The Grand Opening of the new Worship Center of Grace Church exceeded my expectations. There are several reasons this event was so beautiful. The building was packed out with people who were excited for what lies ahead for Grace Church as we continue the journey of exalting God, moving people to maturity in Christ, and pursuing people who need to be brought close to the Saviour.
The buiding provides an opportunity for people just to hang out and make lasting Christian friends. We can finally be what the Bible describes in the book of Acts: A fellowship (partnership) of people immersed in the Gospel; a place where the family of God can minister to each other in ways that were so limited in the old Worship Center.
What was particularly meaningful to me was having the next generation on stage – something our old auditorium just couldn’t accommodate. I want them to have an ownership in this new adventure. To see their faces was an extraordinary God moment for me!
I said this last Sunday, let me say it again: The core values of Grace Church will not change! We just have a wider scope for living out the principle of the Kingdom.
Are elders held to a higher standard? This is a question that I get all the time as a pastor. The answer to the question is No! Elders are called by God not only to shepherd the flock, but to be examples to the flock. For example, elders are called to be blameless both inside the church and outside the church. This is true of every Christ follower.
There is an inherent danger in exalting an elder to a different standard of living. First, for the person in the pew, that could be used as a justification not to follow Christ with all of his or her life. Second, when an elder fails it magnifies the fall beyond what is reasonable. Third, it sets elders up to fail because everyone has a different view of what elders should do.
Now the real question is this: Does an Elder have a higher level of accountability before God? The answer to that question is Yes! The elders who sin are to be rebuked before all that others may fear (1 Timothy 5:20). Accountability is a whole different animal. Because elders are examples to the flock, sin must be dealt with in a public way.
Why is Communion so important to the life of the believer and to the church as well? First, let me start with our walk with God. It is essential in our walk with God to slow down enough to listen to God. Most of us live lives that are maneuvered at warp speed; fully engaging with God in communion sets up the opportunity for God to actually speak into our lives. Another observation I would make is that we are a forgetful people. Communion causes us to remember what Christ has done, but more importantly, it causes us to focus on what is core to our existence: the reality of who Christ is. Christ is not only our Creator, but He is also our Redeemer.
Secondly, Communion does something very important for the Body of Christ. Because Communion humbles us so much to see the person and work of Christ, it produces a unity among us that is unsurpassed in any other way. It shows us our own sin and therefore gives the power to forgive and love others.
Communion is essential to our ability to glorify the God we love! Therefore, it should be set as a high priority! May we do it until we do it with Jesus in the Kingdom to come. Look up and meditate on Luke 22 this weekend as you prepare to join us for communion service.
One of the great joys of leading the church to serve the Kingdom well is finding out what the Spirit is doing and then making the necessary changes to line up under Him. That is what the leaders of Grace Church have been doing. We have been engaging with God and meeting with one another to discuss this very thing. Here is what we believe the Lord is saying to us—we are to have a three part strategy for this City. Three words describe this strategy: exalt, move, and pursue.
Part 1: Exalt – When the church gathers together we believe we are to exalt His name. The dictionary defines exalt this way: “to raise in rank, power, and character.” This is what we want to do with the name God. We do this by bringing great weight to the Gospel of the Kingdom. We do this by drawing people into intentional worship of Him. We do this by allowing the Spirit of God to do His work of changing us into the image of Christ by His word. We do this by walking in unity with one another.
Part 2: Move - By this we mean that God is calling us to personally move toward Jesus as disciples and then draw others to do the same. Our goal is to take people who are far from God and allow them to walk with us toward maturity in Christ. No one ever reaches perfection, but hopefully day by day we are inching closer to Him and His likeness. No one is exempt from this movement. We want to create an environment and culture that spurns people on to love and good works.
Part 3: Pursue - We desire to pursue people in love the way that Jesus would have us pursue them. That means people who are both inside our church and outside. We want Reno/Sparks to know that we here for the good of our community. We want to have the mind of Jesus when He left the ninety-nine and went and found that sheep that had strayed. Just like sheep that stray, we all get off the path and we need to be brought back. Pursuit is done by being in intentional relationships and keeping our eyes wide open to those around us. When a sheep is missing, it is a big deal to God.
We are asking God for this to become part of our DNA. Let’s be found exalting, moving, and pursuing at the coming of Jesus our Lord.
What exactly is God’s grace? It is His love and kindness bestowed upon an undeserving object. But an even greater question is why God would bestow upon us, sinful beings, His love and kindness. The Bible answers this question in Ephesians 2:7 – “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” In the end, it is to give weight to His glory in saving us. It is all about Him!
Scripture teaches three kinds of grace bestowed upon His creatures. The first is referred to by theologians as common grace. This is a grace bestowed upon all of creation. In Matthew 5:45 it says “….For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” The second is called saving grace. Ephesians 1:7 – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” God purchases, purifies, and protects for eternity those whom He chooses. The third kind of grace is growing grace. 1 Peter 5:10 – “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”
There are five words that would further define this grace given to us:
• Undeserved – By this we mean that it is not merited in part or in whole by anything we do. Ephesians 2:4-5 – “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” Sin makes us dead to God. Dead means that we cannot respond to God.
• Unconditional – Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is a gift based upon His love alone.
• Uttermost – Hebrews 7:25 – “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” God enters an everlasting covenant with His people.
• Unrelenting – Psalm 23:6 – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” The word follow in Hebrew conveys the idea that God pursues hard after us with His grace.
• Unfathomable – 2 Corinthians 9:15 – “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” Words cannot describe what God has done for us in sending His one and only Son to die for us.
What should our response be to this amazing grace that God freely bestows upon us? Wonder is the first response that comes to mind. This would be true unfiltered and unmistakable worship in all its purity. This worship should be selfless, sincere, and joyful. The second response should be to let this truth transform our lives. Changing how we see and respond to God and how we see and respond to others. The third response should be willful surrender to the will of God. We should stop fighting His will and begin taking delight in His will and ways. The fourth response is that we should let the grace of God instruct us. Titus 2:11-12 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
How important is grace? It is the single most important concept in the Word of God as it relates to man. Without it, we are lost and hopeless. The faith life functions entirely upon grace.
In Leviticus 23:1-4, the Bible teaches us about the “weekly Sabbath”: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.”
But did you know there were also High Sabbath days? Besides the weekly Sabbaths, there are the High Sabbaths related to the Hebrew Feasts (or Festivals), described in Leviticus 23:4-44.
The Lord set forth two Sabbath days each for the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. Leviticus 23:7-8 tells us that both the first and seventh (last) day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is an holy convocation and to do no servile work therein.
There are some scholars who hold to a Friday Sabbath (therefore, a High Sabbath) the week that Jesus was crucified.
In addition, let’s do the math: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40). If Jesus was crucified on a Friday, He could have only been in the grave two nights–Friday and Saturday. Bam!
So why do we have Good Friday services? For the same reason we have Christmas services in December…it’s called, “tradition”.
Last weekend I taught Matthew 5:33-37 which pertains to being a person who keeps his word no matter what the cost. I suggested that what is being taught in this passage is integrity. Why is integrity so important to God? The answer is that it reflects who God is. We who are related to the King are to rightly represent Him in all aspects of life.
It is my opinion that integrity is the most important asset that we posses. We can waste it, spend it, or invest it in the kingdom of God. When I set out to grow in integrity there are at least two things that will take place. First, I will grow leaps and bounds in my spiritual walk with God. This will result in bearing much fruit for the Kingdom. Second, I will begin to experience intimacy in community. The reason is simple community is based on trust, and trust is the Kingdom currency. Marriages that fail generally have a breakdown in integrity. Churches that divide have the same root.
So commit yourself to letting God break the pattern of lies that destroy integrity. I am telling you the truth; I wouldn’t lie!