Chris Green teaches from Luke 6: 12-19, "Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases, as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.
Last Sunday was one of the most liberating gatherings we have ever had. We sang, laughed and worshiped together, followed by a wonderful time exploring the life of John the Baptist.
We are making some amazing discoveries as we simply read about the life and ministry of Christ. We are gaining a much better understanding about the culture of that era and the various religious, political and social issues of that time. Even though we are reading about things that happened long ago, isn’t it astounding to see that we are experiencing the same crisis in our time. In spite of the technology and advancements of mankind, people are still facing the same issues today.
Through Zecharias, Elizabeth, Joseph, Mary, the wise men and John the Baptist, we have discovered an incredible series of events that led up to the official launching of Jesus’ ministry. We have been digging into the background of the stories and have learned these people were all powerfully used by God.
Some 700 years before them, Isaiah prophesied about John the Baptist and the Christ. Three hundred years later, Malachi prophesied about John the Baptist. God certainly made sure that mankind would be able to recognize the messiah when He came. He made sure that it would be clear and established for all; that these were not random events.
By the time the word of the Lord came to John the Baptist, who was in the wilderness, he was able to come forth with a fiery message of repentance and returning to the true and living God.
Now the Lord is setting us up to come forth with His word in our time. Like John, we must come forth with boldness and assurance. We must point people to the true messiah, the true deliverer.
It is our prayer that this ongoing series of teachings about Christ is making an impact on your life. When we read about the way God used John and many others to make a difference in the world, it encourages us to know that God can use us, too.
Now we look ahead to our next gathering, which is our First Sunday corporate prayer time. In April we prayed concerning the Rebuilding of the Ancient Ruins. In May our prayer focus was on Restoring the Former Desolations. Next, we will pray about Repairing the Ruined Cities. God is about to launch something special through each of you, so that our hearts and homes will never be the same.
***WE BELIEVE Jesus Christ is genuinely God and truly man. He came to reveal and bring us to the Father. As Holy Scripture states, He (Jesus Christ) was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He was and is the true and only Messiah (the Christ); begotten and sent of God the Father. He lived a perfectly sinless life and died on the cross as the only acceptable substitute and sacrifice for the sins of every person. He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father reigning and interceding as our risen Lord, coming King, loving High Priest and Advocate. He is the fullness of the Godhead bodily, the head of the Church, the first born of many brethren and superior in rank and strength to all principalities and powers.
Chris Green teaches from Acts 2: 42-43 "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
A few weeks ago I came across the above cartoon on Facebook. As you can see, a pastor takes the brain out of an attendee and says, “Welcome to church. You won’t be needing this.”
The cartoon emphatically declares that when you attend a church gathering, you don’t need to think. You don’t need your brain. It’s basically saying that weekly messages and lessons from the Bible are for people who don’t have a mind of their own, or it's saying Believers don’t really think for themselves. Worse yet, it's saying pastors encourage people to not really engage their minds when they come to church.
Nothing could be further from the truth. So I responded to the cartoon by posting a message to our Urban Life Facebook followers:
“This will never be true at the Urban Life Family Center. We expect spiritual and mental engagement with the Bible as we explore the life and ministry of Christ. We are making every attempt to provide solid contextual and balanced instruction in the Word of God, to not only inspire our faith, but to also challenge our thinking!”
This Midweek Connection features another mind-challenging, heart-probing message. By now you have realized that Chris and Carol Green talk about life and bring up issues in ways that go beyond the surface. We don’t preach condemnation sermons about WHAT people do, because we delve into WHY people do what they do.
We address more than the problems and trials that we are all going through in life. We get into the overall purpose and will of God and how what we are going through is connected to the ONE who is greater than ourselves.
We don’t give you an emotionally charged and hyped up church service about getting a financial breakthrough or gaining deliverance from some storm in your life. We emphasize the importance of learning Biblical principles and Godly wisdom, so that we can understand how we got into the situation, how we can navigate our way out of it, how we can avoid getting back into a similar circumstance, and how to turn the focus of our lives to Christ.
By now you realize that we don’t try to answer everyone’s questions or solve everyone’s problems here at Urban Life, but we try to provide the tools that everyone will need; so that each person can learn and grow in the ways of God and not become dependent upon a pastor or another Believer to spoon feed them the scriptures or carry them in every single step they must take in their life. We want you to learn how to properly read and understand the Bible for yourself.
Last Sunday, we explored some of the reasons WHY this ministry functions the way it functions; so you can have a healthy expectation of what GOD is actually trying to accomplish in your heart and home.
If you don’t understand that Urban Life is a place where Believers are being TRAINED and COACHED to live out their faith outside of the walls of our facility, then you might become very frustrated, confused or disappointed with the direction in which we are going.
There are several benefits for you and your family when connecting with a LIFE-DEVELOPMENT ministry like Urban Life. A life-development ministry establishes the foundation of Christ in your life. For instance, did you know that the Bible is not about us? It was not written just for us to pick up quotes on how to get through our problems. It was written to point us to Christ. Accepting this foundational truth will change your life forever.
According to Ephesians 4, there are several benefits to having the right foundation, but we’ll just mention three for now.
First: A solid, Christ-centered, foundation will keep you from being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine or the trickery of men in cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting. Stability will come into your life and you won’t be swept away by the latest trends, fads and false teachings from some Christian entertainment and television programs.
Second: This solid foundation will help you grow up (mature) in Christ.
Third: This foundation will help you find your place in the Body of Christ and enable you to do your part with no envy, strife, or insecurity in your heart.
As we continue to move forward in this season of the Open Door, we are being equipped to serve in our families, on our jobs, in our schools, and in this community.
So come prepared, every week, to engage your brain. Come prepared to have the Word of God challenge the way you think and live. Come prepared to learn about the priority of Christ in every area of our lives. Come prepared to be equipped to do the work of the ministry.
We open this week’s Connection letter with Psalm 137:1-4 (NKJV): By the rivers of Babylon,There we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there, those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
The writer of Psalm 137 begins by remembering his people being taken away from their home. Jerusalem had been attacked and conquered; the temple destroyed by Babylon.
Defeated, with the knowledge that their country had been ravaged, their homes ransacked and looted, many of their family members and friends had died during the struggle- they were being “carried"- "taken against their will” to what was, to them, a completely godless place.
The psalmist writes how they had stopped on the journey, probably to rest by one of the canals of Babylon. And as they sit down, the Israelites begin to cry; they are weeping for all they had lost; their families, their homeland, the temple was destroyed and they were exiles from Jerusalem.
The Babylonian captors begin to poke fun at their prisoners- to taunt them at the core of their pain… Mockingly they ask: “Sing us one of those songs of Zion”- meaning, one of the songs they used to sing in Jerusalem, in worship- a song about and for God.
This description, from a blog called Theological Stew, accurately reveals a long season for Carol and me, in Harrisburg. Some of you know that God made us prolific songwriters while we served in ministry in St. Louis, MO. We didn’t write earth-shaking songs that could win Dove or Grammy awards, but they were meaningful songs for our youth, young adults, and eventually for our entire church congregation. The songs reflected our corporate journey and echoed the sermons and messages that came forth out of that ministry.
Since 2006, we’ve only written one song. That’s ONE song in almost EIGHT years, after writing nearly 200 songs in 12 years, at a rate of at least one song every month. Occasionally someone from St. Louis will ask if we have released any new music and songs, but we just say that we are just too busy because of our jobs and the church. The truth is that our harp was hung up on the willows beside the rivers of Babylon. The cry in our hearts has been, “How can we sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land?” This place of captivity is a foreign land for Chris and Carol Green.
We wrote a handful of songs when we first moved to Harrisburg, but as we went into our Babylonian captivity, we hung our harp and wept as the enemy taunted us over our losses and disappointments.
A couple of weeks ago, the Lord surprised us with a prophetic impartation during a Saturday afternoon lunch via a couple of pastors from Ohio. Ever since that encounter, the Lord has been continually working in us.
One day, while sitting at work, completing a task and listening to a certain worship leader’s teaching session, the Spirit of God touched my heart as she revealed something about her private time with God. She said that her way of praying was often expressed in writing songs. Many of her prayers come forth as songs to the Lord. Instantly, the spark was ignited within me because that’s how it was for me in St. Louis. Songs always came to me in my prayer time.
Even though I have been praying and spending time with the Lord in the foreign land, I wasn’t willing to pick up that instrument to play and sing again. Like the exiles, I didn't want to sing in a foreign land. I didn’t recognize that we were no longer in that place of captivity. We are surrounded by lives and stories that prove that God is fulfilling His promises to us in this community.
Suddenly, my heart was stirred again and I was aware that there are eight years of songs built up and stored up inside of me. They’ve been there all this time. I transitioned from feeling empty to feeling like I was 8 years pregnant with music.
So last week, I installed our music studio software on our home computer and started writing songs again. There are so many tunes bubbling inside of me that it’s like trying to control the water behind a dam by letting a little bit out at a time through a water hose. It just explodes out of my heart and I can't write the lyrics fast enough. Two songs came forth the first night and I found myself up past midnight. I had to stop myself because I still have a job to get to every morning.
So we’re posting this blog just to let you know that new songs are on the way Urban Life family. They are new songs about the Urban Life family’s journey. They are OUR stories, OUR testimonies, OUR experiences, OUR victories in the Lord OUR God. We’ll begin teaching you the new songs as soon as we can.
The reason it’s so important that we teach you the songs is because it has been proven that a church PRACTICES, what they SING; especially if the songs are birth from that congregation or its leaders. Years ago, we always wrote a song to go with each message or lesson. We think it's time to get back to that again. If we sing the message, we will practice the message. If we practice the message, we will live the message. If we live the message, we will become the message.
It’s nice to sing the music from Hillsong, Bethel, Planet Shakers, Israel Houghton and all the others. But there is a different and powerful anointing that is released when the songs come from our own lives and out of our own hearts.
Urban Life, we have come out of the foreign land of captivity and we’re going to sing the songs of Zion.
Chris Green teaches from Acts 2: 40-44 > And with many other words he (Peter) testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
Our world is filled with so many issues and problems that we can find ourselves always desiring a place of peace, safety and comfort. We’d like to just still away to a setting where we don’t have to think about controversy, conflict and trouble. That’s part of the reason why many Believers go to church on Sundays. They want to meet with other Believers and just leave the world outside of those four walls for a couple of hours each week.
Well, we’re about to burst that bubble for many Believers, because God did not call us to set up a weekly vacation resort where we could escape from the world. That kind of thinking is the reason why so many Believers begin to get uncomfortable if their pastor starts talking about abortion, gay marriage, conflicts in heterosexual marriages, pornography, the common core agenda in education, immigration rights, racism, sexism, global warming, world hunger, the war on terror, gun control, free speech, freedom of religion, domestic violence, or the drug abuse epidemic in our neighborhoods.
Many Believers attend a local church to get away from all of those things. They don’t want to hear a lecture or sermon about those issues. They want to hear about going to heaven or how to become more prosperous in their short time on this earth.
However, we are convinced that the life and calling on Believers today, is like learning to drive a car. There are several skills that you must learn. Once you learn each skill, then you have to learn how to put each of those skills together and exercise them all at the same time. Then you have to learn how to perform all of those skills while observing road signs, traffic lanes, traffic signals, and other drivers.
Most American Believers have learned how to put the key in the ignition and start their Christian car, but they haven’t learned anything else. They are perfectly happy to sit in the car with the engine running, while they go nowhere at all. That will not be so with the Urban Life family.
God has instructed us to teach the function of the vehicle, the skills for driving, the rules for navigation and safety, and what to do in case of emergencies. There is so much more to our walk with God than just simply driving down the road, trying to get to our destination. There are other drivers (belief systems) on the road, too. There are stop signs and traffic signals. There can be pedestrians, animals and objects on the road, all which can represent different views, issues and problems in life. Even with all of that, we haven’t talked about learning what to do if our own vehicle develops a few problems. So you see, we all have a lot to learn. Our weekly gathering is one of the places that God has provided for us to learn and grow.
We hope this analogy is helping you to see what Urban Life is truly designed to do. This is why a ministry has to be much more than just a place to gather to escape from our troubles. We must see this ministry like a driving school, a gas station, a maintenance shop, or an inspection and diagnostic center. For those who want to learn more than just how to drive their vehicle, the ministry is a mechanic training school for those Believers who want to know how to build or repair a vehicle. It’s a ministry designed for those who want to know more.
Now about that 'get away from it all' feeling---- well, that only comes in the presence of God as we worship and pray in private or corporately. The only place to find that peace and rest is in the presence of God. We find that rest even though we're in the midst of storms and chaos.
So get ready for the road ahead! We’re not going to sit in the drive way with the engine running, going nowhere. We’re going to fearlessly get out on the road, face the challenges, and see the fulfillment of God’s purpose in our hearts and homes.