Good Friday

Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 12.00.32 AM.pngGood Friday marks a day that doesn’t seem very good. A day that seems filled with darkness starts with a prayer. A prayer from Jesus to his Father. Jesus asks for this cup to pass yet motivated by his love for God and us, he continues down the path that would lead to his death. One of his closest friends then shows up to hand him over to those plotting to kill him. At this point his fate has been sealed. From here, Jesus is dragged through the wilderness and being beaten, then thrown in front of judges with trumped up charges, false witnesses, and false accusations. Although an innocent man, Jesus is then delivered to be crucified. The crucifixion of jesus is an agonizing three hours as he hangs there, not only loosing his life, but feeling the weight sin and separation from his Father. Friday ends with what seems to be a sad ending. Jesus’ body is taken down and buried, and the disciples begin to mourn the loss of their Lord.

Morning Reading: Mark 14:43-15:15

Morning Prayer:

Father, I know that just like the apostles, I have betrayed you and I’ve turned my back on you. Father, I’m sorry for the ways that I’ve denied you and rejected you. As I remember the cross, remind me that all of those times that I’ve turned my back on you, has been taken from me. Thank you Father for being faithful although I am not. Continue to work on my heart and bring me closer to you.

Evening Reading: Mark 15:16-43

Evening Prayer:

Father, I know that it was my sin that put your son on the cross, and it was my sin that held him there. But because of the cross, that sinned was payed for, and I am now made clean. Thank you for that truth father. Thank you for you sacrifice. As I meditate on the cross, reveal to me your great love for me.

Maundy Thursday

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 12.46.25 AM By Thursday, events had been set in motion that could not be stopped. Judas had betrayed Jesus, the religious leaders had planned his arrest, and there was seemingly nothing to do but wait for the end. But Jesus instead gathers his 12 disciples in an upper room and instills in them both the Great Commandment to love one another and the Great Ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. And through these his disciples would have all they would need, both in the body and blood of their Lord and in his commandment to love as he would love them. And soon they would behold the very depth of God’s love, not only in the washing of their feet in the room but the washing of their souls on the cross.

Morning Reading: Mark 14:12-25

Morning Prayer:

Lord, we are unworthy objects of such divine love. As we watch Your Son dine with his betrayer and offer his own body for our betrayal, may we allow this powerful love to run its full course through our hollow hearts. Help us turn from our sin that cost Jesus his life, help us turn from betrayal that could cost us our own and help us understand it should have have been our body and blood spilled for guilt. Draw us close to the cross, seeing in it both the reality of our sin and the reality of your grace.

Evening Reading: John 13:1-20

Evening Prayer:

Jesus, we are humbled you would lower yourself to wash us, the Creator serving the creature. Thank you that you loved your own to the end, when the price of love was your own life. Forgive us for where we have forgotten the cost of our cleansing and have loved others cheaply. Help us receive our new commandment to love another as you loved us, and impress upon our hearts the unpayable debt of our salvation, a sum so large only uncreated blood could fill it. Prepare us for tomorrow Lord, to behold the hour of your death and our rebirth.

Holy Wednesday

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 12.08.01 AM.pngWednesday, a day that most of us would use to turn and run. Jesus, knowing full well that Judas was planning to have him killed, didn’t use this day as an excuse to hide or to think about himself, but stayed at a house with those who had no one else. The house was the home of Simon the leper, a person no one would touch.  And it was here Mary, who poured ointment over Jesus, was scolded while Jesus defended her and made her feel loved. In what should have been a dark day filled with fear, knowing what was about to happen, Jesus continued to love and care for those around him.

Morning Reading: Mark 14:1-2,10-11

Morning Prayer:

Father, humble me to know that just like Judas, I too have betrayed you. Just like the chief priests and the scribes, I too, would have sought to kill you. Despite all of this, you still loved me. You still gave yourself for me. Change my heart to dwell on the truth of your love that overcomes the truth of my depravity. Let me see the beauty in your forgiveness.

Evening Reading: Mark 14:3-9

Evening Prayer:

Father, make me into a person that worships you. Change my heart so that my response to you is that of the woman’s, who wasn’t just willing, but actually gave you all of her treasures. Like her, let my heart and my gaze be captured by you. Protect me from having a selfish and indignant heart like those who scolded the woman, and even when I fail remind me of the forgiveness that is found in your son.

Holy Tuesday

Untitled-4.001 Holy Tuesday sealed Jesus’ fate.   On that day, for various motivations, every level of religious leadership approached Jesus to question him.  Every one of them was left speechless and provoked, except one scribe.  And after this one last confrontation with the men who would kill him, he turned his focus to his disciples. He no longer engaged the crowd or the Jews or the Pharisee before his arrest, but the men closest to him.  He taught them what is to come at the closing of the age, to stand guard against false teaching, to expect suffering, but also to expect his return.

Morning Reading: Mark 11:20-12:40

Morning Prayer:

Father of truth, prepare me to meet Your Son at the cross.  As today on Holy Tuesday, when religious men tested your Son to accuse Him, let me by grace be found blameless, as Your Son was blameless.  Make me not the tenant, who loved what is not his, nor the Herodian who loved power, nor the Sadducee who loved personal understanding of scripture, nor the scribe who loved position.  Make me a lover of your Son Jesus.  Prepare me to behold the cross, and see in it all these alternate realities of my life ending as one Man’s life ends.  Bury my many hearts of sin with your Son and by grace make me what I’m not yet.

Evening Reading: Mark 12:41-13:37

Evening Prayer:

Father of judgment, prepare me to meet your Son at the cross.  I know when your wrath comes no other shelter can weather that storm.  Keep me on guard as the day approaches, as men deceive and preach false gospel.  Help me to look upon my due wrath being poured out on your Son and know I am secure, regardless of calamity.  Keep my eyes slanted skyward, my mind bent heavenward and my heart pounding toward Christ.  Teach me the lesson of the fig tree that the end is always near, everything counts and I need to stay awake.  Wake me Father, by grace, I pray in the name of your suffering, and soon to be glorified, Son Jesus.  Amen.

To Gladden the Heart of Man

To Gladden "[14] You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth [15] and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart." - Psalm 104:14-15 This past Sunday, I mentioned beer in our post service announcements as two of our members were moving to Bend, OR to work at the Deschutes Brewery.  Afterward, a few deacons stopped by to chat about it, mentioning some were concerned about speaking of alcohol from the stage and asked how they should respond.  I hope this blog suffices to address the issue of alcohol and how we should address it in the gathering.

We have to begin with God's design for alcohol, the reason he led man to create it.  Psalm 104:15 says he caused plants to grow for food and also for "wine to gladden the heart of man".  God gave man the grape to make wine through fermentation, and the purpose was to gladden the heart of man.  If you'll notice, he didn't give food or oil to gladden the heart of man but wine, setting aside wine as something that would have a specific effect on man.

When humanity fell in Genesis 3, we would become idol-makers.  We had lost communion with God and would spend thousands of years seeking a replacement for the "eternity" he had set in our hearts, an eternity sized gap meant to be filled with himself.  And we would make functional gods, things that would give us joy and meaning and relief from the pain we felt, alcohol being one of them.  And Noah would be the first recorded man in the bible to become "drunk" though excessive drinking after delivering his family from the flood, a man from which we all would descend.

As Jesus came to earth as a man, he would seek to recreate the broken creation that Adam had produced in eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  It's no coincidence, then, that Jesus' first public miracle would be to turn 150 gallons of water into wine at a wedding, wine that was then consumed by men and women who had already finished the first batch of alcohol.  This miracle was a statement not only of his power but his plan, that he would redeem the creation that God has meant for good, from people to the things people had made into idols.

Enter Living Stones Carson City.  We live and minister to an area hit hard with alcoholism, and many of us have first hand experience on the lives this sin can destroy.  Due to many compounding factors, from casinos to prostitution to all night liquor stores, Northern Nevada has one of the highest rates of abuse in the nation, and as a lover of this city and its people it breaks my heart.  Alcoholism is a dark reality that has produced reactions inside many believers to feel and think many different things about alcohol, for good or for bad.

So given the history in our state, how do we navigate these two sides, biblical text on God's design for alcohol (and the limits therein) and cultural context of abuse? Do we accept culture's practice and engage and promote drunkenness?  Or do we reject alcohol altogether and categorize it as sin?  Any theologian would admit both approaches are unfaithful to the bible and add to what God has said.  The call then of the Christian is to neither reject nor accept, but rather redeem alcohol for the glory of God, as Jesus did at the wedding at Cana.

Part of redeeming is walking patiently with those who are unable to fully accept this freedom in Christ and who will always struggle with it as an addiction.  Romans 14 is a great chapter about church unity, the context being Christians who are unable to walk in freedom through consuming food/wine offered to false gods because they are susceptible to idol worship, and complaining that others should do the same.  Paul lays out his argument that "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (v. 17), addressing both sides.  He says it is not good to do anything that causes your brother to stumble in front of them (i.e. what someone in their weakness considers sin for themselves) while commanding that we not pass judgment on anyone (i.e. those who do eat and drink while not walking in sin).  The big idea is unity and considering your brothers and sisters who struggle with that idol or addiction.

So how do I as the pastor do this on stage?  Practically, I must seek to redeem it while understanding there are those present who struggle with it.  This looks like me making a statement that drinking does happen in the life of most believers (myself included) in moderation while acknowledging some will struggle.  Alcohol is a good gift from God that man has a propensity to abuse.  To say anything else (or nothing at all) would be sinful, as silence in the church has traditionally been interpreted as taboo.  At the same time, to not give caveat of struggle is just as sinful and inconsiderate.

So, where do we go from here?  I think if we're to move forward as a church we have to have greater conviction than our license to drink or decision to abstain; we need the gospel.  The gospel is the great uniter, the great glue that holds the diverse church together.  And the reason we have had this issue is actually a great sign, as our diversity is increasing as people from all backgrounds come together to meet one another at the cross of our beautiful Savior and to partake in the body and blood of communion.

At the end of time, in Revelation 7, John gives us the beautiful picture of all types of people gathering around the Lamb to proclaim that "salvation belongs to our God", acknowledging their broken pasts and new futures because of the man Jesus dying for them in an incredible act of love.  Let's let that love and sacrifice season our conduct and speech as a church when it comes to this issue as we seek to make disciples in the city we love so dearly, until the day we go home or he comes back.

Easter at Living Stones

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 1.35.04 PMWhen I was in high school, a girl named Jessica invited me to youth group, and I went.  It was there a man named Max began to disciple me as a church kid who didn't understand the gospel.  And it was a woman from Texas who spoke the gospel at a weekend camp that God used to save me.  Three people played three different roles in bringing me to Christ and I'm indebted to each one for what they did, for I'm now part of God's family. As we gather for Easter next Sunday, there are people God's calling you fill a role for.  Maybe you'll invite a new family to the gathering.  Maybe you'll disciple someone new who shows up.  Maybe you're the pastor shares the gospel from the stage.  Regardless of the role you fill, your actions matter and are part of God's plan of redeeming people in our cities.

Pray how God would use you this Easter.  Invite people who need Jesus, disciple those who come and preach to those who will listen.  This is all part of our mission as the church, to make disciples.  Pray for the hallway conversations, followup cups of coffee, first time visits to community group and (God-willing) baptisms that will happen 3 months from now.  And pray God would remind you of the first day you accepted Jesus' cross and empty tomb, and what that meant.  Let's seek to make the love of our Savior known in places where it is not yet.

Love you all,

Pastor Fred

Care for the Capital Food Drive

nevada-state-capital-carson-city Living Stones, as a community we're made up of all kinds of people from all different backgrounds, but on a whole we mostly consist of families.  Young families, older families, married couples, mixed families, empty nesters, single parents, etc.  That isn't to say we don't consist of many single people, folks who will one day have families by the grace of God.  And all of us, as redeemed sinners, are part of God's family and the children of the almighty.  So as parents, future parents and Christians, I want to make you aware of something going on in our City. 

According to the Carson City School District, four hundred children will go to bed hungry this weekend in our town because their families do not have enough food.  Four hundred.  Four hundred kiddos all around us will lay awake tonight holding their aching stomachs.  So I want to ask you a question.  As a parent and Jesus-follower, are you ok with this?  I think anyone with a heart wouldn't be, let alone the representatives of God on earth.  So the question is what is Living Stones going to do about it.

Your leaders and I have gotten together and decided it's time as a church to step up and launch our first ever food drive beginning today.  We’ve simply called it the “Care for the Capital Food Drive”, and as a church we are going to step in the gap and not be ok with 400 kids being under-nourished in our backyard.  And to do it we are going to be partnering with an organization called 'Food for Thought' who discreetly provides hundreds of kids in our school district with food for them and their families for the weekend.  The drive is being launched today and will run the next 3 Sundays, leading up to Thanksgiving.  

So, what are we asking of you?  We are asking you simply to buy food.  Grab your families, your kids, you community group members, and get to the grocery store as often as you can afford to.  Pick up any one of these 11 items below, items that can be repackaged and given to kiddos and families.  And once you've bought them, bring those items to our gathering every Sunday and leave them at a marked location near the entrance.  It's as easy as that.

As a church family let’s demonstrate the love of God by meeting one of life’s most basic needs in the City we so dearly love, along with providing the ever-needed gospel of Jesus.  It's time for us to not just be in our city but for our city as well.  Love you guys.

Your Pastor,

Fred

Foods to Purchase:

-2.05oz Easy Mac and Cheese Cup -7.5oz. Beef Raviolis Cans/Cups -7.5oz. SpaghettiO’s Cans/Cups -7oz. Spaghetti and Meatballs Cans/Cups -7oz. Beefaroni Cans/Cups -Individual 4oz. Fruit Cups -Individual 4oz. Veggie Cups (Found at Walmart) -Cheese/Peanut Butter Crackers -Granola Bars -Individual Cereal Boxes or Cups -Gallon Size Plastic Ziplock Bags

The Move to The Brewery

Image As you may well know, we've been meeting at the Carson Community Center for nine months now as a Living Stones Core Group, and we've seen some amazing things happen.  From doubling in size, to six baptisms, to lives changed by the gospel, to me falling more in love with you guys, God has graciously moved.  The room we gathered in was nothing more than a school board meeting room when we got there, something we repurposed to have a place to gather to meet with God. And it's been very healthy and a gift from God for us to see that it's not a beautiful facility and attractional ministry that draws people to Christ; it's the love of God through His people.  And I'm thankful for that gift.

With that, your leaders and I came to the conclusion a while back that the community center wouldn't work for us long term.  We loved the people at the community center who rent us the space, and we really loved the price, but the room would never acoustically, environmentally, or practically be a viable place for us to meet long term.  And you guys have put up with its many shortcomings out of love for Christ, and as your pastor I want to say thank you for that.

So, after a lot of prayer amongst ourselves and conversations with our friends at the Brewery Arts Center, we have decided to rent their Performance Hall at 511 W King St as our primary gathering location. We will gather at 10 am every Sunday, beginning this weekend on July 21st.  The performance hall is a beautiful facility located in the heart of downtown Carson City that seats 150-250, depending on the setup, has production level equipment and lights for our worship and sermons, has a welcoming foyer for fellowship, and really lends itself to a Living Stones vibe.  It is a cool gift from God that has been provided though his providence.

So with the move coming this Sunday, it is imperative that we remember why we decided to plant a church in the first place.  And I think I can answer that for us in one word: Jesus.  Jesus has been, and will continue to be, the why and what of our mission, from the day eight people gathered in a living room in 2011 until today.  We want to plant a church because we love Jesus, and we love Jesus because we are forgiven sinners.  And in response to us being forgiven we now seek tell others about Jesus and the forgiveness he offers them. 

With that, what I would ask of you is two things.  First, please pray that God would use this facility to reach those who do not yet know Him.  We now have a better platform to present Jesus more clearly and we want it to be for the benefit of the kingdom.  And secondly, please pray about giving to support this move. Financially, we have enough in the bank to cover 2 years of rent, but we know there are other expenses such as staff, advertising, supplies, LS kids, musical equipment, etc that we will need to pay.  Please consider giving to help the kingdom of God to move forward in Carson City.

These are exciting times and I love being in this journey with you all. The city we have been called to needs the gospel desperately and God has called us alongside other gospel preaching churches to make disciples. Let's answer that call with our lives and continue to proclaim the good news as we always have, that all are sinners, judgement is coming, and God offers mercy.

Your Pastor,

Fred