Thursday, May 28, 2009

Summer Sailin'

For the Kingdom citizen, ministry is not an event. It’s a lifestyle, the natural outworking of Kingdom priorities. Instead of being driven by programs, the Kingdom citizen is driven by principles. That doesn’t mean, however, that principles never have a practical or “program” outflow. I’d like to share with you why we do what we do when it comes to VBS.

“Summer Sailin’” is the theme of this year’s VBS. We’re going to enjoy nautical crafts, do sea-faring games, and eat some…ocean cookies. More seriously, however, we’re doing a VBS because we’re convinced it fits Kingdom principles. From these early foundational days of our church, we want to establish that everything we do needs to flow from our biblical priorities.

There are, I’m sure you know, some very bad reasons to do a VBS. For instance, “Because we did it last year,” “because other churches do it,” “because it’s fun,” and “because David needs something to do in the summer” are all poor motivations. Here are what we think are good reasons. For kids, VBS provides a fun, safe environment to learn about the Gospel and the character of God. For parents, VBS helps Christian parents teach their children about the Gospel and God, simultaneously reaching out to unsaved parents. For workers, VBS provides an opportunity to willingly serve the Lord with gladness, using the church’s gifts and building body life and unity.

So much more than a fun summer tradition, Summer Sailin’ will help us accomplish our goals as defined in God’s Word. The lessons this year will focus on salvation by grace alone. Day after day, we’ll present to kids the hopelessness of trying to earn salvation, the wonder of the cross, and the need for faith. All the other trappings of VBS serve these foundational purposes. I hope you’ll join our VBS endeavors as you pray and possibly serve with us. Let’s live out in practical ways the Kingdom principles we love so dearly.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why Faith & Practice?

Welcome to Faith and Practice, a weblog which originally started January 1, 2006. As of May 20, 2009, it has been resurrected as the pastoral blog for Grace Church of the Valley. The purpose of this blog is to promote both sound biblical doctrine ("faith") and authentic Christian living ("practice"). While our primary audience is GCV members, any visitors who wish to read along are welcome. Our concern for you all is that you will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Our blog's name
"Faith and practice" has been used historically in the broad sense of doctrinal distinctives, encompassing all areas of both belief and behavior, doctrine and duty. At the same time, it is a peculiarly precise phrase since it focuses on the intrinsic relationship between theology in principle and theology in action. It underscores the fact that the two concepts—of faith and practice—go hand in hand. Genuine faith always impacts real life; and, conversely, deeds and decisions can always be traced back to an underlying system of belief. 

From a biblical point of view, faith and practice are so intertwined that—at times—they are almost synonymous. In the Scriptures, to believe is to obey. As Christ said in John 3:36: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." During His sermon on the mount, Jesus emphasized the fact that, "You will know them [false prophets] by their fruits. . . . So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit" (Matt. 7:16–18). The rest of the New Testament echoes our Lord’s emphasis, with perhaps the most clear reiteration coming from James: "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). In other words, where genuine practice is lacking, there genuine faith is also lacking. And vice versa.

Thus we chose the name "faith and practice" because it encompasses all areas of theology, from the systematic to the practical; and also because it serves as a vivid reminder to all of us that true Christianity does not consist of mere theory, but of wholehearted obedience to the truth (cf. John 14:15).

Our blog's purpose

Our primary objective, as in all facets of our ministry, is to glorify God. Fidelity to His Word is necessary to accomplish so lofty a goal, as is commitment  to what matters most to the heart of God. One immediate application of that belief is the content of this blog. Another is the audience. Because Christ loves His church, even giving His life for her, this is a blog for Grace Church. It is a pastoral blog, a blog written by shepherds for sheep. The flock of God among us, here in the San Joaquin Valley, is our primary audience. Our pastoral concern will drive what we write, why we write, how we write, how much and how little we write, and when we write. We are convinced that the local church is the hope of the world, and as such she receives our primary ministry opportunities, focus, and energies.

At the same time, we would be remiss to ignore the reality of the church at large. Ours is a global world. For good or ill, we live as Christians in the day of instant, worldwide, constant contact. Gone are the days of churches isolated in their own geographies, cut off from any outside Christian contact or knowledge. Our blog is readable by all, and so at times we hope to provide a perspective of faith and practice for those beyond the membership of our local church.

To that end, we intend to blog our pastoral perspectives which we hope will be of benefit to the body of Christ. Soli Deo Gloria!

Our blog's rules
Here at F&P, we welcome comments. Sort of. As always, our philosophy determines what we do. Since the primary audience of this blog is members of our church, we genuinely want the opportunity for comments, interaction, and questions from you, Grace Church member.

On the other hand, it's a big blog world. So, we moderate all comments and reserve the unabashed right to allow only what we wish to allow. Anonymous comments, as well as those from fake email addresses, will be instantly rejected. Comments from trolls, rabble-rousers, obstinates, argument seekers, and those wishing to use our comments as their own blog will be discarded at will, most often without explanation. We don't have the slightest hint of compulsion to allow any and all comments, and while we embrace free speech as an American principle we reject its validity as a blog philosophy. Forewarned is forearmed, so with that in mind comment away.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Danger

Happy Mother's Day to all of you mommies, grandmas, and great-grandmas! There is something special about having a day set aside to make an effort to show love for our mothers and the mothers close to us. It is convenient to get a card, swing by the flower shop, enjoy a family meal, and feel as if we have loved our moms. It is convenient, but is it biblical?

The danger with holidays like Mother's Day is that rather than being a bonus day of showing honor and love, they become the annual day to actually honor and love...they can become our check-box for loving our parents.

The Bible is not silent when it comes to the children's relationships to parents. When we read "honor your father and mother" in Ephesians 6:2, the verb Paul uses is an ongoing command. We could read that verse "keep honoring (a Christian life habit) your dad and mom." The Proverbs 31 mom is also the beneficiary of continual praise and honor from her husband and children (Prov. 31:28). So there is a theme in Scripture that moms are to be loved, honored, and held in high regard as a lifestyle, not a holiday.

Today we have an opportunity to join the culture around us in publicly loving our mothers. Tomorrow we have an opportunity to shine as lights in the darkness through persistent Christ-centered love for mom, grandma, and great-grandma. So, lets commit to actively loving our moms today and tomorrow for the glory of God! May they receive our love and deflect all glory to your gracious Lord (Rom. 11:33-36).
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