A few shots of a recent walk-thru:
We just enjoyed 3 great Christmas Eve services, where we were able to welcome many guests and share with a few hundred the wonder of coming Home for Christmas. I am so thankful for the many people of Grace Community that worked and gave extra to help us have amazing Christmas services.
“We are never more at home than when we are enjoying the presence of Christ in us.”
This Christmas morning I share with you the words from Oswald Chambers:
His birth and our new birth
Behold, a virgin shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Isaiah 7:14 (R.V.).
His Birth in History. “Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not evolve out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being, He is a Being Who cannot be accounted for by the human race at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate, God coming into human flesh, coming into it from outside. His life is the Highest and the Holiest, entering in at the lowliest door. Our Lord’s birth was an advent.
His Birth in Me. “Of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). Just as Our Lord came into human history from outside, so He must come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a ‘Bethlehem’ for the Son of God? I cannot enter into the realm of the Kingdom of God unless I am born from above by a birth totally unlike natural birth. “Ye must be born again.” This is not a command, it is a foundation fact. The characteristic of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that Christ is formed in me. Immediately Christ is formed in me, His nature begins to work through me.
God manifest in the flesh—that is what is made profoundly possible for you and me by the Redemption.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).
Blessings on each of you this season. -Mark
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
He rose from the dead
That’s been our theme this Christmas in “The Wonder of Christmas”. It’s still a wonder that He came to us in a manger. It’s a wonder that He took my place on a cross. He died for me. It’s a wonder that a place where dead bodies lay is found empty. He arose victorious over death. So I,too, can know eternal life!
When you see the manger you must see the cross. He didn’t just come on a silent night. He came in humility to take on my punishment.
When you see the empty tomb, you know He’s alive and He’s coming again.
Join us at Grace Community tomorrow for one of our two Christmas Eve services at Sinagua. The Wonder of the Manger.
Come at 4:30 (with childcare for infants through preschool) or at 5:45 (with no childcare). All are welcomed! Invite family and friends to join you. Arrive early. You don’t want to miss the opening!
My house is full of family and there are about 7 different conversations going on and a few singing and a game is being played and pictures are being shared and others are in the kitchen grazing.
We had a great thanksgiving day with all the traditional treats and accompanying stresses of hurrying up and saying hellos and goodbyes all too quickly. Thanks for all who came and shared the day together.
I woke up this morning feeling lousy. Like sick. I probably won’t die of this, but just enough of a sore throat to keep me somewhat isolated and careful at best. So, here I sit in the other room, listening and checking in with you.
Like some, Laurie and I have a pretty quiet home. For whatever reasons the Lord never gave us children. We love the extended families that we share. But there’s nothing like family actually filling the house.
Our hearts are full.
Laurie would say that too, but now she’s busy playing Christmas songs accompanying a few of the sibs. All is good. Truth is, it’s always good because God is good and His gifts are good. Somedays we get to live in the awareness of His goodness more than others. So, with grateful hearts, let’s never tire of saying Thanks. To God. To each other.
I keep meaning to say something about a couple of new apps. I don’t hear much of people talking about ‘favorite’ apps much anymore. I think everyone is kind of on their own. And there doesn’t really seem to be too much room left for the latest coolest. But in case you still have a little room…
A couple of weeks ago I found two new apps that I really like:
Skyview and GoISSWatch
I’m intrigued watching the International Space Station go overhead usually in good view about once a night.
The Skyview is just cool to get your bearings. Have fun.