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Focus your soul on Jesus this Christmas

Posted in Children, Students, Adults, Worship, Caring, Community Life  |  By Jacob Simmons  |  Posted on Mon Dec 19, 2016

Focus your soul on Jesus this Christmas

You guys, Christmas is great.  

What’s not to love?! It gets a little cold, but not too cold (I see you, January.) so you have a chance to pull out your best jacket and drink warm drinks. There are lots of parties, so you get all caught up on the happenings and the goings-on. There are some great things on TV. It’s a season with it’s own music that you already know the words to. It’s a perfect opportunity to take a tree that normally goes outside, and put it inside! Seriously, what’s not to love about Christmas?

I’m writing a bit tongue-in-cheek, of course, but these parts of Christmas truly are fun and something to look forward to. But without the Christ-child, they’re meaningless. They’re window dressing. They’re liquid butter without the popcorn.  They’re a parade without purpose. They’re an appetizer without a main course.  

The Christmas season is a season of anticipation and remembrance. If the object of our anticipation is wrong, our celebration will be misguided. And if our remembering is weak or fuzzy, our worship is miscalibrated.  

It’s tempting to only anticipate the “season” of Christmas instead of the event. And it’s tempting to remember the Christmases of years past and their memories instead of the original Christmas and the hope that comes with it.

But succumbing to those temptations leads us down a road of misguided praise and misplaced worship. We become the misinformed child who becomes enamored with the cardboard box and unaware of the treasure inside. 

So this Christmas season, practice ways in which the coming of Christ (and his coming again!) is more anticipated than the coming of Santa.  

Read the Christmas story together as a family. Talk about who the Biblical characters were and what they would have felt like. Name out loud how your life would be different in the Christ-child hadn’t come.  

If the Christmas season is about the presence of God with us, practice presence with your family. If the Christmas season is about God’s greatest gift, consider making a gift to someone in need.  

Find a baby, hold him, and think about him as the savior of the world. Consider putting that baby in the dog bowl and ponder the humility of Christ.  

Whatever you need to do to focus your soul on Jesus, strive hard to do that thing.  You were created by the Almighty God to worship Him and know Him. 

Let Christmas be the season for you to do what you were created to do. 

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The arts and the Gospel

Posted in Worship  |  By Michael Adler  |  Posted on Mon Nov 28, 2016

The arts and the Gospel

All of my adult life I have loved the mission of helping to creatively set the stage to tell the Gospel story. 

On many occasions I’ve gotten to work with brilliant, highly gifted people; artists whose virtuosity was heads above the rest. 

I’ve worked with those who aspired to be great, giving their all and working at every opportunity to refine and develop their gifts. 

I’ve worked with folks who were just hard working, devoted saints without a lot of flourish or flair. They could swing a hammer or paint a flat or sew a tunic. 

But collectively, when this group comes together and -- shoulder-to-shoulder -- they lean into their one big thing, something wonderful is about to bloom and flourish and find its place in one whose heart is ready to hear. 

Telling the Gospel story has been a part of the life and calling of believers since Jesus gave us the definitive “go” in Matthew 28. But Jesus didn’t just hang this centuries old command around our necks without an instruction manual. 

His methods for explaining this new life to the people of His time were simple. He could take something as common as a seed, or a pearl, or some yeast, or even a child to stimulate the mind and the imaginations of His listeners. He knew his audience, and He knew how to creatively use tools that were familiar to them in order to bring clarity to his message. He used every prop that was available to Him whether it was a fisherman’s net or a stick etching a compelling message in the sand. 

His storytelling, and the visuals He added to them, drew audiences from miles around. More often than not, He left those audiences with transformative questions and new tools for living life based on His Kingdom perspective. 

Time moved on, and His story was not only the subject of the preacher in the city square. 

His story was the subject of oratorios and dance, of painting and sculpture. Stories written to deftly intertwine Christian themes began to populate the landscape of both literature and entertainment. Writers such as Tolkein and C.S. Lewis brought God’s redemptive story to the populace through brilliant allegories and captivating storytelling.

And today a new generation of believers rises up to bring light to this world and life to those who will listen. Today, our calling remains the same.  

The ultimate Creator has called us, His creation, to declare His greatness to all the nations. While a bullhorn and soapbox might create the most volume, the creative gifts found within the body of Christ have proven far more effective in finding their way to a listening heart. Our message remains the same, and we are compelled to craft new ways to repeat the sounding joy.  

Joy to the World! The Lord is Come!

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Shades Stories

Posted in Worship  |  By Jordan Cox  |  Posted on Sun Jul 31, 2016

Shades Stories

We're proud to announce Shades Stories, a campaign telling the stories of 50 people whose lives have been sent, transformed, and influenced.

The men, women, children, and families we will introduce to you during the coming months aren't special. They've been obedient to the work God has done and is doing in their lives. For some, it's been through tragedy. For others, triumph. Some may seem completely normal, but God is in the midst of each story.

As you'll see in the promotional film above, these stories will take place in a variety of different mediums: from print to film, art installations to posters.

No person is the hero. Shades isn't the hero. Our prayer through these stories is that you'll sit back and say, "Only God."

In a couple weeks, Shades Stories will have a new home on this website. There, you'll find a form through which you can submit your story or the story of someone you know. We'd love to tell yours or theirs.

You have a story. Every story matters.

Shades Stories.

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Kingdom Come | Mending of a Broken World

Posted in Worship  |  By Logan Creasy  |  Posted on Wed Dec 16, 2015

Below is the written poem of the narration from our short film, "Kingdom Come."

CREATION

This, is my little kingdom. Fit with princesses, a queen, and a small territory of love and happiness.

And within this modest castle I’m called Daddy, not king. And the joy within this place would make angels sing.

And I can’t help but remember a story; familiar and true ... Of a greater One called father who by love His Kingdom rules.

Whose reign gave birth to affection. Whose mouth spoke kindness and grace. His Kingdom expressed in love. His rule our joy and strength.

For within His heart we see a love so true. The One who created this miracle, whose tree always bears fruit.

Towards you and me with every increasing zeal. Like a Father and His baby, his love for us is real.

And though King of all Creation, yet he bends his ear to hear. The voice of son and daughter, as His Kingdom draws near.

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Why it matters

Posted in Worship  |  By Abbey Plant  |  Posted on Fri Aug 14, 2015

Why it matters

Sit with me and tell me once again, Of the story that's been told us,
Of the power that will hold us, of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters
Speak to me until I understand, Why our thinking and creating
Why our efforts of narrating, about the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters
Show me the love that never fails, Some compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissention, Like small ramparts for the soul How it matters

-Sara Groves, “Why it Matters”

I still remember my fifth grade church musical. It was held in the conference center in the spring of 1988, and I played the character Anna in "Look in the Book." Sherry Armstrong directed our timid bunch with a huge, encouraging smile and twinkling eyes as we sang, “Look in the book for the answers to all the questions that are troubling you. Look in the book for the Lord to show how He answered questions in the long ago.”

I promise I didn't just look up those lyrics! That song with the message to read and treasure the Bible as God's word is a truth locked away in my heart and mind, even now – several years later.

When I consider my years growing up at Shades, I think of music. Children's choir, middle school choir and high school choir are where I learned more about Jesus, where I became passionately devoted to worshipping Him and encouraging others to join in the song. It matters.

I know life is busy because I'm a parent, too. Making it to Wednesday night church sometimes feels like a miracle, with a battle raging for our time. The week is packed with school, homework and enough extracurricular activities that not even your iPhone can remember them all. It's tempting to say, “Well, it doesn't really matter,” but I'd like to let you in on a little secret. It matters. Big time.

Here are some reasons why children’s choir will matter to you as a parent:

  1. Your child will build lifelong friendships. Your child will make friends at choir during these grade school years that will become brothers and sisters in Christ for a lifetime. It’s a tough world out there, and they are going to need each other. They need to be here together – learning, bonding, laughing, having fun and enjoying being in the house of the Lord. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  2. Your child can improve academically. In addition to the amazing spiritual benefits of being a part of a church choir, studies have shown that children involved in choir receive better grades in school, and their scores improve in both language arts and mathematics. Children’s choirs develop other qualities as well, including memorization skills, healthy homework habits, creativity, self-discipline, punctuality, focus and problem-solving. Choir members become good team players, have more advanced social skills and emotional expression and management. (Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 2:52)
  3. Your child will receive a foundational music education. Children’s choir provides a free musical education that helps to train and develop the abilities of young musicians who might not otherwise have that opportunity. Regardless of whether these children are budding musicians, they all will be exposed to basic music theory training in a fun atmosphere. For a list of our learning objectives, see www.shades.org/stomp. (1 Chronicles 25:7; Psalm 150:1-5)
  4. Your child will have opportunities to serve the church. Children’s choirs benefit both the children and the church in the areas of discipleship, worship, evangelism, missions and fellowship. These choirs give the children a healthy place to belong, grow and contribute to the body of Christ as worshippers and worship leaders. (Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12)
  5. Your child will grow spiritually. God is planting seeds of Biblical truth directly from His word into the hearts of the children of this church through music. Music is special because something will trigger those truths to resurface in your child's heart and mind over and over again throughout their lives. They are also learning how God is worthy of our praise, and learning to love worshipping Him. (Psalm 119:9-11; Psalm 119:105; Hebrews 12:28)

Now, will your kids care about all of those reasons as much as you will? Probably not. But, here are some things that will matter to your child:

  • friends
  • fun music
  • “singing in the rain”
  • drumming buckets
  • bouncing tennis balls to the beat
  • painting the ceiling with flashlights
  • laughter
  • movie candy prizes
  • caring leadership
  • the irresistible love of Jesus

My job here provides no greater joy than seeing God place gifts and talents in children to be used for their good and His glory. I am inspired because I know that this band of children worshippers will grow to be men and women of God, lifting their voices to lead people into the presence of The King. I’m more passionate than ever about training up this next generation, because it matters. And they matter too.

STOMP (Special Times of Music and Praise) meets on Wednesday nights at Shades from 6:00-6:40, starting August 19. For further information, please visit www.shades.org/stomp.

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Proverbs | A Guide to Life

Posted in Worship  |  By Danny Wood  |  Posted on Thu Jun 4, 2015

Proverbs | A Guide to Life

We all have situations in life where we need wisdom – with relationships, issues at work, even personal growth; we want to know the right thing to do.

And, if you have decided to follow Jesus, you want His perfect wisdom in knowing how to respond. But, what if we didn’t look at wisdom as something to reach for when things seem uncertain, but if it was a virtue that characterized our lives? The book of Proverbs tells us that the life marked with wisdom is the life of someone who knows and turns to the Lord.

We are going to spend 10 weeks looking at the rich wisdom from this practical book in our summer sermon series Proverbs: A Guide to Life. Some commentators have said that the Psalms tells us how to get along with God and the Proverbs tell us how to get along with one another.

Each Sunday we will focus on a specific theme from Proverbs, but also invite you to personally spend this summer reading Proverbs daily for yourself.

There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, so we’ll read the corresponding chapter to each day. On June 7, read Proverbs 7, on June 8 read Proverbs 8, and so on. Over the course of the summer, we will have read through the book 3 times!

Let me encourage you to read Chapter 1 this week. I will be preaching on Chapter 1 as we lay the foundation for this practical study and then pick up the reading plan on Sunday.

We have created a couple of tools to help keep us together and on track. You can use the reading plan on the Shades app, and even receive daily reminders on your smartphone with the chapter for the day, or download a reading guide from our website.

This is a great opportunity for us as a church to spend these summer months, wherever we are, focusing on the goodness of God through reading His Word. We hope you’ll join us!

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