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“Loving our Great Senior Neighbors at Treeo”

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We have now been live-streaming our 10:45 service into the Media Room at Treeo for a year! Each Sunday, there are seven to fourteen residents who gather for the livestream. And check this out, every Sunday through the end of the year, there are people from Harvest who are there with them, greeting, interacting, loving and praying! Our goal is to provide a worship service for residents who are unable to join us in person. Join us in prayer for the residents. Join us in prayer toward a Treeo small group. Join us in prayer for the interpersonal ministry of Christian residents who live at Treeo. 

Prisoners of Hope

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By CJ Davis

“As for you also, 

because of the blood of my covenant with you, 

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 

Return to your Stronghold, 

O prisoners of hope; 

today I declare that I will restore to you double.” 

– Zechariah 9:11-12

Encouragement begins in the dark. So does life. And Jesus. And the world. This Sunday, December 3rd, is the first day of the Church Year. The Liturgical Calendar, taking its cues from the Creation Story in Genesis and the Gospels, begins with the season of expectation. In the midst of a chaotic sea, in the heart of darkness, in the dashed expectations of freedom, in the monotony of another Monday, the Story of God begins with Waiting. 

It seems so strange to have the New Years of the Church begin with the First of a month-long waiting period. Shouldn’t it start with Easter? With the glorious Resurrection of the One who died ahead of us? Or even Pentecost, when the Spirit of Holiness created again a life of abundance and generosity pouring out and into the cups of everyone with a thirst? No. The first New Day of the Church Calendar is the First Sunday of Advent. And the heartlogic behind this is beautiful, compelling, and real. 

To tap into this reality three things need to be held together and their significance felt. These three are: Creation, the Day, and the Gospels. 

Creation

In the beginning God was brooding. Hovering. Covering like a mother bird her yet-to-be. The story of God begins with God taking the status of things and changing them forever. We learn from the opening lines of the Creation Story that there was a watery chaotic darkness. “The land was wild and waste and darkness was over the surface of the abyss.” These are the conditions of what would become God’s good creation. Wild like a wilderness. Waste like a desert. Dark like a storm. An abyss that has no home for humanity. Until God speaks. By his Spirit we read in the Creation Story how the wild becomes ordered, how the waste becomes filled, how the darkness is contained by light, and how the abyss gives rise to a dry land in which humanity can flourish. We tend to think of God’s act of creation in the terms “Ex Nihilo” or “out of nothing.” The picture of the Genesis narrative is more akin to “Vita ab Chao” or “life from chaos.” Life from death. This is how the story of God starts – in the dark. With the dark. And from the darkness, God brings out light and life and love and a space for us. Creation begins in the dark. 

The Day

Within the Creation Story, there’s a glitch. Each day begins with evening and ends with morning. “And there was evening and there was morning.” Shouldn’t it read, “and there was morning and there was evening?” This is another picture of how God works. The Days in creation all begin with Evening. This is carried through the storyline of the Bible and into the lives of God’s people. For the Israelites, each new day began when the sun goes down. This is a picture of the Creation Story in nuce. And it was a practice for God’s people. A practice for them to begin their days with Rest. The first thing God’s people were called to do each new day was to surrender their agency and trust that God would carry them through the darkness to his glorious sunrise. This is a design feature woven into the fabric of God’s Creation. His Creation began in the darkness. Then light shone into that darkness, naming it and containing it. Each New Day is a rehearsal of that first act. And each New Day is a dress-rehearsal for God’s First Act of New Creation. The Day begins in the dark. 

The Gospels

Following in this same pattern, the Gospels begin in the dark. God’s first act of creation began by his Spirit inhabiting a barren place and bringing out miraculous life. God’s First Act of New Creation begins this same way: with the Birth of Jesus to Mary, the Virgin. It is no wonder that the story of Mary encountering the God of Creation is shot-through with language from God’s First Creation. The Gospels burst onto the scene in the midst of a people who are holding on to hope by a thread. They are in a chaotic darkness of broken dreams and they need God’s Word to speak Life into their hearts. The Gospels don’t begin with the joyful Resurrection and Victory of God, they begin with the heartache of an exiled people sitting in expectation. And while God was in the womb of Mary, present among his people incognito, he once again by his Spirit was preparing to break through the present chaotic darkness with the Light of a New Day. The Gospels begin in the dark. 

Holding these three things together, the reality of Advent comes alive. Advent takes our present darkness, our chaotic waters, our uninhabitable abyss and shows us they are actually pregnant with the Hope of New Creation, the Hope of the Appearing of Jesus. As we wait like Creation, as we wait like the Day, as we wait like the Gospels, we are full of the Hope of God’s Appearing. The Appearing of God that has happened in Jesus, is happening in the Church, and will happen at the Dawn of the New Age. 

As people “on whom the ends of the ages have come” we, like Creation, like the Day, like the Gospels, begin in the dark. But we are drawn out of that darkness towards New Life and we participate in drawing New Life out of the darkness around us. We are “prisoners of Hope” who have seen the New Creation of God in the face of Jesus, in the wounded hands and feet of His Body the Church, and will finally see Him when he Appears to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. 

Good Friday: Fasting Guide

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Good Friday Fasting 

In Mark 2:18-20, some people asked Jesus why others fasted but His disciples were not fasting. Jesus said it was because He was with His disciples and that His disciples would fast when He is no longer physically here. That time is now. We fast because He is not here, but He is risen! Jesus is not here but He hears. We lose our way, Jesus lights it. We cry for help, God is our help. 

Fasting is a temporary time of not-eating in order to, 1) Commit typical meal prep, eating and clean up time to prayer and to, 2) Illustrate our dependence on God as our provider and sustainer. Jesus said, “When you fast” not “If” then taught us not to fast as some do, to be seen and to impress people, but in order to draw near to our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:16-18). Fast a meal or more today. Fasting creates space to pray and reflect, worship and love God. The goal is drawing near to God and God drawing near to us. If you fast the entire day, we will break the fast tonight with communion during our Good Friday worship service. 

Reflection personally

Read Matthew 26-27. Observe our Lord, His love and His Sacrifice. 

Pray for 5-10 minutes starting all sentences with “Thank You Jesus for…”. Finish all of those sentences with who He is, what He has done, what He has said, what He is going to do, the things He has provided for you by His grace. 

Pray for 5-10 minutes confessing your sin, really allowing the Spirit to reveal any unclean way within you. 

Pray for 5-10 minutes being grateful that you have been washed clean by Jesus and your standing before God is all because of Jesus and not you. 

Pray for 5-10 minutes about what God is showing you personally during this season of coronavirus. Let the Lord use this trial to produce in you steadfastness in your faith in Jesus Christ. 

Pray for 5-10 minutes for your loved ones. 

Pray for 5-10 minutes for our church family. 

During the remainder of the day, pray for the following: 

Revival worldwide

This pandemic is opening people’s eyes about many things. We feel them too. What is really precious in life? What is most important? Who is most important? What is most enduring? Who is most enduring? What is actually worthy of my worship and attention? Pray that people all over the world will recognize that Jesus Christ is the only rock and all else is shifting sand (Matthew 7:24-27). Pray that people would recognize that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow while all else is constantly changing (Hebrews 13:8). Pray that people would ask Jesus, who came to us, for forgiveness of their sins and new life rather than trying to work their way to God (Romans 10:9). Pray for specific countries you have heard about in the news. Pray for friends you have who are from other countries. 

Recovery worldwide

Tens of thousands have died from coronavirus. Many more than that are sick. Their loved ones are devastated and scared. Pray the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) will be near to them and make Himself known as their Comforter. Pray they would feel that God is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). Pray for economic recovery for nations and neighborhoods. Pray that eyes would be opened to needs in our communities to be addressed with our loving effort now and for years to come. 

Wisdom for our Leaders

World leaders are faced with very difficult decisions about lives versus livelihood, both of which have terrible consequences if the leaders shift too much in one direction. Medical professionals and scientists are racing to create testing, treatments and vaccines while needing to yield to the wise timelines of safety. Pray that God, who appointed and gifted these leaders for such a time as this, will direct them (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Pray these leaders will pray. Pray these leaders will lead as servants.

Maundy Thursday: Love One Another

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Today is “Maundy Thursday”. As a kid, I used to think, “Who got confused and called ‘Thursday’ ‘Maundy’ and what accent is that anyway?!” “Maundy” is the shortened Latin word “mandatum” which means command. So… “Commandment Thursday.” 

There are three great commandments that Jesus gives and they form our culture as a church: Love God, Love One Another, Love Others.  Love God and Love others comes from Matthew 22:37-39, “The greatest commandment is you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.” Love one another is from John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give you to love one another … they will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

Jesus commanded us to love one another during His last night with His disciples, during the last supper on Thursday night in the upper room. The big line he delivered was, love one another. 

Our love for one another has really been on display during this Covid-19 season as we interact in virtual small groups, comments during the livestream plus the countless texts and calls and meme-sharing. Distance makes the heart grow fonder! So today…

  • Thank God for one another
  • Love one another using some encouraging texts
  • Pray for one another, all day long, and let us know when you do
  • Call a friend in the church and pray together for one another 

 

 

Serving Our City

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Church, here’s how we can help our City right now…

Our friends at Raleigh Dream Center have been asked by Wake County Public School System and Wake County Human Services to coordinate meal give-aways at many local communities. RDC does the coordinating, WCPSS makes the meals, packages the meals and delivers the meals to the site. They need us to receive the packaged meals, put a meal on a table, step back and allow someone under 18 years old to take the meal. It is very simple but very helpful right now. 

Heather, Erik, Courtney and Jamie have served in this way in the last 3 weeks at Casa de Luna where we have handed groceries, played soccer with the kids and shared the gospel over the years. This opportunity is just as easy as Jeremy with RDC says it is: bless our neighbors who need food, it’s social distancing compliant and is a bullseye for serving our community right now. 

Here is what you need to know: It’s Monday – Friday, 11-1. Check out the sites where you can serve (closer to home or work than you might think!) Look over the schedule for when volunteers are needed and sign up. 

Here is a video explanation from our friend Jeremy with RDC. 

Raleigh, You Are Loved!