formation

Pentecost

Counting the Omer

Starting on First Fruits, our congregation counts every day for 50 days in preparation for Pentecost. As each day passes, we cross off numbers and celebrate the fact that we are one day closer. “Closer to what?” our children ask, their eyes full of wonder. Excitement grows and anticipation builds. Aren’t countdowns exhilarating? Is that why God instructs us to count? So we can return to the awe and thrill we once experienced as a child?

After many days of counting, the day finally arrives–Pentecost. Pentecost, the day in which the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit and human relationship with God completely changed. With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, access to Yahweh became available to all. His presence is no longer restricted by geographical locations or heritage. But rather, we now carry His presence inside of us.

The Invitation

Pentecost is an invitation. During this season, we are invited to move more deeply into His presence. We are invited to experience His power in new ways.  And, we are invited to step into our call as disciples.

Now for those of you who haven’t been watching The Chosen and need a refresher of what life as a disciple is like, I’ll give you a brief overview. A disciple is called. A disciple trades the life they imagined for themself for the one Jesus has for them. And, a disciple receives access to unending power.

Walking in Power

Stepping out in new power sounds pretty great, right? So how do we start? Simply, by saying yes. And not so simply, saying yes despite uncertainty and fear.

Where excitement grows, so often does tension. And as we anticipate The Lord unveiling new power in our lives, we face the constant reminder that when left to ourselves, we are grossly inefficient for the tasks set before us. We are human. We are frail. And no matter how long we walk with The Lord, we won’t reach perfect completion on this side of eternity.

So praise God that He knows all of our limitations and chooses us anyway. We are not left to ourselves. Instead, we receive the Holy Spirit with the promise that we can return to Him over and over again as we walk into uncharted territory. The Bible is filled with the constant promise that we will never be alone; the Holy Spirit is God in us. Thus, we can celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit with the expectation that what was dry can be refreshed. And where we are weak, we walk with His power.

Invitation to Respond

Pentecost is the yearly invitation to receive new power. Whether you are celebrating your first Pentecost or you have attended 75 Pentecost services, The Lord is inviting you to experience Him in a new way.

Where do you need a refreshing dose of power?  Where is He asking you to say “Yes” where you have before settled into “I am unqualified or “this is impossible?”

We believe that the Lord has new power for you and that He wants to meet with you in this Holy season.

Read more

Call to Worship

If you have ever attended a Sabbath service with us at TwentySixEight, you have probably heard the blowing of a shofar. In Jewish traditions, the shofar (a trumpet made from a ram’s horn) is blown during battles and Biblical holidays. It signifies repentance, power, and calls listeners to attention.

In addition to these major events, we like to blow a shofar each Sabbath as a call to worship. The sound of the trumpet lets us know that something is happening—something wonderful. It is an invitation to once again give our attention to The Lord and usher in His presence.

We are a worshiping congregation who takes seriously the fact that God is enthroned on the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). In times of abundance, worship is especially easy. It is easy to praise God when we see His glorious works around us.

But what about when glory seems like a distant promise for someone else? What of worship then? Can we really give God glory when our lives seem to be falling apart?

Yes.

The people of the Bible were not immune from troubled times. In fact, book after book describes our ancestors facing seemingly impossible tasks. But throughout the pages, we are shown examples of how to praise God, no matter the circumstances in which we are living.

Habakkuk 3:17 says, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.“

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Hard times are an inevitable part of life on this side of eternity. They come in the form of sickness and disease. Maybe you have lost your income. Or your home. Maybe your struggle with depression or your anxiety seems like a losing battle.

Trials of this life come. But they do not have to rob us of the joy God has for us. Worship is the act of giving your heart. What we worship pinpoints what we give our affections and allegiances to. We worship something by clinging to it.

If worship portrays where our affections and allegiances lie, should our worship ever stop? And shouldn’t we cling tighter to The Lord when all else feels uncertain?

We worship Yahweh because He is good. Psalm 23 reminds us that even in the midst of the valleys of this life, we are never alone. And that where The Lord is, comes overflowing goodness and mercy.

We are a people who raise a hallelujah, knowing that God is in control and that God is good.

While we may not be physically together to hear the shofar blown in our church building­– here is your call to worship. You are invited to cling to Yahweh once again. And why not start with the latest song from Tribes & Tongues? You can listen to it here.

 

Read more

An Ode to Moms

An Ode to Moms (On Mother’s Day)

 

We at TwentySixEight know how much the moms in our community do.

 

You are the nurturers

And the bearers of life.

You make disciples

And endless amounts of cookies.

You are gospel sharers,

Storytellers,

And naptime warriors.

You know how to have fun

And how to clean it all up when the time comes.

You are the giver of great hugs

And the first call with big news.

You are mom.

And we see you.

 

We see the tired moms that are reaching for yet another cup of coffee,

And the homeschooling moms who are patiently going over the lesson one more time.

We see the moms who are always cheering, always encouraging,

And the working moms trying to juggle provision and responsibilities.

We see the moms that are missing their children today,

And the moms who will spend all day with them.

We see you.

You are an irreplaceable part of our community.

 

So for everything you do…

Thank you.

You are cherished.

 

Proverbs 31:25-29:

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed.

 

May The Lord continue to shine His face upon you on this special day.

Read more

Observing Yom Hashoah in 2021

 

OBSERVING YOM HASHOAH (DAY OF REMEMBRANCE)

Over 75 years ago, the Jewish people experienced mass genocide under the Nazi regime. The casualties were astronomical— six million lives were lost, approximately 2/3 of Europe’s Jewish population. In remembrance of the event and the lives lost, Israel celebrates Yom Hashoah each year. This year, Yom Hashoah falls on Tuesday, April 21st. In similar fashion, the US will celebrate Holocaust Remembrance Day through a series of weeklong events spanning from Sunday, April 19th – Sunday, April 26th.

 

In previous years, a quick Google search would reveal services held in synagogues or museums around town.  However, due to the coronavirus, organizations have not released any official plans for 2020.  Luckily, you can still observe the day without leaving your home. Here are four ways to observe Yom Hashoah from home.

 

LIGHT A YELLOW CANDLE

By Jewish tradition, a yahrzeit memorial candle is lit during periods of mourning. These candles burn 24 hours and are lit annually on a loved one’s anniversary of death. So it is no surprise that observing Yom Hashoah also invites participants into a yearly lighting of candles.

 

To participate from home, light some candles and observe a minute of silence. Be sure to grab yellow candles, which represent the yellow armband that Jewish people were forced to wear during the Holocaust.

 

VISIT THE HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL WEBSITE 

Located in Washington DC, the USHMM offers resources to observe the day from home. They recommend reading the names of some of the victims to both honor their lives and to better understand the scale of the loss. An estimated 650 names can be read in an hour.  You can find more information at ushmm.org.

 

WATCH A MOVIE

Though Holocaust-inspired movies can be difficult to watch, becoming desensitized and forgetting the impact of the Holocaust would be devastating too. If you feel up to it, there are fantastic movies to watch that commemorate the stories of those in the Holocaust. Keep in mind that movies of this nature are generally not suited for children and contain many themes of violence. While there are several movies to choose from, consider Schindler’s List. Or, for a short documentary about a Holocaust survivor, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.

 

GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA

There is no denying the impact that social media has on all generations. Show your support on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Be sure to include #WeRemember or #HolocaustRemembrance to sync up with the international movement.

 

There are several ways to observe Yom Hashoah from home, whether it’s lighting a candle, watching a movie, or simply spreading awareness on social media. While each is a small endeavor, there is power in numbers.

 

Let us never forget the Holocaust.
And by doing so, may be we never relive such a time.

 

Read more

Tithing 101: Why is Tithing Important?

TITHING 101

Tithing: Let’s talk about one of the historically most uncomfortable & avoided topics amongst friends—money. While 1 Timothy 6:10 reminds us that the love of money is the root of all evil, the evil is not in the money itself. God isn’t disgusted with money. He doesn’t ask His children to abandon the concept of money all together.  He doesn’t ask us to live outside of the culture in isolation and poverty. Rather, Yahweh shows that His heart for us is fruitfulness. He shows that tithing is the pathway to financial fruit. Let’s start with some of the basics.

WHAT IS A TITHE?

The word Tithe means 1/10th. Biblically, tithing is the practice in which we give 10% of our income back to the Lord through our local congregation.

WHAT ARE TITHES USED FOR? 

Historically, tithes were used to support the livelihood of priests in order to make room in their daily schedule to serve Yahweh and His people. Today, not much has changed. Churches use tithes to support pastoral staff and maintain the church building. Often tithes are used in conjunction with projects/programs to support the Church’s mission.

WHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD TO TITHE? 

We have all been in that spot when it seems that our money is spent before we even get it. In such cases, it is easy to assume that God’s heart for us is to reduce the financial strain and thereby release us from our duty to tithe. But the reality is that God promises provision and abundance through tithing, not by avoiding it.

In Malachi 3:10, the Lord says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

That is a pretty powerful promise. But the Lord’s goodness extends far beyond the surface. The phrase “open the window of heaven….and pour down for you a blessing” reference the opening of the heavens and the pouring out of rain that came down during the days of Noah. With that in mind, go back and read His promise.

That’s a lot of rain! And coincidentally, that’s a lot of blessing!

God’s storehouse is so much bigger than we can even fathom. By trusting Him with our finances, He promises to take care of our needs. And by tithing, we are invited to witness His generosity and faithfulness in new and practical ways.

Proverbs 3:9-10 reinforces this idea, “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with your first fruits of all your produce. Then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.”

IS IT GENEROUS TO TITHE?

No. Tithing does not indicate a generous heart on our end. Rather, tithing is done out of obedience to Yahweh and His instruction.  And it is through obedience with our money that we are able to receive His financial fruit.

And that brings us back to 1 Timothy 6:10 where we are reminded that the love of money (not money itself) is the root of evil. The love of money would keep us from being obedient. The love of money would keep us bound up in the infertile soil of self-sufficiency rather than trusting Yahweh. That is the root of evil. And through it we receive counterfeit abundance, outside of God’s plan for our lives.

Yahweh’s heart for us is made evident in these two verses. His desire is not for us to live in lack, demanding poverty in return for salvation. On the contrary, He indicates a desire for us to walk in true abundance as we worship Him, rather than our own means. He invites us into a relationship in which we are a son or daughter, walking in the love and constant provision of a Father.

So if you are new to tithing and a little nervous, we want to encourage you to taste and see what a good, good father we have. Put Him to the test if He will not pour out his provision on you until you have no more need.

Read more

Why is Music Important During Quarantine?

The Power of Music

 

A guitarist in New York writing songs and lyrics about the coronavirus. Bono writing songs about the illness and its effects on society. Italians in the balconies of Rome lifting each other’s spirits by joining together in song and music daily across the country. Music has forever been a part of every culture. In a sense, music is the only language that every culture across the world speaks. Music speaks to the soul of a person far deeper than anything else. “The language of music is common to all generations and nations,” Gioachino Rossini, the virtuosic opera composer, once said. “It is understood by everybody, since it is understood with the heart.”

So, during the quarantines being set across the world, people are taking advantage of the time at home to write songs and cheer each other’s spirits through melody. Musicians across balconies found connection with their neighbors and filled the silence of seclusion with tunes and melodies. In a sense, people across the world, whether musician or not, are embracing music as a common language to beat the quarantine.

 

How Does This Apply to Us?

 

Music is an opportunity for us to step into new areas of creativity in our life. Have you always wanted to play guitar, but never took it up? Have you always loved singing in the shower, but never got the courage to sing in front of other people? Have you thought about songs and poetry, but been too afraid to write the lyrics? Have you wanted to learn how to read music, but never took it on? Find a guitar! Watch Youtube videos on vocal lessons! Find songwriting tips online and pull out the pen and paper! All the resources we need are online, and the only thing holding us back from learning about it is ourselves.

We can use the melodies and songs we learn to glorify God and bring community together. How amazing is it to see people posting online about how they are taking up music? Does it make you excited to see people praising God in their living rooms? We can use the talent and skill God gives to us to bring people together in community. Bring people into your new musical journey and use the songs you learn to bring hope to the others around you.

We can take this time to allow music to fill us up with new gratitude and joy for the God we serve. Ephesians 5:19 says “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” Now is your opportunity to learn a new skill and glorify God with your talent, skill and worship!

So what are you waiting for? Pick up that dusty guitar, and pull out the journal and pens. Let creativity be your guide, and praise the Lord with your heart, soul and mouth.

Read more

Sixteen Ways to Flourish While Quarantined

Flourish While Quarantined?

Let’s face it, being stuck in our homes for the next several weeks because of coronavirus is not going to be easy. We don’t just want to cope during this time and leave our homes at the end of two months full of cabin fever and swear it was the worst time of our lives. With a little bit of conscious investment and a lot of fun, we can flourish while quarantined! Here is a list of some practical ways you and your family can enjoy this time of rest and take advantage of the situation.

Cultivate Your Emotional Health

  1. Take some time to journal. Step out of your life and reflect. Take these evenings at home captive as you write out what God is doing in your life during this time.
  2. Make time for unscheduled creativity. Turn off social media and entertainment and give yourself and your kids time to be creative. Get the legos out! Get the paints out! Make playdough and mud pies! Kids need time for unfettered creativity so their minds can grow in imagination and new ideas. Start up one of your own hobbies again. Maybe now is the time to learn to play that instrument you have always been wanting to learn. Maybe you will finally get around to learning how to sketch. Be creative and take the time you need to do it.
  3. Read books that nourish your heart and mind. Reading is a wonderful way to open up our worlds. Whether you choose non-fiction or fiction, every book will add to your life. Bring out new books for you kids, and better yet, read a classic book with your kids aloud.
  4. Declutter. Complete house projects. Give stuff away. We are stepping into the spring, so what better time to clean house! Clean out those empty shelves and complete the Honey-do list. Give away the things you don’t need, and refresh your house and mind with simplicity.

Cultivate Your Physical Health

  1. Start a new exercise routine. We all tried that New Year’s resolution to get more fit, but for most of it, it didn’t stick. Maybe now is your chance to workout, clean up our diet, and get back into healthy routines.
  2. Rest and sleep. What better time to rest and refresh ourselves? Most Americans barely sleep 6.8 hours a night! Now we can take the time to get the sleep our culture sorely lacks.
  3. Take time to prepare your food. Nothing is more exciting than learning a new recipe and eating something you made with your own hands. Pull out recipe books and teach your kids how to cook!
  4. Go to the great outdoors! Go for walks in your neighborhood, plan hikes, and ride bikes! No one told us we couldn’t be outside, so take advantage of it and get some fresh air!

Cultivate Your Spiritual Health

  1. Spend time reading and studying God’s Word. Everyone tries to make time for Bible reading, what better time to do it? Pick up on that book of the Bible you have been studying, or memorize scripture.
  2. Pray. Consider this season as a time to fast and pray for your life, family, church and city. Our nation and our cities need prayer right now in the midst of an unstable economy, and sickness. Teach your kids to pray for others during this time, and encourage them to see how God answers prayer when we call out to him.
  3. Review your personal life goals. Go back through the journey of your life and create an identity statement for your life. Reorient and recalibrate your mind and heart. You may find that the next several weeks will drastically change how you see your life.
  4. Take up a new spiritual discipline. Meditation, Lectio Divina, fasting and simplicity are all forms of spiritual disciplines that will change your life and habits if you let them.

Cultivate Relational Health

  1. Connect with your family and friends. Though we are encouraged to avoid those who are vulnerable, this is a great opportunity to spend time with those who you need to reconnect with. Make phone calls, FaceTime calls, email, or even write a letter! Remember, others need to flourish while quarantined as well.
  2. Spend extra time with your family. Have meaningful discussions with your spouse and kids. This is a great time to give your energy and support to them as much as you can.
  3. Find ways to serve and give to those in need, especially the elderly and vulnerable. Take care of those who are quarantined and reach out to your neighbors. Find people who need help in this time and find a way to support them as much as you are able.
  4. Reconcile relationships. If you have experienced conflict or tension with someone else, do what you can to reconcile the relationship. Being in a hard emotional and economic situation makes people rethink their relationships, and it is a good time for you to evaluate your relationships as well.

You Can Flourish While Quarantined

Despite the difficulty of the times we are walking in, we can use this time of rest to reevaluate and thrive! If you have ideas, share them with others and support their growth and refreshment in this time. Together, with a little bit of help, we can all flourish while quarantined. Have a lovely next few weeks!

Read more

Unleavened Bread: Formation and New Life

FORMATION IN UNLEAVENED BREAD

The Biblical Jewish Festival of Unleavened Bread commemorates the Israelites’ liberation from the land of Egypt. Moses led them out of the wilderness after the Passover and they fled so quickly, their bread didn’t even have time to rise. They realized in that moment that God had beaten the gods of Egypt, and their God was bigger than any other. As they were in the wilderness, God used this period of time to test them and grow them. They were formed to be more and more like the Chosen people God called them to be. Because of this, they were able to experience new life in the Promised Land of Israel.

 

UNLEAVENED BREAD TODAY

As Christians, like Israel, God called us out of our old life and into a new one. Not only did He invite us into the resurrection life of Jesus but He also drew us into a life of holiness. Unleavened Bread reminds us that because He freed us, we wanted to be different. We want to know the beauty of holiness and wholeness. We want to leave behind what we’d been and become something different.

As Christians, we learn during the season of Unleavened Bread, to tell our story by practically choosing not to each leaven. We demonstrate that we are convinced we can trust our God to rescue us. Because we have encountered Jesus’ love, now we get to choose to take up our cross and surrender wholly to Him. Because we experience Jesus’ death as the gateway into forgiveness, we now get to receive life and formation. We get to see how Christ living in us changes the way we live.

 

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

During the season of Unleavened Bread, most people rid their homes of any leaven. This means many get rid of products like yeast, breads, baking soda and baking powder. The point of eating only unleavened breads during the season allows us to practically recognize the areas where sin has taken a hold of our lives. Not eating leaven brings this to mind each time we consider eating leaven. If you are worried about this, never fear! We have recipes on our blog available for you to try during the week of Passover! As you prepare for Unleavened Bread, consider ridding your home of leaven, and journal about the new life and transformation God wants to bring about in your life.

Read more

The Feast of First Fruits

THE FEAST OF FIRST FRUITS

The Biblical Jewish Festival of First Fruits comes a day after the festival of Passover. It was given to the people of Israel as a holiday to celebrate the first fruits of their harvests. Because Israel was an agricultural community, they were to offer to God a sacrifice of the first fruits of their harvest, commemorating their gratitude and thankfulness for his provision. The people of Israel were not to celebrate this holiday until they were in the Promised Land (Leviticus 23:10). This was because they were wanderers whose food was provided from God, not an agricultural community who grew their own food.

This day was commemorated as a Sabbath (Numbers 28:26). The people were resting on this day as a reminder that God was their ultimate provider, and it was his provision that gave them a harvest. The people of Israel celebrated this festival through their generations. Even today in Israel, many of the people who work on Kibbutzim (communal agricultural communities) will celebrate the day with a harvest, feasting and dances in the fields until late into the night.

 

JESUS IN THE FEAST OF FIRST FRUITS

First Fruits commemorates the day the Messiah rose from the grave. Because it comes right after the celebration of Passover, we see this day often falling on a Sunday. In a sense, Jesus fulfilled the holiday through his miraculous resurrection. He was the first to be raised and we have the promise that he will raise us up from the dead too. In this way, we see that the promise of First Fruits is that there is more to come! The harvest is just beginning and Jesus will continue to raise up his people!

 

CELEBRATING THE FEAST OF FIRST FRUITS

On this feast day, we would encourage you to take the day off and rest in the abiding presence of Jesus’ resurrection. Because Jesus ate fish when he rose from the grave, many people will eat fish during breakfast, lunch or dinner on First Fruits as a reminder of Jesus’ resurrection. It is a wonderful day to spend with family and friends being reminded of the provision of God to his people, and the death of our savior.

Read more

Passover Recipes

Passover recipes are all over the internet. Passover poses challenges to even the most seasoned chef or baker due to the lack of leavening in the meals. During the seven days between Passover and Unleavened Bread, we are instructed to not eat leaven as a reminder of the Israelites who left Egypt in such a hurry they couldn’t let their bread rise in time.

Because of this, the internet has taken the challenge on, and Passover recipes working around the leavening component are found everywhere! We would encourage you to find your own recipes for desserts, baked goods and yummy dinners. The recipes listed below are our chef’s favorite recipes to try during the Spring season. All of them are wonderful additions to your Passover meal, and we hope you find great use in these tried and true recipes!

Moroccan-Style Brisket with Dried Fruit and Capers

Brisket, either lamb or beef is a typical main course for a Passover meal, but this recipe has some pizazz! Try this out for the best brisket you have ever had!

Passover Recipes Brisket

Chocolate Chip Walnut Mandelbrot:

A biscotti-like cookie, Mandelbrot are Eastern European style cookies, often with chocolate, walnuts or almonds. And the best part is… completely leaven-free!

Passover Food Dessert Mandelbrot

Chocolate Macaroon Cake: 

Think chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons… but as a cake! A fantastic addition to your Passover dessert menu, everyone will be asking for more of this!

Passover Food and Recipes

Passover Chocolate-Toffee Matzo

Take the traditionally boring Matzo cracker and turn it into matzo covered in chocolate: think heavenly! Any toppings can be switched out for the toffee, but all versions are delicious!

Passover Food Dessert Matzo

Passover Pistachio and Dried Fruit Haroset

A classic passover recipe, haroset is a paste made of fruit and nuts, and it is typically used during a Passover Seder. This recipe can’t be beat!

Passover Food Haroset
Read more