I don’t understand Hollywood’s infatuation with zombies. The Walking Dead TV series is in its 8th season! I mean, how many times does one have to kill someone before they stay dead? And then there is the Dead-Man Walking. This is a term that came to public light through the movie Green Mile starring Tom Hanks. "Dead-Man Walking" was a verbal exclamation, warning people in prison that an inmate, who is on death row, is walking by and caution should be taken since they wouldn’t hesitate to kill again.

Ironically, the walking dead and the dead walking, is a good description of one of the most profound truths in Christianity. The scripture teaches us that we are dead, but alive. A couple of Sunday’s ago we had eight people who were baptized. Each one then was claiming to be dead, but alive. Rom. 6:3-4 says, "Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead….we too may live a new life."
Baptism means burial. The comparison between a real tomb and a watery grave is obvious. Who qualifies for burial? What condition has to be met for me to be buried? I have to be dead! So if I ask to be baptized, I declare myself to be dead and fit only for the grave.

How is it that I’m dead? When I accept Christ as my Savior, I declare that I am dead to sin, and dead to my old nature with its evil desires. I’m dead to my old way of life, my selfish ways, and to being in control of my own life. Paul put it this way: "The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14). Not only are we dead to our old way of life, but we are alive to God. Gal. 2:20 says, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God…"

These aren’t nice metaphors; they describe a spiritual reality that many of us don’t grasp, much less live in. Every day I need to remind myself that I am a Dead-Man Walking. I am dead to my desires, my rights, my entitlements, my ambitions, my expectations, my opinions and preferences. Well, if I’m dead to these things, then what part of me is alive? The part that Christ lives in by the Holy Spirit. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

The Christian life is not difficult – it’s impossible. The only way we can live it the way it was meant to be lived is if Jesus lives His life through ours. But like the zombie, the dead man keeps coming back to life! How many times do I have to kill it before it stays dead? Little by little, as I learn how to live in daily surrender to God, the dead man will have less and less influence, so the beautiful life of Christ can be lived out through me. This is God’s good work. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:6).

Have a great week,





"You have saved the best wine for last." John 2:10

I am convinced that God has saved the best of His Spirit for those who are older. I’m not an expert on wine, but I know that the older it is, the more valuable it becomes.

Paul said we are renewed in our spirits "day by day" and that we are being transformed "from glory to glory." (See 2Corinthians 3-4) The picture here is ever increasing glory as we grow older in the Lord.

Think about it: The temptations that were so strong in youth no longer grip us when we age, and youthful pride in own strength no longer deceives us. As we age, we become better positioned to lose our life for Jesus so that we can find our life in Jesus.

It’s not that the Holy Spirit (wine is compared to the Holy Spirit in a number of places in the New Testament) gets better over time, but simply that less of His outpouring is wasted because of the wisdom gained by walking with God for many years. But only if we grow older in the right way.

There will always be a temptation of getting stuck in the past. In Luke 6:39 Jesus says, "But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is good enough,’ they say." This warning is about how our past experiences with the Holy Spirit can prevent us from entering into the fresh thing the Spirit wants to do.

Solomon warns us to not "long for the good old days." (Ecclesiastes 7:10) God says in Isaiah, "Do not dwell on the past; it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19) Dwelling on the past, even the glorious past, will keep us from perceiving the new thing God is doing.

It seems that if we believe our best spiritual days are behind us, then they are. But just think about some of the past giants of faith – Moses was 80 when he led the people of God out of Egypt; Daniel was well into his eighties when he was delivered from the lion’s den; and Anna was 84 when she prophesied about Jesus. (Luke 2:37) God is searching for people to show Himself strong through (2Chron. 16:9) no matter what their age is. So why not you? Why not us?

Father in heaven, open our eyes to what you have begun to do in our day, and make me part of it, I pray. In Jesus Name! Amen.

Have a great week,



By Leslie Vernick

Many people grow up learning about romance and relationships from TV Reality shows like the Bachelor or the Bachelorette. After 21 seasons of the Bachelor, only one Bachelor is married to the woman he chose on the show. Falling in love is easy for most people. Staying in love over the long haul is much, much harder.
I often tell people that I love pizza. Or I love to play pickleball. I also love my children and grandchildren. I love my husband and my God. Are all my loves the same? What about people who love to do drugs? Love money? Love power or love getting away with doing bad things? Love is an inadequate word to describe all of these feelings and actions. The Eskimos have 22 different words for love. English has only one. When someone says, "I love you" what does that really mean? Does it mean I enjoy you? What happens when I don’t enjoy you anymore? When you’ve gotten boring or had a hard day and don’t act very fun or wonderful to be around? Does that mean I don’t love you anymore?
Sometimes I think what someone really means when he or she tells someone "I love you" is "I love the way you make me feel". " You bring me pleasure". "You turn me on". "You make me feel good about myself."

And the downside to that kind of love is when you fail to do those things for me, I no longer feel love for you. Perhaps I never loved you at all. What I really loved was you loving me.

Many people are not really looking for someone to love, but for someone to love them. But then again what does that mean? Does it mean when someone loves you that he or she always indulges your every wish? That he or she does everything you want? Does real love ever hurt or feel bad? Is genuine love always full of stars and songs and warm fuzzy feelings?

The Bible tells us "this is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers". What does that look like among mere mortals?

The Bible tells us. It says, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:16-20).

True love is not a feeling, although those fluttery feelings are wonderful. The Bible says that love behaves a certain way. Below are 10 action phrases that define and describe true love. True love is always:

  1. Action-oriented, not empty promises or flowery words.
  2. Truthful not flattering or deceptive.
  3. Sacrificial not self-centered.
  4. A gift. Not a reward for someone’s good behavior.
  5. Fighting for the welfare of the relationship, not for one’s own way.
  6. Respecting the differences and values of the beloved.
  7. Forgiving, even when forgetting or trusting again isn’t possible or wise.
  8. Admitting wrong, not only with words but with actions that are consistent with repentance.
  9. Seeking the good of the other, allowing and applauding his or her growth.
  10. Committed to the best interests of the beloved, not just the momentary satisfaction of getting one’s felt needs met.

True love is tough to sustain. It’s hard work. And we can’t do it without God’s love filling us, empowering us, and equipping us.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Pastor Joel



Small groups exist as a way for people to engage in biblical community that helps them become more like Jesus in every area of their lives.

God himself is in a community of three persons in one–the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–who exist in perfect unity. Community is deeply grounded in the nature of God. It flows from who God is. Because he is community, he creates community. It is his gift of himself to humans.

When Jesus’ ministry began, he called 12 disciples to be his primary relational and ministry community. Did Jesus need this motley crew to help him? Not really. But Jesus chose to love them, teach them, and pour himself into relationships with them, thereby creating the first "small group."

The apostles continued Jesus’ model and formed a community of believers who loved God and loved one another. Despite incredible persecution and against all odds, this rag tag group of Jesus-followers launched small communities (i.e. church) that proclaimed the gospel and changed the world forever.

When we look at the early church, we get a picture of small communities of people who followed Jesus together. The Book of Acts, especially Acts 2:42-47, gives us a great picture of the early church and the components of biblical community, which encompassed both the "temple courts" and "house to house."

These believers engaged in life together through teaching, fellowship, communion, prayer, miracles, radical generosity, and corporate worship. They spent time together eating, learning, celebrating, proclaiming the Good News, and supporting each other.

It is in small groups that people can get close enough to know each other, to care and share, to challenge and support, to confide and confess, to forgive and be forgiven, to laugh and weep together, to be accountable to each other, to watch over each other and to grow together. Personal growth does not happen in isolation. It is the result of interactive relationships. Small groups are God’s gift to foster changes in character and spiritual growth.

John Ortberg writes: "God uses people to form people. That is why what happens between you and another person is never merely human-to-human interaction–the Spirit longs to be powerfully at work in every encounter." So the goal of small groups is to create environments where Spirit-driven, life-giving experiences can flourish. While the type of group or study can help promote a positive environment, the real things that promote a healthy environment for flourishing are prayer, support, service, confession, worship, accountability, conflict resolution, social gatherings, and simply doing life together.

Ultimately, small groups are a way of living out our purpose, both as individuals and as a collective group of believers–to be the church. We share a common foundation of faith and God has called us to live out the implications of that faith in a relational community, in the context that we call a small group.

This article was adapted from "Making a Case for Small Groups" by Carolyn Taketa.

Be blessed,

Pastor Greg


In the height of football season, I’d like to share with you a Championship story that I recently wrote, a story that is greater than any game ever played.

Dave Bechtold
Family Pastor
City Church
4909 East Buckeye Road
Madison, WI 53716


Jesus went out of bounds
and the clock stopped
while God was formulating his final winning play.

Jesus ran. For the joy set before him.
Out of bounds. He left heaven and came to earth.
The clock stopped because everyone waited,
as Jesus hung there on the cross,
and then laid there in the grave.

In heaven, huddled up,
the play that would win the game for all time
was revealed…
and then made.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ,
God’s son from the grave,
to set us free
and give us new life and new hope.

To save us from our sins…
from this world…
so that WE could enter his rest,
and that HE could enter his celebration!

Victory like no other.
A play that had never been executed,
and frankly a plan that could be carried out
by no one else.

God executed his play
as we executed his son.

We tasted the victory
from God’s winning play.

Ticker tape parade,
Dancing in the street,
Joyful celebration by the masses
for the One who
stepped out of bounds,
who ran out of bounds…
Executing the play,
sacrificing all that he had.

Jesus scored.

The plan was made,
The play was executed.
God’s play was Jesus.
God’s Victory is ours!



"I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue." 1Corinthians 14:18

"I wish you all spoke in tongues." 1Corinthians 14:5

Many in the Corinthian church were very proud of the spiritual gift of tongues they had received and were using this gift in an inappropriate way that was causing confusion and division. As Paul brings correction, he indicates that he too speaks in tongues and uses this gift all the time – Not in public where it must be interpreted, but only in private, as a prayer language. In 1Corinthians 12, he makes it clear that not everyone will have the public gift of tongues, but here he communicates his desire for everyone to have a prayer language.

One hundred and twenty had gathered on the day of Pentecost and all spoke in tongues when the Holy Spirit was first poured out (Acts 2:4); Cornelius’ house all spoke in tongues when the Spirit was first poured out on the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46); and Jesus said that one of the signs of those who believe was that they would "speak in new tongues." (Mark 16:17)

What is speaking in tongues? Paul says, "one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries." (1Corinthians 14:2) So all of the speaking in tongues Paul says he is doing outside of the public assembly is not to people, but to God. He says in 14:14 "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." Praying in tongues, then, is a spiritual language used privately that does not require interpretation.

Why is Paul praying in this spiritual language and why does he wish everyone would have a language of their own? As someone who has enjoyed the prayer language for many years, I can suggest a few reasons:

First, it edifies you or charges you up. "One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself." (14:4) "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit." (Jude 20) Christians are a lot like batteries. We can look good on the outside but can have very little charge when needed. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, yet sometimes that faith is being choked out by the cares and worries and pleasures of this life so we’re not filled with faith when we need it. Praying in tongues builds up your faith so it’s ready to be used all the time.

Secondly, it helps you pray when you don’t know what to pray. "The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings beyond our normal speech. And He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." (Romans 8:26-27) This isn’t the Holy Spirit praying apart from us – He isn’t our replacement, He’s our helper. He prays through us when we pray in tongues because often times we run out of words and have no idea how to pray for certain situations. Have you ever been there?

Thirdly, it is a rest when you are weary. "Indeed, He will speak to this people through stammering lips and a foreign tongue, He who said to them, ‘Here is rest, give rest to the weary.’" (Isaiah 28:11-12; 1Corinthians 14:21) Sometimes I feel too tired to pray or am just not in the mood. The prayer language is easy and doesn’t require mental focus because it comes out of your spirit instead of your mind. I can be spiritually refreshed even when I’m physically tired.

This Sunday night (6-7:30; City Church) I will be speaking on the topic: "The Baptism of the Holy Spirit"; followed by a question and answer time; followed by an opportunity to receive for anyone who so desires. All are welcome!

Have a great week,




“This kind only comes out by fasting and prayer.” Mark 9:29

The disciples were facing a level of darkness that was going to take another level of intimacy with God to remove. I believe we’re living in an hour where great oppression is on many of the people all around us. God is desiring more than our freedom; He wants to make us freedom fighters for the people we interact with every day.

I am calling all of City Church to join me next week in fasting and prayer. The first priority is our own freedom. In fact, getting free from our own idols, addictions, and burdens is the training required to set others free who are under similar oppression. God is asking: “Who will go for Me?”

The essence of fasting is letting go of the temporal, and the essence of prayer is laying hold of the eternal. Will you let go of something temporal next week and lay hold of the eternal by coming to these special prayer meetings? Will you lead your family and ask them to find out what God would have them let go of for a week, so they too can lay hold of the eternal in a new way?

God is calling some of us to not eat (I will personally still have coffee and juice) or watch any media next week so we can be fully present for prayer. But each of us will be invited in a different way and all of them will be pleasing to God.

For some, God will ask you to leave your phone at home all week and only check it once a day. You might reply: “Well I’m certainly not enslaved to my phone, am I?” Why not prove you’re not by leaving it at home and coming out to the prayer meetings to find even greater freedom in Jesus?

For others, God will ask you to turn off the TV and Facebook for a week and use the time it opens to come to the prayer meetings. “I don’t think I could do that,” you may think to yourself. The very thought is proof that you must do it! Jesus wants us free, so if something has become that addictive, it’s an idol He wants to break.

Some families may choose to skip their evening meal and come to the prayer meetings instead. You could still have a snack after the prayer meeting but hopefully something that wouldn’t take anyone time to prepare. (Everyone will be welcome for the Celebration Supper after Friday night – soup, salad, and pizza!)

Sometimes the darkness facing us requires us to do radical things so God can use us to set others free. I’m asking seniors, families, young adults, teenagers, and everyone in between to go before God and ask Him your part.

I believe God is raising up an army in this hour – people who love Jesus more than food, Facebook, and their own free time. People who are willing to ask the same question the disciples asked Jesus in Mark 9: “Why couldn’t we set this boy free?” The answer today is the same as it was then: “This kind only comes out by fasting and prayer.”

Have a great week,