Lent 2019: Ash Wednesday - formed from the dust

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. We are excited to explore this season together for the first time this year as a church. In the next few weeks we will welcome some new voices from our church body to share their reflections during this Lenten season.


For much of my life, I've always put the invisible parts of faith first: theological doctrines, understanding of grace and salvation, acceptance of Jesus as the savior, etc. But I gave very little attention to actions and the physical and tangible dimensions of faith. In fact, I stayed away from it.

If anyone ever prescribed a spiritual discipline to follow, I would easily slap a "LEGALISM!" sticker on the practice and declare, "This isn't in the Bible!"... and that's how I originally approached this season of Lent. 

This is more work.

This is a system imposed on my freedom.

This is works-righteousness!

I imagined that those who enslave themselves to Lent-like constraints must be the saddest Christians in the world. But I had not experienced the power of those words that are pronounced upon believers at the start of the Lenten Season:

All are from the dust, and to dust all return. 
—Ecclesiastes 3:20 (echoing Genesis 3:19b)

To return to the dust is an invitation to rest, not to work. To live into the words we love to sing in In Christ Alone:

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

We cease trying to "make it" for ourselves, and we put into practice a kind of surrender that recognizes that it is only on Christ that we stand. Every day we are trying to make ourselves; we want to shape our own lives and define our own success. Yet the invitation to return to dust is to allow Christ to shape us; to surrender our efforts and allow his perfect effort to conform us into his image.

The ashes we receive is not merely a smudge, but it is shaped into a cross, recognizing that only in our surrender to dust that we can be made in his image. As we enter into this season together, it is my hope that we will see how he is shaping us to be more like him.

Prayer:
Loving Father, give us rest as we enter into this Lenten season. Holy Spirit, help us lay down our burdens; free us from trying to be something apart from you. May we welcome you to form us again from the dust into the image of your Son as we follow him in his death that we may realize his glory. It is in his name we pray. Amen.


Living into the life of Jesus

We're doing something new this year: we are moving through the liturgical calendar as a church. Well… the truth is that it isn’t “new.” In fact we’ve been practicing part of the calendar already through the years with Advent, Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, and a few others. But for us as a church, these were independent holidays and seasons; we selected bits and pieces that seemed important, but we didn’t see how they fit together as a whole for our formation as a people — the the church. This year, we’re hoping to bring more of this historical practice of the church into view and discover how it can shape and form us.

What is the liturgical calendar?

"What is the liturgical calendar?" you ask? The liturgical calendar is gift from the church to the church, inviting all her members to participate in living out the story of Jesus Christ.

The purpose of the calendar is not to impose rote practices upon us, but to help us remember the story and life of Jesus in all of our living. Just as we may say a worship sanctuary is holy and thus are called to “take off our sandals on holy ground,” when we practice the liturgical calendar together, we recognize that time itself belongs to the LORD — it is holy — and we remind ourselves to take the our spiritual sandals off our feet for we are bathed in the presence of God in time.

Approaching Lent and Easter

We are nearing the beginning of Lent (it starts on Ash Wednesday, March 6, 2019), one of the great seasons in the liturgical calendar. Historically it is a season of penance where we remember the Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13), who gave up all worldly desires to obey the will of God — an obedience that led to the cross. We move together into the practices of prayer, fasting, and giving as a way to lead our hearts to the cross and prepare for Easter.

All too often we only think about “giving something up” for Lent (we’ll get to that below), yet we are also called to engage more deeply in prayer, and open our hands and our hearts in generosity to our neighbors. During this season, pray with one another, consider practices that can shape our hearts to sacrificial love for our neighbors. Share with one another in your community groups how God is speaking to you and calling you to take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Some notes about fasting...

First thing: as with any practical discipline of faith, there is the danger of thinking that we accrue favor with God through our obedience. We are not more or less loved based on our obedience or severity of our fast, but we are seen through the person of Jesus Christ who imputes to us his righteousness.

Fasting should never lead us to think more or less of ourselves or of one another, but always point us to see more and more of our savior, Jesus Christ. 

Don't know what to fast?

  1. Give up something that will affect your day to day and by its absence remind you to remember Christ's presence with you and move you to pray and love your neighbors.
  2. Don't give up something you shouldn't be doing anyway. (e.g. "I'm gonna give up stealing from my boss"... you shouldn't be doing that anyway!)
  3. Some, instead of giving up something, take in a new practice or disciple. e.g. Setting aside every afternoon to volunteer at a community organization. Some have discovered, through such a taking on a new way to live into their faith that continues after the Lenten season.
  4. If you still have no idea, ask your friends; they can often see us better than we can see ourselves and may be able to vocalize what we may fear to fast for Lent.
  5. Some common suggestions: alcohol, sugar, red meat, bubble tea, social media, video games, tv shows, etc.

All in all this is a time to move into the basic movement of Christian life: to deny ourselves, turn to Jesus, and follow him.

In our community groups, we will be practicing a fast together and then breaking that fast together on Easter Sunday. It will be a way for us to move together as a church and point one another towards Christ during this season and prepare our hearts to remember Christ at the cross and resurrection.


The Discipleship Path

Am I supposed to be growing in my faith?
What does it look like to grow?
How do I know if this is what the Christian life is supposed to be, or if I'm just following the "christian trend" of my times?

Scripture makes it clear that the gospel is not something we receive at a singular point in time. Rather, it’s a lifestyle of repentance and faith, a life of following Jesus, a life of growing in grace.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
2 Peter 1:5-9

Therefore, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Colossians 2:6-7

Vision + Mature Christians = Kingdom Transformation. If you've been here during our vision casting series last year, or even just have read through our Vision and Values page on our website, you should have some level of imagining what kind of church we want to be. However, we need to ask, “if that’s the kind of church we want to be, then, what kind of people do we want to become?" In other words, we’ve covered a lot about what King’s Cross Church as an organization is committed to and expects from our members. But in turn, how ought you expect to be shaped and formed into a mature Christian? How would we describe the way Jesus calls us to live, deeper into people saturated with God's love and wisdom evident and pouring out, through their lives?

The image above is what we call our Discipleship Path. It consists of 8 areas that encompass what it means for us to submit the whole of our lives to King Jesus.

Some Key Observations:

  • This is really big. This not a yearly "theme," nor is this a "season" of where we want to focus. Rather, this is the core of the Christian life, simplified, but ever-unfolding. It's this fuzzy phrase we use, "following Jesus," brought into focus for us to gather around and agree and pursue together--this life that Christ calls us to grow deeper in... and by His grace, it will more or less encompass how we want to mature throughout our lives.
  • These are areas we want to grow. They’re not a checklist to Christian maturity. Rather, a template for a lifestyle we want to go deeper in. (Think of a work out regime)
  • The Holy Spirit may have us grow more in one area over another, in a certain period of our lives. It’s different for everyone.
  • There’s no “correct” order. They are part of an organic whole.
  • This is contextualized to mature Christians doing kingdom work particularly in the NYC/Queens context.

So... Where can I get started? 

Well, here's the thing: if you've been an active member of King's Cross Church--you hopefully have been growing in some of these ways already. We want to make following Jesus explicit, tangible and attainable for everyone of our church members. However, as we grow as a church, we want to use this as a lense for both us and you to see where we need to create spaces to develope, grow, and catalyze these areas of obedience and submission to the Lord. Meaning, it will unfold organically, but intentionally, as we have been growing. Again, we don't want to "program" christian growth--but we do need to be cognizant and intentional and clear about where we want to mature.

This will take place through are a mixture of mediums we want you to grow through in these areas. E.g. Community Group, sermons, classes, serving with our partners, etc. 

However, here are some ways you can begin considering how to grow more intentionally:

  • Take a moment to look at the individual areas and consider which ones you feel you've grown in the past year in. Consider, are there areas where you may have never even considered a possibility for growth?
  • Save the date for our Congregational Retreat this year: June 14-16th, where our theme will be kicking this off together as we explore our theme: Deeper, Together 
  • Take a glance over the brief explanations of each of these explanations for aspect of depth, and begin to pray that God would grant King's Cross a hunger to grow.

A Brief Explanation of the 8 Aspects of Christian Depth

  • Witness 
    • Public faith and evangelism. Growing in a missional life that compellingly displays life with Christ and shares the gospel story with unbelievers.
  • Faith & Work
    • A transformed way we work and see work. A life marked by a deep valuing of how our work plays out in God’s purposes and redemptive plans in the world.
  • Relationships 
    • A transformed view and application of how we are to engage in friendship, family, marriage, and sex. A life that is able to joyfully and wisely know how to pursue the other’s good.
  • Money
    • Understanding and wisely stewarding the role and purpose of money, wealth, finances and power.
  • Spiritual Disciplines (Prayer & Scripture)
    • Cultivating a life in prayer and in the Scriptures so as to be competent in renewing the inward-self in fellowship with God.
  • Worship 
    • Growing in delight of fellowship with God and with one another; a deeper understanding and enjoyment of the means of grace and participation in the gathering of God’s people to (Sunday) worship.
  • Mercy & Justice
    • A deepened heart of compassion and wisdom in how to pursue right relationships with others in the context of a broken world, lives and systems.
  • Church Life
    • Growing in a servant-like heart through engaging in and building up others lives in ministry and service.
       

For Him,


Love in the city

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. A day when every street corner sells roses, when ads for 1-800-FLOWERS show up everywhere, when many scramble to craft a perfect date night, and when many stay at home trying not to care. It's very difficult to not be affected by all the public displays of love... not just during this season, but every day as we seek to live out our faith in the city.

One of the areas of growth that our elders laid out for us at our first congregational meeting is to grow in understanding and practice of love, relationships, sex, and marriage. How are followers of Jesus set apart by these categories in a city like New York? The question lies not only in (1) how we are called to live, but more importantly (2) how we respond to one another with grace.

We know that Christians set themselves apart in the early church. One of the earliest written descriptions of Christian community portrays life in contrast to what was typical in Roman society: "They have a common table, but not a common bed" (The Epistle to Diognetes, c. AD 130). We also know that the early church treated women differently than Roman society and engaged in different practices that protected them from dangerous marriages and family support (Rodney Stark, Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief). It's clear that the church took seriously the call to be holy as God is holy in their relationships and sexuality. Seeking to live according to God's word brought them many freedoms and joys and that should be an encouragement to us to live out our faith in these areas. However, but freedom and joy doesn't seem to be the sentiment in many of our church communities.

My guess is that many of us have had our fair share of less-than-helpful interactions with the church on the subject of love, relationships, and sex. Church community can place so much pressure on someone in a dating relationship it can suffocate the life out of a new relationship. Sometimes it feels like the church indirectly teaches that we are not complete until we are married, or have a child, or at the very least it seems like everything is moving in that direction; where does it leave those of us who are single?

Unfortunately, these sentiments often go unaddressed and lead to feelings of inadequacy and shame... and ultimately to hiding. The church becomes an unsafe place to talk about such things. And the few times we do mention it, we find ourselves needing to insert a joke, perhaps to make light of an uncomfortable subject. Very few of us can claim to have perfect records when it comes to love and relationships, yet somehow it seems like we can't show up at church with anything less. But by hiding from one another we've also separated ourselves from one of the gifts God has given us in this area: the community of believers

Within our church body there are members who have made mistakes, but also found grace. We have those who hid for fear of exposure, but unexpectedly found love. We also have people that are "in process" or feel trapped and alone, but are unsure of who is "safe" to talk to. If we as a church community are to grow, we need one another and the Holy Spirit to speak through us. We need to teach one another how to share the grace that we have received from the LORD in all of life. Only in a community that is saturated by the gospel of grace and seeks to restore instead of condemn can bring transformation into our lives to be more like Jesus. Only in such a community will singleness be a gift and marriage a worthwhile work of sanctification.

Jesus called us to a life together. That because of the resurrection, we can have the faith to live into the words scripture even in our brokenness: "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed" (James 5:16).

Our panel discussion this coming Sunday is merely an invitation to grow with us. To cast light on subjects of conversation that have been hidden in the shadows. To reconnect on topics that have alienated us from one another, and to seek the Gospel to be active even in this part of life. 

If you haven't considered joining us for this first step, we invite you! Our aim is not to lay out every bit of dating or marriage advice nor give definite instructions for singleness. We only want to start the conversation and to practice that there is a wealth of wisdom and experiences of brokenness and grace from within our community. Our panel is not one of "experts" but of sinners who have received grace. Come, listen and share life with us. We also have a form where you can submit questions so our humble panel to consider. It is our hope that we can learn to be a church that is open to the work of the Spirit in our midst and that we would be able to witness growth, maturity, and grace in abundance. 


Learning to trust the guiding Spirit of God

One of the areas of maturity that we seek to foster in every member of King’s Cross Church is a humble yet growing confidence in coming to scripture as the rule of faith and life for every believer.

While we profess belief in the authority of the scripture for Christian living, the Word of God is often neglected in our lives. We hear sermon after sermon. We may even get commentary and insights from books, articles, and podcasts. But what of the Living Word itself? The Living Word desires to breathe life into our weary souls yet we, whether intentionally or not, have kept running away. We live at the pace of our world while the Spirit is inviting us to keep pace with him —  to walk in-step with the Spirit who lives and dwells with us.

In the coming months our Community Group Ministry will return to hearing from scripture directly. We will wrestle with the text as we are called to enter a world that is bigger than our own. We will ask questions of the text as the texts asks questions of us and our lives. We will grow together, learning how to read and how to listen to the voice of God alive in the scriptures.

I understand that there may be lots of fear and anxiety when we come to scripture.

What if we interpret it wrong?

What if I get stuck?

What if our group is unable to "get anything" from it?

If we're not used to doing this together, it will be hard. We will endure awkward silences. We will linger on questions that seem to have no answer. Yet if fear of such circumstances keeps us from engaging altogther, we will have lost out on a means by which we can grow in maturity. We will rob ourselves of an avenue where the grace of God can clearly be seen in our midst.

No one who has seriously studied and meditated on the scriptures comes out feeling like he has "mastered" God or his word. None of us. Not our pastors. Our elders. Our CG leaders. No one. At the same time we are called as his disciples to grow and learn. Studying scripture is an exercise that will humble us and bring us to worship.


In our community groups, we're hoping to practice and adapt a method of study called the "inductive method." It is a method utilized by many ministry organizations around the world but perhaps best championed by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. This method is better detailed elsewhere but I'll just mention here that it involves three major phases:

  1. Observation
    In this initial phase we make observations of the text asking the 5 W's and an H: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? We look for repeated words and phrases, pay attention to seemingly awkwardly clauses, notice comparisons and contrasts. We're just interested in observations during this phase. Try to curb that desire to rush through with interpretation. We save that for the next phase.
  2. Interpretation
    After we have all shared our observations, we can start to make connections and ask questions of the text. We may not get answers to every one of our questions but here we foster a curiosity and openness to scripture with expectation that God is acting in our midst. Here we seek to understand what the text means in context and we learn from one another as the Spirit speaks to us through us.
  3. Application
    And lastly, we move to see how this text challenges our living. After all our questioning seeking to understand the meaning of the text, it would be foolish of us to ignore the call that scripture has on us. We practice knowing that this is not mere external knowledge to be gained, but a living word that wants to live in us and live through us. 

If you're new to this method, it may seem that this process seems very open-ended. It is. But we don't read in a vacuum. We are growing as part of the living body of the church where God's Spirit dwells and is at work in us, guiding us, teaching us.

If you're a member of our church, I implore you to have grace on your leaders who are growing in this method with you. We need encouragement as we are also learning to trust the Spirit at work in our midst. We sometimes hold ourselves to impossible standards; guide us back to the grace offered in Jesus. It is my hope that as we intentionally move into this new season as a church, we will cultivate a love for God through studying his word. I hope that we will learn the rhythms of his heart and learn to trust the guidance of his Spirit in our midst. Our God desires to reveal himself to his people. Let us seek him with all of who we are.

I leave you with this meditation from the English preacher Charles Spurgeon who opened one of his great sermons with this encouragement to the church:

The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with the solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God.
Charles Spurgeon


Why Faith & Work?: A Question and Response Dialogue

The Faith & Work Ministry started 18 months ago. As we enter “season 2” of Faith & Work, we think it is important to ask: “Why do we have a Faith & Work Ministry?” 

Why do we have a Faith & Work Ministry?
Jesus announces his gospel saying, “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” The phrase “Kingdom of God” indicates the entire world order is being reclaimed for renewal, including work. The Faith & Work Ministry exists because work is on Jesus’s agenda. 

Our church has a lot going on already, why a separate work ministry?
Work in our time is broken. While personal experiences vary, fractures in work are widespread. Work is a poignant personal and cultural need in our time: Christianity has unique resources to offer in response, but most lack equipping & formation in this area: special attention is required.

Why should I participate in what this ministry offers? 
Work is an act of worship, ultimately. As David Foster Wallace said

“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life… there is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” 

Worshipping Jesus in your work will bring full flourishing. “Pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive”... in the long run. What worship animates your work? Can we serve two masters? Everyone sees our worship, but it is hard to see in ourselves. This unspoken witness is especially important for parents, whose children will likely imitate them, to their benefit or peril. This ministry helps us direct our worship at work. 

That’s direct. It is difficult to know the long-term consequences of our current ways of working. I guess it is a matter of faith. What other barriers to participation do you see?
(1) Busyness, (2) a self-assessment that one currently has a pretty functional approach to work & life, and (3) a desire to forget work and focus on comforts. These challenges are pervasive in the Christian life: in a sense, everyone know the “answers” here. We’ll merely say, “Come join us for a few events and ‘taste and see that the LORD is good.’” 

I want to go back to something you said earlier. Work in our time is “broken” and “fractured”? Why such strong language?
We see the fractures and breaks everywhere. A few observation will perhaps be helpful: 

  1. 2017 Gallup poll indicated 66 million of the 100 million strong American workforce are not engaged in their daily work. Because work matters, this is alarming.
  2. Increasing financial strain is making work more stressful. This pressure is immense for people with high student debt, but everyone worries about having enough for retirement. 
  3. Higher connectivity and longer hours are adding additional stress. To cope, some withdraw. Others just dream of retirement. 
  4. Many in revered and crucial professions are saying they would not recommend their children follow them into their field because the work has been distorted beyond repair.

In sum, we feel work in our time and place is a spiritual need the Church must serve. 

OK. Some of that resonates. Anything to add from a uniquely Christian perspective?
At one point Christians spoke of seven deadly sins:  lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. All of us likely agree such sins cause problems in any setting, but don’t they seem almost normalized in our work culture? Idolatry at work is also widespread and accepted. 

So, brokenness, fractures, and sin, and work is no exception. I guess I’m also bothered by the hollow feeling my work doesn’t matter, ultimately. 
That is a key concern. Across our culture, people want more meaning and purpose in work. No-one wants to be a mere cog. Working merely for money is not noble enough for the human spirit: we desire fruitful, true, and good work. Other spiritual challenges persist as well: we all grieve for friends who feel defined, demeaned, trapped, enslaved, or addicted by their work

How does a Faith & Work Ministry address these issues?
The Faith & Work Ministry brings the power of the gospel to bear on work. Work’s original goodness and purpose is being restored by Jesus: fractures will be healed, brokenness replaced by wholeness, freedom and dignity restored. We desire a community animated by the gospel in its work; one humbled and sacrificially bearing the cross. After all the gospel is only for the humble, the weak, the thirsty, the sick, the sinners. Jesus said “Those who are well have not need of a physician.” When we maintain our work is “just fine” and doesn’t need the active presence and power of Christ, then we are in danger.  

Is the Faith & Work Ministry primarily about serving individuals?
No. We feel God is moving in our time to renew work itself through the hope and broad justice of the gospel. The Church must participate in his mission. God can bless our city through a renewal of work. The task of the Church is to follow Jesus: he is at work... on work.

The church is almost 2000 years old. Why do you believe God is focussing on work now?
Great question. The timing is mysterious. Work was a concern in the Reformation, but, generally, work hasn’t been a central concern of Christians. “Why now?” is the question. To offer a parallel: Why did God wait until the 18th and 19th centuries to tackle slavery? Why did William Wilberforce and crew awaken to slavery’s evil just then? I think it was a unique combination of cultural developments (slavery had grown into a major economic force) and a re-reading of the Bible in light of their own times.

And you think something similar is happening now?
Yes. Work has changed. Before the Industrial Revolution, 97% of the workforce was connected to food production. Now it is less than 2%. Formerly, most work was done with our hands and we could see its fruits, but not anymore. The Industrial Revolution, the Information Age, and a growing cultural obsession with work and the economy have paradoxically demeaned work and alienated workers. Even greater change is on the horizon. The cultural setting is primed for an inside out reconsideration of work.

That is the cultural shift. What is the new understanding of the Bible?
Two developments over the past 40 years, or so, have made work a core Christian concern: 

  1. People are reading the Bible as a single, unified narrative from Genesis to Revelation. This approach reveals work as a central theme from Genesis 1&2 to Revelation 22.
  2. Many are taking the resurrection and the physical, eternal destiny of the New Heavens and the New Earth seriously. This renewed physical world will require work to flourish.

The implications of these new perspectives are just now unfolding in churches and seminaries.

Any last thoughts? 
I’m thankful for this discussion. Our call as Christians is twofold: (1) Listen to God speak in his Word and in our circumstances, and (2) to step forward in obedience. When we read the Word, we’re convinced that rediscovering meaning and purpose and combatting brokenness and injustice in work is a crucial act of obedience, a path to freedom and flourishing. We’re humbled by this calling. 


Commissioned for Work: Joseph Chang

Portraits of Grace is a snapshot into the lives of the people at King's Cross Church. As "kingdom minded, kingdom people," we recognize God's work in every detail of our lives. We invite you to meet the people of our church.


I grew up being told by people (who were miserable at their jobs), "just do something you love." I think a lot of us interpret this kind of advice to mean that our career, occupation, job (whatever we want to call it) has the ability to satisfy us and provide us with an identity. We also want our work to positively impact the world (even if we don't know what that means, exactly). Further, we're taught that there should always be a separation between church and state, or in this case, professional life. Somehow no-one tells you to bring faith into dialogue with work: the silence says a lot. In sum, we are always seeking for work to "work for us." 

Through the Theology of Work course, I've learned that work, even the insignificant and mundane aspects of our work, is significant to God. In our work, we are being called to co-create with Christ in establishing His kingdom right where we are, for example in our broken work environments. Even if we don't have our ideal, fulfilling "career job" in hand (I struggle with this a lot, I mean, I studied engineering and I feel like my mind is wasted in doing mostly manual labor in my lab), God still calls me to be an ambassador of Christ in all situations and, oddly, through heeding this call I end up participating in that world impacting work we all desire.   

My struggle with not having my "career job" has shown me that God is not most pleased with me when I finally land that job which gives me an identity. Instead, in the Gospel, He has given me a higher identity as His son and in this identify I find my way in following Jesus. 

For me, giving my work to the rule of Jesus means that I need to image Jesus in seeing others, including my co-workers, as fellow humans, as creations-in-the-image-of-God. In the current climate of my lab, that means taking a priestly role in interceding and mediating between people with years of bitterness toxifying their interactions and restoring those who've been persistently devalued.  

I've been told to always cultivate professional relationships into a network, and while I don't mean to downplay networking, in this calling as a son of God I've received a challenge to go beyond seeking my own good out of relationships. I am learning to not just help co-workers because, eventually, their work will become my work, but to genuinely support them as a friend so they can find rest, feel cared for as a human being, and have a voice.

People ask, "Do you find joy in what you do at work?" For a long while my response was no. But over time, as I began to understand my partnership with God in His redemptive story, I've come to see what I do at work differently. In accepting God's call for my current work, I can look upon the relationships I've developed at work over the past five years and find reason to rejoice because some of my co-workers are interested in a Gospel that puts our faith into actions. And I can rejoice because God has shown me the value and goodness of being a trustworthy friend, wherever my work takes me.

I don't have it all together, but just as baptism is an outward sign and seal of God undertaking an internal change, denoting a beginning of the Christian life, being commissioned to work is a beginning of further accountability and transformation in walking with Jesus where once I did not know he had a role to play and life to give.


New Vision and Core Values

I'm very excited to share our new vision and core values with you, for King's Cross Church. We felt the need to revamp and refocus our vision, after our initial first 5 years as a church plant, having now been established as a particular church in our Presbytery. 

My hope and prayer is that this vision statement and core values will serve our church in the specific and unique calling God has placed upon our growing church, here in Flushing. During our leaders' retreat, we mapped out some of how this would breath new life into how we think about discipleship ministry, community groups, membership classes and preaching. 

This Fall, I am setting aside a special period in our Sunday Sermon Series to focus on each of these values specifically. During the rest of this year, our elders and pastoral staff will be working hard with our leaders to integrate this into our leadership culture. 

I’d like to encourage you to read and understand the vision and values. Take a moment tonight to pray over our church with this vision--that this would unite our efforts to pursue kingdom life together. 

-Robert 


VISION STATEMENT

King’s Cross Church is
a community of broken people
following Jesus
in the story of how he is renewing
our neighborhood and our lives.

Broken people... following Jesus. 

We may rightly say that this is at the heart of what being a Christian is about. It's also at the heart of our vision statement. Our vision statement tells us not only who we are, but what we are striving together towards. Here's the breakdown of why every part of this matters to us:
 

A COMMUNITY. The concept of communal life of the church encompasses both our gathering to worship the Triune God both in formal [Sunday] worship and informal [community groups, praise and prayer nights, etc.] worship. It also encompasses our scattering, which takes our kingdom life outside the spaces we worship together in, and understands that the life of the church calls us to be faithfully present in all of life.

BROKEN PEOPLE. Jesus made it clear why he had come to live among us when he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). By extension, we understand the Church exists to continue that same inviting call to broken sinners who are desperately in need of God’s reconciling grace. This means that we are not about becoming “better” people, but rather, people who rely on and are filled with the only one who was good, the Lord Jesus Christ.

FOLLOWING JESUS. We believe that spiritual growth happens when people simultaneously grasp the depth of their own brokenness and the height of God’s love and grace for them in Jesus. This is the re-creative power of the gospel: to turn us from our false-gods, and receive and embrace the incredible adoption we have, as God’s children and heirs of his kingdom. (Romans 8:16-17)

We also understand that following Jesus means we are free to pursue others good and wellbeing. Our lives take on the contours of his life as we grow in our relationship with him, which means we will be growing in a deeper desire and capacity to dwell with others, for the sake of pursuing their good and flourishing.

THE STORY OF HOW HE IS RENEWING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD AND OUR LIVES. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is literally the most beautiful and good news we could imagine; and like all news there is a story of how this news comes to us. Scripture tells us that we are caught up in the grand story of Creation, The Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.

Because of the fall, sin brought all of God’s good creation under what Ecclesiastes puts so well, “...there is nothing new under the sun.” We live in a world crying out in “sackcloth and ashes,”--biblical imagery of decay and corruption. The gospel is such good news because it tells us, upon the finished work of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection--Jesus has begun to make “all things new,” in a world where sin has made all things old.

Therefore our role in the story is to live a missional life--It means we are seeking to see the kingdom of God changing and transforming our Flushing neighborhood, block by block, and our lives, day by day, as we dwell together.*


Core Values

Core values describe how we will embody our vision and help shape how we behave as a church.

REDISCOVERING THE GOSPEL | proclamation

The gospel message tells us that God so loved his fallen creation that he sent his one and only son, Jesus, to renew all things through his kingdom. We believe the gospel is not merely how we receive grace and pardon for our sins, but in fact, the gospel is at the heart of how we experience the love and person of Jesus. Through the gospel, we are drawn together as a family. It is in this life of the family that we most deeply experience the power of the gospel at work in our lives.

REDEFINING THE GOOD LIFE | transformation

As we experience the deep heart-work of being made more like Jesus, we are given new desires, new dreams, and a new heart. Our world is redefined by who God is and what he has done for us which gives a completely new way of seeing the things we get our deepest identity and meaning and purpose from.

REFLECTING OUR NEIGHBORS | incarnation

Jesus entered into our world and shared all of life with us. Therefore, we desire to live and dwell with others in the same way. This means we want to be so embedded in our neighborhood that it colors the way we worship and live. It also means that we worship and cultivate our faith in ways that are relevant and relatable to neighbors and non-christians.

REIMAGINING FLUSHING | restoration

We want to be able to reimagine Flushing in light of God’s story, understanding what peace and flourishing of God’s kingdom would look like, here on earth. This means we want to foster a genuine appreciation for the ways God is already at work in our neighborhood. It also means we are called to address the brokenness, injustice, and oppression through intercessory prayer, engaging in mercy, (meeting basic needs,) and doing justice, (generous sharing of our resources and voice for our others’ good.)

REPLICATING CHURCH | multiplication

Whether in discipleship relationships, community groups, or raising up leaders, we believe a sign of true growth and flourishing is through multiplying. This also applies to how we envision our church growing, as, we would rather grow outward, seeking to plant like-minded churches to further share the gospel with those yet unreached in our city.


*You might wonder how this could apply to those of us who live outside of Flushing? When we say, "the story of how he is renewing our neighborhood and our lives," we can embrace the fact that as a church, we have corporately been given a goal, a vision for the kingdom of God to further manifest itself in Flushing, and at the same time, recognize that God has given us individual callings--"our lives"--meaning, where we work, where we live, etc., we have individual callings to pursue the kingdom of God there, without denying our corporate calling, to love and serve Flushing's good, too. 


Rest

I’m tired.
I’m burnt out.
I need to take a break.

These are common refrains I hear every week as I live and serve in a busy city amongst people with even busier lives. Few of us can remember the last time we felt fully ourselves, constantly moving on to the next thing on our to-do list, endlessly multitasking and never being whole — never fully present. Maybe we’ve even defined ourselves by busyness or achievement, or prided ourselves in being informed and active about the world. Certainly much can be said about the busy pattern of our lives and hearts, but I’ll have to save that for another time.

Today I only want to address the specific concern of getting rest — real. deep. wholehearted. rest. Jesus promised such rest to his disciples in the presence of the Holy Spirit in John 14:27:

Peace [or wholehearted rest] I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you.

Why is the rest that Jesus promises so elusive to people in the church — especially among those who serve in the church? I believe the core of the problem, especially when it comes to living and practicing our faith or leading others in the faith, is that we confuse the rest that Christ offers with the rest the world offers. They are not the same and we sometimes fool ourselves thinking we can be wholly and spiritually rested and restored merely by getting physical rest.

I’m certainly not discounting physical rest. Some of us at least need physical rest because… well… we’re physically exhausted. I’m grateful that our church values rest enough to write it into the practices of our ministry philosophy, but sometimes we confuse sleep and not-having-anything-to-do with the wholehearted rest Jesus desires for us. If we are tired from serving in the church or find ourselves depleted from loving our friends and neighbors with the love of Christ, getting more sleep or freeing up our personal schedules and responsibilities will only get us part of the way toward restoration and renewal.

When I hear from tired people in the church, “I need a break,” my first reaction sounds like, “Of course! Rest is good and very much needed! But what are you going to do during this break?” In other words, “You currently feel spiritually exhausted and depleted. What will you do and practice to restore your spiritual strength?” We were not meant to live our Christian lives on a constant roller coaster of spiritual fullness and spiritual emptiness. We are not meant to serve with all our might until we feel dead inside then “take a break” only to start the cycle all over again. Yet that is what we often see in our lives! How can we live in such a way that gives us the endurance to live the life that Jesus calls us to live — one that fully practices love, service, and sacrifice yet also cultivating the shalom wholehearted rest he promises us through the Holy Spirit?

We can only live as God’s people if we remain tethered to the source of our spiritual strength. I know of two foundational practices that will root us in love: (1) being constant in prayer, and (2) meditating and engaging with scripture. Surely this is not everything; it seems so “basic”. But I know of no spiritual life apart from these life-giving practices.

If you are feeling empty, exhausted, tired — if you are “taking a break” — perhaps you will want to consider what kind of rest you really need. Don’t confuse the rest of this world for the rest that Christ gives us. Paul prayed for the church in the busy commercial center of Ephesus, saying,

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

I extend that prayer for us in the church that having been running on the fumes of our last “break” to move us to drink from the fountain of life that flows with the riches of his glory. May his strength given to us through his spirit enable us to live lives that give the love of Christ physical dimensions — breadth and length and height and depth — in the way we embody his love to others in our life and service.


Faith @ Work 4/15 Gathering

On April 15th, the Faith & Work Ministry hosted its third Faith @ Work Gathering inviting church members from Living Faith Community Church and King’s Cross Church, regular attendees, friends, and family to join the conversation of Faith @ Work and answer some pressing questions: Why do we work? Can our respective industries be redeemed? What would work look like, in a biblical context? How do we apply biblical knowledge and help our industries thrive? What is a “calling”?

While work can be grueling and each field with its unique pain points, coming together to explore how work can be redemptive filled the room with hopefulness. There were dynamic and fruitful conversations taking place in every corner of the venue leading everyone to pray for one another and each other’s workplace. 

15 different fields of work, 21 groups, and 2 hours later, we walked away desiring to further this conversation of work and dedicate ourselves to the mission of being salt and light in our workplace and the world.

So where does this all lead? 

Ultimately, we are seeking to unlearn broken perceptions of work. We want to continue addressing questions about work and what God always intended it to be through classes the Faith & Work ministry offers, alongside with the continuation of regular large gatherings. With the understanding of the Great Commission - go and make disciples of all nations - it is our desire to see brothers and sisters empowered to go into the workplace, fully supported by the Church through a Commissioning by sending them into the workplace and homes with hope and encouragement.