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New Song for June

This month we will be introducing a new song, with a traditional tune. The name of the song is Come Away from Rush and Hurry, and its set to the tune of Come thou Fount. I first heard it while I was down at the Global Church Advancement conference in January. Josh Bales was leading the singing down there and included this song.

We are introducing this song because so much of our modern life is a series of frantic moves from one thing to the next. Often there is no time to stop. We hope that as we sing this we are reminded that because of the greatness of God we can rest in him and trust that tomorrows worries can be dealt with tomorrow.

Here is a copy of the sheet music, for those musically gifted folks who can read such gobbledygook :)

We happen to have found a version of the song on youtube sung by Josh:

Moving into Hebrews

Starting next weekend, Grace & Peace will begin a 21 week sermon series walking through the book of Hebrews. Hebrews isn’t the longest new testament book, but it probably does hold the record for most Old Testament references and illusions. At Grace and Peace we are committed to interacting with God’s word from a perspective that doesn’t expect anyone to be bible scholar. I’m excited by the fact that this might be some peoples first time engaging with this book. To help everyone get the most of our time in the book of Hebrews we’ve created a common reading guide.

What I’ve done is given you the text for the sermon a week in advance, and I have paired that passage with numerous Old Testament passages which are referenced or alluded to in the sermon text. Ie. the first set of reading is labeled for the week of March 31st, and our first sermon will be on April 7th.

I’d encourage you to include these readings in your private or family devotions. (there are six or seven readings each week). I’d also encourage you to consider how you could study or discuss these readings with members of your missional community.

You can get your hands on the guide in several different ways.
You can download the reader as an epub or pdf. You can read them online (mobile optimized) at graceandpeacepgh.org/hebrews. Finally we have also printed a limited number of booklets which you can pick up during our worship gatherings.

Sermon Response: Gathered as a Family

Sam, in the third installment of our DNA series, preached on how God, “gathered us as a family” in Christ. God, when he saves you, always brings you into his family (and then sends you out together, which is next week’s sermon).

Community is incredibly important to God. He wants his people to share their possessions (homes, tools, cars, food, etc.), time, love, energy, stories, and relationships together. God wants us to have all things in common with each other. But a community is different from a family. We tend to be tribal. We associate with people like us. Most of our friends dress like us, enjoy the same media, and share the same values. But that is not the community that God designed and continues to bring together. God’s people are different – in past, in culture, in ethnicity, in age, in gender, and much more. The church ought not to look like a tribal community. Instead the church must reflect the family of God in all her diversity and unity. God brings together different people and unites them in Jesus.

I love my church family. I enjoy each other’s company, the fact that we pray together, eat frequently together, and much more. But the hard truth that we, as a family, must face is that while we want to be a biblical family… we sinfully are inclined to be a tribe.

Not too long ago I read a short book by Leslie Newbigin. He pointed out that “those young kids” are essential in churches as they point out old, dry answers that don’t satisfy their hearts, minds, or imaginations. This is so true. We need youth – kids and teenagers – to challenge our established answers. But on the flip-side we need age. We need sages who can guide our marriages, instruct us as parents, lead us through vocational decisions, and journey with us as we fight sin, temptation, and the wiles of the devil.

Pray with me. Pray for youth to come into our doors. Pray for age and maturity so that our kids would have spiritual grandparents. And look for opportunities that enable and allow people to speak into our lives.

Five Questions we want you to Answer

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Some folks who worship with us, might notice that we have a small note at the bottom of our worship program, asking five questions:

Who are you regularly praying for?

How are you helping other members of Grace & Peace better follow Jesus?

How can you align your life with other followers in this next week?

How specifically did today’s text challenge you to serve one of your friends or neighbors?

What Scripture has God recently used to shape your walk with him?

We included these questions because they cut through our tendencies to lean towards complacency and comfort. We hope many people are answering these questions on a regular basis.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Compfight cc

Sermon Response: Formed by the Gospel

Last night Sam kicked off our latest sermon series on the DNA of Grace and Peace. Over the next few weeks (5 total) Sam will be preaching on what things define us as a spiritual family. Our first core value, that is non-negotiable, is the fact that we are a people “formed by the gospel.”

Gospel literally means ‘good news.’ Biblically speaking the gospel is the good news that even though this world is broken, which is not how God meant it to be, God decided to repair it. But repairing this world was not cheap. In fact this entire concept of “saving” the world is foreign to how we go about life in the first place. You don’t see TV repairmen anymore because it costs too much to simply repair a TV. It’s cheaper to go out and just get a new one. But God ways are different than ours. But the cost to fix this world came with a price – the death of Jesus upon the cross. God made things right through Jesus. But it’s a process. God’s victory is sure and complete in Jesus, but we do not see it fully yet.

Now this good news has implications for life. God is in the business of renewing everything – individuals, communities, societies, and everything. The promise that Sam read last night is: “Behold, I am making all things new.” God is transforming everything, including ourselves. And we have received a role in this work of transformation by ‘joining God in the renewal of all things.’

So consider your own life – how is God at work within you? But also consider your relationships – how is God at work in your friendships, family, and acquaintances? And lastly, you ought to consider how God wants to transform your industry?

Because the good news is this: God loves you and gave himself for you. He cares about everything.

Looking Ahead – Spring 2013

I wanted to send out a little note about some of the upcoming plans at Grace & Peace.

Preaching plans:

Originally I had planned to start a new series in the book of Hebrews this week. After some more thinking on the issue, we are mixing things up a bit. Starting this Sunday, I’ll be preaching five weeks on the DNA of our church family. After that, Robbie will preach from one of the Psalms at the end of the March. This will mean that we will start Hebrews the week after Easter. Tied to our DNA series, we will be having an all church meeting on the 17th of March right after worship.

Worship with Fourth Pres:

We are happy to have 2 more scheduled joint worship services with our host church. This coming Sunday,(Feb 10th) we will welcome Fourth to our 6pm service, and then on March 10th we will not have our regular service and instead will gathering with Fourth at 11am.

Starting a Fourth Missional Community:

We are committed to starting new missional communities because more people(Christians and non-Christians) need more opportunities to see the Gospel fleshed out in their daily lives. To move forward we will need a core group of people willing to see this happen. Please pray with the elders for the need leadership, for a host and for a group of committed people willing to make this a reality.

Renovation Plans:

Finally, we are talking with Fourth Pres. about needed upgrades to their facilities. Rather than just telling them what needs to be done, we are going to partner with them in the repairs. We are tentatively planning to have a work week, where we will do some painting and repair or replace the flooring in the chapel, nursery and kitchenette. We are shooting for the week of March 10th, but this has yet to be finalized. The more people available to help the better.

Basics: Prayer (pt. 2)

We know it’s hard to pray. It is especially hard to speak to a person when we do not see the person. Yet at the same time we do not find it challenging to interact with strangers, people we’ve never met, on discussion boards, websites, or in business dealings. Yet prayer is unique. There is something different about it. Mainly because we don’t hear a voice “on the other end” speaking back to us.

When we say that prayer is talking to God, we do not mean that you have a heart-to-heart phone conversation with him. So prayer is disappointing when we don’t hear: “Go and do ______ .” We approach prayer with the wrong expectation and understanding. The truth is: God does speak back to you, albeit in a different way.

God speaks to us, not as a voice through the clouds (although that has happened in the past), but through his word – the Bible. There is a reason why the historic Christian faith has connected prayer and the Bible. It is because the Bible is God’s word written down for you. The Bible is not primarily a manual on how to live life, it is not a book full of laws and regulations to live by, nor is it a book full of moral examples (i.e. be like David).

Scripture is two things that we hardly think of. It is a story with an introduction, setting, tension, climax, falling action, and an end. It is a story written for our benefit. We must not miss this truth, especially in light of prayer.  Scripture is also God’s word to you, written for your benefit, so that you can have a relationship with him. God reveals who he is through Scripture. It is through the Bible that we know who Jesus truly is. It’s in the Bible where we see the love of God displayed. Scripture provides the ‘eureka’ for who God is. So when we find certain stories of Scripture boring, ask God to reveal himself to you in that particular passage. Prayer, in light of this perspective, is fueled by reading Scripture. So the two go together. When you are not sure what to pray about – pick up the Bible and read it. And the same is true the other way around. When you do not know where to read in the Bible, spend some time in prayer.

Sometimes neither activity seems easy, in those times, there is nothing wrong with simply sitting in silence with God and saying “God, I need you to show me what to do,” or, “God, who are you? Show me who you are.” (If you wrestle to get things out of reading the Bible. This post may help you.)

A Short Update on Prayer and Preaching

New Prayer Time

Starting in October, we are going to make a small shift in how we pray together as a church. Up until now, the only designated prayer time we have had was the first Tuesday of the month at my place. While these were good times of prayer, and Jo and I love opening up our home, I think we can do a better job of regularly praying for each other.
Starting this Sunday, we will carve out half an hour before worship to spend time praying together, at 5:30pm.
If you have something that you would like our church to be praying for, you can send an email to myself or Robbie. We will also include the public requests we get from our worship gatherings. All of these prayers will go out in our weekly email updates. We will also begin including some of these prayers in the hands outs that we make available for our missional communities each week.

Sermon Plans for the Fall

Starting the last Sunday of September, our church is going to be moving into a study of the First Letter from The Apostle Peter. This is a short but incredibly helpful letter sent to the early church. Some of the topics discussed include: being a new people; glorifying God even in our humility; and living out our faith in the midst of our daily life.

This short series will take us up until Advent (the church season that celebrates the coming of Christ). After 1st Peter, the plan is to move into Ruth and then Jonah this winter, and then spend a few months next spring walking through the book of Hebrews.

Basics: Prayer (pt. 1)

Prayer is weird. Perhaps, in a restaurant, you have seen a group of people bowing their hands in relative silence while a person mumbled a few words and you wondered what they were doing. If you are familiar with the praying act, you possibly think: “well that is dumb.” Secretly many Christians believe that as well. Christians struggle to pray. We wrestle with the cynicism of unbelief – “God’s not really going to heal so-and-so. He doesn’t do that anymore.” We think we are so far lost and without hope that God cannot deliver us from our addictions: drinking, drugs, sex, or pornography. Our prayers tend to be little more than polite platitudes: “God you are good. Thank you for this day and food. Amen.”

There are two ways of looking at all this mess. Either prayer does not really do anything, or, the problem is with us. God tells us again and again in his word that prayer does do something, and that all we need is to have a little faith. Faith with regards to prayer means that God will work his will, that God will heal if he pleases, and that God will deliver us from our sins, temptations, and addictions. But how God will do all the above, will surprise us. He will not do it in ways that we plan, expect, or want. God wants us to depend on him, and if he is predictable, then how would we learn to depend upon him.

All of this challenges us. Are we going to believe that God is going to do something or not? Perhaps he already has, and we’re too dense to recognize it. If you’ve been praying for deliverance out of sin and temptation, then use the people of God around you. If you have been praying for opportunities to witness, then invite your neighbors and friends and simply hang out together with a few of God’s family. Prayer, is many things, but one thing prayer is, is a reminder to the way that things really are.

September Song of the Month – The Strife is O'er

This month’s song comes from the Welcome Wagon, a husband and wife duo who make and remake hymns. The Strife is O’er (its hard to sing with a Vv sound in the middle of a word) is great hymn that teaches us about the state of things with and without Christ. We will be singing this song at every worship this month, and for almost everyone its a new song. If you’d like to see the lyrics you can download them here, and below we’ve included a sound clip for the song.