Good Friday

And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43

Salvation. It’s really all about salvation.

He came and died in my place, your place. He took my sin, and yours. He became sin so that we can become the righteousness of God.

Wait, WHAT?

Yep, look at this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21 

For the criminal on the cross it was a good Friday. He woke up in Paradise, and there was Jesus. BAM!

For us, today is a great day, because of what He did for us on that one day.  My prayer this weekend is that many people in many churches will come to Christ. I’m praying for pastors who will preach the simple message of the cross and empty tomb. I’m praying for guests that have been invited.  People need Jesus.  Two criminals on two crosses. One mocks, the other cries out in faith.

Thank you, Jesus for the cross.  And for saving me.

I’m praying for Grace this Sunday as we celebrate the resurrection and welcome guests into our church community.  I’m starting a new series this Sunday, check this out.

Many of you remember the impact Zac Smith (my nephew) had on my life and our church family. Zac passed away 4 years ago. This Easter weekend NewSpring Church is retelling his story as Mandy and the kids each give testimony to the glory of God, just as Zac did. Check it out here.

Hume Lake!

One of the highlights for Grace Community each year is when our students get to go to Hume Lake.  A few years ago, I was privileged to pop in for a brief visit.  Here are just 4 reasons why I love that we make this a big deal:

1. Our students bring friends who LOVE it. This is an amazing atmosphere to have a blast, see what Christianity can look like and learn some serious stuff about God and the love He has for each one. Kids that don’t know Jesus, maybe have never even been to church are welcomed and impacted.

2. It’s about the gospel of grace. Without apology or hesitation, Tuesday night is set up as the night when Jesus is preached and students are given a clear opportunity to respond.  Kids get saved throughout the week, but there’s a clear emphasis on this one night.  This is awesome.

3. Our students are impacted. This isn’t just a “camp experience” that is an emotional high and ‘wears off’. No, this is different. Our leaders and students talk about this all year long. It’s a big deal because it’s a blast and it’s about Jesus.

4. The teaching is amazing. This isn’t “Christianity-Lite”, this is “hard-core, live your life for Jesus, get serious about His Word and live in the love He has for you” kind of stuff.

Our students leave this Saturday.

This Sunday, we’ll have a “prayer list” with all the names of those at Hume.  I’m asking you to join all of Grace in praying for our students and leaders, starting NOW.  If history teaches us anything, we know that when God works, Satan comes out swinging. The enemy will do whatever he can to distract and discourage. But we’re not about the enemy. We belong to Jesus and we are putting our trust and confidence in Him. He is the Victor. So, let’s ban together and pray for God to have His way as the kids pack up, load up and enjoy an amazing week at Hume Lake.

Two Hundred and Ten

That’s how many people at Grace came to the One Answer event, ready now to lead someone to Jesus as God brings them.  Because Jesus came and died and rose again, we have a message to pass on to others.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  John 3:17

This coming Sunday our church family will celebrate Palm Sunday, remembering the Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, hailed as the Son of David, but soon to be treated as a criminal. Not because of His crime, but because of my sin.

The sin that separated me from God.  Then Jesus died.  His blood covered my sin, satisfying the wrath of God.

Odd isn’t it?

I sinned, He didn’t

He died, so I could live.

As Palm Sunday ushers in the events of “holy week”, we remember the death and burial of Jesus.  But then we get to Resurrection Sunday!  Jesus is no longer dead, but He’s alive.  Join the 210 people of Grace that are asking God for the opportunity to invite someone.  This is by far the most significant time of the year for the message of the Gospel to go unhindered.  Let’s be clear: every single Sunday we celebrate the Resurrected Jesus, but this one coming up is special.  I believe God is calling people to Himself.  And He’s put me and you in their path to show them and speak of His great love and grace.  Go ahead, ask someone. Simply invite them to church with you.  Let’s see what God does.

One Answer

This past Sunday we announced an event coming March 3rd and 10th.  This will be a single event that we repeat so you can either come to both or come to one and serve at the other. We are providing childcare for all kids so that everyone can come. Those available to help with childcare for one of the nights will do a great service to our church!

The event will be from 6 – 7:15.  We’re working hard to keep it real close to just over an hour.

You know we love the gospel at Grace Community. It is often that I bring the clear gospel message into sermons.  In the past I have taught a four week series on evangelism where we covered how to talk to someone about the need for salvation and then how to take the Bible and lead someone to faith in Christ!

That’s not what this event is about.

This is NOT about how to get someone interested, or ready, or get them to understand their need for what Jesus has done for them. This event is about YOU and I knowing what to say when the person is ALREADY READY!

There is a great place for evangelism training and how to answer a lot of questions. We’ve done some of that, and we’ll probably do more in the future.

This is only about how you and I can help a person who is ready.

I want us all to know and be ready with what to say and what verses to go to!

I KNOW you can do this. I think it would be awesome to have a couple hundred people of Grace clearly ready to share the beautiful grace of Jesus when asked!

Entrusted with the Gospel

Yesterday was our “Vision Update” Sunday.  On Jan 1, I talked specifics about Grace Community Church and what I believed God was leading us to do during this year.  Yesterday was exactly 6 months, so it was a good time for an update.

I am so excited for the plans God has for Grace Church.  It’s hard to put into a few words on this page all that is happening and the why of it all. Let me jump to the end. I ended with a brief picture of Paul writing to Timothy at the end of his first letter. Paul had just worded a ‘charge’ if you will, kind of a call to arms, “O man of God…fight the good fight of faith.”  Then he closes in verse 20 with “O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you.”

I can’t go into all of it here, but you can listen if you’d like on our website, and you could even skip to the last part like maybe the 41 minute mark (how’s that, a pastor saying skip to the end!)

Not unlike Timothy, we too have had the gospel entrusted to us to carry on and carry out. I don’t know where we got the notion that this was an option. It’s a command, a commission, it’s a way of life. A way of life that says, “there’s nothing in the world more important than receiving what God has for me and then living a life in response to that gift of grace and passing it on to others.”

Crossing the line

I know it’s just an expression. But around here, it means something.  Often as I tell someone about the good news of God’s love and grace toward them, I finish by telling them they need to cross the line.  You know, like make a decision. Take a stand.  Do it.

The gospel is simple, not easy.  We are sinners. All of us. God made us, loves us, hates our sin. Jesus was sent to us by His father. God in the flesh. Jesus is all God, as is the Holy Spirit.  Jesus lived a sinless life. Died on the cross in my place. Took all my sin upon Himself.  He paid the price I would never be able to pay. He did that for me.  He came out of the tomb. Risen!  Death conquered.  He did that for me.

Then in His amazing grace, He brings that message to me.  And to you. We have only two responses. Reject it, or accept it. To reject it is pretty stupid actually.  It’s to tell God, thanks but no thanks, I got this.  Lot of people make that decision.  To accept it is to acknowledge the message as true. Jesus is God, He did die for your sins, and He did it all so you could be in a relationship with Him, just like we were created to be.  He loves you. Hates your sin. Our sin cost Jesus his life. But, after He shed his blood and died for our sins, He arose and now we can have true life with Him by faith in Him. Believing Him and the message God has now given us. Accept it. Repent of your sin. Confess you’re a sinner before God. That means tell God you get it. You’re a sinner and He’s our only hope, because He died in our place!

That’s it. Pray to God now. Tell him.  Acknowledge you’re a sinner before a holy God who loves you and has made a way for you to be reconciled with God. That’s through Jesus. He did it all for you.  Now, cross the line of faith.

Want to read about it? Romans 3:10-11, 21-23; 5:1-11; 6:23; John 3:16; 1 John 1:9; 5:13

‘Twas the night before school…

First of all, I do realize that many have already started school. Humor me as I write this for all of our Gracers headed back to school this fall, or summer as it is.

Here’s my prayer for each of you whether you are in Flag unified, private, Christian, charter, or home schooled:

God, bless our kids.
Help them to grow and learn and laugh
May this school year be exceptional because each of them are
May each one know and see You as they study Your world
May each one know Your amazing love as they make friends and find acceptance among others
May each find joy in discovering who You’ve made them to be
May each one feel safe because they trust You and the plans You have for them
May they express grace and kindness especially on the days it seems undeserved
May they be bold in sharing Your story with others
May they be quick to praise You for who You are and how You are working
And may they never be ashamed of Your Son, Jesus!
May Your Spirit fill and guide them
God, use them to change the world
Bless them LORD, bless each one.

But God.

I think it’s important for the Believer to know his lost estate before saved by God. The only reason I think it’s important is because Paul seems to think so as he reminds the Ephesian readers of this in the first three verses of chapter two.

Let’s be honest. We’d all like to forget our past, especially the blunders, the mistakes.  I recently had someone remind me of something I said years ago, and my first thought was “Really, that’s what you remember?” It wasn’t even a bad thing.  When I think of my past, I’m glad there are things that don’t come to mind.  Paul, however, seemed to think it was good to remember who we were and in what condition we were in before we met Christ.

Eph 2:1-3 ESV

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Read what Charles Ryrie says of our depravity:

The scriptural evidence provides the basis for what has been commonly called total depravity. Depravity means that man fails the test of pleasing God. This failure is total in that (a) it affects all aspects of man’s being and (b) it affects all people.

Negatively, the concept of total depravity does not mean (a) that every person has exhibited his depravity as thoroughly as he or she could; (b) that sinners do not have a conscience or a “native induction” concerning God; (c) that sinners will indulge in every form of sin; or (d) that depraved people do not perform actions that are good in the sight of others and even in the sight of God.

Positively, total depravity means (a) that corruption extends to every facet of man’s nature and faculties; and (b) that there is nothing in anyone that can commend him to a righteous God.

Total depravity must always be measured against God’s holiness. Relative goodness exists in people. They can do good works, which are appreciated by others. But nothing that anyone can do will gain salvational merit or favor in the sight of a holy God.

(from Basic Theology, Copyright © 1986, 1999 by Charles C. Ryrie.)

I think it matters that we understand this because of the next two words in the English text: But, God.

It seems to be possible to lose the wonder of God when we forget who He is and what He did for us, in our place.  We were lost without Him. We sinned.  Gen 3:6-13; Rom 5:12; Rom 3:10-12, 18, 23, 24

But God.

Eph 2:4-7 ESV

4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Here Paul sums it up in one verse: Rom 5:8

You can listen to a full sermon on this passage here.

Telling the Gospel

Preaching sounds like only ‘preachers’ can do it.

Sharing sounds like the exchange of good ideas or new recipes or secrets on where the fish are biting.

But telling. Ah telling. That sounds like talking about something that I can’t wait to tell you about.  Like an amazing thing that happened in my life.  Let me tell you about it. Or about something I witnessed that I’m sure no one has ever noticed before. Let me tell you about it.

Tonight at 6:30, I’ll start a three-week series on the Essentials in Telling the Gospel.  If Jesus left us on the planet to tell others, then how come they don’t know yet? Why do we spend so much time, energy, resources on Christians talking to other Christians each week in really nice buildings, while people drive or walk right by us unnoticed, untouched and unchanged. This isn’t about guilt. It’s about a decision we need to make.

I’ll do my part to help you with the information you’ll need.  Truth is, God does most of the work.  But He does need us. It’s His plan, to allow us to be a part of the process.

Three Monday nights. That’s the only commitment you need to get started.