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!
During my painful journey this past summer, I asked God some tough questions about the Church. A thought began to permeate my mind that I could not shake. The thought was the Kingdom of God. I went to a prayer retreat in San Diego and the leader – out of the blue – said to me: ”You are supposed to focus on the Kingdom of God.” I thought to myself Hmm…that must be the Lord talking to me. So this fall I began an exhaustive study of the Kingdom.
What I discovered blew me away! The entire New Testament is permeated with the teaching of the Kingdom. It was the central focus of the teaching of both Jesus and Paul. There are literally hundreds of verses that speak to the subject.
What I discovered is the Kingdom is so much more than just the fact that Christ died for my sins. That fact is absolutely true, but the Kingdom takes the focus off of what Christ has done for me and puts it on His movement in the world today. There is both a present reality and a future reality to this Kingdom. The present reality is that God has taken me out of the domain of darkness and translated me into the Kingdom of His Son. The Kingdom has ethics and hope. The future Kingdom is obviously what we long for. It is a promise that there is a coming utopia where there is no injustice or pain. In our longing for that, we forget the present Kingdom.
This weekend we are going to start a series simply called Kingdom. I hope to see you there!
My favorite conference is the Global Leadership Summit. This year, as always, I was not disappointed with what I experienced (the Summit is an experience with people all around the world). There were many things that were take-aways for me. Let me share three.
My first take-away came out of Bill Hybels’ talk. He spoke on the parable of the seeds out of Luke 8. This parable is about a guy who has a bucket of seeds and he’s sowing seed to plant a field. Some falls on hard packed soil and it can’t germinate, and some falls on rocky soil and doesn’t have any source of water. And there’s thorny soil that germinates, but gets choked out by the thorns. But there’s some good soil over here and a tree grows and birds make nests in it and it bears fruit.
He told the story of a man who wandered onto their church property looking for his cat and didn’t even realize he was at a church. The moral of the story was they had not effectively spread seed to the community around them. He challenged us to sow as much seed as we could. To not be discouraged by what doesn’t grow but keep on sowing what will grow. I wonder how many people don’t know Grace is a church?
The second take-away came from Bill also. He talked about his 6×6 strategy. It is very simple but very profound. He simply takes 6 index cards and writes on them the 6 things he wants to accomplish in the next 6 weeks. Brilliant!
The third take-way came from Patrick Lencioni’s talk about organizational health being the single greatest competitive advantage in business. He said, “It is virtually free and accessible to any leader who wants it, and yet it remains virtually untapped in many organizations.” He described it as – minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, high productivity, and low turnover. Southwest Airlines is company that exemplifies this. They have empowered their people with three values: 1) humor 2) low fares 3) quick turn-arounds. A core value is something you’re willing to get punished for. Humor is a core value for Southwest. They make jokes during the safety announcements. Years ago a woman was offended by jokes during the safety briefing and wrote them about it. He said most companies would have written back and said, “We’re so sorry.” And send a drink coupon or something. Southwest sent her a note that said, “We’ll miss you.” I love this!
About four months ago I found myself beginning the journey of recovery from a major affliction. I had burnt myself out and found myself in a place I had never been before. Since then I have been recovering from depression. I am making progress, but the journey has not been easy and it is not over.
What the Lord has been teaching me have been the most painful lessons I have ever experienced. I am learning what it feels like to be, at times, in torment. This has given me a new way of relating to the person who walks into the church with affliction.
I have spent much time in repentance over the arrogance of statements I have made in a self righteous way; repentance over being quick to quote Scripture, thinking if you only had faith to believe this everything would be okay; repentance over the lack of prayer I have had as shepherd for the sheep who aren’t as pretty.
It has given me a new passion – not for building the church; that is God’s job – but for tending the flock over which He has appointed me as shepherd. I wonder how many afflicted sheep have been driven from the church simply because what they found was spiritual abuse and not tender care. I can tell you this from personal experience: knowing someone is laboring for me in prayer has made a huge difference.
This is just the beginning of my learning I am sure.