Grace Debrief 2/11/18

Jonah finally decided he'd had enough storms and enough time in the belly of a fish. So, when God came to him a second time, telling him again to go to Nineveh and preach against the city, Jonah did it.

Jonah preached as he walked the city. He preached the prophetic message that God would cause Nineveh to be overthrown in forty days. But before he could get even one-third of the way through the massive metropolis, something amazing happened. THEY BELIEVED WHAT HE SAID.

When you read Jonah chapter three, you'll see: They listened, they bought-in, they repented of their violent and wicked ways, they put on sackcloth and went without food. The mayor of the city called for everyone to sit in ashes and to give up food and water and to make sure their animals (THEIR ANIMALS!) wore sackcloth and fasted from food and water, too.

They turned and decided God was right, they were wrong, and they would believe him. And so God turned and decided they were sincere and he pulled back on his plans to have the city overthrown.

Jonah - reluctant though he was - was used by God to win over the worst, most atrocious capital city of the time. And God changed his mind.

I know that some of us are thrown by that thought. That God would change his mind. I get it that questions start rolling around our brains about God's sovereignty, his control, his unchangeableness. Those are BIG QUESTIONS.

But don't let the questions obscure the surprise: THEY BELIEVED AND TURNED.

AND THAT'S A STRAIGHT-UP MIRACLE ANY DAY OF THE WEEK.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 1/28/18

Jonah's prayer in chapter two of his book reflects his heart.

The common view of his poem is that it is a turn-around point for Jonah where he comes to agree with God about God's will, and determines to do things God's way.

But that's just not true.

I've always preached and taught that same thing about Jonah 2. But I've also always felt that this poem was -  off. It just didn't seem right. It had a hollowness, an empty core that really didn't end up where it should.

Now's a good time to get out your Bible and read Jonah 1 and 2. See if you agree. 

I just don't have the space here to cover all the reasons why I think this poem is disingenuous. But I think the biggest problem is this: Jonah never utters a word of repentance; he doesn't mention his running away at all - he never admits he was wrong, and never agrees to go to Nineveh. In fact, he says the opposite: his intention is to head to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices there. (You may want to listen to the message to get the whole story: Click Here.)

Let's just leave it at this: Jonah is still ducking from God's desires, and instead of running, he hides behind fake faith.

This is such a ornery temptation. We run from God's will, and we get caught. Then we try to feign a quick and easy come-around to somehow trick God into thinking that everything's OK, we're just fine, and we can handle things from here because we've got our spiritual act together.

Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus says that this kind of fake faith makes him puke. It's no surprise then, that after Jonah's attempt at proving his self-righteousness, God has the fish vomit Jonah onto dry land.

Let me apply this passage very simply and concisely: DON'T MAKE GOD VOMIT because of your pretend piety. 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 1/21/18

We like to think that our decisions are our own - that we can choose to go our own reckless way, ignoring God's desires for us, and that we are the only ones who will have to deal with the results. It's not true.

The first chapter of the book of Jonah describes what happens when we choose to go in a direction different than God's will. The consequences are not isolated to just us. They spill over to those around us.

The story plays out like this: Jonah hops on a ship heading away from "the presence of God." God sends a storm and the mariners on board begin to know they're in trouble. They have the spiritual sense to discern that someone on board is the cause of their problems. They each pray to their own gods for help. All but one.

Jonah is asleep. While the others on the ship are fighting for their lives because of one person's sin, that one person is asleep in the hull, oblivious to the dangers his choices have caused.

This is so much like us. When we disobey God, we're often the last to come to terms with the collateral damage we've caused. It's easier to sleep it off.

The amazing thing about this story is how very full of grace it is. Think of how God orchestrated this whole scene . . .

  • The right ship. The port of Joppa was no doubt filled with ships ready to set sail. God planned that Jonah would embark on this one.
  • The right storm. This storm had to be frightening enough to bring God's desired result, but not strong enough to capsize the boat.
  • The right people. God set Jonah on a boat with mariners who were at least spiritually sensitive enough to know that the problem was a moral one, not a natural one.
  • The right message.  This is one of the most amazing parts of this story: Once Jonah is tossed overboard, the sea becomes crystal-calm. The mariners know exactly who is responsible for their salvation - the God of Jonah. So they begin to honor and worship Jonah's God!
  • The right fish.  Of all the creatures that Jonah could encounter on the vast and teeming ocean, God sends just the one which could devour Jonah without actually DEVOURING JONAH!

All of this shows this one thing: God can take our extreme disobedience and turn it into an amazing expression of his AMAZING GRACE!

But please don't take that to mean that God wants us to get on the wrong boat.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 1/14/18

Sure, Jonah was a prophet. So we can distance ourselves, I guess, by saying "That kind of thing is only for prophets."

But what, really, is a prophet? At the core, it's someone who has been called by God to listen to him, do what he asks, and be a spokesperson for God, delivering a message to people who need to hear it.

Yep. Not at all different than being a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

We have evidence in other scriptures that Jonah took his role as a prophet seriously, and delivered the message faithfully. It was a message of grace to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. (You can find it in 2 Kings 14:25).

So now, God asks Jonah to head to the capital of Assyria, Nineveh, and tell them that God is not thrilled with them. Jonah spends little time considering the request, and heads for the coast where he catches a boat to Tarshish. (Read Jonah 1:1-3).

Why Tarshish, you ask? Because the seaside village near the Straights of Gibraltar on the Spanish coast was AS FAR AWAY FROM NINEVEH AS JONAH COULD GET.

Why did Jonah run to Tarshish? Is it because the Spanish Riviera was beckoning with special mid-season rates and an open bar? No.

Jonah ran away because he didn't want to do what God asked him to do.

We all make the Tarshish run when we don't like God's will for us. His will is really not a red line on a linear map of the timeline of our lives. His will is really not just found at the REALLY BIG INTERSECTIONS of our lives, when a BIG HAIRY DECISION is pressing. God has given us, let's say, 95% of his will for our lives right there in the Bible, in black and white. It's not some strange foggy mystery; it's clear choices that he's asked us to make.

Just like Jonah. God's direction for Jonah was not ambiguous or open for debate. It was clear. It was understandable. Most of the time, for all of us, that's how God delivers his desires for our lives.

But we run. Why? Honestly, there's no answer that makes any sense except that we don't like what God is asking us to do. So we find our Tarshish and we buy a ticket and we run. We run as if we can get away from God's will for us.

But here's the truth: 

Psalm 139:7-10

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 1/7/18

Yesterday was our annual Grace Stories service! Thanks to Zane and Judy for sharing their stories of God's grace and guidance. 

Next week we start a series on the book of Jonah. Have you ever asked, "What's God's will for my life?" or "What does God want me to do?" or even, "Why would God ask me to do THAT?!"  Jonah is a great story that packages up some answers to those questions and helps us to understand the heart of God and his desire for each of us. Please be sure and get in on the first message!

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 12/31/17

Happy New Year! I pray that God will do his work in you and in all of us at Grace this year!

On Sunday, we played a little game of Fives. We shared about 100 responses that helped us look back on 2017 in various ways. Thanks for your participation!

While there are scriptures that suggest we should not look back at the past, they're not really teaching that the past has nothing good for us. In fact, the past is a tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit to mold us and shape us.

We should look back - to learn, to repent, to get perspective. It's only when we do that, directed by the Spirit, that we can head into the future armed and ready for what God has in store.

So as we come to the end of one year and look ahead to 2018, we need to see what God has been up to, learn and grow from that, and then "press on" into the year God has prepared for us.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 12/24/17

Merry Christmas!

Remember: Your relationships are barometers of the relationship you have with Jesus. Let his love infuse your holiday, especially as you deal with all the people in your life.

I want to thank Becca, Gary, Sheila, Marcus, Christopher, Sarah, Rachel, Bill, Jim, Vickie, Ashley, Emma, Dennis, Lois, Jerry, Arnel, Gabe, Isaac, and all the others who graciously gave their time to make our Christmas Eve Vespers so special.

I won't be out and about this week, so if you'd like to connect with me, let's do it next year!

Next Sunday we'll be talking about what we do with the picture we see in the rear-view mirror. I hope you can join us.

Have a blessed day as you celebrate the birth of the Savior.

Noel! Come and see what God has done!

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 12/17/17

I love traditions. Today we heard from many of you about your traditions around the holidays. What a rich source of connection! Traditions are like glue to help us stick to our families and other important social groups.

God himself used tradition with his people, Israel, to help glue them to one another and to him. Jesus began a tradition when he told his disciples at the Last Supper to "do this to remember me." 

(It is true that traditions can become idols, convincing us that observing the tradition is as good or better than having an intimate relationship with God. It's not!) 

Many of our traditions at Christmas are fun and bring joy and bind us to family. But they leave out the real story. They're traditions of the "head," but not traditions that get to the "heart."

It's never too late to start new traditions, or to add spiritual significance to a tradition you've had for awhile. Here are some practical considerations for building traditions of the heart:

  • Pick quiet over noisy. Psalm 46:10, 
    • “Be still, and know that I am God."
    • The Message: “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God."
       
  • Pick true story over fantasy.  John 1:14
    • And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
       
  • Pick simple over complicated. Psalm 131:1-2 
    • O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul,   like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.
       
  • Pick generosity over greed. Proverbs 11:24-25
    • One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
       
  • Pick people over plans. John 3:16-18 The Message
    • This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. 
Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 12/10/17

Expectations may be a major reason for Christmas discouragement and disillusionment. After all, we try every year to have a Christmas celebration that's 110%. But we often look back when it's over and see a meager 65%. 

It may be from our youth. We were always promised the moon, but it rarely panned out. It could be that we have tried each year to provide a truly special event for our families, but it never ends up as perfect as we hoped.

Television and radio and print media don't help. Every commercial hints that, if we just get the right stuff, all will be well. Every ad suggests that perfection is possible if we make the right choices on how we spend our money. After all - that brand new car with a big bow parked in our driveway would sure make a perfect Christmas, right?

It just doesn't happen. We expect too much. And the stress and the busyness and the guilt mount up. It's never enough.

Our expectations are based in the head, not in the heart. They have to do with lists and agendas, goals and destinations, calendars and budgets. What if we could push the celebration from our heads to our hearts?

God is not blown away by our heart expectations. In fact, he welcomes them. He expects that we will expect. 

While all of our head expectations have no guarantees, our heart expectations, when brought to God in honesty and humility, will always be met. In fact, because of Jesus and his act of love in coming to earth, we can have real confidence that God will meet our heart-needs.

Hebrews 4:14-16

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 12/3/17

Great day at Grace! Worship was wonderful - with some great old hymns and some rousing worship songs. We heard from Bethany about her role as a special ed math teacher for sixth graders. We took a look at how Paul instructs to love people who are hard to love. We had a great time of caring and sharing, praying for each other and supporting each other. And we took Communion together and enjoyed a family meal. This is what makes Kinship Sundays so fulfilling.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 11/26/17

I just finished listening to Dr. Gary's great message on pain from Sunday's service. Gary puts a lot of work into his messages, and you can tell it when you hear the sermon. Gary's talk gives us some great information and practical help for getting a grip on the pain that is inevitable in our lives. He shows us that God has great purpose in pain, and can use it to draw us to him.

Thanks, Gary, for your excellent message! It's a privilege to learn from your wisdom and the word God has given you.

Did you miss it, too? You can hear it here.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 11/19/17

When the Bible talks about time, it often emphasizes the urgency in this moment, as if our making a decision, or taking some action, is the most important thing IN THIS MOMENT. "Now is the time."

We have three ways of looking at time, because for us, time is linear. We have the past, the future, the present. Which one does God care about most? 

All of them, from his perspective, are important. But there's only one for which we are responsible and only one over which we have any real control.

Are you in control?

  • We can't control the past. You could yesterday, when the past was - now - but now is gone.
  • We can't control the future. We sometimes think we can. And although planning and goals and dreams and agendas are important, they don't offer a guarantee of what will happen in the future, even if we arrive there.
  • We can only control the present. Now.

The past is over. The future isn't here. We can only take responsibility for now.

The good news of the gospel is that, through Jesus Christ, God can FIX the past! And, because of Jesus, God can grant us a future! But the "now" is up to us. We have the power over the now; we can decide what we will do with now.

There are many things - Godly things, important things, worthy things, good things - that you could be doing in this moment. And the will of God is that you would do them. Don't wait. Because there is power in now.

But there's one thing to do RIGHT NOW that is the most important thing of all. 

2 Corinthians 6:2 - "For he says, 'In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

Paul is quoting from Isaiah 49 - a prophecy concerning the people of God, and he applies it here to individuals. Paul's point is this: now is the favorable time to come across the line of faith and make the choice for Jesus. There is NO MORE FAVORABLE TIME. Right now is the best time to choose to become a follower of Jesus Christ. No other time is the best time. Because you can't make this decision yesterday, and you can't guarantee your tomorrow. Now is the time.

 

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 11/12/17

What a great day! We are watching God work at Grace! 

So many of you walked out today saying that this message hit you where you live. It did me, too!

I've inherited my parent's worrying habit. Only they never admitted to worry - they'd always say, "I'm not worried; just concerned." That's because they refused to admit that they were caught in the sin-trap of worry.

A recent study estimates that we spend 1 hour and 45 minutes A DAY worrying. (Don't forget: you can multi-task on this!). That adds up to a whole lot of wasted time and energy. Let's say that, for you, it's only half-true. That still means that you spend around an hour a day in worry.

What if you could reclaim that hour? What if that "twenty-fifth" hour a day you spend in worry could be spent more productively?

In his most famous sermon, Jesus spent a few words on worry. You should read it. When you do, notice how often time comes up in Jesus' message: Matthew 6:25-34.

Jesus knows that worry and time go together. Not only does worry steal time, it also damages it. Worry uses the past as a weapon to wound the present and discourage hope for the future.

So, what can be done to tame worry? Here are a few practical steps to reclaim the twenty-fifth hour:

  • Schedule your worry. Limit your emotional investment. Jesus said that our troubles are "sufficient for the day . . ." So instead to investing an hour or more all through the day, carve out five minutes and sit down to worry.
  • Pray. So, you're not really going to spend that five minutes fretting. You're going to spend it praying about your worries. This is the most consistent recommendation of scripture: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, with prayer and supplication, let your requests (problems) be made known to God." 
  • Release. We must deliver our problems to God, who is waiting to take our worries. "Cast all your anxiety upon him, for he cares for you." Do you make a grocery list? Why? Because you want to make sure you've remembered it all. So make a worry list and deliver it to God.
  • Divide and conquer by making a plan. There will be a whole lot on your list that you cannot control, and that's why God wants you to surrender that stuff to him. But sometimes, something will show up on your list that really is within your responsibility. So make a plan, under God's guidance, to do something about it. Take the one step you can take today; don't worry about tomorrow.
  • Make God's agenda the first thing, the priority. Listen to him. Ask yourself this: "If God, my King, were sitting here next to me, what would he suggest about my worry list?"

Don't let worry steal the twenty-fifth hour. Let God redeem that time.

Next week we'll wrap up our series, "It's A Matter Of Time" with a message about seizing every moment, and we'll take a look at the ONE BIG THING that you could do with a moment of time that would make a huge difference forever. THIS IS A SERVICE THAT WOULD BE GREAT TO BRING A FRIEND ALONG.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 11/6/17

Today it was our privilege to welcome back Steve and Debbie Miller to Grace. Steve and Debbie are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea. Steve and Debbie told us what they've been up to the last three years there, and what God has been doing with the people of this country. If you'd like to keep track of their ministry, and pray for them, and if God leads you to help with the Miller's financial needs, here's the link: http://stevedebbiemiller.net/

We shared a time of praise and prayer, remembered the Lord's sacrifice through Communion, and shared some good soup during Grace Grub! It was a great Sunday of worship and fellowship.

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/29/17

Your bucket list doesn't mean much if Jesus is on his way today.

In fact, all of the times of our lives are altered, re-aligned, and jerked over when we factor what we know and believe about the future. Our to-do lists blow up in light of Jesus' return.

We refer to that event as being "imminent." That means that it could happen any day. Even the writers of the letters and books of the New Testament seem to have this perception, and that was 2000 years ago. And, despite that passage of time, it's still true today: Jesus could come right now.

Take a read of this: 2 Peter 3:8-14. What you'll find is the reason God waits. It's not to fulfill some secret prophetic gap. It's not because he likes to see us squirm. It's not because he's misplaced the divine Day Planner. It's because he doesn't want anyone to miss out.

So we wait. But we wait with the understanding that today, right now, could be it.

I'm sitting in a coffee shop as I write, finishing a cappucino, enjoying ease-dropping on another pastor's conversation, wondering who will stop by. But this could be the last coffee I ever have in this unrestored world.

There is consistency in the Bible's teaching about this - that living here, in the "not-yet", brings certain perspectives that are necessary. It's like that day before you leave on vacation - you get so much done! It's because you perception is altered by the probability of your vacating. In a similar way, the constant awareness of the probability of Jesus' return and the possibility of it being TODAY means we behave differently.

Read that scripture and you'll learn how we're to behave in the "not-yet" season. And then engage is something that will somehow convince you that your life, if you know Jesus personally, is on the verge - right on the edge - closer than you know - to being amazingly and inconceivably better!

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/22/17

Time is a bully.

It pushes us around; it beats us up; it gets in our way; it makes demands on us; it gets nasty and makes our lives miserable.  We dread it when we have to face off with it. We lose it when we run out of it. 

This is not God's intention. There is a way to make time an ally rather than an enemy. Here are some practical steps:

  • Pull the plug on urgency.  
  • Mandate time for genuine rest. 
  • Create and maintain margins. 
  • Stop booking every minute. 
  • Live on less. 
  • Dump stuff.  
  • Relationships must take the highest priority. 

Jesus shows us a comparison between a person who lets service and things get in the way of relationship and a person who puts relationships at the top of their agenda. Luke 10:38-42 tells this story: 

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Look at that last sentence. Jesus said Mary decided on the "good portion." Portion of what?

Time.

Want a plain and simple and utterly practical tip for bringing time under your control? 

Spend time with Jesus.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/15/17

We've got a problem with tomorrow.

It doesn't exist. It's not there. You can't know it, can't see it, can't change it, can't add to it, can't take away from it.

But we try to do these things all the time.

Here's the hard truth about time, according to James:

"Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."    James 4:13-17

The primary issue James is addressing is the arrogant attitude we often bring to tomorrow. We treat the future as if it's a done deal, and as if WE are the ones who have control of it. We don't. Only God does.

And that's why James asks us to lose the attitude. Not by a trite, "Lord willing" added to a statement about the future. But a total, humble recognition that the future belongs to God and that any claim we have on tomorrow is only because of the grace of God.

James also suggests that we can damage our tomorrow with our presumption about our control over it - that we can sin with our tomorrows. If we take James' words seriously, and invert them practically, we can also REDEEM our tomorrows by doing the RIGHT THING NOW - in the present moment.

If, for instance, your car starts rumbling and missing and backfiring on the way home from church, you could decide to just wait it out and see what happens. But if you do that, you could end up with bigger problems in the future. However, if you address the problem NOW, you will be saving (redeeming) the future of problems. 

God actually allows us to invest in the future by doing the right thing NOW. The future in not guaranteed. But by doing good now, without avoiding it or procrastinating or waiting for a better time, we can redeem tomorrow today.

Got something good to do? Do it now. Tomorrow will thank you.

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/8/17

Is time rigid? Or is it fluid and flexible? Is it only our perception that makes some time go slow and other time move fast?

Today I used two visual illustrations for the way we look at time. Time often is viewed as toy construction blocks. Seconds form minutes, minutes form hours, hours form days, etc.  This is the static, mathematical way we look at time. And of course, it does function that way. That's why we have clocks and calendars.

But we might also look at time as a more fluid, flexible thing - like Play Dough. Something that can be shaped and molded and squeezed and formed. 

So, what if we looked at time as a sculpture medium that God gives us to mold?

In the Genesis account, God is the clear author of time. He invents "morning and evening - the first day" even before he made Adam and Eve. God gives us light and darkness, the rotation of the earth, the seasons and the tilt of the planet. In that way, time comes from him; it is in his hands. He gives us time.

Look at Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

A beautiful and poetic piece of scripture. Of course, the list could go on and on. But the point is this - time can be molded and shaped into the seasons of our lives. Like so much play dough, time can be sculpted to fit the appropriate occasion.

So the issue becomes - How will we sculpt our time?

Instead of seeing time as an enemy, or as a math problem, see it as art. What beautiful and lovely thing could you make with the time God gives? What if God was involved in the artistic process of sculpting your time?

Ecclesiastes 3:11a says, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." God is an artist of great renown, and joining his skill to yours, beauty can be created with the time he gives.

 

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 10/1/17

At our Kinship service today, we sang out strong with Grace Band in some heartfelt worship. We heard Dr. Tamez tell us a little about his work as a family physician, and we learned from him that healing happens best within a supportive community.

We took a look at James 5:13-16, an interesting and perplexing little scripture that prompts a lot of questions - questions we agreed to put on the back burner so that we could see what the main point was that James was making. That point? That healing happens best in community.

We then shared community in the form of prayer and support, and received the Lord's Supper as part of our expression of faith in Jesus Christ. And then we continued to practice community by gathering around tables for some Sloppy Joes!

Beth WiseComment
Grace Debrief 9/24/17

Today was the final message in our series on the letter of Paul to the church in Rome. We covered four chapters in about forty minutes!

There's some beautiful music in those chapters! (12-15). Please take a few minutes and read them. Then you'll understand what I'm about to write.

Earworms.

Yep. It was the topic of discussion at church. An earworm is a sticky song that you can't get out of your head. Like "Let It Go" from Disney's "Frozen."  Or "Who Let The Dogs Out?"  Or the theme from Gilligan's Island. (You're running through one of these right now, aren't you?)

Not all earworms are bad. I love it when one of Grace Band's worship songs gets implanted in my heart and just keeps popping up all week. And sometimes, often, in fact, I wake up with a song playing in my head. I treat those "earworms" as gifts from God, and I look for reasons why he put that particular song on my heart.

We've talked about how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a song - the music of grace. That gospel melody is God's perfect, wonderful earworm, playing itself out in our hearts and through our lives. That's what Paul is getting at in the last chapters of Romans - this Good News stuff needs to find practical expression in the way we live our lives.

That's why Paul writes . . .

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  Romans 12:1-2

The Gospel is designed to transform. Instead of conforming to "this world" stuff, Paul's appeal is for us to allow the Good News to revolutionize our daily lives. 

So, in these four chapters, Paul outlines several ways this transformation might show up. This is not an exhaustive list. But it gives us a lot to consider, and a lot to surrender so that the transforming can happen in our own lives. You'll want to read these chapters and make your own list.

In the end, the question is this: How is the Gospel working itself out in practical, evidential ways in your life? How are you continually DIFFERENT (transforming) because of the Good News? How is that beautiful music - the music of grace - being heard by the people around you?

 

Beth Wise