Blogs

Our Hospitality Team

A few weeks ago I gave this rambling explanation during our greet time, and I thought it deserved a followup.
Grace & Peace is a deliberately informal church. But we never want informality to fall into carelessness.
Each week we have an extended time to greet each other, and to share words of peace and reconciliation. It is a joy to see friends and loved ones each week, but please remember that we exist so that people far from God would come closer to him. So, if Grace & Peace is your church home, I would encourage you to intentionally use our greeting time to seek out the people you know the least.

All that to say: if you’ve worshipped with Grace and Peace more than twice consider yourself part of our hospitality team.

Guiding Our Worship

lightstock_59318_medium_user_7229480

At Grace and Peace, we are constantly trying to have our lives, and our worship, shaped by God’s word. It is our conviction that Elders are accountable for what happens in worship, but that worship isn’t meant to be a performance done by the Elders. This is why we invite members and friends of G&P to participate and lead different parts of our service. In the past, while many have participated, there has been one worship leader, guiding us through the whole service. This person has been the first to greet us and often the last to bless us as we leave. In the past, Robbie or I have been the defacto worship leader. Now that Robbie is transition out, the elders and I have decided that it would not be good for me to be the only one leading from here on out.

This means that going forward we will invite two or three people to guide us through parts of our liturgy.

The rough outline will probably look something like this:
Someone will greet people and make the announcements and they will guide us through the prayer of invitation. Then someone else will read the second scripture passage and guide us through our time of confession. Then after we come back together after our pray and greeting, whoever is preaching will lead the rest of the service. For the next few weeks, this will be a bit of trial and error as we figure out what is the most conducive to our worship together.

Regardless of how many people help facilitate worship, Jesus is the one who leads us into the Father’s presence.

I’m praying that God uses this time to remind us that worship isn’t a performance that earns us favor with God. It’s a gathering of friends and family around what God has done and is doing.

If you have any questions or thoughts; or if you might be interested in helping more with worship, email Sam.

Small Changes and Big Impacts

I saw this video this morning and was impressed by just how wonderfully balanced ecosystems can be. But, it also got me thinking about how we don’t realize how important small changes can be.

Lots of us wish we had a different interaction with God. Or, we wished that we had more time for prayer, or devotions. But don’t miss the significance of small changes. Whether its putting a bible verse on a post it and sticking it to your bathroom vanity or having a short prayer before we head into work,

Just remember that small moments can make a significant impact.

bread-reickemeyer-large

5 Steps toward Prayer

I’ll go ahead and confess something: I feel guilty about my prayer habits. Pastors are supposed to be about prayer and the word, and I never think that I’m praying enough. But, that’s not my real problem. My real problem is that I don’t take that guilt to God, and so I let it fester.

1. Take your prayer shame to God.

Any part of your life can go off the rails, including your prayer life. But, we believe in the forgiveness of sins. The Apostle John reminds us that: if we say we are perfect we deceive ourselves, but if we confess our sin and failing to Jesus that he is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us. If you are feeling guilty about your prayer life, I invite you to pause from reading right now, and confess your prayerlessness. He **will forgive **you.

2. Don’t promise to pray just pray.

When someone says, “please pray for me,” I invite you–at that moment –to say, “can we pray right now?” If you say, “Oh I’ll be praying for you,” will you really? If you do, you’ve got a better memory than I do. It easy to talk about prayer, but guess what if you can talk about something then you can pray about something.

3. Write down prayers

I don’t have a great memory. So, I try to collect prayer’s throughout the week so that I can be in regular prayer. At the end of this note, I’ll include a pdf of the little booklet that I use for prayer request. This little book is also a great way of not feeling overwhelmed or guilty about your prayers. I’ve written down days of the week and then I pray for different requests on different days (of course, I do pray for somethings more regularly.)

4. Steal time to pray

Sure it’s great to schedule times of prayers, but there is nothing wrong with stopping in a stairwell, or pulling over on the shoulder and praying for something that is really bothering you. These short spontaneous prayers aren’t a replacement for longer times of prayer. See it more like a roadside emergency kit, which you can access when needed.

5. Connect the Bible to Your Prayers

I was recently reminded that prayer isn’t the beginning of a conversation with God; it’s a response to what God has already said, and done for us. The more we can find ways of starting with God’s word, the easier it will be to see how we ought to respond to him in prayer.

booklet

Here is that link to my prayer on page booklet (here is a video on how to cut and fold the page ) I hope these are helpful to the life of our church. And I can say with all sincerity, I’m praying for you. =)

Thinking about Lent, again.

Lent is just around the corner. It begins on March 5th, which is Ash Wednesday and ends with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. Lent is a season that belongs to the Christian calendar, just like Advent or Epiphany. But it’s different. Advent, on one hand, is about waiting upon the Lord to act and work in our lives. Epiphany, on the other hand, is when God shows up. Both seasons look back to historical, biblical events, and looks ahead to how God is going to act in our lives. Lent, in a certain way, anchors the Christian calendar in the frustrations of life. It is a season where we are reminded of our humanity, of our mortality, of the need for complete and total dependence upon God.

Lent is a season that looks back to Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. He was sent there by the Holy Spirit. After he fasted and prayed for 40 days, he was met by the Devil who challenged and tempted him. Jesus resisted the devil, who in turn fled from him. In the end, when Jesus died, all Satan did was put three nails into his own coffin. Lent is a season for us to journey alongside Jesus in the wilderness.

But it’s not for everybody. It can be a very sobering, frustrating season. But it can be very rewarding.

Here is the tricky thing. If you are going to observe Lent, then you must be sure of your secure identity and standing before God. Jesus secured your sonship and standing before God. Lent gets you no brownie points with God. It does nothing for you. All the season is, is a discipleship tool for you to, in a very intentional way, live out your union with Christ. So Lent is not about proving your love for God or trying to get God to love you. He already does! This is a season for you to see God at work in your life.

So I made a 40 day bible reading plan, complete with questions and prayers, to guide you in this task. Here is the PDF — Lenten Devotional.  I hope it is a blessing to you and glorifies God in your lives.

PS. You should really read Sam’s take on Lent. His counsel is brilliant. I love his last point:

Don’t forget to feast! No church tradition which practices Lent, ignores the fact that every Lord’s Day is meant to be a celebration. Every Sunday is a chance to gather and celebrate what God has done, what he is doing and what he will one do. Lent is not meant to be an Emo kid’s favorite time of year. Remember if you are in Christ, everything has been paid for. It is finished!

Sermon Recap: Moses and the Weakness of Leadership

Sam, this past Sunday, kicked off a new sermon series on leadership. He is laying the foundation for our leadership training which begins Sunday, January 19th. Thankfully leadership is something that we all grasp and understand. Leaders surround us – at work, in school, our communities and families, and our government. Yet, All of us can think of failed leaders. And, perhaps, some of you have read books on leadership.

We need to ask a question: How does the Bible shape and challenge our understanding of leadership?

Sam started with the major biblical figure of Moses. Moses is the central prophetic figure in the Old Testament; he wrote the first five books of the bible; and he led the Israelites out of Egypt during the first exodus. To put it mildly, Moses is a big deal. But he had a problem – he could not speak clearly. Maybe he had a speech disorder or impediment. Perhaps he just lacked the “Steve Jobs” showmanship that Egypt required.

We want our leaders to be scandal-free, to have a clean record and just, and put-together. If that is the case, spiritually speaking, then no one can be leaders. Brokenness and estrangement is pervasive in our families and communities. Yet there is a wonderful redemptive element here in Moses’ story. God provides a speaker for him, Aaron. Aaron is going to be Moses’ lieutenant who speaks for him. God helps and sustains Moses by providing for him.

God does the same for us. He cares and provides for us through Jesus’ completed work upon the cross and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. God cares for his church by raising up leaders. These leaders have baggage in their past and they are not scandal free. Instead they are made whole by God. It is through these men that God cares for his church.

Introducing Advent (and a Devotional)

I have a love-hate relationship with the holiday season. I love the celebrations, the food, the friends, the family, and the shenanigans that ensues. Yet I hate the hurriedness, the commercials, the guilt-trips, and pushiness. Shopping is not fun, so the celebrate tone of gift-giving has a “you better like this” essence to it. Tis the season I guess…

Wait a moment. Why do I let that season dictate the tone of my life? Consumerism is not healthy nor sustainable.  There is another season within the Christian tradition that is a better alternative – Advent. Advent is a season full of longing, hoping, and expectation. It’s a season that begins on December 1st and ends on Christmas Day. It is a season that asks of us, ‘what do you really, truly want in the depths of your being?’ Advent is a season where we find that God supplies more than we could every truly want in his Son Jesus Christ. It is a season that says there is more to this life than right now.

So this Advent season, consider ‘what do you truly want?’

To aid you in this introspective quest, we’ve made a devotional reader to be a guide for you. And it is something that we can go through together, where you can share your individual insights, so that we can learn from each other. The devotional begins on Sunday, December 1st and ends on Christmas Day, December 25th.

Here are the link/title for the reader: Final Advent Devotional. (It is a pdf.)

If you want an e-book, compatible with ibooks, just email Robbie.

 

November Song of the Month: Satisfied

Each month we try to introduce a new song. This month we are singing Satisfied, by City Hymns.

Here is a sample of the song:

And here are the lyrics:

All my life long I had panted for a drink from some cool spring
That I hoped would quench the burning of the thirst I felt within
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved

Feeding on the filth around me, ‘till my strength was almost gone
Longed my soul for something better, only still to hunger on
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved

Poor I was and sought for riches, something that would satisfy
But the dust I gathered ‘round me only mocked my soul’s sad cry
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved

Well of water ever springing, Bread of Life so rich and free
Untold wealth that never faileth, my Redeemer is to me
Hallelujah! He has found me, the One my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies all my longings, through his blood I now am saved

 

from Fragments of Grace, released 15 June 2011
……
Words: Clara T. Williams, 1875
Music: Karl Digerness, 1997
©1997 Karl Digerness Music

 

Two Aspects of Walking with God

Last Sunday we began talking about walking with God. The Apostle John says that, in Christ,  we have the ability to have fellowship with God, and to walk with him. These two images are deeply personal and intimate. (Anyone who has happened to be walking too close to  a stranger  knows how connected the two ideas can be.) This Sunday’s sermon text will again use the language of walking with God.

Because of this, I wanted to expand on a few things we have to keep in mind when walking with God.

On the one side, we have to realize that God is the one setting the pace and planning the trip. In the book of Acts, we find a story where the Apostle Peter in his own mind has set the pace for the expansion of the Kingdom. He had decided to accept ceremonially unclean Jews (like the Simon the Tanner would have almost certainly have been), but saw gentiles as too far gone. While he is at Simon’s house, he sees a vision where God lower down a banquet of food out of heaven, full of items that would have been considered off limits in the Old Testament. Peter refuses to eat any of the food which God himself has prepared for Peter. He says to Peter, “Don’t call un-pure what I have said is pure.” Finally, after this happens three times, God gets Peter to see that God has made a turn in how he interacts with his people. What we have to take from this story is that when we walk with God we have to do so with flexibility.

If I can be honest. I hate this part. I’d much rather prefer to be in charge. I want to slow down, when I want to slow down. I want turn when I want to turn. Its akin to saying I want to steer my car when, in fact, I’m on God’s train.

The second thing that we have to consider when we travel with God comes from the book of Revelation. In that book, there is the image used of Jesus as a king riding into battle vanquishing his enemies. The passage says that Jesus is single-handedly winning the Spiritual war which entangles the cosmos. Behind him rides his people. (Before anyone you get the wrong idea remember the words of Paul, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil)

Now consider the image just a little closer: who is out front winning the battle? Jesus.

And what are his people doing? Well, they are riding.

We can take from this image two ideas. First, Jesus is out front. He has said elsewhere, “I will build my church.” So, we can’t fall into the trap of thinking that we are on the front lines. The second thing that we learn, and almost by accident, is that we are called to follow him and to not simply stay in bed. Think about the image again, Jesus is riding ahead and he is winning the conflict, but his people are still obediently riding behind him. Even though they aren’t the ones doing the fight. If I were in this situation I might be tempted to say, “Jesus if you’re the only one fighting then why do I have to get suited up for combat? Can’t I just stay here?” This teaches us that part of walking with God is keeping pace with him as he leads us.

I pray that as you go about your daily lives that you would be willing to keep pace with Jesus, turning when he turns never willing to simply sit in camp while he is on the move.

Two Pastors at a Church Plant?

Lots of churches have multiple pastor, but most often they are medium-size churches looking to handle the needs of their local church. Grace & Peace has two pastors, but with a slightly different vision in mind.

Robbie is on staff with us as a Church Planting Resident. While you might not have heard of this term before, I bet everyone gets the idea. Carpenters and Doctors have mechanisms for providing more experience before they set out on their own. This is what we are trying to offer Robbie.

In this way, it might be best not to look at Robbie as another permanent pastor at Grace & Peace but as a pastor temporarily stationed here as a Resident. Over the next three years, Robbie will serve in our church, but his work in our church in to help him develops the skills needed to begin another church plant.

At the start of his time, Robbie will be assisting me around the church and working on assigned projects that will help him think through church planting. Towards the end of his time, he will transition out of regular work in our congregation and will begin focusing on making more detailed plans about where he will plant.

We are so glad to have Robbie serve at our church. Please offer him your prayers and respect. At the same time, keep an eye on the fact that soon we will be sending him out Robbie and Jen as church planters.