Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Word of Thanks

by David Morris

Today we’re having our first ever Nursery Meal & Meeting. A constant stream of “firsts” is one of the fun and unique blessings of a new church. I’m grateful, however, that selfless service and care for the children of our church is nothing new for our body. From the start, God has blessed us all with an unusually high number of children and young families. There are 36 names on our nursery sign-in sheets, which are the pre-printed names of all the birth to 4 year olds who come on a regular basis. On any given Sunday, you can find 10-20 infants on one side of our nursery and similar numbers on the toddler side. We’re so used to that now that it hardly seems surprising, but after some recent visits to other churches we’ve been reminded how unusually large our nurseries are, given the membership of our church.

Psalm 127:3 informs us that “children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” Contrary to some segments of our modern culture, we celebrate God’s gift of life. Christian people should always view children as a blessing, never a burden. Children come from God, and He has given rewards prolifically in our church. With these blessings come stewardship responsibilities and loving care, however, which translates into needed service within our church family.  

A small army of servants give themselves repeatedly to caring for these precious lives on Sundays, and I am so grateful for them. Unlike a service opportunity that is occasional or seasonal, our nursery needs continual unrelenting from week to week. So too does the service our nursery workers provide. Service is most difficult when it is constant, unnoticed and sacrificial. Nursery workers regularly miss worship services, receive no pats on the back for changing those 8 diapers and give up the ease of simply coasting through a Sunday. But God is not unrighteous to forget labors of love, and I want to join His recognition by saying thank you for all you do. You remind us all of Christ when you act like a servant; you preach humility since you are not greater than your Lord; and you are blessed as you not only know these things but also do them (John 13). Thank you for serving us, our children and ultimately our Lord. You are needed and appreciated. And parents—your children are welcomed and loved. See a nursery worker and you’ll know.
Read the entire post

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Gospel for People I Don't Like

by David Morris

Have you ever heard someone else (or yourself) saying something along these lines: “I just don’t click with that person. We don’t gel well. He just has a personality I don’t like. She’s sort of annoying. We’re so different. We just don’t have anything in common.” Reality is that we don’t get along easily with everyone we know. Some people irritate us with their mannerisms or habits. Maybe they strike us as odd or make conversations awkward. Sometimes those people are family members, and sometimes those people are church family members. So if we are all fellow citizens, and members of the same family, and parts of the same building, how can we relate to people we don’t naturally like or enjoy or mesh with? 

The answer lies in the Gospel, which forms the basis of our church relationships to begin with. Gospel realities should teach us how to relate to people who are different from us. We could not be more different from God if we tried. We weren’t His kind of people. We didn’t like the kinds of things He likes, or fit with His personality. But in the Gospel, God showed loved and grace to people radically different from Him. Gospel realities should teach us how to relate to people we aren’t naturally friends with. After all, we were God’s enemies when He loved us to His own death. Gospel love doesn’t come on the basis of friendship, but before it. God has not set His favor on us because we were so likeable, or agreeable, or similar to Him. 

People who know and dwell on these great Gospel realities will naturally be able to relate to others in their church family. We may not relate to some members at Grace as easily as we do to others. But when the Gospel informs our relationships we will always relate fully and freely with any person or personality. We don’t need to be the same age or share the same hobbies or enjoy the same entertainment or click based on personalities at Grace Church. We have the Gospel. And the Gospel makes the best relationships in the world.
Read the entire post

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sin Before Worship: What Now?

by Adam Bailie

Last week at the conclusion of our study through James 1:19-25, I was confronted with a helpful question from a member of our body here at GCV. “If we fail to prepare for our time in the Word (collective or private worship), how do we reclaim the worship time from the guilt and thoughts of hypocrisy that now plague us?” In other words, is there any hope for meaningful worship in the Word, if biblical preparation hasn’t taken place or sin has?

As eternally forgiven followers of Christ, our response in the face of our sinfulness has everything to do with the gospel that redeemed and sanctifies us. Romans 5:1-11 declares that for all who are made righteous through Jesus, there is only peace with the Father. There is no war; there is no wrath; there will be nothing but loving peace for those who are in Christ. So in the face of sin, we confess that sin without fear of wrath for that sin, since Christ has already paid its death wage (1 John 1:9; Romans 6:23). While confessing sin, we must confess the whole truth about the sin. It is the very cause for Christ’s sacrifice, and it is covered by Christ’s sacrifice. As Pastor David has said, “Believe in this grace and move forward expectantly, not guiltily, because Christ’s status has not been changed by your failure.” 

So, when sin and worship in the Word collide, we must run to the gospel truth that allows us to worship in the first place. Our Father is our Father, because the Son has made us sons and daughters. That reality is unaffected by our performance…that is the gospel of grace! Our Father longs to cleanse our consciences and restore our full enjoyment of His fellowship. This may mean a few extra moments in the parking lot, sitting down quietly during singing, or a note passed to the one offended by our sin before the Lord’s Table. Whatever the cost, the gospel is worthy of our prompt, Christ-centered, and grace-motivated response to sin before, during and after worship in the Word. Worship without a clear conscience will breed hypocrisy, and worship paralysis because of sin will hinder our growth in grace. Sin and worship must not mix, but the remedy of the one is the cause for the other! Sola Christus!
Read the entire post

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Christian Resolutions

by Ken Harvey

Like many people, this time of year tends to make me evaluate my life more thoroughly. While there is nothing magical about the changing of the calendar year, the time off work allows me to spend time focusing on patterns of my life and personal goals. The usual areas of growth are apparent: I need to spend more time in the Word and prayer. In years past, I have tried to find solutions by creating a new reading plan, a new Scripture memorization plan, a new schedule… always some new method or strategy, but without a biblical goal in sight. Time passes, love of self grows, and commitments fade.

These commitments fall apart because heart issues are not addressed. Obedience to biblical commands is not found in a laundry list of tasks. Obedience is a matter of the heart. The goal of all my affections, thoughts, and actions should be to know and love God more through the knowledge of His Word and reliance on the Spirit. This is the greatest commandment: to love God and our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:28-33). Consider the following passages as you take stock of your life:

  • 1 Timothy 1:5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
  • Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
  • Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
  • Colossians 2:6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.

Failure to obey God’s instruction regarding spiritual growth is a serious matter. When I do not take heed of the Word of God, not only will my commitments result in failure, but I commit sin. Any effort to improve myself or my standing before God that is not rooted in the work of Christ (Romans 5:1-2) is pride and it reveals my weak understanding of His grace and love for me. Any effort to make myself a better person without the goal of knowing and loving God more is sinful, fleshly (not spirit-filled), and hinders my reliance on Him. This year may “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Read the entire post