Yom Kippur

As I’m writing this, it’s still Yom Kippur.  The day of atonement.  Praise God we can know Him because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Hebrews 7:26-27

12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

English Standard Version, Romans 6:9-11; Hebrews 7:26-27; Hebrews 9:12

That’s it. That’s the best news ever.

Know it.

Live it.

Share it.

On a side note, next year’s Yom Kippur will be in October. I looked it up. Because… ready? We’ll be IN ISRAEL next year!

This past week I secured our spot for a group trip to Israel, Oct 3 -12ish.  Because we’re over a year out, we can’t secure all the details just yet, flights, schedules, etc.  But, the good news is, you can NOW pencil in those dates and start saving!  More details will come as we get closer, but please feel free to pass this on and make sure you save your spot!  Can’t wait!

 

Thompson Chain Reference Bible – Revisited

My older sister gave me my first Thompson Chain Reference Bible in 1979, or early 80s.  I literally wore it out.  Then the youth group I was serving gave me my second Thompson Chain in 1988.  I saw those Bibles as what I would call “glorified concordances”.  There is this amazing system (chains) of references and topics. I did not wear out the second one, I simply moved on to other study Bibles.

Just a few weeks ago I attended a workshop put on by my good friend, Chuck Ballard on how to use the Thompson Bible.  Chuck was the first pastor to welcome me to Flagstaff 25 years ago next month. We’ve remained good friends ever since. He has since moved on and is now leading a ministry called African Pastoral Training Ministries in which he trains African pastors how to study and prepare sermons using only the Thompson Chain Bible.  This is an amazing ministry because most of these pastors will have no other resources.  Through the conference they receive a new Bible and three days of training.

I was amazed both by the use of the Thompson Bible and specifically how Chuck teaches the students to study the Bible using ONLY the Bible!  Dr. Frank Charles Thompson did the world a great service in 1908 when he put together this massive system of studying scripture with scripture using over 4200 chain topics and 100,000 topical references.  It’s actually pretty simple to use once you understand the system.

Chuck did a great job leading this four-hour workshop.  I plan to invite him to our church to do the same in the near future.  The Bibles are available most anywhere. You may want to check out the dedicated website for Kirkbride or do what I did and find your favorite version on Amazon.

Though I have no plans to abandon my Logos Bible software or get rid of any of my favorite study Bibles, I am enjoying getting familiar again with my new ESV Thompson Chain.

I highly recommend Chuck and his ministry.

Thank YOU!

Thank you, to the ones who welcome and direct in the parking lots.

Thank you, to the many who volunteer each week to set it all up. You transform a public school into a sacred place.

Thank you, to the greeters at the doors, who smile and let me know I’m in the right place.

Thank you, to the ones who are ready to serve by getting the kids checked in and ready to go to their classes.

Thank you, to the many who volunteer weekly to teach the kids, care for them and keep them safe all while honoring Jesus.

Thanks you, to the ones who give of themselves to our youth. Weekly meetings and coffee shops, bleachers and floors.

Thank you, to the ones committed to good coffee. Nothing average about you or your product.

Thank you, to those who prepare and serve us all in ways we may never see.

Thank you, to those who open their homes to welcome the body in bite size pieces.

Thank you, to those that prepare, study and deliver a word to encourage and teach and point us to the Word and the Author.

Thank you, to the many smiles along the way. I know I belong here. Some like handshakes. A few like the hugs. But we all love the smile.

Thank you, to the ones who gather early, every week, to pray. To go before God on our behalf seeking His favor, His blessing, His pleasure.  Not for the temporal, but for the eternal.

Thank you, to the technicians, who work so no one will notice them, but that all may encounter Christ.

Thank you, to the gifted musicians who labor so we can engage as a congregation with hearts and voices towards our eternal God!

Thank you, to the leaders who lead. To the servants who serve. To the artists who create. To the kids who run and the teens who huddle. To the ones that hurry. To the ones that keep it steady. To the many who offer their craft, their labor, to all who give with love. Thank you, Grace Church for being exactly who you are.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100 ESV 

Personal Updates

This is the week we were scheduled to be in Israel.  Back in August at a deadline, we found ourselves just a little shy of the necessary number to form a group.  Laurie and I totally trust God with such details, but we were and still are a little disappointed. Another time. Soon, I hope. I would love to return and take a group from Grace and other friends.

I’m loving our two services that we started on October 1.  I’ll look up some stats and give a report, but overall I think it’s been a very healthy move for us.  I love watching people serve and engage with each other so well. I’ve absolutely loved meeting guests each week!

The new pup is 4 months old! I was going to say, “already”, like what you say when it’s going fast. It’s not going fast. He’s a puppy. All puppy. All boy. All lab. We’re working at it. Laurie says he’s smart. I say, “I sure hope so, because I’m starting to wonder.”

Have a great week.

PM

 

Another time

For months I’ve not written on the blog mainly because I was using the “Come to Israel” post as a reference for people to learn about our trip.

This past week we came to the deadline for sign-ups and found ourselves short of the original goal.  I was obviously disappointed to have to cancel the trip and to tell the group that had committed that we’d have to wait until next time. Jennifer and the entire team at Maranatha Tours has been a great group to work with and have even provided another tour for those from our group that still want to go.

As I told the group in my letter, I really do trust God’s leading in these areas.  Of course I wanted to go, as did they. However, I knew going into it that it was a pretty significant trip.  I’m a little bummed but I also know that it’s all good.

When Laurie and I went 2 years ago, I knew I’d love to return, but I also knew that if that was the only time I’d go, I was so thankful.  Perhaps someday we’ll return.

Come to Israel this November

I’m so excited to post that we have finalized our plans to host a group to Israel this coming November 2-11.

In March of 2015 Laurie and I were gifted our first trip to Israel.  It had a profound impact on both of us as we joined a group and walked the steps and saw the sights that the Scriptures have long told us about.  I knew soon after I arrived that I would want to return and make the opportunity available to my friends and family.

Take a look at the link below, and begin now to prayerfully consider taking this trip of a lifetime along with us. Our first “Israel 2017 Informational Meeting” will be Sunday, January 29th at 11:30 a.m. in the mini-auditorium at Sinagua.  This is immediately after our morning worship service.  The meeting should be 30 minutes. We’ll be discussing the details and answering questions.

www.maranathatours.com/Smith-Nov-2017-Israel

You can pick up a brochure at the church office or at the Information Table at church on Sunday. If you’d like one mailed to you, simply let us know.

Whose Birthday?

Christmas is more than a birthday observance. It’s a theological gold mine as followers of God from all time and all places realize the miracle of the incarnation.

Though not just a birthday, let’s not forget it is a birthday all the same.

My wife has her birthday just one week before Christmas. My brother actually gets to share his birthday with Jesus.

Why do we make such a big deal about the event of His birth?  We don’t do that with our birthdays. With the exception of maybe a mother, most of us don’t care to hear too much about the day, the setting, was it night, was it day, was it silent (wanna guess?) were there any animals inside the hospital, what kind of gifts were given for the kid.

No. We don’t celebrate birthdays that way. We celebrate by honoring the person. We make a fuss over them.  The best gift I can give my wife is time and attention. I give a couple of gifts and we do something special together. This year we went to a wedding, a concert and a museum.  Busy 24 hours!  Usually it’s a fun meal. A new trail.  Sometimes it’s just an extra special day off together.

You probably get my point already.

Along with the wonderful traditions and festive gatherings, what if we add a simple component to our Christmas.  Let’s honor the One born.  Don’t make it complicated. A couple of gifts, some extra time.  We are made in His image, so I think some of the stuff we like, He too likes. Like a couple of gifts and some special attention.

Merry Christmas.


If you’re in Flagstaff, join us at Grace for our Christmas Eve services Saturday, at 4:30 or 5:45.  Christmas morning, we’ll gather at 10 for a brief Christmas morning worship.

Why We Teach the Bible the Way We Do

By “we” I mean the pastors and elders of Grace Community.

The world needs the church to be the church. In essence: to know what we believe, live it in and by grace and be willing to clearly and kindly share it.

This isn’t about a particular preaching or teaching style. This is about the substance. Whether fast or slow, verse by verse, or high flyovers, we must TEACH God’s Word.

I was reading this morning in 2 Chronicles 17

7 Also in the third year of his reign he sent his leaders, Ben-Hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Michaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah. 9 So they taught in Judah, and had the Book of the Law of the Lord with them; they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught the people.

The text goes on to describe, in part, some of the result of teaching:

10 And the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, and they made no war against Jehoshaphat.

Just a couple of chapters before we get a quick synopsis of the times and why this stood out:

3 For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law.

Remember what the Lord told Joshua in 1:7-8

7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

I know the settings and parameters of the community of God were quite different in the Old Testament than we see in the New Testament church. 

We have similar emphasis given in the New Testament as well:

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Ti 3:16–17 

4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Ti 4:1–4

These verses need little commentary. Look around. The time isn’t coming, it’s here. I love and pray for my fellow pastors, teachers, and missionaries who are committed to faithfully teaching, often with much labor, the Scriptures we’ve been given. Join us at Grace each week as we humbly approach God’s great Word, currently in Romans, for a sobering look at His view of things. 

That’s where we learn grace. Where the gospel is clearly laid out. Where hope is promised.

Weekend to Remember

This past summer, Laurie and I attended the Weekend to Remember put on by Family Life. This is a weekend conference on marriage that Family Life has been doing for many years. Whether you’re newly married, an old pro, or considering getting married soon, this event will bless you.

From their website:

Great marriages require intentionality and investment—just like a garden that must be watered in order to grow. FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember getaway offers:

  • Biblically-based insights from top speakers and marriage experts.
  • Relaxing alone time to rediscover the reasons you fell in love, free from distractions
  • Helpful tools, projects, and resources for an immediate impact on your marriage.

We first attended the Weekend to Remember 20 years ago. It was okay.  Going for only the second time this past June, we both really appreciated the weekend. Our marriage isn’t a mess, we’re not in any trouble, nor are we finished with the whole ‘sanctification process’! We’re pretty average people. Some people think a conference like this is meant for marriages in trouble.  Honestly, I was pleased to find people at all stages of marriage: the engaged, the newly wed, the new parents, the empty nesters, and yes, there are testimonies of those barely hanging on.  All stages!

I’m writing to encourage you to invest in your marriage, no matter the stage of life you’re in right now.

You can go to our church’s website and register through us for a good discount.  The dates are Dec 9-11.

#PrayforGrace

 

Yesterday was our third study in the Esther series, “The Quiet Work of God”.  At the close of the message I shared that I would step away from the series for the next two Sundays so I can give some practical application from our series for our church, Grace Community.  In other words, it’s time to have a talk.

The final challenge was asking our church family to pray for Grace, especially as we enter these next two weeks.  #PrayforGrace. Esther had the Jewish people fast for 3 days before she would present herself to the King on their behalf.  I’m sure that included prayer, though the text doesn’t say that.

This morning I spent some time in my kayak on Lake Mary as I have on several early mornings this summer.  I have the entire lake to myself.  So I don’t just exercise and think of my day, I get to pray and pray out loud. Not for you or anyone else to know, but to talk out loud to God as though He was in front assisting with the rowing.  #PrayforGrace

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I’m praying for our church, that we would be as courageous as Esther, even when we don’t know what the next step will look like (more on that in yesterday’s sermon!).  If you’re a part of the Grace family, join me in praying for God’s people and the mission He has us on.  If you’re from another church, go ahead and pray the same thing for your church, for your pastor and leadership.

Where ever you are, make space for prayer. Just you and God talking. Talking about what’s on your mind, what’s on His.  Being thankful. Giving thought to what’s ahead.