gRACE: The Foundation of Diversity in the Church

The title of this post is also the name of our new sermon series that begins this Sunday.

Before you think... "yeah, yeah.. here goes Matt again... trying to get me in the door at church."     STOP!!!! 

Do I want you to join us?  ABSOLUTELY YES.  But please don't dismiss this post as just another annoying sermon series announcement. 

This series is about a journey that God has been taking me and my family on the last few years.  Sunday will be an opportunity for me to share some tough truth that is leading me to daily repentance.  This Sunday and the rest of this series we will expose a blind spot in our church and other churches around us... Sin that most people in church are okay to just leave alone. 

We'll expose  RACISM in the church as evidenced by the lack of diversity in churches that exist in diverse communities. Gone are the days of separate water fountains, bus seats and bathrooms...

BUT, it does seem that we prefer in the church to Keep Em Separated (sorry for The Offspring reference).

In this series we'll talk about God's heart for the nations and will reflect on the diversity that existed in the early church and some of the things the Apostle Paul had to say about grace, unity and loving community in the context of the diverse early church.  We'll see that the way a church lives out the disciple making mission of Jesus in the city will either encourage or discourage racial and social diversity.  We'll work hard to learn how to foster a "grace culture" in our church so that people of all backgrounds, social classes and circumstances can find community, can grow in relationship with Jesus and can live out the disciple making mission of Jesus together.

I hope you will join us this Sunday!!!  MORE INFO ABOUT OUR SERVICE

Baptizing Anna Claire


I'm baptizing my big girl tomorrow.  I'm so proud of her and am grateful for her faith in Jesus and her desire for people around her to know the goodness of Christ.  

A few weeks ago we were having our nightly family time together before the kids go to bed...  We usually read something from the Bible, pray together and even sing.  This is also one of those moments in our day when the kids ask questions.  On that night Anna Claire said: "Dad, its time for me to get baptized."  

Anna Claire, what do you think makes you ready to get baptized?  "Well, I know that I need God's forgiveness and I want my life to belong to him... and I want Him to use me to bring my friends to Jesus too."  Have you talked to God about this?  Did you tell him you are giving your life to him and want the death  & resurrection of Jesus to bring about forgiveness in your life?  "No, I have not told him that yet."  Maybe you should.  "Can I now?"  Of course.  

With some tears...
"God, I know that I sin and disobey all the time.  Please forgive me.  God, I am giving my life to you.  I want to be with you in heaven.  Thank you for sending Jesus to rescue and forgive me.  In Jesus name... Amen." 
Simple faith. I'm reminded of the time when the disciples thought a group of children were bothering Jesus.  Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 19:14

NEW ORLEANS FRIENDS:
When we announced Anna Claire's Baptism several friends asked... Don't you mean Charlotte (our infant daughter)?  The question was asked because in our community, with the predominant religious tradition being Catholicism, most people are used to infant baptism.  In our tradition we believe the Bible teaches that Baptism should occur after a person surrenders his/her life to Jesus and receives forgiveness from God made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Baptism, to us, is an external picture of new found faith.  Christ died, was burred and rose again... we die to ourselves as we surrender our lives to Christ... beginning a new spiritual life in relationship with God.  Baptism happens AFTER we surrender to Jesus, accept his forgiveness and enter relationship with Him.  We believe the best way to display what Jesus did through baptism is to baptize by immersion.  We believe John the Baptist baptized Jesus this way... so we do as well.  

INVITATION:
If you live close and desire to join us for her baptism tomorrow please simply show up at our service!  We'd love to have you! We start at 10AM and will conclude about 11:30AM.  Baptisms will take place during the last 20 minutes of our service.  MORE INFO

2500 Volunteers Rebuilding 350 Homes

On the morning of Wednesday, August 29, 2012 I found myself sitting at a coffee shop in Germantown, TN with my friend and fellow pastor Sam Shaw.  Sam and his church are partners with our church plant in the New Orleans area.  He is also a great friend. 

That day was a tough one.  My family was in Memphis because we were on the run from hurricane Issac.  During that coffee meeting the storm was pounding the city we love.  We were still unsure if we would have a home to return to in a few days.  For someone who lost everything in Katrina back on August 29, 2005 it was a bit unnerving. 

Sam prayed with me and encouraged me like great Christian friends do... then he says: "Matt, if this thing is bad and causes substantial damage to your community would you be interested in having 1200-1500 volunteers come to the New Orleans area to rebuild over 100 homes in 8 days?" 

WAIT... WHAT?!  "Are you crazy" I said.  "It's no joke, I'm a part of an organization called Eight Days of Hope and that is what we do when disaster strikes, we show up to help in a big way so we can show the love of Christ to a hurting community."  He told me that once the dust settled and we see that there is a need then he would connect me to his friend Steve Tybor, the President of Eight Days of Hope.

Well, as you all know the damage was significant.  About 20 minutes from where I live, in Laplace, over 8500 homes sustained significant damage from the storm.  So I called Sam and he gave me Steve's cell number.  After talking with Steve I still did not believe it.  100 homes in 8 days seems a bit impossible.  As a pastor I am not in the business of impossible, God can do anything through his willing people... but this seemed like a stretch.  Steve assured me that God would enable great work in our community if it was His will and if we have Faith in Him for the fruit of our effort.

Well, he was right!  Eight days of Hope under promised and this week is over delivering.  If you asked Steve... it is not because they are special, it is because God is BIG and has a plan for our pain.  Hope is being born in Laplace, LA because... not 1200 people but 2500 faith filled people showed up to work on homes in our city!  There are not 100 homes being rebuilt but upwards of 350 homes will be worked on this week! 

God's love is on display in Laplace and Hope is being born in hearts.  Thank you God for the lesson on FAITH.  Thank you Steve for teaching it.

Check out the Times Picayune article from today!

Rebuild 100 Homes in EIGHT DAYS! Come Help!

I was introduced to Eight Days of Hope by Dr. Sam Shaw, one of our partner pastors in Memphis, TN.  I met with Sam for coffee right after my family evacuated to Memphis during the Hurricane this past fall.  When he told me he was involved in an organization that could rebuild at least 100 homes in 8 days I did not believe him but committed to follow up with the contacts he had given me.

Then I met Steve Tybor, the President and founder of Eight Days of Hope.  He shared stories of how they got started and how peoples lives were impacted by his LARGE crew of contractors, construction workers and just regular Joes.  I knew Steve was a christian and that his organization was founded to serve because of Steve's Christianity but I wanted to know that the Gospel would be central if Eight Days of Hope came to the New Orleans area.

A lot has happened the last few months.  We've partnered with local churches and associations and with the parish.  Funds are being raised.  Housing has been secured, food trailers are coming. And people are excited to have help!

In a couple of months hundreds of men and women will descend on Laplace, LA armed with hammers, paintbrushes, supplies and the Gospel of Christ.  900 people are already on board for this event.  I am very excited!  


Here is where you come in:     I want to invite you to join us!  We need more construction workers, contractors and regular joes to come serve our city.  Dates are March 9-16. To learn more and to register go to:

www.eightdaysofhope.com  Click "VOLUNTEER"

The event is FREE of charge. Food & housing is provided.
   PLEASE let us know if you register to come.  Our hope church family would love to spend some time with you while you are here.  E-Mail

Hope Church: FOR OUR CITY

Like many churches, we believe Jesus has redeemed us from our sins through his death. We believe that when we give our lives to Jesus that his death counts for us.

For many “christians” this is where the story ends... they are simply in a holding pattern waiting for eternity or simply continuing along in life like nothing happened. That is not Christianity. We do not believe that Jesus died only to rescue us! He also died so we can join him on a great adventure. This adventure involves seeing the city where we are planted know the the transforming love, grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

The implications of this for the Hope Church are that every follower of Jesus is given the task to radically and sacrificially love and serve the city we are in. Ultimately this means that Hope Church is FOR OUR CITY.


HERE IS A GOOD STORY FROM THIS WEEK TO ILLUSTRATE:

For months Hope Church made plans to serve Jefferson Parish during the Metairie Mardi Gras parades. We gathered volunteers, raised funds and prepared to serve the people of our city in small and practical ways during the parades. The plan was to distribute, free of charge, 10,000 water bottles and free coffee to parade goers. Unfortunately our plans sort of fell apart...

READ THE REST OF THE STORY



Once you read the story the following video will make sense. We have been posting it on blogs and in chat rooms where 1000's of people around the country have been talking about our city and Hope Church this week.