Third City Podcast Episode 3 :: What is the Gospel?

It’s likely that not a single word is spoken more often within Christian circles than the ‘gospel.’ Or at the very least no single concept is utilized more regularly when explaining the faith and dialoguing about growing in our faith than the gospel. The gospel is a big deal! The gospel is a massive idea! In fact many times we are talking about the gospel and we don’t even know it. And then again there are also times we think we are talking about the gospel and we aren’t even close. Curiously this incredible and vital idea is often sorely misunderstood.

In this week’s Third City Podcast episode we seek to clarify the core components of the gospel. We answered this question: What is the Gospel?

Listen to this episode here.

If you have any questions or comments about this episode or if you have ideas, suggestions, or questions for future episodes please email us at thirdcity@parkcommunitychurch.org

The Altruistic Achiever :: Tracy’s Story

As a follow-up to our God@Work sermon from the It Matters series, we’d like to share some stories of those in our community who have experienced what it means to live out their faith in the workplace. This story is a part of a larger series written by Jackson Crum and Patrick Hurley. Let’s start with Tracy.

Generally speaking, most leaders are both goal-oriented and performance-driven or people first and person-centered. Tracy Scott is both. She is as kinetic as she is kind. She climbs career mountains as she considers the feelings of others.

Altruism, def. “Unselfish concern for the welfare of others; selflessness.”

There is a reason for Tracy’s love for people.

A little background here. Growing up, Tracy and her family lived a, “Keeping up with the Joneses” philosophy. Simply put, the parents wanted to be the best in the neighborhood. It applied to their religious practice as well.

This dialogue between Tracy and her mother typified this vapid existence.

“Mom, why are we going to church?”

“Because church is good for the community.”

“Oh.”

Needless to say at that point in Tracy’s little girl life her parents and family were not Christians. They were just good for the community. Then, when Tracy was eight years old, her youngest sister was born. Her name was Kristen. It should have been, “Kaboom!” When that little baby came into the world, she blew up the image of the family that wanted to always look good for the community and scattered it to the four winds.

“My sister was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that may or may not be extremely debilitating for the remainder of one’s life. It is not predictable, so we had no idea how badly it would affect Kristen. All we knew was that her entire right side was completely paralyzed and that she most likely would never walk or talk.”

Tracy explained further, “It changed my parent’s life. They suddenly asked, ‘Where is God in all this?’  Facing the reality of a child with disabilities sent them on a spiritual quest that ended with them both becoming Christians.”

Kristen was a miracle baby. God immediately began using her life to turn Tracy and her family around for Him. Their first thought was that this little girl was going to be helpless and physically needy. Big sister Tracy stepped up and took care of her sibling. That unselfishness opened her heart from which God’s agape love began to pour out of her.

No one thought Kristen was going to be healthy and fiercely independent for the rest of her life.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Through miracle after miracle, and lots of love, the Holy Spirit outshone everyone’s expectations.

Today, Kristen talks, walks, confronts challenges and is a successful accountant for a national corporation in the Chicago area.  When she tells people her personal story, they are stunned. God used her to set in motion a family spirituality that had been seriously lacking up to that point.

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“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 (ESV)

The name Kristen means, Follower of Christ. “It’s providential that the miracles presented to us through Kristen led both of my parents, and eventually me, to follow Jesus.”

Tracy’s dad had been highly accomplished, a trait she inherited from him. He grew up in a Christian home, had been an Eagle Scout, a Top Gun in the Navy, had attended an Ivy League college and held a Masters Degree from Harvard.

Impressive.

But, he had walked away from his faith. Now that he had recommitted his life to Christ, he was worried that Tracy would spiritually fall apart like he had done in college. So, he made a move to ensure that wouldn’t easily happen to her.

“My parents wanted to send me away to a Christian camp in Colorado just before I went off to college. It was designed for college students to be challenged in their Christian worldview. I didn’t want to go.”

“Not so fast,” said her dad.

“Normally, my parents are easy going but not this time, ‘YOU ARE GOING!’ they assured me. So, I went. It was the first time I experienced the concept of Christian community. It was also the first time my faith really began to grow deeper. It was awesome. I came home fired up for Jesus Christ. Then, my faith took a bit of a hit…”

The jolt she referred to was Santa Clara University. Tracy thought her faith would be strengthened by her college choice, but instead she found herself in theology courses where scripture was torn apart and biblical miracles were explained away.

She had been blindsided. It was not what Tracy had expected when she signed on there for college.

“I got involved in an InterVarsity bible study and hung on for dear life,” she laughed. Another professor told me, ‘We don’t encourage InterVarsity because they are not tolerant.’

This same professor pulled off her sweatshirt and revealed two men having sex on her t-shirt in class.

Tracy shook her head, “I had nothing against differences in doctrine but, I didn’t want these issues shoved in my face. The hypocrisy of my instructors proclaiming tolerance but silencing me from talking about a campus bible study was infuriating.  It was time for me to leave Santa Clara.”

This was not easy for Tracy since she had several scholarships there. But, her life with Jesus was more important to her. As the scripture said,

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” I Timothy 6:20-21 (ESV)

In 1994, after taking a year off from college to work and research scholarships, Tracy enrolled at Wheaton College in a suburb near Chicago. “It was absolutely amazing to be at a school where people wanted to learn about Jesus, rather than punch holes in Scripture.”

While there she was astounded at the attitude of many of her classmates towards the Christian chapels that were mandatory attendance for the student body.

“My contemporaries were griping about having to go to chapel. I couldn’t believe it! This was Wheaton College. This school brought in the greatest Christian speakers in the world! It was wonderful.”

She shook her head in amazement, “Coming from my experience at Santa Clara, it was hard for me not to get sassy with fellow students who didn’t grasp how amazing the culture was.”

Painfully shy growing up, Tracy confronted her reserved nature and majored in Communication. Furthermore, she took a series of five classes on, “Interpersonal Communication.”

She was not going to let her reserved nature win. “That course changed my life,” Tracy admits today.

Did it ever.

Two years later, her first job interview was to host a television show for a Christian station. While she ended up taking a job writing and producing, the shy girl had not only overcome her private side, she had obliterated it.

So began several years in the television industry.

Welcome to Outgoing Tracy.

She worked at Channel 38 in Chicago, later wrote and produced for the Discovery Channel and then the A&E Network and then she left to begin consulting with non-profits in communications and fundraising.

“I was not fulfilled just producing and hosting for secular television. I wanted to be a Christian spokesperson and help people do more meaningful work.”

God@work.

Tracy found her niche in fundraising, helping Christian organizations make millions of dollars to finance their ministries in order to reach people with the gospel.

Despite her ability to meet goals and achieve heights, Tracy always remembered something a woman at one of her secular television jobs said to her, “YOU are a Christian?” the woman asked in disbelief.  “But you’re so NICE.’ This floored me. Why was this so surprising to a non-believer? Being nice should be SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for those of us who follow Jesus.”

Thus was cemented forever, Tracy the businesswoman with goals and Tracy the Lord’s lover with compassion. Simultaneously.

God@work.

Her story of how she came to Park Community Church not only blessed her and her husband but their future pastor, as well.

“We’d been attending Park for about five years when I produced a video about our church to send out to potential men who would be interested in becoming our new pastor. One of them, Jackson Crum, loved the fact that we lived in the crazy culture of Chicago, accepted diversity, baptized people in the lake and were willing to grow creatively. He signed on to lead us. When we met he smiled at me, ‘You’re one of the people who made that video weren’t you?’ I smiled back.’ So cool.”

God@church.

Then came the apex of her influence on the world, both Christian and not.

Tracy tells the story, “I was meeting with one of my bosses who was in a high position of influence in fundraising. We were discussing the problem many of our fundraising clients were having when it came to donations versus just getting people’s money. We both wanted to recognize that it is God who truly owns all the money out there and He is at the core of the all this activity. So, we forged a new model on how fundraising should be more about people and less about money. Ultimately, people will give because they feel loved and connected to a meaningful effort, not because they are an ATM machine.”

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

It made a major difference right away in the fundraising results of their clientele.

Goals were reached and people were served.

Tracy had taken her beliefs, personality and twin passions to her career and the outcome was stunningly successful.

God@work.

“My struggle in my early career was integrating my faith into it. I don’t want to sound flippant but every job should be a reflection of how we live out the gospel at work. It’s not an easy task. How can fund-raising (something so many people despise) glorify God?

Or, to put it in God’s words,

“O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” (NAS)

Third City Podcast Episode 2 :: Does God Care About Art?

There is a subtle deception woven within contemporary spirituality. It’s that certain things are spiritual and certain things aren’t; some ideas are holy and some are not. It is a general concept that there is a divide between the sacred and the secular; between what God cares about and what has nothing to do with God. With such a great misconception many topics and ideas and vocations and people are left wrestling with the possibility that God isn’t interested in certain things.

Things like art.

And so in this episode of the Third City podcast we will explore the question “Does God care about art?” To help us along the way we’ve invited Joseph Tenney (@josephtenney), Music and Arts Pastor at Park back into the studio. Enjoy!

Listen to this episode here.

If you have any questions or comments about this episode or if you have ideas, suggestions, or questions for future episodes please email us at thirdcity@parkcommunitychurch.org

Our New Podcast! Third City

As we think about what it means to renew our city we think about all of us who are in our cars, or on the “L” or bus each day on our way to work. Or we’re working out in our gyms across the city, or going for walks along the lakefront. More often than not we’re listening to music or a podcast during those times, so we wanted to provide another way for you to be equipped to live out your faith as it relates to life here in Chicago.

Click here to subscribe!

That’s why we created this podcast…so that we can clarify the good news of Jesus as it relates to life and faith in the city of Chicago.

As you listen, think about questions that you have or topics that you’d like us to discuss. We want this to be an interactive experience so send us your questions at thirdcity@parkcommunitychurch.org and rate the show on iTunes!

Ways to Listen

On your phone: iPhone & Android – Click here to subscribe!
Just search for ‘Third City Podcast’ in your Podcast app and subscribe to get every new episode.

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On your computer: iTunes or Park Blog
In iTunes just search for ‘Third City Podcast’ or just check our blog and click the Play button below to get each new episode.

God is the Author

God is the author. It’s a simple enough concept. In fact I think most folks of faith find this idea incredibly soothing. We find great comfort knowing that as the story of life and “my life” in particular unfolds, someone is in control. God as author is a powerful and poetic idea. That is until we realize he’s writing a line or paragraph or chapter or section of our stories we don’t particularly like.

writing

In times like these we try our hand at writing. I know I do. I set the scene. I build the action. I attempt to develop the characters. I dictate the climax. And I chase down my own resolutions.

But it’s only a matter of time before I realize… I’m not a very good author. Or at the very least I get to the resolution and realize that nothing has really been resolved. Been there? Among a number of other reasons, we fail as the author of our lives because we fail to appropriately deal in the “fall in action” nor do we have a sufficient “turn” from fall in action to resolution. To put it another way, we don’t deal with the real issues and therefore we can’t possibly introduce a viable remedy.

All that being said I constantly try to take the pen (or keyboard, I guess) out of his hands. So… here are seven things I like to keep in mind when I’m tempted to become the author of my story or anyone else’s for that matter…

1. God is involved in every aspect of my story and the story. It’s his story.
2. God keeps the story going, just as he intends.
3. God develops his story with us and in us, always (even if we don’t want him to).
4. God weaves the story together in order to accomplish his good purposes.
5. God has written himself into the story.
6. God deals with the real issue–sin.
7. God–specifically his Son, Jesus and his atoning work and subsequent resurrection–is the sufficient resolution.

How to tell the story

You’ve got a story to tell! You may not have all the answers to questions about life and faith and God and spirituality … but you’ve got a story to tell. As follower of Christ our story is that when we tried to be the authors of our own lives God in Christ—the Author of all things—wrote himself into our story. Jesus has championed our broken stories and by grace introduced resolution to our stories. To be sure life doesn’t become easier, but it does become more purposeful and anchored in reality. You’ve got a story to tell.

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Yesterday at our Near North and Lincoln Park campuses we introduced a tool to help you know the story, think about your story, and help others frame their story and their need for Jesus to champion their cause. Below I want to give you more details about how we can use this tool.

ONE | Remind yourself daily of God’s story and the good news of Jesus. The good news or gospel is not an idea that we leave at the site of our conversion. The good news is something that animates our life story every day. And a great way to remind ourselves daily of this great good news is to consider and reflect on the big story God has been telling since the beginning of time. Because as we reflect on this we will be mindful of our own redeemed place and purpose within that story.

TWO | Remind yourself daily how God’s story and the good news of Jesus have ushered in forgiveness and pursue in your own story. The hard truth is you and I have tried to write our own story. Like Adam and Eve we rejected the authority and goodness of God and tried to take con story of our own narrative. This led to us being trapped in the “fall in action” or “loss” stage of the story. Left with question … tension … pain … separation from God we could not bring resolution. And that’s why God sent his Son, Jesus. Jesus is the sufficient “hinge” or hero who defeats the ailment of the loss and fall in action through his death and resurrection. Through faith and confession that Jesus is Lord we have been welcomed back into God’s story.

THREE | With these two things in mind, daily make friends by listening to their story, sharing your story, and telling God’s story. Personal mission is all about making friends and telling the story. Often this is a progressive and long conversation; this is what friendship is all about. Making friends is personal. Making friends takes time. And making friends avoids us many opportunities to graciously and clearly share our story.

Singles Retreat 2014 Recap

There’s nothing like a good retreat! And Lake Geneva provided a brilliant backdrop for our weekend. Not to mention some great music, delicious food, an epic slip-n-slide, tons of hash-tagging, lip-synching, and way too many selfies. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us and especially to all those who helped plan and volunteered. You can check out all of the pictures from the weekend here.

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We also took time to follow Jesus from a wedding to a well we discovered many things. We realized that Jesus’ mom was, well probably a lot like all of our mothers. We saw that Jesus gets fired up when people are hindered from worshiping God. We learned that moralism ultimately keeps us in the dark. And we witnessed what it’s like when shame is exchanged for grace and love. Jesus did many amazing things. And it would be easy to simply be impressed with what he did and can do. But there’s more. There’s always more. The main reason for this journey was not to show us what Jesus can do, but rather for us to discover who Jesus is … God in the flesh. We were beckoned to believe.

Should You Care About Theology?

Maybe it happened on Sunday. Perhaps you saw something on Twitter. Or maybe you read something in a book or article. Regardless of how or when it happened, I’m sure it has. At some point and time some pastor, teacher, or budding seminary students has dropped a big theological word. Something like hypostatic union or supralapsarianism or eschatology. (Whoops, now I did it.) When left undefined, theology in general and a word in particular leaves us confused, intimated, and annoyed by the concept entirely.

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Actually, theology is a fairly simple concept. Theology is the study of God. It is the investigation and organization of God’s nature, qualities, characteristics, identity, and mission.

It’s vital to think rightly about God. As followers of Christ we should care deeply about what we believe about God because what we believe about God informs everything else we believe. Knowledge of God is the basis for knowledge of ourselves, our neighbors, and the world around us. For instance if we believe that God is love (1 John 4:8), then we can also understand that we are loved and have an obligation to love others. In short, understanding who we are begins with understanding God. That’s theology.

Ordering Your Private World :: Book Review

Life is crazy. Between the traffic, deadlines, kids, and potholes, life is fast and full. Not to mention as a church our vision is to see lives transformed, a city renewed, and our world impacted. How can we possibly get it all done? Is it possible to thrive in all of these spheres of our existence—personal, vocational, and spiritual? How can we ever carve out space for ourselves and for rest? Is there any hope?

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In the midst of this common storm, Gordon MacDonald offers an incredible path toward peace. His book, Ordering Your Private World begins by comparing our inner world and our outer world. It’s a view of the private self and public self. Usually in the craziness of life these two are not friends, they’re out of alignment, and they’re chasing different goals. Ordering Your Private World seeks to balance these worlds practically and biblically.

MacDonald’s book has been a tremendous help to me, particularly when life is busiest. The reflection of this book has helped me to press meaning into my work and caused me to find stillness, even in the storms. Even when I moved, when I changed jobs, when we had children, when my inbox is flooded, or when my hard work seems to produce nothing … I have found hope.

So if you find yourself anxious to bring order to your soul and discover peace in the midst of a chaotic world, I highly recommend this book. It’s one I’ve gone back to over and over again, and I’m sure you will too.

Q&A with Jason

Each weekend we ask you to text questions to us throughout the sermon, and we try to answer them at the end of the service. Here are 3 questions that we received from some of you this past weekend, and the answers from our Teaching Pastor, Jason Helveston. If you ever have questions, feel free to let us know on Twitter or texting during a weekend service. They may end up getting answered here on the blog!

Q&A

Q: How can you be aware of false teachers without being critical?
A: I think this calls for a distinction between discernment and criticism. Criticism comes from a place of pride and self-aggrandizement. Discernment is about care and truth. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls us to take care (or beware) of false prophets because of the harm they might causes us or other followers of Christ. It’s all about motivation.

Q: How does one rectify science and faith in God (i.e. Evolution and the universe being billions of years old)?
A: God invented the universe and all the laws of nature therein. In other words God invented science. Science is not an enemy but an ally of Biblical spirituality. However we must be discerning when and where the claims of scientific advancement contradict the claims of Scripture. I’d recommend Tim Keller’s The Reason for God; chapter six in particular speaks to this conversation.

Q: How can we be sure of our salvation if these people called Jesus “Lord” in their lives, but yet weren’t really saved? Didn’t those people believe Jesus is Lord and have the right theology?
A: First of all doubting is perfectly normal. We all wrestle with doubt. But we can also experience certainty in our faith. The Apostle Paul writes that “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Elsewhere he describes the evidence of our new nature is found in the fruit that comes from our lives; namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Ultimately our assurance rests in the work of Christ, not in our habits and intellect—as those who cried “Lord, Lord” seemed to believe.

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