Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, 

for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Psalm 136 may have been read or sung in the temple as the Passover lambs were being slain. The priest would read or sing the first part of each [verse] then the congregation would sing or read the last phrase which is the same throughout the Psalm.

The key word in the response is the Hebrew word for ‘mercy’ or ‘steadfast love’. We might pronounce is ‘hesed’, with more of a ‘ch’ sound at the beginning. Defined in part as “loyal love” it’s God’s gift of love towards us, as best seen in words like ‘mercy’. A brief survey of English translations shows even a fuller meaning of the term, and this in turn can help us see the root of our thankful hearts. It’s Who God is and what He’s done for us.

ESV: for his steadfast love endures forever

NKJV: For His mercy endures forever

NASB: For His lovingkindness is everlasting

NIV: His love endures forever

NLT: His faithful love endures forever

There is so much to give thanks for on this Thanksgiving Day 2013. At the center of it all is the finished work of Jesus on the cross, taking my place, paying for all of my sin. And now as His very own, I will proclaim His goodness, His love and mercy, His ‘hesed’ for all to hear.

God bless each of you this Thanksgiving!

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thes 5:18 NLT

 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you Phil 1:3

Stepping Out

Each Sunday this year @ Grace we are putting out a challenge, a ‘stepping out’ if you will, kind of challenge.  Often sermons leave us thinking about our relationship to God and sometimes an action point that relates to those with whom we are closest.  These challenges are about ‘stepping out’ of our routines and comforts and stepping alongside those we see and don’t yet know. Here are the first three:

  • Think of a way to show appreciation to someone who blessed you in 2012
  • Meet a neighbor
  • Serve someone anonymously

I know, seems simple. Lots of room to be creative, or not.

Here’s the point:  We want to take initial steps in knowing and serving one another and those who are all around us.  Some of the challenges will be pointed towards others in our fellowship, some towards neighbors we know, and those we’ve never met. Some will be pointed towards missionaries we support and the smiling face that gives us our receipt at the local store.  The reason is not to say that we have finally fulfilled the Great Commandment to “love one another”, but to move in that direction.

My hope is that as we take these weekly challenges we will see a change in our perspective of where we live and how we can serve those around us.

Come and join us.  The weekly challenges are put on our website each Monday for that week.  What could it look like to have 500+ people in our community acting on these challenges to love and to serve?

As Christ Loved the Church

This past Sunday was a remarkable experience for me.  I had the privilege of addressing the men of Grace like never before.  The text was not unfamiliar. Eph 5, Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.

What does it mean to give your life for someone?  Jesus showed us.  And now we are completely different people because we are His.  He did something no husband will ever do, He paid for our sins and invited us to live the redeemed life with Him as our Provider and Protector, our Healer and our Savior.  He did this for us.

Then He commanded us to go out and love each other (John 13:34-35; Matt 22:39). In Eph 5, He puts and exclamation point on this love as He tells those that are married to give so much of themselves to that one other person.  If you listen to the sermon, you will notice there’s a section that wasn’t recorded as I spoke directly and passionately to the men of Grace to deal with the stuff that was holding them back from loving and leading like Jesus. One of Satan’s biggest ploys today is to make men believe that they can’t do what Jesus has designed and called them to do.

Thank you to the men of Grace who stood that morning. I’m still praying for you!  Whether you’re married or single, young or old, you as men have a role and a responsibility.  Let’s love others as Jesus so loved.

I realize I didn’t take the time to blog on this last week, but ladies you’ll be glad to know we covered Biblical Submission the week before from Eph 5.  Both of these sermons are game changers as we all submit to Christ to fulfill the role for which we’ve been designed.

The sermons from Grace are available on itunes and our website.

By this all will know…

Amazing passages:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35

When each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Eph 4:16

As the term ‘love’ floats around the next few days, I want to draw your attention to a beautifully biblical understanding of love.

Look, I’m married. I love my wife. I get that Valentines Day in fact brings another opportunity for me to put words, actions, flowers, dinner, and yep, even chocolate to showing my love for Laurie.  And yes, I realize it’s not all about that one day.  It’s all year, it’s all day everyday. I really do love my wife and we both work at our marriage and clearly see our own imperfections.

But the kind of love talked about in scripture is rarely about chocolate and flowers and overpriced, over-wordy cards (ok, ok, I do have issues!). The love in Scripture is all about giving.  True, the giving may show itself in the giving of gifts on a special holiday. I’m good with that. But PLEASE don’t limit it to that alone.

Jesus didn’t say the people all around us would know we are His because of our prosperity, the size of our amazing church facility, how we vote, how many times we go to church or how popular we are.  He said they would know we His by our LOVE for ONE ANOTHER! This love is not just words. It’s not merely telling everyone how much you love them.  It’s giving. Giving to meet their needs. Giving so they can grow. Giving of yourself to others.  This is biblical love, as in this is exactly what Jesus did for us. He gave where we couldn’t.

Then Paul tells us that this is exactly how the Body of Christ matures and grows, its as we love one another and give of ourselves to each other.

So, what is the Next Step for you?  Reread the verses above.  We don’t need a lot of explanation or ideas. We just need God’s Spirit to lead us, as He has in the Word and as He is right now as you’re considering this beautifully, biblical idea of loving one another.

Pay it forward

Yesterday we looked at John 15:12-17 to gain an understanding of Jesus’ command to love each other.  In our Grace Group last night the discussion turned to ways we can love those near us that often get passed by in our busyness.  Laurie and I shared our recent experience of being so blessed by a couple of meals when we were both sick for a few days.

It is uncommon for us to both have the cruds at the same, but we did, and it wasn’t pretty.  Two different families of Grace offered to bring us meals, on the same day.  It was awesome!  As we retold the story last night, we realized how effective that jesture of love really was for us.  We actually began to feel much better physically after this show of love and support was so clearly demonstrated.  The food was amazing, homemade soups, desserts, the whole deal.  But what made such an impact on us was the generous love.  Laurie went on to tell how she almost immediately wanted to go and do the same thing for someone, simply because of what it did for her.  And so she did.

As we discuss our intentions to graciously and intentionally demonstrate God’s unconditional love to those nearest us, think of how you have been blessed.  How have you seen sacrificial love evidenced in your circle?  Whatever that is, it might be a good way to pass it on to someone in your life that is just longing for the same.  I’m pretty sure as God prompts you to bless someone, that person has a real need and is open to God’s message of love through you!  Remember from yesterday, love is a sacrifice, a willingness to pay the price.  I can’t wait to hear more stories of God’s people loving all over each other!  Remember, “by this will they know you are my disciples.”  That’s the point.  We’re His!  Let’s do this.

One more quick thought for this Monday. Tonight I’m starting our next class.  This one is “How to Study the Bible”.  This is a 4-week course on hermeneutics, how we interpret the Bible for clear, accurate understanding.  Remember, when God have us the Bible, it was to be understood.  It can happen.  Come and join me tonight at the Ministry Center at 6:30.  The $5 cost covers handouts for the 4 weeks.  DO NOT let a mere 5 bucks keep you from learning one of the most important things you’ll need as you follow Christ.  If you’re broke, come anyway, I’ll spot you the five.  I really want to see a bunch of you get this material!

Dating Again

Last week in a wedding I performed, I challenged the couple to continue to get to know each other. To know each other’s ‘stuff’. What makes you happy, what are you thinking about, how are you doing? Dudes, we have to work at that. And we should. You’re not a sissy if you talk from your heart and to your wife’s heart. You’re more of a man than the guy that won’t.

Last night we got to go out for dinner. We don’t do it a lot. I’m glad we don’t. But I love it when we get to. Going out for dinner is still a treat for us. We don’t have to go out, we have food in the fridge. But, after a great productive day, how nice it is to clean up, put on a shirt that doesn’t have a sports team logo and go out. Try going to a place that uses silverware and cloth napkins. Go out, spend a few dollars and look at each other. Listen to each other’s heart. Treat her like you did when you were trying to win her heart.

I’m not about to write a book about marriage or dating, or heart stuff. But, I’m in the game. I love my wife and I love spending time with her. Whether it’s at home or out on the date. Make it real you guys. Live in the moment with the one God has blessed you with.