Power in Prayer: Especially for our Missionary Friends

We believe in prayer.

Prayer for each other, for friends that don’t know God loves them yet, prayer for our church, our nation, our missionaries. Ah, yes, the missionaries.

It’s easy to lump them all together in a quick moment of “Lord, bless all the missionaries”, isn’t it?  And they might even say “we’ll take what we can get”. But actually prayer is a lot more than the quick, all-inclusive broad brush stroke of divine ‘blessing’ on whoever and wherever and whatever it is they actually need.

Prayer is a specific conversation between you and our Almighty God!  He teaches us to pray, He awaits our prayer, and He hears our prayer.  Sometimes our prayers may seem quick and sound much like the last time we prayed. I’m betting God is saying, “Come on kid, go ahead and put a little something on that. You’re talking to me and I’ve got all day, I’m all yours!”  Isn’t it amazing that God invites us to come to Him, to share our heart and our hurts and our desires?

A few weeks ago in our study of 2 Thessalonians we came across this little jewel of powerful prayer:

Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you.  2 Thessalonians 3:1

Powerful prayer is specific. Nothing wrong with asking God for “blessings” for our missionaries. But what Paul says is, “listen, the Word of God came to you so you now know Him and have a cool church. As we continue to do missionary work pray for us. But not just for safety or blessing or prosperity or good health. Pray that God’s Word would go forward, and go fast!”  That’s what I call the Urgency of Grace! When people hear the Word, they can respond in faith becoming followers of Jesus Christ, therefore they are also honoring, or glorifying God, just by being His!  How many people need Jesus?  All of them!

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Jaron, Nicki, Noelia and Evalie Rogers

At Grace we’ve been blessed to see several of our missionaries over the past few months. Most recently the Rogers stopped in this past Sunday. You can hear Jaron’s message here.  As we send them off, let’s remember how to best pray for them and our other missionaries and ministries. That God’s Word would do what only God’s Word can do. Change lives for eternity. 

Favorite Apps

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.

Rest is Good

I’m hesitant to use the word rest because I usually envision a hammock on a beach, or a carefree stroll through a new place with no obligations or cares. The truth is, rest comes in many sizes and shapes.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters. 

He restores my soul.  Psalm 23:2–3 

For the past several weeks I’ve had a change in my routine. And overall, it’s been restful. Part of my time was spent vacationing with family. Some time was given to study and research. Sprinkled throughout was the occasional meeting with individuals, staff and leaders. But overall, this time has been a good change of pace. Lots of travel. Lots of hiking. Lots of time working from home with my sweetheart nearby. I feel rested. And ready.

The way the travels and study time fell, I was able to be in attendance at Grace for all but one of the Sundays. I was so blessed by the teaching at Grace from our pastors and elders. Thanks men, for feeding our church so well.

Now I’m back in my office preparing for this week’s message from Second Thessalonians chapter one.  Read the chapter this week, let’s both come prepared!

  • We have the privilege this week to celebrate baptisms at Grace. Always a celebration!
  • This coming Monday begins our Vacation Bible School!  Let’s all pray for an amazing week for the kids and pray for each of our many workers! God bless each of you, and thanks for your work to make this VBS the awesome week that it is!
  • Men of Grace!!!  Our annual retreat is just a few weeks away, Aug 7-9. You can go online and register here at our website.  If this is your first time and would like more info, please contact Pastor Bob at the office or see him on Sunday.  The best way to register is online. Calvary Community Church in Phoenix hosts this retreat each year and we’re thankful that we are invited to come and join them.  This link will take you to their website for details and registration.  Do it today. And please, bring your sons (12yo and older). They too will have a blast. What a great environment for young men, surrounded by a few hundred men following God!  I’m going. Can’t wait to see you there.

Blessings, Pastor Mark

A shofar kind of morning

While we were in Israel a couple of months ago, we bought a shofar. A ram’s horn, to be exact.

As we are going through the NT book of 1 Thessalonians at Grace, today we came to chapter 5 on the Day of the Lord.  Of the 19 times we read of the Day of the Lord in the OT, one classic passage is Joel 2:1ff:

Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain!  Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near.  

In chapter 4 Paul taught about the rapture of the church. He was answering a concern the new believers had about those that died before Christ came back.  He answered with this:

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  1 Thess 4:16-17

The coming Day of the Lord in chapter 5 is different from the rapture of the church in chapter 4. The Day of the Lord speaks of the Lord’s second coming, where He will come down at the Mount of Olives.

We sounded the shofar this morning at church!  The sound of the trumpet serves as an alarm that the Lord is coming back and the Day of the Lord; judgment, will be completed and be final.  So, the trumpet is an act of grace. God doesn’t come unannounced. He has told us He’s coming. Are we ready?

As followers of Christ, we need to be encouraged to stay alert. To keep our feet firmly planted in the here and now, but keep our eyes looking to Jesus!  He has saved us and has given us the mission to tell others of His amazing grace.

  • Know that He loves you.
  • Know that He wants you to trust Him, as Savior.
  • Know that His Spirit is with us, allowing us to be alert and sober, keeping an eye on the events of our day, while we telling the story of grace.

Holy Week

Laurie and I returned a couple of weeks ago from an amazing trip to Israel. Last Sunday, our first back, we shared some of the highlights of the trip and then I brought a message about why the Mount of Olives was such an important part. As we are now on Palm Sunday, where Jesus started on the Mount of Olives, I’m so grateful we had a chance to go and experience being where Jesus was, and is coming again! You can hear last week’s message here.

With Holy week upon us, I compiled a simple list of the readings for this week in the life of Christ. One source had one event on Wednesday, most don’t have anything. I added it there just to bring some balance. The important thing in considering this week is remembering how it all ends!

Grace Group Study Notes for Holy Week

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