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
Grace Debrief 9/17/17

If Romans is a symphony, then chapters 9-11 are a little hard to fit into the piece. Think of it this way: these chapters explore the musical themes behind the score. There's something lurking back there that calls for explanation. For Paul, that thing lurking back there is the problem of Israel - God's chosen people - and what the gospel means for them.

You'll need to read them. They're brilliant writing, and God uses Paul to present some BIG FAT THEOLOGICAL STUFF. This is stuff about God like his:

  • Sovereignty.
  • Predestination.
  • Foreknowledge.
  • Election.

Each of these BIG FAT THEOLOGICAL things are important. But for some of us, it's hard to see how they really matter.

They do matter, though. They matter when it comes to people we know and love, but we wonder where they stand with Jesus. These things matter when it comes to US - to our own standing before God.

It ultimately comes down to our free will and God's full control. If God decides, how do we get to choose? If I really get to choose, how does God remain in control of everything?

You need to read Romans 9-11.

In the end, it comes down to one thing. In fact, EVERY SINGLE TIME THIS ISSUE IS PRESENTED IN THE BIBLE (Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes, etc) IT ALWAYS COMES DOWN TO THIS. Paul gives us that bottom line at the end of his explanation:

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

AMEN.

Beth Wise
Grace Debrief 9/10/17

Can you hear the music of death? When the hero is down for the count. When the damsel in distress is breathing her last. When Lassie is attacked by a cougar and Little Timmy cries. 

BUT WAIT! Our of the corner of our hearing, there's a single, quiet, subtle melody-line of life. The hero's finger twitches. The damsel's lungs grab for breath. Lassie barks. It's not over!

Death has been everywhere so far in Romans. We've talked a lot of death.  

  • Dead to Self-Righteousness - Chapter 5
  • Dead to Sin - Chapter 6
  • Dead to the Law - Chapter 7

So where does that leave us? DEAD.

But that's not the last of it. The melody of life begins to play, and in Romans 8, something's stirring.

Want a mid-week mini-revival? Read Romans 8. I'll wait.

See what I mean? WOW! 

Life is what faith in Christ is all about! We were never made to live like dead people! We are not zombies! We are a new creation in Christ Jesus - alive and well and living it up!

Here's what Paul says this new life looks like:

  • It's life "according to the Spirit." That means we can tune in to the Spirit of God, instead of tuning in to our flesh - our own natures.  
  • It's life as children of God. Dad's don't want their kids to live "less-than" lives; they want their children to thrive. God wants that for you and me.
  • It’s dealing with reality with hope for the future. Paul never, ever suggests that life will be all peachy-keen in Christ. But he says that suffering can make sense.
  • It’s real help for the present. Because of the Holy Spirit, we never need to feel like we don't have what it takes. HE supplies everything we need.
  • It means being secure No Matter What. Paul's bottom line: God's love is unquenchable, unchangeable, unlimited, undying, and undeniable. We are his loves. Nothing more is needed.

We sometimes ask the question: "If today was your last day, how would you live it?" That's a death question. The question we should be asking ourselves is this: "If today is the first day of your life, how would you live it?" That's a life question. That's the one we should be asking.

Beth Wise
Grace Debrief 8/20/17

I get it. It's not shocking news to learn that sin causes problems. And it's not news that God's moral code is holy and good. What is surprising is what the law, in tandem with our sin and our human attempts to fix the problem, produces inside of us.

It produces war. Inside. Our. Hearts.

Read Romans 7:14-23. When you do, you'll notice a few things. First, Paul turns to using first person singular, present tense language. Second, he writes in a way that conveys frustration and discouragement. Third, what he says will be very familiar. Why?

Because he is describing his own battle, and it's one that all of us can relate to. Simply put, we KNOW what the right thing to do is, we even WANT to do the right thing, and we TRY to do it, but we can't seem to pull it off. In our own strength, using all the resolve and determination we can muster - what Paul calls the flesh - we still can't seem to do what is right.

Paul knows. And he cries out in despair, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Maybe you've been there. Maybe you know.

Paul does not leave us there. Because, while his experience is something we all share, he HAS discovered the solution: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

So, how does that work? We'll pick up that question on September 10. But if you want a clue, you can find it in Romans 7.

Pastor Ron
Grace Debrief 8/13/17

My dad worked as a Funeral Home Assistant Director for a season after retiring as a pastor. One of his duties was to transport "clients." There were times when his clients were, well, uncooperative.

Like the time when a gurney's legs refused to adjust, and the client slid down onto the porch of his loved ones who were looking on in horror.

The thing is - dead bodies sometimes mess things up, but they are limited.

 

In Romans 6, Paul continues his symphony of grace, furthering his explanation of how God resolves our sin problem. In chapter 5, Paul described how God justifies those who trust in Christ Jesus. Here, he answers the next obvious question: If God justifies us, then can't we just sin with abandon?

Of course, the answer is "No way, Jose!" (That's a direct translation from the original Greek). The reason that sin does not continue is that it is - well - DEAD.

Read Romans 6. We are dead to sin. Sin is dead to us. We are alive in Christ. Christ is alive in us.

Sin has no control over us, because dead things cannot make us their slaves. Dead things can sometimes mess things up, but it's limited. Because when we're in Christ, we're dead to sin but alive to God.

That means that today, you don't have to sin. Don't believe the lie that says, "I'm a Christian, but I'm still a human, and I can't help but sin." Paul says that's just not true. It IS true that Christians sin - John says that if we say we don't sin, we're lying. But Paul says it clear: you don't have to sin, because sin is dead.

You're not a slave to sin. You're a slave to right-ness.

 

Pastor Ron
Grace Debrief - 8/6/17

Kinship Service Recap -

Today we sang out our praise with Becca and the Grace Band. We heard Lynn Osborn talk about how to show radical hospitality in a small space. We discussed how our hospitality is only and outworking and extension of the grace that God has shown us when he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to become human and suffer in death and rise in victory. That is radical hospitality! God shows us his kindness in Jesus and welcomes us into his forever family! We ended the service commemorating Jesus' generous gift, then enjoyed great fellowship and burgers.

Pastor Ron
Grace Debrief - 7/30/17

The Book of Romans presents us a contrast. How do you want to live? How do you want to live forever?

In musical composition, contrasts help identify characters and situations.  Think about the music that plays when the Road Runner appears on screen. Now think of the music that accompanies his nemisis, Wiley Coyote. That contrast helps with the identity of each character. 

In Romans 5, Paul gives us a vivid contrast that provides us a look at our situation and the two principle people who got us here. 

Martin Luther has said of chapter 5, "In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text." - It's really something!  You should take a few minutes right now and read it. I'll wait.

[whistling]

OK. In verses 1-11, Paul tells us about the amazing work of RECONCILIATION that God has accomplished through Jesus Christ. Reconciliation is mandated because of who we are (sinners without help) and who God is (holy and righteous). Our separate identities make any kind of relationship completely out of the question, since who we are makes us natural enemies of who God is. So something had to be done.

Jesus Christ is that something. Because of Jesus, we can have PEACE WITH GOD! We no longer have to be enemies, because "who we are" has been completely altered and changed. As Paul said elsewhere - ALL THINGS HAVE BECOME NEW!

How does that work?  The rest of Chapter Five spells out the contrast. It's between Adam - the first man - and Jesus - the redeemer. Here's a good exercise since you've already got your Bible opened: Make two columns on a piece of paper and list the attributes of each of these - Adam and Jesus. I'll wait.

[more whistling]

See what Paul did there? He contrasted our problem (Adam and his sin, which has become ours) and Jesus and his solution (which can become ours).

What contrasts often do is bring us to a choice. This one is simple: We can stick with Adam and try to appease God through our own feeble and empty attempts at righteousness, or we can choose to put our faith in Christ Jesus, who has already paid the price for our brokenness and inadequacy on the cross.

The choice is yours.

 

Pastor Ron