything in the article, you may find some helpful practical tips that you can apply to your life. 

Quote: “Shepherding Your Desires” by Skye Jethani

This is a quote from a daily email devotional called “With God” by Skye Jethani. 

Our consumer society has done a remarkable thing. It has convinced us that our desires are immutable and undeniable; that we are defined by longings and are powerless to change or resist them. With some desires this is true. I cannot deny my desire for oxygen—it is hardwired into my brain, but my craving for sugar is a physical and psychological desire that can be heightened or diminished. Our culture and the economic powers that propel it, however, want us to believe that every desire is hardwired; that we are mere victims of our appetites. 

This is important for those who are apathetic toward God. If we have bought into the culture’s message, then we are left hopelessly adrift lamenting our disinterest in God and wishing we could be more “spiritual.” In this condition, the most we can hope for is some divine intervention, a lightning bolt to strike us and awaken a desire for Christ that we are powerless to stir ourselves. 

The truth is, we have far more influence over many of our desires than we want to believe. We can choose to feed or starve them; to awaken or sedate them. When I remove sweets from my diet and eat more protein my craving for sugar diminishes. Likewise, I am more motivated to exercise when I’m part of a community committed to fitness. Learning to control appetites, delay gratification, and acquire new desires is precisely what allows children to mature into adults. We all possess this ability, we’ve just forgotten.

The same applies to our life with God. If you are not motivated to seek him in this season, consider what might awaken this desire. What practices can you add to your life? Which do you need to remove? Is there a community that possesses the qualities you want for yourself? Or consider reading the Gospels again and praying that the Holy Spirit would help you see Jesus more clearly and learn to desire him anew.

Sermon Recap | Lay Aside Every Weight


Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Lay Aside Every Weight

The Bible is clear that there are things in our lives that are contrary to what God has for us. Sins and Weights. Sins are overtly opposed to Scriptural commands and keep us from walking in step with the Spirit by leading us to love other things more than Jesus. 

But Hebrews also says to lay aside something called weights. Weights are things that are not explicitly sinful, but they do weigh us down. Weights are things that fall into the “It Depends” category.  They are not sinful in and of themselves, but for a particular point in life, they are not helpful for our spiritual health. 

Weights keep us from the joy Jesus has set before us.

Along with repenting of sin, developing a lifestyle of throwing off weights is monumental for our spiritual growth. 

Problem: We Really Struggle to Say “No” to Ourselves

We have a problem when it comes to obeying this command to lay aside weights because we exist in a culture where saying, “no” to yourself isn’t trained because it isn’t seen as valuable. 

So, our “say-no-to-self” muscles are extremely weak. They have atrophied so much that they can almost become non-existent, and when it becomes necessary for us to lay aside weights or sin, we can’t. 

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul tells the Church in Corinth that all things not explicitly called sin are lawful for them, but not all of them are helpful. He continues in 1 Corinthians 10:23 by saying not all things build up. He’s telling them that they are asking the wrong question and that their focus is off. Instead of focusing on what is technically permissible, Paul challenges us to ask, “What might be helpful for me to lay aside in order to run the race set before me?”

An Unexpected Help

Jesus gives us the perfect tool to help us build up our “say-no-to-self” muscle: the spiritual discipline of fasting.

Our default response to fasting usually is, “Why? Why would I do that?” That response is clear proof that our culture has no category for “telling ourselves no” being a good thing.

The purpose of fasting is to draw your heart toward God and reinforce that He is what we ultimately need. By learning how to intentionally say, “no” to smaller things like a meal, we can grow the muscles we need to say, “no” to bigger things like weights, or sin.

Spend some time this week asking the Holy Spirit to help you identify weights in your life. Consider participating in Lent this year or simply choose a weight in your life to abstain from in order to build up your “say-no-to-self” muscles.

Sermon Recap | The Things You DON'T Do Do Things To You


We are always practicing to become the kind of people that we become. Just like the things you do, do things to you, the things you don’t do, do things to you too. 

A prayerless life is built one day at a time.
A life where the Bible doesn’t matter is built one day at a time.

Throughout our “Personal Liturgy” series, we are trying to push our habits into the “Spirit” category, believing they will have a long-term effect. Often, when we try to push in this direction and establish spiritual disciplines, we are met with resistance and difficulty. 

4 reasons we may struggle to implement discipline:

1. I’m just waiting for an epiphany. 

Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

When we think, “I’m just waiting on God to change me” we are taking a partial truth from scripture (that only God can truly change us) and using it to hide from our own sinfulness and laziness. 

“The (spiritual) disciplines are ways to position ourselves under the waterfalls of grace.” The epiphanies come as we position ourselves in a place to receive them. 

2. I shouldn’t need rules and structure. I don’t want to be a legalist. 

1 Corinthians 9:25-27: Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Paul says athletes discipline themselves. Discipline is saying “no” to some things we want now for the long-term benefit of choosing what is best. 

The desire to not be fake is a good desire, but doing something you don’t feel like doing isn’t being fake. Being fake is pretending to be something you’re not. There is no need to fake it when practicing spiritual disciplines. Every one of them is an opportunity to confess, “God, I’m not who I want to be and I want you to do something about it.”

3. I don’t feel like I really get anything out of it.

It’s interesting how often the Bible refers to spending time with God and listening to Him through His Word in terms of food:

Matthew 4: Jesus says man should not live on bread alone but on every word of God.
1 Peter 2: We should be longing to hear from God through his Word like a baby cries for milk.
John 6: Jesus says He is the bread of life. We are to feast on Him. 

We are to consistently gather with God’s people, sing, pray, study the Bible, and sabbath because God uses these like a healthy diet to shape us into a certain type of people. Realizing this shifts our perspective in a very healthy way: the point is eating and getting a healthy source of nutrition and life.

4. I don’t have time to sit down with God for an hour.

Be honest about your season of life and do what you can. If you’re not doing anything, doing something is better than nothing and whoever you are, there is a way to start to shift dots from “it depends” to walking with the Spirit. 

Here are a few potential starting points:

  • Start doing the “Personal Liturgy” challenges. Put a reminder on your phone. 

  • Place prayer/scripture prompts at a place in your house where you regularly deal with frustration or need a reminder that God is present. 

  • Reorder the apps on the home screen of your phone. Consider setting your phone to grayscale.

Spend some time this week thinking and praying through what it’s going to take to shift those dots to the right and then make those changes! 

Our Super Bowl Plans

Our Super Bowl Plans-01.png

As you may or may not have heard, we will not be hosting our 5:00pm evening Gathering for our Downtown church on Sunday, February 4 because of the Super Bowl. We do this in order to remind ourselves that church is more than a service you attend, and we want to give everyone an opportunity to be on mission during the big game. Since watching the Super Bowl is an event that so many people in our culture participate in, we want to free ourselves up to use it as an opportunity to watch the game alongside them. So this Sunday, attend either our 9:00am or 11:15am Gathering, and then choose one of the following:

  1. Host a Super Bowl party. The Bible is clear that Christians should be the most hospitable people on earth in light of the fact that Jesus welcomed all of us into His family (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; Romans 15:7). The Super Bowl is one of the easiest times of year to be hospitable, since so many people watch it already. Buy some good food and drinks and get some friends to come and do the same. Turn on the TV and invite your neighbors over to your house for the big game.
  2. Attend a Super Bowl party. Jesus was big on going to parties. He was in attendance at so many parties that he was known as the man who "came eating and drinking" with people--while never sinning. (Matthew 11:19; Luke 15:2; Mark 2:16; Matthew 9:11) Imitate Jesus and go to a Super Bowl party (bonus points if you attend a party you were actually invited to).
  3. Help us throw a Super Bowl party at Transitions. As one of our Serve the City partnerships, we're continuing our annual tradition of throwing a Super Bowl party for people transitioning out of homelessness together with Transitions. Find out more and sign up to help here.

Whatever you do for the Super Bowl, don't come to our 5:00pm Gathering. You'll be alone!

Sermon Recap | The Things You Do Do Things To You


Galatians 5:16-25

Apathy: not caring about the things God created you to care about

*You can be a very passionate, driven person and still be eaten up with apathy where it matters most." 

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The word “neutral” sounds like it means, “having little to no effect on me” but this isn’t actually how life works—especially if you are a Christian. In Galatians 5, Paul shows us how life following Jesus actually works:

Galatians 5:16-17: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

According to the Bible, when you become a Christian, you have two natures inside of you: the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh is that natural, selfish, sinful nature you were born with. The Spirit is God’s spirit that Jesus gives us to remind us that God is for us, not against us. Galatians 5:17 tells us that once you’re a Christian, the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit. When you become a Christian, not only do you have a new belief system, a new way of relating to God and others , and a new moral code, but you also get a new set of desires. At the deepest part of you, the Spirit will birth in you new desires that love God and want to trust and obey Him more than anything. Yes our desires will be at war, but the desires of the Spirit are what we really want now. 

Believing and following Jesus is about letting God show you what is best in life and letting His Spirit grow new desires in you that want what is best. 

Galatians 5:18-21: But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,[a]drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do[b] such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

In these verses, Paul describes the kind of life that the flesh wants to pull us toward. The deeper you dig into this list, the more you realize how aptly it describes where human nature takes us apart from God. But in Christ, and filled with God’s Spirit, there’s a new life available: 

Galatians 5:22-25: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

This is what human life looks like when it is led by God’s Spirit to put the flesh to death. This is the test Paul gives us for how we will know if we’re allowing the flesh to pull us or if we’re keeping in step with the Spirit. 

So how, as Christians, should we think about all of the “neutral” items from the first chart? Biblically, the answer is: in light of the battle working between our flesh and the Spirit, nothing is neutral. All of the stuff that we think of as “neutral” must be reframed in a new category called “It depends.” 


Because the flesh and Spirit are always at war, pulling us in different directions, there’s not a biblical category for stuff having no impact on us. Instead of “neutral,” the Bible would say it depends on:

  1. Why are you doing it?
  2. How much are you doing it?
  3. When are you doing it?
  4. What effect does it have on you?

For many of us, the majority of our daily habits and rhythms fall into the “it depends” category which seems completely harmless. This is the precise American recipe for an apathetic Christian life. Without even knowing it, we have filled our lives with morally justifiable things that don’t cultivate any real spiritual life in us. 

The “Personal Liturgy” app this week is going to help us do some diagnosis of where we are spending our time. It is going to help us analyze our habits and realize where we might have been cultivating apathy without even realizing it. Be prepared to share with your LifeGroup this week as together we take a look at the “it depends” category in our lives. 


To learn more about the “Personal Liturgy” app, check out this short video where one of our pastors, Brandon Clements, walks through how to use the app:

If you don’t have a smartphone or would prefer to receive the challenges via email, you can sign up here: 

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Handling Finances as a Christian: Budgeting 101


Why budget?

Scripture tells us that our money and possessions are not ours, but God’s. We are simply managers and stewards of what is His. As part of our church family, we want you to be equipped to be a good steward of the finances that God has entrusted to you. Below are a few ways to get started.

Have a written budget

Scripture calls Christians to plan to do good (Proverbs 14:22). This includes planning how to steward our finances and resources. Budgeting can often be seen as an intimidating process. However, in planning a budget, it can actually be a joyful and exciting process to plan for how you are going to invest in the lives of people and advance God’s kingdom through finances. 

Make cuts to your budget

As a starting place, Proverbs 3:9 says to “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells his disciples, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Scripture calls us to entrust ourselves to God with our first fruits, not the leftovers. In doing so, God actually promises all that we could ever need or want (Proverbs 11:24). Therefore, as we begin our budgeting process, we should always begin with tithing a tenth of our income towards the local church and investing in God’s kingdom where we are. This does not mean that we do not financially support other local organizations or missionaries serving overseas. Rather, our tithing to our local church is a baseline for all giving to grow from.

From here, we plan to provide for the needs of ourselves and our family. This will include things such as food, clothing, water, homes and utilities. Crazy as it might sound, this might not include having cable, the latest video game console, the designer pair of jeans or a nicer car. Make cuts in your budgets for things you can go without. 

Review your budget regularly with people you trust that can speak into your life

Our hearts often deceive us and what we may believe to be a need may actually be our heart craving to fill itself and find identity in something new rather than in Christ (Jeremiah 17:9). One way to fight for contentment is to open up our lives, including our budgets, to those around us. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” On a personal level, this will look like allowing your Lifegroup and other trusted friends to have input into your life and your finances. 

Here’s how we practically implement these steps at Midtown. Twice a year, we go through our budgeting process. During this process, we plan for the coming months in expectation of what we are going to receive in donations and how we are going to steward the resources God has entrusted to us.

  • For our spring budget process, an email is sent out to all of our ministry teams on November 1 to begin submitting budgets for the spring (January to July).
  • During November, our ministry teams meet together, pray through and come up with a plan for how much money to spend for their area of ministry. The budget for their ministry area is submitted for review along with a description of how the funds will be used and why it should not be cut. 
  • By December 10, the lead pastors of our various churches meet to review the requested budgets and make any necessary cuts that are needed.
  • By December 15, we meet with our financial advising team, which is made up of a few missionary members within our church family. During this meeting, we do a comprehensive, big picture financial review. We review and receive feedback from this team on our current approved budget and current financial state of our church.
  • Finally, we post the approved budget on for all of our staff to use and adhere to. In addition, should an expense come up during our budget cycle that was unexpected and not budgeted for, our ministry leaders submit an overspend request to be reviewed by the lead pastors of each church.

Our desire is for our church family to view and handle financial resources correctly through the lens of the gospel. For additional teaching on budgeting and using wealth well, you can listen to the sermons below:


Kidtown Family Challenge #1: Journaling


This past week we launched our “Personal Liturgy” series and talked about how we all have an order to our lives and the things we do are doing things to us. The habits we are practicing every day are shaping us into the people that we will become. 

Over the next five months, we are all together trying to create a personal liturgy that helps us become the kind of people that God has designed us to be. The Kidtown Team has been working hard to develop content for their own personal liturgy series called, “The Things You Do, Do Things To You.” The goal of this series is to help kids understand, value, and practice growing in their relationship with God. 

Each week, Kidtown will provide biblical instruction concerning healthy habits and corresponding tools to help kids practice these habits at home. For the first four weeks, Kidtown will be teaching the value of journaling. During Week 1 (January 21st), children decorated their own 3 ring binders at Kidtown to take home and use throughout the series. (If your child missed Week 1, please let a Kidtown volunteer know so that you can receive a binder!) 

Journaling Tips and Tricks: 

Time: Designate a time and space for your child to journal. It may be helpful for your family to choose the same time each day. You could designate it as “journaling time” for your entire family or if your child needs your guidance, it may be best to set aside a time for them that is separate from yours. 

Place: Designate a special place where your child can be creative. Have supplies on hand like crayons, colored pencils, stickers and glue. 

Attitude:  Let your child see you get excited about journaling. Encourage focus and creativity but don’t enforce too many rules concerning what your child journals. This should be enjoyable. Celebrate the scribbles! 

Preschool Tips- Children in preschool need lots of space on their pages to draw, color, and write. 

Elementary Tips- Elementary students need wide ruled paper and a section for drawing. Depending on your child’s age and creativity, he or she may put more effort into drawing than writing.  Older children may prefer simply writing about their day or how they are feeling instead of drawing.  

Each week, Kidtown will provide daily journaling prompts located on their homelinks. (All homelinks are also available online here!) These prompts will challenge students to direct their thoughts towards God during their journaling time. 

We love that our entire church family will have challenges each week to go along with the series. The Kidtown challenges will be similar to the adult “Personal Liturgy” challenges (which can be found here) but will be customized for kids. You know your child best. If any of the recommended tips and tricks are not helpful, feel free to use your own strategies.  We hope that these resources will serve as a great launching pad for new family rhythms and habits that will lead us into the life we were made for. 


Sermon Recap | The Life You Were Made For (And the Things That Ruin It)


The word ‘liturgy’ describes the rituals or practices of the people of God as they gather to worship. But what we often don’t realize is that we all have a personal liturgy. 

You have an order to your life and the things you do are doing things to you. 

The habits you practice every day are forming you into a certain type of person. The small decisions you make in an ordinary day of your life have enormous impact on the quality of your life. The things you do do things to you. Your habits and practices shape who you become. 

According to Jeremiah 17:5-8, two types of life are possible for us and the things we do in the ordinary rhythms of our daily existence will largely determine which type of spiritual life we are experiencing.

The Blessed Life: Humans were designed to get resources and nutrients from God. There is a life available to us when we walk with God in such a way that we are never moved from the life and nutrients that make us thrive. 

  • Jesus is the model of the Blessed Life. He depended on the Father perfectly. He existed with a settled disposition of fullness and joy that was not lacking in anything. Jesus stayed connected to His Father in a such a way that when the very worst circumstances came for Him—when the heat and drought came—He did not wither. 
  • Jesus invites us to this Blessed Life. Jesus invites us into what He had (John 7:37-39). Jesus came to put the blessed life inside of us so that the river of God’s spirit could live in our hearts and we could experience a vibrant spiritual life that feels like a tree planted by water. 

The Cursed Life: The cursed life is characterized by the desert. As a society, we lack purpose, hope, and joy. We have intentionally cultivated life in the desert without even realizing it. 

  • 5 Enemies Contributing to the Cursed Life (that particularly tend to attack Americans’ lives):
    • Apathy: not caring about things God created you to care about
    • Distraction: being unable to focus on God and others because your attention is taken by less important things
    • Self-Reliance: living your day-to-day life depending primarily on your own strength and resources
    • Cynicism: a posture of skepticism that leads you to doubt God’s presence and activity in your life
    • Self-Absorption: being preoccupied with your thoughts, feelings, desires, and concerns above all else.

These five spiritual enemies will be focus points in our series for us to fight against together. If it is true that we have unknowingly cultivated these things into our lives, then we have to start working against them. We have to fight them. 

For the next five months, we are all together trying to create a personal liturgy that puts these enemies to death and helps us become the kind of people God designed us to be. 

Each of the five sections in our series will help us to intentionally fight against one of the five spiritual enemies. Each section will have a daily challenge that we will all do together in order to practice becoming people who are transformed by God. Research says that it takes about 21 days to start a new habit so we are praying that a lot of these challenges that we do together become habits we do over the long haul that lead us into the life we were made for. 

To help us keep up with these daily challenges, we created an app for the series. The app is called “Personal Liturgy” and for the next 120 days, it is going to have a specific and daily challenge for us to complete. 

Our challenge for the first few weeks is simply to journal every single day to fight apathy in our souls. It’s to start a simple habit of opening up the app and honestly answering the questions for each day, and training ourselves to think more deeply about our lives so we can intentionally engage with God. 

To learn more about the “Personal Liturgy” app, check out this short video where one of our pastors, Brandon Clements, walks through how to use the app:

If you don’t have a smartphone or would prefer to receive the challenges via email, you can sign up here: 

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Sermon Recap | In the Image of the God Who Serves


This past weekend over 500 people served across the city with our seven partner organizations. This equates to over 2500 service hours! 

Part of why this is so huge is that the Bible tells us that we are created in God’s image and one aspect of that image that we were created to bear is called, Ezer

Ezer means helper—one who comes alongside and gives necessary strength and protection to serve those who lack the strength to protect themselves. 

Over and over throughout scripture, we see God as Ezer for us:

Psalm 30:20: Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.

Psalm 70:5: But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!

Psalm 124:8: Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 146:5: Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.

When God gives the Israelites miraculous victory over the Philistines in 1 Samuel 7, Samuel celebrates by erecting a large stone altar that he names Eben-ezer: Stone of help. It’s a reminder that God is our helper. God comes alongside and serves His people. 

God is a God who serves. It’s a fundamental aspect of His character. Every day, every moment, God is holding creation together; He’s providing for, loving, forgiving, encouraging, and pursuing His rebellious, sinful, broken image bearers. 

Colossians 2 says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He perfectly reflects who God is. So it’s no surprise that when Jesus shows up He says. “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) 

We were all made in the image of God. We were made to reflect His image. When we serve, we align ourselves with what we were made for. We align ourselves with reality in the universe. We are discovering part of our designed identity. We are reflecting the God who serves: Ezer

Sermon Recap | Redefining Greatness


Mark 9:33-35 and Mark 10:35-45.

In both of these passages, Jesus flips the script and redefines greatness for his disciples and for us:

Mark 9:35: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”
Mark 10:43-45: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be servant of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We all get caught up trying to prove ourselves, compare ourselves, and show ourselves to be better than those around us. A helpful tool is The Princess Test, a questionnaire that helps reveal areas where we functionally believe we should be treated like royalty, instead of like a servant. 

The Princess Test:

  • I expect life to be smooth and free from burdensome people or problems.
  • I often get angry at people for not treating me right, or not acting a certain way toward me. 
  • I often feel resentful. I feel bitter towards those who have what I want. 
  • I feel annoyed and slighted when I am asked to do menial tasks. 
  • I get frustrated when I don’t receive the thanks or notice from people I think I deserve. 
  • I get upset when I don’t get my way in a group decision. 
  • I am rarely the first one to offer to help out or serve. 
  • I find it hard to recover when I am made fun of or my ego is bruised. 
  • I judge people based on their usefulness or what I think they can add to my life. 
  • I get mad at God when I don’t think He’s making my life go how it should.

The reality is that we are all enslaved to our own pride and our own desire to be great until we see true greatness crucified on the cross. Only when we come to understand that the greatest servant who ever lived poured out His precious blood as a ransom to pay for us, can we begin to have the real, internal confidence that it takes to serve the people around us. 

A huge part of what Serve the City Weekend is about is training us to walk in the new servant greatness identity that Jesus has given us. We are not just spending a weekend doing nice things to feel better about ourselves; we are hoping to foster an ongoing desire to become the servant of all—to love those who have nothing to offer us—to serve those who are hurting, messy, and broken. Because this is exactly what we needed the Son of Man to do for us when we were hurting, messy and broken, and had nothing to offer Him. 

It’s not too late to sign up for our Serve the City Weekend! In fact, several sites are still in need of volunteers! We’d love for you to sign up with our North Main Block Party (kid-friendly and a great Saturday-only option!), Ezekiel (kid-friendly), or Transitions teams. Get all the information you need here

Home for the Holidays


During this Advent season our church family has studied and celebrated how through Christ’s birth we’ve received grace for our sin, hope for our suffering, and peace for our world. We know that in the coming days, many in our church family will be heading home to family members who either don’t know or don’t reflect this grace, hope, and peace that Christ offers. For many in our church family, heading “home for the holidays” brings with it tension and uneasiness as they navigate various family dynamics. We wanted to offer up some resources that we have found particularly helpful on the topic as you pray and prepare well to love your family and put Emmanuel on display.

We love you and are praying for you this Christmas season. 

“Preparing for Family Time at Christmas”

In this podcast, Dr. Gordon Bals discusses how to handle family time during the holidays. He gives some particularly helpful language to use as we differentiate between our “structural family” and our “functional family”. 

“Jesus Also Had Unbelieving Family Members”

In an article of encouragement, Jon Bloom reminds readers that if they have unbelieving family members, they are in good company; so did Jesus. Bloom believes this is meant to give us hope and he explains why. 

“Family Tensions and the Holidays” 

Russell Moore humorously provides four thoughts on what followers of Jesus should remember as we approach time with extended family—especially those of us with difficult extended family situations.

“Going Home for Christmas? Honor Mom and Dad”

Darren Carlson reminds readers that the biblical command to honor your parents is never rescinded, even when the child becomes an adult. Carlson gives four considerations for how this may play out for adults heading home for the holidays. 

“10 Ways to Bring the Gospel Home this Christmas”

For anyone headed home to unbelieving family, this article compiles a list of ten points from Randy Newman’s book, Bringing the Gospel Home, to help you think ahead and pray about how you might grow in being a proxy for the gospel in word and deed among your family.  

“Christmas Among Family: Four Suggestions:”

Pastor Chris Castaldo gives several suggestions for how to view our family gatherings as an opportunity to put the wisdom and grace of Christ on display while being committed to the people whom we love. 

“Home for the Holidays When Home Isn’t Safe”

Theology Professor Dan Doriani writes on forgiving dangerous family members and setting a course for future relationships. As someone who grew up in a violent home himself, Doriani states that his goal in writing the article was to connect aspects of the biblical teaching of forgiveness to some hard questions: Should I go home as an adult when home was dangerous and may still be? What should I expect if I do go home? 

Hope for the Hurting This Christmas


“The Christian knows more of the glory of God and the peace he brings than even the angels do. Our sins and sorrows and sufferings are covered by the blood of Jesus. Sentimentality won’t solve our sin problem; only salvation will do that. And only Jesus, the Savior who knows what it’s like to be scarred, can heal our hurts and wounds.”

–Trevin Wax

We know that there are members of our church family who are grieving and suffering this Christmas season. If you are hurting (or walking through life with someone who is), we encourage you to check out these articles and be reminded of the beautiful truth that Jesus entered into your pain and suffering and in Him is the fulfillment of hope and peace. 


 “Singing ‘Peace on Earth’ When Your Heart Is Heavy”

Trevin Wax addresses the question, “How can we sing “peace on earth’ when it’s been such a hard year for peace?” While we don’t have an answer that satisfies all the questions we could ask, we do have a Savior. And in this Savior, this little baby born in Bethlehem, we have hope. Jesus knew suffering, not from a distance but up close. He didn’t give us an answer to satisfy all of our questions; He gave us himself.


“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

John Piper discusses why it is good for us to have Christmas songs that capture both dimensions of life: the overflowing joy of the “already” redeemed and the tearful yearning of the “not-yet” redeemed. He goes on to specifically examine the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. 


Sermon: Happy in Hope, Patient in Pain, Constant in Prayer

In this sermon, (audio and transcript provided) John Piper weaves Romans 12:12 together with the Christmas events of Jesus’ birth. He reminds us that Christ has come at Christmas. He has broken into our tribulation and taken it on himself. 


“To Those Hurting This Christmas” 

John Knight offers encouragement to those hurting during this Christmas season, reassuring them that Jesus knows their hurt and more than that, He endured and is victorious. 


“Joy to This Cursed World”

Nancy Guthrie speaks from the personal experience of losing her daughter and son and addresses how to fight for joy in the midst of the holidays. She specifically recounts singing the Christmas carol, “Joy to the World” and being stuck by the line “far as the curse is found.”


“Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart” 

Brittany Salmon recounts one particular Christmas when sin, death, and grief seemed ever-present, and raw grief prevented her from celebrating the holidays like she used to. She describes her fight for gratitude and how that particular season of suffering unveiled her eyes and enabled her to celebrate the holiday’s truest meaning. 


“Making Christmas Melancholy Point Hopeward”

Jon Bloom speaks to our Christmas Melancholy. (known as “Christmas let-down”) He proposes that our Christmas celebrations might actually serve us best as pointers to, not providers of, lasting joy. Bloom specifically addresses how to point this post-Christmas melancholy to hope for children. 


“What Grieving People Wish You Knew at Christmas”

While those of us who surround grieving people can’t fix the pain of loss, we can bring comfort as we come alongside those who hurt with special sensitivity to what grief is like during the holidays. Nancy Guthrie speaks from the personal experience of losing her own children as she offers five truths that grieving people wish we all knew at Christmas.