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Blog Archives: January 2016 — December 2016

Life in the New Year

December 28, 2016
Chris Castaldo
Many people make it their policy to avoid discussion about death, even though it is certain to visit all of us. It is a simple fact that our lives move along a deathward trajectory. Thousands of people die each day, and it is the horizon before which we rise every morning. The Italian playboy Casanova resented the thought of death because it threatened to remove him from the stage of history before the end of the show. Simone de Beauvoir suggested that death instills anxiety precisely because it is “the inescapable reversal of our pr ...

Looking for Christmas

December 21, 2016
Chris Castaldo
In American culture, the weeks of Advent are teeming with parties, shopping, family gatherings, and the like. Men and women often work overtime to earn a little extra money to afford gifts. And when we finally drop into a chair to enjoy a moment of relaxation, the television unleashes upon us an onslaught of holiday-themed advertisements. What is the message? For the most part, it is anything but the news of Advent. Therefore, it is important to carve out time to consider the significance of the coming of Christ. Following are a few ...

Christmas Eve Service

December 13, 2016
Robert Ooms
Do you ever wish that you could experience Christmas in church the way it would have been before our modern world invaded our lives with cell phone and everything else? We invite you to set aside some time to Celebrate Christ’s birth in the quiet reverence of a Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve at 5 PM. This service provides a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Incarnation of our Lord, as we hear God’s Word. Join your voice with ours in singing beloved Christmas songs which focus on the birth of Our Savior: songs such ...

The Ultimate Gift of Christmas

December 13, 2016
Chris Castaldo
(Following is the homily Pastor Castaldo delivered at this year’s Lessons & Carols service) Do you remember? Can you recall Christmas of bygone years? After hanging glass ornaments on the freshly cut tree You inhaled the fragrance of pine or spruce Threads of tinsel and glass bulbs twinkled The resplendence of tinfoil seraphs A Pottery Barn-like-glow in the fireplace You grabbed a mug of hot cocoa with miniature marshmallows And considered the contents of those red velvet stockings Garland, eggnog, poinsettias, spritz ...

Christmas Gifts

December 08, 2016
Chris Castaldo
As 2016 comes to an end, we want to express heartfelt appreciation for your love, support, and investment in New Covenant Church. Because of your generosity, we have seen the body of Christ grow in both size and depth. We recognize this is the Lord’s work among us (1 Cor. 3:6) and therefore wish to celebrate his provision. Like most churches, a significant amount of our income is received in December. Having embraced the greatest gift, we now enjoy the privilege of giving to the kingdom of God. We therefore want to invite you to join us in ...

The Texture of Advent

December 01, 2016
Chris Castaldo
It was among the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. Following an exposition of Matthew 2, in which I explained the typological significance of Jesus’ flight to Egypt against the background of salvation history, an old Bible teacher put his arm around me and asked if he could offer some feedback. “Please,” I replied. “I am a seminarian; this is the season of life in which I need input.” I’m not sure I believed it, but it seemed like the appropriate thing to say. The elderly gentleman with piercing blue eyes proceeded to educate me: “I ...

Journey to the Manger, 2016 Advent Devotional

November 21, 2016
Chris Castaldo
This year Advent begins on Sunday, November 27th. I would like to recommend a terrific online devotional which is available to you free, to guide your reflection through the upcoming days. Devotionals have a long history for God’s people. Ancient Israelites established a yearly calendar in response to special feast days. Lectionaries were developed—selected Scriptures to be read week by week and for special religious holidays. The Church gradually created her own lectionaries containing readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, Epistles and ...

God-Centered Thanksgiving

November 17, 2016
Chris Castaldo
The 1965 film classic, Shenandoah, features a memorable and outlandish prayer. With his eight children seated for dinner, the father, played by James Stewart observes, “Now, your mother wanted all of you raised as good Christians. And I might not be able to do that thorny job as well as she could, but I can do a little something about your manners.” After a forgetful and now convicted son removes his cap, Stewart then leads them in a thoroughly ungrateful prayer to God: Lord, we cleared this land, we plowed it, sowed it, and harvested. We ...

What to do now that the fire hose has been turned off

November 09, 2016
Jeffery James
It has been a great experience to read through the New Testament over these last 8 weeks through the Community Bible Experience– even if some days felt like a firehose of information. It has been encouraging to know we are all worked together. As elders we prayed that it would serve to unite us in a renewed effort to make God’s word a part of our everyday life. I have to admit I was not entirely excited about the prospect because I have struggled with reading plans turning into a chore instead of a joy. But God is always faithful in meeting ...

God's Word Alone

November 03, 2016
Chris Castaldo
It was Martin Luther who said, “Let the man who wishes to hear God speak read Holy Scriptures.” Such reading, unfortunately, has not come easily. From the beginning, the enemy has sought to undermine God’s word: “Did God really say,” hissed the serpent of old. Given this hostility to God’s authority, humanity through the ages has followed the serpent by casting aspersions upon sacred Scripture. Instead of receiving the light of revelation, the darkness instinctively recoils from it. In this human response, Luther highlights an inextricable ...

Significance of the Reformation for Families and Churches

October 26, 2016
Chris Castaldo
With only a few months until the fifth centenary of Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, Christians everywhere are preparing to commemorate the Protestant Reformation. Refection upon the significance of Luther's protest, and the larger movement it spawned, will take various shapes and sizes. For example, in the coming days Pope Francis will visit Lund, Sweden to make a pronouncement among members of the Lutheran World Federation. In a lead-up event on October 13, Pope Francis hosted a gathering at the Vatican in which he received a group of 1,000 ...

Serving Your Roman Catholic Community

October 19, 2016
Chris Castaldo
Determining whether your community is predominantly Catholic was once fairly simple. You’d see multiple parishes with names like “Saint Petronille” and “Holy Family.” Your local hardware would sell Saint Joseph statues (burying St. Joe upside-down in the yard is thought to help the process of selling a house). You’d notice ashen foreheads during Lent and couldn’t find a can of tuna fish at the supermarket during the same month. Today, however, the signs are not so obvious. We see this change on display in Kerry Kennedy’s best seller from a ...

OneStory: Gospel, Purpose, Reality Conference Featuring Nick Perrin

October 13, 2016
We want to make you aware of an upcoming conference in the area featuring Dr. Nick Perrin The Power of a Whole Story, or Why Are So Many Are Telling Only Half the Truth about the Kingdom on October 21-22 at Grace Church of DuPage HERE IS AN OVERVIEW OF THE EVENT: Solid Reasons, an evangelism and apologetics training and mentoring ministry - will examine whether Christian Apologists are leaving out half the story when proclaiming the gospel - at ...

Something to Remember This Election Year

October 12, 2016
Chris Castaldo
You need not be especially political to feel anxiety in this moment. Unless you live in a cave, you are confronted by the rapacious onslaught of attack ads, one uglier than the next, intended to instill fear and somehow win your allegiance. Amidst the unrelenting cacophony, the words of Henry Adams come to mind when he called politics “the systematic organization of hatreds.” But hatred is simply a vortex that descends into deeper levels of hatred, which leads to an assortment of other unpleasant experiences such as panic, despair, and d ...

A Gospel for the World

October 05, 2016
Chris Castaldo
On a bright April day in 1743, John Wesley stood preaching to an open-air crowd the great truths of salvation. The rag-tag congregation, who had come out into the countryside to hear this famous preacher, listened enraptured to his message of regeneration and new life. Just then, an old drunk rode his horse into the middle of the crowd, rearing the beast up and shouting all manner of curses and bitter words at the preacher. Wesley, who by this time was used to such displays, tried to ignore the man and continue his sermon. That course, ...

Justification: A Ground Level View

September 28, 2016
Chris Castaldo
This Sunday we’ll consider the doctrine of justification. Our investigation begins in Sunday school, which tells the story of Luther’s Reformation (9:15am) followed by a sermon on Romans 4:1-12. Before addressing the subject from the perspectives of Paul and Luther, however, I would like to share the experience of my friend, Andy Brucato, who encountered God’s justifying grace in the 1960’s: This “good news” of salvation by faith, and not by rule keeping, was unknown to me as a Catholic child growing up in the Bronx. Back then my life was ...

Pope Francis Visits Assisi: An Ongoing Stigmata

September 21, 2016
Chris Castaldo
Pope Francis is making history this week. He is visiting Assisi, the Italian town famously associated with his namesake, St. Francis. The purpose of the visit is to participate in a gathering of leaders from different religions hosted by the Community of Sant’ Egidio. It was thirty years ago when Pope John Paul II convened the First World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, back in 1986 (pictured above). You have seen the photograph of colorfully clad clerics from a variety of religious backgrounds, including the Dalai Lama, standing ...

The Unfinished Reformation

September 13, 2016
Chris Castaldo
This week marks the official release of our book, The Unfinished Reformation, which I’ve had the privilege of coauthoring with Dr. Gregg Allison. It’s been a delight to work with Gregg, who exemplifies the uncommon calling of the pastor-theologian. Here is a synopsis of the book, followed by descriptions from some early reviewers. We pray that it will inspire and equip you to embody the life-changing message of the gospel. Five hundred years ago, a Catholic monk nailed a list of grievances on the door of a church in Germany and launched a ...

Inspired by God

September 07, 2016
Chris Castaldo
I recently grabbed coffee with a friend in which conversation turned toward the role of Scripture in the Christian life. We reflected on the way God extends redeeming power through the Bible. As Paul put it in Romans 10:17: “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Our discussion reminded me of the reason why we have decided to embark on the Community Bible Experience initiative at NCC. Our desire is to not only get into the Word, but to get the Word into us, which is why we have created the following questions to ...

Martin Luther: Wrestler with God

August 31, 2016
Chris Castaldo
Although Martin Luther (1483-1546) entered the world during the Renaissance, his early years in Mansfeld, Germany showed little evidence of cultural rebirth. Plagues, thieves, and a folk culture rife with sinister spirits meant that many lived in a constant fear of death. European society of this era commonly blended paganism with Christian tradition, creating a fantastically dark Christianity mingled with superstition. In Germany the blowing wind, flowing streams, and tall trees of the forest were thought to be animated by malevolent beings ...

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