Wednesday, April 12, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 36

[MEDITATE + GIVE]

Consider 1 Thessalonians 5:11 - “…encourage one another and build each other up…”. Today, encourage someone you know by acknowledging their character, skills, and/or abilities you see in them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 35


[MEDITATE + PRAYER]

“I fear that we're asking God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us. In fact, it's possible that we are that mountain." ~ Eugene Cho

The aim of Lent is to experience deeper spiritual formation. Consider 2 Peter 1:5-9. What discipline and virtue needs to added into your life? What attitude, behavior, desire, etc. is God putting his finger on? What does he want to see changed (or moved) in your life? If you aren’t sure, spend time asking Him today.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - 4th Sunday (Palm Sunday)

[CELEBRATION]

Consider John 12:12-19. There is a KING and he is good. He is the fulfiller of God’s promises. Hosanna! Our help is here. He loves us and there is nothing to fear.

Give praise to the king! Let's worship him and be grateful.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 33

[MEDITATE + PRAY + GIVE]

Consider Luke 4:24-30. Like Elijah and Elisha, Jesus ministered to those who were outside the boundaries of his Jewish faith and tradition. Also, consider John 17:20-21. Jesus desires unity within the diverse people who make up the church.

Find out more about Christian unity and interfaith dialogues and initiatives in your area. Pray for their success in breaking down barriers and building community. Pray for a willingness to become more active in pursuing Christian unity.
#GCofDunedinLent

Friday, April 7, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 32

[GIVE]

Meditate on Romans 12:18 and call or message someone you have had a falling out with make amends.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 31

[READ + MEDITATE]

Read Romans 5:1-11 and make a mental note or write down all the words that come to mind when you hear the word “salvation."

Romans 5:1-11
Peace and Joy
1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 30

[READ + MEDITATE]

Read Psalm 90. In particular, reflect on verses 1-6 and 12-14. Allow yourself to feel the grandeur of God (and the finiteness of yourself). May this exercise humble you and invite you into deeper reliance upon his presence and grace.

Psalm 90
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3 You turn men back to dust, saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men." 4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning-- 6 though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. 7 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. 10 The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 11 Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you. 12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. 16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. 17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us-- yes, establish the work of our hands.



Monday, April 3, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 29


[READ + MEDITATE]

The final fruit is SELF-CONTROL. The Greek word used for self-control in this passage is enkrateia and it can mean continence and temperance. Take time to consider God's self-control. Is what way(s) does he exhibit temperance?

May God enable us to exercise self-control and to be temperate. #GCofDunedinLent

Sunday, April 2, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - 4th Sunday

[READ + MEDITATE]

As we continue our consideration of the “Fruit of Spirit,” it’s important to remember that these fruits are not only attributes for us to prize and prioritize as important, this fruit also describes what God is like; and this list of fruits are some the very character traits of God that we are called to emulate as image-bearers (Gen. 1:26).

The 8th fruit is GENTLENESS. The Greek word used for gentleness in this passage is prautes and it can mean meekness, mildness, and humble kindness.

Much like yesterday's reflection on faithfulness, it is an interesting thought to think of God as being meek and mild. Take some time today to consider God's mildness and humble kindness. And rejoice.

Friday, March 31, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 28

[READ + MEDITATE]

As we continue our consideration of the “Fruit of Spirit,” it’s important to remember that these fruits are not only attributes for us to prize and prioritize as important, this fruit also describes what God is like; and this list of fruits are some the very character traits of God that we are called to emulate as image-bearers (Gen. 1:26).

The seventh fruit is FAITHFULNESS. The Greek word used for faithfulness in this passage is pistis and it can mean faith, firm conviction or persuasion, truthfulness, ground of belief, and trustworthiness.

It is an interesting thought to think of God as being one full of faith and conviction. Take some time today to consider God's pistis (faithfulness). And let's ask God for some of that faithfulness and conviction...in a age of cynicism, may we be found faithful. #GCofDunedinLent

Thursday, March 30, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 27

[READ + MEDITATE]

As we continue our consideration of the “Fruit of Spirit,” it’s important to remember that these fruits are not only attributes for us to prize and prioritize as important, this fruit also describes what God is like; and this list of fruits are some the very character traits of God that we are called to emulate as image-bearers (Gen. 1:26).

The sixth fruit is GOODNESS. The Greek word used for goodness in this passage is agathosyne and it can mean generosity, beneficence, and virtue.

Take some time today to consider God's goodness. How has God been good, generous, and kind to you? Don't just think in generality, take some time to thank for him for a specific goodness. And ask him to help you emulate the very goodness he has shown you in your interactions with others.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 26

[READ + MEDITATE]

As we continue our consideration of the “Fruit of Spirit,” it’s important to remember that these fruits are not only attributes for us to prize and prioritize as important, this fruit also describes what God is like; and this list of fruits are some the very character traits of God that we are called to emulate as image-bearers (Gen. 1:26).

The fifth fruit is KINDNESS. Take some time today to consider God's kindness. How has God been kind to you? Don't just think in generality, take some time to thank for him for a specific kindness. 

Ask him to help you emulate the very kindness he has shown you in your interactions with others. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 25

[READ + MEDITATE]

As we continue our consideration of Galatians 5:22-23, the Apostle Paul’s list of the “Fruit of Spirit,” it’s important to remember that these fruits are not only attributes for us to prize and prioritize as important, this fruit also describes what God is like; and this list of fruits are some the very character traits of God that we are called to emulate as image-bearers (Gen. 1:26).

Here’s what this Lenten focus on the “fruits” of the Spirit is all about: Does our life give any evidence of an encounter with God? Do we exhibit “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control” and other similar God-like qualities? Are we different from our surroundings, or do we reflect the predictable cultural values and biases of our surroundings?

The fourth fruit is FORBEARANCE. The Greek word used for forbearance in this passage is makrothumia and it can mean fortitude, long-suffering, slowness to avenge, patient in enduring evil.

Take some time today to consider God’s patience, long-suffering, and fortitude. Ask him to help you emulate the very patience he has shown you in your relationships and interactions with others.

Monday, March 27, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 24

[READ + MEDITATE]

Today we will continue our consideration of Galatians 5:22-23, the Apostle Paul’s list of the “Fruit of Spirit.” These fruits are not only attributes for us to prize and prioritize as important, this fruit also describes what God is like. For this list of fruits are some the very character traits of God that we are called to emulate as image-bearers (Gen. 1:26).

The third fruit is PEACE. The Greek word used for peace in this passage is eirēnē and it can be used as a benediction or as a salutation of blessing; but it can also be used as description of something tranquil, good, and harmonious.

A very important component of the Christian message is that God speaks peace into the messiness of our lives (a benediction of peace) and brings peace into our existence (heals our fragmented and broken relationships, with him and with others). Take some time today to ponder God’s peace. Ask him to help you receive his peace and to become a mechanism of his peace for others.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 23

[READ + MEDITATE]

Once again, consider Galatians 5:22-23, the Apostle Paul’s list of the “Fruit of Spirit.” These fruits are not only attributes for us to prize and prioritize as important, this fruit also describes what God is like. For this list of fruits are some the very character traits of God that we are called to emulate as image-bearers (Gen. 1:26).

The second fruit is JOY. The Greek word used for joy here is chara and it can be described as gladness, joyfulness, and rejoicing.

A common misconception of God is that he is always disgruntled and upset. Take time today to consider that our God is a joyful God, watching us with joyfulness and gladness rather than constant finger-wagging. And rejoice.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

LENT 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - 3rd Sunday

[MEDITATE + CELEBRATE]

Consider Galatians 5:22-23, the Apostle Paul’s list of the “Fruit of Spirit.” These fruits are not only attributes for us to prize and prioritize as important, this fruit also describes what God is like. For this list of fruits are some the very character traits of God that we are called to emulate as his image-bearers (Gen. 1:26).

The first fruit is LOVE. The Greek word used for love here is agapē and it can be described as love, generosity, kindly concern, and devotedness.

Take time today to consider how you have experienced God as generous, concerned, and devoted. And let's worship him today by loving him and one another. And let us be grateful, for our King is love.

Friday, March 24, 2017

LENT 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 22

[READ + MEDITATE]


As much as it is within your control, go the day without TV, radio, Internet, social media, cell phone apps, etc. Take a day to unplug, rest in simplicity and focus on these words from Psalm 80: “Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.”

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 21

[READ + MEDITATE]

“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead.” ~ Ephesians 2:4-5

For some Christians, sin and death weave so familiar a narrative that we’ve become numb to their sting. For others of us, the wages of sin and our subsequent spiritual death weigh so heavily that we refuse to accept God’s gracious mercy. The balance in which God calls us to rest is certainly dissatisfied with both extremes.

Take some time today to rest in the grace of God. Take some time listen to God’s declaration of  “YES!” spoken over you through the Gospel of Jesus. Take some time consider grace’s invitation to resits sinful living and to repentant from self-centeredness.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 20

[GIVE]

Hebrews 3:13 stresses the importance of keeping each other accountable through community.

Reach out and encourage someone you know today.


LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 19

[PRAY]

In a short treatise concerning prayer, Martin Luther taught the discipline of praying the Ten Commandments. Today, as a practice in devotion and discipleship, reflect upon and pray this prayer based on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17):

Almighty and Everlasting God. You alone are God, there is no other. You have revealed yourself to us in many ways, through your creation, scripture and the prophets, and through your Son Jesus Christ.

You have also revealed yourself to us by name, so that we can call out to you in faith, hope, and love. Help us to always remember that you are with us.

Help us to keep the Sabbath, that we may gather in your name and give praise and thanks to you for all you have given us, our families, homes, and our health. Help us to share these gifts with all those in need.

We give thanks to you for our parents, our leaders, and all who are placed in authority by your hand. We ask that you provide them with wisdom and patience, and the ability to make sound decisions, governing according to your will.

Living God, we ask you to help us protect all life, being mindful not to harm others through our actions, or our words.

Bless us in our relationships, helping spouses to remain true to one another and live in the fullness of their love.

We ask that you give us the power to resist the temptation to take what is not ours, and to help us protect that which belongs to our neighbor.

Help us to speak well of our neighbors, protecting their reputation and standing in the community.

Help us to understand the fullness of your blessings, so that we do not desire those things that belong to our neighbor. Rather, give us the power to protect their possessions and to help them remain loyal to their husbands, wives and families.

Into your hands we commend ourselves all for whom we pray, trusting in your goodness and mercy, through your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit; one God now and forever.

Amen.

Monday, March 20, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 18

[Pray]

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 17

[READ + MEDITATE]

Read Jeremiah 7:21-27.

“Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.”
What does this simple yet profound truth mean for you in this season of your life?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - 3rd Sunday

[CELEBRATE]

“When life is all about me, I am blinded from the reality of my complete dependence upon my Creator. The noise of arrogance and anxiety deafens the call to lean on the everlasting arms. We are designed by God to be doubly dependent. First, directly upon God, and second, indirectly upon God through those people God brings into our lives. Our existence is to be one of interconnection, not isolation.” ~ Karen Sloan

Let’s come to church today with grateful hearts. Grateful that we have a community of fellow followers to worship, grow, and fellowship with. And may our gratitude cause us to experience even more interconnectedness as we are used of God to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

Friday, March 17, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 16

[PRAY]

A prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me.
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help.
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Restore me to liberty, and enable me to live now that I may answer before you and before men.
Lord, whatever this day may bring, your name be praised.
Amen. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 15 (St. Patty’s Day)

[PRAY]

The following is St. Patrick’s “Breastplate" — a beautiful Christian prayer/hymn attributed to Patrick. Writing during his Irish ministry in the 5th century, the cause of its composition was to protect Patrick and his monks against deadly enemies that lay in wait for the clerics. And this is a corslet of faith for the protection of body and soul against devils and men and vices.
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through the belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness of the Creator of creation. 
I arise today through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism, through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial, through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension, through the strength of his descent for the judgment of doom. 
I arise today through the strength of the love of cherubim, in obedience of angels, in the service of archangels, in hope of resurrection to meet with reward, in prayers of patriarchs, in predictions of prophets, in preaching of apostles, in faith of confessors, in innocence of holy virgins, in deeds of righteous men. 
I arise today through the strength of heaven: Light of sun, radiance of moon, splendor of fire, speed of lightning, swiftness of wind, depth of sea, stability of earth, firmness of rock. 
I arise today through God's strength to pilot me: God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me, God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me, God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me, God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me, and God's host to save me from snares of devils, from temptations of vices, from everyone who shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in multitude.  
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils, against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, against incantations of false prophets, against black laws of pagandom against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry, against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul. Christ to shield me today against poison, against burning, against drowning, against wounding,  
So that there may come to me abundance of reward. 
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. 
I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the threeness, through confession of the oneness, of the Creator of Creation.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 14

[PRAY]

A prayer to God the Holy Spirit by Augustine of Hipppo:
"Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love only what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy. Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy."
Take some time today to ask God the Holy Spirit to:
Breath life into me.
Draw me closer to you.
Strengthen me spiritually.
Guard my heart + mind.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 13


[GIVE]

There are people with needs all around you. We don't have to go very far to find some need that we can actually do something about.

Maybe it's the giving our time to talk with someone going through a difficult or confusing season. Maybe it's offering to help a friend or neighbor who needs a helping hand. Maybe it's to offer forgiveness to someone who you have been at odds with. Maybe it's helping the underprivileged in your community. There's opportunity to serve + renew all around us.

May God give us eyes to see and courage to do.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Lent 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers Day 12

[READ + MEDITATE]

Read John 15:1-5.

It is only in connected communion with Jesus that we experience spiritual growth and formation.  We know it, yet we do not live it. Somehow we often live as if there are other sources of life and growth we must explore, outside of Jesus. But Christ keeps calling us back, "Come back to me, abide in me, give me your cares, burdens, anxieties, and fears. Trust that in me and with me you may find growth, grace, and peace."

Take some time today to review a past sorrow and find one positive outcome. Discipline yourself to exercise gratitude for this positive outcome several times throughout the day. "Look even in the smallest corners to nurture a thankful heart." (Henri Nouwen)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 11

[READ + MEDITATE]

Read Hebrews 12:1-3.

Following Jesus requires sacrifice and perseverance. What is the call to follow Christ asking of you today? How can you use “the joy set before you” as a motivation to press on?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

LENT 2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - 2nd Sunday

[CELEBRATE]

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)

Charles Spurgeon once referred to the Church, imperfect as she is, as the “dearest place on earth." He continued, "...All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, also give themselves to the Lord’s people. How else is there to be a Church on the earth? If it is right for anyone to refrain from membership in the Church, it is right for everyone, and then the testimony for God would be lost to the world! The Church is the nursery for God’s weak children where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep—the home for Christ’s family.”

Come to church today with a gratefulness for Christian community and attempt go out of your way to thank those who helped make it happen today - teachers, greeters, set-up people, musicians, leaders, nursery + children’s volunteers, etc.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Lent 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 10

[READ + MEDITATE] 

Psalm 37:1-18

What does it mean to “delight yourself in the Lord?” Delight is a strong feeling of happiness, great pleasure, or satisfaction. How can the Lord become more of your source of delight? Take some some time to meditate on this today.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lent 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 9

[GIVE]

We are a people of plenty. As we continue with our Lenten Activities, Lent calls for us to reconsider our regular consumption and lifestyle and it challenges us to give and/or give up certain things. As one Lent Devotional reads, “Lent…invites us to jump off the hamster wheel of consumption and experience the pinch of abstaining from thoughtless indulgence.”

This weekend, do something sacrificial for someone or for a ministry. Give away a little bit more money than you normally would. Put your schedule on hold and offer to give someone a hand. Take time out of your schedule to converse with someone who desires to connect with you. Spend some additional time in the Scriptures and in prayer.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Lent 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 8

[GIVE]

Is there someone you need to forgive?

Consider Ephesians 4:32. Confess your sin of unforgiveness, and ask God to help you reach out to that person with the healing grace of forgiveness.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Lent 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 7

[PRAY]

Heavenly Father, our Father in heaven, reveal who to me who you are and what you desire. As you set the world to rights through Jesus, our Messiah, may you also graciously set my own heart right. Do to me what is needed the most. Change me from the inside out. And give me the courage to release what you ask me to let go and to embrace what you tell me to pick up.

Lord, may it be.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lent 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 6

[READ + MEDITATE]

Read Romans 11:33-36

Meditate today on the wisdom of God.  Think of the infinite number of ways God knows better than we do. Ask God to show you His wisdom in areas where you are choosing the folly of the world.  Seek Him and allow Him to reveal to you what it would look like to follow in the wisdom of His ways more closely.  Thank him for speaking to your heart and pray for the Holy Spirit to empower you to follow our wise Savior.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Lent 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 5

[PRAY]

A prayer for justice.

Heavenly Father, we praise you for being truly just and perfectly good in all you are and in all you do. Make us into a people that represent your justice and goodness. Forgive us for being more known by the things we are against rather then the things you are for. Change us into a people who pursue true justice and goodness within ourselves. And may what we are becoming internally spill out into the way we live. May your justice and goodness shape the handling of our resources. May it rearrange our priorities. May it teach us how we treat others. May it stabilize our emotions. May it keep our greed and selfishness at bay. And may it motivate us to live justly.


"The Church must see justice as part of our discipleship. In other words, seek justice not just to change the world but to also be changed." ~ Eugene Cho

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lent 2017 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Sunday 1

[CELEBRATE]

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1)

Come to church ready + eager to receive the sown seed of God's Word in order to be equipped "for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Lent 2016 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 3

[GIVE]

Today, and this weekend, give something only you can give - YOU.

Give your attention to a family member or friend you have lost contact with. 
Give someone your time who could really use some encouragement. Give of yourself by offering your time by volunteering. Etc.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lent 2016 - Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 2

[READ + MEDITATE]

Joel 2:12-14

Lent is the Christian season that begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter/Resurrection Sunday. It is a time we intentionally journey with Jesus towards the cross and His death. During this 40-day journey, we’re invited to reflect, repent, and remember.

May God enable us to rend our hearts and repent by aligning ourselves more with Him + His ways.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

2017 Lenten Activities + Prayers - Day 1 (Ash Wednesday)


[PRAY]

Almighty and everlasting Father, guide us throughout these forty days as we long to know and experience you in new ways. On our journey to the cross and the empty tomb, may we sense your gracious embrace and may we learn to put to death those things that separate us from each other and from you.

May we know your presence is always with us, may we know the power of your transformative love is within us, and may we know your grace as it fills us and surrounds us.

In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

LENT (2017) - A Rhythm of Preparation



This Wednesday, March 1st, is Ash Wednesday. Followed by Fat Tuesday (Madi Gras), Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the annual Lenten Season. 

The word “Lent” comes from the old English, “lencten," which means “spring." In the Christian tradition, Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a special period of fasting, repentance, personal study, moderation, and spiritual discipline. 

Of course, these activities sound very Christian and can be observed any time of the year, but the purpose of doing them during the 40 day period of Lent is to set aside additional and particular time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering, his sacrifice, his life, his teachings and invitations, as well as his death, burial and resurrection. 

The 40 days of Lent are to be marked by contrition, embracing our finitude, and divine exploration. To begin the season of Lent, ash is sometimes rubbed on the foreheads of Christians during an Ash Wednesday service as a sign of our finitude (e.g., Ecclesiastes 3:20) and repentance (e.g., 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21).

Now, if you can do the math, you may know there are actually 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. This is due to Sunday's being excluded. Repentance is to mark the 40 days and celebration is to mark the Sundays leading up to Easter or Resurrection Sunday.

As with all liturgical seasons and practices, Lent can be legalistically observed. There are no specific biblical warrants to observe it and it should be observed out of choice, not any sort of obligation.  Elliot Grudem articulates it well, "...any special attention to the Lenten Season that honors God must include heart-level repentance and real faith, not external obedience to church tradition. So the Lenten Season and its encouragement to take an extended time to focus on the death and resurrection of Christ provides us with an opportunity to honor God...There can be a real value in marking this season, but only if done with a heart that seeks to honor God."

Lent is a time when Christians can annually connect with their heritage and their fellow Christians around the world. It's a unique opportunity to live out the "oneness" expressed in Christ's prayer in John 17 as we, together, journey through Lent, seeking a deeper connectedness to God and one another and asking if there are things in our lives that we may need to die to? Are there habits, thoughts, and patterns of living our lives that aren't consistent with the life God intended us to live? Is God inviting us into something deeper and more meaningful?

At the same time, Lent is more than just a season of preparation and repentance. Lent should also be a time for Christians everywhere to accept the life and grace that God extends to us -- discovering how to celebrate the cross and resurrection as God's definitive act of redemption in the world.

What Can I Do During Lent?
Some of the ways in which we can observe Lent include attending the Ash Wednesday service, practicing daily Scripture readings with meditations that focus on the themes of Lent, observing daily quiet times for prayer and meditation, practicing self-denial by through various kinds of fasts. 

While Lent is about giving something up (e.g., through fasting), it is also about putting something positive in its place. Lent has been a traditional time of helping the poor (almsgiving) and doing acts of charity and mercy. It’s a good time to examine ways in which we might get more involved. Giving alms can be done in more ways than just giving out money to people on the street. It can be done by helping your family, friends, and neighbors out of difficult situations, by being more generous to my siblings, by donating my blood to the local blood bank, by volunteering at a school, hospital, or homeless shelter, and so on…the list is endless.

Additionally, see HERE for Lenten Ideas for The Family.

Grace Church and Lent 2017
Like years in the past, Grace Church is providing Lenten Activities each day -- [GIVE], [MEDITATE], or [PRAY] during the week and [CELEBRATE] for each of the lending up to Easter Sunday. 

You will be able to find these Lenten Activities on our church Blog, Facebook and Twitter Pages.

Plus, feel free to listen to a short podcast message (from 2016) by me about Lent and Our Lenten Activities.

My friends, may this Lenten Season be a wonderful time of growth, reflection, repentance, and personal renewal for each one of us.

Grace + Peace,
    P. Heath

Lenten Ideas for the Family

SCRIPTURE REFLECTION
Select a scripture verse that everyone in your family can work on together.  Simplify the language for younger children, or add extra verses for older children and adults.  Write the verse down in a place everyone congregates daily.  Work on the verse together throughout the Lenten Season.

CANDLE LIGHTING
Candle lighting is a common practice during Lent, similar to Advent.  You can use 6 white pillar candles, or purple candles.  Place the candles in a prominent place in your house where they will serve as a visual reminder of the Lent Season.

WORSHIP + GAME NIGHT
Schedule a special activity time for your family when everyone can be together.  Set aside 45-60 minutes of your evening to listen to some good worship music, or sing together, and play a favorite family game.  Make it fun & special.  Light candles, make popcorn, or do the activity in a family size fort!

CREATE
Make a paper chain of 46 days (40 days of Lent plus 6 Sundays).  Commonly made of purple construction paper, with a black chain link for Good Friday, this activity is great for a variety of ages.  Each link can have a scripture verse, activity, thought, or just help count down the days to Easter Sunday!

CONVERSATION
Family Conversations- Dinner Table Ideas
Pick a day of the week that you all eat a meal together and discuss these topics over dinner. (FYI - These topics and discussion starters are aimed to help include everyone in the family, no matter their faith or lack thereof.)
Table Talk #1 Personal Reflection:
What is something in my life that I can work on during the Lent Season (i.e. being more thankful, better attitude about household chores, kindness toward siblings) 
Table Talk #2 Family Compliments:
Go around the table and give each person in your family a compliment 
Table Talk #3 Serving Each Other:
Pick someone in your family to help during the week.  Find at least 2 things you can do for them this week (i.e. do their chores for a day, help with homework, make their bed, pack their lunch, etc.) 
Table Talk #4 We are Special:
Go around the table and share your thoughts about this question: What is something special about our family? 
Table Talk #5 What does Lent mean to Me?
Share with your family what Lent has meant to you this year, what you have liked about it, and how God has spoken to you or been with you. 
Table Talk #6 Taking Care of God’s Creation:
How can we as a family do a better job of taking care of God’s creation?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Serve + Renew Community Via Local Schools

The local public schools provide an excellent means for the average Christian to serve his or her community. If your church wants to discover the real needs of your community and have a lasting impact through meeting those needs, start with the closest school, preferably public. If you want to follow the example of Jesus and extend God’s love to the disadvantaged, start with a public school. If you want to build relationships with people across the socioeconomic and racial spectrum in your community, start with a local public school. If you want to teach your children how to notice the needs of others where they live, start by getting involved at a local public school. If you want to know your community beyond your immediate circle of friends, getting involved with the public school is a great way to expand your circle.

The Best Thing You Can Offer:
There will always be financial and facility needs. But the best asset you can offer a school is not necessarily a new program or a new project—it’s people. (And, as far as starting programs go, people who are already involved and relationally connected are much better positioned to begin programs that actually make a significant difference.)

Here is a List of Ideas You Might Consider:

  • Coach or help coach a sport or run a theater program.
  • Offer to volunteer answering the phone and/or working the front reception area a couple of hours a week. 
  • Tutor a child. Every school has kids in dire need of someone who cares. This is also a fantastic connection with the families of students.
  • Join a team. Become a member of groups such as the PTA or sit on a school council. These committees provide meaningful connections with parents and other community members. 
  • Get technical. If you have some sort of skill set in technology, offer your assistance. There is always a need for computer skills, website help, and even help with the school network administration. 
  • Go places. Teachers are always in need of parents to chaperone field trips. 
  • Volunteer with a teacher. Teachers do a lot more than just teach kids. There is a ton of organization necessary, tests and homework to be graded, and a number of other things that require the teacher’s time.
  • Volunteer at the school library. Most schools are short on funding to pay someone to run their library, so they rely on volunteer help to keep the library open for students. Offer to check out books for people or stock them. Assist students or even offer to donate money for some needed books.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Grace + Peace - The Path to Unity

The "grace and peace" salutations in Paul’s letters are plentiful:

  • (Rom. 1:7)  To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • (1Cor. 1:3 ) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • (2 Cor. 1:2)   Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • (Gal. 1:3)  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
  • (Eph. 1:2)  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • (Phil. 1:2)  Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • (Col. 1:2)  To God’s holy people in Colossae, the faithful brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.
  • (1Thes. 1:1)  Paul, Silas and Timothy, to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.
  • (2 This. 1:2)   Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • (Titus 1:4 ) To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.
  • (Philem. 3) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Grace" or "grace to you" sounded like the standard Greek greeting, but, for Paul, it was jam-packed with theological meaning. And, on the other hand, "peace" was a Jewish blessing filled with weighty, theological significance -- "shalom."

Paul knew that many in these early church congregations were torn by factional strife. But he didn't say, "Grace to you Gentiles, and shalom to you Jews." No, grace was not just for Greeks, and peace was not just for Jews. God's desire was for the whole community to receive his grace and experience his shalom—not merely the absence of conflict, but the fullness of well being, harmony, wholeness, and life.

So Paul said, "Grace and peace to you." Paul addressed Gentile and Jewish believers together, as members of one body. He wrote in continuity with their cultural and ethnic backgrounds, yet pointed to a new, countercultural reality. He combined a Greek greeting and a Hebrew greeting to create a distinctively Christian greeting.

And it wasn't just the Apostle Paul…

  • (1Pet. 1:2) ....who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
  • (2Pet. 1:2)  Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
  • (Rev. 1:4)  John, to the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne...

Today our society continues to be divided by race, class, gender, sexual orientation, national orientation, and, oh yes, politics. And within the church, we sadly mimic our culture. We are split over theological matters - Dispensationalism and Covenantalism, Calvinism and Arminianism, Complementarianism and Egalitarianism, Evangelicalism and mainliners.

Yet Paul would argue that our common identity transcends our differences. He would plead with us to treat one another charitably, to extend patience and grace, and to strive to make peace with one another. Indeed, our church congregations should be some of the few places in our society where conservatives and liberals (and everything and everyone in between) can break bread together and celebrate a common Savior and a common cause.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

One Anothering One Another

“One another” is two words in English, but it’s only one word in Greek: ἀλλήλων (ah-LAY-loan). It’s used in 100 times in 94 New Testament verses. 47 of those verses give instructions to the church, and 60% of those instructions come from Paul. Here are some of the "One Another" passages...
Unity. One third of the one-another commands deal with the unity of the church.
  1. Be at peace with one another (Mk 9:50)
  2. Don’t grumble among one another (Jn 6:43)
  3. Be of the same mind with one another (Ro 12:1615:5)
  4. Accept one another (Ro 15:7)
  5. Wait for one another before beginning the Eucharist (1 Co 11:33)
  6. Don’t bite, devour, and consume one another (Ga 5:15)
  7. Don’t boastfully challenge or envy one another (Ga 5:26).
  8. Gently, patiently tolerate one another (Ep 4:2)
  9. Be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another (Ep 4:32)
  10. Bear with and forgive one another (Co 3:13)
  11. Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil (1 Th 5:15)
  12. Don’t complain against one another (Jas 4:115:9)
  13. Confess sins to one another (Jas 5:16)
Love. One third of them instruct Christians to love one another.
  1. Love one another (Jn 13:3415:1217Ro 13:81 Th 3:124:91 Pe 1:221 Jn 3:114:7112 Jn 5)
  2. Through love, serve one another (Ga 5:13)
  3. Tolerate one another in love (Ep 4:2)
  4. Greet one another with a kiss of love (1 Pe 5:14)
  5. Be devoted to one another in love (Ro 12:10)
Humility. About 15% stress an attitude of humility and deference among believers.
  1. Give preference to one another in honor (Ro 12:10)
  2. Regard one another as more important than yourselves (Php 2:3)
  3. Serve one another (Ga 5:13)
  4. Wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14)
  5. Don’t be haughty: be of the same mind (Ro 12:16)
  6. Be subject to one another (Ep 5:21)
  7. Clothe yourselves in humility toward one another (1 Pe 5:5)
Here’s the rest:
  1. Do not judge one another, and don’t put a stumbling block in a brother’s way (Ro 14:13)
  2. Greet one another with a kiss (Ro 16:161 Co 16:202 Co 13:12)
  3. Husbands and wives: don’t deprive one another of physical intimacy (1 Co 7:5)
  4. Bear one another’s burdens (Ga 6:2)
  5. Speak truth to one another (Ep 4:25)
  6. Don’t lie to one another (Co 3:9)
  7. Comfort one another concerning the resurrection (1 Th 4:18)
  8. Encourage and build up one another (1 Th 5:11)
  9. Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (He 10:24)
  10. Pray for one another (Jas 5:16)
  11. Be hospitable to one another (1 Pe 4:9)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Holy, holy, holy is Adonai!


(portions of the “Amidah" - A Hebrew blessing)

Let us sanctify God’s holy name on earth, as it is sanctified in the heavens above. As it is written by your prophet: “Holy, holy, holy is Adonai! God’s presence fills the whole earth.”

Source of our strength and Sovereign One, how majestic is your blessed and holy presence in all the earth! You alone are our God and our Creator, our Ruler, our Provider, and our Helper.

In mercy, our holy God is revealed to all the living. Adonai shall reign forever,  from generation to generation. Hallelujah!