A most excellent Christmas gift.

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” Luke 2:15

Here we go, Christmas 2022! We are just days away from people gathering together for Christmas traditions and celebrations, Christmas Eve services, candlelights, carols and exchanging of cards, gifts and family hugs. Reunited families gathering around the tree and later the festive table for the feast. Neighbors waving and kids playing with new toys. Most have prepared and waited for weeks for this special season. And here we are. Christmas has come and the meaning is as powerful as ever for those that know and follow Jesus.

Christmas is special.

Whether or not it matters that there were barnyard animals looking on as December 24 rolled around, the truth is, the Bible tells us that the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. The prophecies and purposes of God were about to be fulfilled. So, as followers of Christ who have been changed by His grace, we celebrate, we remember and we worship.

Join with the Grace Church family this Christmas Eve for 5:15 service either on Friday Dec 23, or Saturday Dec 24. Hope to see you there.

Here’s a gift idea:

If you’d like a great idea for a gift that will long be remembered, come to Israel with me and Laurie this coming October. We will once again be hosting a group to the Holy Land and walk where Jesus walked. We’ll even have a chance to go to Bethlehem where the whole experience of “Immanuel: God with Us” began. You’ll see the garden where Jesus prayed the night before the crucifixion and the garden tomb where we believe His body was laid, before the glorious resurrection.

Check out the information here. After the holidays we’ll begin having some interest and information meetings. So, whether to give or receive, what an ideal Christmas gift: let’s go to Bethlehem and see!

http://www.allaboutgrace.com

https://www.adventurebibletours.com/grace-church-flagstaff

Blessings to you this Christmas.

Fall.

Honestly, social media, like Facebook have kind of changed how we see blogs. I get it. I do. There are many times I think, “Oh that would be a healthy thing to share”. But then I share a small snippet on social media, or I freeze between the options and write nothing.

I thought of that last week as I went to a funeral of a dear friend and mentor, then later that same day I learned of a young man (ok, younger to me:) that had suddenly passed away.

So, today, I’m jumping on just to ramble for a bit.

Today, my younger sister would have turned 60. She’s in heaven now, so 60 means nothing to her. We were always “twins for a week” before my next birthday changed it back to me being the older one.

Fall is funny that way. A time for birthdays and a time to celebrate the beauty of another changing season. I love fall because I can see the vivid colors and appreciate the final hope of mild weather. All that will change very soon.

Here’s a video the nice people of fb put together for me.

Just for Fun!

A few shots of a recent walk-thru:

Brian headed into Grace Kids!
“Hospitable with the Gospel”
Love this view. “Flagstaff needs Jesus and Grace needs a home”
Thanks for praying with us for this project and the continued ministry of Grace in Flag!

For Such a Time as This

Anyone familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures knows well this phrase. It certainly makes for a great sermon title. I recall early on in the pandemic we were doing outdoor services and I did a short series on “Now More than Ever”. As I prepared that series I soon realized it’s a topic and theme that are timeless and necessary. We all live only in the moments we have and want to be purposeful about getting the right things right. The same is said of Mordecai’s words from Esther 4:13-14.

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

This evening, March 16th is the start of the one day celebration of Purim. This is the Jewish holiday remembering and celebrating God’s deliverance of His people through the prompting of Mordecai to encourage Esther to go before the King with the news of Haman’s wicked plot. Esther knew what it might cost her, which in turn prompted Mordecai’s famous challenge.

For those who are following the teaching at Grace, we are finishing up a study of Ezra and Nehemiah. Interestingly there is overlap in the stories with the timeline of Esther. It is not specifically stated in the scriptures, but tradition gives us cause to wonder if Nehemiah’s request of the Persian King was granted in part by the influence of Esther’s story just a few years prior. Same city. Same family dynasty. We won’t speculate too much on that, but there’s nothing wrong with wondering about the potential impact. What we do know is that the people (Jewish people still in exile) were spared and given a celebration in place of a mass memorial. Just a few years later, the people were encouraged to return from a place of exile to a home with expectation.

Is the Lord leading you to stand up, speak up, to sit up and lean in towards something that may in fact turn out bigger than you realize?

Today, the Lord dwells within His people. His work is our work. Our identity isn’t found in how well we do that work, but rather in the gracious gift of the Holy Spirit living and working within us. It is Christ in me that causes me to lean in and say, “Yes Lord, I’m all in. For such a time as this, You made me, loved me, and have empowered me to do Your will for Your great glory. Let’s celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people then and now as we remember the remarkable story of Esther.

Progress

Just a couple of pictures from our new church campus site. Along with the guys getting the walls up, I noticed the HVAC team inside installing vents and all the goodness of HVAC. Good stuff. These guys were hustling as the weather was coming in for this afternoon’s snow. Which has now arrived!

March 1 Updates

Who chose that generic title? The thing about a blog is everyone can see how lame the author is in not posting for months at a time. I honestly think of updating with an occasional idea, but then a squirrel runs by and I can’t remember what day it is.

Here are some updates: All great, by the way!

Yesterday our school district followed CDC guidelines and REMOVED the mask mandate for Flagstaff schools! For this I am so thankful. It communicates a few key ideas: The pandemic seems to be slowing. The metrics are going in the right direction. Many people can return to in-person community that have been unable to join us at Sinagua for a variety of reasons related to masks. Everyone is welcome! For those desiring to wear a mask, please do so. We’ll continue to make masks available as it is still recommended. Remember, always be gracious towards each other. However, no longer a mandate!

This Sunday, at Grace we’ll give the total of our recent ALL IN: Refresh. It’s pretty great news. If you missed Sunday, go online to catch the service. You can also go here to renew or make a first time pledge towards our new church campus through ALL IN.

Plan on staying after church this Sunday and support the Indian Bible College as they prepare “Indigenous Tacos”. They are raising funds for a missions trip and we can help while enjoying a great meal together. Let’s blow them away with our typical Grace Generosity!

Enjoy a few shots over the past couple of weeks. More to come…

Snow was welcomed in Flagstaff last week, and it barely held back the work. Though snow is necessary in the mountains, the milder winter has been somewhat helpful for the project. (think: glass half-full)

It’s like a time-out for your mouth

As we work our way through a Proverbs-a-day I hope you’re beginning to realize the benefits. If you’re just getting started, read today’s Proverb (along with any other regular reading you enjoy) and ask the Lord to give you wisdom from His Word for today.

The goal is to learn from God, to start the day with some quiet and give yourself permission to listen to legit wisdom.

If you have been foolish in exalting yourself

Or if you have plotted evil, put your hand on your mouth. Pro 30:32

You don’t need to wait until you’ve foolishly exalted yourself or set out to plot the evil. Maybe by rehearsing this verse in your heart and mind, you can catch it before it becomes necessary. Wisdom doesn’t say ‘never speak up’. Wisdom knows the times we need to give our mouth, or keyboard, a time-out.

Have a great day. Even if it’s a little quieter.

Proverbs each day

This morning I challenged our church family to commit to reading one chapter from Proverbs each day, as it correlates with the day of the month. This is not a new idea. I’m sure I’ve talked about it plenty of times before. Today is August 15, so the reading is Proverbs 15.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. Pro 15:1

For those joining me in this challenge. Here are a few tips from my experience in reading a Proverb each day:

  1. Take your time. It’s not about how fast I can get through the days reading.
  2. I like to highlight. Honestly, for a few years I’ve done most of my reading on my ipad. Logos is easy to use and has fascinating highlighting options. Or simply highlight in whatever app you use or better, in your real paper Bible! The reason is because over the years I find myself rereading these passages. New things jump out all the time. Often it’s where I’m at in my life that helps me “listen for” and hear what God is saying through His word.
  3. Keep going. Don’t make a big deal if you miss a day or two or five. Don’t try to make up. Just read the chapter for that day.
  4. Not everyone wants to journal, I’ve learned it’s a great discipline for me. Simply write out a key verse and a thought or prayer. Don’t worry about your writing, just keep doing it, you’ll find your groove. Maybe you simply want to recall one idea or word that is especially helpful to you on that day. Whether you journal or write a highlight online, share it somehow. Maybe I could encourage ‘comments’ on this page for those that want to do this together.

Now, for Chapter 15. I have a bunch of highlights already. This very first verse speaks so closely with what I preached about today. You know, I always have a choice in how I respond, and a gentle answer always wins. Having this verse in my head throughout the day can only be helpful.

As mentioned in church, one of the benefits of a church reading Proverbs together is we may actually see a rise in the wisdom meter for our church and community!

To God be the Glory!

Pastor Mark

 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Pr 15:1.