Blog Archives: January 2011 — December 2011

06
December
2011

The Conquering King and the Tender Shepherd

  Daily Reading Isaiah 40:9-11 > Sir Ector says of Lancelot, "thou wert the meekest knight who ever ate in the hall with ladies, and thou wert the sternest knight that ever pulled spear out of the breast." Medieval knighthood was not a compromise between ferocity and meekness. In this passage we have the "arm" of the Lord as both ferocious and meek. But for what purpose?  To redeem the world through the coming of One who is mighty to save.  The prophet paints a picture of a Sovereign God who will come with power and might, and ...
05
December
2011

The Already and the Not Yet

  Daily Reading Isaiah 9:6-7 >   O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here Until the Son of God appear.   Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.   This is the first stanza and refrain from a hymn that many of us find ourselves singing during the Advent season. The lyric conveys both sorrow and sturdy hope, but the music behind it is decidedly morose: the melody is from a 15th century funeral hymn. So why do we (and multitudes before us) sing a dirge in anticipation ...
04
December
2011

A New Phase

  Daily Reading Isaiah 7:10-14 >   God sends the prophet Isaiah to assure Ahaz, the king of Judah, of God's protection in a coming invasion that threatens the kingdom. God asks Ahaz to request a sign and promises to send whatever sign he requests. Ahaz refuses, and though it seems laudable that he doesn't "put the Lord to the test," the king shows he really wants to do things his way. Ahaz's refusal to ask for a sign wearies God, so God chooses His own sign.   God sends the sign to communicate to Ahaz, who is a descendent of King ...
03
December
2011

Trapped

  Daily Reading Exodus 14:21-29 >   Have you ever felt trapped between your circumstances and your limitations? The Israelites find themselves trapped between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptian army. Their newfound freedom now seems like a bad idea, a miscalculation, certain death.  However, God doesn't abandon.  God comes to their rescue.   Whether we realize it or not, like the Israelites, we are all trapped--trapped between sin and our inability to save ourselves.  In the face of this, God sends Jesus to save us, the event w ...
02
December
2011

Stepping Into God’s Faithfulness

  Daily Reading Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6 >   Stepping out into the unknown can be quite terrifying, and yet, this is exactly what Abram does as he steps out in faith when God tells him to go.  Why would he do that? Abram goes because he is given a mission, and believes that the God who is calling him will be faithful to His promises. God promises to guide him, bless him, make from him a great nation, and through him bless others. God's intention is evident from the very beginning: through Abram (Abraham) the world will be blessed. This ...
01
December
2011

Advent: A Season for Longing

Fred Harrell
"I just want more!" My eldest child said that in his early years.  After candy, after dessert, after opening presents, and it was always such an honest plea.  It makes perfect sense too.  Who doesn't want more of a good thing? To him, the logic was inescapable and simple.  I just want more. I think it's the theme of Advent as well.  Perhaps it's the theme of our whole lives.  Maybe it's because we were built for more, and there is more to be had.   My upbringing did not utilize a liturgical calendar of any sort.  The word "Advent" was ...
01
December
2011

The Great Physician

  Daily Reading Genesis 6:9-14, 17-22 >   When you get sick, does food taste different to you? Do you refuse to eat because even the thought of food repulses you? Do you feel hot, then cold, then hot again? Do you find yourself exhausted, yet unable to sleep? Illness prevents us from properly relating to our environment. Like physical illness, sin is a condition that prevents us from relating properly to our surroundings and to God. This is the state of humanity when God calls Noah to make an ark. We are no different. Like the people ...
30
November
2011

The Promise of a Coming...

  Daily Reading Genesis 3:14-15, 21 >   The last text you might expect when reading an Advent devotional is God's curse of the serpent from the Genesis account of the Fall. But this text holds the key to Christmas; here begins the promise of a coming Messiah, culminating in Jesus' birth. The serpent deceives Eve, and she and Adam choose to believe his lie, that "God is not good; you need what God has forbidden to be really fulfilled." Hard to believe they would fall for this line, isn't it? But equally incredible is God's response. In ...
29
November
2011

Believing in the Goodness of God

  Daily Reading Genesis 3:1-13, 22-24 >   Epistemological rebellion. Not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the story of Adam and Eve, the serpent, the garden, and eating the forbidden fruit, is it?  But it's worth the effort to understand that little phrase, because behind it are big consequences, both then and now. Epistemology is the science or study of  knowledge - what is actually knowable, how do we know what we know, and so on. Adam and Eve had been trusting God as truth teller until this point. The serpent ...
28
November
2011

Living into Our Edenic Identity

  Daily Reading Genesis 1:26-31 >   As we look forward to the coming of Jesus, we anticipate seeing in Him everything that we could be. In Colossians the Apostle Paul calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God,” and the “firstborn” of all creation. When Jesus comes, God begins remaking the creation, and that means that He begins remaking us into His image. The original glory, intimacy, and purpose that characterized our image-bearing in Genesis is re-energized in Christ. Our broken identities, reflected in our difficult relationships ...
03
November
2011

5 Minutes

Julie Lockwood
"You have 5 minutes." That's what our homeless neighbors at CityTeam are told when they walk into the clothing center. CityTeam's five-minute rule empowers each individual with the freedom of choice and ensures equity for the hundreds coming through its doors. Two weeks ago, men looking for a warm jacket found bare racks and empty hangers. They came to CityTeam hoping for clothing, but left disappointed and with nothing new to shield them from the dropping temperatures. This is not how it should be. We want to show the impoverished of ...
03
November
2011

I'm Not a Pastor, After All

Ann Ku
Sometimes theology tires me.  I avoid debates about predestination versus free will, and dislike conversations around the origin of evil.  Why?  Because these questions will never be answered, and talking about them doesn't help me live more faithfully as a Christian. In my mind, theology without practical application is useless, particularly for those of us who live in this challenging urban context.   However, not all theology is merely theoretical. In November, I'll be attending the "Newbigin House Conference: Leadership for the ...
20
October
2011

Why Bother With The Old Testament?

Stephen Gundlach
If you’re anything like me, reading the Old Testament can be a task filled with moments of intrigue followed by boredom and at worst, moral disturbance.  The Bible contains enthralling human drama and mystifying supernatural occurrences mixed in with long genealogies and disturbing acts committed in God’s name.  The latter seem completely incompatible with Jesus’ teaching causing some people to question why they should bother reading it at all.   This past Sunday at City Church, Old Testament scholar Dr. Peter Enns addressed this ...
13
October
2011

What Makes Jesus Mad

Fred Harrell
Reflections on 15 (an occasional series during our 15th year of ministry)   There's a place in the gospel of Mark, Chapter 10, where Jesus gets mad. I think anytime he gets mad about something we should listen up. Here's the passage:   People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.   ...
22
September
2011

A New Church...in San Francisco?

Fred Harrell
Reflections on 15*   "This place is a graveyard for church planters," an experienced church-planting strategist in the area warned me. That was encouraging! Others repeatedly told me how many times a church planter had grandiose ideas of starting a church in San Francisco, only to see it fail within a year or so. Other pastors told me that while they were barely surviving, the city was obviously very hostile to their efforts, and they felt the need to entrench themselves and fight back, create a fortress mentality. "We'll be here when all ...
09
September
2011

How Does A Christian Grieve?

Rachael Butler
He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth. —Isaiah 25:8   There's something unnatural about death— it strikes against the trusting, attachment forming parts of our souls. The loss of a loved one can impact our well-being, our understanding of who God is and our ability to engage fearlessly in relationships. In the story of Scripture, death did not exist in the Creator's original, good plan for us. Death was a result of sin. A ...
08
September
2011

Introducing Newbigin House of Studies

Scot Sherman
From its earliest days, City Church has sought to be more than just a church; rather, to be the catalyst for a movement of new churches and ministries that would renew the city spiritually, socially and culturally. Newbigin House of Studies is a ministry that will dramatically increase our ability to see that dream become a reality.   This year City Church entered into a historic partnership with Western Theological Seminary (Holland, Michigan), a 165 year old graduate school affiliated with our denomination, the Reformed Church in ...
01
September
2011

Provocative Church

Fred Harrell
Let's face it, being a Christian in San Francisco is not a bowl of cherries. It can be hard work. Scary work. Any Christian who lives in an urban secular environment has a whole host of new questions to answer, not only to others, but also to themselves. I've heard many people tell me that moving to San Francisco exposed their faith as either real or false. The City does this to us, and I think it's a good thing. There's a certain honesty of faith that can develop as we live outside highly Christianized locations. As City Church enters its ...
01
September
2011

Meet Stephen Gundlach

In only six weeks, Stephen Gundlach has mastered the San Francisco coffee scene. Using espresso as the measuring stick, he's calculated that Blue Bottle is the best, Four Barrel is better than Ritual, and Starbucks is the worst. His opinions have caused a few discussions in the office, but we've learned that he's a trusted, jack of all trades.   Before moving to SF, Stephen attended Florida State University and Knox Theological Seminary in South Florida. At Knox, he completed his M.A. in Christianity and Culture, and now has one year left ...
24
August
2011

Meet Julie Lockwood

Julie Lockwood loves everything about San Francisco, even MUNI. Her fondness for the City began as a child growing up in nearby San Carlos and has continued since moving back in 2007. This panhandle resident loves San Francisco's sense of style and thrift because as she puts it, "What's not to love about cool, free clothes!" Julie also proudly mentioned that she gets her inspiration for clothing and attire from riding the 21 Hayes bus. We were surprised to learn about Julie's affinity for the bus system, but she enjoys the beautiful and ...

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