Thankful from the heart

Thanksgiving! Gathering with the family, enjoying great food. And a day to say thanks. I was reading this morning from Isaiah 28 and was reminded how important it is to have a changed heart.

“Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” Isaiah 28:13

Many of those who would soon face judgement in Israel were only giving a formal, outward worship to God, not a genuine from-the-heart kind of worship.  They were more concerned about the laws of man, legalism, than with the abundant grace of God given to them.  They were good at the ‘lip-service’, but it was their hearts that God was more concerned about.

Today, we can know God, through Jesus Christ.  Jesus died on the cross, He took my place, paying for my sins. We don’t face a judgement, because Jesus already took our punishment.

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. Rom 10:9-10

Today, especially today, let our hearts reflect our worship, not just our lips.

Consider the words of Paul in Colossians 3:15-17:

15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him

Here’s to another 20!

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“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it”  Ps 127:1

A couple of weeks ago on September 28th, we celebrated our 20th anniversary at Grace Community Church. It was an amazing day of worship, communion, teaching and some good memories. Our goal for the day was to lift up the name of Jesus and thank God for allowing us the blessing of being a faithful body of Christ in Flagstaff.  I heard it more than once, “our work isn’t done here”. It’s great to stop and look back and give thanks to the Lord. And it’s great to look ahead, pressing on to what the Lord would have us do as a church here in Flagstaff and throughout Northern Arizona. members-18 members-17 The on and off again rain didn’t seem to bother anyone.  And sure enough, about the time we said “amen”, it cleared up for a beautiful afternoon while everyone enjoyed some Bigfoot BBQ.  Thanks so much to our church family for working together to make Grace the very special place that it is.

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We were so blessed to see many friends that had been at Grace during some of the early years.

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Time to Celebrate

“Every week at Grace is important”

I really do believe this. Every week matters. Gathering together with our church family is a sacred and honored tradition taught to us in the New Testament and modeled through 2000 years of history.

In just under two weeks, Grace will have a special Sunday. It’s our 20th Anniversary.

On that day we’ve rented the beautiful outdoor Pepsi Amphitheater at Ft. Tuthill.  This is a great venue for a celebration like this. Truth is, the actual church service will be very much like every other Sunday at Grace over the past 20 years.  We’ll lift high the name of Jesus and show our love for God through Worship and teaching. The big difference is we’re meeting outdoors.  It’s a celebration!

We’ve been talking this up a bit lately, mainly so our church knows when and where to meet and what to expect. But yesterday morning I caught a whole new vision of what this celebration could look like.

On Sunday, I finished up a few messages emphasizing the core of our Community. We finished with “Love Your Neighbor”. I challenged the church to look for and jump on LYN Ops.  Opportunities to Love Your Neighbor! As I was considering my neighbors, it dawned on me that this upcoming celebration is the ideal opportunity to invite them to attend Grace.  Anniversaries are great, and I really do believe the Lord would have us stop, remember and give Him praise for our past. But what excites me even more is this – continuing to love our neighbors, welcoming people in our church and sharing with them the love of God through the Gospel story!

Think about it, what a great atmosphere to invite people that you’re praying for, people that you know don’t have a church home and people that may not easily come to a church service in a traditional setting.  Simply invite them to a “special outdoor service our church is having at the amphitheater with lunch included”.  Truth is, I’m not sure my neighbors care about an ‘anniversary’, why should they? But they may like the casual setting and gorgeous fall day in Flagstaff.

So, yes! It is a time to celebrate and invite!

Living Faithfully

How I think on the past gives me hope for the future and faith for today.

Who doesn’t love Lamentations 3:22-23? 

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is Your faithfulness.”

These verses explode with meaning when read in the context of both Jeremiah and Lamentations. I’ve slowly been reading through the Bible and today found myself in Lamentations 3.  As I’ve read and allowed my mind to be captivated by the faithfulness of Jeremiah, the prophet of God who stood alone to announce judgment on Judah, when all the other ‘prophets’ spoke against him, I’ve been struck by one main idea that happens to coincide with my current sermon series from Hebrews 11:  Jeremiah was faithful to God’s call on his life in the most difficult situation.  

When God calls us to do something we just assume that doing it will bring great blessing and success and all will be well with the world, because after all, we’re doing God’s great work.  Hit pause on that thinking and read the 52 chapters of Jeremiah followed by the short book expressing his weeping over what God had him do. 

Faithfulness does not equal success.  Success for Jeremiah would have been a national revival followed by God reversing the proposed judgment via Babylon. Think Jonah and Nineveh. 

Jeremiah was true to the job of consistently preaching, even after being thrown in jail.  In Lamentations you get the idea that the ‘lamenting’ is too much for him.  “How can I bear this? This has been a horrible season. Why God, why?”  Then something happens in verse 21.  

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.”

Here’s a little help from the notes from the NKJV Study Bible: “This I recall to my mind: Jeremiah’s remembrance of God’s faithfulness brought about a change in the prophet’s emotions. As long as we contemplate our troubles, the more convinced we will become of our isolation, our hopelessness, our inability to extricate ourselves from the present trouble. But when we focus on the Lord, we are able finally to rise above, rather than to suffer under, our troubles.”

God is good. He is faithful to His word. Jeremiah was faithful to the dreadful job God gave him to do. Instead of bemoaning and getting more and more depressed on how rotten the situation was, he changed his thinking. He thought on the faithfulness of God. And it gave him hope.  And that is how he was able to pass on to us the gift of Lamentations 3:22-23.  

 

Happy Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day isn’t about the perfect mom. It’s not about Proverbs 31. It’s not a day to compare. It’s not a day to idolize.

Mother’s Day is a day to say ‘thanks’.

I have a wonderful mother-in-law that lives right next door, and for that I’m grateful. I’m thankful for her and her love for her kids and grandkids and even the in-laws!

I have a mother who is with Jesus and has been there longer than I knew her here. I miss her. But I’m so very thankful for her.  I know she’s in heaven and I can’t wait to see her again.

So, with that, I say to all the moms, “Happy Mother’s Day”. And here’s a little bonus from when we all lived in black and white, 9 of the 10:IMG_2203

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.

Hidden Idols

 

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Yesterday, a friend of mine showed me a picture I needed to see. He was speaking of the challenges of a growing ministry he was leading.

As he shared his heart for the future and his expanding role, he simply stated, “I don’t want the success of this ministry to become an idol.” My mind caught that image. I’m not sure what he said after that by way of explanation. All I knew was, I had a fixed image in my mind; one that I needed to see.

I really don’t like writing on stuff like this.  People that excuse ‘success’ usually aren’t experiencing it. This brother was, and he was aware that it’s all too easy for any success to become an idol.

It is common to understand an idol as anything that takes the place of God; especially something material, something tangible that has no kin to anything spiritual.

God calls us to love (read:serve) Him and one another. I know that. Can that ‘service’ become an idol?  If my focus is on the ‘success’ of that service so much that I lose sight of God and His love and grace for me and others, perhaps I have an idol on my hands.  I am all for success. I have no idea how it is defined, but I believe if God is in it, we ought to be in it to win it! Why do anything half-hearted or shabby?  Why have the “Christian-discount” mentality when it comes to how we serve God? NO WAY. Serve Him with everything you have. Serve in love. Serve in humility. Serve with generosity. Serve with passion and excitement, vision and faith.  Just don’t make the results of your service an idol.  God is God and He is in charge.

I needed that picture.

Ask the Lord to protect you from the hidden idols that can somehow slip into a place of prominence.

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:10-14 

“Grab a Corner”

And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Mark 2:3-5

Jesus wants us to let others know about Him.  Resurrection Sunday, and really every single Sunday, is a great opportunity to invite people to come and see who Jesus is and what He’s done for them. In Sunday’s message, four people had faith and they acted on that faith to do the unusual so a man could be both forgiven and healed. As I understand the passage, the paralytic wanted to see Jesus, probably for the healing. I wonder if the forgiveness was unexpected.  Sometimes God asks us to do the unusual so the unexpected can happen. And sometimes He calls us to do it together with others. Personal evangelism is more of a team sport than we think it is. Most of us don’t do a great job with evangelism because we erroneously think it’s all up to us. The church and the work of the church is a team event. None of us are meant to go this alone. Can you imagine just one of the four friends trying to do what the four eventually had to do?

So, who is our team? Well, it’s me, it’s you, it’s our church. I believe it’s a work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  As you pray to the Father for your unsaved and unchurched friends, ask the Holy Spirit to help you and to show you the opportunities to invite and to encourage.  Join me and simply grab one of the corners of the mat. It’s NOT all up to you.  Salvation is God’s work. Jesus accomplished it on the cross, and now the Holy Spirit is convicting.  Let’s do this together, with each other, joining our church family and seeing what God will do.  When we only do the usual, we get the expected. Let’s ask God for more. Let’s be willing to do the unusual so we can experience the unexpected!

#KSA

At Grace we are in a series called Prepare. The idea is this: What would happen if God answered your prayers?  Are you prepared?  Most of us have some idea of what we’d love to see God do, whether it’s related to our work, relationships, unsaved family and friends converted, or to see our church family grow.  Before the people of Israel entered the new promised land, Joshua provided leadership with these words:

‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’  Joshua 1:11

As the day approached, Joshua continued:

Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” 3:5

This past Sunday the topic was Confession.  Considering the awful scene in Joshua 7 where one man’s sin kept the entire nation from a presumed victory, God judged sin in a most dramatic fashion.  Similarly in Acts 5, we see a unique demonstration of discipline on sin during the offering part of the church service.  God has never looked lightly upon sin. And that’s why Jesus had to die for our sins.

Confession is good for the soul, true. But it’s more than that.  Confession keeps me humbly aware of God’s holy character and my need for His presence, through the Holy Spirit. My sin is less about me than it is my need to see God as revered and holy.

One application from the study on confessions is to keep short accounts. That simple phrase simply means, don’t allow something to go unsaid, misunderstood, or unconfessed.  If you’ve wronged someone, make it right. Say something. Go to them, not someone else.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Eph 4:26-27

We all want to see God answer our prayers. Let’s be prepared for whatever God wants to do through our circumstances by making sure we keep short accounts.  Seriously, that’s a good hashtag right there: #ksa!

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”  1 Peter 1:13-15

Grace Group to Mexico

This past week we spent a couple of days with our Grace Group helping Casa de Elizabeth orphanage in Imuris, Mexico.  Our church helps this particular orphanage by not just giving some financial help, but by praying for them and occasionally going to help out with some real practical needs.  #GraceGives

 

ImageLast summer a group went and we painted the outside white. Looks great with the finished trim work done since then.

 

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This is the small group (minus the beautiful photographer…see below) that did some painting, electrical work, hung curtains and prepared a couple of meals for the kids and staff.

 

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Great job, team.  Loved working alongside each of you!